Chapter 3: Uncharted Territories -- Page 3
LOG 29

Deep within the confines of the Tower of Masked Mage, through the hazy, fragmented scenes which comprised these particular night’s--or rather, wee hour of the morning's-- dreams, there is a certain voice, carrying with it a clarity which stood out like a beacon amidst the clouded environs. One which Horock perhaps cared not to hear, but it was there nonetheless, and there was little his sub-conscious mind could do about it. Such was its pull, that part of his waking mind was roused, mingling to such a degree that he had true realization that he was dreaming and also it brought on thoughts that perhaps this was not a dream.

Still a tad bit disoriented, Horock tried to focus in his dream state, but still did not see anyone. So, he decided to speak out, "so what if I am dreaming about naked images of Xull'rae. You could leave me in peace, or, if you are not going to do that, at least tell me what you want," with that, the figure of Xull’rae stripping herself vanished, and he started to attempt to focus on whoever was starting to talk to him.

"Mm, peace, if only I knew what that truly meant. Unfortunately for you, I do not. Now," at this point, Cogliostro’s image literally parted through the surrounding haze, said cloudiness pushed aside like a drape. His form paused after fully coalescing, a raised brow given to the assortment of other fading images. The tattooed crown merely shook, him having no desire to dally on such things, instead he got to the point, "you have questioned...even if not aloud...what of your memory is real, and what is not. If you wish, some of that will be revealed."

Horock seemed to stare at him, looking incredulous that the man would even imply asking the unspoken. "Of course I want to know what is real," he blurted out. Before Cogliostro could even begin, Horock went on, "ever since I have learned all of this stuff, I have wanted to know. Show me what you will!" The drow was barely able to contain his unsettled emotions before he was finished.

"Mm, well then, I will firstly let you know that...though close you are...the cleft of Saer Zauviir's, hm, arse, is a little more rounded. And she has a birthmark on...well, never mind that." This bit of off-hand humor was offered to ease some of the upcoming process, more for himself than for Horock, as Horock was at less risk, but he didn’t need to know that.

"I will remember that the next time I dream," Horock commented with a wide grin. "So, what do you have to show me?" he asked in a curious voice.

"You were told of your beginnings," Cogliostro began, "and I will deign from showing you the actual birthing of your true parents, that will be left for another time. The circumstance behind it is all you need be aware of." Watching Horock frown lightly made him curious, "tell me, do you feel yourself any less a Noble, now that you have been told that you are not of Noble birth?"

Horock, still frowning, thought for a moment and then replied, "I am not sure that I have the blood, but I feel that I could sometimes be called noble at least, by drow standards," at the last part his frown turned to a smile and he added a wink.

"Mm, not the sense I was meaning, but yes, that you could feel no matter your social status," Cogliostro agreed, but he did not share the drow’s jest.

"So, I guess the answer would be, yes, I do not feel like a nobleman any longer, now that I had known that I was not born of a family of nobility," these words were not offered with any type of sadness, in fact Horock was quite happy about no longer being a noble. At least now he didn't have a father that had tried to kill him.

"What I'm trying to get at, is that for you as it stands, there is no true distinction between "true" and "false," you have the funding, and the insignia of a Noble all intents and purposes, you are a Noble. Should any care to check your background, there would indeed be found such a House that bears your insignia. To go along with that all, you have a set of memories. False, yet true at the same time, at least to a degree," Cogliostro began to wander whether this set up was sinking in or not.

"Hmmmm," Horock murmured softly, "that is very interesting. Could you perhaps show me the true ones?" He was very curious now. What would he see?

Cogliostro resisted the urge to sigh long-sufferingly and pressed on, more insistent, "my question is do you truly desire to part the real from the unreal? Do you not fear that it may change who you essentially are?"

It did not take Horock long to think before he said, "no, we are more clearly defined by our choices, then our abilities or family relationships. I am not afraid to know my true past. I know WHO I am now I just do not know what parts of my past are true and what are false. I would like to know that, and perhaps more fully integrate them into who I am. But, will it change me completely? No, I do not believe so," he said this with complete confidence, and, if truth be told, he was very surprised at what thoughtful words had just come out of his mouth, and the look of astonishment on his face showed that for certain.

