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As his mind-projection faded and he returned to himself within his sanctum in Tarren Mill, he was not angered or fearful...rather, he was sadistically pleased. Admittedly, he did like to talk - that was one concession he was willing to grant to Narnicka Stoneheardt. "Words have the capacity of being sharper than a sword and more powerful than the most potent arcane spell," Archbishop Faol had told him nearly forty years ago, when he was in the running for High Priest of Stratholme. "They should be used carefully." And so they have been, he thought. Seeding doubt is far better than just killing them outright. Though making them writhe in agony helps too. He sighed with almost unseemly pleasure at his "visit" to Aerie Peak, watching the mighty Terrans run around like headless chickens. Somewhat disappointing Narnicka did not respond to that, he mused. He's a rock, that one. Just as solid, and twice as cold.
He knew, from the insights he'd gained from Artimus Devaneaux (may he rot in the lowest hell for his treachery, he thought), that Narnicka despised Saavedro - and it largely stemmed from the Devaneaux incident, when Saavedro attempted to undermine him in the search out of a fear that Narnicka would unthinkingly kill the Baron, rather than what eventually happened - the Stoneheardts had saved his life, and (with the meddler's aid) had freed him. Even so, Saavedro had proved he did not trust the Alliance - he waltzed around with his Argent colors and disregarded Stormwind's law. Neither Varian nor anyone in Stormwind's military had bothered to arrest or kill him yet. Perhaps they feared Fordring, the man who slew the Lich King, far more than they admitted. But he still suspected that his old pupil would indeed turn on Genevra; he had turned on the Alliance readily enough to serve an old fool who could not see the legions waiting at his doorstep. (Andorhal was the beginning, and Hearthglen is next, he assured himself.) Genevra was not as willing as Narnicka to discount him so easily...but perhaps her eyes would be opened when he left her in the dust.
Although, he did have to wonder...would she believe that he would betray her? That was her main weakness, one he had made strides to exploit - she trusted people too easily. And in the world after Deathwing - especially among the living - trust was becoming a limited commodity. He knew, from what little he'd gleaned on the Argustus incident, that the Stormwind City Watch had been conducting witch hunts. The incident with Artimus had also spread the seeds of doubt. The Alliance would ultimately rip itself apart from inside, and Saavedro would be forced to watch as his "friends" turned against him.
They were all pawns in a long-running game of shadows...one of which he, Sekhesmet of Stratholme, was an accomplished master.
And that, ultimately, is why I will win.
The crowd gathered outside the laboratory in Tarren Mill as their Shadow Priest prepared to deliver his weekly address to the congregation.
"Brothers and sisters," he began, speaking in Gutterspeak to avoid being overheard by the orc warlord standing near Melisara, "the topic once again covers the living and their interference in our affairs. You may be well aware of the 'healing' that has been underway in Lordaeron under the direction of the tree-huggers and Light-thumpers. Their 'creed', their 'vow', is to restore Lordaeron under the Light and destroy those who 'corrupt' it. Before, it was the Scourge and the Scarlet Crusade. Now they have focused their attentions to us."
Sekhesmet grinned wickedly as he let that sink in. "Yet the Horde we are left to serve is afraid to make a move against these fools, and left us writhing in the dust when the damnable 7th Legion came and negated the gains we'd made in Gilneas. But have we bowed before them? Have we chosen to halt our dreams of conquest simply because Hellscream is too squeamish? NO! We have done no such thing, nor WILL we do such a thing."
The congregration looked at one another, murmuring amongst themselves.
"Let the mortals tremble under their beds; let the braver ones die trying to take back what is not theirs. Because make no mistake, my children...Lordaeron is ours." His hand stretched out towards the north, towards the Western Plaguelands. "You may see the Argent Crusade and their druid friends scurrying to 'heal' the land. They would have seen the battle for Andorhal - that is only a taste of what awaits Hearthglen."
