The office is rather small and dark, and Ormid struggles to remember when he got here. A sense of incredible age hangs upon the slightly spicy air, and he spends a moment looking closely at the hundreds of trophies that cover every inch of the walls and the dressers that line them; skulls, scales, implements of power, weapons, scrolls and a thousand other treasures that speak of several lifetimes of collecting and adventure.
The carpet beneath his feet is thick and muffles sound, and before him stands a large, heavy desk of dark-stained wood, upon which are piled even more relics, including a human skull which bears a number of sinister glyphs on its forehead, and has a large black candle melted to its skullcap.
Behind the desk sits a being that the artificer knows at once is a god of some kind. His seat is an amazing, high backed thing of Ebonwood, whose back has been carved to depict angels on its right hand side, clashing with daemons on its left. The arms of the chair are coiling dracani, who's heads face forwards, mouths open in a silent roar, and even from the other side of the table, Ormid can sense the potent magic thrumming through it.
Returning his attention to his host, he notes that he is currently wearing the form of a wolfishly handsome male human. His eyes are tawny and shine with playful confidence, and he wears his immaculately coiffured hair down to his shoulders. He is staring at the artificer, his face split by a wide, sharp-toothed smile.
“Hello Ormid. I'm assuming you know who I am?”
The artificer honestly doesn't, although he feels he should. His host immediately reads his discomfort and helps him out.
“Sheol. God of bargains, contracts and cunning?”
Ormid nods, feeling both hugely embarrassed for not recognising the deity, and massively intimidated by standing in his presence.
“You're in a pretty dire situation right now.” He continues, “Indeed, I would go as far as to say that you are about to die a horrible death, though to be honest, it's a better fate than that your warforged friend is about to suffer.”
“Oh.” Stutters the artificer.
“However, I have something of a vested interest in seeing you survive this encounter, as I need you to found the Unified Order. I mean, don't get me wrong, you have set its creation into motion, but the version of the Order I need for some – errm, future plans – won't come to be if you are not involved in its early development, and I really can't have that.”
“Alas, I also can't force you to accept my help, and even if you do, I cannot risk Xix's wrath by directly intervening. Xix is such a bore, and you never know what the mad little fucker if going to do next, so I try to keep him at arms length if I can.”
Ormid says nothing, unable to quite compute what is going on.
“I-I'm dying then?”
“Oh by the immortal skies yes! You and that little fellow are being devoured by your own nightmares, and are quite doomed. The Veteran is about to become a vessel for that sentient shard of Xixior, and the other two are as helpless as newborns against it without everyone else to support them. Yes, you, and all your allies, are in the process of dying, and unless you listen to and accept the offer I'm about to make you, there is nothing in the multiverse that can help you.”
Sheol allows his words to sink into the bruised mind of the artificer.
“So, what's you deal” He asks after a moment.
Sheol's grin widens, and he pushes a scroll across the desk towards Ormid.
“I send you and your allies help, fix you all up and reunite you. You stop Nye'ddeth from completing his ritual, save the collegiate, fire the weapon and found the Unified Order. Oh, and I will need a favour from your and yours at a future date.”
“What kind of favour?”
Sheol laughs; a rich, slightly mocking sound.
“Ormid, you know me better than that surely. Think of all the legends, all those times I helped the Wondrous, or those no good adventurer's who sent this handsome fellow to kill me” He taps the skull on his desk. “No, the nature of the return favour is mine to know and yours to find out. It sucks, but let's be honest, it can't be any worse than the alternative now, can it?”
Ormid shakes his head, and looks at the scroll – a contract, clearly outlining the arrangement and the expectations.
“What choice do I have?” He murmurs to himself, picking up a quill from a nearby inkwell. “Llewellyn would kill me if I let us all die.”
“Thank you Ormid. You've made the right decision. So, if you are ready, let's get you back to it...”
Behind him a portal opens, a thing of smoky black energy that coils and pulses in the gloom of the office. Looking over his shoulder towards the darkly handsome god, Ormid steps through, his thoughts clear for the first time in ages, his body restored completely.
“Good luck old man. Don't let me down.”