"Mm, if only I were as confident about it as you are," Cogliostro remarked. "At any rate, you have made your choice. Consider this as we 'travel'; who we are in the here and now is formed by our past experience, real or not. Should we start peeling back layers, and allowing something altogether different to fill in the gaps, it threatens to essentially change who you are in the present. If this does happen though, take ease in the fact that you will not even remember it."

Horock nodded and said, "understood. Let’s get going I guess."

Cogliostro responded with, "Very well," at this, a gloved hand bid Horock to turn round, whereupon the scenery began to swirl at a rapid pace. Horock had the distinct feeling that they remained still, and that the memories were being brought to him. There came a pause in it all, during which he could hear the human muttering thoughtfully to himself, "ah, here we go. Now this one is real. If you hadn't guessed, unlike Drazoul, you were kept awake...if not fully aware...during the interim. Otherwise, you would still be but a wee babe. He, however, has not the natural lifespan. But back to the point, there will be perhaps more here that is real than you might think. This will prove especially true after I give this brief scene." His form appears to move to a 'wall' of images, and he begins to shuffle around as if searching out a particular nook.

Horock looked on in interest, not daring to speak, lest he mess the tattooed one up.

"Mind you, I will filter the images in a way, allowing you an outsider's point of reference at times," Cogliostro was saying. "It does not make the memory any less true; it is just a simpler method of doing things. Think of it as watching the scene through a scrying orb, or crystal ball, whatever you choose to call it. Now...." The blurring walls suddenly come to a halt, a single image forming a screen of sorts around them, to such an extent that no matter where they looked, it will always be the same. It even came with auditory components, a decided wailing permeating the atmosphere, which Horock could reckon to be his own after a few moments. It was then that he took note that the 'clear' image around them was actually just as fuzzy as any others had been, but it was a single, consistent image nonetheless. There were shapes and forms of vaguely humanoid shape, but that was all which could be made out in the dim lighting. The voices, however, came to him quite clearly, and the fact that they were male in nature. "Yes," one said, "I still want the parents killed. They have served their purpose, and I want nothing left to chance. Leave nothing in the ways of a corpse; you know what HE may do with even a trace....."

Horock stood and with his mouth slightly open as he listened to this. His parents had been murdered. That came as a shock. But, he still wanted to see more, and he resolved to continue on with the whole tedious journey he had begun.

"Very well," responded the second voice, "what happens if the nursemaid can't provide properly, what then? Never mind, I'm sure you have an answer to everything, so why should I bother to argue. Anyway, they are nearly finished crafting the 'Noble House,' though I don't know why we're bothering with such nonsense. It is a waste of valuable funds in my opinion. Why couldn't we just place them all into suspended animation? Or even give all of them over to foster parents whom we know could be bribed for less money than crafting a small settlement?"

The first replied in a clipped tone, "it’s not your money, so why ask? Just take the brat to the nursemaid already. I've had enough of the mewlings screeches for an eternity."

At this last part, Horock snorted. Who was this man calling a mewling?

However, the second was not finished protesting, "yeah, but I mean, we're...sorry, they're...spending more coin on this brat than even on the actual noble drow bitch-pup...what a waste, think of it...okay, fine, I'm going." The scene cut out suddenly, leaving Horock in silent, ever shifting environs once more, alone with the human. "Now, I'm sure you've gathered a thing or two from that. Whilst you reflect, I will pull up the next image," Cogliostro said distractedly.

Horock was beginning to understand a few things. His parents had been set up, just so that he would be born, and he would have the power of the seals. This was all very strange, but it seemed to make a frightening amount of sense. However, it also left him a little sad. Being a complete drow and having the ability to change into a dragon, he had figured that he could maybe have the chance to meet his parents, but now he knew this would never happen. They were dead, killed to erase any trace of him from the face of the planet until he was needed to reseal the Malaugrym known as Szordrin Xarann. He now knew that a noble house had been constructed specifically for him, and that he was technically a noble. While all of this was a little difficult to take in all at once, he stood, silent, waiting for Cogliostro to bring up the next memory he would see.