He had them now; the Deathguards in particular were whipped into a frenzy. "In the end, Fordring will submit, flee, or die - he cannot win. And after the living are purged from our land...the rest of the world is next. All Azeroth will fall before the banner of the Dark Lady - for we are Forsaken! We are legion...and we grow with each passing moment!" He raised his fist. "For the Forsaken! Now and forever!"
The crowd erupted, to the confusion of the warlord. "FOR THE FORSAKEN! FOR THE FORSAKEN! FOR THE FORSAKEN!" Pleased, Sekhesmet entered the laboratory to find an attentive-looking man waiting for him - wearing the insignia of the Deathstalkers.
"Dark Eminence, we have located the farseer. He is on his way to Light's Hope Chapel."
"From the air?"
"No, Unholy One. No flyer, no mount at all. The idiot is WALKING. All the way from Hearthglen, no less."
Sekhesmet smiled coldly. "Bring him to me. Alive."
Edited by Sekhesmet on 7/5/2012 8:23 AM PDT
"Captain, I have been requested to hold your ship for a moment by order of the Hand of Argus," said the Azuremyst Peacekeeper waiting at the end of the dock at Valaar's Berth.
Galind Windsword, captain of the Elune's Blessing, frowned at that. "We are on a schedule here, Peacekeeper."
"I understand that, Captain, but Battlelord Velenkayn was most insistent. He came here all the way from Stormwind to speak with you."
"Velenkayn, eh? I remember running him to Auberdine what seemed a lifetime ago, after your people fixed your blood elf mess up in Bloodmyst." Windsword nodded slightly. "Very well, Peacekeeper...I'll speak with him."
The Peacekeeper nodded and turned to the stoic figure in death-emblazoned armor standing behind him, as he stepped onto the ship and up the stairs to the steersman's deck. "I will be as brief as I can, Captain," Velenkayn said, shaking the hand of the night elf captain, and looking pleased that he didn't cringe. "I understand that yesterday around this hour, you had a non-draenei passenger come from the Exodar. Saavedro of Stratholme, a human paladin."
"Yes, I transported Lord Saavedro to Teldrassil. Why?"
"Because you appear to have been the last one to see him here in Azuremyst, and according to the Peacekeepers in the Exodar itself, he left without a word. Do you have any idea where he might have been going from here?"
"Nowhere in Kalimdor, if I'm any judge. He took another ship, a rather dark-looking thing, no flags that I could see. Ex-pirate, perhaps. Ship was the...Sword of Acherus, I think it was called."
Aximand, Velenkayn thought. He knew that renegade Forsaken death knight Eliphas Aximand, now admiral of Artimus Devaneaux's ex-Bloodsail flotilla, did occasional transport runs with both Artimus and Saavedro. But what could he be asking the pirate for now? "Did you happen to see the ship leave? Any idea of a direction?"
"Well, the Teldrassil-Stormwind route goes up to the northeast around northern Kalimdor, so that's a start. Where they went from there, that's the trick. But that ship, I hear, runs to the old dockside in that ruined town in eastern Lordaeron."
"Thank you, Captain. You may depart when you are ready...I shall accompany you back to Teldrassil and investigate further." He nodded to the Peacekeeper. "Please report this to the Triumvirate." It had been Vindicator Kuros, the Second Triumvir, who had alerted him to Saavedro's disappearance.
So, he's likely heading back to Lordaeron, he thought. Off to go hunt Sekhesmet, no doubt. But why take the pirate, and why go alone? He could easily reach that part of Lordaeron on his own, by opening a death gate back to Acherus. But first, he had to return to Stormwind...there was someone he wished to speak to first.
The draenei struggled with his bonds as the Dreadguards threw him to the ground in the courtyard of Tarren Mill. He looked up at the robed figure standing before him, carrying a hammer and staff - both bearing defaced symbols of the Light. His lips curled in a snarl. "Sekhesmet."
