By Xullrae Zauvir
Chapter 1 - Meetings and Acquaintances (part 3)
In the Dawning hours the City's visitors were still pouring in. As with most visitors to the city, or at least those who are not yet frequent visitors, the two companions, two drow had been ushered through the single "gate" which led to the spiraled stairway round a large, central column, known to most by the term Z'orr'bauth. The large stairway was crowded as usual, with traffic flowing both to and from the city. The further they descended, the brighter their environs had become...unlike most drow cities, and most locales in the Underdark period...this city was illuminated quite brilliantly, multiple hues of color forming into something akin to a magnificent sun setting.
As could be expected, those not used to such were at quite a disadvantage when it came to matters of sight. Though the city had a magnificent landscape of carved towers and buildings of all sorts, it was largely clouded from view by the plethora of catwalks which crissed and crossed this way and that from floor to ceiling of the vast cavern which comprised Sshamath. Once at the bottom of the grand staircase, they had no time to dally and look around, as the throngs pushed ever forward, ready to get about their business. Horock had been instructed on the general locale of Vhaeraun's local chapter, though from the look of the chaotic landscape, he may need to hire out a guide to lead them as far as possible. As it stood, most respectable guides would not know the exact location of the temple, nor would they wish to brave the Darkwoods district which surrounded it, as it was home to the city's cast offs and ruffians. Any reputable thief, however, would know it well, as it served as the city's premiere Thief Guild, as well as a place of worship. Creatures from every race and credo now milled about the streets, most heading toward what appeared to be a large market of some sort to the east of their current position, others headed off into the cacophony of catwalks which lay in every direction.
Horock walked towards the nearest city wall, and leans up against it, looking all around with his intelligent drow eyes to see if he can spot any devotees to Vhaeraun.
A strange and very tall drow follows the other smaller drow without a murmur he barely heeded the drow worrying about worse things, his family for one and a second fear one that worried him far worse but he kept those fears silent. There was no need to worry his fleeing friend more than he already was.
Horock looked over at Drazoul in his guise and approved of it but said nothing of it, instead he asked, "do you know of any thief guilds in this city?"
From appearances, there were no openly garbed worshippers of Vhaeraun in their surroundings.
The disguised yuan-ti hears a voice he knows very well and turns towards the drow known as Horock. "Yes some old friends of mine have taken residence in this place and they are shady dealers, but I'm afraid I know not the city well so they are no use of us unless they decide to show themselves."
"Hmm, well then, maybe we should start heading to the shadier parts of town. That is where I told the church would be," replied Horock as he begins to walk away, looking around in suspicion.
Drazoul pulls out a smooth onyx figurine in the shape of a dog and calls out the magical words the dog heeds the command and comes to his side waiting orders. He then follows the guised snake man. The dog had a useful purpose of providing some protection as well as to sniff things out and explains to Horock before he can ask questions. "I alone can no longer detect all the dangers that might lurk here so I have called an ally which can help."
Having nodded and turned to walk off, Horock abruptly bumped into a rather large, cloaked figure, who's scent was slightly offending, as if akin to wet dog, a rough grunt emitted as the looming creature took a moment to gaze at Horock and his two companions. Nothing said, the figure pushes by and continues on its way, the summoned dog emitting a low, soft growl in its aftermath.
Horock, curious, began to walk after the figure. Kinda pissed that it bumped into him. He wanted to know what this clumsy brute was, and why the dog growled at him.
Drazoul however reacted immediately. With a fluid flick of his wrists, two daggers were at his hands in case this hooded foe tried to hurt the drow. He then whispered a command to the dog who ran off ready to attack from the shadows. He knew he could not control Horock's temper and that he might have to save his life, but that caused his scales which were hidden by seeming black flesh of drow to move upward in a smile as he recalled how many times that hot headed drow had saved him from his adventurous side.
The hooded brute continues ever forward, heedless of the machinations, or at least seemingly so, until such time as he is directly confronted, at the very least.
Horock follows, as silently and as carefully as he can in this crowded passageway. He knew that this was probably trouble, but also he wanted to know what it was, and why it didn't pay attention to where it was going. As he continued to follow, he was increasingly careful in his steps. He could tell that the area was very dangerous, if not fatally so. All he hoped was that his damn allergies wouldn't be affected by the dust and muck down here.