Almost absently, the human responded to his thoughts whilst rummaging around, "yes, you are beginning to grasp it well enough. It doesn't really matter the status of your birth. As has been pointed out down the ages, the nobles created that position for themselves, reached out and took it by force of various means. In this case, someone did all the work for you, but the outcome is all the same." Again the atmosphere shifted, bringing a new consistency to light. This time, the picture was much clearer, a contingent of drow, male and female alike, busying themselves about a plush decorated area, a large common room of sorts, or perhaps an area where guests were entertained otherwise. The vantage point remains Horock’s, but it is forcefully shifted, revealing to him the fact that he was still young, though to appearances, old enough to walk. However, he still found himself to be "caged in" somehow...perhaps something akin to what humans would call a "play-pen", and by virtue that most ignored him as they carried out their tasks strengthened the notion that he was too young for them to worry about consequences of their actions or words. This point was quickly clarified, as a most regal looking female, dressed and poised far more elegantly than the rest, strode haughtily into the room, whereupon the remainder of the people hushed themselves, and bent to one knee, taking a position of deference to the female. All save one female, who had stopped her task of cleaning, but gave no indication of offering up such a greeting to the regal one. It was she who spoke first, "give it a rest, this is utter Rotheshit. Why do YOU always get to play the matron? I tire of being the lowly servant all the time."

Now the regal one did reply, but not to other’s direct question and it came out in commanding form, "silence, the child!"

The servant scowled darkly and said flippantly, "hogwash, the scamp isn't old enough to know what we're talking about." The finely dressed woman’s expression turned irritated and she opened her mouth to protest but the other one continued talking, idly cleaning while doing so, "hmph, what should you care? YOU only have to be here once a week, and as such you have a life. Me, however, I have to be here all the time."

A rather obtrusively loud clearing of a throat was heard, male this time, and suddenly all those present do snap to attention, though none kneel, only offering silence and a down casting of their eyes as deference to the large, armored form makes itself known. The helm is off, revealing long tendrils of greyish hued hair, but from his vantage point Horock is able to see nothing of the man's face. Neither does Cogliostro take any means to correct that; hiding something, perhaps. The male then speaks, "so, bickering again, are you? I too am tiring of this. As such, we'll all be happy to know that this ruse is over with. The coffers are drying up, as the 'Stranger' has limited the amount of funds forwarded to us. It seems that the plans have changed, and that this place has served its purpose well enough. Only a scant few of you will remain, and those lucky few will serve the child's new 'guardian' as he...or rather, it...sees fit. Don't all rush at once with requests to stay."

The remembrance was then cut short, whereupon Horock’s sights fell to the human once again, who now faced him whilst posed in his ever present causal manner, hands clasped idly behind his back. He said just as casually, "I pray tell you can guess what that particular scene led up to. Your demonic 'friend' was called in at that point, and the false memory implants took over where playacting had once reigned. You had servants after that point, yes, and the House itself still remained, but you were kept in a constant drugged and ensorcelled state from then on, most of the time, at least. However," he pauses again at this point, turning back to the "wall", apparently ready to select yet another memory but continues, "ah, as I was saying, however... From time to time, the drugs, or the enchantments...or both...would invariably wear off. The 'keeper' did not stay, as he was tending some of the other Children at that point, so the enchantments were only laid upon you periodically, and the housekeepers being what they were, well, they slacked in their duties of drugging you from time to time."

