Hey, is this thing on? Oh… err, yeah, I guess it is. OK, let's give it a shot.
Greetings and salutations to you, brave souls, that found it in themselves to check out what hides under this mysterious title. I am your host, Eagle White, and I do hope that you'll spend at least a moment of your time reading this… story I guess.
Now before we venture deeper in to the plot I would like a moment of your time to explain a few issues that may arise during your reading of my story debut. As you may see, this story is in the crossover section of Fanfiction, under Harry Potter and Forgotten Realms section to be more precise. That said I need to inform you about a couple of changes that I made in the cannon/settings of the respective parts of this piece.
Let's start with the Forgotten Realms. As some of you may know in the last years, especially after the publication of the 4.0 Edition rulebooks for Dungeons and Dragons many a change had happened in the continent of Faerûn and on Toril as w whole. Most noticeably the Spellplague that was the direct result of the assassination of Mystra, the goddess of magic took place. In my setting however the Spellplague never did happen and Mystra (and as a result Azuth and Savras all still in the Dweomer Heart (or whatever it's called in English)) is still alive and well. That said, the massive changes in landscape hadn't happen as well as the rise to godhood of the archdevil Asmodeus. The second noticeable change is that Eilistraee, the good drow deity is alive, which can't be said about her brother, Vhaeraun. This change should be more noticeable than the other because… you'll know it when you read it. Basically, if anyone reading this has a copy of Faiths and Pantheons all the deities beside Vhaeraun are still present (sometimes however they aren't the same as you know them, but that's for you to find out, if I get that far of course).
Now, having said that let's move on to the changes in the Harry Potter realm. Basically the only thing changed is that the story begins in 2005 which should mean that the end of book seven should take place in 2012. I have my reasons for doing this and just so you know, parts of this work will use real world events that transpired during this period of time. Just so you know, this was originally written in 2008/09 and had since changed a bit, new concepts invading my mind while watching news and the like, giving me new plothooks. Saying that you should be able to tell what events are real. Oh, and just to be cautious: one of the described events in this work (well, maybe in sequels that I plan) may seem to be described politically incorrect, but it has a purpose. If someone feels insulted by it, I sincerely apologize in advance, that was not my intention.
OK, having that all said and done there are only two, maybe three things left to say. First of all: if any of you feel like reviewing my "work" please bear in mind that English is not my first language. If you happen to see awkward sentence constructions or other strange things that's why. I will hopefully over time get better at it, but it will be a long way before I begin to write it entirely correctly.
Secondly: most of this work and a good portion of the sequel is already written. That said it will be periodically updated, but not because of my laziness but the fact that it's written in Polish, my native language. You may ask "why haven't you posted it in Polish if you have it all already?" To answer that: don't take me wrong but I'm aiming at a broader audience. Well, that and my kinsmen tend to be really picky, and I'm not that good. Either way, I don't have a schedule and updates will be posted "as I translate 'em".
Oh, good thing I thought about it. I need to address one more thing: this is more than only a adventure/fantasy fic. As it's not exactly possible to fit more than two of the filters into this thing (pokes the genre part of the story synopsis) I'll just add it here. This will be a: adventure/friendship/fantasy with a bit of humor added to the mix. And just to be sure: rated T, possibly M in later parts due to coarse language, violence and sexual references.
Well, time to end this ridiculously long authors note. I wish you a good time reading my story. Hope to see you again.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything that may be remotely considered a property of anyone else. The Harry Potter series, the Forgotten Realms setting, Neverwinter Nights and Dungeons&Dragons are all owned be their respective owners. There is a fragment of a song called The Moon by Dark Moor used in this chapter, which I too don't own.
Natha keeshe lu' natha khaliizi
Al, nindol zhah myar*
Darkness filled the halls of the ancient tomb for centuries now. Carved in granite, decorated with marble sculptures and mosaics dimmed with the passage of years, despite centuries of neglect presented a real site to behold, even in this part of the Realms. The Sword Cost and Savage Frontier alike were littered with sites like this, the last remnants of the once grate Illefarn Empire, the builders of the Song Portals, an elvish and dwarvish alliance, a thing so strange, that to this day it's the only known case in the history of the world. This one ruin however was different. To this day undiscovered, it held riches and relicts of an ancient land, artefacts with the power that made the wildest dreams of the most insane wizards pale in comparison. After all, if the elves and dwarves could stand their ground against the flying cities of Netheril, their magic must have been exceptional. A great example of this was the King of Shadows, formerly known as the Guardian of Illefarn, a powerful, almost god-like being that up until now has threatened the existence of Neverwinter twice and who was stopped not so long ago by the Knight-Captain of Crossroad Keep and his companions, a knight wielding the holy Sword of Gith, a silver blade and most holy relict of the Gityanki race.
The lure of riches and artefacts of the elves and dwarves of Illefarn was as irresistible as it was deadly. Many a adventurer has lost their lives looking for places like this, and these who managed to find them needed to overcome deadly traps and monsters, that infested these crypts. And even if they managed to find their way to the treasures, they still needed to get out alive from the frequently unstable ruins that could collapse on their heads at any second. Many of them stayed in the ruins of the ancient empire forever, though not in this one. It was covered in shadows, undisturbed for decades upon decades. Up until today…
"You can run, Male, but you can't hide from the wrath of Lolth!" A feminine shout, full of malice, bloodlust and a hint of amusement pierced the dark corridor. "You can't run from the will of the Spider Queen!"
Her voice, beautiful in its drowish way and trembling with excitement fell upon deft ears. The darkness before her stayed silent, answering her only with the faint sounds of footsteps. Her eyes shone for a split second, adjusting to her innate ability of seeing in the darkness, and with a delighted smile on her lips she rushed in towards the sound of receding footsteps.
Strands of her silky-white hair fluttered behind her like a cape. Her fast, catlike movements were only slightly limited by the leather armor that she wore. By her belt, near her pouch used for storing potions, scrolls and her spellbook two twin blades rattled, both of them rapiers forged from mithral and both of them enchanted in unique and deadly ways. They weren't however the weapons, that the Dark Elf used right now. In her hand was a crackling whip, tipped with a live serpents head, a gift from the Spider Goddess for her faithful servant. The fury of the animal head served only to further amuse his mistress, a mistress, that disregarded the warnings in the mosaic walls, or rather didn't see them in the infrared spectrum in which she was currently looking. Her preys traces were easy to spot, shining with warmth in this cold environment. He couldn't run to far, not in his current state.
He was bleeding. He was bleeding for a good couple of minutes now, his skin shred by the snakes fangs and with poison in his veins. It was a miracle, that his body was capable of fighting of the toxin, and the fact that he was still capable of walking was confirming his suspicions. The gods had plans regarding him… or were a bunch of sick bastards taking pleasure in his suffering. He hadn't even had a chance to intone a short song, that could heal his wound. Well duh… of course he haven't! That lunatic of a woman, his so called nemesis just had to strike him so openly and brutally, not giving him the slightest chance to prepare or rest. She was stalking him, chasing him around with such vigor, that he wondered if she got turned on by all his near death experiences. After fifteen years on the surface it kind of got old.
