The woman�s slender fingertips slid over the items in the curio shop, stroking them as one might a cat. Her long crimson nails raked over the bleached bone of a human skull, drifting down the glass shelf to a jar filled with milky, translucent fluid. Eye stalks appeared to be suspended in yellowed gelatin, shriveled pink lids veiling pale blue, golden, purple, brown, and red irises. A single eyebrow arched as she noticed one suddenly blink, the stem wriggling upward to focus on her face. She quickly withdrew her hand to explore the next shelf down, where a lavishly carved wooden box demanded her attention. She slid the top back to reveal a spiral wand, an orb fastened to the tip that sparkled with an inner glow.
�That belonged to Medivh himself. At only five hundred gold, it�s a steal,� the shopkeeper spoke, voice whispery and paper-thin. Hunched over an open box, only the left side of his profile showed. Thick, shoulder-skimming steel-grey locks framed a wizened but handsome face. A smirk crept across her lips and she nodded slowly, stifling a snicker. �It normally sells for seven, at least, but since you seem like a nice young lady��
She rested her full weight to one side, cocking her hips. As the shopkeeper caught notice of these gestures, he grinned and turned to reveal the other side of his face. The hair hung in limp, blackened strings and the face sagged as though it were melting from his bones. Elisia could only speculate that a spell had gone horribly, horribly wrong. She wrinkled her nose and pursed her lips in disgust before she turned her back to him. �You break it, you bought it, lady,� he mumbled, pulling packages out of large boxes and pasting tiny bits of yellowed parchment to them. He was elbow-deep in a shipment of bat wings.
She was examining a massive, worn tome on a pedestal, flipping through its fragile, tattered pages when a flourish of robes caught her eye. A second patron had entered the shop, shrouded in long sanguine and black robes, face shielded behind a hood pulled low. The whispers started.
Darknesss� they hissed. A Great Darknesss! You mussst find the knowledge� and ussse it, warlock. Ussse it.
A sinister grin twisted the shopkeeper�s half-gnarled lips cruelly as he spoke in hushed tones with the patron. Fear was evident in his watery grey eyes as he handed the customer a polished onyx box. The shrouded figure dropped a heavy pouch of coin that tinkled when it landed. The shopkeeper snatched up the pouch of gold, palmed it greedily, and uneasily shifted his weight from foot to foot, eager for the patron to leave so that he could count and cradle each coin. The figure turned, regally, and stared straight at Elisia. No face was visible, just an empty darkness beneath the hood. She felt her insides seize.
The whispers, like writhing snakes, hissed within her mind. And as quickly as they had started, they stopped. With that vacant face staring at her, a new voice, deep and resonant, echoed through her consciousness.
It is nearly time for you to live up to your potential, young sorceress. Be prepared. You will be called upon soon.
The stranger whirled and strode over the doorway�s threshold, taking the voice with him. Her eyes were glued to his back, watching him disappear down the cobblestone street at a brisk pace until he passed from view. When she finally tore her eyes from the space he had occupied, she leaned against the doorjamb to steady herself. Ignoring the man behind the counter and his fool�s grin, she gathered her cloak about her and left for home.
Elisia opened the heavy double doors to her boudoir and swept into the room. Calling for Syva, her succubus, she unclasped her robe with shaking fingers and slipped on a black silk dressing gown, the fluid fabric hugging every curve. She settled onto her chaise lounge, reclining in front of floor-to-ceiling picture windows that overlooked Duskwood, dark trees swaying with the breeze. The burgundy velvet drapes parted to reveal gauzy black curtains that matched the ones hanging from the bedposts.
Syva appeared, her hooves clicking softly over the marble floors, leathery wings gently beating.
"Merlot, Syva. The thirty year vintage," Elisia instructed, full ready at this point for the comfort of her most expensive cask of wine.
While Syva fetched it, Elisia decided to bathe in her marble tub, longing for the heat of the water to steady her nerves. The curve of her hips swayed as she walked toward the bathing room.
She let the black silk puddle on the creamy marble floor, bending over to draw the hot water. She uncorked a vial sitting on the edge of the expansive soaking tub and poured a dollop of the thick liquid into the flow cascading from the gold-plated faucet. Immediately the bath began to bubble and foam, the aroma of dreamfoil permeating the air.
She stepped in and sank into the steaming, scented water, the tension easing slightly. Just as she settled in, Syva appeared with her wine and a glass. The demoness tapped the small cask and let it pour into the glass, the dark merlot tumbling over itself. She placed it into Elisia�s waiting hand. Elisia dismissed the succubus with a single nod.
She swirled the glass slowly, watching the dark liquid spin before bringing it to her nose and inhaling deeply. The scent was pungently dark. Finally, her lips touched the rim as she sipped the rich, heady liquid, letting it bathe her tongue before sliding down her throat.
By the time she drained her third glass, her mind was swimming. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes, feeling herself sink into a dream-like state � not quite sleeping, but not quite awake, either.
A witch, Lilly. Your sister is one of those witches! And she�s been in OUR house. With OUR children! I don�t care. I�m sending for them.�
Her father�s face was a mottled purple, callousness piercing his words like rusty barbs.
�No Darin� please� they�ll burn her�� her mother pleaded for her sister�s life, on her knees before her husband, sobbing. �Please Darin� Please!�
He pushed her away from him. �She is a witch, Lilly. A witch in our own family� Damn it, I won�t cover up for your witch whore of a sister,� he snarled, his voice terrible but his face worse. He called for the servant boy, his voice clipped and his blue eyes cold as he instructed him to ride from their estate in Duskwood to Stormwind and bring the authorities back with him.
Lillian�s small frame was wracked with sobs as she held herself tightly, auburn locks plastered to her once-pretty, now well-worn face. Her eyes were dark shadows of what they once were, haunted by the man she married.
