Thursday, April 19, 2007

the second half.


Sunlight streams into a room overlooking a blue-green bay. The warm sea breeze floats into the room, but Calixtus, a tall middle-aged priest, doesn’t notice. Near the open balcony, a birdcage stands, a brilliantly plumed songbird sings inside. Dressed in rich purple robes and surrounded by tomes and codices, Calixtus leafs through a sheaf of papers. He smiles as he allows himself to be distracted by the bird’s song and the warm sea breeze. A few minutes later a small bell rings. The bird stops singing and Calixtus shakes his head, coming out of his reverie. He hunches back over his desk and continues to leaf through the papers, now quickly and nervously. His study door opens and a older, though powerfully built, man enters, standing in front of the desk on an embellished purple and gold rug.

The man glowers at Calixtus as the reedy priest looks up. “You’ve found another way, I trust?” Hedrack spits impatiently as he looks around the well-appointed room. “Living in these plush surroundings hasn’t softened your brains, I hope”, his red-rimmed eyes seeming to bore twin holes in the reedy priest. “Those irksome adventurers recovered the Crook from my incompetent Third, Thukos. I trust you’ve summoned me away from the Inner Fane and the Champion’s ritual with good reason.”

“Prithee, another moment of patience, Highest. I have recorded it here, just after the Crook of Rao.” The scribe scans the parchment in front of him, his ink-stained index finger tracing the lines recorded on the vellum. He mumbles something under his breath, and you can distinctly make out the words ‘crook’, ‘shield’, ‘evil’, ‘demons’, and ‘banishment’.

The powerful man paces the rug and jerks suddenly when the songbird chirps. An amused smile on his face, he walks over to the songbird’s cage. The scribe’s finger stops tracing the lines of text, and points to a section of the vellum, looking up at Hedrack. “Here, milord. Brought into the treasury were two jewels. One, a priceless red ruby. The other, a colorless diamond of inestimable worth.”

Hedrack opens the birdcage and the bird flits out, landing on his hand. Calixtus watches nervously and then continues speaking. “The diamond was just recovered recently from our excavations in the Crater.” Calixtus points to a highly polished black metal box on his desk, its lid thrown back. Inside the box are the two gems.

A distant expression comes over the features of Hedrack, Highest of Doomdreamers. His eyes focus a moment later. “Ah, yes. The diamond. From that meddlesome silver dragon. He won’t be troubling us again. Good to know he was worth our time.” The bird chirps softly in his palm.

The scribe coughs politely. “Yes, well. These gems sat dark and forgotten for a time in the Cult’s treasury. Finally, last summer, I found record of them in the Great Athenaeum of Rauxes. The diamond is known as Nim’hwesta in the tongue of elves, white wind. The ruby is called Lhach’ril, gleaming flame. The gems are much more powerful than inspection alone revealed. They are gems of elemental power. Each, when used in the appropriate ritual, can be used as a keystone to call forth a Lord of Elemental Evil. Obviously, the ruby would represent fire, and the diamond...”

“…Air, or force, I presume.” Hedrack drawls.
“Yes, milord. Summoning an outsider of this magnitude would create magical energy strong enough to rupture planar seals. If an Elemental Lord was summoned in a place consecrated to our Lord, I believe it would weaken or destroy the seals imprisoning Holy Tharizdun.”

“Did your research happen to uncover the ritual for this, my boy?” An unearthly glint surfaces in Hedrack’s eyes. His hand closes around the songbird in his palm.
The priest flinches.
“Y.. Yes, milord, it is just b.. below, here,” Calixtus stutters as he points farther down in the text. “It’s little more than a glorified gate spell, but it does require a few, ahem, unique, material components, namely the brain of a powerful foe, and the gem, of course.”

“You’ve served Tharizdun well. Your reward will be great when He is finally released.” Hedrack releases his grip and the bird flies back to the cage.

Hedrack takes the parchment and the metal box, withdraws a small bag from his robe pocket, and pushes the items into the bag. The air around him shimmers for a few seconds and his outline seems to blur. A bell sounds, then he disappears.

Calixtus breathes a heavy sigh of relief and steps over to the birdcage, when the bird begins to sing again.


Leelu said...

Aww, poor wittle birdie.

Degolar said...

I try not to judge people before meeting them, but there's something about this Hedrack guy that leaves me with a less than positive impression.