All was not going as he planned.
The rogue gazed upon the shrine. Six pedestals, five of which had heads on them. The empty pedestal bore the name of Oaks.
What puzzled the man was how there could be five heads, instead of four.
He knew that the gypsy Barracoon was long since dead, before the assault even occurred on Felucca. Barracoon was a legend amongst the ratmen tribes that led the Vermin Horde, and it’s highest shamans honored the befriended human’s memory by taking his form when the most elite of the forces needed the morale of a leader. This head of Barracoon was not the first, and surely not the last.
The skull of the Cold Blood’s leader, a trophy of power and dominance. The Rikktor was simply a name of rank amongst the Order, a shamantic warlord whose affinity with the earth gave him respect amongst his fellow dragons and other reptilian races. The skull here was that of the Rikktor which replaced the Fanged One, one of the longest lived generals of the Order. This aspirant fell within days of taking the lead.
The dark haired rogue’s eyes wandered to the third skull, a venomous and grotesque countenance of a large arachnid being. Mephitis was defeatable in it’s physical form, but the spirit was blessed by some darker god he only heard whispers of. A being that put his own master’s reputation in its shadow. Her name was a curse to speak were you not of the chosen, the dark skinned elves whose numbers had gradually lessened over the centuries. Mephitis would rise again, but her trophy was all the rogue cared for.
He squinted as he gazed upon the vaguely human looking skull on the next pedestal. No… this wasn’t human. It bored slight variations in the skull that confirmed its demonic origins. Beings such as Mephitis and Semidar were both not easily vanquished for all eternity. Rumors had abound that Semidar still lived, her body regenerated thanks to her abyssal followers. Not too unlikely at all, the rogue mused.
It was the last skull which confused this man. Undoubtedly, the skull was that of Neira, the necromancer. She wasn’t a lich… she did not recoil in pain from the silver blade he once struck her with when they first met, ignorant of each other’s place in the world. No… she was human, a mistress over the undead, but not one with them.
So if this was Neira’s head… who was the Neira he had spoken to just hours ago about the Society’s prying eyes? They weren’t to enter the black gates, he even mentioned it in the fine print of the contract. Giving it too much attention would have raise suspicion after all, but he thought that their commanding officers would have paid more attention to every detail. Precision after all was a part of their code, was it not?
His mind wandered back to the enigma before him. How can Neira be walking the lands?
The empty pedestal for Oaks’ skull continued to nag at him. Zyrn’s recruitment drive had failed, as had his own in Yew.
It was time to resort to recruiting the most base of hunter. The kind whose desire for gold was beyond measure, whose interest in scrolls of power, fancy colored cloth, and other various rarities brought forth the need for large sums of coin.
The champions of Ilshenar has among them the lost writings of Terort Skitas; scrolls of arcane knowledge that would make one a better fighter, mage, beastmaster, and more. The West Britannians’ insatiable hunger and greed for these scrolls had proven to be his best ally, more so than the Society. It was truly an unexpected boon to be certain.
The plan was simple… the simpletons needed bait. He too, had in his possession some of the great library’s lost writings. More powerful than the those of the champions, his scrolls gave one the potential to have the strength, swiftness, and cunning of legends. Every last such scroll had been pillaged from Terort Skitas, a large vault in an unknown location held the treasures.
This would be the bait, he decided. It would not be the forces of Light or Dark which would bring forth his master. Greed would be his closest ally.
“Oaks yet stands,” a raspy ancient voice from the shadows spoke out.
“I know. the Mistress informed me to come here. She says the Society has been here. I shouldn’t have bothered with them. The simple masses of the realm seem to be very eager to fight the champions themselves,” the rogue replied.
“Then your deal with them is no more?”
“They know far too much. Oddly enough, they fight against Oaks now, near my tomb. Amusing isn’t it?”
“You speak in riddles, Collector,” the ancient lich Mirzam responded.
The rogue’s eyes turned a solid black as he gazed directly to the inferior being looming in the shadows of the Harrower’s shrine. “They know of the Prophecy. The seek his head not to fulfill it, but to prevent our master from rising by withholding his head.”
“Then you have failed. The Master will be… displeased,” the lich hissed with almost a tone of glee to his words.
“Not yet, dear friend. The Prophecy shall come to pass. We shall bring the Ages to Khaldun, and offer them to the Master. Then, I shall begin spreading word of him, and his bounty. The greedy cretins will overrun Oaks to summon the Master for a chance to claim a piece of the Ages.”
Mirzam sneered. “You should have done this long ago. You have created an enemy in the Society, and they will try to stop you.”
The man chuckled darkly. “They might be a small thorn…,” he grinned at his double entendre. “The Mistress has a plan to buy us some time however. Quite poetic, actually.”
The man walked to the blue moongate in the chamber, the only egress that existed here. “I’m off to Trammel Britain. It’s time to set the bait. The Master will rise soon, dear friend. Very soon.”
The rogue vanished into the blue vortex. Whomever this Neira pretender was, she was the Roses’ bane now, and his work would continue uninterrupted in the shadows of the West Britain Bank.