Little Elisia pressed her face through the slats of the mahogany banister, her large, glittering blue eyes filling with tears at the sight of her mother so besieged by grief.
Just then, a hollow knock came from the heavy front doors. Lillian wailed, and Darin slapped her, hard, his cruel eyes flashing.
�If you say anything to her, Lillian, so help me Light you will live to regret it. Get up to the bedroom,� he commanded, pulling her up by the hair and pushing her toward the stairway. She stumbled up the stairs. Elisia slid behind a corner, tears cascading down her small pink cheeks, watching her mother climb the stairs one at a time, hand over hand on the banister. Darin waited until she had disappeared down the hallway before opening the door. Elisia peeked around the corner to watch, wondering exactly what he meant by witch. Did she cast spells? What kind of spells? She couldn�t imagine her beloved aunt ever hurting anyone.
Her favorite aunt had arrived, fiery red hair tumbling in curls that reached to her waist. Sea green eyes shimmered from behind kohl-lined lashes as she offered Darin a polite smile. Her skin was the color of cream, dappled by a smattering of freckles. She bowed her head to him.
�Hello, Darin. May I come in?� She said, her head cocked slightly to the side. She seemed to be able to feel the tension hanging in the air. �Where are Lilly and the girls?�
Darin opened the door wider after his eyes swept the landscape behind her. She stepped through and started to shed her cloak. Elisia�s heart leapt. She knew her father would be angry if she tried to talk to Aunt Avelynn, but she could hardly contain herself.
�Annie is sleeping and I think Lilly is dress-shopping in Stormwind,� he lied, keeping his voice even. The sheer emotional void in his pale eyes startled Elisia. It reminded her of the nights when he came to touch her� but no, she would not think about that.
�And Elisia?� She asked, her eyes wary. Yes, she knew something was not right.
�Her room, I suppose,� her father said, shrugging.
Elisia wiggled and struggled against the urge to bound down the stairs into Auntie Avelynn�s arms. Avelynn started to climb the stairs, a milky white, delicate hand on the banister.
�No, Avelynn,� he said, his voice soft and deep, with an eerie quality in it. He grabbed her sides and pulled her off the first stair step. �No.�
Her pale brows knitted and she regarded him suspiciously. �No?�
Wrapping his large hands firmly against her hips, he pushed her against the wall. Elisia wanted to scream, but she dare not make a sound. She knew what was happening. She knew that odd sound in his voice and what it meant. Like he was trying to be nice, but he wasn�t going to be� he never was when he talked like that.
Avelynn pushed hard against him. �Darin� what in Light�s name do you think you�re doing?� she struggled against him, digging one shoulder into his barrel chest. He pinned her arms against the wall and leaned in to kiss her.
�Darin, Darin no! You are my sister�s hus�� He silenced her with the mashing of his lips against hers. He would take whatever he wished, and no one would protest. He was king of his household, and by Light, he would have what he wanted tonight without consequences, since he knew what would happen to her.
What he didn�t expect was the utterance of what sounded like muffled, garbled words, and the unexpected pain in his stomach. He doubled over, letting her go, screeching �Witch! Witch!� She dashed up the stairs, spying Elisia�s cobalt blue eyes welling with tears. Sweeping up the small child in her arms, she darted into Elisia�s bedroom, locking the door behind her.
Heavy footfalls pelted the stairs and the floor outside the door. Elisia wrapped her arms around her aunt and sobbed. Avelynn held her while Darin pounded the double doors, attempting to break through them.
�My dear child, look at me, look at me�� Avelynn spoke, her light green eyes as calming as the seas crashing against the shore. She took Elisia�s small hands in both hers.
Some time after the pounding stopped, Elisia could hear the front door open. The messenger boy was back, guards in tow. The sound of heavily mailed feet clattered up the stairway and toward the bedroom. Voices rose and fell, but Elisia couldn�t hear them. All she could hear was the soothing, sweet sound of Avelynn�s voice.
�Elisia, sweet Elisia� how young you are�� Avelynn kissed both her cheeks, still grasping her hands. �I�I�m going away. But I�ll always be with you. Always. I promise you that. You may not understand that now, but you will. I leave you with a gift, Elisia, a gift that lives inside you so that you will never be alone.�
Elisia could do nothing but cry, her tiny body wracked with the force of her grief. Grief for her mother, her aunt, herself.
Avelynn began to softly chant as the door bent and bowed with the force of the guards� blows. A strange purple glow surrounded the two of them, passed from woman to girl as the words grew in intensity. Elisia heard strange whispers entering her mind, saying things she did not understand. They filled her thoughts. Just as the door burst open did the last of the gift pass.
�I love you, Elisia. Please remember� I will always be there�� The guards ripped her away. Darin sneered in her face as she was hauled past. �Burn at the stake, witch. You will no longer corrupt my wife or my children.�
The last view Elisia had of her beloved aunt was the serenity that washed over her face as she allowed the guards to carry her, flaming curls haloing her face. Her eyes locked with Elisia�s as the whispers wrapped their way through her mind.
�I am here, little one, and this is where I shall always be, no matter what happens to my worldly body.�
Years later, Elisia would discover what had happened that night to her closest friend and most beloved relative� they had burned her alive. She did not even cry out as her body was consumed in flame, the papers said. So strong was the corruption of this witch that she smiled� yes smiled as the flame ate through her flesh� but was not powerful enough to stop it. The columnist went on to make light of the fact that all warlocks talked big, but none of them could prevent the inevitable.
Elisia�s eyes swept over the students� heads as she answered their questions following her lecture. About twelve of the eager-faced youths sat in a semi-circle around her in the basement of The Slaughtered Lamb tavern, laced around the outside with the ones who had asked her to speak. There was one, though, that she did not recognize. A shape stood in the corner of the room, cowl of his hooded black cloak pulled low over his face, so that all she could see in the flickering firelight was a strong, squared jaw and masculine lips upturned at the corners in a slight smile. The stranger�s arms were crossed over his chest, and a black boot with the top turned down was propped casually against the wood-paneled walls.
