"And that's how ye do it, eh?" Durest nodded thoughtfully.
"Yes." The Hierophant Malafar was smiling; the expression sat oddly on the withered skin of his face and the flickering red flames of his eyes. "The actual transfer is easy, once you've created the phylactery. And then, of course, there's the question of how best to keep it safe. Some keep it close, so they can protect it; some hide it away; some give it into the care of powerful guardians. All three approaches have their risks."
"Aye, but the rewards..." Durest sat back, then turned his attention to the scroll where the Hierophant had been outlining the structure of the magics involved. There was much to consider there, including some principles that could perhaps be applied to other things. The creation of a phylactery blurred the lines between divine and arcane magic in some fascinating ways.
He rose, and bowed. "I thank ye fer sharin' your time and yer knowledge with me, Hierophant."
"Not at all," said the Hierophant, rising and moving to show Durest to the door. "You've proven your value, and you seem to have a positive talent for this sort of magic. I'll look forward to witnessing what you do with it."
Aye, I'll bet you will, thought Durest, keeping his ambivalence off his face. He had always been fascinated with death magics, and this was his chance to learn from the best in the business; but his loyalty was to Indra, not the Hierophant or Vecna. Sooner or later the Hierophant might see his lessons turned against him. Sooner or later, Vecna might find that Indra was not the ally he had thought.
...But those were background thoughts; his attention was on the scroll, and on the nature of the magics involved in what it promised.
They stepped from the Hierophant's chambers onto the balcony overlooking the main room, and immediately became aware of a disturbance below. A hobgoblin was kneeling in front of Cassadia Dilva, head down, as she raised the back of her hand. "How did it happen?"
"I don't know!" The hobgoblin sounded terrified. "Please, I only bring the report! Krobisk was on watch. Someone walked up and attacked him!"
"Someone came out of nowhere and slew a hill giant?" asked Dilva, and Durest could hear the frown in her voice.
"It was a dwarf! He wore silver armor, and carried an axe! He tripped Krobisk, and chopped him up where he lay! There was nothing we could do."
"...Have you no archers? No reinforcements?"
"Captain Erlunk, he ordered the attack. But the arrows glanced off the dwarf's armor and he vanished before we could reach him. I gave chase myself!"
"Fool of a hobgoblin." Cassadia Dilva sounded resigned and disgusted, and Durest concluded that she probably wasn't going to kill the hobgoblin in a fit of pique.
Hierophant Malafar said, "What is this?" and the hobgoblin on the floor below went pale.
Dilva turned, looked up at the balcony, and pressed her fingers to her eyes before flicking them outward in a salute. "One of the hill giants was slain while on watch. Not an ambush, exactly, but... strike and run. Possibly designed to lead more troops into a trap."
Durest shook his head, then turned to the Hierophant. "Let me investigate," he said. "It may be a message fer me."
The Hierophant turned his head slightly, regarding Durest with his left eye. "Is it the kind of message you might need help with?"
Durest shook his head. "A family matter, I think. A full troop won't find anything, but if I go, I might."
The Hierophant considered. "Take a few of the skeletons with you. The Quartermaster will have a ring that places four of them under your command. Let me know what you learn."
"...And Durest? Do be careful. I'd hate to lose your services just as you're coming into your power."