"Welcome to Tarren Mill, Ambassador Jaeden'laek. I trust you've found your journeys through Lordaeron...satisfying?" Sekhesmet grinned, gesturing to the guards to bring him back to his feet. "Now then, I have a few questions for you." He pulled a vial from a pouch at his belt, filled with blue liquid. "And you will answer truthfully."
"There is no 'or', Ambassador." He raised the vial for the draenei to see. "This is a truth serum. Admittedly, it would be easier to go through your mind myself, but my powers would destroy it, given how long I would need to find this information...and I need your brain intact. At least for now. Alchemy suffices." The shadow priest yanked the tentacles hanging from Jaeden'laek's chin to force his mouth open, then poured the serum down his throat, forcing his jaw shut so he could not spit it. He stepped back, waiting for a moment, before he began. "Now then, Ambassador - your student, the goblin. Where is he? I know he spies for you - and for Saavedro."
Jaeden'laek gritted his teeth, trying to avoid giving the information demanded of him. "I...do not...know. He has a residence...at Bilgewater Harbor, but...he travels a lot. He is a shaman. He lives...on the land."
"I see. Well, that makes things a bit more difficult." Sekhesmet chuckled. "Of course, I did not expect this thing to be easy. And your prophecy. The land of mists, the balanced warrior. What did you mean by that?"
"I...am not sure.." The draenei's face scrunched up in pain. "Supposedly...missing lands...in the South Seas. A connection...the warrior is connected."
Sekhesmet considered this. There were rumors that the mythic supercontinent of Kalimdor had had more landmass to it than the major portions seen today, even with the land that had been ripped apart and sent to the bottom of the newly-formed Great Sea after the Sundering ten millennia before. Perhaps there was another land out there in the south...after all, Kalimdor had been considered a myth until a decade or so ago, while Northrend - while not exactly mythical, per se - had been a land of mystery. He wondered for a moment why no one had ever discovered it. The supposed "mists", no doubt...
And this fool thinks that Saavedro will defeat me, and it will be there, he thought. Not if I deal with him first. "Thank you for your...honesty, Ambassador," he said at last. "We will speak more later." He nodded to the Dreadguards. "Take him to the laboratory. Keep him there."
"At once, Dark Eminence."
Saavedro stood on a ridge just outside Tarren Mill, looking down into the Forsaken-corrupted town. The quiet movement was eerie; he supposed the Forsaken didn't really need to bustle about like people in "living towns" did.
Pulling his magnifier goggles from his belt, he placed them on his head and zoomed in, searching. This was Sekhesmet's home base, the town the Forsaken's debased religion had assigned him to as its priest. But where was he? Was he here? Or had he run to hide in the catacombs of the Undercity?
Wait...approaching from the northwest. Yes, there he is...hmm, those aren't Forsaken colors on his tabard. He zoomed in...and gave out a little gasp. "By the Light..."
A golden eight-pointed star on a greenish-gray field...a symbol Saavedro had seen before. He'd heard Vendross talk about it, from his encounters with Kael'amand...the sigil of the Modas il Toralar.
Light preserve us, Sekhesmet is part of the Modas? His jaw clenched. Then he must have been there the other night. Word had come from Hearthglen that a group of "low characters", led by a blood elf sorcerer, had been spotted in Sorrow Hill...and after they left, they found the tomb of Uther, defaced with shadow-runes. Now you die, you wretch... He removed his goggles and picked up his axe, preparing to move down --
-- when suddenly he was grabbed from behind by a giant plate-mailed hand. "And where do you think you are going?" came a low, lightly accented voice from behind him - with the faint echo of death.
"To kill this bastard for his crimes, Velenkayn. Now let me go and do my duty."
"Your duty does not include leaving your friends and comrades in the dust, Saavedro," Velenkayn admonished him. "The Hand of Argus was running in circles all over Azuremyst looking for you. Next time you want to go off on a vendetta ride, let us know first?"