�Lady La`Roche, your staff does so much! Where did you get such a magical item?� one student asked, her big, brown doe eyes full of admiration for the woman.
�The staff is a tool used for additional concentration when casting. Used properly, it can bolster one�s spells, but it is the caster who is ultimately responsible for the magic, not the item. Another weapon or item can be used as well. Commonly used items are ornamental daggers and small swords, tomes, and orbs.� Her icy gaze fell again to the stranger, who bobbed his head slowly, the smile spreading to a grin.
�How do you keep control of your demons?� A young man asked, rakish blonde hair falling into his pale blue eyes.
�Before you ever summon your first demon, you must make certain that you are strong enough in will. A demon will test your boundaries, and say or do whatever it can in order to be free. You must dominate it. Fear is an especially useful tool in controlling your demon minions.� She could have given a whole lecture based on that question alone, but she decided that this was enough information for those who had not yet even begun to explore the dark arts.
Suddenly words like vapor wafted through her mind. She thought at first that it might be the Whispers, but she sensed that this came from outside rather than from within.
We must meet, skilled sorceress. Together you and I could do great things.
Immediately, her gaze landed on the stranger � or where he had been. The corner he had just occupied was empty. She excused herself from her audience, murmuring a few words with the ones who had asked her to speak, shook some hands, and then made her way up to the common room of the tavern. She paused only to give a polite nod toward the bartender, a thin, balding man named Gil Smott. Gil gave her a wave of his spidery fingers, beckoning her toward him.
�Lady La`Roche, there is a man who�d like to speak with you come stop by the bar not ten minutes past. Says his name is Garrick Frostwhisper. You know him?�
�Black cloak pulled low?� She narrowed her eyes. She had been on the search for him.
�Aye. That�s him. Said you could meet him outside.� He shrugged. �Want Jharvok with you?� Jharvok was a burly bouncer, seated near the door of the tavern. He was bent over a table, half asleep, meaty fist wrapped around a mug.
�That won�t be necessary, but thank you, Master Smott,� she replied. He simply shrugged once more, and started polishing his mugs with a white cotton towel.
Her heels clicked over the wood as she walked outside, glancing around for the hooded man. Garrick Frostwhisper. Smoke-like words wended their way through her mind.
Glad to see you took me up on my offer. I�m on the bench near the well.
She gathered her cloak around her, pulling the cowl up over her hair, done up in a tightly wound knot and fastened with ruby pins. The cloak was as red as the robes she wore, embroidered around the edges in a silvery hue. She made her way to the stone bench near the well.
The man sat waiting for her, hood of his cloak pushed back to reveal sleek shoulder-length hair the color of ink, tied back from his face. His eyes were a startling green, his youthful face unlined, his broad smile charming. She had the uneasy feeling of being trapped in a web, not unlike the ones she, herself, was used to weaving, but her curiosity overwhelmed her. She had to know about the messages � how was he able to accomplish such a feat?
�Greetings, Lady La`Roche. Please, have a seat. I won�t bite,� he laughed, eyes catching none of the mirth of his voice. Nevertheless, she seated herself on the bench, studying him with her unwavering icy-blue gaze.
�You are no doubt wondering how it is that I can speak to you without speaking, hm? That is just one of the marvelous things I�ve learned over the last few years,� he said, still smiling. �I quite enjoyed your lecture. But you didn�t say anything of your special ability.� He winked slyly, knowingly.
She stopped herself just shy of gasping, forcing her face to remain impassive. A calm exterior was important to maintain, no matter how shocking his words.
�I do not know what you mean, Master Frostwhisper.�
�Oh, but I believe you do. The voices you hear... I am quite interested in hearing about your talent. Perhaps an exchange of information is in order?�
�You said that �together we could do great things.� What did you mean by that?� Elisia watched him with a guarded look.
�Obviously if we put our many talents together, we could do great things,� he replied simply, shrugging. �I�ve kept my eye on you for awhile. Ever since I sensed the greatness of your power in the curio shop all those months ago.�
She remembered suddenly, when she had been browsing the shop and seen a figure. That was the first time she�d heard an outside voice in her mind.
�We could take the world, you know, and perhaps even rule beyond. Beyond the Dark Portal. Beyond anything you�ve dreamt of.� His voice was seductive and soft, as if he were envisioning the very thing he spoke of with wonderment. She wasn�t certain if he�d said it, or if she�d heard it in her mind. There was something so compelling about him, and she really did want to know how he was able to speak directly to her mind, and if he could hear the Whispers, or if he could read her thoughts.
He produced a card. �Meet me here. Tomorrow evening, midnight.� She took the card and he smiled. �It was a pleasure to finally meet in person, Lady Elisia La`Roche.� He swept up her hand, kissed the back, and then wrapped his cloak around himself. She looked down at the card between her fingertips. �Scholomance, Academy of Necromancy. Garrick Frostwhisper.�
When she looked up, he had vanished. She glanced all around, but there was no sign of him, other than the card in her hand.
Once back in the Academy, Garrick found himself hungering. He stared at the image of himself in an old, dusty, gilded mirror. The cheeks were gaunt, his green eyes watery and sunken. His skin was as pale as parchment, showing spidery blue veins beneath.
He sensed the presence behind him before he turned, and smiled to himself � now a ghastly grin stretched thin across the bones of his jaws, not unlike the image of a skull.
Ghostly robes did not even touch the ground. His father entered, only the air stirring slightly to announce it. He turned to face the lich, eyes fastened to his otherworldly face.
