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Fernand’s corpse lay beneath the rubble of Dalaran for the duration of the war, to be brought back by necromancers under the orders of Lady Sylvanas Windrunner, the leader of the so-called ‘free’ undead, or Forsaken as they came to be known. Sylvanas recognised the resource that Dalaran’s dead posed – brilliant minds that would further her own ambitions. Fernand Argustus was one of these minds. To fill the vast, empty abyss left in his soul by losing Ameira, Fernand lost himself in working tirelessly for the Royal Apothecary Society, fulfilling his duty to his Banshee Queen without question. He buried all emotion, all traces of the living man, to protect himself. The Forsaken man embraced an absence of sympathy or empathy for others, or even himself. Over the years, he played a role in the construction of many biological weapons that would eventually be used against Sylvanas’s enemies – Master Apothecary Putress’s Forsaken Blight, the Modas il Toralar’s haemorrhagic Red Death, the light resistant Cold Fire Fever, and numerous other failed projects that never reached fruition. Weapons that resulted in atrocities on an unfathomable scale.
When the Alliance experienced the power of the RAS at the Wrathgate, their retaliation was swift and merciless. Master Apothecary Putress was assassinated, and many other members were targeted. In retrospect, Fernand should have suspected that the Alliance would recruit Ameira to help in taking him down. He was under no illusions – neither he nor Ameira were the young couple of lovers blissfully unaware of the horrors that one could experience in this life. To Ameira, he was likely nothing more than a monster. When the Alliance attacked him, he defended himself. Still, the shock he experienced when he recognised that golden hair, now matted with blood, was enough to pierce what remained of the man he once was. He left that battlefield with the knowledge that he had snuffed out the only beauty left in this wretched world.
All of these thoughts and more swirled through Fernand’s mind in a cacophony of memories that haunted him constantly, as he sat motionlessly, without expression, staring at the magical sphere of music. There could be no absolution for his crime. He had killed Ameira, perhaps without intent, but that did not alter the fact. She would never again fall asleep in a lover’s arms. She would never again brush her long hair, sitting by the window, in the warmth of the sun. She would never again laugh at this ridiculous symphony. How he wished...for a million, million things. He was hers, and he would love her until the end of time. With a mental effort, Fernand suppressed these thoughts, brushing away at the treacherous, lingering emotions of his past humanity. ‘This is detracting from my productivity.’ He frowned tightly and stood stiffly, the bones in his knees cracking audibly. The Forsaken Apothecary readjusted his black silk tie and, with an uncharacteristic lack of caution, bumped his desk forcefully as he went to step around it. The music sphere rolled off the desk and struck the ground; it shattered in an explosion of arcane energy, and the symphony was cut mid-sonata. He hurried from the room, and did not look back. He feared what fresh haunting memories lingered there.
(( Not sure if it reached you through the g##%*vine, but to spice up my world pvp and keep me on my toes, if Alliance kill / beat Argy in Stormwind territories, I'm happy to have him captured and prosecuted by Stormwind City Watch for crimes against humanity. No doubt it would end in execution, and I'm fine with permanent player death (I'll just race change Argy, it's not expensive) as they are fitting consequences for his actions. But you've got to catch me first :P ))
((Oh my goodness. That is awesome. Now I just need to get information on Argustus so I can put a reward out for him. I still need to set up the rules for the rewards. Pia will actually pay them, but it has to be under certain circumstances.))
In the upper levels of the Modas il Toralar’s Sanctum, in a sparsely furnished conference room, gathered a small group of Forsaken. Amongst their number were Master Apothecary Faranell and Apothecary Lydon, influential members of the Royal Apothecary Society, as well as a cloaked officer of the Deathstalkers who did not give Fernand her name. Fernand Argustus stood at the head of the table, looking like a mortician in a pressed black suit and cravat. They made idle conversation as they waited for several more undead to attend. ‘I’ve heard anecdotal reports of disease incidence of the Cold Fire Fever in Stormwind, Fernand. If I recall correctly, that was one of your projects, correct?’ Faranell asked, the curiousity in his tone evident.
Fernand was surprised, although it was not apparent in his tone or facial expression. ‘I have not heard these reports, Master Apothecary, but I suppose it is entirely possible. Several days ago, the Modas il Toralar tracked a potential assassin, an assassin who preyed upon the RAS, to a Wildhammer compound in the Hinterlands. Suffice it to say, we released the disease in order to put a stop to these annoying attacks upon our colleagues. How it could have reached Stormwind, I could not say.’
