It was an unlikely friendship from the start, and the two necromancers did not realize the dangers of continuing to rendezvous in the abandoned shack hidden deep in the darkness of Toxxulia forest, where they believed they were far enough away from the prying eyes of the Erudians. At first Ozno was intrigued by the dark elf's mastery of the Teir'Dal dark arts, while she thirsted for his arcane Erudite knowledge of the arch lich Miragul's phylactery. But as they began sharing and experimenting, they also realized they had many common interests that would have been been considered frivolous and forbidden in both Paineel and Neriak - like gnomish fireworks, dwarven brews, and yummy halfling pies that Ozno had learned about from fellow Erudite shadowknights.
Ozno blamed himself for that fateful night, of what would be their final meeting at the shack. He later thought to himself, if only he didn't let himself enjoy these frivolous distractions with her, maybe he would have noticed the increased number of wandering kobolds, or he would have questioned the strange runes he found placed at the door frame to the shack. Instead, he stepped away to meet me at the Toxxulia druid rings and pick up a berry pie to surprise her - but in his absence, the cowardly arsonists managed to stealthily approach the shack, bar the only entrance from the outside, and set it on fire while trapping her inside. Ozno returned too late to see the faces of the nameless assailants who had quickly fled - but he caught a final glimpse of her as he opened the door and rushed in, only to see her badly burned, on the floor gasping for air. She looked up deeply into his eyes and mouthed a few unintelligible words, but lacked the breath to make any sound - and with that she succumbed to death from pain and suffering.
It was the unknown words of her final moments that were seared in his mind and continued to haunt him, sometimes waking him up in the middle of a night in a cold sweat. Was she trying to give him a message about the identity of her attackers, so that he could exact an even more cruel revenge? The nearby kobolds would not have been coordinated enough to plan such a well-executed attack, and the Erudite clerics looking to cleanse the forest would have had a tough time seeing at night with their poor vision. Perhaps it was fellow necromancers from Paineel or Neriak that had become jealous of their progress, yet nothing appeared to be stolen. Or maybe she wanted to tell him that she made a breakthrough in binding her spirit to the phylactery, as Miragul had attempted unsuccessfully. In any case, he knew he had to somehow reach across to the other side - no matter the cost.
I saw Ozno a month after the tragic event in the Southern Desert of Ro, surrounded by a pile of carnage that his pet skeleton was indiscriminately killing. His dark skin had been baked to a leathery texture, his eyes glowed redder than the desert sky, and his parched lips were drier than the cracked earth that he was standing upon - I barely recognized him, as he was nearly indistinguishable from the madmen often found wandering the deserts. It was clear he had been spiraling downward for some time now, as he cackled like a dry bones skeleton, and kept mumbling about how soon he would run faster than ever before. It was difficult for me to see him in this state, but I left him alone realizing that everybody has their own way of grieving.
Several months later, I ran into Ozno again deep inside the jungles of Feerott - this time, he was much more composed and in control of himself, as he battled the deathly spectres that roam the area. "I know now what I must do to reach the other side. The secret is close to the portal here, I can feel it", Ozno said. "It won't be long now, I will find out what she said, and why she has been reaching out to me" he said, as he staggered while lifetapping the ghastly beings, while also allowing himself to be lifetapped, almost to the point of death himself.
"Ozno, you know I don't approve of your dark arts - but this is sheer madness. Is there not a less dangerous method to communicate? What if she has been trying to reach you some other way?" I asked, as I handed him a slice of fresh berry pie. He scoffed at me and replied, "You stick to your pies and mystical portals, and leave the mastery of communicating with the dead to me." As the spectre flopped to the floor, Ozno closed his eyes intently before sitting down, and pendantically and forcefully declared, "Through each encounter with these spectres, we share a death-bond which opens the other realm to me, and I grow one step closer to finding her. I assure you, she will not have died in vain."
Ozno took one bite of the berry pie and paused, and instantly his demeanor completely changed. This time he replied with melancholy in his voice, "You know Pihole, this was her favorite pie." I could tell tears were welling up in his eyes, but he quickly turned his face away to hide and to reestablish the scowl on his face, as he disparagingly exclaimed, "But this jumjum is a bit too strong!" I didn't have the heart to tell him that I had been out of jumjum spices for the past week now.
Deep down, I suspect he knows the words that she was trying to tell him all along - and I believe they are the same words he never had a chance to tell her on that fateful night, which is why he remains so desperate to establish this conduit. I just hope one day he will be able to reach the other side, before the madness completely takes over.