"This is not your batt--"
"Artimus was my friend too, Saavedro. You are not the only one with...how do you humans say it...a bone to pick with Sekhesmet."
"Quiet, fools!" hissed Eidan Zherron. "Someone is being brought out from their sludge lab." His eyes narrowed for a moment - then widened. "By the Scythe. Battlelord, look."
Velenkayn nodded sadly. "Jaeden'laek..."
Saavedro turned back to the courtyard, where the draenei farseer was brought before the priest.
The Dreadguards stood at attention, rifles at their shoulders. Sekhesmet smiled pitilessly. "Well, then, Ambassador, it seems your friends have not abandoned you after all...my Deathstalker agent saw them entering Hillsbrad from the seacoast, and are likely out on the ridge looking over us." He patted the bound draenei on the shoulder mockingly. "Well, then...maybe they will rescue you from your executioners."
"I suppose you do not need my brain intact anymore, abomination," Jaeden'laek replied calmly. "Such a pity. You only bare your throat to the wolves all the more willingly."
"Spare me your philosophy, blueblood. Nothing you say will change my destiny...not even your prophecy of my downfall. I will kill Saavedro and make you wrong, and when this 'warrior of Shadow and Light' comes, I will kill him too. It is a shame you will not be with us to see Lordaeron - and then all Azeroth - under the banner of the Shadow." He nodded to the Dreadguard. "Captain."
"Dreadguard! Make...ready!" The sound of ten hammers clicking into position could be heard across the courtyard. "Aim!" The rifles were pointed directly in the shaman's direction.
Jaeden'laek looked up, and - on a ridge overlooking the courtyard - he could see three figures. A worgen, likely Zherron...Velenkayn, gleaming axe on his back...and the white gold armor of Saavedro. To Sekhesmet's surprise, he smiled. "In the land of mists, his plans undone!" he shouted, loud enough for his friends to hear him. "In blood, the price of evil paid! GO! The time is not upon us!"
Sekhesmet spun around, his eyes widening at the sight of the three meddlers. Quaking with rage, he turned back to the Dreadguards. "FIRE!"
As the bullets ripped through his body, the Farseer Jaeden'laek was content. He knew that retribution would come for this monster - but it was unfortunate he would not live to see it. As he pitched forward onto the ground, he could hear a sweet voice, as angelic as the chimes of the naaru.
Child of the elements, who art ever beloved by the spirits, thy time upon this earth is done...
Saavedro awoke to see sunlight coming through the window, and the sound of birdsong. For a moment he thought he was back in Hearthglen, until he saw the familiar face of Brother Sammuel. "Northshire."
"Yes, Saavedro. You've been here two days." That was not the voice of Sammuel, however...but rather of Eidan Zherron, who nodded his lupine head to the Abbey's paladin mentor. Sammuel bowed and gave them the room. "How're you feeling?"
"Groggy. Have I been out that whole time?" Saavedro gazed sleepily at him. "What the hell happened?"
Zherron grinned sheepishly as he pulled a small vial from his pouch. "Knock-out potion. We had to carry you back to the ship running like we had a hundred Forsaken Dreadguards running after us. Which we did..."
"You didn't stand and fight?" The paladin was furious. "You didn't let ME stand and fight?!"
"If we had, Saavedro, we would be dead. We have our own powers, and formidable ones at that - but we're not invulnerable. If we're going to torch Tarren Mill, we need an army at our back, and given your reputation with the military, I doubt you'll get much help in that regard." Zherron raised a clawed hand, his amber eyes glaring. "No more questions, Saavedro. You will stay right here, and I have Liam on call with Marshal McBride and his troops to make sure you do. You're not going to pull another disappearing act, or the next time Velenkayn and I go after you, we're going to kill you and bring back your head for wasting our damn time. And don't think for a second I'm joking."
