By Xullrae Zauvir
Chapter 3 - Uncharted Territories
While Cogliostro was preparing for his trip, the group he had dismissed moments before Morgan's arrival, now found themselves left to their own whims. By virtue of circumstance, each of them found themselves gravitating towards the Tower after leaving the Inn. As it turned out, the presence of two of them was required at this time anyway, one of the Darkmask's, Sabrar, meeting up with them to report this, the two being clerics of said organization Xull'rae and Horock. No particular reasoning was given at the time, though it was made apparent that the summons was of a semi-urgent manner, and thus they should make their way in haste.
After some ten minutes more of travel, most of it through the desolate landscape of the Darkwoods, the trio found themselves standing just inside the more or less private cleric's entrance that Xull'rae, and now Horock, were often wont to use instead of the main Entrance that the lay members were required to utilize. One of the guards gave instructions that they were to wait within the foyer, and make themselves comfortable until such time as they were summoned elsewhere.
Horock had a strange feeling that something was amiss. Nevertheless, he did as he was told, going into a corner of the foyer, and looking around with half closed eyes. He was still very tired from his most recent learning's, and wanted to think over it, but apparently now was not the time. Despite the fact that he appeared to be falling asleep, he was very alert, as his brain was going over several things at once, and he could see all that went on around him. He wasn't still alive because he became complacent, careless, and unwary.
The yuan-ti, Drazoul decided to come along on this venture, though he kept his distance as he knew he didn't belong. His reptile eyes had surveyed the whole area, for he did not trust this organization even if his friend was in it. His hands were very still but were ready to act in an instant. He decided to stand against a wall and wait.
Xull'rae sat in a chair, her piwafwi removed to show she was dressed in vhaeraunian garb of black, consisting with breeches, blouse and boots, her red hair in a bun, and her mask around her neck. Fine, toned legs were crossed, her pretty face comfortable, those amber eyes ever watchful yet confident. She ignored the other two, or so it seemed.
They didn't have to wait long until the familiar voice of the temple's headmaster, Pharaun, came to their ears. Horock's doubts would not be quelled by the tone in which those words were spoken, to be sure. Drazoul's caution would not have a reason to be abated, either.
The voice issued from within one of the adjoining hallways, the hastened footsteps of several people accompanying it, "...and yes, I do realize who you are, but this temple is under MY command, Inquisitor, and despite what you say, I feel that it should have been a matter to be discussed with me beforehand. At the very least, word of this visit, and its purpose, should have been forthcoming to your presence." There was a pause within those words which were toned in such a way as to betray the mixture of anger, frustration...and fear. "With all due respect, of course," the last, was spoken with a little haste.
At that point, said headmaster rounded the corner of the hallway, and entered the room, clad in his normal robes of deepest black, accompanied by the also somewhat familiar visages of Bragh T'orgh, the head magus of the temple, and those of both Welverin Hune and Solufein Pharn, the two highest ranking clergy aside from Pharaun himself. This time, they were also accompanied by a contingent of four strangers, all clad in the usual Vhaeraun priestly garb much as Xull'rae now was, half-masks settled into place on all. Despite their similarity of dress and look, the one in the lead commanded such presence as to stand out amongst the strangers as being their leader...and from the look upon Pharaun's visage, and the tone they had heard in his voice, this particular stranger was perhaps his better as well.
Once the contingent had fully come into the room, they stopped short, halting abruptly as the leader of the newcomers did as well. Never responding properly to Pharaun's small rant, the apparent leader fixed his gaze upon Xull'rae's form, after taking a quick, assessing glance at both Horock and Drazoul. One of his gloved hands fell to the blackened hilt of the leftmost of the twin, blackened short swords which hung at his waist, idly tapping upon its pommel. When he spoke, it was in a somewhat charming, yet imperious tone. "I take it this is the priestess in question. Of course it is, as they are a rarity in the entire faith, let alone in this..oh, forgive me, YOUR temple." The words were obviously intended for Pharaun, who had simply frowned and nodded.
Xull'rae rose her coppery brows in question, but said not a word, she probably was in trouble again, so she waited for the babbling to begin, looking at the two men, the masked priest and the shadow sorcerer, half bowing to each of them from her chair, not rising, figuring it best to stay seated unless ordered otherwise, maybe it was best to stand and bow but she never was one to be a total dog.
A polite inclination of the stranger's head was given in Xull'rae's direction, but he spoke not to her at the moment. Rather, he gazed at her two companions at this juncture, speaking his thoughts aloud whilst first settling that masked countenance in Horock's direction. "And you would be her current charge, if I have been informed correctly." Without waiting for an answer, that gaze shifted to Drazoul's form, this time the words more an actual question than a personal musing. "My, a strange being to see in a temple such as this. But then again, perhaps not so strange. You are here perhaps as an initiate, or wishing to become one of the Faithful?"