He was a drow, just like her. Like her he had dark skin and long, silvery-white hair. They both had strange, lily-colored eyes. They both hailed from Menzoberranzan, a dark elf metropolis. Finally, they both knew some magic (he a fair bit more as he liked to tell himself). And that was all, that they had in common. She was devoted to Lolth, a fanatical priestess of the Spider Queen of the drow. He however was a faithful of the Dark Maiden, Eilistraee, he believed in her even before he escaped the confides of his homeland and chose living on the surface. She drew upon torturing her enemies and killing surfacedwellers while he searched a understanding with them. She hated the moonlight and was blinded by the sun, he however loved the moon and grew used to the daylight. She was one of the daughters of the Matron Mother of the third noble family in their hometown while he was only the First Son of the Matron Mother of the seventh family. Finally: she was safe and sound while he was losing more and more blood with each step.
This was utterly ridiculous. He spent almost one hundred years in the Sorcere tower god damn it! He knew magic capable of overcoming even the biggest inconvenience, but he couldn't use it to heal his side. "It's the domain of the priestesses" they said. "We don't have the right to work around their holy powers" they said. He however knew better. At the first opportunity that he had he learned bardic music of the surfacedwellers just so he could heal his own wounds. And now? Now he didn't even have the time to stop for a moment and pull a string or two of his lute or catch some breath and sing something. And, of course, the only healing magic he knew required from him just that: music. What use does he have of magic when he can't even use it for fuck's sake!
The sheath of his katana repeatedly hit the side of his leg. It was a beauty of a blade, his pride and joy: a sword with which he managed to survive almost as many encounters as with using his magic. His weapon, practically a extension of his arm by now, hid a lot of secrets. From the time that he, while being incapable of using his magic was forced to fight for his life with a dire bear and actually won he spent many years learning how to fence and trying to merge magical and physical prowess into one. He became known as the Spellsword, a being that houses magic in himself and in his blade. He always kept at least one spell hidden in the handle of his deadly weapon, and right about now he was furious that he didn't think of placing a healing spell in it. The Hells, why didn't he think about that! But no… He had to place some invocations supporting his strength and dexterity. And for what? Urgh…
He staggered slowly down the dark hallway, supporting himself on the mosaic wall with one hand, clutching his injured side with the other. He knew very well that he wasn't cautious enough, that his blood was dripping on the floor and leaving a clear trail along with the orange and yellow smears of his warmth on the walls. He couldn't however do anything about it. If he'll stop, he'll let her come near him. If he'll try to heal himself, he'll lose precious time that she'll use to get to him and make him regret that he stopped in the first place. He could do just one thing: run as fast as his tired legs could carry him and pray for a miracle. And whichever god was listening to his pleads, it showed his compassion.
He found a fork in the road. The hall that he used until now went in two separate ways. Darkness filled the left and right corridor, but nonetheless it gave him hope. He approached the fork as fast as he could, went down the left hall and with a shine in his eyes spun around, making a series of complex gestures with his free hand. If he's lucky enough he'll maybe able to win himself some desperately needed time.
His tracks were getting more pronounced by the minute. He must be staggering, that was sure. His blood stained the floor more clearly, his heat tracks on the walls were getting hotter with each step, replacing the fading reds with shades of orange. A evil smirk found its way on her lips. Her pray was close. So close…
Suddenly she stopped dead, looking in front of herself with bewilderment. For a moment she didn't have the slightest idea what she was looking at. Maybe her eyes switched themselves back to the spectrum of visible light? A quick look at her hand, shining with bright yellow dispelled her doubts. Before her was a sphere of impenetrable darkness, a darkness so dark, that even her amazing eyes weren't able to see through it. If something like this happened with any other man she would be furious. Her victim however wasn't a regular male.
"Very clever, Zak!" She shouted, her voice a mix between fury, credit and extreme amusement. "To use our heritage against me! Your getting more resourceful by the year! But it's still futile, you can't run from Lolth's wrath!"
With a determined step she went inside the sphere of shadows. She was confident, she knew that her prey must have used at least a couple of seconds to use this spell like ability, innate to every drow. That meant, that he was closer than she previously thought. And the fact that he was bleeding slowed him down even more. He hadn't had the slightest chance of escaping her. Well, he wouldn't have if the hall didn't split right here.
When she hit the wall that she wasn't expecting, she stopped, confused about what just happened. Did the male use some of his magic to conjure up this wall? No, this didn't make any sense, and as far as she knew he wasn't capable of doing that in his current state. That must have meant, that the corridor took a sharp turn or (what was getting more probable with each passing second) forked. A look of recognition flashed through her face, but was quickly replaced with a watchful frown. She needed to chose one of the two possible ways, so, with a short prayer to her goddess she made a decision.
When she reached the edge of the supernatural darkness she stood for a moment, looking intently for any signs of her pray. Something wasn't right here. She wasn't able to spot any bloodstains on the floor, not to mention his thermal "fingerprints" on the walls. Had she underestimated this man? Was he able to cast some kind of illusion to mask his tracks? And then, when she was pondering all this the sounds of a short song reached her ears, piercing the mass of magical darkness.
"…Influence of the Moon
Can make an artist or a loon
"It's the wrong corridor god damn it!" She shouted in her mind while she spun around and went back into the impenetrable darkness created by her adversary. She did however find this a clever move on his part. A bit risky, but clever nonetheless. Not only did he slow her down, he bought himself enough time to heal up his wounded side, and that meant that he was fully capable of defending himself. Now he could use his enchanted sword or the full potential of his magical, not to mention that now he wasn't slowed down like a few minutes ago. And that was what she loved about her enemy. Although he was only a dumb male, his cleverness and magical might made this chase fun for nearly fifteen years now.
"Should hold up for now." Zak concluded while running down the hall, feeling his side in search of his wound. It wasn't there anymore, or rather wasn't as deep as it was a few minutes ago and wasn't constantly bleeding. The dull pain remained nevertheless, especially that a few moments ago there was a deep hole in the place of his new, shining skin, regrowed in a unnaturally quick manner. This unpleasant sensation wasn't strong enough to restrict him in any way however, and the boots that he was wearing allowed him to move quicker than normal. A small smirk appeared on his face for the first time in many days. Now at least he had a fighting chance against Tris.
With the healing of his side his senses sharpened considerably. He was now more aware of his surroundings, even with his adversary hot on his heels. Taking a few sharp turns forced by the shape of the corridor he began to carefully study the warnings carved in the walls by deft dwarven hands. Years of studying and experience with ruins of ancient Illefarn, as well as the knowledge of their now dead language allowed him to read a few phrases from the granite structure while he run. To the untrained eye they may have seemed completely random, but he was far from untrained. If this really was a tomb, like he suspected from his brief study of the structure of this place, the phrases on the walls served as hints as to what possible traps lay down the corridor. It was a standard Illefarn custom, made for those who wished to visit their deceased loved ones in the foreseeable future, and now it served as a alarm system for raiders clever enough to figure them out. So, a phrase such as "…no man or woman may cross this path, only children with pure hearts…" was a good enough hint for a experienced wanderer like himself.
