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.”
August 6, 2013 – 8:45 am
This post is brought to you by Shaila and Hinote, both of the Order of the Rose.
Previous posts in this series include Coming forth by Day, The Magical Rogue, Demonology 101, and Intellect Reason and the Self.
The red mountains that made up the perimeter of the Blasted Lands came into view as Shaila flew her proto-drake, Sharyz, to the demon infested plains. The winds were rough and warm here as always, a sign of the instability of the lands connected to the Dark Portal. This time it filled Shaila with confidence. Lands such as these were prime spots for Arrens to have carried out whatever he intended, and with Stormwind’s gryphon master having said he went south, this had to be the only place he could have headed.
She flew over the walls of Nethergarde Keep after letting the guards on the walls get a good look at her. Tensions at the fortress were always high, with demons and the Horde both in close proximity. Had she flown right down, she likely would have been filled with arrows for her presumptiveness. But fly down she finally did, landing safely on the tall wooden flight platform. It hadn’t really been built for proto-drakes, and shook slightly as Sharyz flopped down onto it. Shaila winced, and gave the flight master an apologetic look as she climbed off and led Sharyz down to get him settled.
She looked around for Hinote as she did, wondering if the warlock had already arrived.
She didn’t have to wonder long. “You’re late,” came a neutral voice from nearby, on the path leading away from the flight master’s platform. Hinote stood there, arms folded, looking only mildly impatient. In other words, a grade or two more pleasant than she usually looked.
Shaila smiled at Hinote, cheered by the apparent mildness of her impatience.”Sorry. Sharyz got hungry, I had to let him eat a deer on the way.” She finished getting the creature settled, and walked over to join the warlock.
Hinote reached into her pocket for a moment and withdrew a small, dark purple gem, holding it up for Shaila to see. “This should tell us if Arrens has been through here. Hopefully.” She looked at it herself for a moment, apparently skeptical. “It’s hard to say for sure with so many other residual magical signatures in the area, but the summoning circle Aely took me to had a fairly distinct signal.”
“Well he took a gryphon here, we know that,” Shaila said, folding her arms as she looked around. “Which means that unless he flew down to Surwich, he came through here first. Are you picking anything up yet?”
She stared at the gem for a moment longer. Nothing about it changed, which apparently meant something, because she stopped soon after. “It’s a little faint here, but there’s something. Might get stronger if we get closer to the portal, or the Tainted Scar. It works best in places he performed magic, and if he came here for a warlock ritual, he probably went to one of those two areas.”
“Well, let’s follow the signature,” Shaila said. “Could you summon your uh…” She hesitated, looking unsure. “…horse? Thing?”
Hinote looked at Shaila for a few seconds, slightly incredulous. “Dreadsteed?”
“Yeahhh,” Shaila said, nodding. “That thing.”
The warlock made a gesture with her free hand, and a patch of flames erupted from the ground next to her, growing in size over the course of a few moments until it reached about as high as Hinote herself. It dissipated just as abruptly as it came, leaving behind an indignant-looking horse – if you could call a thing with burning hooves, horns, and spikes a horse – that regarded its mistress with a mix of curiosity and disdain. Hinote, however, didn’t seem to mind its attitude, and promptly climbed up on its back.
Shaila approached the Dreadsteed after that, and tentatively patted its rump before pulling herself up and behind Hinote. She held onto the warlock, and leaned forward slightly.
“Alright, Hino. Take us away!”
Hinote urged the dreadsteed forward and it took off along the road, leaving behind a trail of slightly singed cobblestones and bewildered Nethergarde Keep inhabitants as they rode out the gate.
“So we didn’t get shot in the back as we left,” Shaila said. “That’s a good start.”
“They’re not exactly strangers to warlocks down here,” Hinote replied. “Things like this make most of them a little uncomfortable, but they’re used to it.” She looked at the soulstone again as they rode along. It still looked largely the same, which seemed to disappoint her slightly. “Nothing good yet.”
“So how do you read that, anyway?” Shaila asked, trying to peer over Hinote’s shoulder (largely unsuccessfully). “Follow whichever direction seems to make it glow more, or what?”
“Something like that. There’s more to it, but at the very least it’ll tell us if he’s been through here, assuming there’s nothing interfering with it. The trail’s just…not all that strong here.”