Before Faranell had an opportunity to reply, the door to the conference opened, and Lord Aziel V’Ghera entered, followed closely by a growling felhound. The undead nobleman sat at the end of the conference table and nodded in Fernand’s direction. ‘Begin thy discourse, Apothecary. Believe it or not, more pressing matters demand my attention at this time.’ To those present, Lord V’Ghera’s sibilant demands were typical of the man. Fernand, however, had known Aziel in life, and in fact the pair had come to mental and physical blows on more than one occasion; Fernand could not shake the impression that Aziel may have been purposefully dismissive or insulting. Regardless, the Apothecary acquiesced with a stiff bow.
‘Certainly. I assure you all that this shall be brief, and to the point.’ The Apothecary directed their attention to a thoroughly labelled diagram written in chalk on the board behind him. ‘Ever since our first landing on Northrend, the RAS has had a great interest in the element known collectively as saronite. In its stable isotopic form, saronite is incredibly inert to physical and magical attacks, which is considered to be the reason behind its widespread use as armour by the Scourge and other groups. Engineers have discovered, however, that the heavy isotope of saronite is highly unstable and can be used as explosive material in so-called ‘saronite bombs’. Naturally, this incongruence warranted further investigation – ‘
‘To the point, Apothecary.’ The female Deathstalker officer interrupted coolly, in the same tone of voice she may have used to slit a man’s throat. Fernand frowned primly, but did as requested.
‘It is all very fascinating work, but very well. In a word, saronite is a fissile element.’ Fernand tapped against the chalkboard at a diagram of a large atom splitting in two. ‘When the heavy isotope is enriched and concentrated, a remarkable phenomenon occurs. With a small application of heat and energy in the form of additional neutrons, the unstable, heavy isotope saronite atom becomes even further destabilised, and the nucleus of the atom is sundered. Essentially, it splits to release further neutrons, and this energy interacts with further atoms, subsequently splitting those as well, in what we are calling a chain nuclear reaction. This continues exponentially (that is one reaction becomes two, two become four, four become eight and so on and so forth) in ... well, to be honest, we have yet to measure the exact rate of this reaction because it happens too quickly to measure accurately. In short, the release of this kind of energy in such a short amount of time results in an explosion that could adequately level numerous city blocks in Stormwind city.’
‘That sounds impressive, Fernand, but you are forgetting that in an ideal scenario we do not wish to destroy the infrastructure of our enemies. Of what use is a hole in the ground to the Forsaken?’ Master Apothecary Faranell tapped a bony claw to his lips.
Fernand smiled primly. ‘That, Master Apothecary, leads me to how this weapon will be invaluable to our ambitions. The energy that is released from this explosion is radioactive – it interacts negatively with living organisms, inevitably killing them. Current results, looking at exposing human, orc and Forsaken test subjects to doses of radiation suggest that both the humans and orcs cannot survive in its presence, whereas Forsaken become lethargic for a short period of time, before developing a tolerance. Thus, with a controlled detonation in the city of Stormwind, the infrastructure will indeed be damaged, but radiation with a half-life of up to a thousand years will cover all of Elwynn Forest. No living being, be they Alliance or Horde, will dare approach in fear of an acute death by radiation sickness. The land will belong to us, the undead, simply because nothing else can inhabit it.’
The dry, emotionless smile still twitching his cracked lips, Fernand approached the conference table and sat with his fellows. Most were nodding thoughtfully. ‘Can I take any questions?’ He asked, rapping his bony fingers on the tabletop.
The Deathstalker was the first to speak. ‘Absolutely not. Such an attack on the Alliance would bring Garrosh down on all of our heads. He would see us as overstepping our bounds, and not only that, but he is concerned enough as it is that we could use the Forsaken Blight against his army – what will he say about this bomb of your’s, Apothecary? The Forsaken would have no allies at all, I can assure you of that.’
‘Now, let us not be so hasty...’ Faranell replied softly. Fernand leant back in his chair and mentally sighed. There did not seem to be any questions about the science forthcoming, but rather, politics. The Apothecary prepared himself for a long, drawn out conversation about the trivialities of governments and political nonsense. Fernand caught Aziel’s demon staring at the Apothecary and drooling, gnashing its teeth at the undead man. This was going to be a long day.