Not losing time in the search for the right material component in his hip bag nor refreshing magical formulas in his mind he gripped the handle of his katana and focused. He sensed with his magical senses spells that he placed in his sword for cases like this and found one that he currently needed. Concentrating on it he felt a strange tingling passing through his body, that after a second or two began to recede. Pleased with the sensation he felt he dropped on his stomach and began to crawl in the quietest manner that was humanly possible, remembering both the warning on the wall and the chase. If he'll get lucky again it will be the last time he'll have to listen to her insane rambling. At least until somebody decides to resurrect her.
She took a few sharp turns at full speed, bearing in mind that the man she was chasing was in the possession of magical boots capable of boosting his speed. She couldn't let herself lose him again. Despite all the fun she had hunting for this male she was beginning to miss the masses trembling with fear before her, as well as the horde of warriors that her family was capable of issuing. Not to mention the services of her slaves. But really, she better get her head out of the gutter, she had a treacherous male to hunt down and with each passing minute he was gaining distance, his heat traces becoming cold reds in her infrared vision.
Suddenly the trace all but vanished. She wasn't quite sure what could happen to do something like that. Normally a heat signature couldn't just brake off all of a sudden, excluding flying, teleportation and leaving the material plane of course. Well, the two last choices weren't exactly to likely: he didn't have the time. Flying too was a no-no, the ceiling was too low to allow that. She didn't hear him cast any spell either. So what did happen?
She didn't have the time to ponder on that question. A clicking sound reached her, followed by the sound of something cutting through the air. Letting instincts kick in she jumped backwards as fast as she could, saving her the grim perspective of having her head removed from her shoulders. A great blade, probably something similar to a great sword shoot out of a well concealed nick in the wall and cut through the air in a arc. She didn't however move quickly enough to make the blade miss her entirely. It caught her right forearm, the sudden pain almost making her drop her slithering whip. The blade made a deep cut, but it wasn't anything life-threatening nor was it impossible to heal.
Keeping an eye on the blade trap and studying it's self-reloading mechanism she reached with her good hand to her injured one and chanted a short, pleading prayer to Lolth. In a matter of seconds the gash in her arm healed up, a layer of fresh, ebony skin in its place. Satisfied with the effect of her manifested power she focused her attention on the trap. She wasn't stupid, although she did fell right into that one, and she was determined to overcome this slight obstacle in the form of a deadly trap. She wasn't about to let herself be stopped by something as insignificant as this. First of all: her enemy most likely didn't get himself injured by this contraption. She knew him too well, especially his soft spot for those thousands of years old ruins of a shitty empire of surfacedwellers. He could find almost all of these traps only by reading writings on the walls. He must have found a way to bypass this trap she concluded. And then, when she was thinking, looking at the slot in the wall with the blade her eyes caught site of slight movement. It wasn't anything significant, a slight movement of the rocks some forty feet from her position, probably caused by a rat fleeing from her. She however knew better than that. She focused on a series of complicated gestures looking intently in the meantime at a faraway spot down the hall, muttering secret formulas under her breath.
Suddenly, to her great satisfaction white, cold flames erupted in the place she was pointing at. White, cold flames in the shape of a human being. Or to be more precise: a crawling drow male.
"You never cease to amaze me, Zak." The priestess laughed out, watching with mirth as the flames began to move like a surprised, frantic man. "Each time I begin to think that you forgot how to behave like a drow you do something that any female in Menzoberranzan would be proud of. Sometimes I really wonder if you actually aren't a woman trapped in a man's skin."
"Cut the crap, Tris." The voice of the not-so-invisible man reached her ears. You could easily sense his irritation in his words. He currently was getting back on his feet having crossed the danger area of the trap. "I really don't have time to stay and chat with you, especially when I could use it to get away from you. You could answer me one thing though: aren't you bored yet? Really, how long can you chase after one lowly male that rejected a insidious goddess sending her own followers to fight one another?"
"You just answered that yourself, blasphemer." Tris hissed out accompanied by her whip. In the meantime she reached under her leather armor and pulled out a pendant attached to a mithral chain, depicting a black widow with a head of a drow female lowering herself from a cobweb –the holy, or rather unholy symbol of the Spider Queen. "As Lolth teaches us: thou shall convert or kill any drow that defies his Queen. And sadly, chances that you'll see the error of your ways are close to none." She looked on his fiery silhouette for a moment and then added: "Really, it's nothing personal, Zak." After that she smiled wickedly. "I'll miss our little stalking contest." And before he had time to react she lifted her unholy symbol and with a loud crash and bright flash something materialized near him. As he looked Zak could make out amidst clouds stinking with sulfur a giant spider, easily twice as big as he was.
"You never get bored, do you?" Zak resignedly asked, not expecting an answer as he reached with his right hand in the place where the handle of his katana should be. Although he still was invisible, excluding the white flames marking his silhouette of course, reaching for his favorite weapon and unsheathing it wasn't any problem for him. As he did that, he murmured a word of command under his breath, concentrating on his blade. Within second real, red-hot flames erupted from the steel of his sword, engulfing it and heating to ridiculous proportions. Then, not waiting for the spider to make his move he struck it with a two-handed slash, digging deep into the flesh of one of his eight legs, slicing trough chitin and flesh with ease and setting its short hair on fire.
He was a experienced swordsman, maybe not a master of the blade but all in all his abilities were impressive. Especially when it came to fighting with Dragons Tongue, his trusty weapon of choice. He sliced with his katana like a madman, fluently changing his grip from a two- to a one-handed and so changing styles before his opponent was able to get accustomed to one. The infernal beast before him hadn't had the slightest chance. It attacked desperately with its many legs, trying to knock down or catch this glowing figure with its fiery sting, to no avail. When the creature, despite its rather limited intellect decided that a attack from a distance was a more suitable approach, especially firing its web, it realized, that it didn't have enough room to do that. Besides, that frightening glow attacked with an ever rising fury, cutting of one of its thick legs and opening a way to its hairy body. The beast tried to save itself with its poisonous bite, but it was a little bit to late do that. While opening its mandibles in an desperate attempt to strike a poisonous bite its multifaceted eyes weren't able to pick out a fire blade coming straight for its cephalothorax. The deadly weapon was thrust into its mouth and pierced trough something, that could be described as the brain of the beast, effectively ending its existence in the material plane and sending it back to the Abyss from which it came from. With a loud bang and in a deep black cloud the infernal creature disappeared, leaving no traces of its existence except for some yellowy-green blood on the floor.
Zak didn't have time to celebrate his victory. As soon as he was able to banish the summoned spider, courtesy of Tris, he saw from the corner of his eye some movement. The crazed priestess was crawling under the madly swinging blade, just like he was a moment earlier. But that wasn't the alarming part, she was only half way through. The really frightening thing was what she was holding in her hand, and that was a drowish crossbow. A drowish crossbow aimed straight at his head!