Rather than try to stop his friend Drazoul merely followed and the dog who had it's orders was also in pursuit of the hooded figure but careful not to attack it or make it self visible until its cue was given as its odd snake master had ordered.
Careful following had caused some bit of distance to come between Horock, his companion, and the hooded figure, as people hurriedly pushed past in all directions, intent to carry their business out, not really caring a whit for what others may be doing. Still, the brute did not seem to pay them any heed, as they took no pains to directly confront him. If they were too intent upon their current quarry, they would not take notice of a single, darkly garbed figure who was tailing them at the moment at a respectful distance.
As Horock followed the brute that had pissed him off, he could see him gaining distance. He realized that with not knowing the territory, he had no hope to catch up to the brute. The figure knew where he was going, and knew what was doing. Horock knew neither of these things in this city. So, turning to his companion, he says, "I am not going to follow him. I am still curious, but I know we cannot catch him in this city. It is far too risky with how dangerous this terrain is." Looking behind him, he notices a shadow moving along a wall further back. He pays it no heed at the moment, but remembers it, as you never know. He had not lived this long by not being careful.
The guised assassin Drazoul grinned and summoned his dog and then turned to Horock. "Are you sure you don't want me to put a dagger in that brutes back just for the fun of it?" His people were not drow they could be as cruel as one.
"Horock do you remember this dog?" Pointing to the dog next to him. "He followed us on many adventured when we were children"
Horock looks down at the little ball of fluff at his feet. "Hey! How ya doin bud?" He bends down to pet the dog. The dog jumps up in down in recognition of the drow.
As the pursuit was given up, the figure disappeared quietly amongst the throngs, the one that had been shadowing them in turn disappearing a heartbeat after being noticed. That done, they now found themselves milling about on yet another unfamiliar street, the marketplace behind them now, as well as the central column which led upward and out of the city.
"Perhaps we should ask for some help or find some sort of guide?" Drazoul asks more to himself than to anyone.
Horock looks around. "Okay. Tell you what. You go ahead and ask around. I will follow you and kinda help you out if need be. Lets try to be a little cautious here, huh?"
This time the assassin turns to the drow and discreetly shows him a dagger and grins, "this is all the caution I need!" He walks to the nearest person and asks in Undercommon. "Where is the place of worship of the Masked One?"
Turning upon Drazoul in a most irritated manner, the sharp, obsidian, drowic countenance offers a furious glare in response, followed by a spiteful spitting upon the cavern's floor. "Why would one such as I care a whit about the lowly one?! Be gone, lest I have my servants gut and flay you where you stand!!
Horock walks up to his friend and smiles. "Hmmm. That sure went well..."
As if on cue, a sizable entourage of armored drow, some dozen in number, come to stand at their lord's side, hands upon their varied weapons, though none were drawn as of yet. Drazoul grunts and curses, then walks away hastily. "Went fine it's your stupid race I can never deal with," he says in a hostile voice but one Horock has become accounted to no doubt.
Smiling sadistically, his whims satisfied, the grandiose drow lord turned form the scene dismissively, his retinue keeping watch on the cloaked Drazoul for some long moments, however.
Horock smiles as he is walking next to his friend. "I think that I may have seen someone following us earlier. Do you think that maybe you could attempt to help me trap and question this interloper? You know how people following me makes me feel. Plus, I am a bit curious..."
"No need to make such an attempt...you would fail anyway..." A soft, masculine voice suddenly comes to their ears. The darkly shrouded figure from before, now standing but a scant few feet away, cloaked head to toe in a deeper shade of darkness than its ebony skin, long, white tendrils braided neatly, a short sword upon its hip, only revealed by virtue of its cloak being somewhat open in the front. The demeanor was a calm, mannerly one, not in the least threatening. "I will take you to your destination, if you would but follow."
Suspiciously, Horock looks at the figure. "Why would you help us?" he asks. "Nothing is for free here, you know that, and I know that." He comments. He is still trying to recover from being surprised, and he hated it when people were able to do that to him.
Drazoul nods his head to show he is impressed and agrees to follow if Horock agrees. Horock, still feeling very uneasy, waits for the figure to reply to what he just said...as Drazoul turns to him and whispers, "I don't think I can take him if I can't bite him."