Like any ambitious piece of work, the Deathknell Project was experiencing ups and downs. Several weeks ago, a rather large shipment of titanium had been ‘appropriated’ in transit by the Modas il Toralar, from the AAMS. The original purpose for the metal appeared to be a vehicle of some sort, possibly a flying machine. Fernand was not entirely sure who had been working on the designs, but they were clearly an engineer of noteworthy talent. Now, the titanium was melted and refashioned to form multiple spherical bomb casings. Fernand’s design was simple: an inner hollow core would house concentrated heavy isotope saronite, with an outer shell that would be filled with elemental fire. The two compartments were separated by a thin layer of titanium. Thousands of titanium rods lined the outer shell of the bomb, and connected it to the thin inner layer. Upon activation of the weapon, the rods would compress the outer layer of elemental fire inwards, destroying the thin separating titanium layer and forcing a physical reaction between the fire and excitable saronite. And then physics would do the rest.
The downs were far more concerning. There were problems with mining saronite – after prolonged exposure to the element, subjects were prone to developing paranoia, complex delusions, and even outright hallucinations. In order to combat this problem, Fernand had organised to rotate the slaves involved with direct mining every twelve hours. This merely prolonged the time for insanity to settle into the fragile minds of the Alliance slaves. Now, production had all but dried up to a snail’s pace, as the Toralite slave handlers and guards were forced to put down the slaves that became a danger to themselves and others, and also struggled to capture additional slave labour. Currently, Fernand was spending all of his time in Northrend, either at the captured Scourge factory in Icecrown where he now had a makeshift office and where the saronite bombs were being crafted, or abroad the northern continent with a host of Toralites searching for Alliance soldiers to enslave.
Very rarely, the undead Apothecary managed to have personal time, which he indulged within the floating citadel of Dalaran. It was here that he had a reasonably amiable conversation with a Sin’dorei by the name of Erosielle, and an orc, Krinda. Wandering the streets of Dalaran was an unusual experience for the undead man: almost his entire life had been spent in the city, and he had a memory for every street corner, store and tavern. Over the course of an hour’s walk, he endured a hundred half-remembered experiences of his previous life...many of which involved his fiancé, Ameira. Many times he had wandered past a particular, small, cream cottage with wide bay windows and gardens filled with aromatic herbs. The cottage represented a focal point for his previous existence, before his death during the Scourge attack on Dalaran. Merely looking at the cottage made Fernand uncomfortable – after the better part of six years spent burying all traces of human emotion and connection to his past life, places or objects that held some sort of significance almost took on a threatening posture. But like a person with a sore tooth, who cannot help but occasionally poke at it to test whether it was still there, Fernand could not seem to stop himself from occasionally walking past the cottage. Today was the first time since his death that Fernand stood by the gate with the intention to walk inside. The Forsaken Apothecary placed a bony claw on the gate and pushed it open gently. If his heart could beat, it would undoubtedly have been hammering away with nervous tension.
The first thing Fernand noted as he walked along the stone walkway was that the herbs and flowers in the gardens that flanked the walkway were all wrong. Someone had groomed this particular garden for the northern continent – gone was the peacebloom, silverleaf, mageroyal and kingsblood flowers, to be replaced by Talendra’s roses and golden clover. As he neared the cottage itself, he keenly noted that a fresh coat of paint had been applied since his death, possibly even quite recently. Fernand frowned primly. He had yet to see anyone coming or going from the cottage, but then he had only walked by perhaps half a dozen times in the past year. Clearly someone else lived here now. The Apothecary was considering whether to leave when the door opened, and a plump, mature woman in a ridiculously bright pink robe came bustling down the front stairs. ‘Good morning! Are you my ten o’clock?’ The woman’s cheerful voice matched the brightness of her robe perfectly. Fernand’s frown deepened.
‘Not exactly. My apologies if I have interrupted your schedule.’ He replied in his typical dry, no-nonsense manner.
‘Ah, well, never mind all that, dear. It’s a gorgeous little cottage, but doesn’t take very long to scoot through. If you’re looking for a lovely little place near Dalaran’s central business district, you can’t afford to miss a quick peek inside!’
‘Certainly. Please, lead the way.’ Fernand forced a tight smile, folding his arms behind his back in an antisocial gesture that was obviously lost on the jovial real estate agent. Clearly not one to discriminate against the undead, she placed a pudgy hand upon Fernand’s right upper arm and walked back toward the cottage alongside him. He repressed the urge to wave her off, and settled for a brief glance at his arm to make sure she wasn’t creasing the fabric of his suit.
