Comments Off on Old Enemies: A Needle in the Netherstorm
August 10, 2013 – 6:59 pm
This post is brought to you by the ever bastardly Bricu Bittertongue.
Previous posts in this series include Coming forth by Day, The Magical Rogue,Demonology 101, Intellect Reason and the Self, Trailing off (Part1 and Part 2), Bail, and Searching Outland.
Two weeks ago…
It’s wings unfurled, the nether drake soared among the eddies, thermals and currents that made up the Twisting Nether. In between the broken land masses of a shattered world, the drake let itself drift in the ether that flowed through Outland.
“Obaden, yeh done fuckin’ ’round then?” Bricu said from the back of the drake.
“Always such a hurry with you, Bricu. Let the currents direct us to where we need to go. Besides, it has been ages since I have been this free.”
“Don’t be melodramatic yeh fuckin lizard, yeh’ve been out flyin’ e’ery damn month since I’ve known yeh!”
“And no sense of fun! How many of your kind have experienced flight like this!” The drake said. He flapped his wings and started to do a barrel roll.
“Oi! No bloody tricks!” Bricu screamed, “not without a good saddle!”
Obaden straightened his flight and laughed, “And no sense of adventure!”
“Let’s just focus on the ask at hand–finding a ruby the size o’me fist. Yeh sure yeh can find it?”
“Given time, I could find anything in my homeland–but time is not on your side. So we will follow the currents.” Obaden replied.
“Yeh’ll excuse me cynicism, but the currents in the Nether are that clear? ” Bricu asked.
“If something, or someone, was lost in old town, and I asked you to find it, could you?” The drake asked.
“I see where yer goin’ boyo. Back home, there are a few points where the flotsam an’jetsum o’city life collect. The Nether have anythin’ like that?”
“It did, then it did not. And now it does again. And that is what I am following.”
“We’ll mate,” Bricu said with a smile, “fly faster.”
The skies were clear enough that even Bricu could see the tiny figures scurrying around once thriving mana-forge. “Yer sure they’re not gobbos from 52?”
“A handful actually are. Along with a few disaffected humans, Sin’dorei and dwarves’. I can count ten outside.”
“Yer a bloody show off, yeh know that? Put me down at 52, an’ I’ll make me way there.”
“Make your way here, do you have a story prepared?” Obaden asked as he flapped his wings and headed further north. “And what do you plan on doing when you get to the forge. What if…”
“Just fly yeh bloody lizard. First we need ta see if folk are there. Then we need ta make sure it’s the professor’s issue. This’ll take a few days, ‘fore there’s any fightin’, alright big lad?”
“I’m sure when I describe your death to Mrs. Bittertongue, she will rest easy knowing that you had a long term plan.” Obaden cackled as he soared through the thermals. Bricu tightened the straps on his armor and watched as chimneys and foundries of Area 52 came into view.
One week ago…
The grey haired goblin took off his eye piece and glowered at Bricu, shouting as loud as he could. “What the hell do you think, pinko, that I keep records on every damn idiot that heads off to a manaforge?”
“I think,” Bricu said softly, “that yeh do.” He dropped a bag bulging with gold directly in front of the goblin.
“Clever lad.” The goblin said. He lowered his nose over the bag and inhaled. “Three hundred or so? What’s so important?”
“Debts boyo, debts.” Bricu said softly. He leaned in towards the goblin. “Now, what can yeh tell me ‘bout the prospector in B’Naar?”
The finger that the goblin had thrust into Bricu’s face was now in the air, asking him to wait a moment. He reached under the counter and pulled out a book that was nearly as large as the goblin. He set it on the table in front of him and turned the pages.
“There was someone who was interested in that forge ‘bout a year ago, haven’t heard from him since….lessee. That’s it. Sekten Cogwheel. Oh yeah, I remember him. He came in here with a doozy of a ruby and he was muttering to it.” The goblin looked up from the book, “A lot of diggers and saps head that way. He sends a few recruiters in once a month for supplies–but I haven’t seen him in a long time. This the one you’re looking for?”
“Could be.” Bricu said after a long pause. “What’s the rumor floatin’ ‘round ‘im.”
The goblin gestured to the coin purse on the counter. Bricu shook his head. “Charge me fer a rumor that’s already spread an’ died? For what’s on the table, that should co’er what yeh know ‘bout this gobbo.”
“Nothing for free, friend. But we can make a deal. Two questions, another hundred?”
“Three, fer seventy-five.” Bricu said.
The goblin rubbed his chin. “Sold. First is that this one is trying to carve out a kingdom in the Netherstorm, the second is that he talks to the ring…but the doozey? The good one? The rumor that I think most true? The piece de resistance…”
Bricu rolled his eyes. “Get the fuck on with it, boyo. What?”
The goblin looked left, then right, as if looking for someone.“That the Sekten isn’t even a goblin anymore. That he’s changed. They say he doesn’t’ care about money anymore–or power. That he’s a slave to his ring.”
Bricu glared at the goblin for more than a few moments, then deadpanned. “This is yer best rumor?”
The goblin grinned a wide, toothy grin.“It’s all in the delivery, friend!”
“Right then. Use some o’the gold ta get lessons in story tellin.” Bricu walked out of the goblin’s shop.
The goblin yelled after him, “Hey! Cheapskate, what about at tip for my performance!”
Five figures in dark purple robes stood side by side in the central chamber of the once great manaforge B’naar. They were silent, but the forge hummed and crackled with magical energy that was siphoned from the Nether. Heat rose from the pipes and conduits that channeled the energy into the forge’s newest edition: A living altar. Made from the living stone of the rock giants, the altar groaned and creaked from the magical strain. The giants’ eyes adorned the edges of the altar–and those eyes darted between the figures that stood silently in the chamber.
From the far end of the chamber, came a skittering, chittering sound. The sounds echoed through the manaforge, as if it came from all sides. As the chittering got closer to the altar, the five figures at the altar began to chant in dark and foul tongue. Part of ceiling detached and floated down, behind the altar. It stood on its six legs, a full head taller than the tallest robed figure.
Its voice was the sound of breaking glass. “A year ago, we freed our Master and began his work. So far, the master is pleased. Yet the master desires more. To serve him in his work now, we begin our ritual…”
“Oi.” Bricu shouted.. As the figures turned to see who interrupted their work, he struck his match and lit his cigarette. “Which one o’yeh fuckin’ tossers has the damn ring?”
“It wants the Master’s Key. End its existence!” the tall one shrieked.
The five robed figures turned and ran towards Bricu, their robes fluttering, revealing their own deformities: Bent knees, additional arms, multi-faceted eyes and spiraled horns. They charged en masse silently, no howls or cries. The lunged with their claws and snapped with their teeth, but Bricu called upon the light to shield himself–then he drew his blade. He dispatched the closest one–the shortest–with a slash to its throat that nearly took its head off. Spinning with the momentum of the strike, he stabbed another through the heart. He pulled the blade from the cultist’s chest in order to parry a flurry of claws.
Mobbed by the three cultists, Bricu kept his eyes on one behind the altar. He could see the essence from the nether pouring into ring. One of the cultists blocked his line of sight, bringing its head to bite Bricu’s throat. Bricu tuned and slammed his shoulder into the cultist’s jaw, then brought his elbow to the back of its neck. Gripping his sword a with both hands, he brought his blade down on the head of the same cultist, and brought it back up to guard against a flurry of claws.
