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|Heart of the Hound|
|1.||Heart of the Hound|
|The Tavern of Lost Souls|
|2.||The Tavern of Lost Souls|
|Escape from Guk|
|The Flight of the Mudskipper|
|The Worst Cook in Grobb|
|A Storm of Sorrow|
|Of New Friends and Troublesome Enemies|
|On the Plains of Karana|
|By the Wings of Dragons|
The tale of the V'Nol family would end here as your narrator could tell it if Asharae did not come into the company of the most ragtag band of adventurers on Norrath and, by her continued presence, make it all the more unlikely. In her flight from the city of Neriak, she encountered our crew and became our reluctant mage, despite the protests of many a member, myself included. Unfortunately, it was hard to deny with the nature of our mission that the Scryona would not come in handy. More than that... it would be essential in predicting rifts from which the Void would enter our world. Unfortunately, Asharae's ability to use it was mediocre at best and, at worst, a matter of pure luck. So it came upon us to take a detour to the city of Neriak, and forcibly detain Baron and Baroness V'Nol. And with this, the tale of Asharae and the V'Nol's comes to its true closing point.
The Madam V'Nol was left bound in the back of the cart, her own sash serving to gag her, and Asharae led the Baron, blindfolded, into a cave.
"Do you need any help there, lassie?" asked Kaltuk the aged dwarf, eyeing her as she went.
Asharae turned to look back at him and then, one by one, her eyes passed over the party. It was agreed within the group that never had they seen her so calm, and yet so obviously excited, as they did that day, and never would they again. Her dark blue skin gleamed in the light that filtered down through the tops of the trees and her eyes locked on each of them intently.
"No," she said finally. " There shouldn't be a problem. He is unarmed, and will be defenseless within the anti-magic field. No, you needn't worry about me."
As they disappeared into the dark mouth of the cave, Kaltuk leaned over and whispered to his companion, the ogre Nurgg, "It wasn't her I was worried about."
Within the cave, Asharae bound Baron V'Nol to a post and removed his blindfold. His eyes went wide as he looked at her and he screamed dully against his gag. "Now," said Asharae, letting her fingers trail across his chest as she passed from one side of him to the other, "I need you to tell me all that I need to operate the Scryona, or..." with a flick, a dagger had appeared in her hand, and she toyed with its end against a hollow in his neck, "I begin cutting you down to size." The dagger flashed as she quickly cut the gag. As it fell away, the scream he had let loose at the sight of the knife in motion came out, echoing in the cavern. He breathed deeply and gazed at her like a wild thing caught in a net. She stared down at him between the part of her hair, calmly assessing whether she believed he would speak, or whether he would need more convincing.
Quickly, she decided on convincing. Like lightning, a gash appeared across his arm, missing the delicate veins of his wrist by only fractions of an inch. He screamed again and this time, the words rolled freely off his tongue. "Asharae," he said, "Asharae, I do not believe you wish to do this."
Asharae gazed at him for a moment before laughing. The laughter was soft at first, and then it seemed to take her over completely. "I don't, do I?" she asked, arms sweeping out to either side of her. "Are you forgetting that until very recently, I spent the whole of my life a slave in your household? When I could do naught but crawl, I scrubbed the floors. And when I could walk, I scrubbed the walls. And when I missed a spot, I was beaten by your wife within inches of death." She drew up closely to him. "So many times I wanted her to go one step further. So many times I wished she would just do me in as she so obviously wished to." Asharae was quiet for a moment, and then she drew away again. Balancing the knife point on one of her fingertips, she said, "So tell me then, Baron V'Nol, what reason would I have for not wanting to do this? I will tell you what reason: no reason at all. Much like the reason that your wife targeted me for this abuse. No one was treated as horribly as I was, and I never gave her cause." She walked up briskly and cut across the Baron's opposite arm, once again coming dangerously close to the artery. For good measure, she shifted the stroke to move upward as she was through, gashing his cheek. "Now, tell me what I need to know."