He let his instincts kick in. While the information about the possible threat only began to reach his brain the bolt (probably poisoned by the way) was already in the air. He didn't have time to make any decisions, only to act. As fast as he could he jumped back, inadvertently stepping in one of the puddles of spider blood with his foot and losing his balance on the slippery surface. He fell backwards, hitting his head on the floor, thankfully not hard enough to lose consciousness. He wobbly stood up, but he was rather happy with this outcome. The fall saved his life.
He wasn't going to let that happen again, that was certain. He knew that Tris wouldn't be discouraged by this little setback and as soon as she'll crawl a few feet more she'll attack again, only this time she'll aim at something easier to hit than his only-slightly-invisible head. So, knowing all this he decided to reach in his hip bag and pull out a little pouch tied with a leather strap. Loosening the strap he refreshed his memories in search for the right magical formula and as soon as he remembered it he intoned it in draconic, pulling out from the pouch a little fragment of crystalline phosphorus. Then he threw it in the place where the effective range of the trap ended and turned around, finishing his spell and running off down the corridor that he chose to be his escape route.
A blinding flash of white heat forced her to immediately shut her eyes. If she didn't do that in time, she could lose her vision from the excess of white that almost pierced trough her closed eyelids. Whatever came to being before her, it was too hot to look at with infrared vision. She quickly forced her eyes to change to the spectrum of visible light and slowly opened them, half expecting what she's going to see. And she was right.
There was a wall in front of her. A wall of fire that is. A wall made purely of red and violet flames, reaching all the way to the ceiling and so hot, that you could easily feel the heat standing a good twenty feet from it. The firewall obscured her way as well as her vision –you couldn't see the other side trough the fire and the flames, giving Zak a perfect cover and a secure barrier at the same time. That however didn't discouraged her. She knew that her opponent was counting on it to slow her down, and she didn't want to give him this satisfaction.
Once more she reached for her unholy symbol and chanted a imploring prayer to Lolth. She knew that her Queen would listen to the pleas of her faithful servant, so she let a small smile grace her lips. And, just as she expected, a sensation like no other spread through her body, filling her with confidence. Her spell worked, and if she was quick enough she'll be able to cross the wall of flames, so not waiting for anything she began to crawl as fast as she could towards it, testing her divine power for any errors. She really didn't feel like ending up inside a wall of fiery doom without any supernatural protection. Even if one of her rings did protect her from fire, it wouldn't do much if she was engulfed in flames from head to toes.
It didn't take her long to find herself on the other side of the firewall. She really did have to hand it to him though: his level of control over the Art was really impressive, even for a former member of Sorcere. Her protective spell had almost completely discharged while she was passing through the flames, and the fact that the heat sensations were directed her way didn't help either. If she would have stayed there even a second longer her cloak (not to mention her hair) would be caught on fire. But she didn't have time to ponder possibilities that did not happen. She had a man to kill.
Zak was no fool. He perfectly knew that his firewall wouldn't stop Tris for long, even with the power he used to create it. He could easily make the flames burn for more than two minutes and if he so chose he could make them permanent with little to no effort. Then again what good would that do him? She had power over magic at a scale that at least made her capable of putting the flames down, not to mention passing through them. So instead he chose to carry on with his escape down the hallway. He did find some more traps, especially dart and arrow traps hidden in the walls, but with his keen senses and knowledge about the ancient language of the Illefarn people they weren't more of a nuisance than human distrust: true, they were annoying, even potentially dangerous, but they weren't impossible to overcome. Sadly, they were a onetime deal with no reloading mechanism in contrast to human bigotry.
Having a few moments and a nice lead over his stubborn countrywoman (blessed may be the maker of these shoes!) Zak let his mind wander for a while. He left Menzoberranzan sixteen years ago and spent fifteen of them on the surface, gaining knowledge and magical power. He did get over the fact that he lost his noble capability of levitation a long time ago, replacing it with a series of spells. Finally he lived free, following the teachings of the Moon Maiden, cutting himself from his evil confreres. And so only Tris did followed him throughout the years, her and the distrust of surfacedwellers of course. That however began to slowly recede and annoy him less, especially thanks to the stories of Drizzt Do'Urden from Icewind Dale, the hero of the battle of Mithral Hall that began to be more popular among the people of the Sword Coast. Oh, how he would like to meet this drow, a spiritual brother that managed to get recognized by the people of the surface. How would he like to exchange only a few words with him, say in his face that his story was one of the most important factors that let the vision of abandoning the ways of his kinsmen take hold in his mind. That if it wasn't for him, he would still be stuck down there, living a life that he didn't want to live.
Remembering Tris he steered his thoughts towards her. The eldest daughter of the Matron Mother of house Yasliesril, a very talented priestess of Lolth and, what's really uncommon among the upper classes and priestesses (but not so much from the famed Lolth's Silence) a capable adept of the fine art of mystical magic. And to his chagrin the woman that was sent by the high priestesses to kill him. He remembered her from Sorcere. She was the only female, the only priestess in training that regularly visited the tower and demanded teaching from the local masters. He remembered clearly that in the beginning Master No Face hurriedly taught her some easy tricks just so he could get her off his back. Well, that was a long time ago, he was still a child back then, just like she was, and the only thing that he was allowed to do in the tower was sweeping the floors, not to mention that he didn't even know a single word in draconic (which was like second nature for him now). Besides, if Drizzt was still in Menzoberranzan and No Face was still breathing it really was a long time ago. Oh well, that wasn't the point anyway.
He remembered that one day he had an opportunity to observe Tris while she was practicing a simple spell in one of the abandoned rooms in the tower. If his memory served him right he had to clean that room, but when he found that it was occupied by a young priestess he postponed his decision in favor of satisfying his curiosity. He had to hand it to her: for someone so young she really was clever, especially considering, that she was more used to divine magic than its mystical counterpart.
The spell she was learning was Mages Hand. He remembered how she stubbornly tried to lift a candle standing on top of a desk in front of her. She pointed on it with her finger, repeating the command word on and on, to no avail. While she was doing this he stood silently, slowly sweeping the floor and watching her. Back then he suspected that he wouldn't have any more success than she had. Then, when he decided that he should leave this room and give the girl (they were only twelve back then) some space so she could practice in peace something happened. Her voice, op until now speaking in draconic echoed in their native language, and it was directed at him.
"Do you know what I'm doing wrong?" He stopped dead. He wasn't sure what she should do in a situation like this. Was there someone else here, besides him and her? No, that couldn't be right, he would notice. Still he didn't dare to move a muscle, at least until the girl decided to repeat herself. "Tell me what I'm doing wrong. I won't order you killed for talking to me."
"Err… OK." He stuttered out hesitantly and turned to face her. First thing he noticed were her eyes. She had the same lilac eyes that he had, or at least he thought that he had, he seen his reflection in this… thing… called a mirror only once. But what really hit him was that there wasn't any malice in her orbs, a thing that he grew automated to see in the eyes of every female. In its place he saw something, that he interpreted as a request of assistance from a woman, something really uncommon among dark elves. Still, he put these ponderings aside, focusing on the problem at hand. He warily approached her, eying the scrolls that were resting beside her. There was a dozen of them as he noted.
"So, you know what's the problem I'm having?" He heard her asking him again, so he looked at her almond-shaped eyes. "Why doesn't this spell work for me?"
