One by one they all arrived at the designated time, meeting in the sanctuary. Some showed hints of concern for what today might behold, but all were hopeful that it would not turn out a mere futile attempt to learn what the void holds.
Verdazar called Joxia away from the rest and handed her a sealed parchment. She looked at it and then to him the question on her lips "Whats this?"
"Instructions should something happen and I dont return", came the calm and quiet reply.
She felt a quick instant pang of fear in the pit of her stomach which she forced away, drawing on her confidence and belief in what they were doing...and in him. She searched his face intently, her green eyes meeting and holding his gold flecked gaze and nodded as she slid the parchment into a pocket.
"Remember you priority is the safety of the others and the Temple" He said.
Suddenly her mouth felt dry and another nod was all she could seem to muster until they were walking back to the others when she mumbled, not even certain if he heard her or not, "Better to loose just one than the whole," came out in a hoarse whisper.
Now, one by one they file out of the sanctuary, taking the winding passageways and stairs to the top of the volcano. Someone ask, "Dont we have a ritual room for this?"
The prompt reply from Verdazar was "There is not an adequate power source there." This seemed to quell any further questions.
Once they reached the top, there loomed the pillar of fire and waves of intense heat blasted them, and the smell of sulfur, strong in the air. Someone must have ventured too close to the altar of Moshran which shares this space with the pillar of fire. "Stay away from there", was Verdazars abrupt warning, "He has nothing to do with this".
Verdazar crossed the stone bridge over the small moat of lava surrounding the pillar and carefully unwrapping the black silk cloth from around the book he then places it upon the pedestal. Then he removed his helm revealing the diamond embedded in his forehead. It shone with a glow brighter than most any other.
The rest of the small group has lined along the other side of the moats edge almost forming a half circle around the island with the pillar. All eyes were on Verdazar and the book. He runs a hand over the strange runes that line the books cover before sliding it open. His eyes run over the first words of the book and he whispers them quietly under his breath. He concentrates on the strange glyphs as he reads on. The gemstone in his head begins to shimmer slightly with an unnatural light as he begins to communicate with it.
The vellum is thin and the ink dull, it seems nothing more than just an old book. Turning the page a dry edge catches his thumb and slices deep. Verdazar inhales sharply as the blood starts to drip from his thumb. His face hardens and he continues reading steadily.
The pages start to flap as a breeze grows from between them into a wind, the words swirl about and lift from the book merging into the misty form of...
Verdazar's voice continues to speak the final words of the passage as they begin to animate themselves. He looks up to the manifestation.
Something slowly rises up from a pool of darkness that spread out across the floor. His form takes shape slowly, gaining mass and feature until at last a tangible being stands where shadow once dwelled. The being lets out a long sigh..
Verdazar turns to the shadowy figure. The gem in his head pulsing dully at he does so. He appears to be a drow of unknown age. He is dressed in fine armor and wields a sword of pure black steel. Though small his eyes seem to glow strange light;he speaks in a deep multi-toned voice," Who calls me here to this sullen place?" and looks between the various people with eyes of glowing white.
Verdazar replies," I have summoned you, spirit of the void. Entreat with me."
The drow responds, "Spirit of the void?" then chuckles humorously, looking over the mage before him.
"As best our words can describe one such as you." is Verdazars explanatory reply.
" I am he who guards the border between the light and Shadow. I stand betwixt you mortals and destruction, thus is my cause...," The drow states.
Verdazar stands before the drow, dressed in an assortment of armour and magical trinkets. His gold flecked eyes stare severely at the figure.
The drow speaks again, "If you meant to summon a common dweller then today you have struck a gracious boon. Tell me human, what have you of me?"
Torn bits of the book slowly float down from the heights they were blown.
Verdazar answers, "To allow me passage beyond the limits of this realm. I wish to know the void itself."
Again is heard the drows humored laugh, "Hahaha... how bold of you mortal one..you wish to walk into a place of desolation? And what of all these people here? Shall they accompany you on your way to deaths door?"
"They are my brothers. Here to aid me on my quest. I do not speak for them, each is their own soul," comes Verdezars reply.
" A paltry group for such a task...but if you seek the void then it is not my duty to bar you from it...Merely you must pass the trail that awaits.. The road you seek is not easy, it requires strength." The drow relates.
Verdazar nods to the drow. "I have not chosen this path because I thought it would be easy."
" Then you are wiser then most...Go and stand with your 'brothers' human, they will need you.." says the drow.
