"Demons-eye rubies," said Pallian, and extended his hand. "I'd love to know how you came by a supply of those."
The robed figure shifted, then reached back; Pallian dropped the gems into her hand. She was working at some sort of stone table -- possibly an altar -- and had been standing in the dark until he'd arrived with the glowstone lamp. He could feel forces moving through the room, gathering closer as she leaned forward to place the rubies into whatever she was working on.
Curiosity would have had him come forward and look, but caution held him back. Among other things, light was obviously an unfamiliar presence down here in the primary tombs, and he didn't want it to distract her.
She continued working with her back to him for the better part of a minute, then said: "Disrobe and step onto the stone."
"Disrobe?" he didn't wait for an answer; the word had been startled out of him. He made a quick pile of clothing and boots and weapons, and stepped up beside the grandmother. The stone in front of her -- table? altar? -- was now covered in glowing lines that twisted and turned. The demons-eye rubies were placed to either side, and a handful of small stone shapes were set withing the ever-changing design, which formed a rough circle.
"Try not to disturb the circle," the Grandmother said. "I'm told it's painful to living flesh."
Pallian considered that for a brief moment, then gathered his attention and used his smoke initiation to transport himself to the center of the stone.
"Not the stone," she said.
"I need it to see."
"Toss it to me. It can't be in the circle."
He did, and waited. The Grandmother's face was bare, her features withered but otherwise human. Her skin was smoother than he might have expected, pale and gaunt but not rotted. "Can't even see in the dark," she muttered. "This is no fit state for a descendant of mine."
She spoke an unpronounceable word and gestured, and the bright, twisting lines of the circle began to rotate. The small shone shapes rose and began to orbit around Pallian, darting up and down as they circled. Glowing strands reached up to touch them. What...?
"That, and that, and -- oh, that one was well done. Did you mean to take the wolf forms? There are other options, you know."
Pallian shrugged. "That was the one I found in the books, and performed without my father's knowledge. It seemed like it wouldn't clash with any of my others."
"Smoke... frequently overlooked, easily underestimated, and new to you." She met his eyes. "You came to me for aid, Grandson. Will you trust me to give it?"
Pallian took a deep breath and pushed aside his misgivings. "I place myself entirely in your hands, Grandmother. Please grant whatever aid you can."
"I can't fight him, you know," the Grandmother said. "As I am now, the Emissary would destroy me with a glance. It must be you, the living ones who can still hold titles. But you are ill-equipped, for a prince of your age."
Pallian shrugged. "My father and his half-dead advisor Amedin prefer to keep me in the role of the Black Knight, wearing dark armor and making use of its enchantments instead of my own."
"Decadence," said the Grandmother. "They make the House weaker with their fear of sharing power. Do they believe you might challenge them, given the chance?"
Pallian shrugged. "I don't know. I know that I might walk away, given the chance."
The Grandmother's sudden smile was cold, predatory, and amused. "But not until the Emissary is destroyed," she said.
"Not at all, at this rate." Pallian studied her expression, then said: "You're serious, aren't you? You need the Emissary destroyed, but after that you'd let me walk away." He stopped, struck by the very possibility. "It all but annihilated the city of Marinul. I can't leave until it's dealt with. I won't walk away before that." There was also the matter of Princess Ashmiren, but he didn't intend to say anything at all about that.
The Grandmother nodded slowly. "Wise child. Ordinarily, I'd do this more slowly, but we -- you-- are out of time. I will add some things, adjust some things, and speed your adaptation to them... But you will not have the usual time to make peace with your new abilities. You will have to trust your instincts for the battle ahead. And when you are done here, you should go and make peace with the Spear of the First. That by itself will not attract attention, not unless one of the Second is watching the crypt specifically... and if that is the case then we're already doomed."
"Hold still," said the Grandmother, lifting a hand, "and try not to scream."
The circle at his feet grew blindingly bright. The stone shapes doubled, then tripled the speed of their orbit around him. The trails of light connecting them to the design below smoothed out into a glowing tube of pale purple light around him. He could feel the forces gathering as the Grandmother called for them.
Then they began picking his initiations apart, and he clenched his teeth to avoid screaming in pain.