He was met by horns. The cultist gored him, knocking him backward, then leapt upon him with his claws. Bricu’s sword clattered to the ground and spun away. Bricu rolled to his left, away from the sword while dodging the cultist that lept as well as the cultist that moved with him. He pulled himself to his feet, then ran to his sword. The cultists leapt for the blade as well. Bricu called on the light to stun one–it fell unceremoniously right next to his blade. As the other soared towards him, Bricu steadied his feet and brought his fist squarely on his chin. The cultist landed with a thud.
Bricu picked up the blade and dispatched both cultists. He lit another cigarette. “Now then, yeh fuckin’ toad, gimme the bloody ring.”
The ring–a gold setting with a sharp sliver of a ruby–was plainly visible. A jet of ruby red fire lanced from the ring, lighting the remaining cultists features. As Bricu pulled to the left, he could see there was something left of Sekten’s goblin features–the nose, the sharp chin, the beady eyes, his large ears. But the master’s magic had warped the goblin far beyond anything Bricu had ever seen– six articulated legs and hands with far too many fingers. The flame drilled into Bricu’s shoulder, spilling over the right side of his body. The enchantments held, but the heat was still hard to bear. Bricu moved so that Sekten was on the opposite side of the altar.
Sekten did not seem to mind the obstruction. He skittered forward, over the altar, screaming all the while. “You have not ruined anything.” The ring began to glow again, the same ruby red. “You have not stopped anything. The jailer is now the prisoner! You are…”
“Shut yer fuckin’ GOB!” Bricu charged towards Sekten, bring his sword up and slashing him from hip to shoulder. Ichor and blood poured from the wound. The ring’s light faded, and Sekten fell to the ground. Sekten struggled to move, but that only hastened the bleeding. Bricu stood over him, ready to end the suffering. “All yeh had ta do, yeh worthless gobshite, was hand o’er the damn ring. That’s all.” Sekten gurgled, spitting up blood as he tried to say something. Bricu shushed him. “Now its ta damn late fer yeh. May yeh find forgiveness an’ pass on inta the light…though we both know yer headed straight back here.”
Sekten lifted his the ring and aimed for Bricu. As the light flared, bricu put his gauntleted hand over it and pulled the ring off. The light, and Sekten, died.
Bricu started to pull of his left gauntlet. Studying the ring, he continued talking to Sekten. “If Tarq was here, yeh’d have been convinced t’hand it o’er. Lore would’ve stolen the damn thing. Tirith would’ve snuck in, stolen the ring, an’ then slit yer throat. Illi’d have wrecked the entire damn place. Kost woud’ve co-opted the ritual. Annie’d ha’e just made yeh gi’e it ta her with a smile. The missus would’ve pieced the ritual t’gether… But yeh were lucky enough ta get me. Cle’er words, violent acts, figurin’ out what the fuss ‘bout the ritual was…”
He grasped the ring with his left hand. The hair on the back of his neck rose and his skin began to burn at the touch of the ruby shard. His vision tunneled and a voice filled his head.
“YOU ARE NOT HIM. NOW YOU MUST WEAVE INTO THEIR BOND. FINISH THE RITUAL. WEAVE INTO THEIR BOND.”
“What’d yeh need, squire.” Bricu said to the ring.
“CONTROL THE ESSENCE. LET IT FLOW THROUGH THE RING TO ME.”
While the ring still burned, a new sensation came over him. He could smell the sharp tang of bourbon–he could nearly taste the smoky, semi sweet liquor. All he needed to do was place the ring on the altar and complete the circle.
Bricu dropped the ring and spit on it, clearing his mouth of any trace of the liquor.
“O’er played the hand, yeh fuckin’ bastard.” He stomped on the ring as he put his gauntlet back on. A spark from the ground confirmed his suspicion: The setting constrained the ruby’s power. Now that the gold was bent and broken, the shined with its own power.
He bent to pick up what was left of his handiwork: Kro’thar’s prison, a ruby he had cut for the Professor years ago.
“Yeh poor sod,” Bricu said, looking at Sekten’s still bleeding corpse. Shard in hand, Bricu looked over the Altar. He saw where the ring should have gone–There was a hole in the altar. Putting the ring there would have completed a series of runes. He had no idea what they said, but staring at them made his skin crawl. He was sure that when he looked at one set, the others started to dance on the stone.
Weave the bond. Kro’thar’s command was not clear–why did he need the essence? The bonds that held Arrens? Bricu shook his head. If Kro’thar had the professor, then he had to have a source to power his own bonds; otherwise, the professor would wiggle his way free. What other bond…
“Oh fuck, Aely. Q. “‘Arrens, yeh fuckin’ ijiot…” He said. The soul-bond. The ritual that kept Arrens and Aely connected so neither of them would be pulled into the Nether. Bricu thought. That’s the damn bond he wants ta weave the Nether? If Kro’thar puts the nether itself inta the bond, he can, what? Control ‘im both? Ride it like the bloody Tram? Pull Aely t’him? Track her? Worse?
But could the bond be used to find Arrens?
He knew what he had to do. Bricu looked at the shard and the altar. He set the shard in the altar. Without the setting to control the power, the altar began to glow with magical energy. The altar began to whisper, “No no no. Too much too soon! No no no!” But Bricu wasn’t finished. He made a blessing and said a quick prayer to the light–The Prayer of the Condemned. A shaft of golden light formed engulfed the altar. Slowly, the light formed a blade that descended on the shard. The blade pierced the altar, causing it to scream–the sounds of an avalanche echoing through the entire mana-forge. When the hilt of the blade touched the shard, it the shard shattered and burst into flame.
Kro’thar, through the Altar, screamed, “The bond! NO!”
Bricu bowed his head and made another blessing. He prayed outloud, “Arrens, yeh fuckin’ dolt. Yeh may not forgive me, but yeh’ddan well better understand I’m keepin’ her safe from yer stupid ideas.”
The Light faded, but the fires were hot enough to make Bricu step away. He stayed until the fire burned itself out. Minutes passed before the altar collapsed upon itself, melting itself into slag. There was no sign of the runes or the rubies. The altar, like the soulbond, was ruined. Bricu looked around the forge one last time before walking outside to wait for Obaden to land.
Comments Off on Old Enemies: Searching Outland
August 9, 2013 – 9:16 am
This post is brought to you by Kyraine (and Rhett and Gervas – same player).
Previous posts in this series include Coming forth by Day, The Magical Rogue, Demonology 101, Intellect Reason and the Self, Trailing off (Part1 and Part 2), and Bail.
Old Town had a certain tense silence in the small hours of the morning. It had always reminded Kyraine of the feeling just before an ambush was sprung, the small hairs standing up on the back of the neck, the waiting. She kept one hand on her sword hilt as she walked. The one difference between Old Town and an actual battlefield was the distinct unwillingness of most folk in the city to start a fight if their target looked even halfway prepared to finish it.
“There’s the reputation, sure,” Kyraine muttered to Blue. “But banners make lousy shields, most times.”
Blue tilted his head, before ignoring his owner and darting for the Pig. Visits to the Pig meant crackers, food dropped on the floor, and the soup bones that sometimes came his way. Kyraine grinned and followed the wolfdog up the stairs. “Anyone here?”