�You will be seeing her tonight?�
�I do believe so, yes, Father.� He nodded and withdrew a crystal decanter full of a thick, dark crimson liquid. With graceful fingers, he pulled out the stopper and lifted the decanter to his nose. He swirled the liquid gently, to keep it from congealing, then poured some into a silver goblet. Raising his goblet toward his father, the Overseer, he drank deeply. His father nodded in satisfaction.
�She had no right to my Gift,� Garrick muttered, swirling the goblet between drinks.
�No right,� Ras Frostwhisper, Garrick�s father, echoed in agreement.
�She will pay for taking what was not hers.�
�She will pay.�
�And I will have what belonged to me.� He drank again, relishing the hatred burning within him.
�You will have it, my son.� His father nodded and left the room as silently as he�d come.
�I will have it,� Garrick whispered, then caught his image in the mirror. With the drink, his face had filled out once more, eyes alive and full of spark. He gave his image a charming smile and drained his goblet. �I will have what was meant for me.�
The giant spider leapt sideways. She was stuck to its web, unable to free herself. Every movement she made wrapped her tighter in thick, sticky silk. Its pincer-mouth dripped with hungry saliva as it approached her.
She was able to free a hand. She uttered a spell of fire aimed at the creature � and nothing happened. She began to panic.
The spider edged closer. She thought she could hear it laughing. Thousands of sickly-green eyes watched her, its prey, unblinking. It leapt upon her and began to consume her.
And she awoke to the black of night. She breathed heavily and felt the bed next to her for her lover. Cilandra was not there, likely wrapped up in some tome in her study. Leaning over, she lit the oil lamp next to her bed. Bathed in its soft glow, she wrapped herself in her black silk robe.
Elisia pushed open the glass doors leading to her balcony. The air was crisp, sharp with a hint of chill on the breeze. The forest was cloaked in the thick midnight black of shadows, which seemed to leap and dance the moment her eyes left them.
She hadn�t told Cilandra of Garrick. Cilandra had been wrapped up in her own affairs lately, and Elisia thought she wouldn�t have approved anyway. She wanted to seal a lid over Elisia�s potential, in fear that she would do something to jeopardize herself.
She felt a stirring from somewhere deep within herself. It was one she recognized. He is wrong, Elisia. He wishes to trap you like the spider traps her prey. You must not listen to his lies.
Rage bubbled up and burned inside her like a fire with its coals stoked. She squeezed her hands into fists, long nails digging into the soft skin of her palms. He will pay for making a fool of me. He will pay.
The gryphon-keeper had her flying mount, Midnight, saddled and ready with travel bags for her flight. She pulled her traveling cloak around her, dropping the hood over her knot-bound auburn ringlets. Taking the black-leather reins from the keeper in her gloved hands, she eased herself in the saddle. �Fly.�
At that single word, Midnight lifted off with a great heave of her black-feathered wings. Except for the great beats of her wings slapping the air, she gave no other sound. They moved through the air swiftly, Elisia watching the sun creeping up over the horizon.
In the late afternoon, she swirled over the town of Southshore, finding a place to land. She allowed the gryphon-keeper to take Midnight�s reins, dropping a few silver into the groomer�s hands. Elisia walked down the middle of the town road, noting the wary eyes of the townspeople. She entered the inn at the center of town.
The inn was nearly empty at this hour of the day, so she was free to choose just about anywhere to sit. She chose a small table and waved toward the innkeeper. Paying for a warm meal and some wine, she asked if there had been any news lately.
�None good, lady, I fear. Had some problems with the lions comin� round and snatchin� sheep. Then them murlocs and naga on the coast sometime be tryin� to raid the town, an� the guards push �em back. Then there be rumors of them ghouls runnin� loose, so not nobody come out at night these days. Folks afraid of that plague comin� here... bad for business.� He scratched his balding head.
�And what do you know of Caer Darrow?� She asked casually, her brows shooting up at his reaction.
He shuddered. �I hear �bout some adventurers goin� out that way, don�t hear of many of �em coming back. They say evil things live up in there now; things that follow the Lich King.� He licked his lips, the whites of his eyes showing as if he were a skittish horse.
�Ever hear of a man named �Frostwhisper�?� She pressed on, hoping that she would find out something useful.
His face went white and he lowered his voice considerably. �Aye. They say Ras Frostwhisper worshiped the Lich King and was so crazy, he cut his own throat and grinned while he did it. Lich King brought �im back from the dead, so impressed he was.� He shuddered again, eyeing the doorway as though the Lich King himself might pop through after hearing his name spoken.
Elisia dropped several coins onto the table and finished her stew. It was not the tastiest food she�d had, but it was better than the bread and cheese waiting for her in the travel bags. She washed down the stew with cheap wine. It was time to be on her way if she planned to reach Caer Darrow, Scholomance, before midnight.
�I bind her from using her magic upon these unholy grounds,� he said, dropping a lock of her hair into the mixture boiling in the alchemy lab. When he next looked up, he smiled. �She�s here! She has arrived!�
Manacled, she stood before him in the large reception room. Her eyes shot daggers through him, but the gag in her pretty little mouth kept her from being able to utter her hatred. Four of his guards accompanied her, large animated skeletons with empty eye sockets and eternal grins.
�Elisia... I think it�s time you heard the whole story,� he said, clucking softly at her like a chiding parent. He noted her fingers moving and laughed.
�I bound you from being able to use your magic in here. It�s completely useless. But by all means, tire yourself out and keep trying if you wish.� He flashed her a winning grin, his eyes dripping both hatred and envy.
�You see, the story begins with my mother. She was a gypsy woman who, from the time she was young, had a very unique gift. She was able to hear the voices of her ancestors. These ancestors gave her their magical powers and guided her. Avelynn, unbeknownst to herself, even, was a very powerful wizard indeed.� Elisia�s eyes widened at the name.