"How dare you --"
Zherron's right hand grasped Saavedro's throat. "Be silent and think for a moment, you moron! You act all high and mighty, and leave all your friends in the dust. Liam told me that Sekhesmet warned Genevra that you'd do that to her - and I'm starting to wonder if maybe he was right." His grip tightened when Saavedro glared at him. "If you prefer, we could have left you at the mercy of the Forsaken, to suffer Ambassador Jaeden'laek's fate. Light only knows what torture he went through before they finally killed him." He finally released his grip, leaving the paladin gasping. "I'm willing to help you in this matter, Saavedro. But if you're going to act like an arrogant snob, then to hell with you."
Then he was gone.
Edited by Saavedro on 7/12/2012 7:56 AM PDT
Sekhesmet threw the head of the Deathguard captain against the wall, where it shattered with a wet crunch. He threw the man's ichor-stained sword to the ground. "A hundred men and they can't kill three?"
"They had help from the seacoast, Dark Eminence," the Deathstalker pointed out. "The traitor captain. Traitor admiral, actually."
"Aximand? Here? And no one bothered to point this out?" Sekhesmet glared at his agent, who took two cautious steps back. "You should share the captain's fate, but good help is so hard to find these days. Consider yourself lucky. For now."
"Thank you, lord."
Sekhesmet was left to fume...and ponder. It makes sense they turn to a renegade like Aximand. He knows the coasts of this land just as well as they know the inland. A curious thought struck him. Why did they have to carry him back...?
"Dark Eminence," came the voice of another Deathstalker, a courier. "I've been asked to carry this message to you, delivered to the Sepulcher. It's from Stormwind, and it uses the correct ciphers."
Sekhesmet perked up a bit as he accepted the missive. He had cultivated an alliance with a fellow who had managed to be accepted into the Conclave - Genevra Stoneheardt's informal organization of historians and craftsmen, as well as a few battle-hardened veterans of the various wars - after he'd offered his services as an engineer and scribe. He knew he had to be very cautious around Saavedro - like Sekhesmet, he had a bone to pick with the puritanical whelp - but he felt reasonably certain that no one would really know who he was. His task was three-fold: Gather information on Genevra's movements, keep a watch on Saavedro without being caught...and possibly find out more about this renegade priestess, Nynra, who he knew was part of Genevra's inner circle.
By the Shadows, he goes on and on, he thought as he read the report. One of his people's drawbacks to speaking Common, I'd wager. "Well," he said at last. "A bit of good news for today."
Edited by Sekhesmet on 7/12/2012 8:11 AM PDT
Genevra's mind reeled with each passing moment. The news that Velenkayn brought about Saavedro and Jaeden'laek was disturbing to say the least. It seemed as if those who sought to end the life of Sekhesmet were diminishing each day. He was winning.
No. She argued with herself, for that is what this was, a struggle, one that she had fought her entire life: to find understanding and balance within the Light...and the Shadow. Somehow this Forsaken was able to draw out the worst in people, to get them to turn upon one another. If they did not stand strong, find a means to protect one another, from him and soon, the death toll would continue.
How many more would falter before she had the strength and foresight to attack again? He had been so close to capture, so foolish to make himself known to her at Lakeshire. Genevra had seen within his mind, just has he had seen within hers. She would not sulk and take pity on herself. It was time for action.
Edited by Genevra on 7/12/2012 3:21 PM PDT
"An interesting group of people. Far too trusting, blind to the realities they see."
Rakeri Sputterspark walked from the Forlorn Cavern late that night, while Ironforge was quiet. He muttered in Eredun under his breath to his cobra familiar, Renni - named for his late sister, flung to her death from Deathwing's back during the great flight across the sea. ("She was a snake too," he would explain with a sneer to anyone who asked.)
"A damnable waste of good material, my friend," he continued as he made his way to the gryphon master to fly to Chillwind Point, where he would meet his contact in Andorhal. "Such spirited souls...shackled to concepts of Light and order. I pity them. Order is an outmoded concept...anarchy is the true way." He smiled to himself. "Even the deadman will be left by the wayside in the end."
