All aspects had been weighed. The risks, abundant, and deadly. Rov knew that upon entering the throne room of the Cloaked, the infamous necromancer of the East, the likelihood of living was far less pronounced than the likelihood of death. But answers he needed. Strength he needed. After his last resurrection from the Nether, he knew something had been left behind. Something was off in his bones. The torch had been alighted, and yes, he had returned, sure to happen as the sun rising over the craggy peaks Broügrimnaire. However, something heavy felt, something of a nearing was held to him. Perhaps it was not what had been left behind, but what had been brought back. His demon’s final words haunted him, in a way they had never done.
“Just a couple more, old boy. Just a couple more trips, and you’re mine.”
He was sure of nothing, and no one could aid him. Not Riftly, not Claudis, not the fat monk who had risen him, and not a friend, that is, if he had had any. No one except the Cloaked.
The hellmouth of the known world.
The Cloaked One was priestess, enchantress, temptress, wrathful, and holier than thou. If anyone, anything on this desolate eastern rock could provide him with knowledge of what went on in the Nether, it was her.
There was a massive chink, and then a great moaning of metal, and the mighty doors of the throne room gave way, sending a pillar of pale light over the foyer in which Rov stood, the wan haze engulfing him. His shadow stretching as a thin pike behind him, slowly he moved forward, his foot falls quiet upon the stone floor, and there he beheld a sight that only a privileged few, and a forsaken many, had ever laid eyes upon.
An impressive, great hollow space he beheld – vaulted to a remarkable height – and flanked by behemoth columns a hall arose before him. Beyond the masonry piers was darkness unimaginable; all that he could see was the great passage by way of the pale light, but the vast emptiness could be felt, like a breathing beast. Though underground, the cavern gave sighs, simply from its enormity. Oval and overwhelming in feeling, producing a sense of being in the belly of a goliath creature of the unknown ocean deep. So deep was it, that the strip before him seemed to stretch as though reaching out; as an arching tongue of rust, the stone holding drags of clay colored marks, radiating out the appearance of old, redden brown blood. Whether it was or not, Rov cared not to know, but death he could smell. Not like that of rot, but of a musk within the cold. A heaviness of air that smothered, like that of many bodies, having been writhing into sweat. And down the long way, at the very end, when the colossal pillars died into the dark, there was a massive fissure within the rock of the ceiling where the pale light was streaming, and within the dim glowing crack of light was a black, immense coiling mass, rippling like silk in soft air and curling as a serpent.
The Cloaked One.
Rov’s heart began to beat, the doors now far behind him he heard hammer close, and stopping his pursuit, he stood with his breath visible in the chill and feet rooted beneath the fissure, the light beam dancing in dust specks and the steam from his mouth, and looked above. High over him, far away still by the great height, the massive black twisting of silken dark began to unfurl.
In a ribbon descent, the Cloaked One ascended upon Rov, her great python body of cape serpentine and of fabric fine, but pitch as the night without celestials. As a stark shadow of undulant dark she fell downward, floating slowly as though held by the cloak, moving her as if it were an appendage, as though she were a snake, or eel of a nightmare sea, and there at the head stood out her fair, white arms, sallow and full of veins of purplish blue, and the only parts of her at all revealed; all the rest lay beneath that gigantic shroud of ebony pure, all that is, except her mouth. A mouth of plump, full lips, but indigo and wet. As a helix she spiraled down, eking closer, as painfully as molasses she crept towards Rov, and had the doors not announced his entrapment within the necromancer’s clutch, he might have run. But there was no back, and should he have run, it would have been his death. In what felt a horrible eternity the Cloaked One at last reached him; her long thin arms outstretched, and to Rov’s face her left, bony fingers lightly brushed beneath his chin, and with delicacy she cupped his mouth.
Hovering as air above him, she breathed in quivering, angelic sounding tongue, “R o v, i t i s g o o d t o s e e y o u a g a i n, m y s w e e t n e s s.”
This, remarkably, was the second time Rov had laid eyes upon the Cloaked. He hoped, he prayed, it would not be his last.
With throat tight, struggling to hold in fear, he spoke in a confidence he had mastered over many years of deception, “My Enchantress.” And to one knee he dropped into respectful bow, head bent in reverence.
A hiss emitted from above him, and to the ground he felt the Cloak One ascend, silently and like smoke. “R i s e.” he heard her sultry voice breathe, and as Rov raised his eyes he saw the darkness detach from her, retreating back into the fissure as slowly as it had come, and swathed in a raven gown that moved as though the wind swam in it, the sorceress stood before him. Her arms and fat lips still the only things visible to any sight.
Rov rose to his feet.
Now, a conversation of sorts, would begin.