�I see that you know of whom I speak,� he remarked, chuckling. �Among her wanderings, she met a man in Stromgarde who was very charming and charismatic. Though never married, she bore his child.�
�He came to follow the Lich King and she left him as a result. She took off like a thief in the night with the infant child. But she did not realize the bond between father and son was more than simple blood. Magic ran between them; magic stronger than hers. Magic bolstered by the Lich King himself.�
�She kept the child a secret, afraid that the father would find him. But one day, she was carted away and burned for being a witch by ignorant people. Her young son was left to fend for himself. But before she died, she passed her gift onto another, onto her niece. She meant for her own son to inherit that gift, but she was forced to pass it on before her death, at your father�s hands,� he spat angrily.
�You see, she meant it for me. And now I mean to take it from you, that which was my birthright. And with my father�s help, we have devised a way to do just that.� His grin was wicked, eyes tinged with the edge of sanity.
�So let us get started with the ritual. Lay her upon the runes,� he instructed his guards. She was lain out on the ground within a circle of blood-painted runes. She struggled every inch of the way and rolled about on the ground.
Garrick murmured a spell, and her body went rigid. Unable to move even an inch, she could only watch helplessly as Garrick tried to extract her powers from her. But before he could begin chanting, his father, Ras the Lich, entered the room. A rasping voice that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at once, filled the room.
�Cease, Garrick Frostwhisper. Elisia La`Roche will be given the Choice.�
�B-but my Liege! My birthright!� Garrick spluttered.
�Silence fool! My plans are much larger than your greed for some little voices,� the Voice answered him. Ras the Lich bowed his head in reverence to the Voice.
The Voice addressed her. �Elisia La`Roche, will you serve the Lich King and bow to me? I will reward you with powers beyond what you can presently fathom, if only you vow to serve me. I will spare your life, otherwise I will allow Garrick Frostwhisper to take what he desires from you, and offer you to the Good Doctor afterward. What is your answer?�
VIII (by Ceridith) Edit
The hard and heavy hoof beats of a dreadsteed echoed through Plaguemist Ravine. Flames puffed out of the demonic steed's nostrils. Fel embers dancing into the dusk sky from the fiery mane were left in the wake of it's path as it galloped with purpose towards its destination. Atop, it's rider was perched, eyes burning with the same purpose as it's mounts. Her golden locks licked through the evening air, seeming as if she were as ablaze as the dreadmare which carried her.
The steed rounded a bend and galloped over a hill, revealing a putrid horizon. In the distance Darrowmere lake could be seen, the water still and sickly. Jutting out from the rotten lake was the island Darrow, which held the ruins of Caer Darrow and the infamous school of Dark Arts, known as Scholomance.
Ashen tracks singed themselves into the old wooden bridge as the dreadsteed made its way over the water and into the ruined town. The rider seemed to grow more tense, focused as if preparing for the last task she might ever perform. The steed stopped steps away from the gate to the keep which hid Scholomance, letting out an unearthly whinny as it's rider climbed from it. She turned towards the demonic horse, her green eyes locked with it in silent command. A low demonic voice whispered into the woman's mind as the mare looked back to her, "I will remain here, mistress Cilandra."
The woman spun around to face the decaying keep. She took a moment to take in the sight of the entrance, her body tensing once more. She took in a deep breath, her eyes closing. The putrid air only accelerated the thoughts that consumed her, that worried her. Her thoughts were fueled by hatred and desire. The desire to reclaim her lover, the desire for revenge upon those who had wronged her. Her eyes opens as she let out a long exhale, feeling the rigidness of her body melt away as the hatred within her began to spill out. The rage that had been burning from within, had begun to burn on the outside.
Cilandra and Kalina both sat in chairs they had brought into their parent�s room. Xanaphia sat on the floor in a corner, wrapped in a blanket and holding a book. Though she held it open on her lap, she seemed unable to concentrate as a page was never turned. They had been watching their parents for what seemed like hours, only to see them get worse. Cilandra shivered lightly, feeling a chill down her spine. Kalina looked over to her older sister with concern. �Cilandra, you don�t look well, you�re very pale like Papa and Mother are.� Cilandra just looked to her sister and shook her head lightly. �I-I�ll be alright. Get Xana to bed, she needs to get some sleep.� Kalina nodded lightly and stood, before scooping Xana up. The youngest sister fussily murmered, wanting to stay and watch her parents. Finally giving up to exhaustion, Xana grumpily allowed her sister to carry her to bed.
Cilandra sat, watching her parents lay there. Their breaths were slow and shallow, skin sickly pale. She began to feel cold, but at the same time as if she were on fire. Her vision was starting to become hazy and began to blur. As if echoing in a dream, she heard her sister�s voice almost faintly in the distance. �Cil? Are you ok Cil?� Cilandra looked wearily towards the sound of her sister�s voice, seeing the blurred image of her sister rush towards her. �Cilandra? I� please don�t get sick too Cil.� Cilandra tried to respond to her sister, but she felt as if every muscle in her body were jelly, unable to move of her own free will.
Kalina stood over Cilandra, looking at her eldest sister who sat slumped back in her chair, breathing shallowly like her parents. Kalina spoke to her in a shaky voice, �Cilandra, please, I� you can�t get sick too� I need help.� She knelt on the floor beside her sister in the chair, resting her head on her lap and beginning to sob lightly, overwhelmed with everything that was happening. But as much as Cilandra wanted to respond, she could not. The world around her grew darker, colder, quieter, as if it were slipping away... but it was not the world which was waning, it was her from the mortal coil.
IX (by Ceridith) Edit
Cilandra made her way into the depths of the complex hidden beneath the keep of Caer Darrow. As she reached the bottom of the steps just past the entrance, she was greeted by the sight of two pair of skeletal guards standing before a large iron gate. The low glow of their undead eyes, hidden within their lifeless skulls, followed her every movement. They simply stood guard, unresponsive to her, until she stopped before them.