Reese glanced up briefly. “There was. They’ve all gone and I’m about ready to close up for the night. There’s still some roast downstairs if your dog doesn’t steal it first.”
“Hells, we ran late, but figured there’d still be folk here.” Kyraine looked around the empty seats, and then stared briefly at Reese. “Th’ fuck happened to everyone?”
“Talk to Aely.” The bartender went back to polishing glasses as he spoke. “I don’t get paid to pay attention to anything. You know that. But you should talk to her.”
“Right.” Kyraine heaved her chestplate over one shoulder and clattered her way downstairs. It could wait until morning, whatever the problem happened to be.
“Arrens is missing?” Kyraine downed the rest of her coffee, more curious than alarmed.
“Aye, fir a good bit too. An’ it looks like he got mixed up w’ sommat demonic. Th’ warlock crew wis here an’ translatin’ notes about a book he wis studyin’. Sarcanna… new lass – white hair, creepy as fuck, dinna ken ye’ve met her? Anyroad, she translated the lot, an’ it dinna look good.”
“Anything you need. Figure, if it’s some of that demonic shite…” Kyraine paused, studying Aely. The paladin didn’t show any outward sign of emotion, but Arrens was her husband.
“Right, I’ll help. What’re you thinking?”
“Ye said ye worked with some Draenei priestess once. Outland?”
“Aye, I did. A few years back, when the Portal opened, and I’ve not heard from her since. Could be dead for all I know, but we spent time in Outland.”
“So, one ay th’ places wha’ this book suggested would ha’ th’ necessary … energies?” She seemed to search for the word. “Yeh, energies, air sommat like that, fir doin’ this type ay summonin’ an’ demonic control work. One ay th’ places it suggested, wha’ Arrens took notes about, wis Outland, specifically Shadowmoon, an’ Auchindown.”
Kyraine leaned back in her chair. “Course. I’ll get Rhett, and see if this squid priest I know can go. I can’t tell magic unless it bites me in the arse, but they can.”
“Godsdamnit, I hate portals.”
“If you’re going to puke, don’t do it here.” Rhett glanced up at the Naaru A’dal, floating in the middle of the chamber. “I bet that thing would smite you.”
“For puking on the floor? I doubt it would, but do you want to place a bet on it?” Gervas asked, grinning mischievously at Kyraine.
“Fuck you, you’d probably ask it to smite me on purpose.”
“Would I cheat to win a bet?”
“Aye, you would, and you know it too.” Kyraine took a few deep breaths as the last of the disorientation faded. “Fucking portals!”
Rhett shifted her pack from one shoulder to the other. Plenty of people thought of Shattrath as some kind of refuge. To her, it looked just like every other half ruined city she had been in. The less time spent there, the better. “Kyr, what’re we looking for exactly?”
“Explain on the way.” Gervas looked at the pair of them, no longer smiling. “If this Arrens is doing what you think he is, there isn’t a lot of time.”
Kyraine nodded and led the way outside, glancing at Rhett. The best way to handle a warlock was the same way they had handled a necromancer or three in Northrend, with a clean shot from fifty yards out before the sorcerer even knew that anyone was there. Except that this warlock happened to be Aely’s husband.
“I can’t just shoot him,” Rhett muttered, unconsciously echoing Kyraine’s thoughts. “If we find him, it’s not going to be easy to convince him to come back with us.”
“You do realize if he came here, it isn’t likely to have a good outcome. He probably will not want to come back,” Gervas said quietly.
Kyraine shrugged. “Figured as much, but if there’s a chance for Aely to get him back in one piece, we’ll make damn sure she has it. You think DeRoux was right when she said Auchindoun or Shadowmoon?”
Gervas nodded. “There are many locations where the barriers between Draenor and other planes are weak. Shadowmoon and the Black Temple especially. But there are locations in Nagrand, Farahlon, Auchindoun, and Hellfire. Anywhere that the orc warlocks opened portals or conducted rituals that weakened the barriers between this world and other planes.”
“That’s a lot of ground to cover, with only three of us.” Rhett extracted a stack of maps from her pack. “They pretty much fucked over this entire place. It’s a candy store for warlocks.”
“I can eliminate some of the locations,” Gervas said. “This sounds like a major summoning. Telhamat will notice if anything that major happens in Hellfire. Alendar is still living there, and he will send word if his soldiers find something. They have patrols out. And Nagrand…”
“It’s not that corrupted, compared to the rest of this world. We’ll move that to the bottom of the list.” Rhett pulled the map of Shadowmoon from the bottom of the pile. “The most likely spots first. Hellfire’s being watched by the Temple, Nagrand doesn’t have enough power to draw on compared to the other spots, Auchindoun is more necromancy and less fel.”
“But the barriers are still thin there all the same. If Arrens decided to travel to a different plane to work with this book, there are parts of Auchindoun that would be easy to depart from. You can summon demons on the elemental planes as well,” Gervas pointed out.
Kyraine leaned over Rhett’s shoulder and looked at the map. “You lot think he’d want someplace more isolated? Auchindoun’s fair close to a couple of towns, and some of your lot was camped near it for a while, Gervas.”
“They are still there, yes.”
“Alright, so that leaves Shadowmoon, Netherstorm, and Auchindoun as the three most likely spots,” Rhett said.
“Aely said she’s got someone looking ‘round Netherstorm. Oi, Gervas, do you know anyone in Auchindoun what’s not batshite crazy? That’d make it a quick look.”
Gervas sighed. “They aren’t all crazy, it… never mind. Yes, I know someone and yes, I can ask.”
“Sounds a plan then. We’ll have a chat with your mates in Auchindoun, then where? Shadowmoon?” Kyraine looked at Rhett.
Rhett nodded in agreement. “There’s more demons there than anywhere else, according to the reports I got from Honor Hold and the Aldor. Plus an altar or two. You’d need some kind of a summoning circle to yank something big through.”
“Think the three of us can handle it if he did get sommat big?” Kyraine looked at Rhett and Gervas.
“It would depend on what,” Gervas said quietly. “Miri- a warlock I know, that is, was working on something in the Black Temple, and it was too much for her to contain. You have to remember that some of these demons have been around for millennia. They are not easy to fight, they are very patient, and they have had a long time to work with fel magic. If Arrens decides to pull something like an Eredar or a pit lord through, I would want more than three to deal with it.”
“Aye, I see that. Th’ hells would he want with a pit lord?” Kyraine drummed her fingers on her sword hilt. “So best bet, we find sommat and get back to Aely quick. He’s her damn husband, if he’ll listen to anyone it’ll be her. If he won’t listen to her, I’ll sic Threnn on him.”
Kyraine paused at the base of yet another ridge. They had camped in a sheltered cave the night before, a few hours after Mutiny had dropped them off and then left for some hunting in Nagrand. Kyraine couldn’t blame the drake at all for not wanting to hang around. A gust of hot, fetid air made her stomach roll. Beside her, Gervas grimaced and shook his head.
Rhett eased her way down to them. “Are you two coming?”
“Aye, just need a minute. Pity he wasn’t in Auchindoun.”
“You’re telling me.” Rhett pulled the map out again. They had already eliminated a few locations. “Alright, we’ve got about a half a mile to go till we get to the next altar. The Altar of Shadows, according to this. Then we’ll head east for the Black Temple.”
“Good luck finding him in there,” Kyraine said. “No bloody way the three of us are breaking in.”
