<I>“It wasn’t long before I realized that I would be unable to hide from my past. Like all of us it is only a matter of time before our past transgressions catch up to us when we are least suspecting. The road to absolution is long and many times incredibly difficult, of which the totality of its scope is out of our own sight. Daily, I pray for clarity in the trouble we find ourselves in, yet I find that the answers we uncover are no simpler than the problem before me. In an age in which my friends are all finding happiness and comfort in newly bonded marriages, I can find hope and strength in my resolve to see things through to the end. In my lifetime of over three centuries, I have seen many friends and acquaintances come and go, but this is an age of true friendships. I wish to see my companions find a life of peace for themselves, and for their children as well. Light help us all, I pray they have children of their own to bless this realm with their innocence and laughter. But now, it is the children of the present that weigh so heavily on my mind. The daughter Paladinstar, and the drow elf child are two victims in a war of shadows that has no end in sight. If I cannot see these travesties undone, then perhaps it will be up to me to see that others may succeed where I cannot…."
The small imp gave a devilish grin, rubbing his small hands together in anticipation of it’s reward. His small leathery wings slowly rose and fell as the robed man outside the silvery circle opened a lacquered box containing a small fleshy heart.
“Festimus, I have here your named price… now tell us what you know.” Urged the summoner.
“Yesss o’powerful one… Festimus was there, looking in from the ethereal plane when they recovered it!” hissed the imp. “The laargisst of them took the old remains of the man-thing from the stronghold! O’yess yess they did! Away they took it!”
“Where did they take these remains? Did you learn this much, because you had better know for your sake!” Threatened the summoner, never showing fear is the first rule of summoning demon kin.
“Wakaneeeeezussss, yess…. They take his remains to that old fool up north, there they will learn the seeecrets of the rings!” howled the imp in excitement, hopping up and down wildly.
The onlooker of the summoning stepped forward and spoke for the first time since the imp was summoned. He had been perfectly blended into the shadows, concealed from even the imp’s keen vision. Striding into the light the mans face could be seen by the light given off of the iron braziers around the circle. Rubbing his peppered black beard with his fingers, he slowly reached to nervously tug on his ear. His baritone voice seemed to audibly quaver. “Those that have the remains of the sage, they could use its knowledge for some means other than merely destroying the rings, but perhaps for something far more sinister?”
The small imp’s face took on a devilish quality that went far beyond the red eyes, horns, and needle sharp teeth. He looked at the newcomer with an intense gaze that filled the air with portent. “Why yes, indeed that could very well be true! Perhaps it would be wise to see that the remains of the sage are in the hands of those that would best put the sages knowledge to use…. To either destroy the rings, or put their power to some vile use in the realms! Personally, I would like to see the later rather than the former.” Snarled the imp with a satisfied look on his face. “I see the potential in you man-thing, I can read your aura and I know I’ve seen you before… in fact…”
The imp was cut before he could finish by the newcomer.
“Enough of your rambling imp, we have had enough of your opinions and your mystical soul searching.” Quipped the bemused newcomer. “Answer only the questions asked of you, or our friend here will see you don’t make it back to the abyss in the same condition you left it.”
“Verrry wells man-thing, we are all on borrowed time after all.” Said the imp with a little bow, then holding out his small clawed hand, “now, my payment?”
The man nodded to the wizard, indicating he was through with his questions. And with a small gesture the wizard floated the lacqured box to the imp inside the circle. Once in reach, the imp threw open the lid of the box and bit down on the pulsating heart, brackish blood gushing from between his needle-like teeth. He gave a slight shudder as he swallowed, and met the bearded mans gaze. Slowly fading away, the imp had a sudden moment of realization and cackled to himself. The only audible thing before the imp was gone were his parting words, “Ahh, Rhovanion… it IS you, just like old timess issn’t it? I knew the dreaded Shadowfang would be back in the sservice of our masters again… tell Ssazz that Festimus wishes his lordship good heath, and beware the black elven devil!” and with that the summoning came to an end.
His hands balled into fists, and teeth gritted into a grimace, Gantoris closed his eyes hoping to shut out the past. His nightmares were no longer plaguing just his dreams, but his past was coming back to haunt him daily as well.
After nearly three centuries of life prolonged by the dark art of the necromancers the human mind starts on a new path of discovery and change. For humans were never intended to have such an unnaturally long lifespan. Most reach their first century of life before the mind begins to let the signs of madness through, slipping past the mental barriers of youth. Even with the rejuvenations of the body, there is little that can save the mind. Madness has always been the mind killer, but it is a key element in the transformation that the human mind goes through. For those that can preserver the madness, they come out tempered like the steel of a forge. Overcoming the madness is dealt with in different ways, for each afflicted individual deals with their encroaching deterioration of the mind in their own way. Gantoris was no exception to this madness and had dealt with his personal demons via solitude. He sheltered himself from those that had come to care for him, as well as those that wished to help him. The necromancers said that their treatments could no longer do anything to see to his ailing health of body and soul. What he sought was something few could offer, but seeing no alternative in sight other than death, his travels took him far to the east and crossing the boarders of Cormyr and the Zhentierum. There in the heart of the Thay he stood ready to face his inner-demons, and see if he truly was meant to see what the future had to offer.