His manner said he expected to be answered this time.
Horock began to finger his long sword, he half closed eyes still looking around for any sign of trouble. He was, of course, more alert now that he heard Pharaun talking, but refused to give away his advantage.
Drazoul was surprised that the cloaked figure was addressing him as he believed he was nothing more then a bodyguard for this encounter. At the cloaked ones words he let out a chuckle that was more of a hiss of amusement "No I have no wish to join I am merely along for the ride." He still stood, arms folded, propped against the wall, watching everyone but especially keeping special attention to the cloaked figure who addressed him.
A frown furrowed itself into place beneath the half-mask upon that imperious figure at Drazoul's answer. He did not however reply directly to Drazoul, his words aimed at all clergy of the temple who were present. "Why then might I ask is one of the Unfaithful here in the chambers of the Faithful? This is intolerable, of course, and another mark against you, Brother Lhalabar."
As the exchange of words were brought to bear, Xull'rae narrowed her eyes in cold anger. Her words were said directly after the no named figure spoke. "Along for the ride?" She sneered in contempt and then shrugged her voice going as cool as a breeze. "Okay..so you have no objection to using you as a sacrifice. What ARE you doing here snake man? Please don't tell me it's because you are protecting Horock or simply here to help him cause he's your 'friend'." Her amber colored eyes pierced Drazoul suddenly, her tone changed once more by the end to amused yet a suriousness laced it as well.
Drazoul saw the frown and decided to be more careful. "I merely do not trust priests thats all and as your jabress has pointed out using me as a 'sacrafice' this would not be the first time I was offered, so you must excuse my suspicion." He stood firm and did not back down from her gaze, though he really wanted to.
"He is my companion, and I will vouch for him if need be," said Horock, finally coming out of his sort of trance. "And, do not be so snide priestess. He is my guest, and yes, we are friends, as much as friends as the UnderDark allows." He looked around, a little bit more suspiciously then he had previously. He kept his eye on the people that he did not know. "I am one of the Masked One's faithful. He is also my hired bodyguard of a sorts. Is there is there a problem with that? We are being hunted, and we stick together for the time being."
Pharaun had begun to make a retort as well, or rather try to bring things under control lest he get in even more peril should this farce continue, but the imperious one simply raised a hand in a motion of pause, which did indeed halt Pharaun, if no one else. A soft musing was issued as well, as if he did not wish to disturb the arguing trio. "This is out of your hands now, Shadow Sorcerer, let it play out as it will." His crimson eyes rested on Xull'rae, watching her carefully, as the argument continued unchecked and unnoticed by those involved.
"Really?" Xull'rae sounded surprised yet so unimpressed. "The only friend you should have is the Masked One. You are not making a good faithful if you continue to rely on 'friends'..and who is being SNIDE little acolyte..who dared to threaten me back at the inn and by the grace of the human was allowed to live. You need to remember your station, you adhere to me, not to correct me."
Drazoul was getting rather tired of all this rambling. He inclined his head slightly and spoke to the on who had addressed him before. "If we may continue with this meeting if my presence has offended anyone I shall leave, there is no need for useless bloodshed."
Horock barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "Fine, he said in a manner that was a trifle more respective then before. "I am a faithful, but, unfortunately, the Masked One has given him to me in a sorts and has led him to me. We are a type of brother, and I would not be alive today if not for him. I would appreciate if he could stay, and we could get on with what we were summoned here for. Is that okay jabress?" The last part was delivered in a voice of complete and total respect to make sure that she did not take any offense at what he had just said. He was curious, and he did want to know what was going on. That feeling of unease had still not left him.
Before Xull'rae could reply, she clicked her mouth shut as the apparent leader spoke in response to Horock's statement, but it was clear it was meant for Drazoul too. "There is no such need, if indeed you are his, hm, bodyguard. Though I find it better should our people have no need of such. We are to be self-sufficient lurkers in shadow, when speaking on personal terms." When he continued, his musing was softer, intended for Pharaun, though all could hear. "And yes, I do believe that our informant has offered up a sufficiententry for our Lord's Inquisition. Though perhaps a bit more professionalism is to be instilled within the drowess, her fanaticism to the Masked One and his teachings are apparent. What of this other matter I've heard rumor of involving the male?" Referring to Horock, "or is that too lengthy a matter for us to delve into at the moment? Even if it is so, we will discuss it fully before the sun rises in the Realms Above."
Pharaun looked desperate to reply, but Horock broke in first. "And what rumors would those be?" he asks with a slight growl to his voice.