A sly smirk appeared upon the warlock's face as she looked between the undead warriors.
"Well, are you going to allow me to pass?"
One of the guardians shifted slightly, its worn bones creaking.
"You have the Mark of Shadow upon you, but you are unfamiliar. We require you to speak the Word of our Master."
Cilandra sighed softly, "Very well..." before the smirk grew upon her face again.
"The Word of your Master, is 'incinerate'."
The lead skeleton paused a moment, then spoke in it's unearthly hollow tone.
"That is not--"
The skeletal guardian which spoke suddenly ignited, fire charring its undead bones. In unison, all of the guardians moved into an attack stance, drawing their worn weapons, ignoring the fire which consumed one of them. But before they could complete a step toward Cilandra, the skeleton which had been burning suddenly exploded into millions of fiery bone shards, causing a chain reaction through all of the guardians across the room. Cilandra laughed with sinister glee, taking great delight in destroying the undead creatures.
The large iron gate swung open, revealing more guardians who had come to investigate the disturbance. Cilandra's eyes reflected her malicious intent as she raised her hand toward them, launching a wave of flame in their direction. The attackers were consumed by fire, their skeletal corpses collapsing mid-stride into a pile of bones. In the doorway, a young man dressed in a black watched in dismay. Before Cilandra could focus her mal-intent toward him, he turned and fled down the hallway.
Late into the evening, the two eldest sisters were in the bedroom they shared with their youngest sister. Their parents and the little one were in the main room in front of the fireplace.
Kalina gave her sister a side long glance, while Cilandra read a book by candlelight. �What happened Cil? Why is Papa so upset about the man that came?�
Cilandra's eyes darted up to meet her sister's gaze. �He� he was dead, and I think he had been for some time. I watched Papa bury him, until he screamed at me to go inside.�
Kalina looked at her sister in shock, surprised her father would yell. �Is he going to tell the Sheriff?�
Cilandra nodded lightly to her sister. �He told me not to talk to you or Xanaphia about what I saw so it wouldn�t scare you two� but he did say that he would go to Andorhal tomorrow morning to tell the Sheriff.� Just then, a fit of coughing echoed from the main room, followed by a crash.
The two sisters rushed out of their room to see their father laying on the floor, coughing and gasping for breath. Their mother was at his side trying roll him onto his back, unsure of how else to help him. Xanaphia sat cross-legged at the far side of the room, an open book spread on her lap forgotten, her jaw agape as she watched the scene unfold. Kalina rushed over to the kitchen to fill a mug with some water for her father. As she came back, her father's cough was replaced by a deep wheeze, his face contorted in pain.
Cilandra rushed up to her father�s side and placed a hand on his forehead. He felt as if he were on fire. Kalina knelt down and offered the mug to her father, who drank eagerly. He seemed to calm a little, but was still wheezing, and the high fever alarmed her. Kalina, Cilandra, and their mother helped their father into bed. Seconds later, their mother suddenly fainted where she stood at his beside. Kalina rushed to help Cilandra ease her mother into bed, noticing as her hand brushed her mother's brow, it burned hot. Her stomach churned with fear, but she tried to keep her face calm for her family's sake.
Tears streaked down little Xanaphia's face as she watched from the doorway, hugging herself tightly. Cilandra brushed past her, placing a reassuring hand on her shoulder before she withdrew it on her way to bring her mother some water. Kalina's lips twisted in frustration when her fingers brushed her parents' faces, alarmed at the astonishing heat of their fevers.
X (by Ceridith) Edit
A large explosion came from the next room, causing the stone foundations of the large complex to shudder and creak. Moments later, a panicked initiate rushed through the door, quickly shutting and barring it before turning to see a room full of students staring at him. One of the other students sneered at the initiate.
"What did you do now Mikhael? Did you blow up one of the Master's experiments?"
The other students burst into laughter.
"N-no! There's a... demon or something. A fiery demon!"
Images flashed through his mind. He had run past two fellow initiates, oblivious to what had just happened. As he dashed down the hallway, he glanced back to see his fellow students suddenly burst into flames as the demon drew near them.
"It just looked at Samuel and Illianne, and they burst into flames!"
The group of a half dozen or so other students looked between each other and whispered, many of them looking back at him with disbelief.
Another student chimed in, "Is this one of your stupid pranks again?"
"I swear it isn't, there's really a--" But Mikhael's words were never finished. The door burst open in a fiery explosion, sending flaming splinters through the air, piercing the initiate of necromancy who had come to warn his peers. The figure of a woman silhouetted by firelight in the doorway was a fearsome sight. Twin obsidian horns twisted out from her forehead; fel flames danced about her horns and seethed out of her eyes. A wicked grin grew on her face as the stunned students stared at the demonic form. The students were stunned as they watched, her hand slowly raised toward them, flames igniting from her fingers.
As if all awoken from a trace, the students began to scatter. Some found cover behind bookcases and tables, and others began to cast spells directed at the intruder. A pair of students closest to the woman began to cast shadowbolts, but before the spells could be finished they were engulfed in a stream of fire expelled from the woman's hand. Screams of agony filled the room as the pair of young students rolled about on the floor, burning alive.
In seeing this, another student tried to escape through a door to the opposite side of the room, only drawing the attention of the woman. Her fiery gaze fastened upon the escaping, engulfing him in flames instantly. He fell to the floor, a burning husk.
A female initiate screamed "Keverin!" in anguish, and started to sob uncontrollably. Cilandra slowly sauntered toward the remainder of the group, stopping just above the sobbing girl. The student looked up at her, while others cowered away, "W-Why? Who are you?!" The woman knelt down, face to face with her.
