Jhorn D’Norise sat at the edge of the courtyard, hiding under an illusion of leaves and overgrown shrubbery. Blending into the scenery of Castle Hagthar wasn’t all that difficult any more. Not like it had been only a few years ago. The Dragonborn had really let the place go downhill in the past few hundred years.
He watched those that came and went from Lady Celeboken’s office. He had tried more than once to gain entrance, but each time, Lady Celeboken seemed to see right through his illusions, taking offense to his true form and to the fact that he’d tried to use deception. In his latest attempt, she ordered the guards to throw him out, instating a new mandate that if he tried to come back into the Keep again without a proper escort, they were to kill him on sight.
He snarled at the thought. How could she do this to him? He was, after all, an accomplished wizard. So much more than an illusionist. He was mastering all four lines of magic at the same time, a feat that had never been done before in all of the land. But he was missing one aspect to his magic — Necromancy. None of the Necromancers of his area would teach him. They insisted that the magic he already knew would be twisted by the necromancy, turning his own mind against him, and ravaging his soul.
But there were other masters that had studied more than one line of magic, including Necormancy. Lord Di’Passaunt was one of the Shiva’s greatest leaders, and his armies of undead protected the great city for centuries. Yet, he was also one of the greatest abjurists that had ever lived. And what of Glakdok the Powerful? That little Dwarf had become the Keg Morrah’s greatest wizard, balancing necromancy and evocation into great swarms of plague and hailstorms that would level any army foolish enough to blatantly attack their kingdom.
Both were heroes in their lands. And Jhorn knew that he, too, could become a mighty wizard. In fact, his whole purpose in life was to become the greatest wizard that the world had ever known, learning all five forms of arcane magic : Illusion, Abjuration, Conjuration, Evocation and Necromancy. So far, he’d become more than just “proficient” at four of the five. If he could obtain the Book of the Dead, perhaps the Necromancers of his hometown would reconsider. Perhaps such a great gift would not only teach him the basics of Necromancy, but would be a prize worth showing them. And with that prize in hand, he could really become the most powerful wizard that walked the face of the world.
A loud shout in the distance brought Jhorn back to the present, almost shaking him from his own illusion. The high-pitched nasal shout was from a shaved little dwarf. He looked so sad, covered in tattoos, and missing every ounce of hair that Darves took so prominently. They loved their hair and beards, so Jhorn wondered what this poor soul had done to deserve such a punishment.
“Ohh.. oooh! Hey! Do you think that charred book was it?” The dwarf asked the Barbarian and Tiefling that led the way. A gnome followed quickly behind, his eyes rolling back as they passed Jhorn’s secreted location.
“Hush,” the barbarian scolded. “We should not discuss it in the open. Come. Let’s go to the inn.”
The dwarf pouted. “But… What if that was The Book of the Dead? It’s sitting down there in ruins, waiting to be taken. Do you think we could repair it?”
“Hush!” The Barbarian female shouted, then lowered her voice. “It was nothing we can use. In fact, it’s a worthless pile of ash now. But as I’ve stated, let’s not discuss this in the open. I’m not certain whom we can trust here.”
Jhorn’s heart stopped, and even he could see his illusion shimmer before regaining a solid look. Had they already found the object of his desire? And they had just come out of the Keep. What if they already had Celeboken’s ear? Would she really let them take such a relic from her vast keep? If he could just study it for a short time, … if he could just get his hands on it … Images of the power flowing through him sent a cold ripple of pleasure throughout his body.
When he looked out from his hidden location, he could see the quad of adventurers entering the abandoned inn. Shattering through his illusion, he made up his mind in less than a second. He adopted his best “Elven” form as he scurried forward. With illusion firmly in place by the time he reached the inn, he grasped the handle to the door and pulled it open.
The Tiefling glared back at him from under the ridges that formed its eyebrows. For an instant, Jhorn held his breath, waiting to see if the Tiefling would attack. But if the Dragonborn Celeboken trusted the Tiefling, he hoped that he could as well. When he glanced at the gnome, he looked irritated that someone had interrupted them.
The tattooed dwarf seemed almost excited to see a new face. “Hello!” he shouted. “I’m Kayden. What’s your name?”
Jhorn stepped in, still blocking the door open in case he needed to make a quick exit. “Hello. My name is Jhorn D’Norise. Please ecuse my rudeness, but I will only be a second. I hear that you are the four adventurers that have stirred the entire city. With so few people here these days, news travels fast.”
The barbarian woman stood, stepping closer to him. Her hand was on the hilt of a weapon strapped at her side, but she made no aggressive motions. “What can we help you with, good Elf?”
Jhorn almost looked behind himself before remembering the illusion that he’d cast over himself. Elf. Right. He hadn’t used this illusion in over fifty years. “Lady Celeboken said that I should speak with you. She said that your path and mine have a similar goal, and I was wondering if we could join forces.”
“Odd…” The Barbarian woman scowled. “She did not mention you to us.”
Ah, so they have seen her. And even talked with her. This was good news. “I know, and forgive my interruption. I’ve asked her to keep my presence a secret in the area. What I’m seeking is an object of great power. Even the dragonborn of the area may fall to its great seduction. It is a book on the ultimate powers in Necromancy. You see, I’m a wizard studying here to learn all that I can from every single line of arcane power. But Necromancy is forbidden here in Hagthar. But that’s not to say that books on the topic haven’t been collected. Celeboken suggested that I speak with you because she’s just sent you out, and our goals are so similar.”
“Please step inside.” The Tiefling growled. “Your voice may carry outside, and it is not best that everyone should know the items we seek.”
“Agreed,” Jhorn said with a smile, then stepped fully inside. The door creaked to a close behind him. “While objects of such power are collected here, they are not to be studied for fear of a Prophecy that was spoken over Hagthar over five-hundred years ago. The practice of Necromancy is outlawed, but the collection of necromantic artifacts are plentiful here. But I am seeking this one, very specific artifact. For it has the incantations that I need, from start to finish, or so I’ve been told.”
“Please,” The Barbarian said, “What is the item you seek?”
Jhorn nodded, trying best to assure them of his good intentions. “Forgive me. I’m just so excited to have met the adventurers that have done so much in such a short period of time. I am seeking The Book of the Dead. I could pay each of you handsomely. I could offer 200 gold plus my time and telents if I could go with you to find it. I long to just hold it in my hands for a few hours while I revel at its contents, and study the simplest of them. Forty-eight hours. That’s all I ask. And I promise not to harm the artifact, and to return it to your care after studying it for such a short time. Two days. That’s all.”
“Sit.” The Tiefling said with a gutteral growl. Just the sight of him sent a shiver through Jhorn. He’d heard that their kind was merely a fable. Then again, he’d heard that abut his own kind as well.
The Tiefling pulled out the chair next to him, and patted the wooden seat. “I think we may be able to assist one another.”