Once more, the swirling images came to an abrupt halt before Horock could form words, when the environs turned completely dark for a moment, then it took on hues of black and white as images formed. Now they were within the building’s interior, though he was not staring through the weave of bars as he'd done before. The vantage point was a bit different, and it was unlit, that much was betrayed by the fact it was seen through darkvision. The dim murmur of voices then came to "ear", around the corner to the right, and as the field of view shifted yet again, he could tell that a nook of sorts hid him from view. A few more heartbeats and two female forms rounded that corner, seemingly oblivious to him, by virtue of the fact the continued onward, or at least, that was their intention...when, suddenly, a hand came into view, wielding a large sharpened object of some sort. It was not a knife, as it was far too jagged; perhaps it was a blade hewn from stone. Whatever the case, it dawned on him that he was the bearer of that blade, and 'ere another heartbeat came to pass, everything became a blur of motion, halting only a moment as the bloodied blade was pulled from the neck of the first unsuspecting female. A low growl permeated the atmosphere as the scene became momentarily blurry while his past self searched out the second female who appeared to be in a state of shock, but true to drowic nature the female quickly gained her wits, though to little avail, as the blade plunged deep into the recesses of her face and throat several times. Hideously, maniacal laughter then issues forth, coming from his own form...then all blackens. A moment later the swirling "wall" of images bringing them all back to the here and now.

Horock continued to watch in fascination as these scenes came by. How many people had this type of chance he wondered? As he was watching the latest scene, he looked on in indifference. Who had they been? Horock tried to remember why he would have done that, but no explanation appeared to come to him. He looked over at Cogliostro, a cool, calculating look in his eyes. He quietly asked, "who were those women that I killed?" He almost didn't care. He did though and he felt terrible that he did and but glad he hid it. His persistence weakened his façade however as he added in with false confidence seconds later, "I know that I must have had a reason to do so; I never act without a good reason. I am simply curious. Who were they?" he asked again.

"Who they were, are of no real pertinence here and now," Cogliostro replied evenly. When Horock gave him a dark look, Cogliostro pressed on coolly with a small apology, "you'll forgive me if I filter what happened in the direct aftermath of those killings." Horock started to protest but Cogliostro gently motioned for him to keep silent, speaking again, "we will push a tad further ahead, perhaps an hour."

Seeing no real alternative, Horock merely grumbled, "you are taking me on this journey, it is up to you."

"Mm, good answer," Cogliostro snickered. He then reminded the drow male of something by saying, "I've told you that this could change who you are in the here and now, and the more you allow me to filter certain events, the less damage will be done." He pointed, looked away and instructed Horock, "now look," suddenly they were back to the same vision, though time had passed. Blood still dripped every so often from the dagger in hand, and Horock could feel more than see that his own body was literally smeared in the substance, and he had a tired feeling of sorts, though great elation as well.

The scene was hurriedly blurred, as if they human felt that part best left out, the shades of black and white disappeared, and full color took over, at least, what full color a torch lit hall could offer. It was a dreary tone of dead grey stone surrounding all sides, save forward and back. More voices, issued from a doorway to the left, a short distance up the hallway. Three distinct voices from the sound of it, all male, though one stood out as more bestial and unearthly than the others. It was this one that became coherent first, the vision pausing just outside that door. "...conditions are acceptable enough to bring the remainder of them here. All save Glourathan's brat, of course. The final decision is left to you guardians, but I would suggest for sake of ease and consistency that you take up my offer."

A response was given in an agreeable and even grateful tone, "I for one will take up that offer, as I tire of the responsibility." The last voice to speak up had something reminiscent of a hissing tone to it as it said, "hm, I too shall do so, but on the condition that I can take my charge back whenever I wish. There will be some things I wish to teach him that your mental meanderings cannot. In other words, I would like to release him from time to time."

The guttural voice in the doorway responded graciously, "very well, on both counts. There are already three here, so I only need to sway one other, and all but the she-bitch will be gathered. I know this was not part of the original plan, but in my opinion, it is a safe enough venture."

The voices suddenly come to a halt, and a large, vaguely humanoid shadow coalesces into the hallway, issuing from the room's interior. Though diminutive in comparison, there is no mistaking that this is the same shade demon that Horock and Drazoul became associated with just a short while back in the present day. A shark tooth grin of sorts erupts upon its shadowy visage, and a hand is formed out of the cloud of darkness which comprises its body. A few terse syllables are spoken, then there is complete darkness once again.