“We shouldn’t need to.” Gervas looked towards the east. “Find me someone there, and I’ll ask.”
“Fucking spooky priests,” Kyraine said, grinning. “Knew I asked you to come along for a reason, but might be we’ll get lucky and find sommat here. Ari, you ready?”
“Sure.” Rhett rolled up the map and started off. With the priest there, she could leave the other two further back while she scouted out the altar. Having someone else look through your eyes was, as Kyraine said, fucking spooky. Still, that spell would buy the other two time to get away and report in if anything went wrong. Given that few things were noisier than Kyraine in full armor, it was probably for the best.
She stalked forward, moving slowly through tumbled rock. No plants or trees grew here, and the sickly green glow in the sky lit everything in an eerie permanent twilight. She pressed close to a tumbled stone wall, easing slowly around it.
“She found something.” Gervas spoke with his eyes closed, still focusing on what he saw through Rhett’s. “Nothing is alive. She says we should come look now.”
“Right, let’s move.”
Rhett emerged from her hiding spot and joined them. She hardly ever looked worried, but she did now. “It looks like a bomb went off down there. There isn’t a lot left, but I’d put solid coin on someone getting in over their head.”
One look at the altar told Kyraine that Rhett was right. Scorch and blast marks littered the ground around the Altar. She knelt by one and touched it. “Fresh, innit? Or at least more recent than the rest of this fucked up place.”
“Fel magic. I have no way of knowing who it was, though, just that there is nobody here right now,” Gervas said. He stood several feet away from the edge of the Altar, studying the charred remains of a summoning circle. “Whatever they tried to summon, they lost control of it. I hope before they managed to complete the spell. Is this what you were looking for, Kyraine?”
“Aye. Think it’s time to let Aely know about it. She’s got a couple of warlocks what’ll know more than we will about this.”
Kyraine hesitated before activating her hearthstone. “Hells, Aely. Thought we’d be bringing you some good news. Figure, I’ll make sure you’ve some whiskey before we tell you anything.”
Comments Off on Old Enemies: Bail
August 8, 2013 – 5:16 pm
Another post brought to you by Lorelli, of Exit Reality Studios. (You should pay her to do art for you. Her art is awesome!)
Previous posts in this series include Coming forth by Day, The Magical Rogue, Demonology 101, Intellect Reason and the Self, and Trailing off (Part1 and Part 2).
Aely looked across the table at the rogue she’d come to trust so well over the last few years. She didn’t know if Lore had introduced her to Arrens, or the other way around, but regardless, they had a common thread in the missing man, and the latest reports were less than promising.
“Hinote said he almost certainly went ta Outland. An’ Outland is unstable as fuck.”
Lorelli nodded. “There were a whole bunch of places that de Roux said he could have gone though, right? Even Lordaeron?”
“Yeh, but… Hinote has a soulstone she charged up in his summoning circle ay th’ University. She tracked his … resonance? Fel magic is far beyond me… anyroad – she tracked it to th’ Portal in th’ Blasted Lands, but couldna get a read further than that. I … dinna want ta believe he’d try sommat in Outland though. Th’ farther out he goes, th’ more likely this is ta end in ruins.”
“Have you ruled out the demonic summoning areas of Kalimdor?”
“Th’ gryphon rider here says a man wi’ his description flew out south. I’ve na gotten a tail oan anyone at th’ docks sayin’ anyone sailed out, though I suppose he could ha’ hired a portal. In short, I’ve no idea. There’s some powerful areas there though – Demon Fall Canyon comes ta mind. Dinna ken if any ay it is as powerful as th’ altars out in Blasted Lands, but…” Aely shrugged helplessly. “I canna figure any ay this out.”
Lorelli placed a hand on Aely’s shoulder but remained silent. She didn’t want to offer what may end up being hollow words of false hope, as much as she willed that not to be the case. She and Aely were both much more realistic than that.
Finally she said, “I’ve got a list here of supplies purchased by a man matching Arrens’ description around the right time frame. Sadly it’s all a bit mundane and doesn’t really point in any one direction. Except that he had no idea how long he’d be gone. I still can’t believe he’d leave without any sort of…” She trailed off, looking to Aely with the fear she may have said the wrong thing.
“None ay this makes sense. He’s too careful fir this kind ay thing usually. An’ too preoccupied wi’ school. Whate’er wis in tha’ book, it wis strong eno’ ta tempt him out ay teachin’ summer classes. An’ if he thought it would be a quick errand, maybe he dinna think oan leavin’ a note. Or maybe he tried an’ it got lost – ye ken how th’ mail is up in Kun Lai. Likely I’ll get a letter at Christmas. I’ve been stayin’ at th’ Monastery there, an’…” Aely sighed. “An’ tha’ dinna much matter now anyroad. It’s all unlike him, but I’m tryin’ ta keep in good faith about it until I’ve truly reason ta think otherwise.”
“Right. As well you should. I’m free for a few days, how about I head over to Kalimdor and take a look around? With any luck we can then rule out it or Outland.” She raked a hand through her hair, then paused, a thought occurring to her. “I may even be able to enlist some help.”
“May be a bit ay fool’s errand, but it’d make me feel better ta ken fir sure we wir lookin’ ta Outland fir our answers. Ye prob’ly ken th’ big fel centers as well as any, but Sarcanna mentioned Felwood an’ Demon Fall Canyon, though there’s other demonic spots in Ashenvale too.” Aely paused. “Jus’… dinna be too long, an’ dinna worry about it if ye dinna find anythin’. It’s a long shot at this point.”
The rogue nodded again and then was gone as if she had never been there.
Her plan when she left Aely was to meet with Prayce the next day, explain what was going on and ask if he wanted to come with her. Who better to take on a warlock hunt, than a warlock; but the lead was too good and she couldn’t wait. She left Prayce a note instead, apologizing that she wouldn’t be able to make it to the Pig and Whistle that evening and went to talk to a boat captain.
“Yeah, I think I recall someone fittin’ that description. Sailed out with us ‘bout six weeks back. Didn’t say much ‘bout where he was headed though.”
Lorelli frowned, “And you dropped him in Rut’theran?”
The captain nodded, “That I did, lass. Sorry I can’t help you much beyond that.”
Yeah, I’d like to see how sorry you’d be if I wasn’t paying you. She bit her tongue and handed the captain his promised ‘fee’. After, she want to hire a portal to Darnassus.
Darnassus would always remain one of the last places she ever wanted to be. Even just passing through made her tense, watching every shadow and corner as she navigated the streets and trails. There was just too much bad blood and too many unwanted memories. If there had been a faster way to reach Rut’theran, the rogue would have gladly taken it, as there was not, here she was.
“Hey, don’t I know you?” A voice asked in Darnassian.
Lorelli paused and turned to face the young man sitting on the steps of the shop she had been passing. He held a bottle in one hand and had his white hair pulled back in a ponytail. One of his ears was a few inches shorter than the other.
“Probably just look like someone you know. Sorry, I’m in a bit of a hurry…” She said, starting to turn away.
He set the bottle down with a thud and got up. “No, I’m pretty sure I know you.” He made some sort of hand gesture and three other kaldorei men appeared from inside and around the sides of the shop. “Ashond mentioned Teal had been back in town a few months ago. Said she cleared out most of the Lowborne. We’re out of jobs now, you know that?”
