Settling in for the night in the Dreamstone rooms
As the party settled in for the night, Illyana Zo’Arden paced furiously. She was not happy with the decision to cease pushing forward until they found her Zocart Dra’lirden, but when forced to think rationally and face facts there was no way around it. Krifo and Hagan Grimmbrow were just too beat up to continue on and even Gilwen the Wanderer and Wraith weren’t looking that great. They had to rest, even if it did mean sleeping in this accursed place.
The night passed uneventfully for Illyana Zo’Arden. She tried to find Zocart Dra’lirden in her thoughts again before trancing but could not. Bos Sauveli was able to sleep well also but the rest of the party did not. They were plagued by a dream of being hunted by villagers for taking a man’s eyes, even though they did not. Though mostly rested when they awoke, they felt less powerful for having slept in the presence of Dreamstone.
While they gathered their gear Illyana Zo’Arden was quite anxious to be on her way. She was still quite worried that she had not been able to find Zocart Dra’lirden in her dreams again that night and was afraid that it meant the worst. Surely she would know if he was dead, though…wouldn’t she? It was becoming more and more obvious that there’s was a strong bond laced with magic; wouldn’t she notice if that bond was suddenly gone?
After what seemed like hours Krifo put the swinging eye back together and they moved it out of the way, descending into the caves made of pure Dreamstone. Many found it disconcerting to be down there and soon Illyana Zo’Arden, Bos Sauveli, and Wraith were pushing and pulling the others along towards the chanting. When they came to the two staircases they sent their companions up the one while they took the other.
Up they went into the chamber full of chanting, monsters, bones and blood. Fresh blood…Drow blood. Illyana Zo’Arden knew that smell anywhere. When you grew up in the Underdark it was a scent you became most familiar with. But where was it coming from…there, above! What was that beastly contraption in the ceiling feeding that…thing...in the coffin. As the battle raged on it was all Illyana Zo’Arden could do not to scream in anger and fear, especially when that witch of a tiefling shoved the spikes in him. When the last creature finally fell Illyana Zo’Arden rushed back to the device. Bos Sauveli and Hagan Grimmbrow were already carefully extracting Zocart Dra’lirden from the thing and healing him as best they could. Soon he was breathing steadily again and it was safe for them all to get out of there.
Back through the maze of dangerous, bizarre rooms they went, each breathing a sigh of relief when they came out of the complex and back into the sun. They traveled back to the Raven Queen followers with Zocart Dra’lirden and the bones of the Sleeper and Sir Maligant. As the appropriate ceremonies were performed Illyana Zo’Arden kept close watch over Zocart Dra’lirden who was still sleeping off everything that had happened. As night fell, his eyes finally opened and darted around the tent, finally focusing on Illyana Zo’Arden.
“A’maelamin...iz it you and not another dream?”
“Yes melamin, it iz really me. You are safe at camp vith my friends.”
Zocart Dra’lirden lets out a deep sigh. “Zen at last zat nightmare iz over.”
“Are you feeling better, stronger?”
“Yes. I seem to remember someone vorking to heal me…I vould say zat he vas quite successful.”
“Ah, zat vould have been Hagan. You vill have a chance to meet him later. But for now”, Illyana Zo’Ardenreplied as she leaned in closer, “you can tell me…”
On the other side of camp, Krifo looked at Fluffy. “Bet he didn’t see THAT coming! Shouldn’t he know by now not to make her angry?” Had anyone been watching, they would have seen the large cat nod her head at the kobold as they sat and waited for the yelling to commence.
Zocart thought back to the one time he was truly aware of how badly it had all gone, when he had scribbled down on a piece of paper the apology he thought he would never be able to give to Illyana:
Please forgive me. I know not where you are, or where you will be, so I write this message in my heart and pray that my thoughts will find you. I have betrayed your trust. I am still not sure how it happened, but I ask for your forgiveness. When we meet again, it will be under very different circumstances, and I hope you will remember our close friendship, as it was in Ganslow. I always believed there was something more than friendship, perhaps, but it may be too late now. Please forgive me,
Zocart grimaced and checked to see who was listening to their conversation.