‘Here we have the living room, quite a cozy little area, don’t you think? This can all come fully furnished, or not, as you prefer.’ She spoke rapidly, almost tripping over her own sentences. Fernand recognised the room intimately, but not the furnishings. Ameira’s favourite leather chairs and their small coffee table were gone, to be replaced by a white lounge devoid of personality and an expensive-looking fireplace installed against the wall. The incongruence of furniture that he did not recognise in a room he once knew every inch of struck him deeper than he thought possible in his undead state. The agent must have mistaken Fernand’s confusion with concerns for the room itself. ‘I know, it’s quite small, but for someone living...or unliving...on their own, it’s really very adequate. The previous owners were a young couple, and they made it work wonderfully. Besides, the light that comes in here from those windows is amazing, and continues on to the kitchen...’
‘You knew the previous owners?’ Fernand asked as he was led to the kitchen. A mental image of he and Ameira preparing breakfast together, him frying eggs over the small stove top and her cutting fruit on the bench, struck him forcefully.
‘Briefly, yes! The young lady, such a beautiful lass, sold the cottage once the magisters transported and reopened the city. She was quite desperate to sell, and I felt so terrible that I couldn’t afford to give her a better price for it.’ The agent quickly patted her way through a selection of the larger cupboards, quickly opening and closing them, and rambling off measurements and other things Fernand was only half listening to.
‘If you don’t mind my asking, why was she so eager to sell the cottage?’
‘Oh, nothing to do with the cottage itself, dear. It’s in perfect shape. From what I gathered, her story was quite a sad, troubled one. She and her fiancé lived here before the Scourge attacked, and they fled south to Stormwind like many others. Well, she managed to get away, but I don’t think he did. Anyway, eight months later, and the poor lass is a single mother with a newborn to care for. We bought the cottage roughly three years ago now, or perhaps a little more. I do hope their financial state is much improved.’
Fernand was no longer listening to her. He physically clutched at the kitchen bench top as his mind reeled from the woman’s rapid, disjointed story. She smiled pleasantly and took him by the arm again. ‘You’re going to adore the bedrooms. Or a single bedroom and a study, whichever suits your needs best –‘
‘Please leave me.’ Fernand interrupted her. He frowned tightly, leaning forward. His dead, blonde hair hung loosely over his forehead. ‘I would greatly appreciate a moment alone, if you could.’
‘Sir?’ She asked, perplexed, as if he’d requested she reverse gravity for a moment or two. ‘I don’t know if that’s entirely appropriate.’
‘Please, just a moment of silence.’
‘But sir –‘
The window above the kitchen bench top cracked in two, an ear-splitting, shocking sound in the enclosed space. The real estate agent gave a surprised gasp and backed away from the window. Fernand’s eyes, typically a dull yellow from the magic that fuelled his existence, glowed the clear blue of pure arcane energy. The air pressure in the room seemed to increase, and static softly crackled around the mage. ‘Leave.’ Fernand turned to face her, his tone finally touched by emotion. It was not pleasant to hear. ‘Leave now.’
The real estate agent fled the cottage without bothering to close the door behind her. Fernand glared at her retreating figure through the broken window, before returning his attention to the garden planted by someone else, outside the only home he had ever known.
The real estate agent, for all of her curious mannerisms, was accurate with her idle gossip. Fernand left the northern continent and travelled to the human capital of Stormwind. Cloaked in layers of invisibility and protective enchantments, the undead Apothecary visited a small, well-to-do home by the harbour, which he had not seen in over a decade. The home belonged to Ameira’s sister and her husband. Fernand did not know the couple well, but as Ameira’s sister was the last of her family, it seemed like a logical place to confirm Fernand’s fears...and hopes. Now, sitting in his makeshift office in the abandoned Scourge factory in Icecrown, Fernand struggled desperately to come to terms with what he learnt.
Her name was Lilienne, and she looked identical to Ameira. Her long blonde hair shone in the sunlight as she ran about the yard with her younger cousins. The way her small nose crinkled upwards when she laughed physically staggered Fernand as he watched; he had seen Ameira make the exact same facial expression countless times. Fernand wanted nothing more than to dispel his invisibility and go to her, but of course he could not. If she knew anything of her father, it would be that he was responsible for the death of her mother, a monster who concocted plagues in a dank sewer for dictators. He dearly hoped she thought he was dead, if she thought of him at all. Lilienne’s life would be infinitely safer and happier if all thoughts of Fernand were buried beneath time and pleasant memories. Sitting with perfect posture in his chair, staring blankly at a wall of frozen rock, Fernand realised that ignorance of his actions would not protect Lilienne. For the first time, he realised with dawning horror that his existence was devoted to the mass murder of an entire species. He had thought that without Ameira’s love, there was no longer a point to ... well, anything. He was willing to do as ordered, and all that he asked for in return was to be left alone with his memories and personal sorrow.