Lorelli kept her face neutral and held back a sigh. “Look boys, under normal circumstances, I’d love to hang around and play Show the Lads How I Earned My Reputation but like I said, I’m in a hurry. Why don’t you try actually working in that shop instead of holding the steps down if you’re short on cash?”
A knife landed in the dirt at her feet. There was a blurring of the lines at the edges of her vision and a slithering at the back of her mind. She clamped it down and fixed the first man with a stare.
“Ashond would love to talk to you.” He said.
“M’sure he would but for the last time, I’m in a hurry .” On the last word the flash packet hit the ground. It lit the area for a moment before the smoke spilled out obscuring the lines of the buildings and the shapes of the men. Lorelli turned on her heel and sprinted away before the light had fully faded. She knew they’d recover from the effects quicker than most, but she had enough of a head start she should be able to lose them.
She headed for the raised promenade in the middle of the city and dashed from pillar to pillar. Once she reached the bridge she swung down underneath and flattened herself up against the support, knee deep in water. The rogue held her breath and waited. Eventually she heard their boot falls over head.
“How the fuck could you lose her? She was right there!” There was pause and then, “Alright. You two go that way, I’ll go this way. Call Ashond, tell him Teal’s in town and we need people looking for her now. ”
Lorelli waited a bit longer before slowly moving from her hiding spot and chancing a look over the bridge. Seeing no sign of them she turned and jogged for the portal out of town. She was fairly certain she hadn’t been spotted heading for Rut’theran, but she made it quick just to be safe.
The gryphon master also confirmed a man similar in appearance to Arrens had paid for a ride to Felwood roughly five or six weeks prior. Lorelli thanked him and purchased a ride following the same route.
Felwood was about the time she really started to wish she’d gotten in touch with Prayce before leaving. The whole area felt electric, made her hair stand on end and her skin crawl. Regardless of what he had said about demons becoming like family, she wasn’t sure she’d ever be okay with them. Felwood kind of felt like Outland’s skinny little brother.
The gryphon master in Talonbranch Glade, however, was a dead end. She had no recollection of anyone like Arrens at all. She suggested that perhaps instead of Talonbranch, the Professor had landed in Whisperwind Grove or the Emerald Sanctuary. Neither of them yielded any further clues either. It was getting close to midday now, getting warmer and she couldn’t help but stifle a yawn. The rogue was used to running on little to no sleep when needed, was just the heat and the light were slowing her down. She pulled up her hood but left the mask off and went to speak with the Sanctuary flight master once more.
He was a large dark furred tauren named Gorrim. “You know, you might try Wildheart Point.” He recommended. “They’re a small camp but they see travelers occasionally, too.” His Darnassian was oddly accented but he made his point just fine.
“Can you get me there?” She asked.
Gorrim nodded and pointed out one of the gryphons towards the end of his line.
The flight to Wildheart Point was a short one and the flight master there was a kaldorei named Chyella. Chyella told Lorelli she thought she recalled someone that looked like Arrens about a month or so ago but she couldn’t say for absolutely certain. He’d purchased a gryphon ride to Desolace and so that’s where she went.
Moira Steelwing at Thargad’s Camp also recalled someone matching the description Lorelli gave and said that he had departed heading east. A quick consultation of her map and the rogue figured the most likely destination for a warlock would be Mannoroc Coven.
A few hours later, empty handed and smarting from a demon encounter she trudged back into Thargad’s Camp. Moira looked at her in askance but Lorelli offered no reply. She was tired, sore, hungry, and just barely staving off a headache. The thing worrying her most, however, was going back to Aely empty handed. Her friend had said not to worry if she didn’t find anything but that made no difference, she worried anyway.
It was time to take a moment and restock. A drink would certainly help with that and the best drinks, in her opinion were in Gadgetzan.
It was early evening by the time she arrived in Tanaris. The sun was still high overhead and the light made her head swim slightly. Lorelli pulled her hood lower over her eyes trying to cut down more of the light. She had entertained a brief notion that she might make it back to Stormwind in time to join in some drinks at the Pig but there was no way that was going to happen now.
She slipped into the inn, thankful for a break from the brightness of the desert sun but it didn’t offer much in the way of relief from the heat. She grabbed a chair and ordered a drink. A few drinks later she stopped the innkeeper as he passed. On a whim, she inquired about Arrens.
“I’m wondering if you recall seeing a man in the last few weeks?” She proceeded to describe him in as much detail as possible, hesitantly adding the fact that he may have had a demon trailing after him.
“Aint seen no one like that round here, lady. Might try heading north ta Desolace. Warlocks love that place.” The innkeeper replied, replacing her drink.
She handed him her empty glass with a nod, “Thanks.”
There was a goblin at one of the other tables watching her. Lorelli pretended not to notice until he spoke up.
“Your boyfriend up and left ya, huh, sweetheart?”
She took a sip from her drink, eyeing him over the rim of her glass. “He’s a dear friend’s husband. Not that it matters. Point is, he’s missing and we’d really like to find him.”
“Not sure what anyone’d want to marry a demonfucker for.”
She narrowed her eyes even further at him having recently discovered a great distaste for the term.
He leaned forward across the table. “You don’t look like you like demons. Betcha’ like goblins though.” He waggled his eyebrows at her, which caused his ears to also wiggle a tad hilariously.
Lorelli shook her head and leaned back in her chair. “Not particularly.”
“Aw come on, once ya go green ya never go back.” He made smoochy motions with his lips accompanied by an awkward sucking noise.
Lorelli resisted the urge to throw her glass at his head. “S’what they said ‘bout orcs too.”
The goblin scowled. “What? Pretty nigh elf lady too good for us, eh? Ya’ll think yer better than us. S’my money too good for you too?”
“I’d advise you watch your tongue, sir. You’re headed into very treacherous ground.” She’d gone very still, not even her eyes betrayed that she was tracking his every move.
“I ain’t scared of you. Just cuz you’re tall and pretty. Tall folk can’ keep threatening us and putting us down cuz we’re short.”
“Has nothing to do with your stature and everything to do with your approach.” She replied, her voice deadly calm.
“So what? I just didn’t offer you enough?”
“That is now the second time you have implied that I am a whore. I am tired and therefore will allow it to pass. Do not try me again.”
“I got plenty of gold, Money is no object.”
Lorelli set her glass down with a clunk against the table. She rose from her chair and sauntered over to him, slow and steady. He tracked her with his eyes, traced the curves she presented.
“I knew that’s all it was. Ladies like yourself love them some gol…” He was cut off as her fist connected with his nose, a sickening crunch echoing through the inn. She turned, leaving him on the floor clutching his nose to find five more goblins had stood up and were eyeing her.
“Well, so much for my rest. ‘fraid I left my dance card on my table, first come first serve.” She was outnumbered, it was true. At that point she didn’t care, she was annoyed at the goblin’s implications, baseless as they may be and frustrated with the lack of evidence in her search. The black haze slithering at the edges of her vision had nothing to do with it, at least she pretended they didn’t. She left her knives where they were, however, she wanted a good fight, not a slaughter.
The small mob–pun intended–advanced and everything erupted. By the time they were done, the damage was five busted tables, eight busted chairs, two spilled drinks, three shattered glasses and five unconscious goblins. Not to mention the small garrison of Steemwheedle bruisers that had now arrived. Lorelli winced, one of them had gotten a pretty clear shot to the back of her head and she wouldn’t be surprised to find a cracked rib or two. Also it was getting a little hazy and that made her nervous. So when the bruisers insisted she put her hands up, she did so.