“Hm…alright,” Shaila said, nodding. She left Hinote to reading the soulstone after that, and the warlock could occasionally feel the small woman shift around slightly behind her as Shaila surveyed the passing landscape.
For the most part, Hinote kept to reading it in silence. As they neared the branch in the road leading south, though, something caught her attention, and she slowly urged the dreadsteed to a stop. “There’s something…” She trailed off for a moment, looking first at the soulstone, which was now glowing faintly, then at the surrounding area. Her eyes finally settled on a steep plateau just west of the road. “There, I think.”
“Isn’t that the Rise of the Defiler?” Shaila asked. “Makes sense…”
“Yeah,” Hinote affirmed. “Don’t think it’s seen any visitors in a while, but it can’t hurt to check. If nothing else, the signal should be clear.”
Climbing the rise would have been out of the question; the sides of the plateau were far too steep all around, and the top too high up. Fortunately, whoever had last used it – or perhaps whoever had originally used it – left teleportation runes for easy travel up and down the rise. The peak was as grim and dreary as anything else about the Blasted Lands: a char-black ritual circle of some sort was etched into the top of the rise, ringed by the skeletal remains of what were most likely its last victims. The sky seemed to darken just slightly as Hinote and Shaila arrived on the scene.
Shaila shifted uncomfortably, glancing around after arriving to the top. “I expected what this’d be like, but it doesn’t make it any better. Let’s finish up here before…something invisible pushes us off the edge or something.” She looked over to Hinote. “Any spellwork here?”
Hinote looked at the soulstone once again, which was now emitting a bright purple light. “I think so. He was definitely here, but…” She studied the gem intently for a moment. “It doesn’t look like he stayed long.” Her eyes turned to the faded ritual circle inscribed on the rise. “Might have been a good place for whatever he was hoping to do if he’d come here years ago, but the residual magic from whatever ritual took place here is…faded.”
“So this isn’t the place then,” Shaila concluded, looking over to her.
Hinote shook her head. “No. He stopped by, but whatever he was after, he couldn’t get it done here.” She pocketed the soulstone again.
Shaila exhaled a sigh of relief. “Well, that’s good,” Shaila said. “Because for a moment I was kind of scared he’d summoned himself away. Somehow. Does that happen?” She looked to Hinote, curious.
“Summoning yourself away is called teleporting, Shaila.” Hinote cracked a slight smile as she turned towards Shaila. “So no, it doesn’t really happen. Though I suppose it’s possible something else summoned him…but I don’t think it happened here, if it happened at all.”
“Right,” Shaila said. “Then let’s get out of here and go to the next extremely unsettling location we’re bound to be led to.”
“Yeah…” The warlock’s eyes drifted westward, where the enormous, ominous statues of an Altar of Storms could be seen in between the crags of the mountain. “Hope you’re ready for a few more, because this place is full of them.”
Hinote’s intuition proved accurate, the Altar of Storms being precisely the next place they were led. Caution was appropriate, as the Altar over the years had been occupied on and off by the local cultists and ogres, drawn to the magical and demonic potential the power of the old corrupted runestones of Caer Darrow held. The three ominous hooded statues stood vigil as always around the perimeter of the Altar, the altar itself scarred with old scorch marks from the lightning that tended to manifest during rituals that would take place there, hence the name.
The altar was also stained with dried blood, mostly in the center. There were however the odd bloodstain in the outer perimeter of the Altar, likely marking the few times that the cultists had been disrupted during a ritual. Violently. No one who had ever possessed the Altar seemed to have seen fit to clean the thing, perhaps believing that even old blood lent some power to the arcane device.
The two women felt the energy of the Altar as they stepped onto it. It was as if they were stepping through a physical barrier of some kind, an oppressive and uncomfortably hot feeling that they had to will themselves to proceed through. Occasionally they thought they could hear voices, moaning and panicked whispers that faded in and out. To the layman it would have seemed imagined, but the two seasoned adventurers knew that they were real. They were hearing the Altar’s past victims. And there were many.
“Please tell me he didn’t use this thing,” Shaila said, looking over to Hinote with her arms wrapped around herself.
Hinote was either unfazed by their surroundings or else doing a very good job of hiding it. She looked at the soulstone, which was glowing brightly again. “Maybe…” She stepped onto the altar proper, looking around at the massive, cowled statues before settling on the space in the middle. “There’s a bit more interference here, but I think I might be able to…” Her eyes turned to the soulstone again, as if willing it to divulge something new. “I think…he tried here. It’s hard to say. Either way, it didn’t work.”