"Consider me... a former student... with a debt to collect."
The family sat at the dinner table, quietly eating, the silence almost deafening. It was if they were trying to forget what had happened earlier. Xanaphia, curious as always, broke the silence.
�Papa, who was that man that was coming here?�
Her father stared through her as if he had just seen a ghost. �He� was a merchant from the town I have done business with before.�
Still curious, Xanaphia asked again, �What did he want Papa?�
Her father looked down at his plate, idly poking the food, responding in a whisper, �I�m not sure; he was very sick.�
Cilandra stared at her food as she listened, barely able to eat, afraid of what might happen if she did. She had seen her father run up to the man on the mule, trying to help him. She had told her sisters to go back to their farmhouse to help their mother, but she stayed and watched. Her father tried to help the man up, and in doing so uncovered the man�s hood. She had seen the face of the man, rotten and disfigured. It seemed as if he had been dead for some time upon the mule from what she could make out. She had watched from a distance as her father buried the man out back, setting up a makeshift grave for him. He had noticed Cilandra and yelled at her to get inside their home. She made no hesitation, quickly making her way back inside before dinner would be served, the very dinner they ate now.
�What happened to him Papa?� Xanaphia continued to prod her father with more questions, the same as she always did. �I had to show him off the farm� because he wasn�t well.� Xanaphia just smiled and nodded gently, oblivious to what had really happened. Kalina seemed to know there was something more, and she knew that Cilandra had seen it.
XI (by Ceridith) Edit
Cilandra casually stepped out of the doorway into a dank, torch-lit hallway. She took a moment to savor the howls of pain echoing from the library to her rear. Once she had drunk her fill, she continued toward her destination with purpose.
Moving deeper into the school of necromancy, Cilandra came across various pockets of guards and students. None of what she encountered offered more than minimal resistance, Cilandra's rage-fueled fel-flames consuming all opposition with ease. A wicked grin persisted upon her lips, as she took great pleasure in the immense pain she was delivering to each of her victims before they were burned beyond recognition.
Further into the complex, her path was blocked by a large wooden door. Growling with frustration, the enraged warlock began to focus her anger towards her obstacle. The flames of the torches that lit the dank room flickered and grew to a sickly green hue. Hands held toward the door, a small fiery orb of fel energy gradually grew, absorbing Cilandra's hatred and frustration into a physical manifestation. The orb was immense, nearly half of her size.
With a fluid gesture, she guided the ball of fel-fire towards the door. The heat of it cut through the thick wood like a warm knife through butter. The orb continued to slowly drift, floating into the room. Cilandra could see students scurrying out of the fel-fire, many crying out in fear as they scrambled for cover.
"My, what a fortunate turn of events," Cilandra said to herself under her breath. A sickeningly sadistic grin twisted her face as she guided the orb of fel-fire to the center of the room. Once reaching its destination, the woman dropped her focus upon the fel-fire, unleashing it upon the room.
The explosion was surreal. The released heat was enough to instantly incinerate anyone, alive or dead, in the room. The shockwave caused the entire complex to shudder and groan, as if the foundation were struggling to keep itself up. Smoke slowly billowed out of the large hole Cilandra had seared through the door.
Stepping into the room, she surveyed her handiwork. Charred lumps of flesh were scattered across the room, still smoldering and sizzling. The stenchof seared flesh was almost unbearable, but Cilandra's mind was too focused on her task to notice. On the other side of the room was a large iron gate, which had been burst open from the explosion. She smiled to herself, knowing her destination, and her lover, were in that direction.
Cilandra ran through the field, giggling as she chased Kalina. The late Lordaeron summer�s sun beamed down brightly upon them as they ran, playing in the field. The teens were carefree living on their family�s farm. The girls� only worries were getting their chores done for the day, helping their mother and father with the farm work.
A younger, timid-looking girl with blond hair sat in the shade of a large oak tree, reading a book. She glanced up to watch her older sisters every now and then,. She didn�t care much for running around as they did or joining in their games because she wasn�t very athletic at all. She was the quiet and shy type, and tended to keep to herself.
Kalina suddenly stopped running and pointed off toward the road and asked her older sister, �What�s that, off in the distance?�
Cilandra suddenly stopped in her tracks and followed her sister's gaze curiously. A mule ambled slowly down their lane from the main road to Andorhol. Slumped in the saddle was a crumpled figure, shrouded in a traveler's cloak. The pair made their way to the farm, and with them, a feeling of dread made Cilandra's heart pound.
Turning to Kalina, she barked an order. �Go tell Papa there�s a visitor coming.�
Something in Cilandra's voice made Kalina take heed. She nodded and hurried over to the barn to tell her father. Cilandra stared as the mule slowly trotted closer, wondering who, and why, someone was coming to their farm this day. It was not time for the tax collector to come, and the merchants would usually come later in the month.
Xanaphia looked up and noticed her sisters had stopped playing. Kalina was dashing toward the barn and Cilandra was watching the road. Curious, Xanaphia walked out from under the tree's shade, making her way to Cilandra. Xanaphia gently tugged on her sleeve looking up at her, as she was a full head taller.
�What is it Cilandra?� Xanaphia asked her sister nervously.
Cilandra frowned back down to Xanaphia and spoke with uncertainty, �Someone is coming to the farm, but I�m not sure who it is.�
Just as the two girls' eyes darted back to the mule and rider, their father rushed up beside them, Kalina close on his heels.
Cilandra asked her father, �Do you know who that is, Papa?�
He only shook his head lightly, uncertain of the approaching visitor's intentions himself. �Whoever he is, he doesn�t look well. He�s slumped over his mule.�
He then started off toward the visitor at a trot, startled to see the mule suddenly stop and fall over, trapping the rider beneath it. Seeing the unfortunate rider, the girls� father raced up to see if he was injured� but neither the mule, nor the rider, moved a twitch from where they fell.