Rakeri had learned to value his independence. After spending agonizing months as a mechagnome - warped by Mechazod, damaged in Ulduar, and then made into a menial servant-droid by Saavedro of Stratholme - and then having to bow at the Corruptor's beck and call after being "Feltouched" by the blood elf warlock Linavil Shadowsun, Rakeri had decided enough was enough, and went out on his own way. He sought to serve only himself - not some crazy orc or blood elf...not even his people's own leader. Mekkatorque is too weak to lead Gnomeregan, he thought. I made a mistake of supporting him...though Thermaplugg would have been far worse. He firmly believed that Operation: Gnomeregan, the great push that had resulted in the building of New Tinkertown outside the city gates, had been in spite of Mekkatorque's leadership, not because of it.
The deadman's offer seemed reasonable enough - just observe the weaklings and report, and he could have all the power he wished. As part of the Conclave, though, Rakeri had heard that Genevra kept a locked library full of the knowledge he sought - proscribed books on demonology, kept by the few warlocks she allowed into her organization. Powerful warlocks - ones who made the priest look like a target dummy. If this rumor was true, it was only a matter of getting access...but he had to be patient.
"For now, we will play the patsy," he said as the cobra wrapped itself around his waist for the journey to Lordaeron. He stroked the cobra's scaled head. "When we meet him again, we will be the master."
Edited by Rakeri on 7/16/2012 9:14 AM PDT
((Just wanted to chime in and mention I've been following this one on the CC.org, and...wow, just wow. Awesome work, everyone who's posted, and the illustrations that accompany the entries on CC.org are brilliantly done! This is a terrific story, and I look forward to continuing reading this.))
Edited by Drakehide on 7/17/2012 2:58 AM PDT
Saavedro knelt alongside the bench next to the door to the Cathedral and gently laid a hand on the ground, grimacing with disgust. It had been here. "So, he was inside the Cathedral with his little trick," he said to himself. "Damn warlocks."
As he had been discussing mutual woes with Genevra in the basement hall of the Cathedral, he had spotted the greenish orb of an Eye of Kilrogg at the foot of the ramp. Moving quickly, he had gone up into the Cathedral, searching carefully (and quietly to avoid notice), until coming here to the entrance. The miasma of shadow magic was fresh; the warlock had only been here a moment or so earlier.
Spying on Genevra - or him? He was not sure. He knew Genevra was a high-priority target for other dark magic users besides Sekhesmet...and he was too. He shrugged to himself as he stood, exiting the Cathedral and approaching the wondrous sculpture of the Lightbringer in the courtyard. As he did, he noticed out the corner of his eye a gnome attired in a finely-tailored suit with the sigil of Gnomeregan on his tabard, wearing thick green lenses, riding a mechanostrider. The gnome, noticing the scrutiny, gazed at him for a long moment, then gave a slow nod. Saavedro returned it, wondering why the gnome looked so familiar. Northrend, I want to say, he thought. The Fizzcrank station, perhaps?
He shrugged to himself as the gnome turned and rode away, sitting down next to the fountain to think.
Rakeri saw that Saavedro recognized him - but not as a potential antagonist.
As he rode away, back to the Deeprun Tram, he smiled to himself; even Saavedro did not suspect him. This will be easier than I could have imagined, he thought. Still, he had to be cautious. As the old saying went - if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't...
Sekhesmet could not help but smile as he watched the gnome rogue vanish...but inwardly, he felt his embalming fluid coming to a boil. A damned spy, in HIS town. And he had a suspicion as to who sent him; Saavedro would not rely on spies, he would come himself - as he did that one day. That left Genevra...who, for all that she was a cowardly wretch who sent her minions to do her own dirty work, had a sharper mind than he had given her credit for. He would not underestimate her again.