Shaila glanced up to one of the hooded statues, narrowing her eyes at its faceless gaze. “I don’t suppose there’s anything we can do about this place.”
“The most we can do right now is keep people away from it. It’s going to take a lot more than just the two of us to clean this place up…and a lot of time.”
“Mmn,” Shaila responded, unsatisfied. “Let’s keep on the trail, then.”
As the two of them began to leave, they both suddenly felt as if a number of strong hands were gripping their shoulders, holding them back from leaving the Altar. Shaila gritted her teeth and struggled against the invisible hands as the pressure in the air around them seemed to increase. “Hinote!” She yelled, as the spirits holding them back seemed to gain a surge of strength and pulled Shaila through the air, slamming her against one of the statues and holding her there.
Hinote struggled vainly for a moment, watching as Shaila was lifted away like a feather on the wind. An indignant anger sparked in her eyes as she turned up to the statue where her friend was being held. “I don’t…have time for this.” A pair of pale green orbs shot out of her sleeves and began to orbit around her person, emitting a momentary flash of light as they emerged. The verdant spheres’ presence seemed to strengthen her, and with a powerful sweep of her arms she wrenched herself free of the oppressive spirits’ grasp.
Shaila meanwhile huffed, frustrated, and planted her hands and feet against the surface of the statue behind her. She set her jaw and glared at the air in front of her indignantly, before gathering her will and pushing herself away from the statue, tearing free from the spirits’ grip and falling through the air to land on her feet in a sprint, bolting over towards Hinote and the exit. “Let’s get the hell out of here!”
“Couldn’t agree more.” Hinote took off at a run as Shaila approached, careful to stay a little behind her in case something else happened.
They broke through the invisible barrier surrounding the altar with some effort, invisible fingertips brushing against their hair as the spirits attempted to grab hold once more, only to be foiled completely by the same barrier that seemed so insubstantial to the living women. There was the rumbling of a storm as the two of them continued to follow Arrens’ trail on to the next location.
August 2, 2013 – 5:48 pm
This post is brought to you by Hinote. For my readers who are not part of Feathermoon, Hinote is a member of the Order of the Rose, and to say that she and the Wildfire Riders have bad blood is a bit of an understatement (Tarquin once threw her into a volcano. She got better. Yes really). However, this does not extend to our out of game interactions, and… well. You’ll see.
Previous posts in this series include Coming forth by Day, The Magical Rogue, and Demonology 101.
It had been some time since Hinote had made a commitment to stop asking too many questions about how she ended up doing some of the things she inevitably ended up doing. Fate, she’d noticed years ago, was not without a sense of humor, and often an ironic one at that. But there were some things she couldn’t help but dwell on in spite of it. Her current situation was a perfect example of both; there were few things she wanted more than to just not be a part of this, but here she was, coming to the aid of…sworn enemies was perhaps too strong a term – in the grand scheme of things, the Riders were more like an irritation she couldn’t seem to get rid of – but nevertheless people she couldn’t trust and, in all likelihood, didn’t trust her either. And it wasn’t as if it was by coercion or happenstance. Just the opposite, she’d volunteered. And, as a result, she’d spent an inordinate amount of time since then wondering just why she was even bothering.
She stood now in front of the full-length mirror in her bedroom, alone save for the translucent reflection that stood just before her. It was an antique piece, dating back to the days of the Highborne who originally produced it, and, like most Highborne designs, it was lavishly decorated, with gold filigree around the frame and an old kaldorei inscription along the top that Hinote had never bothered to have translated. Ordinarily she wasn’t prone to such vanity, but the soul mirror was one of the first projects she’d brought home after she’d started digging around old ruins in her spare time, and there was some practical use in a mirror that projected a three-dimensional reflection of whoever stood before it. And what good would it do to just let it sit unused?
So before it she stood, absently combing her hair in the company of her own simulacrum while her mind wandered to current events.
Just stay silent and walk away. You don’t owe them anything. That was her first impulse. Spite was always her first impulse with them. But she’d forfeited the opportunity to follow that impulse when she walked in the door of the Pig and Whistle that night instead of just setting fire to it. It was irksome, but if Pandaria had taught her anything, it was that the cycle was hers to break and nobody else’s. So, for better or for worse, the warlock had elected to be helpful instead. There was no going back on that now.