At least the wall of the cell was cool. She felt like she’d been sitting in a steam pool and neglected to get out long after she should have. Her head was pounding and the haze hadn’t lifted. She wanted to sleep but she needed to figure a way out of here. They had taken her daggers, all of her back up knives and her gloves. The last of which being the most problematic as her lock picks were in the right one. Fucking goblins were far too thorough. However, for some reason, they hadn’t taken her buzzbox. Thank… something… for small favors.
She switched it on, with a quick glance at her guards and their positions. It was early in the Eastern Kingdoms, if anyone was awake it’d be a miracle, so ahw just left a message that would show up for anyone with her frequency to retrieve.
My apologies Riders. Ran into some trouble, won’t be back in town until later today. Don’t need bail, may need a healer, certainly need a few hours of sleep. That should at least let folk know she’d be stuck away and not to expect her. Maybe a nap and then she would get back on this escape problem.
When she woke a bit later she had message waiting. It was Prayce saying he’d be waiting for her when she got back to offer any assistance he could. She smiled in spite of the situation, fired off a reply and set about inspecting the cell. She was prodding at the lock when one of the bruisers came over and started shouting at her but he was yelling in goblin and she was only catching one word in five. Really it only served to make her headache worse.
Lorelli put her hands up in a gesture of surrender. “I wasn’t doin’ anything. Just wanted to ask for some water.” She followed that up with the goblin word for water which was extremely similar to the goblin word for gold which was also very similar to the goblin word for life. She really hoped she’d gotten the accent right or this could get pretty awkward. The goblin sneered at her and pointed to the bench at the back of the cell.
“Right, right. I’m goin’.” She dropped back on the seat, waited until he moved away and dropped another message to the buzzbox’s storage, much as she hated to do so. This was that whole playing well with others thing she was supposed to be working on, right? Relying on folk, asking for help? At least she hoped so.
May need bail after all. My goblin isn’t that great. S’either bail or I’m finally being offered a drink…
Almost immediately she received two replies, very similar in nature but extremely different in tone.
Tarquin: Oh for fuck’s sake. Where are you?
Prayce: Where are you?
So the cavalry was coming after all. This should be interesting. She felt bad, She shouldn’t even be in this situation and should certainly be able to get herself out. Headache wasn’t helping, she couldn’t focus. She called the guard over and tried her request for a drink once more. He laughed but seemed to nod and moved off.
She turned her attention back to her box. Gadgetzan . But I think we’re good here? Seems we’ve finally broken the language barrier. Did you know goblins have at least ten words for gold?
Again, an almost instant reply. Was Prayce sitting on his box waiting for messages? She was slightly flattered. I’m headed your way. Knowing goblins, they’ll most likely try to double the bail money.
Or triple. She thought. No, really, it was fine. She could handle it. She started to send another message stating just that. It’s alright, that won’t be necessa…. Her guard returned carrying a mug. She smiled in relief, started to get up and was forced into an immediate ducking maneuver as he pulled back and chucked the mug at her head. It hit the wall with a clang splashing it’s contents across her and the cell.
“You green-skinned little bastard!” She spat, lunging for the bars and trying to get at him through them. He danced just out of reach and laughed at her. The black haze was creeping back and she imagined twisting his head off using his giant sail like ears as handles. She forced herself to pause, take a breath and calm down. At least the water had been cold and served to cool her off somewhat. She trudged back to the bench and sat to finish her message.
Okay. Right. I’ll just sit tight. And as an afterthought she added. Thanks. And meant it.
Lorelli didn’t recall falling asleep and couldn’t have said what time of day it was. There was a commotion from somewhere out front, a raised voice trying to make themselves understood. A moment more of strained listening and she recognized Prayce’s voice trying to negotiate bail with whichever bruiser was on duty. She closed her eyes and silently thanked Elune and the Light and whichever other gods may have given a shit. She was up and leaning against the bars when her rescuer and his goblin escort finally made their way down the back hallway.
She couldn’t help but grin when she saw him.
“Are you alright to travel?” Prayce asked, eyeing her and then eyeing the goblin as if imagining what he would do if her answer was anything less than satisfactory. She wasn’t entirely sure she wanted to find out.
“I’m fine, what are you planning?”
He reached an arm between the bars. “Not to pay the bail, that’s for certain. Grab on to me.”
“I fail to see what good this will do…” As she took hold of his arm she felt a very strong yanking sensation. There was a flash of green and then everything was suddenly far too bright and the sun was beating down on her again. She almost wanted to be back in the cell. Almost.
“Wasn’t sure the portal would take two but I had to risk it. I know you’re in no condition to travel…”
“I’m fine.” She insisted as he paused between breaths.
“…But if we don’t find ourselves scarce we’ll have much bigger problems to deal with.” Prayce started trying to pull her along behind him, but she let go and stopped.
“I can be real scarce, real easy. Get out of here and wait for me outside of town. I’ll just be a moment.” She turned and started sneaking back around to the front of the building. “And thank you.” She shot over her shoulder.
“You’re going back in?”
“My gear’s in there.” And she slid into the shadows before he could protest.
“Alright.” Lorelli said, tugging her gloves back on and checking every blade was safely back where it belonged. She never felt more comfortable then when all her gear was in its proper place.
Prayce jumped and whirled to face her, “Where did…”
“Told you, I can be real scarce, real easy. S’kind of what I do. Now let’s get out of this arid hell hole. I need to make a stop in Ashenvale and I could really use your help.”
“Are you sure you’re well enough to…”
“I said I’m fine. I’ve had enough injuries I can usually tell what bad is. This aint bad.”
What she didn’t tell him was that there was now only a small pile of goblin corpses to man the jail cells in Gadgetzan.
As they flew toward Ashenvale Lorelli filled Prayce in on the situation with Arrens. It took the better part of the trip but finally as they landed she finished. “I’m not much good with magic and fel energy and all that. S’where you come in. Not to mention pleasant company is always a plus.”
Prayce nodded, a fel hound now standing sentry by his feet. “I will do my best. This area is loaded with fel magic but if there is a trail, we will find it.” He turned to the dog-like demon, patting it on it’s scaled head and speaking to it in demonic.
Lorelli turned away, pulling her hood up and checking to make sure her daggers were loose enough for a quick draw. She turned back around and found herself staring straight into a pair of eyes attached to a large pile of fur, claws and a whole lot of teeth wearing Prayce’s clothes. For a brief moment she felt a bit of concern over what she’d gotten herself into with him but she forced a laugh. “Hairball.”
When he spoke his voice was deeper with a hint of ferocity behind it. “Let us find your man.”
They traveled in silence to avoid alerting the roaming demons to their presence. Lorelli trailed slightly behind, watching his back and sticking to the shadows. He seemed extremely focused and she knew better than to interrupt. The canyon was covered in summoning circles, old and new. What had once been part of the lush Ashenvale forest now a dead wasteland of green fire, ash and demons.
The fel hound Prayce called Khii was bounding from circle to circle, sniffing, far too dog like for Lore’s comfort. It’s tendrils flayed too and fro before it was off to the next circle and then the next before coming back around to one of the first ones again, like it couldn’t make up its mind. It paid no heed to the other demons, and if it got too far ahead while Lorelli and Prayce hung back out of sight, they didn’t seem to troubled by Khii either.