"I'm thinking that the others paused in bringing their charges to him after the demon’s apparent failure at keeping you in check; it cost them their lives...then again, they may have died but we'll never know," Cogliostro suggested somberly.

Horock stood looking on. This continued to get more interesting, and as Cogliostro began to talk to him, he grunted an assent, "yes I do agree that they probably did not bring their people here because of me. I was a little hooligan, wasn't I?" as he said this, he began to be deeply troubled. So, this was where he had been raised. He had been raised by a shadow demon. He had not known anything about who he really was. He may have been troubled about his violence, and he was a little shaken now that he had been away from the scene for a few minutes. However, he was still determined to go on with this.

"Mm, in a way, yes, you were a little hooligan, as you put it. A lot of this would be interesting for other drow to see. It proves, when the whole story is assembled, that drow are a product of their environment. None of you are born truly vile and evil, not more so than babes of any race are at any rate," Cogliostro said and then summarized the rest of the situation, "in your particular case, your, hm, savagery is a result of the drugs they continually administered, a side-effect, more to the point. You...and Drazoul as not entirely mesh well with others of your type, and for good reason. The programming both of you received is vastly different than the true childhood’s either of your races would offer up. The fact that you still come off as 'evil' to some is due to the long term effects of the drugs. If not properly purged, it may never completely leave your systems. Which may be a good thing, as that edge is what helps the both of you survive," he finished with his personal thoughts by speaking them aloud, "in my opinion, you should count yourself lucky for it. Others would tend to disagree, but to each their own."

"Yes, I would agree," said Horock. "Drazoul and I have always been more trusting then most others of our races, but we have always been able to survive, no matter what the situation. We are survivors, and that is the most important thing to me. I actually do value trust, as does Draz. I know that makes us strange, but there we are. I have always felt that we were different."

Cogliostro smiled and allowed himself to lightly indulge in this oncoming debate. "Strange, yes, and it will always be so. Those in the Deep Realms will always view you as such because you are too 'soft' at times. Those in the Lands of Light will see you as strange because to them, all your types are evil, and if they happen to see you act counter, it will shatter their conceptions, momentarily, at least. Most people tend towards stubbornness when it comes to racial expectations. So, even if a common human would see you do good they would push it aside, and condemn you all the same." He repeated himself to clarify his point, "most people, but not all. There are exceptions."

Horock looked down at his hands, now knowing for sure that he would always be an outcast, but in a way, that did not trouble him.

He looked up when Cogliostro spoke again, "I'm glad to see you are strong enough to not let it bring you down. For yes, in most ways you always will be the outcast."

Horock replied, "I have always been strong. I had to be. I mean, you have seen inside my head. You know what my childhood, real or not, what it was like. I had to be strong. That is who I am." So why did he still feel confused?

"Aye, indeed it is. I believe that part of your programming was intended to weaken your will, much as the drugs did," commented Cogliostro. "However, you seem to have stood resolute."

Horock grinned at the human and teased him, "that seems to be a compliment. That is very.... kind of you Cogliostro. Not something that I usually expect from you. Can you show me more?"

Cogliostro shook his bald head slowly, "mm, I must go soon, so I will have to hasten things forward. And yes, even here, time passes as normal, but don't come to expect 'kindness' overly often." Slight traces of an amused smile do creep upon the edges of his thinly formed lips despite him trying to appear off-handed.

A little disappointed at the answer, Horock reflected upon what he had just learned. There were still several questions that he had, but at least now he understood why he was different from the rest of his race. "You know, perhaps being different is a good thing. It makes me that much more unpredictable in battle," when silence met his comment, Horock tried another approach. "Let me ask you something, Cogliostro," he began as he thought carefully about how to phrase his question before he asked it, "do you find me an unpredictable individual? If so, do you think that helps me to stay alive in this world of lies and deceit?"

