Over the centuries men and women of many races have served time for various crimes in Swift Prison, the old dungeons of Tragen’s Hold. The prison is a single level of halls that spread out like spokes on a wheel from a central armory. Escapes are rare, usually due to human error and at no loss of life; today however marks a day that breaks both of these accomplishments.
Carin Taber stood in the rat’s nest that was Dulvan’s prison cell up until an hour ago. The small stone room carried the smell of brimstone on filth and an unsettling odor of death. At her side in the small cell was Vacek Kordova, Captain of the Riders of Mistledale and her former lover. The split was amicable but recent, so she still had trouble reconciling her feelings toward Vacek; a year in drow captivity stole something form the man- stole something from both of them.
“The cell was locked?” Vacek asked Lawson Harting Swift Prison’s deputy-warden. It was if Carin was not there, she thought forlornly.
“Yes it was,” replied the unkempt man curtly. “A lever in the armory opens each cell individually or all of them at once Captain.”
Carin looked from Vacek and back to the cell where she happened across a small patch of sand. She looked around being careful not to disturb the sand then asked the guard to show them four other prison cells.
“What is it do you think?” Vacek asked Carin inquisitively as he led her first out of Dulvan’s former cell.
“I’m not sure. Lawson show Captain Vacek two occupied cells and look for sand, one cell in different wings. I will stay in here and search the unoccupied units.
Carin watched them retreat down the hall and returned to her investigation shining her magical light into the empty adjacent cell. She peered around looking for the telltale sign of gold grains of sand but did not find anything. She searched another as well as two others with no luck but finally was stopped cold when one of the drow inmates caught her attention.
Lawson and Vacek could not be any more different in appearance as they rounded a corner to inspect their last occupied cell. Lawson was alert but unshaven and filthy while Vacek seemed distant but well-groomed and clean.
“You were the one who captured Dulvan.” Lawson said knowingly. “What do you think is his next move?”
Vacek did not immediately respond; when it came to individuals or forces most every Kordovan oppose above all else, that when discovered that thing is rooted out with singular purpose. To Vacek, no other individual personified as many of these vile characteristics as much as Dulvan Kinroth.
The man was a despot in the streets of Zhentil Keep until the godsfall when he was afflicted with lycanthropy allowing him to rise in the ranks of the Black Network as a hired assassin. But as popularity grew in what was becoming known as the Iron Clergy Dulvan found himself in less and less friendly company.
“It is likely Dulvan will return to Zhentil Keep where he is at home and knows the streets,” Vacek lied. He waited until Lawson had two prison guards restrain the cell’s current prisoner, a wizard gone mad by the name of Bishimzon.
Vacek examined the room’s stone floor and found no sand just as in the others, but when he rose from his haunches he noticed the walls of the cell and the artwork etched in fantastic detail. It was the work of nightmares.
“You love him.” The drow woman prisoner observed stopping the constable in her tracks. This raised a sudden ire in Carin causing her to lunge for the cell door. She grasp the bars with deadly anger.
“What do you know bitch?” Carin said threateningly, eyeing the drow woman who oddly enough- did not shy away from Carin’s magical light or did she speak in drow- Carin understood her words.
“I can see that you love him,” the drow woman said with sincerity. “and I know what the drow did to him.”
“You speak as if you are not drow, these prison walls have you confused” Carin said composing herself and stepping away from the curious drow.
“I am only half-drow, an abomination, the union between surface elf and drow. The lowest born in the eyes of the matrons.” The woman said from the other side of the prison door.
Suddenly Carin took pitty on the woman. She remembered how during the woman’s arraignment how she testified she was just as much a slave as everyone else. Gilda Marsh had also took pity on the woman and sentenced her to twenty ‘swift’ years.
“What is your name and why would you help me?” Carin asked taking a tentative step in the direction of the woman’s voice. Carin tried to hear deception in the voice, or magical coercion and was ready for the betrayal but none came.
“My name is Endrenn Allerendris,” the half-drow answered and as she did she too took a few tentative steps toward Carin. “and because the man you call Dulvan is vile beyond reckoning and worse- he is insatiable in his evil. He will kill innocents without a thought.”
“What do you know?” Carin asked now intent again on capturing Dulvan.
“I will tell you and will share what I know behind your man’s troubles- maybe bring him back to you if that is your wish, but I have some requests.” Endrenn said to Carin who leaned in to hear her whispered words.
Vacek stood stunned at the nightmarish masterpiece etched on the stone walls of the cell. Using stone chips and bones Bishimzon created a mural of dragons that stretched all four walls from the floor to the ceiling. Scores of dragons decimating the countryside with fire and titanic strength, the scene gripped Vaced like a jolt.
Outside the cell Vacek could see Bishimzon’s unsteady regard reading him carefully.
“Put his man in solitary confinement until the next moon, he is not to return to his cell.” Vacek told Lawson who gave the nod to the pair of guards restraining the wizard.
Once the wizard and the guards were out of sight Lawson asked, “What do you want me to do with all this?” referring to the horrific artwork.
“No one is to come in here or change anything by my command,” Vacek said surprising Lawson. “I want this cell to remain as is for now.”
When Carin and Vacek returned to Dulvan’s stone cell Vacek asked, “Would there be any reason sand would be in Dulvan’s cell and not the others?” The question hung between Vacek and Carin like the swift stench of the prison.
“He was biding his time until he had a reason to leave,” Carin said knowingly. “I believe Dulvan could have escaped at any time but had no reason to or maybe had nowhere to go.”
“Or perhaps he was hiding from someone.” Vacek said now understanding her line of wisdom.
Turning to him, “I admit I do not yet know how sand fits into this, but I trust since you tracked Dulvan before you can capture him again.” Carin gave her former lover a longing look full of emotion and restraint.
“I will begin at once.” Vacek Kordova Rider of Mistledale, said dutifully.
After a brief and awkward farewell in the halls of the prison, Vacek tracked the crime scene to one of the many intersections in the prison where Dulvan apparently met with some minor resistance.
Vacek came to where two prison guards lay dead, blood coated the floor from wall to wall. Without the proper weapons, Vacek thought, to fight or subdue such a creature as Dulvan, it was easy for the convict to slash deep cuts in the throats of the guards leaving them to die as Dulvan made his escape.
Vacek followed the passage being careful not to disturb the bodies or track blood through the prison then it occurred to him, Dulvan may not have been that careful. Vacek started looking for droplets of blood at first on the walls then on the ancient stone floor. There may not have been a pool of blood when Dulvan came through, but he might still have blood on his hands from his kills.
When Vacek saw the blood on the floor just inside Swift Prison's entrance he immediately could see in his minds-eye what happened: once Dulvan could see his escape he changed back into his animal form and was now leaving a small trail of blood from his victims. Vacek whistled a shriek for his animal companion, together they would track this Black Network murderer.