"Well… Did you cast Read Scrolls before you began practicing with them?" Zak asked trying to make his voice sound not to arrogant, especially while facing a woman, and not to show fear in this situation he found himself in.
"Master No Face cast it for me." She answered a little surprised, looking at him curiously. "That should suffice, shouldn't it?"
"Every wizard needs to cast it for himself." Zak replied a little calmer. "Master No Face must have forgotten about that, he's known for making mistakes like that. I believe that you know this spell, right? You can't begin to learn any spells before you know that one."
"Yes, but… -She replied evasively, blushing a little. "I… I didn't prepare that spell today. I… don't think I can cast it."
"And what about the fancy divine magic that you guys poses?" Zak all but forgotten about his prior nervousness, going into scholar mode. "Don't you have a similar spell that you could pray for? From what I know, and that isn't much mind you, if you don't change the spells that you are praying for the next time you get them there the same as the day prior. And you, as a priestess should have access to this magic, isn't that right?"
"Um… well, I… technically I'm not… a priestess yet." She answered slowly, weighing her every word and looking closely for any deception on his part. "I…don't have a… holy symbol, so… yeah…"
"Well… that's a problem." Zak momentarily lost his enthusiasm, partially because the girl was watching him like she suspected ill will from him. Looking anywhere but at her his eyes rested on the desk with the candle. Suddenly a thought struck him. He had the means to do something about this whole situation, and although it would cost him a personal belonging, not to mention that if he got caught he would be in deep shit, he decided that the pros outweighed the cons. So, looking back at her he began, a little tremble in his voice. "One of the masters sometimes leaves some scrolls in this desk. With a little bit of luck, there should be a scroll of Read Magic in there. From what I know the spell is fairly simple, so the scroll should be scribed in a way that makes it easy to read and cast without magical means. I could look in there if you want, but you have to promise that you won't tell anybody."
"Deal, just… look in there already." She barked out impatiently. Zak hearing this got to work: he reached to his pocket and pulled out a slightly crumpled scroll that he managed to steal from one of the classrooms. Now that he tough about it, he had another one hidden in his room, so he could use up this one with no fear. It safely rested with all the other magical equipment that he was able to sneak out. He wasn't the only one doing something like this, so the risk of him being couth was minimal. Returning to reality: he straightened the parchment while nearing the desk, cleared his throat a little and read its content out loud, all the while gripping the handle of the drawer with his other hand. As soon as he proclaimed the last word, surprised that he managed to pronounce everything like he should have he heard a click, just like someone would put a key in the lock and turned it. The only thing that was left was to pull the drawer open, which he did with absolutely no resistance.
"It went better than expected." Zak said under his breath. Remembering that he wasn't alone he quickly rummaged through the content of the drawer and found something interesting. There were two scrolls, and both of them contained the same spell. Read Magic. Smiling contently he pulled them out and closed the drawer, hoping that whichever master used this desk wouldn't notice the lack of two scrolls or the fact that the drawer was open. Turning to his partner in crime he handed her one of the scrolls. "Here, now you shouldn't have any problems with these scrolls. You need only to cast this spell and you should be able to understand everything."
"Not so fast!" She halted him before he could make a run for it –a habit that he acquired while living in the tower. "I want you to show me how to cast this spell first. If you'll do alright I may even give you one of these scrolls, besides the one you'll use up for the demonstration of course. So, deal?"
She didn't even had to wait for an answer. If Zak could somehow speed up his studies, learn a new spell there was no force in the Abyss that could stop him. After a quick shout of "Deal!" he grabbed one of the scrolls lying in the pile beside her and straightened it. Using his free hand to do the same with the second scroll, this time containing Read Magic he read aloud its content, casting the spell from it. He felt a weird tic in both of his eyes, a sure sign that the spell worked. Loosing no time he got down with the other scroll.
In a moment's notice the confusing runes of the draconic language shifted in his eyes, gaining meaning, sense and clarity, enabling him to comprehend the scrolls content with ease. Repeating it in his mind a few times to gain confidence he decided to try it. Doing everything according to the instructions he pointed in the direction of the candle with his free hand, after which he spoke the command word loudly and as clearly as his tongue let him pronounce words of the dragons language. Zak felt that magic gathered in his hand, flowing through the base of his forearm and exiting from the tip of his outstretched finger; he felt his will beginning to outstretch from his body, reaching out in a incredible sensation (for a inexperienced wizard of course) to the object that he was pointing. In only a split second his magic reached the lighted candle and a delicate movement of his hand caused the light source to react accordingly.
The candle, and the whole candlestick for that matter rose slowly, as if held by and invisible hand. Seeing this Tris let out a small gasp and stared in silent fascination at the floating object. Zak in turn decided to test how far his control over the candle extended by moving it in large, fluid circles above their heads. Over time he began to make more complicated maneuvers with it, experimenting with rising and falling, with making sharp turns and changing direction midflight and even with slight tilting it. He found out to his immense enjoyment that he had total control over the candle: it fulfilled his mental orders to the letter with a unreal level of accuracy. To put it simply: he was more than pleased. This spell wasn't even slightly hard to him, in fact it was simple as pie. And that was the moment that he remembered he wasn't alone. He was playing around with a spell in the presence of a young priestess to be so it was only natural to expect a rather unpleasant reaction on her part, especially if she felt that she was outclassed by a male. Quickly he landed the candle on the same desk that that it started from and waited.
When he didn't hear any malicious comments from her Zak felt a little surprised. Was she preparing something worse than a verbal assault? His surprise changed into pure bewilderment however when he realized that she was actually applauding him.
"Impressive, very impressive." Tris prized him loudly and, as Zak guessed, sincerely. "What you did with that candle was way better than what master No Face showed. And that thing that you did with that drawer… You must be a really good student."
"No, I just sweep the floors around here…" Zak answered hesitantly, feeling a sensation on his cheeks, quite different from the one accompanying casting spells. If only he could see his face, or at least his heat signature… "Those few tricks… I just… I mean nobody did…"
"You mean to tell me that you learned that on your own?" Tris asked with raised eyebrows. "Well, let me rephrase that then. You're not a good student… You're a great student! Really, if you're so good on your own than imagine how good can you get with proper instructions!"
"Maybe we should get a move on with the spell a cast?" Zak suggested embarrassed. That was the first time in his life that a woman, even if she was the same age as he was actually prized him for something. He really didn't expect something like that, especially from a priestess to be.
"Oh, right! The spell!" Tris instantly changed the subject, focusing on the scrolls resting beside her. "I have a few questions. Is it really important that you carefully point your finger on the object you want to move? And do you need to concentrate the whole time on the object or can you just let it float by itself for awhile?"