“There has been activity here recently, but there’s no way to tell by whom.” Prayce was kneeling by one of the circles tracing the patterns with a claw, seeming almost distant. Lorelli nodded, though he was paying her little attention. She had pretty much resigned herself to make sure he didn’t get jumped by a demon and pretending like she had any clue what was going on here.
“That’s comforting.” She muttered.
Prayce moved around the circle and inhaled the still crackling flames of green fire dancing there. It was hard to watch and added to her growing unease.
“Yes, fresh homage paid here.” He said.
“Homage? Dare I ask what exactly that entails? I mean, I get the tribute part, it’s what you pay tribute with that I may or may not be interested in.”
Prayce got to his feet and looked around as he replied. “You would not care to know, my dear. Usually involves sacrifice of some sort or another.”
He continued walking, “The contracts with the fel come in many forms. Depends on the bargain mostly. A crafty warlock will set the contract but many fall victim to the demons’ wit.”
They had reached a large area where many summoning circles were laid out in a pattern even Lorelli – not being versed in fel magic and summons – couldn’t miss. Prayce pointed from one circle to the next.
“Clearly there has been a rather large summoning here.” He said.
“How large is large?”
He was kneeling next to another circle. Once again a claw reached out to follow the lines of the runes inscribed there. “Large enough to be troubling.”
“But we can’t tell exactly what was summoned or how it ended? Like, say the demon ate the summoner and flew away. Or something.”
Prayce beckoned Khii over and spoke to the fel hound in demonic again. At least she assumed before and now that is what it must be. Sounded similar to Arrens’ demonic and the translations of the book Kost, Sarcanna and Hinote had given. There was a strangled yelp and the fel hound collapsed to the ground, lit on fire and burned to a pile of green tinged ash in seconds.
The rogue blinked behind her mask. It was the only betrayal of emotion given but also hidden. She wondered what exactly had just happened and if the fel hound was somehow miraculously okay. Perhaps she had been hanging around Prayce too long if she was concerned for the well being of a demon dog. She tried to read the warlock’s face for any answers. All she was greeted with was a view of what seemed to be yet more teeth and eyes that had gone completely inky black.
Finally he answered her but his voice was not the same. “It was large, yet not large enough, I think.”
“How could it not be large enough?” In her mind, any demon summoning at all was too large.
“You are familiar with gnomish devices?”
“A fair number of them, yes.” She had built a fair few herself.
“At times, they use too harsh a load on the device. Then all of it falters.”
She nodded, “Right. You blow a circuit, or the motor, or something. Okay, engineering metaphors, I can work with that.”
Prayce smiled at her but around all the teeth it was mostly just extremely feral and even more unsettling. “Exactly. I believe the ‘motor’ gave out here and they moved on. I can’t get a scent though. The overload of magic smudges them all.” He waved a great clawed hand, “I would say if your headmaster was here, he left. Demons tend to make trophies of failed masters.”
A vision of a head on a spike and strewn entrails entered her head unbidden. She was very glad she didn’t have to take that explanation back to Aely. “Yeah. that I have heard before and it’s not comforting. Arrens was no half-assed warlock, but he had a habit of getting in over his head.” She paused, “Is.” She corrected herself but it didn’t feel right. “Hells, I don’t know…”
Prayce had turned away and when he faced her again, he was all human.
“That’s going to take a little getting used.” She commented.
“I apologize. Some of what I do it quite unsettling, I know.”
Lorelli shrugged thinking back on the goblins and not feeling the least bit guilty about it. “I’m hardly one to judge, really. Some of what I do is probably unsettling too. I was referring more to the wolf.”
He offered her a smile. “I find that form more fitting for work.”
Lorelli spread her hands with a slight tilt of her head. “Makes sense. Anything stupid enough to mess with that much teeth and claws deserved to be ripped to shreds.”
“Just think of it as donning one’s armor.”
“Right.” The rogue heaved a heavy sigh, “Well, I think we’ve done all we can here. I need to report back to Aely and then sleep for a number of hours.”
He nodded and wordlessly pulled her to him. She stood there a moment, leaning on him, ‘leaning’ on the strength of another soul and grateful for his presence. They had agreed that their situation would remain fluid and that labels were not important. It was another aspect of the game and she could tell Prayce played as well as she did. Though she would never admit it to herself, part of her wasn’t sure she wanted to win.
Her eyes scanned the area one last time, willing some evidence to appear that she could take back to one of her dearest friends and present with any sort of certainty. Aely had said ‘don’t worry if you don’t find anything’ but it wasn’t enough. Not for Lorelli and not for Aely, who deserved to know.
Comments Off on Old Enemies: Trailing Off (Part 2)
August 6, 2013 – 11:47 am
More from Shaila and Hinote!
Previous posts in this series include Coming forth by Day, The Magical Rogue, Demonology 101, Intellect Reason and the Self, and Trailing off (Part1)
The next stop, somewhat predictably, turned out to be another altar; though not as large and oppressive an altar as the one they’d just fled. A single statue, hooded like the ones at the Altar of Storms, loomed over the scene. It was chained at the arms to a pair of broken obelisks that stood to either side of the elevated, inscribed slab of rock in the middle. Ritual markings covered the altar’s flat surface, and where there were no markings there were bloodstains, or unlit candles, or piles of skulls, or any combination thereof. A few braziers burned at the base of the altar, and a few more near the broken pillars next to it, casting a dull, eerie purple glow over their surroundings.
Hinote looked oddly wistful as she surveyed the scene. “Been a long time since I came here…” Her eyes went up to the towering statue, where a pair of orange pinpoints of light peered back at her underneath its hooded visage.
Shaila was looking at the altar itself, a more uncomfortable look on her face. “Were you a part of the forces that fought Kazzak?”
“Once or twice, before he reactivated the portal and ran.” She lowered her gaze to the altar. “More than that…an old warlock used to live here, and a lot of people came to him to learn the ritual to summon a doomguard.” Her tone grew a bit more musing as she continued on. “It was…sort of an archaic spell, and it’s been improved on since then, but for a while he was the only one on Azeroth who knew it. Or at least…the only one who was willing to teach it.”
Shaila glanced over to Hinote, unsure what to think of the musings. On the one hand they seemed to be…fond memories? On the other hand they were memories of someone learning how to summon a dangerous demon. So she said nothing, merely looking back to the altar and nodding subtly.
“How about our warlock? Anything on him here?”
Hinote looked at the soulstone again. It was glowing once more, though it was difficult to tell in the light cast by the nearby braziers. Still, she seemed to find whatever answers she was looking for in it. “Looks like he tried here too. It’s…clearer here than it was at the Altar of Storms.” She shook her head. “Didn’t work.”
“I guess we should keep following the trail then,” Shaila said, looking back to where they had come from. “Although there’s really only one other place he could have gone here. Think he was trying to avoid it?”
“Maybe.” Hinote thought about it for a moment. Aely had told her that Arrens was unusually careful, as warlocks went, and valued control above all else. If that was true – and she had no reason to believe it wasn’t – it would have made sense for him to try a site on Azeroth first. Outland was unstable before it was anything else, and not a place for the cautious-minded to attempt whatever high-level incantation Arrens had been seeking. “From what I heard about him, I think he would’ve tried for the path of least resistance. Someplace that would work with minimal risk involved.”
