The last time he'd tried this, the plan had been to be 'Veron Chandler, completely ordinary citizen of Waterdeep,' and look how that went. Conned into going after some idiots that didn't understand the concept of 'waiting,' conscripted to join a war in a place so foreign he didn't feel safe to drink at the local tavern, condemned to the eighth level of Hell itself as someone else's patsy. Hadn't that been fun. He had thought he'd learned his lesson about doing nice things for nice people; sure, everyone thanks you, but no one's there for you when you later have reoccurring nightmares of dracoliches. It's safe to say that he's done his time in the world saving business, he can let the world handle itself for a little while.
Except here he is again, investigating weird shit because a nice person asked him to. Did he say, 'Go ask someone else'? Or perhaps, 'Sorry, I can't help you,' or even, 'Why don't you just move somewhere safer instead of parking near the haunted catacombs of your ancestors'? He did not. He did not say any of those things. Instead he said, 'I'll give it a look,' and now here he is, tromping his way to some haunted catacombs, like he has any business poking at the dead. Ugh. His bleeding heart is going to be the death of him, one day. Possibly today. It could always be today.
"If I meet another kid," he mutters to himself as he stomps through the underbrush, swatting at a mosquito on his neck, "that looks up at me with big earnest eyes and says, 'I want to be an adventurer like you when I grow up!' I am going to tell him the story about the mindflayers." This is a lie. He would never tell any child any stories about mindflayers. He doesn't want to give kids nightmares. But saying this sort of thing makes him feel better, and there's no one here to hear him, so he doesn't feel bad about it.
Stomp, stomp, stomp - oh look, weird magic bullshit, he's so surprised. Guarded by skeletons, how novel. He neither is surprised, nor finds it novel. He decides that he doesn't want to deal with these reanimated cadavers any longer than he has to. He should just start off by shadowstepping to the far skeleton archer, then tripping up the warrior as it runs... but what if someone actually has a legitimate reason to have these corpses animated? He doesn't know the local culture, it could be a thing. Use the ethically sourced dead to work in the fields for the living, or something. There is nothing stopping a necromancer from being good, in theory. Not that he's met one.
Oh blessed Tymora he's going to reveal himself and attempt to communicate out of principle, isn't he. Damn it. That's going to get him killed, too.
"Excuse me!" he calls. "Is there a spellcaster or restless ghost that maybe wants to explain what's going on?"
"Ah!" says an echoing voice through the trees. "An intruder! More materials for my experiments! Slay him, my minions!"
Veron indulges in a sigh. Yeah, that was what he was afraid it would be. This is what happens when you give people the benefit of the doubt. People trying to kill you.
The skeletons are a breeze, the later zombies a cakewalk, and the horrific sewn together monstrosity, ten feet tall and no doubt a treasured favorite of the necromancer, a brief distraction. Very brief.
"So is it the standard 'the fools cast me out and I'll show them all' backstory, or...?" says Veron, when he has the necromancer cornered.
"You think you've won! But I'll show you, you won't be so smart then, will you, think you can kill me -"
"Listen, mate. I don't want to kill you. I wanted to say hello. What's your story, what got you to run off to the woods to play with dead things -"
"Insufferable fool! I'll show you -" the necromancer raises his hand to point a finger at Veron.
The world turns a familiar grey as Veron slides into the in-between of Toril and the Plane of Shadow. The necromancer freezes, his hand nearly extended. Time's not actually frozen, per se, Veron's just moving and perceiving the world fast enough that everything looks still. He can't keep this up forever, not if he wants to avoid getting shunted unpleasantly to the Plane of Shadow, but he can keep it up long enough to slip behind the necromancer before his perception of time rights itself and the world's color returns.
His knife, quite casually, is at the necromancer's throat.
"Pass. Listen, I'm trying to give you the benefit of the doubt here, but you're making it real hard."
The necromancer splutters, and his spell fizzles harmlessly. "W-what?! What, you - you -"
"Yeah. Me. Say one complete sentence that isn't evil, please, I'm begging you here."
"You'll get no simpering from me, fool!!"
Well. Lost cause, he's wasted more than enough effort on this waste of a person. It's obvious he's not going to change his mind, or stop sewing corpses together, and it's obvious he'll graduate to kidnapping people and experimenting on them soon. Can't just leave him alone, and it's not like he has some place to hold him. The Plane of Shadow, maybe, but he's not putting anyone there if he can at all help it. He has a brief debate over if he can get this guy to some place that'll try to reform him, decides that any place that could hold a wizard wouldn't make them very inclined to reform, and promptly slits the guy's throat.
"What a waste," he sighs, at the corpse.
And then, in typical adventurer tradition, he immediately begins raiding the necromancer's stuff.
Halfway through that, as he's sorting through the potion rack, there's a cracking sound from behind him. He whirls around just in time to see the final shards of a crystal ball fall to the ground. He swears just in time to properly express his dismay at the glowing and buildup to exploding that is happening around the enchanted glass shards. On instinct, he shifts to the in-between, planning to dash to the exit before he can get caught in whatever bizarre blast is no doubt about to occur.
Veron Chandler is very fast, but he shifted as the explosion began, not before. It is a very rapid explosion, once it gets going. He is not quite fast enough to escape it.
He starts going through his checklist before he even opens his eyes. Anything injured, if so, how bad? Does he have his pack, where are his weapons, is anyone immediately trying to kill him, does he have anyone else he needs to look out for, does he need to move right now or die.