The next few minutes were filled with Tris's questions about every little detail of the spell and Zak's answers to them. He did feel like hours went by while he explained everything, not minutes, but to his surprise he didn't regret them nor did he feared the possible consequences of it. His companion was a surprisingly good listener, devoid of the impatience commonly shown by most drow women. He didn't even notice when their conversation slipped from Mages Hand on to new topics, such as the daily life in Arach-Tinilith and Sorcere. It quickly became clear that they both had identical opinions about a couple of masters, particularly about the horribly deformed master No Face. They both seen him as a eccentric moron asking to be murdered by one of the remaining masters. They both liked however that magical cat he possessed, that black panther that he kept calling Guenhwyvar. Years later Zak found out that after the death of her former master she found herself in the hands of non ether than Drizzt Do'Urden, which made him even more amazing in his eyes.
Eventually the both of them realized, that they were losing time talking while Tris was supposed to train in the use of the spell and Zak should be cleaning one of the classrooms. Thinking fast Zak decided that it was in their best interest if he got lost so to say. He really didn't want to be caught by some local wizard or a priestess that came to collect Tris while talking to her, especially that he should be sweeping the corridors. Zak let his –dare he say that –friend know about that, and she greeted this piece of information with surprising understanding. She promised to keep her mouth shut about his involvement and gave him one of her scrolls, just as she promised him. Before he ran off however she halted him for just a moment longer.
"You know, I should be thanking you for the help and I don't even know your name. Could you share it with me?"
"I'm Zak'Talqosee, Zak for short. The First Son of the twenty-sixth family, Vicloth." He said with a exaggerated bow. She replied with a small giggle.
"Tristonein Yasliesril, nineteenth family, First Daughter. You can call me Tris. So… fare thee well, Zak. I hope that we'll meet again."
Almost a hundred years have passed, a hundred long, tough years. Their families progressed in the social standings of their hometown, up to the point that they were a part of the ruling council of Menzoberranzan. They used the fall of some of the noble families, such as Do'Urden, Obladora and DeVir as much as they used the political perturbations of Lolth's Silence, and their clever usage of the rise of the self-appointed Valsharess south-west of their hometown got them in a place of power. As expected only one house managed to stay in the same position in the ruling council, and that house was house Beanre. For centuries they were the supreme force in their little slice of the Underdark and they managed to retain that place even in the face of such weird incidents as the treason of the princess of the family. Nonetheless reaching respectively the seventh (Vicloth) and third (Yasliesril) position in the council was a feat in itself.
He didn't know what happened to that girl he met that fateful day in Sorcere tower. When he looked at Tris now he didn't see anything familiar in her. Zak suspected, that the teachings in Arach-Tinilith changed her, brainwashed her, killed everything that didn't fit a typical drow woman, not to mention priestess of the Demonic Spider Queen. Compassion, mercy, all that needed to disappear, along with her original personality. Now only one thing remained: hate. Hate to men, hate to the surfacedwellers, hate to himself, hate to the worshippers of Eilistraee. He practically felt her killing intent each time they met. And even now, after countless attempts at ending his life he couldn't bring himself to do one thing. He couldn't kill her himself.
He knew magic capable of doing her great harm, potentially even killing her without mush effort. He could do that whenever he wanted to. The thing is, each time he looked her in her eyes, in that psychedelic shade of lilac he saw this young bright girl, asking him for help in learning a simple magic trick. He really wouldn't have had any problems if she died by some sort of a trap or if someone decided to do it for him, but when it came to fighting her… He just couldn't make himself do it.
"One day I'm going to die because of that memory." He said under his breath while he hurriedly went down the dark corridor. "I bet that she doesn't even remember that, and even if she did, she would probably used that against me by now… Why can't I just kill her and be done with it?"
That was a question that he hadn't had an answer to. To be perfectly honest he didn't expect anyone to have an answer to that, not even his closest friend, his familiar –a crow named Kelell. Basically: if he couldn't figure it out on his own, no one could do it for him.
Suddenly a sound that was not the echo of his footsteps resonated behind him. He didn't know, and to tell the truth didn't want to know what it was that tailed him, but whatever it was, he suspected it wasn't exactly friendly. He had a long tradition of cases like this: it could be a monster that lived and here decided that he was a suitable snack or maybe a group of adventurers that in a first reaction to seeing a drow decided to kill him and strip him of his magical equipment… Worst case scenario it was Tris again, but she couldn't possibly catch up to him by now, especially after he gained such a nice lead. Well, at least he thought it wasn't possible…
"Thanks for cleaning up the way for me, male!" A half crazed voice rang out behind him. If it wasn't for the fact that Zak actually suspected something like this he would stumble where he stood and looked behind himself with bewilderment. "How did she catch up to me so fast?" "Thanks to your clumsy attempts at bypassing the traps I had a relatively clear path, so I managed to gain some speed, especially considering that I poses a few scrolls and potions of Haste."
"Wall, that explains that." Zak thought bitterly, trying to gain some more speed. Unfortunately he was already running as fast as he could with his boots on. Besides, there was the case of his invisibility spell. If she could see him, that must have meant that the spell that he recasted after fighting the infernal spider wore off somehow. Although… He looked at his hands. Not surprisingly he couldn't see them, nor could he "see" the heat signatures of them, and that meant only one thing. "Truesight, of course. I forgotten that she could do that" In that case there was no sense in pretending that he wasn't there.
"A Truesight spell. Very clever, Tris." He shouted over his shoulder not slowing down and definitely not turning around. "I don't even want t know how you managed to get the eye ointment, but that's unimportant. You won't catch me!"
"Even if you run into a wall face first?" Tris asked with fake innocence. That of course sent a shiver down his spine. Thanks to the Truesight spell she was able to pierce the darkness of the corridor much farther than he could and see anything that was before him. That in question meant that she really saw a wall or a dead end in front of him, judging by the mirth in her voice. She didn't however know as much as he did about the architecture of illefarnian tombs. There could be a hidden passage there.
One thing was sure: Tris didn't bluff about the wall. After a few seconds he too managed to spot a seemingly bare wall, ending the corridor in a dead end. What picked Zak's interest was the fact that there seemed to be a light source near it: two pale-blue crystals on the opposite sides of the corridor, dimly illuminating the site. If it wasn't the situation Zak found himself in he would recognize them as etheric lampions, magical objects protecting places from evil spirits. Unfortunately he hadn't had time to think about that, thanks to Tris. He also didn't have time to read through the carved writings on the walls, which was a real shame. If he did that, he would rather face Tris than take even a step nearer to the wall. He hadn't had a choice sadly, he needed to get on the other side of the wall, away from this raging lunatic of a woman. He knew out of experience that she would torture him if he let himself be caught.
If his intuition served him right the hidden door were situated in the central part of the wall, and knowing the first rule of every dungeon: "hidden doors are usually opened by a lever placed somewhere else" he quickly came to a conclusion. One of the crystals must unlock the passage. Losing no time he quickly ran to the one on the left and pulled with all his strength.
The crystal didn't even budge. The only thing that happened was that it ceased to emit it's pale blue light. Frustrated with his failure Zak quickly jumped to the other side and did the same with the second crystal. The reaction was the same: only the light went off. This was not good. Was he really in a dead end? He prepared his katana for the upcoming fight. And that was when He felt it.