“The webs we weave are also those that serve to bind us in the end.” -G.Rhovanion
There he was again, in the small circular chamber lined in silvery runes that pulsed with a power known only to few. His hands and knees were aching from the long moments of kneeling in supplication to the dark idol of some unknown deity. The cold was chilling his skin, causing small bumps to rise on its surface up and down his legs. There was a foul stench of burnt flesh and sulfur hanging in the air like a think cloud. Not daring to rise from the circle he began to shift his weight from one knee to the other. A strong hand reached down and stopped him from moving, followed by a raspy voice.
“It will soon be over, and you will have the rest of your new life to fidget. Sit still or you may end up botching the entire thing.” Warned the voice from outside the circle.
The young man in the center of the circle reached up with a free hand, running his fingers across his cheek while supporting the rest of his weight with his other hand pressed to the cold stone floor. His mouth slightly agape, his probing hand confirmed his suspicions about his youthful appearance. The master of House Rhovanion entered these gates as one of the oldest remaining assassins of a long lost tradition, and now given a new lease on life. The instructions were very clear, and a bargain was struck between the elderly assassin and his benefactors of youth and mental clarity. Their services were given in return for ten years of his life in their service. A fair bargain all things considered, but it was only then reality set in and the sudden realization of what ten years of cold-blooded murder could do for a man’s soul. Regardless of what picture the stories painted, in the end it came down to the rules that he had set in place to prevent himself from slipping into the abyss of the madness that inevitably comes from the killing of innocents. The next ten years would truly be a test of his metal, and no doubt a lifetime of guilt as a constant reminder of the price he paid.
The waking hours had consisted of a state of emotionless calm, working efficiently and with no room for error. But it was in his dreams the mental barriers were down, and through sublimations of his subconscious, he was paying for his crimes against humanity in the service of Thay as their personal assassin… known only as the shadow fang of Thay to the enemies of the Thayan lands.
“The armor we wear protects us from that which may cause us harm, but in our dreams we have everything to fear”
In the past, the dreams had always had a surreal quality that conveyed a certain level of portent. But now, the level of clarity was unnatural. What normally would be a scene of dark shadows, there was a strange twilight quality and exactness to detail. Alone in a dark forest, surrounded by strange sighs and sounds, the scene slightly shifted. From the darkness came the distinct smell of brimstone. A small cry from father down the path startled the dreamer. Running to the point of exhaustion, a young woman was being confronted by some vile being. Robed in black velvet that seemed alive as it writhed on its own accord, gathering the shadows into the folds of its fabric. The figure was crouched in a low attack stance, a wicked looking weapon of blackened steel in either hand. The woman scrambled madly to her feet to only lose her footing on the gnarled landscape. With the unmistakable taste of bile in his throat, the dreamer surged forward, hands balled into fists as his only available weapons, he ran to the aid of he woman. In an all out run the dreamer moved to knock the shrouded man to the ground, making contact at the last moment causing both figures to fall in a heap on the dirt sodden ground. Limbs were flailing as each figure fought to gain an advantage in their struggle on the ground. The blades flicked out, catching the dreamer in the ribs and lancing pain up his entire body. Fueled now by desperation the dreamer put his legs underneath the robed figure, kicking out with all his strength. The robed figure was launched several feet away landing with a dull thud. In the fall he lost grip of one of the two blades in his hands. Seeing the opening left by the robed man, the dreamer scrambled to his feet and snatched up the fallen blade. Two short steps brought him down to the prone body of the attacker and bringing the blade within inches of his throat. The attacker grabbed the dreamer by the hair, pulling him closer to the ground. His face was now so close that their eyes met through the veil of the cloaks shrouding material. The steel gray eyes of the dreamer went wide as he looked into an identical gaze. A powerful hand reached up to the dreamers wrist and pulled the blade away from his throat. Mimicking the same maneuver, the robed figure kicked out with his legs forcing the dreamer away from him with a great shove. In getting to his feet the robed figure reversed his grip on the blade and made a plunge for the chest of the now prone dreamer. Just as the attacker closed the final distance, a flick of the dreamers wrist sent the blade in a deadly whirl through the air, hitting the robed figure in the throat. The attacker veered from his initial course and staggered to one knee, free hand clutching the wound at his throat. With only little difficulty, the figure started to make a sickening sound that was a cross between a gurgle and a laugh. The hand clutching the blade went slack, dropping the weapon to the ground. With more than a little effort, the man reached his hand up to pull back the cowl of the robes, reveling a disturbing yet horrific visage. The dreamer put a hand to his mouth to startle his gasp, for he was not looking upon the face of an enemy, but his own. The skin was more pale, and seemed a bit more stretched over the bone, but it was unmistakable that the face he was looking upon was his. The attackers pale face was soon contrasted by the bright crimson of blood from his mouth. A bit of blood came from the corner of his mouth as he reached out a hand to pull the dreamer nose-to-nose.
“As if you ever had a choice… you will soon realize this is will be your fate… ” said the robed man with a vicious looking grin on his face. His final words striking the dreamer like a slap to the face as the words rang in his waking memories. Sitting up in bed and looking to his side to see his wife lying next to him, Gantoris mouthed the words through gritted teeth as if a silent prayer, “Excidium Umbra, for we fight the shadow, and it no longer holds any influence over my path… I am your shadow fang no more Ssazz Tam, I serve a greater good now.”
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