Instead of lying to him or even saying the most direct truth, Cogliostro replied with good merits in mind, "mm, unpredictable...yes. For I am human, and one learned of the fact that all drow are the same. I've come to realize that this ‘fact’ is not the truth during my studies...studies which continue even now. Back to the point, you, as well as Drazoul, are apt to do things counter to what I've been taught; though I've found that most of my 'crew' down here is unpredictable." The drow that came to mind was Vesz’aun and Xull’rae. Namely the female, she was a puzzle and he had his suspicions that each new piece he discovered, that a new angle or direction would trap him in her maze forever. Before thoughts of her interrupted him, he went back to the conversation at hand. "I would add unfortunately to that, but sometimes the lot of you surprises me in, hm, 'good' ways. Perhaps it does aid you in surviving to some degree or another, but considering the chaos of the people you hail from, do not ever count on that fact alone to keep you alive, and never think about being unpredictable to get out of a situation. The moment it takes you to think of such will be the death of you. Basically, in most cases, follow your 'gut instinct'. It will suffice more often than not." This was getting hard to explain without sounding like a hypocrite so he added in, "I'm not telling you to never think about what you are doing, but never dally on it too long," now he was sounding uncomfortable, hopefully he was overreacting and that was not how he truly sounded. It was time to talk about something else, something very important and the whole basis of this "visit," "anyway, back to the subject at hand," he managed to say it smoothly so he charged into this area with confidence. "When word got out that the Malaugrym was indeed hunting down everyone involved in the complexities of the situation, the demon shade appointed another to carry out his tasks, and took his leave. Basic instructions were left, of course, but they were not followed completely. As such, you and Drazoul were released early. Again, I believe it was fear of being caught by the malaugrym." When Horock nodded, he continued, "when you were released, the final memories were put into place, and both of you were given certain resources based off those memories."

The previous conversation forgotten, Horock followed the change of subject like a loyal and trusting puppy. "So, the Demon was simply trying to bring us back into his protection, because he had failed when he left us there, with whomever was supposed to watch us. That is why the Shadow Demon was after us," he continued his thoughts aloud with no interruption, "so, right now, the demon most likely has two enemies, whoever employed him, and the malaugrym itself, am I correct?"

Cogliostro disagreed by shaking his head, "mm, not entirely. I believe that another...Malag'tel, to be exact...actually 'persuaded' the demon to collect you once more. It has no desire to protect you; of that much I'm sure." He did agree on one point however, "so yes, in a way, it does have two enemies. As we've hindered its recapturing you, I'm sure Malag'tel will not be happy."

Horock sighed softly but nodded his acceptance, "hmmmm, okay, well, I do not want to go back to their ‘graces’ and protections. I am happy with what I am learning, and where I am now. I suppose that is a good thing."

Cogliostro offered a nod and a touch upon the shoulder for support as he said, "indeed it is, but the position you are in here and now is not an entirely safe one. As it stands, it is mere political red tape, if you will, that keeps certain parties at bay. Both the malaugrym, and Malag'tel, are hindered by their pacts with your church. That will not always be the case, and I cannot always be around to offer what protections I would. In any case, you should be relieved to know your true hunters, now. All others are mere fabrications. Each of them wants you for similar reasons, though still different reasons."

Horock nodded and was grateful for his presence. "I understand," he said. "I am able to take care of myself. I am not a child. I should be able to take of myself, especially with the new allies that I have gained, and old ones, especially in Drazoul. However, I know that I am vulnerable, and while the church protects me now, I am sure, as you said, that will not last forever. I feel a little saddened by it, but I also feel that I must make sure the malaugrym is resealed." Horock sighed, and looked up at Cogliostro with sorrow in his eyes, "compassion is considered weak by my race, and even though it is not a normal part of my personality, now that I have seen what these people did to me, I care for those that were in that prison with me. I need to get them out and get their help. Can you point me in the correct direction when that time comes?"