Shaila went back to Hinote’s dreadsteed, waiting for her to get on before doing so herself. “Can’t think of a place with less resistance to a summoning than a place already steeped in the Nether itself. Though ‘minimal risk’ is not a word I would associate with Outland.”
“Which is probably why he tried here first,” Hinote concluded.
Shaila nodded in agreement, and the two of them started off once more to their final destination. They rode past the Tainted Forest, that cursed patch of wooded land grown by a worgen druid who had bitten off more than he could chew. Hinote was used to dealing with this sort of thing already, and Shaila had grown reaccustomed to it in the course of their investigations in the Blasted Land. So the two paid little heed to the feeling of wrongness the forest emanated as they passed, the feeling of hatred, the feeling that it wanted no one to trespass within its borders and that there would be dire consequences for any who did. Familiar shapes stirred just beneath the trees as the two rode further away from the forest, and dull glowing eyes stared after them from beneath the thick, writhing vine and thorn bodies of the denizens within.
They finally came over the last rise at the hills that ringed the Dark Portal’s crater, avoiding the crags cutting through the ground glowing with a molten fel light. Shaila was careful not to breathe any of the fumes coming from the crags, and wondered as she did if Hinote had to worry over the same at all.
They rode down to the camp in front of the portal, glad at least to be among people that were neither cultists nor spirits nor demons. It was an odd mixture of troops, especially these days with how turbulent relations had been between the Horde and the Alliance. Orcs and dwarves and tauren and draenei mingled in the camp. The atmosphere currently seemed to be somewhat more relaxed than it had been, maybe due to the odd alliance that a portion of the Horde and Alliance had recently formed in Durotar, a relief to those who watched the Dark Portal after fighting had broken out between Stonemaul and Nethergarde Keep in the previous year.
They spared hardly a glance for the dreadsteed bearing the two women into the camp, the two members of the Rose being at least known in passing to them. Shaila hopped off the fel horse and looked up to Hinote inquisitively.
“Were we right?” She asked.
Hinote glanced at the portal, then the soulstone, then the path up to the looming, magical archways that towered over the camp. “I think so. The signal’s fainter here, which means he probably didn’t cast anything, but he was definitely here.”
Shaila walked up the ramp to the portal, until she was standing just before the eerie window into what lay beyond. She watched it for a few moments, the subtle movements of the portal itself always somewhat mesmerizing to her, before she shook her head and looked back to Hinote. “Can you tell if he went through?”
“It seems obvious to me,” Hinote replied offhandedly. “He certainly didn’t come back home.” She peered into the soulstone again, which had gone back to its dull, lightless purple color. “At the very least, he went to the portal. I’d assume he went through it after that.”
“Then I’d say we’ve cut out an entire world to search, at least,” Shaila said, smiling slightly to Hinote. “Will the signal persist through to the other side?”
“Let’s hope so.” The warlock pocketed the gem again, returning the look and smiling herself. “Otherwise we’re going to be stuck asking.”
Shaila nodded, and stepped through the portal without a moment’s hesitation. She felt the odd sense of displacement and disorientation; that strange feeling of, just for a moment, not really being anywhere. She was then standing in a broken, more corrupted version of the Blasted Lands with nothing above her but stars and other worlds and a long, wispy and beautiful strand of magic that was the Twisting Nether itself. They’d arrived to the other side, in Hellfire Peninsula.
Hinote looked at the sky – or rather, the lack thereof – for a moment. “Seems like it’s been a while…” She retrieved the soulstone from her pocket again, idly turning it in her hand as she continued nether-gazing. “Lot of places he could’ve gone here.”
“Are you getting any direction in particular?” Shaila looked at her hopefully.
The warlock hesitated for a moment, then held up the gem and looked into it. It had begun flickering wildly, alternating with varying frequency between the bright glow it had emanated previously and its usual inert state. She remained silent for a few seconds, peering at the soulstone with a mix of confusion and concern that didn’t stay hidden for very long. “I’m getting…all of them,” she said finally. Hinote stared more intently at the soulstone, but to no avail. “Something’s interfering with it. I didn’t expect it to be this bad out here, but…”
Shaila’s shoulders slumped, and she looked out helplessly to the landscape – and lack thereof – before them. She was silent for a few moments, trying to think of some way to keep up the trail. But magic was not her expertise, even if there had been a way.
“Well…I think we’ve cut down the list of possible places he could go by a fair amount,” she said. “We aren’t the only ones looking. We should go back and tell Aelflaed what we’ve found, so she can have everyone focus their efforts on Outland.”
“Yeah…” Hinote’s gaze lingered on the gem in her hand a bit longer, disappointment creeping into her expression just slightly. “I think I could get something if we were at someplace he performed another ritual, but…there’s no way I can track him from here.”
“We’ll find him. And Hino?” Shaila looked over at her, putting a hand on her shoulder. “You’ve done really well, in all this. I’m really proud of you. And I’m sure Aely is really thankful already for everything that you’ve done.”
Hinote didn’t respond immediately. With a heavy sigh, she slowly pocketed the soulstone again. “Yeah…let’s just hope this doesn’t end the way it’s probably going to.”
Shaila let out a brief sigh, squeezing Hino’s shoulder once before letting go. “I hope your pessimism isn’t justified. Come on. We’ve got a worried wife to update.” She turned, and stepped back through the portal.
Hinote’s eyes drifted back into space as Shaila left. “It’s…not pessimism,” she said to herself. With another exasperated sigh, she turned to the portal and stepped towards it. “It’s pattern recognition.”
December 13, 2016 – 5:45 pm
**A note on dates. Dates are pretty important, but we have no idea how Silvermoon reckons time, so I’ve used the WoWWiki Unofficial Timeline dates for most of it. As such, all years are measured with the beginning of the …
June 3, 2016 – 11:21 am
She was barely fifty years old* when she took her first – a contract handed out in Everlook, though how she’d ended up in that godsforsaken ice-sheet she couldn’t be sure. It was a simple thing to kill the woman …
September 8, 2015 – 9:51 pm
It didn’t take long to get from Thunder Bluff to the Echo Isles – Ankona took advantage of a wyvern so she could think and plan before getting to her destination. She had information to confirm with the spirits – …
August 4, 2015 – 12:22 pm
An old story, reposted here as I’m shaking the mothballs off Ankona and needed an easy way to show people a little bit about the (batshit) things she gets up to. Enjoy, and don’t be too creeped out!
It really …
November 14, 2014 – 7:32 am
So I haven’t finished the intro quests yet (the server queues from the reduced server capacity due to the DDOS attacks meant I only got about an hour to play yesterday), but I’m finding that Draenor is pretty cool so …
November 13, 2014 – 12:30 pm
The morning of the all hands summon to the Blasted Lands, Aely went for a walk. The late fall air was clear and cool, and leaves crunched under their feet in the less-traveled parts of the streets. She and Roger …
November 11, 2014 – 3:09 pm
What a long strange trip it’s been. I’ll be the first to admit that, at the beginning, I wasn’t sure Pandaria was going to be for me. I’ve made clear my dislike of daily quests, and that seemed to be …
October 24, 2014 – 12:01 pm
Squire Benjamin William Sullivan stood in the middle of Light’s Hope Chapel in his underpants.
Actually, it was white linen pants and a shift, but the effect was approximately the same. The little chapel was warm, on the edge of …