Looking over the manufacturing schematics for the Deathknell Project on his desk, Fernand reached a course of action. He had to ensure that none of this research was ever to be implemented. The humans would have no way to defend themselves against such a weapon, and Lilienne would pay the price for her father’s indifferent evil. Furthermore, he would need to enter the Sanctum and destroy years of work, the Cold Fire Fever amongst other weapons. Aziel would not be pleased. The lich could never know of Lilienne; for Fernand to tell Aziel of her would be to sign her death warrant. He would need to act cautiously. Things were about to become incredibly complicated.
Written in a neat, slightly slanted hand on crisp white parchment.
Lord Aziel V’Ghera,
I would like to consider our relationship to be one of professional mutualism. I apologise in advance, as I may, regretfully, tarnish this beyond repair. By the time you receive this correspondence, I shall have incinerated the cryopreserved stocks of the Modas il Toralar’s bioweapons division, in addition to all working stocks. I have ordered the existing bioweapons to be destroyed, but due to the scale of such an operation, you may have time to countermand this order. I should recommend that you use them sparingly – there shall be no resupplying the division. In addition, I have halted all progress concerning the Deathknell Project. I implore you to disregard any intention of creating and using such an explosive device. If the Modas il Toralar seeks to pursue such a weapon, I fear that I will be forced to act in the interests of Azeroth and its denizens.
We have known each other for a long, long time, since we counted ourselves amongst the living. I have little hope that I can persuade you to be satisfied with what the Modas il Toralar has already accomplished, and to leave the humans in peace. We are both avidly aware of the politics at play behind the Forsaken, and your Order of Shadows; neither you nor Lady Sylvanas will accept the concept of peace until the world has been destroyed and all potential threats to your rule eliminated. I have never been interested in your perfect world, nor am I a soldier or a killer. I do not belong here. As such, please consider this to be a letter of resignation. I have sent a similar correspondence to Master Apothecary Faranell.
I apologise that events have led us to this. For many years now, I have considered myself beyond such emotions as remorse or sympathy. It has taken time, but I believe I may have found something of the man that died in Dalaran all those years ago.
Written in a neat, slightly slanted hand on crisp, white parchment.
Due to extenuating circumstances, I am no longer capable of working on the Deathknell Project. It seems likely that Lord V’Ghera will request you and other engineers of the Order to bring the weapon to completion. I do not wish to make such a request, but for the sake of our friendship (I suppose we can term it such) please do not allow such a weapon to exist. Furthermore, I would also greatly appreciate it if you could not hunt me down and assassinate me, as this seems like another plausible request of Lord V’Ghera.
I fear that we may never interact with one another again, which is truly a shame. I have always respected your efficient manner, attention to detail, and sense of etiquette. I wish that I could explain my actions in greater detail, particularly as by the time you read this, I shall have rendered the Order’s stocks of bioweapons untenable. Suffice it to say, I hope that you will offer me the benefit of the doubt, and trust that what I do, I do for an important purpose. Perhaps the last truly important thing I can possibly accomplish.
I wish you the very best in all of your endeavours,
Edited by Argustus on 4/29/2012 2:35 PM PDT
You were a useful tool; a weapon to be used against my enemies but it seems that mortal tethers still bind you to the man you once were. You know well that which I am and what I was amongst the living. Regrettably, it was my mistake to believe immortality allowed you to see with eyes like mine, to see the world as a conflict of powers devoid of petty moralities.
You disappoint me, Fernand. It seems you are as weak in death as you were in life. Know that this insult warrants more than school boy humiliation (I know you have not forgotten, the memories are there and explain your inability to properly serve as I desire).
You destroy my resources, my property and years of Fel Hand research but to throw away the gifts I so bestowed and defiantly stand against our shadow? No, this cannot be allowed.
Count the days, Fernand. Value each fleeting moment of existence while you can.
Lord Aziel V'Ghera,
High Karcist of the Modas il Toralar
Edited by Aziel on 4/29/2012 7:15 PM PDT
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