A wave of overwhelming power washed over his entire body, piercing trough every inch of his flesh and almost knocking him on his knees. Never before had he felt something even remotely close to this. It was as if a unbelievably powerful magical power was condensed in a really small place and then suddenly found its way out in a unbelievably strong, magical burst, scattering in every direction. He even heard a surprised gasp from Tris when she felt the same thing as he did. Whatever it was, it was unimaginably powerful. And it apparently came from behind his back.
Disregarding his common sense, screaming at him not to do it he looked behind him, ignoring a slightly confused Tris standing a couple of feet from him. What he saw was a site that was currently something much more preferred than a fight with a priestess. On the centre of the wall, just like he expected a single door, normally hidden, stood slightly ajar, leading to another chamber, maybe a continuation of the corridor. He didn't even mind the fact, that there was light coming from there, probably from some kind of torch (or rather torches). If by going through this passage he could get away from Tris he definitely was going to do it.
He hurriedly entered the newfound room, changing his sight from infrared to the normally visible light spectrum. Zak found himself in a chamber, that looked like it was a mix between a throne room and a mage's workshop. The walls of this hundred feet wide room were littered with desktops covered with occult scribing and alchemical equipment alike. There were also bookshelves filled with ancient-looking tomes. It wasn't maybe a library on the scale of the one in Sorcere, or any of the libraries in Silverymoon for that matter, but it still was really impressive, especially considering Illefarn's achievements in the field of magic. The chamber was divided in two by a colonnade consisting of columns carved from grey marble standing some thirty feet from one another, creating a inner hall leading to the feet of a pedestal with a stone throne. On that throne however Zak found something that he haven't seen before in his life.
When the drow ventured deeper into the chamber he was able to recognize what he was looking at. On top of the throne, on a weird looking shelf mounted in the place where the neck should have been was a skull. It wasn't however a normal skull. Disregarding the fact that it was still connected to its jaw (not to mention the neck region of the spine) it was strangely ornamented. There were five large, droplet-shaped gems, each colored differently from the other mounted in its forehead, circling a large ruby, the sixth gem. The eyeholes of this skull were also filled with great precious stones, this time with green emeralds. Even the teeth were replaced by shiny rocks: diamonds sparkled in the dim light of the eternal torches, each cut in the shape of a corresponding tooth it replaced. Basically speaking the site was incredible, if not terribly confusing.
Zak was considered a expert in the field of archeology, especially in ancient Illefarn. He was even able to publish tree books up to date, each of them covering a different aspect of the life of these ancient people. Under his pen name, The Collector of Silverymoon was able to expand the knowledge about this specific region to a whole new level. But in all of his research he hadn't even heard about this method of decorating the corpses of the dead, be it a old Illefarn ritual or a "new fashion trend" of these people. If it wasn't for a insane drow priestess hot on his heels he would spend as much time studying this new discovery as he would consider necessary. He would… wait a moment… oh fuck, Tris!
"Got you now, og'elend (traitor)." He hear her whisper huskily in to his ear. One of her rapiers was pressed into his back. "This time you don't have anywhere to run."
"Could you do it already? I'm tired of your constant droning." Zak interrupted her, his voice irritated. "Just stick your blade in my back and be done with it, ligrr (girl)."
"Oh, but I don't want to do that!" Tris replied with mirth. "Not until I get some fu…" Suddenly she stopped, frozen in place and only breathing in a quickened, frightened pace. If it was a normal situation Zak would be a little surprised but would nonetheless capitalize on that and try to escape… Problem is, this wasn't a normal situation at all. He too was petrified, incapable of moving any part of his body except his eyes.
"What in the Nine Hells is going on?" Zak growled out in his mind, trying with all his might to move, even if a little bit. "A paralyzing spell? But how? Except me and Tris there's nobody here! What the fuck is going on?" And in that exact moment something hit him. He looked intensively at the skull on the throne resting only a couple of feet from them and he understood. "Elghinyrr'fearn!"
"No, darkskins, not a lich." A voice speaking in common spoke to them. It had a strange, antique-sounding accent and was coming from everywhere in the same time, echoing in the chamber and gaining volume to an almost diabolical level. "A demilich."
In that moment the dark elf and probably for the first time since she got there his companion/would-be killer noticed something, that chilled them to the bone. The skull that up until now rested on the throne raised in the air, slowly coming closer to them. The gems set in its eyeholes shone with a disturbing, evil way that sent chills even down Tris's spine. The vile thing must have sensed that because it roared with laughter for no apparent reason, so loudly, that it managed to knock a thin layer of dust from the ceiling. Only then did the two drow notice a bone hand floating beside the skull.
"Are my soul gems so frightening to you?" The skull abruptly ended its demonic cackle and asked, closing its distance to them and stopping some five feet from them. "Or maybe you're afraid that you'll end like this? I won't lie, I hadn't had a chance to properly eat in more than a couple of thousands of years, so your souls are a bit tempting. But alas, I am… I were a man of his word and I always repaid my debts to anyone that helped me. So, the souls of my liberators are safe from my huger, for now." He laughed some more, backing himself a bit from his unwilling saviors.
"To think that the elves and dwarves of Illefarn managed to trap me in this gods forgotten tomb. That they forced me to watch how dust covered my ambitions…" Zak blinked a few times (or at least he would do that if his eyelids would respond) hearing this. Was this skull talking to them or to himself? "I have to give it to them though: their blockade was strong. Not that it mattered to me, I still could summon some demons and other infernal creatures and hear the news from the wide world from them." Yes, he definitely began "the monologue". What is it with evil beings and their speeches that no one cared about? "I know about the births and deaths of gods. I know about the fall of the puny civilization that managed to imprison me here. I know even about the happenings in that funny little village called Neverwinter and, to be honest: I'm really happy about the fall of the Guardian. One cursed relict of this blasted empire less."
The skull fell silent for a moment, flying around its "guests" and gazing at them with its sickly-green emerald eyes. But even now Zak was more irritated than he was scared, not by much but nonetheless. Was it really so important to the "oh-so-powerful-beings-of-mass-boredom" to share their life history with their soon-to-be victims? Why can't they just shove their blade or whatever in their heart and end it? Come to think of it, why didn't Tris do tha… Oh, no, wait, stupid question. Tris was probably going to use him as her personal sex toy before she sliced his throat. Well, that way he would be killed doing something remotely fun, not bored half to death by a dead man missing most of his body parts. Speaking of which…
"I was called Khrel-Ithyr, the Bone Lord. They called me the Avatar of Death. They took me for a messenger of the gods of death, Jergal incarnated." "Do I look like I care?" Zak thought angrily trying to break the spell he was under, sadly with no success. "I'll say it right now: if I could I would dispose of the fool that Kelemvor is. Myrkul was much closer to my liking… a shame, really, that his corpse is now home for Githyanki." Suddenly his bony hand reached for Tris and stroked her cheek in a semi-affectionate way, to the grate displeasure of said drow. Even without skin and flesh on his face you could tell that this whole Khrel-Ithyr guy was smiling in a unnerving way.
"Ah, my young, feisty Ilythiiri (drow). Do you really think that you could command me? That you could bend my will like if I'd been a lousy ghoul? I don't think so…" The so called Bone Lord once more turned his back against them, if you considered the small fragment of his spine a back, and raised his hand in the air. Purple sparks shot out of the tips of his knuckles. "Rise, my brothers! We have been freed! Once more we can step out of the walls of this accursed tomb! Rise, my brothers!"