Xull'rae took her eyes off of Horock, when she realized the two were speaking of her and her faith, and a frown settled on her lips and her brows furrowed in confusion and curiosity but again fell silent.
At Horock's grumbling mannerisms, Pharaun shot him a most rueful glance, trying to convey that now was not the time for such open minded speaking, nor was the stranger a man with whom to trifle. More for his own sake than Horock's, to be sure, but he did not let that part on. "Brother Horock, perhaps it would be best if a more civil tone were used with the Grand Inquisitor, here......" Again, Pharaun was interrupted and cut off, this time by Xull'rae who felt the need to explain. "it's a simple matter of him sniveling and I called him weak and his temper flew..as you see it again now...nothing to be bothered with. I will dispatch him myself if he continues that foolishness, he's green and he hasn't taken well to my teachings yet, but do not worry I will help him manage his tongue if not I can always remove it, unless of course I am not to teach him anymore..either way I will abide by the church, but I must say he does not know much respect for position as you can see."
Horock spoke up quickly, "Of course," he says, again. "I will do so." He glares at Xull'rae as she continues to speak. He was tired of her threatening him, but he knew that as long as he was here and hiding, well, at least he thought he was hiding, that he needed to keep a civil tongue. He simply shut his mouth, leaned back, and listened, content to no longer enter the conversation until he was spoken to.
Again the Inquisitor cut off Pharaun as the Shadow Sorcerer was about to speak, to which he clenched his jaw and looked murderous but declined to challenged the superior man. A lengthy moment of silence then reigned as the High Inquisitor's gaze swept from one to the other to the last of the trio. "Actually, you will continue on with your duties as 'teacher,' and in fact, your charge is to accompany you on the task I will set before you..or test, I should call it. And, I suppose, the 'bodyguard' will be accompanying you as well." There came then a short pause as he considered something. "No, I believe they will not simply accompany you. The task is theirs to complete as well, and they will suffer consequences, or reap in the rewards, much the same as you, drowess, dependent on success or failure."
The point with Xull'rae was, she never threatened, if given the chance she would have done away with Horock, but being a fanatic and being under orders keeps her from doing so, too bad he didn't know that..it was a very thin leash. One that would snap if the greenhorn kept crossing her line of fire, forcing her to pull on that fragile thread that threatened to break. She simply nodded and accepted the task with more grace than she felt at the moment. "Yes high Inquisitor, as soon as I know my task I shall set about it right now."
Horock nearly looked interested and replied in a like tone, "whatever the church asks of me, I will of course do," he says in a manner of complete and total respect. "Tell me what I must do, and do it I shall."
Drazoul sighed, cursing himself for being foolish and coming along. He then mumbled inaudibly, "along for the ride."
The high inquisitor looked pleased and nodded, satisfied. "Very well. As a show of unswerving loyalty on the part of you, drowess, and as a show of skill on part off all three of you, I charge you with the task of brining me the Zauviir Matron's head. Once that is complete, each of you will be rewarded accordingly, and you shall become an initiate of our order, Sister Zauviir. I will tarry here with my inquests for a full Ride, If you should have the task finished by then, all the better. Otherwise I will expect to carry out your initiation upon my next quarterly return to the Tower."
Xull'rae refused to flinch at such a hard task, and to be completed in three months no less. Instead Xull'rae strengthened her resolve and gave a determined reply. "For me to be Matron and set up a vhaeraunian house I have already the intention of killing her..this will take time, now that it is an official order it SHALL be done"
Horock looked up as he said this, slight trace of surprise coming to his face. Just as quickly as it had come, it was gone. He had no problems with killing Drow, he had eaten several. The thing that had surprised him was Xull'rae's acceptance so easily of the task that was set before them. But, he would never let it show. He mentally began to get himself ready for the task, thinking about strategies and what they could use. He doubted he would have any input, but if any was needed, he was determined to be able to add some. Glancing over at Drazoul, Horock says "Yes, I will indeed help in whatever ways the jabress requires. However, I am tired. May I be excused?"
A slight, pleasured smile...slight being the operative word for it...creased the inquisitors visage, accompanied by a simple nod. "That is all. Now, Pharaun, we have much to speak on, and many records to persue." With that, the gathering turned as a whole and proceeded outward.
There was a flash of excitement in the yuan-ti reptilian eyes as he heard the orders to assassinate somebody and not just anybody but a matron mother. This would do well in his own organization when news came of the mission he would partake in.
Once given the go ahead, Horock went straight up to his room and fell into bed, no worries until the next day, he thought and fell into dreamless sleep.
With Horock retiring and Xull'rae already gone without anyone's notice, Drazoul turned towards the door pulled out his staff and went to his room where he would ponder his moves from there. He would also have to have a word with Xull'rae later on how they were to go about the kill.
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