Hinote shifted her head to the side a bit to get a better angle, then resumed combing. It’s not about debts, she thought to herself. The teeth of the comb snagged on a small knot of hair, and she winced slightly as she pulled it free. The momentary discomfort it afforded her was somewhat indicative of her instinctual response to the whole situation, but both soon subsided. She knew she was right: it wasn’t about debts. It wasn’t about gaining anyone’s favor. That was a game she tried to avoid playing as best she could. It wasn’t even because Shaila had been watching at the time.
She paused for a moment to look over her reflection’s straight, auburn hair. Satisfied, she set the comb down on the dresser adjacent the mirror. The warlock stood there for a bit longer, staring at her own image as if in search of something. Why was any of this even up for questioning? She had her answers; hell, she’d given them to Tarquin when he asked. More importantly, though, she knew they were right. To some, that sort of conviction was irrelevant, but as things currently stood, the knowledge that she was doing the right thing was likely all that was going to carry her through the whole mess.
At least this time it wasn’t her mess.
A knock at the bedroom door got her attention, followed by a girl’s voice. “Mooooom, are we going or what?”
Hinote remained fixated on her reflection for just a second longer, then looked to the door, the beginnings of a smile forming on her lips. “I’ll be out in a minute.” She turned back to the mirror, staring into her own green eyes for another few moments. Finally, she stepped away and towards the door, her reflection disappearing without so much as a sound. Sarah was there to greet her as she opened the door, and she couldn’t help but smile in earnest at the sight of her.
She was worried that Arrens might have gone rogue; that was part of it. She also didn’t trust either of the other warlocks that had been present that night; that was part of it too. More than either of those reasons, though, was the fact that even though she knew almost nothing of Aely or her husband, Hinote understood the predicament she was in, understood the feeling that came with having loved ones just disappear, without notice or warning or explanation. She’d been that person before, and it had occurred to her that night that what she was seeing unfold wasn’t unlike what she’d done to Sarah, to her family, to the Roses, to everyone, a number of times before, whether by choice or by circumstance.
She’d called it sympathy when she told Tarquin, but the truth was it was guilt as well; the somber realization that she had put people through exactly what Arrens was now putting his wife through.
August 1, 2013 – 9:56 am
This was written primarily by one Sarcanna de Roux.
Previous posts in this series include Coming forth by Day, and The Magical Rogue.
I trust Kirase more than I do de Roux. Tarquin’s warning rang through Aely’s head as she followed the familiar path along the lush grasses of the Mage district. Kirase hates my guts, but she’s at least predictable. De Roux is all niceness an’ manners, but I’ve seen her work. She didn’t know exactly what kind of “work” she’d be seeing, but hopefully a visit to someone’s apartment to talk about a book wasn’t going to get her bled dry on the carpet for a summoning. Besides, Yva Darrows had sort of cornered the market on “unhinged warlock shit”, and even she was fairly benign when it came to talking shop, if you had the stomach for that sort of thing. It was just when she was trying to perform unhinged warlock shit that things got sketchy.
Sarcanna de Roux’s townhouse wasn’t far from the University, but it was definitely in a different part of town. It wasn’t the arcane-laden finery of the area around the Blue Recluse, but it wasn’t the Slaughtered Lamb either. By all accounts, this block of townhouses was fairly straightforward looking, and Aely could easily see any of the professors from the university happily living there. She followed along the row until she came to the building with the appropriate street number, let herself through the little gate, and rapped firmly on the little door knocker. She noted idly that it was shaped like a proud Stormwind Lion carrying a ring in his teeth, which juxtaposed nicely with the sorts of magic that probably happened inside, and waited to see if the building’s creepy inhabitant was at home.
The door swung open on well oiled hinges, revealing a long corridor leading into the townhouse. Paintings hung between the doorways, small tables with a scattering of curios; sculptures of birds, crystal wine glasses, miscellaneous books. The hallway, however, was devoid of any persons. Aely blinked and glanced about and back down the hallway, before looking down. Holding the door open was de Roux’s void spirit… servant? It beckoned her with one claw once it had her attention, before turning and bobbing further into the hall. Aely shrugged and stepped into the house.
