The next day we decided to stay and make a camp where we were, and wait a week or two before we went to Menzoberran, so the Lokotian army could push back the Orcs. About four days in, however, we had a slight change in mind.
On the fourth day, I was going out to get some decent wood for mine and Alexander's shelter, since it rained the night before. The cool, valley mist filled the air, coating everything it touched with dew. The occasional bird chirping and the sounds of my footsteps were all I could hear for a while.
But of course, my quest for some alone time met with failure as Alexander came and followed me, his stolen chain armor rattling on.
"-Hey, wait up!"
The memories of Derynn were still fresh, and I wanted to distance myself from anything having to do with it. But at that point, that meant everything.
"... You scared away the birds."
Alexander looked up at the trees, as if he never heard them to begin with. He paused, then looked back at me.
"Katherin sent me to get some herbs- Oh! And she told me to tell you that she found where she put her spellbook yesterday."
"Her book must be ruined... What spells did she have in there?"
"Not much. Just a few cantrips, really."
"Nothing to put Derynn back the way it was?"
Alexander chuckled a bit. "No, unfortunately. She said that she was going to bake some Journey Bread so that Verranda wouldn't have to keep trapping something for dinner."
"A loaf of that could keep us going for a few months! You only need to eat a crumb to fill up..." I said. "How long does she think we're going to be stuck here?"
He shrugged. "Who knows? But I get to keep Solace when we do get to Menzo-"
Alex shook his head. "The horse! Who else could it be? Everyone else I knew probably died back there when all nine hells broke loose..."
Ugh... Another reminder, I thought.
"Could you not bring that up?"
He shook his head. "Quit trying to pretend it didn't happen! That's not going to get you anywhere! You can try to get peace by listening to the birds, but -we - are - at - war!" He shook a finger at me. "I want to- I want to get even with them... They killed my sister, my mentor, and everyone I ever cared about... They- They... Murasa himself can beg for mercy when I'm through with him... I-!"
"-You yourself said that lying to yourself isn't going to get you anywhere! So calm down!" I didn't remember ever being so mad at someone else for being mad. We stood there for a few minutes staring at each other. It felt like a few hours.
Alexander spoke up first.
"... Sorry. The attack hit me just as hard as anyone else-"
We heard something in the forest, a russling sound, and we turned to look. It sounded like a person, so we went to investigate.
"... So that's how you guys roll..." Verranda said as soon as we got close enough to talk. I stopped, puzzled for a moment, but my eyes widened with embarrassment once I got what she suggested.
"N-No! Why would you-?"
"-Relax Lez, I was just messing with you!" She gave me one of her sly smirks. "You should've seen your face."
Alexander cleared his throat, and took a step forward. "...And you're supposed to be back at the camp. What are you doing out here?"
Verranda turned to look at him, mildly annoyed. She pulled a dead rabbit out of her makeshift belt pack.
"Just getting your dinner, that's all. So if you plan on eating, maybe you could be more polite to the only hunter here..."
"Are you saying that we couldn't survive without your rabbits? They didn't just teach me how to swing a sword at the Squire Academy, sweetie-!"
"-Don't call me 'Sweetie'!!!" Verranda immediately snapped back. She turned away from us, her face filled with hatred... But I realized it wasn't directed at Alexander, which was odd. I made a mental note to ask her about it later.
"...Look, I'm sorry. There's enough tension to go around-" Alex glanced at me as he continued. "-Let's not add to it."
Verranda sighed. "Fine."
There was a pause, and something occured to me, "... This isn't the side of the side of the forest you put your traps in... Why don't you tell Alexander and I why you're really here?"
Recovering from her anger, she let a smile poke through. "Clever, Lez. I really came to get you guys to check this cave I found. Alex has the armor, and you have the spear... Shouldn't be anything you two can't handle."
Alexander spoke up, "Wait you're afraid to go in a cave?"
Verranda laughed, "Sure! I'm afraid of these caves." She smirked.
Alex and I looked at each other. Something was up. We both knew it. We started following her, but I held my short spear tight, just in case.
The Black Priest was in the throne room of Castle Exodus, looking out the colossal window overlooking his lake. The lake's depths were filled with darkness, an aura of fear surrounding it. Murasa knew better to stare at the lake for too long, he stepped away from the window.
It had been a long twenty years, he thought as he went to prepare himself for the evening. Perhaps tonight was going to be the most important night in all those years. Without having to deal with spies, he could continue without interruptions.
Murasa walked across the room to a table, his equipment already laid out by his servants. He browsed through the array of weapons and accessories, weighing his choices carefully.
Physical weaponry was almost useless to him. But he perferred if he wasn't completely helpless if he ran into an anti-magic field, so Murasa picked a simple mace for insurance. His Vorpal rapier would be more effective, but it wouldn't be very concealable.
The dark lord searched through the selections of power rings set before him. Most were ornate with gems set in them, some were simple metal bands. All of them were imbedded with magical properties. Murasa decided on a Ring of Spell Recovery and a Ring of True Seeing.
Murasa just had a few more accessories to pick up before he was ready. His Shadowfell Gloves. Boots of Levitation. Some Potions of Healing. And finally, his iconic Necromancer Void Cape. Few knew the secrets of this cape, he thought, and few would.
Just as he finished preparing himself, Murasa heard someone step out of the shadows to stand beside him.
Murasa turned to look at him. He looked like a normal human, if not for the ram-like horns atop his head that curled down by his ears. His pointed teeth seemed plastered into an everlasting evil smile. He smelled faintly of brimstone and fire.
Murasa raised an eyebrow. "You wish to tell me something, Damakos?"
The devil-man's expression didn't change. "My lord, have I ever bothered you for something trivial? No, and I am grateful that my lord has taken notice..."
Murasa's face dimmed. Was he asking for more attention?
"... The troops are pulling out of Derynn, and are on their way inward-" Damakos' smile widened a hair. "-But my lord already knows that. What my lord doesn't know is that our men have the 'hold'."
While Damakos sometimes annoyed him, the Black Priest was pleased with the news he brang.
"... The lizards' army will no longer be any threat... Your search will bring about your everlasting reign." His smile widened a bit more.
"Excellent. Now begone."
Damakos stood like a statue. So, he thought he could ignore the Dark One?
"Damakos, go now before I have to kill you."
Damakos' smile was unchanged. The Tiefling slipped back into the shadows, bowing. "... May Orcus bless you in your search for his creation..."
Murasa relaxed himself.
Startled, Murasa drew his mace and spun around instantly. His weapon swung millimeters past Damakos' fiendish grin that was waiting there. Unfased, Damakos stood there for a few seconds before making a slight bow and walking away.
Murasa was predictably furious. He gripped his mace with one hand in rage, and made it instantly disintergate. He marched over to the weapon table again. The servants immediately ran away and occupied themselves with other tasks as far from the table as possible.
The Black Priest took his Vorpal rapier and looked at the sheen of the blade. If Damakos tried that agian, he wouldn't miss: He'd sever the Tiefling's head.