I will not involve the Modas at this juncture, he thought as he went to arrange a bat ride back to Undercity with Zarise. Not yet. Genevra is probing, observing only - as my agent in Stormwind is doing. When she unleashes her war dogs, then I call on the Shadows to strike. Still, he had to admit, he was worried. She knows to send investigators to Tarren Mill. The lab is watched. He shifted the bag he carried - with his alchemical materials, as well as his journals - to his front for the journey, suddenly thankful he had nothing "down there" to worry about.
So you have your information, Genevra, he thought as he rode across Hillsbrad towards Tirisfal. Let's see now what you do with it.
"I returned to Tarren Mill with Liam after word came from your agent..." Eidan Zherron was seated in the upstairs parlor of the Stoneheardt house in Lakeshire, across from Genevra.
"What news do you bring?"
Zherron shook his head. "Liam looked through the lab - it was empty. Like no one has ever used it. I think your spy spooked him."
"Dammit." Genevra looked irritated. "That was not my intention. I had to have confirmation he was in the north and not in the Undercity any longer."
"Well, that's the weird thing," the Packleader went on. "I received a message from Darkshire, from a friend in the Night Watch."
"He was spotted with a group of Modasi in their town that evening. Apparently they attacked the mayor and his council."
"The Modas..." The priestess sighed.
"The Watcher told me that, as far as she knew, they had come from the east. From the direction of Deadwind Pass."
"The old manor there?"
"Possibly. Or they flew over the pass from the Swamp of Sorrows; the Horde maintains an outpost there. I sent Liam with one of Lahkin's men - Varsil, I think his name was - to investigate the Pass, just to be sure. Since we know what's down in that hellish place."
"So they have come from the outpost?" Genevra asked. "Or...what else do we know, then?"
"I spoke with Saavedro when I returned from Lordaeron, and mentioned what the Night Watcher had told me. He speculates that the Modas may have entered Karazhan." Saavedro had been horrified by that possibility; even after years of plundering by overzealous explorers (and the deaths of countless others), Karazhan still held immense power.
"To what end?"
"The Modas are drawn to power, and what other nexus of power is there in this part of the East?"
Genevra still looked puzzled. "Many of the artifacts there are known, and those that aren't...well, aren't. What would be the point?"
Zherron shook his head. "I know not. Saavedro told me of the things he had seen in the place - giving credence to the rumors the tower was haunted." Saavedro had been among those lucky enough to make it through Karazhan alive, back during the war for Outland, when the tower - not far from the Dark Portal - had opened itself, having spent more than twenty years sealed from the world after Medivh's death.
"It is known that it is a place not to be trifled with," Genevra agreed.
Zherron nodded. "Places of magic often aren't. It's why I try and avoid them, I admit. I prefer the magic of nature, the things the Circle taught me. The arcane...frightens me." Only in such private conversation, and only with someone like Genevra, could he make such an admission.
"If there is one thing I am certain of, it is that there is magic worthy of being fearful of," Genevra replied sternly. "And the arcane is not that knowledge."
The Packleader smiled. "I'm Gilnean, Genevra - we're not particularly fond of that sort of thing...though we've had a lot more mages and shadow-casters come forward in the days since the Fall." He shrugged. "I prefer to leave the magic to the mages, if you know what I mean."
Genevra nodded. "I know that trust does not come easily, indeed that it does..."
Zherron pulled his pipe from his vest, filled it with fresh moonleaf, and lit it. He puffed thoughtfully as he said, "I admit to being curious, something I heard from that monster's lips...do you think Saavedro will turn on you? That he will become the enemy?" It was one of the dire pronouncements that Sekhesmet had made - including right outside this very house.
"I do not believe that those of us who serve the Light - not idly, but truly - can be made to work against one another," Genevra replied with a shake of her head. "If I did, then all hope would be lost."
"There are no small few who think it already is," Zherron pointed out. "There are times Saavedro himself concerns me with his pessimism...and what I fear is growing madness. First Artimus Devaneaux, then Ambassador Jaeden'laek." The latter loss was a particular blow to Zherron and his pack; the Farseer had provided a great deal to them since the exodus from Gilneas.