Baron V'Nol panted and between his teeth said to her, "There was a reason, a reason for it all. You are the daughter of a doxy who I paid for my pleasure, a dancer from the Maiden's Fancy. And that I would choose to seek consolation in the arms of such a commoner rather than go to her bed has driven my wife crazy for all these years. So you see, you are my daughter, Asharae, left to your fate by your mother on my doorstep. So that's why you don't want to do this. Because you may think your life has been terrible, but I did you a good deed in letting you live. Your mother most likely expected I would kill you to hide my shame, but I didn't. I am your father, Asharae. Let me go, return the Scryona, and because of our shared blood, I will let you live." The Baron held his head high as he finished, lips twitching into a smile.
Asharae stared at him, completely quiet. Only the Baron V'Nol knew the look that passed over her face at that moment, and all that this narrator knows is that it caused him to erupt into shrill, chilling screams. By the time the party made for the cave, headed by Kaltuk, who had already been posed to charge, Asharae stepped out, and her gaze stopped them in their tracks. Her robe was streaked with blood and the dagger in her hand seemed it would slip out of her hands, as it was so slick with it.
Kaltuk set his jaw and stepped forward, demanding, "By Brell's beard, what have you --?"
Bayle stepped forward and put a hand out to the dwarf's chest. The human man towered above the small dark elf woman, but the look she gave him acknowledged none of that. "What happened, Asharae?" he asked. "You were supposed to be questioning him, nothing more."
Asharae let her head fall to the side before pursing her lips and saying, "The Baron, unfortunately, did not survive the questioning."
"We are down to one person on the whole of Norrath who knows how to use it," said Bayle, his leather armor creaking as he drew a step closer to her. "Will you be more careful in questioning her?"
Asharae's cheek twitched visibly as she seemed to consider the request. "I will try as best I can," she said, waving a hand dismissively.
"You will torture no one else under my protection today," said Bayle, and his hand fell to his sword. "And you will especially not kill them. Even a dark elf deserves more than that." The whole party watched the exchange intently.
Asharae's glare burned into him as her eyes flicked from his sword to his face. "Then you will have none of the Scryona," said Asharae. "And the Void will take us all. If you think you can, do it yourself, but you'll get answers out of the Baroness V'Nol by no kinder means." Her head dropped, and her gaze locked on the ground. Around her, the party murmured. Twiddy Bobick, who had coaxed the girl to join them by the fire after a month of sleeping separate from the rest of the crew, turned his back on her and left the clearing in the direction of the Cloudskipper. Professor A.M. Fiddlewiz followed behind him shortly.
Bayle looked at her for a long time before finally saying, "We need the Scryona to work as more than a fluke. Kaltuk, you go with her. I know you'll tolerate nothing that goes too far." He turned and began to walk away. Stopping, he cast a glance back at her over his shoulder. "Nothing you do will change what has already been done, only the road you go forward on from this day. Consider that, Asharae." With that, Bayle left the clearing, and all but Kaltuk and Nurgg followed suit.
Kaltuk came to a stop beside her with a grumble and said, "Come on then. Behave if you can." Together, they disappeared into the cave, and Nurgg settled against the cliff side a step out of the tunnel.
Asharae learned all she needed to know about how to use the Scryona, and the Baroness V'Nol survived her questioning. But in the night, the Madam was set upon by wolves and gored to death before anyone could stop them. None could help but glance at Asharae when it was through, though she had moved her tent once again so that it was separate from the rest of the group, but the dark elf would give no comment regarding the death. She would also not sleep beside them again, but in the distance, they could hear her weeping as she dreamed.
It is only by my ability to see the truth of things that I know the whole of this story. Many could guess at the identity of Baron V'Nol. She had told us all of her curious ability to bypass the curse, and after that bloody day, it made all too much sense.
I pity her, even though I know I shouldn't.