A few parts of the walls that weren't obstructed by anything began to slide under the floor, inside carefully masked slits that happened to be the future thresholds of five hidden doorways. As soon as they stopped, creating a passage in a manner carefully planned by thy makers of this tomb the two captured drows were able to peer inside, seeing rooms filled with darkness. They were however able to make out at least three thin, bony figures, each of them nearing the light of the everlasting torches. Finally they were able to distinguish what they were, and to be honest –it didn't look too well.
Liches. Even more bony mages, covered in leathery remains of their skins and fine, magical clothing, untouched by the passage of years. There were more of them than Zak and Tris expected, five if they weren't mistaken, and that was more than they thought they could handle, even if they had the freedom of movements on their side. Incapable of fleeing or fighting they were forced to look at the dreadful assembly of long dead wizards, animated by the powers of dark magic.
As they looked at the horrific site before their eyes they noticed, that each of the more-complete-then-their-leader liches were representing one of the dominant races of Faerûn. There was a human lich, the highest of the five, wearing proudly a golden diadem incrusted with diamonds on his bare forehead. Next to him stood a smaller and more fragile-looking undead, probably an elf in its lifetime, gazing at them with his blood red seeing stones in place of his eyes. A little bit further from them a stout, square-skulled living corpse of a dwarf glared, his massive, tick-boned arms crossed on his barrel-like chest. Behind them all two childlike skeletal beings stalked their way through, probably a halfling and a gnome respectively. You could say that there were missing only an orc lich but then again, no one ever heard of an orc capable of learning the rituals needed to initiate the transformation into a undead mage.
"Now that's just fan-freakin-tastic! Why does this kind of shit always happen to me?" Zak thought bitterly. First he gets caught by Tris only for her and him to be captured by a flying skull with an overgrown ambition and now this sorry excuse of a undead had to call in its friends. They could be stupid ghouls or mindless skeletons but no! It had to five liches, five more complete liches than there one-handed bandit of a leader.
The five that answered the call of "the flying skull" (as Zak dubbed him in his mind) noticed their leader right away and bowed before him, almost breaking in half during it. It was a real wonder that beings like them were even capable of such a "acrobatic" feat. Nevertheless the five undead mages quickly straightened themselves and spoke a few choice words in a language so old that possibly forgotten even by the gods themselves, after which they noticed the captured drows. They circled the paralyzed prisoners, each of them ready to cast a deferent curse on them if they tried anything funny. The only thing that stopped them from doing that right away was the look that their leader was giving them while slowly floating in the air and observing his liberators. Finally he stopped in front of Zak's face and flashed his emerald eyes at him.
"Like I said, I was a man of his word. I will not eat your souls, nor will I kill you, and believe me, I could with just a flick of my hand." Khrel-Ithyr said slowly, his bony hand playing with a strand of Zak's silvery-white hair, sending shills down his spine. "If it wasn't for you I would be still trapped in this puny dungeon. It doesn't mean however that I'll let you go freely, no sir! There is a thing, a spell to be exact, that I've been working on for the past millennia and I didn't have the chance to test it. And guess what: you two are going to be my test subjects! Do not worry, this spell won't kill you." He assured them, bur a strange glimmer in his emerald eyes gave it off. "But it will shorten your lives!" He added with a laugh and reached with his only existing hand to the right. A wand suddenly materialized in his bony knuckles and with a flick of his nonexistent wrist he pointed it at them. Then, using a word of command in a language that only his companions knew he cast a spell. A bright, scarlet ray shot out of it, hitting them both at the same time.
Zak didn't have a slightest clue what exactly happened, and neither had Tris. When the magical ray connected with their bodies they felt a strange sensation around their hearts that began to spread out trough their flesh, and then, in a bright flash and a cloud of dust everything stopped. A mere moment later the dust cloud subsided and there were able to see clearly. In the first moment they didn't had any idea what was this all about. They didn't feel any different and they definitely didn't feel any pain. So what happened? Well, if they really needed an indicator of the strangeness of all this than the fact that everything seemed a bit larger than they remembered was as good as the next best thing.
"A shrinking spell? And a flawed one at that? What's going on?" Zak was thinking hard, especially concerning that he wasn't able to look at his body properly. But if he could do that… well, let's just say that he wouldn't be too happy about the… changes, that's a good enough word.
"Strange." Khrel-Ithyr murmured under his breath floating away from his two test subjects and looking at them with an interested glimmer in his gem eyes. "Physical changes like I wanted them to be, but the age isn't right. And a strange mix of racial traits… hmm… Well, at least the aging rate seams right. But why did my spell worked in a way so far from what I desired? I worked on this formula for the past five hundred years. Any ideas?" His companions only shook their heads in consternation. The five liches spent the last millennia trapped with this demilich and they knew him better than any mortal could ever hope to, but they didn't see him up until now failing any of his spells and, to be quite frank, they didn't know what to do. Thing like this just didn't happen god damn it! Khrel-Ithyr however didn't seemed to be too interested in answering his own question and began to orbit the two drows like a grotesque moon, thinking about his next move.
"I must say, my Ilythiiri friends, you managed to surprise me. You managed to shake off, even if only partially, a spell of really epic proportions. You have my respect. It's really a shame that it'll won't do you any good." He chuckled a bit but managed to calm himself. "You, how do you put it, outlived your usefulness for me. I would let you go, but where would be the fun in that? I think I'll send you somewhere whit a spell, just let me think… hmm… I hear that Cania is beautiful this part of the year. Freezing cold it is, capable of changing white dragons into icicles. Don't worry, I just jest. I wouldn't send you two to the depths of the Nine Hells. That would be too simple. Oh, I got it! Yes, this'll do great! Another Material Plane, one that doesn't have to many portals to this world. Now you two just relax and stand still. This won't hurt… worse than having your eyes ripped out of course."
And then they both disappeared, just like that, before the two of them had any chance to do anything, not that they could considering that they were still petrified. But even then, while they ceased to exist in their world they still felt, and the things they did register were far more than the feeling of having your eyes ripped from your skull. Everything began to push against them from every direction and in the same time their bodies were stretched like a piece of rubber. Every inch of their bodies hurt like hundreds of thousands of icy needles were piercing their flesh and began to burn underweight their skin. They suffered unimaginable pain in every square inch of their frames, even their hair, normally a senseless mass hurt like the most fragile part of their bodies.
They drifted like that for what they felt been hours upon hours, floating in a abyss darker than the darkness of the Underdark, feeling crushed by it. No one could stand something like that. Even the insane priestesses of Loviatar weren't capable of dealing such pain. Finally their brains did the only thing that prevented them from losing their minds. They both lost concusses while speeding through the endless planes of the Shadow Realm, crossing the barriers of Material Planes faster than time itself. And then, as suddenly as this all started the stopped, hitting with a great slam against the walls of a place, than none of their kind has seen before.
* Drowish for "Well, this is bad"