"That is what Sekhesmet wants. He wants us to be divided and without hope. Do not let him win."
"I do not intend to, Genevra...when all is said and done, I will mount his head right next to the Butcher's in the Howling Oak. That I promise you."
"When that day is upon us I will sleep easier."
"As will I," the Packleader agreed. "As will we all."
Edited by Zherron on 7/22/2012 7:19 PM PDT
It was a calm and quiet evening as she sat outside the Stoneheardt home, praying softly under her breath, her usual devotions to the Light. Her dim yellow eyes were closed, heavily masked as she sat near the lake, her prayers filling the evening.
An odd screech gave her pause, and she looked to a fleeing figure atop a small mechanical strider, frowning to herself.
There is a watcher...
She was getting paranoid, too paranoid. Of course she was getting paranoid, considering what had happened near Genevra's home recently...
Taking up her ceremonial staff, she went to investigate. Whatever, or whoever it was, should be known if they're poking around the area.
Caro'thel Vendross stood alone in the west wing of Stormwind Keep overlooking the Eastern Earthshrine, holding a ring inbetween his fingers, tears running down his face. Packleader Zherron had returned from Lordaeron earlier that evening, and delivered it to him.
"We found the remnants of the patrol in the woods west of Andorhal," Zherron had explained solemnly. "Fel-awful mess...all told, around a dozen, and their hippogryphs too, all torn to pieces. I found this on one of their hands..." He had then handed the mage the ring. The seal on the ring was an owl grasping a spear - the owl symbolizing knowledge, and the spear symbolizing the defense of that knowledge.
It was the signet of House Vendross, passed down five generations from Lord Tal'nevra, then Tara'thel the Elder, then Kal'teris, then Tierna, then Tara'thel the Younger. When he was a boy, in Eldre'Thalas, he had often wondered what it would be like to be a Highborne lord, maybe even head of House, if Tara'thel refused to take it when their father died...and now, Caro'thel, the younger son of Tierna, was lord of House Vendross.
Now he wished for any other fate in the universe.
"Who did this, Eidan?" he had whispered, surprising the Packleader with his familiarity (a good sign, he judged)...but the mage's eyes were bright with anger. "Who could do such a thing?"
Zherron had gazed at him grimly - like Vendross, his eyes were amber in color. "I think I know who did it, Caro'thel. And I think you do too." He had then straightened, and taken a formal tone. "I will provide members of my pack to provide protection if you require it, Lord Vendross. They can move unseen where more overtly-placed elven guards cannot."
Vendross' fist had clenched around the ring, and he had held it to his lips for a long moment. Then finally, he said, "Thank you, Packleader. If I require such protection, I shall take you up on your offer. For now, however, I will remain here before returning to Dalaran."
Zherron had inclined his head, and walked silently away. Vendross had stood here since, gazing out at the lake, the earthshrine...the great fragment of the Destroyer's corroded metal jaw, all that remained after Thrall had destroyed him. Zherron had promised, for the priest's crimes, that Sekhesmet's head would be mounted next to that of the Butcher of the Northgate, Varan Metheius, at the Howling Oak in Darnassus.
When that time came, the new Lord Vendross promised himself, he would be there to witness it.
Varsil sighed as he leaned his gun against the doorway of his room at the Scarlet Raven Tavern in Darkshire, sipping from a tankard of beer. He and Liam Branscombe had just returned from a mission, at the request of Packleader Zherron, to scout the Deadwind Pass for signs of Sekhesmet and the Modas. Liam had already gone back to Stormwind to report to Zherron, but Varsil wanted to check again. So he prepared a note to be sent to Aerie Peak by gryphon courier.
To Commander Lahkin Stoneheardt:
Edited by Varsil on 9/1/2012 9:40 AM PDT
Threats of violence. We take these seriously and will alert the proper authorities.
Harassing or discriminatory language. This will not be tolerated.