1200, Far, 20 Janosh, 3E1000
Luna remained invisible as she tailed the Dark Priest back to his inn. Once in the privacy of his room, he spent several minutes donning and doffing the cap, recycling the illusory disguise over and over, obviously trying to ascertain why it suddenly failed in the Library. He eventually ceased, and sat on the edge of the bed for long moments lost in thought. He then took out his notebook, quickly flipping through several pages newly penned with scrawling notations.
While Luna surveilled, Dajjal and Allendretta shared lunch and pleasant conversation at the kitchen table. Dajjal answered her questions about the Dark Priest and the Heroes 4 Hire’s experiences with him, surmised some possibilities as to his endgame, and in return asked her several related questions based on her obvious experience with ancient lore. They discussed the imprisonment of Tharizdun and the futility of the notion of a jailbreak from Pandemonium, and she dismissed outright the idea that THAT might be what the Dark Priest is ultimately seeking. Dajjal asked her about herself and her abilities with magic, and Allendretta’s guarded nature took over. She offered little more than cryptic hints, raising her sleeve to expose her forearm and showing him what he had earlier assumed were tattoos. Resembling such, he saw swirling bands of silver tracing up her arm back under the sleeve in what was a pattern of almost elvish design. She took his hand and guided his index finger over the ‘tattoo’, where he felt the streak of silver was frigidly cold and metallic, smooth when stroked in one direction and scaly when rubbed in the other.
Allendretta asked the cook to leave the room, and with a raised eyebrow the red-haired lady complied. Allendretta offered a demonstration, her last cryptic hint, but warned that it would hurt a bit. Dajjal agreed and she took his hands across the table, one in each of hers with her elbows rested on the surface, and stared him in the eye. She glazed over and her irises disappeared, her eyes becoming silvery orbs like liquid mercury. The air around them instantly dropped dramatically in temperature, a hundred degrees at least, and fog condensed instantly right out of the air before rapidly freezing into tiny crystals of ice. Frost formed on the surfaces around them out to nearly 10 feet, and Dajjal could feel the burning, biting pangs of pain on his extremities and exposed skin, the hurt she had promised fulfilled. She held her demonstration for a few tens of seconds longer, and then released it, letting the warmth of the cozy kitchen rush back into the space around the table.
As Dajjal shook off the extreme cold, Luna broke into his thoughts to inform him that the Dark Priest had sold his horse and was booking passage on a ship leaving tomorrow morning headed for Seggalion in the neighboring country of Florin. Dajjal commanded her to stick with him, and then used the Earring to communicate the new developments to the rest of the team. After a few moments heated discussion, he finally asked Allendretta for a highly experienced druid, to which she referred him to an acquaintance that lived in a woodland cottage a mile or so north of Tingerhof. Dajjal thanked her and departed the Library toward the druid’s house, stopping by the local DVT to grab a pile of coin to accompany him.
Dajjal found the quaint cottage and met the druid, and amiable man in his late 50’s. He negotiated with the druid for the future casting of a Scry and several Transport Via Plants spells, in anticipation of a dire need to get the team rejoined very quickly from across the continent of Caledonia. He then returned to his room at the inn for a night’s rest after such a busy day.
Sar, 21 Janosh, 3E1000
The next morning, the ship conveying the Dark Priest set sail for Seggalion, and Dajjal would spend the next ten days perusing titles in the Library and enjoying conversations with Allendretta and her staff. The villain landed in Seggalion just long enough to purchase passage aboard another vessel headed for Ravenmere, in the south of Breland. Luna was right with him and reporting back regularly, staying invisible for so long that the familiar was worried the effect would become permanent. Two days after the Dark Priest sailed for Ravenmere, the team arrived at the northwestern edge of the Silverwood Forest to await the Transport Via Plants Dajjal had arranged, once the Dark Priest’s destination became clear. They kept a comfortable distance back away from the forest’s edge, to respect the territory the tribe of wild elves had claimed on their first encounter.
Mol, 2 Febryan, 3E1000
Two more days brought the Dark Priest to Ravenmere, situated in the northwestern corner of the three-way intersection of rivers known as the Suann Estuary. There Luna observed him purchase a horse and buy some basic supplies for a road trip, and then depart on the main road heading north along the river. Another hasty discussion over the earrings, and the team departed their campsite near the Silverwood and began an overland trip south into Jacari toward Breland. Dajjal gathered his things, settled up at the inn and headed to the druid he had contracted, stopping at Allendretta’s first to bid her farewell and again emphasize how much he appreciated her help. She told him to be cautious dealing with this Dark Priest, and that she would like it very much if he would come to visit her when this nasty business was settled.
Dajjal amended the request of the druid to simply get him to as close to Ravenmere as possible. The druid said he could get him as far as Seggalion safely, as he was unfamiliar with anything farther west than Florin. A quick Transport Via Plants later, and Dajjal was booking passage from Seggalion to Ravenmere on the first available ship, literally boarding it minutes before it left port. Safely aboard for the four-day journey to Breland, he was situating his possessions in his cabin when he discovered a piece of parchment neatly folded and wax-sealed in the pocket of his cloak, the seal bearing the mark he had grown over the last days to recognize as the symbol of Allendretta’s Library. Unsure of when she could have slipped it in his pocket, he gently coaxed the seal open and read within.
I thoroughly enjoyed meeting you and the time we spent together. So few understand what we endure as tieflings. It was a breath of fresh air to be able to share some time with someone who could relate.
Please be careful in your endeavor to thwart your ‘Dark Priest’. Men who found cults are notoriously dangerous and cunning, and anyone this interested in rites and Tharizdun is doubly so. I require you to return and visit me again.
The “require” was scribed several times over the same spot, giving the otherwise beautiful penmanship an exceedingly boldface effect.
0600, Far, 6 Febryan, 3E1000
The four-day journey couldn’t pass fast enough for Dajjal, even with the distraction of Allendretta’s note and her Houdini-like placement of it into his pocket. He got his horse and his gear off the ship as fast as he could once it was docked, and then departed Ravenmere up the northern road along the river. He pushed his mount hard in an attempt to make up for the four-day lead the Priest had on him. Eight days he pushed his horse to its limits, but the steadfast mount held through the abusive pace. The gamble paid off, and as Dajjal pulled within range to gain telepathic vision and hearing through his familiar, Luna, he eased up to match pace and not tip off his quarry.
The Dark Priest rode through the last village at the end of the main road, and continued along the riverbank still following it northward where it entered into a forest as it climbed a hillside. Although there was no trail to be followed, the Priest seemed to be following an unseen path that he was obviously intimately familiar. They continued following the river upstream, up the wooded hillside, until he arrived just prior to dusk at a set of ancient stone ruins, lost to time and completely overgrown by the forest itself. Dajjal tied his horse up well off what he perceived to be the path and several hundred yards shy of the ruins, before he took an observation position out of sight from the ruins and their surrounds. Luna invisibly followed the villain into the ruins, where her telepathic link showed Dajjal a stronghold of cultists he recognized as the Cult of Evil Chaos… the cult he had briefly served almost two years ago. They had numbers… and they were referring to the Dark Priest as “Sire” and “Count”.
Dajjal quietly relayed what he was seeing to the rest of the team, now passing through the heart of Jacari, and still an estimated ten days travel from where Dajjal estimated the ruins to be…
1800, Far, 13 Febryan, 3E1000
Will the team be able to rejoin with Dajjal at his hidden observation position before the Dark Priest moves again? What does he intend coming to this secret stronghold of the Cult of Evil Chaos? What will he do next?
Find out next time, on “TGC: Heroes 4 Hire!!”