Not injured, not unless it's bad enough that he doesn't feel it. Pack's there, so are his weapons.
He sits up with a groan, and opens his eyes to see about anyone trying to kill him.
It's not cold, anyway, and he can tolerate having a cold meal for a night or two. Or more than two, if he has to. He has eaten some strange things, in his day, he is not going to get prissy about food temperature. Instead of making a fire, he finds a suitably out of the way place to change out of his wet clothes and armor, and hangs them up to dry. He's got a spare set of clothes, and a spare set of armor after the mimic debacle. He's not in danger of walking around indecent. His boots are magic and lasted through Hell itself without damage, and so are not in danger of being ruined by the dive in a river. He has some non-cricket food.
Then he sits down somewhere scenic, pulls out his journal, and starts writing about his day. Lesson of today: make sure nothing is stacked precariously before looting. Explosions are bad. Avoid them in the future...
Veron continues writing, pretending not to have noticed.
"Ksxksskrth?" he calls, retracing the familiar hand gesture that'll get his steward's attention. "You there?"
There's a pause of worrying length. Veron wonders if he's further from home than he thought, and if this is about to be another adventure where he has to figure out how to get back to Toril. Then the nearby shadows draw together and darken in a familiar fashion, and Ksxksskrth rises into form.
"Alwaysssss. Farrr from homeee, aren't you?" hisses the shadow monster, in Common, not Sssaktsth. He's practicing his accent. Still pretty hissy and creepy, but definitely more intelligible now, and improving little by little.
"Have you ever known me to be anything but?" wonders Veron, dry.
Ksxksskrth laughs, low and guttural. "Ss sss, no."
"Yeah, story of my life. Speaking of, do you know where I am?"
Another pause. "I do nnot. It isss farrr."
"Awesome. Stranded in another weird place. Yay."
"It issss not ssso far assss Caniaa." He leaves the statement 'You could get to the Plane of Shadow' unsaid, out of courtesy. Veron hears it all the same. It is an escape route, if he wants it. If he wants to risk being stuck on the Plane of Shadow for another year, seeing how much further he'll progress into becoming a shadow monster. Maybe he'll get to the stage where his skin starts peeling off. Wouldn't that be exciting.
"Yeah. That's something. Thanks, Ksxksskrth. Sorry to bother you over my latest mess."
"It isss no trouble. I amm at your ssssservice. Whaaat can I do forrr you?"
Veron hesitates to actually ask Ksxksskrth if he'll do his laundry, but his eyes slide to the still damp clothes where they hang, and his friend guesses all the same.
"Ittt will beee done."
"Thanks, I appreciate it."
Ksxksskrth departs with an armful of clothes, and Veron only feels a little bit bad about it.
Well. Time to wander, he guesses. Standard adventurer reaction. Wander around in the woods until you trip over something interesting.
He's had a strong stomach for a while. He barely even reacts. Just a subtle expression of dismay. First time he saw butchery like this, he recalls throwing up. Now he just feels - not even angry. Empty, but for the hollow pang in his chest that swells with every heartbeat. Oh. Yes. This still exists in the world, doesn't it.
Right. Much as he wants to stay and pay respects to the dead, he probably doesn't have the time. Who did this, are there tracks? He's not much of a tracker, but he can follow some footprints.
Implies they're a distance away, and that he can't catch up with them without doing something unwise and showing up exhausted and strained and with one foot practically in the Plane of Shadow.
He can spend a little while to handle the dead. He won't bury or burn them, but he can move them from where they died and drape unburned bits of tent over them. Some kind of respect. Pity he doesn't have a cleric to do any of this properly.
Without knowing who was related to whom, he leaves the children in the arms of what he presumes to be their parents, arranged so they look peaceful. But for the blood.
He's done in record time. He's very efficient.
He walks to the city, thinking of Drogan's patient lessons and Deekin's eclectic songs and Valen's tentative smile, until the thoughts of slaughter are as small as he can make them. Anger has never helped him, only made a bigger mess to clean up. He will do no one any good if he storms into the city seething with anger and out for blood.
The city's gates are open! It's got spiraling levels, cut into the mountain, and the ground level is some kind of bustling market with short hairy people and humans and people taller and prettier and glitterier than humans. There is a notable absence of the slaughtered species. There are a few guards at the city gates, talking with merchants and looking through incoming and outgoing wagons. Lots of people are singing.
But pretty doesn't mean good. Good can be pretty, but it can be also be small and scaly or pale with horns and a tail or large and made of metal or slight with skin as dark as charcoal and hair like starlight. And evil can be pretty, too.
He walks to one of the less busy guards at the gate, then says, "Hello, my name is Veron, do you understand anything I'm saying?"
Was that just sending or were they receiving, too? He understood context, but maybe it could have been guessed. He should carry himself like he's surrounded by mind readers, though, why didn't he practice this more when he had the time it's obviously useful -
Meanwhile, he stands there, eyes shut, completely still.
Then once it's up to his satisfaction, smooth and strong and impermeable, he's confused at how to proceed. The ability to speak with the telepathic people would be damned useful, but not at the cost of leaving himself at the mercy of whoever feels like reading him.
He needs a better solution. He - turns himself right around and walks away from the city. Away from the mind readers.
Yep, this is kind of stupid, doing it anyway.
"Excuse me!" he calls, standing up, attempting to echo the impression of the words out of the bubble of safety that is his mind without disturbing the shields. "Do you have a minute...?"