“I was working at the libraries in Avalon researching some ancient rituals. I tracked down the rituals to their last known location, on Isola degli Dei. I took the first ship over. On the way I met some interesting people, well, I thought they were interesting. They seemed like they knew a lot about the rituals and in return I promised them a favor. You know I would do anything for the cause.”
Zocart shifts quietly and leans even closer.
“They promised to introduce me to the ones in possession of the rituals if I would in turn do them a favor to be named. I agreed. I was so close and I needed the introduction. From what I had heard the people of the island are very tight lipped and do not like foreigners. I was brought through back streets of the port city and finally down though a tunnel into what I can only call a lair. I knew I was in trouble but these are the kind of people you don’t mess with.”
“Who were they?”
“They are a very old group of vampires that have been living there for centuries. They let hardly anyone in to their abode and very few that enter return to the mortal world alive. I was brought to one of the women. She was pleased to discuss the rituals. She was interested in my studies and encouraged me to investigate the great library of Fakenham Magna soon. I agreed to go to the library to find the other rituals I was looking for.”
Illyana shook her head sadly and waited. Zocart lowered his eyes to the fire.
“I was so happy I didn’t even realize the danger I was in until it was too late. I was brought to an office with maps covering the walls where an old man and the fellow travels from the ship were deep in conversation. They invited me in and introduced me to the man whose name will haunt me forever. Arden. “
Zocart shivered in the cool evening.
“Arden was smile and welcoming gestures and then he requested the favor I had promised. He explained that he was collecting information about the continents, their capitals, and the people in them. It seemed as though he had been out of circulation with the world leaders for a while. He had tombs of written word, pages and scrolls in all hands and all languages collected form many sources. He questioned me about Ganslow and Avalon. He asked what information could be found and who was of interest in the city. When he asked about the citizens, their allegiances, and their customs, I grew slightly disgusted and he could tell. He asked if I was not a fan of the local culture there. I explained it was not like home, people were weaker and they were not as strong as those of us who traveled for the arts.”
Zocart looked at his hands and shook his head. “He knew. Somehow the old man knew. He asked me who had been with me that had gained his respect and why. I tried to hold back, but he in a way compelled me to tell him. I told him everything. I told him who you were, how we met, and how strong you were in your arts. He was very interested. I had no idea. He asked where you had gone from Ganslow, and I told him you were headed for Stony Cross. Immediately I could tell I had betrayed you. He threw me out the door and I waited while he discussed with his compatriots. I could hear raised voices and I grew impatient.”
“Finally he came out with a smile and told me I was going to do them the favor of visiting you in Stony Cross and warning you about the Blackbournes. Did you know they were evil? They are setting up an army to take over the continent and will probably try to get you to work with them. He was very agitated that I get to you quickly. On my way from Fakenham Magna south I was brought in for questioning by another local group working for the same man. At first I thought Volcanth was treating me to dinner as he mentioned but then I was thrown in the cell and questioned for days. I was beaten by monsters from the far realm and then brought in to be tortured. I thought I was gone but I saw you in my dreams, you seemed so real and so close I just had to hold on a little bit longer…. And then you came. Thank you. I don’t know which is worse, betraying you, almost dying, or possibly angering Arden.”
Illyana sighed, taking in everything that had happened these last few weeks and wondering where to begin.
“Zocart, the Blackbournes are evil…by the vampires standard. They are Dhampyric, half-breeds. They are against everything the vampires stand for. They are forming an army to stand against the vampires, not to take over the continent. I know this because they have asked me…asked all of us…to stand with them. We have not agreed yet but are still highly considering the offer. That’s how I found out about your dealings with them, though I already had my suspicions from that letter you sent. Well, the one you didn’t send but did – it kind of showed up in a hall of mirrors.
Anyway, I do NOT like the fact that this Arden is also so curious about my past. Isn’t it bad enough that the Blackbournes have already dug into my twisted lineage!”
Zocart looked at her questioningly; “Your lineage is no different from other Drow, is it?”
Illyana huffed at him; “Except for the part where half-breed blood runs through my veins if I choose to acknowledge it. Oh don’t look too shocked – is it really so surprising that one of my ancestors would have slept with a vampire?”