(ooc: Written with AG's sagely guidance, guiding me! )
Somnak looked up hesitantly at Ardhalas from the crack in the stone below the card. The Thaur of the Haulor nodded ever so slightly and lowered his lids, as if to reassure the half-orc…
Ardhalas started speaking, "It is the knight of war...", when suddenly a cold wind burst from the fissure in the floor, followed abruptly by a slow smoke, which began to seep from the crack. Somnak flipped the card, and a knight in bloodied armor was painted on it, his sword covered in entrails, one of his eyes pierced by an arrow. Somnak had to look twice; it was almost as if he could see the blood still running down along the rim of the knight's helmet.
Meleana's eyes widened as she watched from a distance…
The smoke seemed to fill the hallway, though did not burn their eyes or nostrils. Nay, it was the Spirit-Smoke which hung in the air around them now.
Ardhalas opened his eyes then, and Somnak noticed they were milked over…
The Elf began to speak in a voice that was not his own.
“Are you a weakling, Somnak the Azul? Are you a weakling that sits like an old woman, alone in shadows, pondering your worth? You are a creature of War! The call to battle sang in your veins, long before your mother pressed you out on the wooden cottage floor in your home village…
“You are destined for great things…” Ardhalas trailed off, and the Spirit-Smoke now clouded the entire chamber.
Suddenly Somnak could see through the smoke. The orc village! Where he was raised. Where he was taught the Hunt. Where he was bonded with the spirits of the Great Race!
He saw the witch then! The old crone who had haunted and taunted him with her prophecies. She cackled as she saw Somnak in turn, cackled and spat in his direction. But he was not here to see the witch, no. He was to meet the Knight of War!
Ardhalas began speaking again, once more with voices that were not his own. This time an eerie child’s voice…and then another voice began speaking, at the same time as the child spoke, and after a short while several voices spoke through Ardhalas at once.
"You are our witness"
"Shield of our people"
"Voice of our fallen"
The witch held something in her lap, and as Somnak peered closer, his heart racing and threatening to explode form his body, he could see it was his father’s head.
The eyes in the head opened then."Is there hope for me? Or am I chained by the call of my tainted blood."“You ask that?! ”
His father's voice raged.
“You *are* chained by the call of your tainted blood! The blood taint from your mother’s pinkish loins, not mine! Do you not see?
"Your fate was sealed when you were conceived. Think you that one can choose? Nay, you suspect the truth of things."
“Know this, spawn of my loins; patricide is a curse among the humans and elves, but not among us! When you slew me and took your rightful place in the clan, you carried on a tradition that has stretched back to Azul the Creator! Know this, doubting one, you were born for purpose. You are to lead, and to lead you must hunt and must kill, for how else can a true leader act?
"You were marked by the ancestors, born with a caul, and so spirits sought you out. Do you not understand why?! Do you not listen to them when you pound your drums? When you dance with your demons? When you drink your enemies steaming blood?"
"You were born to kill and to inspire those who kill. And more, you were born to lead our kind to new victory!"
"Conquer your mewling weakness, son. You did it once when you slew me. Be what you are! Your mother's soft influence is the only thing which holds you back!”
The head paused in its speech, and the cackling hag holding it, howled in glee, staring at Somnak with penetrating eyes. “He needs proof!” she hisses at the head.
Somnak sat motionless, his head pounding. He was biting his tongue and tasting his own warm blood as his father spoke.
Then his father added mysteriously,
“You shall know your enemy always more than skin-deep. You will always know what it takes to slay any foe henceforth.
“You are free to choose Somnak. And yet you are not. And yet, you already have. You are chained by the weaknesses of your mother. Break free! Live to kill! And others shall follow you! And Azul shall rise again!”
With that the eyes of the head closed, and the witch tosses it into a nearby bonfire! His father's head explodes in a shower of blood, flame, and ash.
The smoke clears in the hallway and chamber, and Ardhalas lets out a scream suddenly, as the conduit that allowed the spirits to speak through the elf, close again. His milky eyes clear and he sits back against the wall, depleted and drenched with perspiration.
Silence. Somnak's eyes are closed. He is shaking.(ooc: The reading was a "strong" one, and as a "boon of proof" to his question, Somnak can now "know" the nature of any enemy and any foe he faces in battle. In game-terms, he can have intimate knowledge of any adversary's abilities and powers, going forward.)