The spirit led her down the hallway, to the stairs leading up to the first floor. They ascended, and at the landing the spirit gestured towards one of the many doors leading from the landing. Aely stepped forward, gripping the doorknob. She looked over her shoulder to the spirit, who did its best approximation at a nod. She stepped inside.
The library appeared much bigger than the size of the townhouse would’ve suggested. Shelves lined all four walls, reaching all the way to the raised ceiling. Books crammed the shelves wherever they could be fit, and stacks on the floor made of those which did not fit. Ladders hung off rails, allowing access to the very top-most shelves. A great desk sat in the middle of the room, piled high with books, papers, inkwells and quills, paperweights and knick knacks; all the accoutrements of academic study with a dark twist. Candles cast guttering light from candelabra and a chandelier hanging from the tall ceiling. A stand in the corner stood draped in the crow-themed robes the warlock habitually wore – the crow-skull mask hanging off-kilter from it.
Standing on one of the ladders, about halfway up the rungs, stood the sorcerer in question: Sarcanna de Roux. Dressed in simple breeches, shirt with sleeves rolled up, and a vest, she cut a much less… intimidating figure than she did dressed fully in her crow-themed regalia. Her silver hair pulled back in a short ponytail, she had been in the process of reorganising a number of titles before Aely had entered the room. Turning at the sound of the door, de Roux looked down from her perch and smiled.
“Ah, madam Caltrains. How good of you to have come so promptly.”
The woman’s cultured tones gave no indication of her origins, instead merely marking her as one who had come from an expensive education. She slid lightly down the ladder and came over to where Aely stood in the doorway, dusting her hands on her thighs as she approached. With the same banal smile, she offered the paladin her hand.
Aely glanced at the proffered hand cautiously for the briefest second before grasping it in return.
If she had noticed the hesitation, she did not show it. Her smile widened to show the barest hint of teeth, and she waved her hand as if she was brushing imaginary motes aside.
“Please, madam Caltrains, in here you can call me Sarcanna.”
She turned and gestured to the study’s desk, piled high with parchment and thick tomes.
“I imagine you wish to get to the core of the matter with haste, but before I regale you with the details of what I have found, do you wish any refreshment? Tea, wine?”
Aely broached half a smile. “I’ll call ye Sarcanna if ye’ll call me Aely. An’ tea would be lovely, if ye dinna mind.”
“Of course then, Aely.” de Roux turned back to the door. “Librarian? Tea, if you would. The proper stuff, not what we generally serve to visitors.”
She faced Aely again. “Now; let’s get to it, shall we?”
Sarcanna walked to her desk, pulling the great chair out with a touch more ease than one would have expected. Before she sat down, she moved a smaller, dining room chair around beside her own, to allow an additional person to oversee what was displayed across the desk. Sitting down, Sarcanna scooted the chair in, placed a small pair of ivory and crystal optics on the bridge of her nose, and steepled her fingers over the mess of papers and inks. The paladin sat in the dining chair, putting on a pair of small, oval glasses of her own. They looked a bit out of place on her otherwise generally strong and capable looking frame, but Sarcanna pretended not to notice.
“Now; what I have found. First off, I have managed to successfully translate all the notes in all the papers you gave me. Like I surmised earlier, they are the notes taken in study of separate tome; the On Concordance Of the Shifting Ways. A copy of which I have as of yet been unable to get my hands on. However, I have been able to piece together a lot from these notes, and references to the On Concordance in other volumes I own.”
The void spirit Oriax returned carrying a platter; on which sat a porcelain teapot, milk jug, sugar bowl, and matching teacups. It placed the platter on a small stool, and began fussing about with cups and silver teaspoons. Sarcanna shuffled some of the loose pieces of parchment containing Arrens’ scratchy handwriting, pointing to examples as she spoke.
“At its most basic, the On Concordance is what is generally termed a ‘libram ex nihilus’ – that is to say, a work penned by either something from the Void, or by a mortal ghostwriting for such an author. Caltrains’ notes don’t make it clear which, but I would say at this juncture that is a moot point.”
Sarcanna pushed the optics back up to the bridge of her nose, shuffled the papers, and began gesturing to other writing – Arrens’ notes, supplemented further by Sarcanna’s translations and notes. The tea had apparently finished brewing, as the void spirit was pouring tea from the pot into the teacups.