Cogliostro understood but dared not take pity on Horock. He was drow after all and pointing him away from drow society would be the over all right thing to do but would hurt his personal pact and other relations he made down here during his studies. Not to mention, Vhaeraun was not a forgiving god and Xull’rae was not a forgiving follower, the boy would die long before reaching the surface. The bald man did not want to be the cause of his death. Cogliostro responded Horock gently, "compassion is not an unnatural thing, not by any means. As I tried to get across, the drow race feels the full range of emotions that others, such as my kind do. They simply quell them by conscious effort in most cases, as the need arises. As you stated, it is considered a weakness, so even when it’s felt, it can't be conveyed. Now, for pointing you in the right direction, I will perhaps be able to do that in time. Even I do not hold all the answers now. However, I have reason to believe that there may not BE any others to worry about."

Horock looked startled. "How can that be?" he asked frantically, before another question was blurted out, "aren't there several that are needed for the seals to function?"

Cogliostro tried to calm Horock down by using soothing tones, "it is my belief that you, Drazoul, and Alena are the final three 'keyholders'. And yes, technically speaking, there should be a key for each seal. However, you need to take into account that the one who created the seals and implanted the enchantments is now a full part of the immediate picture." He of course subtly meant Malag’tel.

"So, if he has the seals, he could theoretically do it all by himself and we would not be needed at all to make it work anymore," Horock stated, certain that he was correct.

"It would be easier for him to carry out the Binding if he had all the original tools...but they are not truly a necessity. But I believe he will keep you alive until your usefulness is ended, to save himself time and effort. As it stands, he'll have to recover the remaining seals, as those would take decades to recraft."

Horock forced himself not to shiver and keep the dread from his voice, "hmmmm that is an interesting thought. He did spend a lot of money on me." Horock grinned as he was saying this, happy he suppressed his fear, he also added a touch of humor to what he said next, "everybody wants me, I’m so loved. Could I, Draz, and Alena do the binding by ourselves without the other keyholders or can only Malag'tel do that?" He realized he was babbling and flushed with embarrassment, "sorry, you may not have the answers. I am assuming too much."

Cogliostro patiently replied to his question, "only Malag'tel. Each of you only holds the information to part of the greater equation. And as it stands, none of you can consciously tap into it. The Malaugrym would naturally want each of you out of the picture simply to stall Malag'tel is to his advantage."

He recovered himself while Cogliostro had spoke, and after hearing the information that the man gave Horock gave a heavy sigh and said, "very well. I suppose that I will have to worry about simply staying alive for the time being then, and keep an eye on Malag'tel to make sure that he is not making any moves to bring me under his control again. I like being my own person." After giving it some thought, he asked another question, "also, can you give me any clues as the Malaugrym's disguises so that I might be aware that he is near? That way he does not do me in without me even having a fighting chance?"

Cogliostro replied with a chuckle, "ah, in that point, there are no worries. He never wears false disguises. I believe it is part of his personal sense of honor or some such. At least, this is what I have observed." Horock grunted and muttered something dark under his breath, so Cogliostro admitted grudgingly, "even my Arts cannot penetrate his own, so I could be wrong in that assertion, but studies I've done otherwise lend credo to it."

Horock however remained unconvinced, "hmmmm, you have mentioned studies several times. What are you doing here? Why are you here? Honestly, you have piqued my curiosity. I hope that I am not one of those strange individuals who throw’s off all of your research." He had said the last part with a smile, and a slight gloating tone.

Cogliostro almost told him no, but Xull’rae did exactly that. Instead he said, you've already ascertained part of the reason. The rest is for you to dwell upon as you will." A slight, knowing smile creases his ageless visage 'ere his form turns to metaphorically depart, "rest now, and dream of the finer things in life. I will be interrupting upon such things again all too soon."

Confused, Horock tried to stop him but the bald man simply had vanished. "What do you mean?" Horock called after the man. Silence answered him. Oh well, he thought as he takes Cogliostro’s advice and turns his mind to the finer things in life. He begins to dream about Xull’rae once again, this time putting the slight changes that the bald man had offered earlier. In his bed, Horock had a huge smile on his face as he slept on uninterrupted.

Interrupt the Bard -or- let her continue