Verdazar treads on the torn pages of the book, squelching slightly as they soaks up the rain.
"Men may not cross into the void of there own volition..flesh is soft and easily torn. what is required for passage is not that of mortal men but that which lives and lives again.." announces the drow and lifts the blade in his grasp to his wrist, drawing his eyes from person to person briefly. "Prepare yourself, those who hunger come to the scent of tainted blood" he strikes deep, slitting his arm, and spilling black blood to the ground
Verdazar watches the drow carefully. He mumbles to something inaudible to himself at its words.
The fallen pages begin to move as if caught by the wind again, voices whisper and shriek from them as they scrunch up then burst open into... Verdazar draws his blade slowly from its scabbard, his eyes darkening at the sight.
"Lo.. so they come" warns the drow as three wraith forms take shape and attack.
Taken a bit by surprise in spite of the warnings everyone was slow to react and amid the confusion, some fell.
"Your brotherhood falls, work in unison mortals or you will fall." the drows admonishing voice is heard above the clash of steel and chanted spells.
"Well done each of you...and yet.." the drow glances around with suspicion. "Those are but parasites too the thing that lurks..."
Verdazar calls out to them "Be on your guard then my brothers." As the drow turns, his eyes following something unseen, "It circles like a hungry shark..."
Everyone is trying to watch in all directions, wands and weapons raised hoping to be ready for...whatever lurks.
The drow now instructs them "slay the beast and bring me his humors...blood or bile,i care not."
Verdazar reminds them "We do not know from where it will show itself. The gates of the abyss open and its horrors pour forth."
The drow leans against the pillar, seeming remarkably uncomfortable, his eyes shifting left and right. Ripped pages are drawn along the floor to swirl together and merge.... .Verdazar raises his shield at the sight of the demon."The Gods have seen our Blasphemies. Prepare yourselves." The pages bind and takes shape, the shape turns with the sound of crinkling parchment and looks at them.
The drow shouts to them "Slay the beast! Bring me its blood and what you desire shall be yours!"
A frenzied battle ensues and finally Verdazar leans down and cuts its head from its shoulders,the form burns and falls back into pages.
Well done brotherhood... " The drow is congratuatory. "Now come and gain that which you desire." He holds out an open hand, "The humors of the beast..." as Verdazar steps towards the Drow and holds the head up to him. The dark elf nods slowly to the man "Drink deep of the swill." Verdazar turns the head and lifts it above him, letting its blackened blood drip into his mouth. Drow smiles wide at the actions and raises his arms wide into the air. Verdazar drinks down the filth in several large gulps before discarding the head to one side as the drow continues, "Crossguards, witness a pact in making, a trade of place one for another. To the light i cross...to the shadow foolish mortals go..."
Verdazar turns his gaze to the Drow at this. "Give me what I seek."
The drow looks to the man before him. "I thank you and i wish you well...goodbye." He then laughs wickedly and raises a fist into the air. "At long last light be mine once again." Joxia frowns at the words. "Your brother has made a noble sacrifice...as have each of you. The void shall hold him dearly for all eternity. Each of you is marked from this day forth... The world will know you each in turn as those who left wide the door. They will write stories of hatred and curse you to your dying breaths and beyond. Today has been a good day...So I will let you live and suffer your consequences...perhaps one day you may join your brother... So is the path you choose... All we of the dark wish freedom...but for your service today call upon me in future times. You will have need of me eventually, use your scattered pages and i will come...do hope you get everything you deserve..."and he turns from the group and marches back beyond the pillar then steps toward the lava flow, vanishing from sight.
In the shocked silence that follows Joxia's hand moves to her pocket touching the parchment which she slowly and with dread draws out, breaking the seal. " Verdazar left this... he said it is instructions in case things went badly."
Her gaze travels to the words and she reads "Joxia, you are in charge now. Dain and Stefan are your Lords."
Her head is spinning with this realization. Two of the mages are argueing, and another makes a quick exit with at least one of the pages from the book. But Joxia cannot seem to think ..and after some sharp words with one of the mages she hastily departs wanting noting but to be away from the pillar, the smell, the bickering...Her feet quickly pick up pace into a run and she arrives breathless at the ferry where she jumps aboard and motions with he hands for the ferryman to get moving. After docking she started walking, her mind numb, unable to process....She walked without thought for hours until her feet led her full circle and back to the harbor and the ferry to Hellsbriar. She stood at the dock a moment staring at the island and the volcano shrouded by steam in the chilling air finally taking a deep breath, boarded the ferry again and returns.....