“More specifically, the work is a manual, a guide for acquiring greater power of the Fel and the Nether, for denizens of our world and the Broken one. I would wager a large sum that the On Concordance was traded for by a mortal sorcerer of our plane from a being of the Nether. Quite a risky proposition; that may indeed be why this book found itself… without a scholar.”
The tinkle of silverware against porcelain interrupted de Roux’s monologue. The Librarian bobbed over to the desk, carrying two teacups. It handed one to each of the women, and retreated back out the door to… nowhere? Sarcanna barely acknowledged the spirit as she took the tea and had a sip, before continuing.
“Unlike most tomes of its kind, it appears that the On Concordance was concerned with the three main foundations of the Triad of Fel magic; flame, darkness, and the enslaved. The book was, or is, three separate volumes in one. Each devoted to one of the foundations, with instructions, rituals, maps, commands, and Light knows what else – all with the sole purpose of wringing greater power out of a conjunction of location, sorcery, and will.”
The paladin across from her paused slightly, teacup in midair, but aside from a hitch in the gesture, made no move to interrupt.
“Now, most of this I had to surmise based on my research on the title in other tomes I own that reference the On Concordance. Caltrains’ notes are entirely focused on one of the volumes; on the enslaving of Nether and Void entities.”
De Roux snorted in derision.
“The conceit of those who bind and attempt to control beasts with free will? With alien cunning and an infinite desire for revenge? I have nothing but contempt for demonologists.”
Sarcanna glanced up from the parchments to the other woman.
“No offense meant to you and yours however, of course.”
Aely nodded, with little emotion registering behind her carefully impassive face. “None taken.”
“So Caltrains’ notes are entirely concerned with the volume on demonology. It appears that the tome is concerned with a ritual which involves the summoning and binding of multiple Nether entities – no mean feat on its own – and then consuming them to fuel the sorcerer’s own ascension. Ascension which is not elaborated upon, sadly. I’m curious as to what the devouring of multiple demons would accomplish specifically…”
Sarcanna cleared her throat slightly, and continued.
“The ritual, such as it is, requires a locale of strong attunement to both the void, and the practice of summoning and enslaving the denizens thereof. This,” Sarcanna jabbed down at the scrawl with a finger, like a dagger.
“There are a few locales which fit these particular requirements. In Azeroth, there is the Altar of Storms in the Blasted Lands and the Burning Steppes, remains of covens in the Twilight Highlands, and certain hidden burrows and lairs in the ruins of the lands of Lordaeron.”
The pale woman drained the remaining tea in her cup, and placed it absently on top of a haphazard stack of dusty books. The void spirit Oriax manifested itself again, taking the teacup and returning it to the serving tray.
“In the lands of Kalimdor, there is the Mannoroc scar in Desolace, Demon Fall Canyon in the kaldorei forests, and Darkwhisper Gorge on the slopes of Mount Hyjal. Through the Portal in the Broken world, there is the weak barrier between the planes in the Netherstorm, the altars of Guldan in Shadowmoon, and the ruins of the necropolis of Auchindoun. There are also the other Planes of existence; specifically, the Plane of Elemental Fire.”
Sarcanna steepled her fingers again.
“Unfortunately, I cannot be any more specific than that. There is a lot of potential locations, and none of the notes taken by Caltrains indicate which he was interested in, or even what locales are more likely than the others. It appears that more specific research, or tracking, is required from this point.”
Sarcanna straightened the sheaves of papers and straightened her posture in her chair. Removing the optics from the bridge of her nose, she turned to face Aely.
“Despite not having a distinct answer for you, I believe I have provided you with new avenues of investigation. Now, there is only to decide what your next step is to be, no?” Sarcanna raised an eyebrow in mock askance.
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 …
June 29, 2014 – 4:39 pm
So I’m not really in a position where I should be creating alts. This, of course, does nothing to deter me from making alts when the inspiration strikes. I’ve been really enjoying my Alliance hunter, and she’s my raiding main …
November 19, 2013 – 4:46 pm
Bad things are happening in Stormwind – and beyond.
The Hand of Lothar, they call themselves.
Yva Darrows was their first target.
Tirith and Aely were their second and third.
They have since… expanded their reach and escalated their methods …
November 13, 2013 – 9:59 am
The cathedral bells stop ringing overnight, except for chiming the hours. Three bell strikes, and Angoleth padded softly around another corner of the Cathedral District, staying carefully in the shadows. Trained ears picked up Mogget’s soft breathing – nearly inaudible …