"Come with me, or don't come with me, it is of little personal importance to me. The price for my services has already been paid." That said, the figure glances around momentarily, then head off towards the southern end of the vast cavern, pace brisk but not overly so. Horock glances at his friend, shrugs, and then follows the mysterious figure into the gloom of the cavern. Instead of talking which might be dangerous Drazoul shows Horock a dagger and then walks in the direction the hooded drow went.
The walk continued for some fifteen minutes, winding through various streets and alleys, allowing them to catch brief glimpses of the city's grand architecture as they strode by. However, all that disappeared when they neared the southern wall of the city, and veered sharply eastward. Before them stood the single most concentrated area of gloom in the otherwise brightly lit city...the Darkwoods. Despite the rumored dangers of the Darkwoods district, their guide seemed more at ease as he stepped forth through the nearly palpable wall of gloom which marked it's borders.
Horock, looking around, sees his guide walk into the Darkwoods. He knew from what he had been told that he must venture into this place. He gestures at Drazoul to follow him, and alert as a drow can be, he walks after his guide and into the gloom with a tiny bit of unease. Drazoul sees his friends gesture and walks into the gloom into the world his mentor introduced to him. He was at home in places like this.
Though many figures could be seen flitting about in the gloom, skulking in the deepest of shadowed nooks, none barred their way, nor harassed them in any way. Thus, the trip went smoothly, bringing them within another ten minutes or so to stand beneath an even deeper pool of coalescing darkness, suspended far above them amongst the catwalks. Their guide proceeded to ascend the catwalks, leaping deftly from one to the next, leading them ever closer to their destination. Of guards, there appeared to be none outwardly.
When finally they had come to stand directly outside the ever-shifting pool of gloom, a single word was hissed, one unfamiliar to either of the companions, and a small portion of said darkness flowed open, as if made of a thick liquid, parting to reveal a solitary doorway, carved into one of the many columns of stone which comprised the "trees" of the Wood.
Without a single word spoken to them, their darkly garbed guide bade them go forward, and promptly lept from his roost, disappearing into the shadowy landscape below.
"What now horock?" Drazoul asked looking around irritably.
Horock, knowing that he must follow or be lost, gestures to his friend. "Well, this is strange, and I don't trust this guy, but we have no other choice. Lets follow, but keep up your guard."
"Let the dog lead he has the keenest of sense I will take the rear"
Horock gestures to his friend to follow and bravely enters the doorway. Drazoul follows at the rear and the dog takes the front.
Though no sound
had come to their ears whilst they remained outside, once inside their came a
small cacophony of voices to their ears, and once their eyes adjusted to the dim
lighting of the environs, they could tell there were some dozen people or so
milling about their business, inside what appeared to be nothing more than a
large entrance foyer, with about half a dozen doors forming side passages into
and out of the central chamber. Most appeared to be drow, some garbed in the
traditional priestly garb of Vhaeraun, others attired in somber colored robes
more fitting of a wizardry sort.
Horock looked around and sighed some in relief. "Well, it appears that we have gotten to where I was commanded to go. I hope they know I was coming." He looks around again, checking to see what he sees in the way of head priests.
One priest could not be determined to be of any higher rank than another at the current moment, though that would soon change, as from the passage directly to their left came a louder cacophony of voices, in the form of an argument of sorts. The first voice coming to their ears being too deep and rumbling for a drow to have emitted it. "I have kept up my end of the bargain thus far, oh grand, revered Shadow Sorcerer, I suggest you start doing the same. And follow the spirit of the bargain as well as the letter. I have stated my peace, this conversation is over."
The voice had been gaining upon their position, to the point where suddenly a tall, brawny human form abruptly walked from the passage, nearly bowling them both over, his head clean shaven covered with arcane tattoos, form shrouded in robes of tan and black, no weapons apparent. There emerged behind the human, at a slower pace, a rather regal looking, black robed figure, long tendrils of snowy white hair falling in straight precision about its lithe, drowic form. This emerging drow figure held a most amused smile upon his stress-aged countenance, twin pools of crimson settled tauntingly upon the human, the voice issuing forth rather melodic. "I have done nothing to violate our agreement, human, so no guilt will fall upon my soul this eve."
Horock looks at the bald man in disgust. "Why don't you watch where you are going?" he asks in a slightly angry voice. "Doesn't anyone pay attention to anything around here?" The assassin Drazoul grins terribly showing his fangs which in close inspection one would see little drops trickle down from them. Showing he was indeed NOT Drow. The whole situation is too much to bear and he starts to crack up hollering in laughter at the sight of his friend and the human.
Spinning now upon the one known as Horock, the human emits a palpable irritation in the air, by virtue of tiny arcs of lightning playing off his form, oak brown eyes set in an angered glare as he steps forward to tower over the diminutive drow. "Listen, mewling, if ye wish tae live a moment longer, I suggest you hold your tongue in check...and that of your mirth filled companion." 'Ere the human could continue, the regal looking drow had stepped forward, nearly laughing himself, his mirth evident in the mocking tone with which he addressed the human now. "Ah, this is grand indeed...Master Cogliostro, I would like you to meet our newest member of the fold, if my presumption is correct. Horock, I do believe is his name. You will get to know him well, as he is to be placed under the Drowess' tutelage." From the human, there came only a great moment of silence, the anger within all too evident, and the struggle to keep it in check even more so.
Horock looks suspiciously back and forth at the two beings: one a human whom he could already tell he did not like, and the high priest, whom he could tell knew who he was. "Your honor, if you are expecting me to work with THIS...I am not sure whether or not to take that as an insult." He stares at the man whom he now knows as Cogliostro, with an anger smoldering in his eyes. He didn't know what this man was up to, but he knew it had to be no good. He would keep an eye on this man. After all, if he wasn't cautious, he wouldn't be alive today...
Drazoul was crying now from all the roaring and laughter that has been emitted and he can feel another wave coming on. He starts to clap as one would to street performers he knew he should shut up before someone blasted him but he just couldn't help himself. Horock however reaches over and smacks his friend in the side of the head. "Hey, stop that. We are around a high priest. You are not that eager to die are you?" he asks his friend. He knew he had a problem with laughing. He just hoped he got it under control soon.
Pausing a moment longer to collect himself, the human forces a polite, businesslike smile upon his ageless visage, peering at each of them in turn, his gaze coming to rest upon Horock's form as he speaks, "Correction...you will not be working WITH me, but rather FOR me....and yes, please do keep your imbecile in check." Glancing for a moment at Drazoul, "...I already have one of my own to deal with."
The snake known as yuan-ti, who in turn was guised as a drow, wiped away the moisture forming from his eyes and stopped laughing he was about to grumble about the blow that was delivered but realized that Horock was doing what was in his best interest and he appreciated it though he would never admit it.
Largely ignoring the two companions for the moment, the human turns to address the smiling Shadow Sorcerer while Horock glared at the man. He didn't know what to think. He was so angry, that could almost not see past his own nose. Finally, after Drazoul puts a hand on his friends shoulder to calm him down, did he do so for a moment. He ignores the human and turns to the Drow Shadow Sorcerer. "I am going to be put under the tutelage of THE drowess, your honor?" He glares over at the human, knowing he has interrupted his speech to the Shadow Sorcerer. It is taken in stride, for the moment...for the most part. Sighing in resignation, the human shakes his clean shaven head and spins about towards the doorway, clasping his hands casually behind his back as he goes, in turn cutting off the Shadow Sorcerer's reply. "You have won the day, Saer Lhalabar, rejoice in it, for you should know full well that I will not tolerate these games...nor the imbeciles you toss my way...for overly long."
Chuckling in a most mocking tone, the Shadow Sorcerer playfully bows to the human's disappearing form, then he promptly turns to address the two companions, his mirth largely fading, a slight look of disgust being turned toward Drazoul 'ere his gaze returns to Horock. "Yes, you will be working under THE drowess, as you call her. Now, if you are to have any hopes of harboring in this temple for any length of time, you will keep your companion in check." Drazoul embarrassed nods in apology and stays silent. We have much to discuss, you and I, but for now, I have more important matters to attend. Wait here, and I will have someone give you the grand tour." With that, the Shadow Sorcerer turns swiftly, in a most dismissive manner, and strides briskly back from whence he came.
Horock looks around and glances at Drazoul. "Well, again, all I have to say is that went well'.."
"Well like always one of us gets into trouble the other has to get him out of trouble!" Drazoul says with a chuckle as both walked along to get better accaquainted with their surroundings.
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