XII (by Ceridith) Edit
"Elisia La'Roche, will you serve the Lich King and bow to me? I will reward you with powers beyond what you can presently fathom, if only you vow to serve me. I will spare your life, otherwise I will allow Garrick Frostwhisper to take what he desires from you, and offer you to the Good Doctor afterward. What is your answer?"
The lich, Ras Frostwhisper looked down to Elisia, bound by chain at her knees below him. She looked toward him, her expression mixed.
"So what is your decision?" Ras spoke to her for the first time, voice like bodies being dragged across gravel.
A new voice shattered Elisia's silent thought. "You and your ilk are never ones to make fair deals, especially when they are with those under duress."
Cilandra stood in the doorway, her crimson robes reflecting the hatred which burned in her eyes as she looked toward the lich. She slowly stepped toward him, the fel-flames which danced around her horns suddenly smothered by the chilled aura of Frostwhisper.
"I recall your associates making a similar promise to me... leaving out some key details, of course."
Ras and his necromancer son turned their full attention to the intruder. The lich took an expression which could best be described as resembling a smirk as he spoke in response.
"Ahh yes, Cilandra Felbane. I have heard about you and your... dabbling. You being are quite hard on us, my dear. You seem to forget that you failed to fulfill your end of the bargain."
Cilandra spat at the ground below the lich, glaring at him with contempt.
"Had I completely fulfilled it, I would be nothing more than a mindless pawn to your beloved 'Lich King', no better off than you."
The lich chuckled, slowly floating close to her. The proximity of the powerful lich further disrupted Cilandra's own magic, causing her illusion to drop. Her figure was bone thin, her complexion sickly white, face seeming as if it should belong to one of the elder necromancers of the school of dark magic.
"Very well then. You have been a loose thread for far too long. You shall be dealt with, and then we shall finish our business with Lady La'Roche. Garrick, retrieve the box labeled C.F."
Garrick nodded and made his way past Elisia to retrieve a small container among a sorted stack. Cilandra chuckled to herself, "You know you cannot kill me, anymore than I can you, lich. Your associates made certain of that."
Garrick made his way back, offering the box he had retrieved to his father. Ras nodded in acknowledgment as he took it, casting his eyes back to Cilandra while he broke its seal. Within was only a small, delicate red ribbon.
"Indeed, and they also took special precaution in the case that you would become a rogue element, as we do with others we make such deals with."
Cilandra's jaw tightened, uncertain of how to respond. She simply stared between Ras, the ribbon, and Elisia.
Frostwhisper carefully plucked the ribbon from its container, pinching it between forefinger and thumb, dangling it before Cilandra's eyes. "Quite a shame that it ends here for you. There was much potential in you, from what I have heard. But now, it is time to take back that which you have been squandering from us."
Ras raised his hand toward Cilandra, and she raised her own in response. Before she could finish her first spell, a purple beam of energy extended from the lich's hand, landing squarely on Cilandra's chest. She let out an unearthly howl, feeling as if she were being torn apart from the inside.
The young girl wandered through the woods, looking over her shoulder to make certain she was not being followed. She made her way across a hidden path, to a small clearing in the woods. In the center, a small stone alter lay, various arcane runes carved into it.
Cilandra had stumbled upon the clearing one day while playing a game of hide and seek with her sisters. She had found an old musty tome hidden under a rock there, holding many arcane secrets. This place was known by only her, forgotten by whomever left it there long ago. There, Cilandra had been reading through the book, and practiced casting basic spells in solitude.
But this day, she was not alone. As she pushed a branch aside and stepped into the clearing, she gasped. Two figures garbed in long black robes, with cowls covering their faces, stood there, peering at her. She wanted to turn around and run, but she could not. Something forced her to stay, overpowering her will.
"Hello, Child," one of the figures spoke in a raspy voice. "We have been watching you for some time, and think you have great potential."
Cilandra's mouth opened, but nothing would come out. She was left standing there agape, watching them.
"We come to you to make you an offering," The other figure spoke as it took a step toward her, "There is a dark time coming. Many will die, slowly and painfully. But we can spare you and your family... if you make an agreement with us."
Cilandra sputtered, "W-what agreement?"
"That you pledge your abilities, and your loyalty, to our Master. In return, we will spare you and your family the fate of the rest, and you will be granted great power, power beyond your wildest imagination."
Cilandra seemed hesitant as she looked between the two figures. An ominous feeling blossomed within the pit of her stomach before she uttered in a whisper, "And if I don't agree?"
"Then we shall kill you right where you stand, and make certain your family suffers horribly." His voice was cold and rose in pitch and fury as he narrowed his gaze upon her.
The young woman was trembling with fear now, the whites of her eyes flashing like a skittish mare under their scrutiny. She could not flee or fight back; some dark energy kept her locked in place. She was vulnerable, with little choice. She looked down, and then back to them in defeat. "I... agree," she answered grudgingly.
The figure on the right moved next to her, his movements smooth, as if he were hovering just above the ground. He reached out toward her, plucking a bright red ribbon that had held Cilandra's honey blond hair back into a sleek ponytail. "We will take this as... insurance... evidence of our binding agreement this day." Cilandra shivered in disgust as the dark figure's gloved fingers touched her hair.
The left robed figure moved before her, his opened palm revealing a small vial filled with green liquid. "To seal our agreement, you must take this vial. When you receive the proper signal, you will place the contents into your family's food, and make certain everyone, including yourself, consumes it. If you do not, we will make certain to come back to... void our contract."
Cilandra watched as her arm extended and grasped the vial, independent of her own control. "W-what signal?" she stammered.
The two robed figures slowly moved back. "You will know..."
They slowly turned and disappeared into the heavy brush of the forest. Moments later, Cilandra felt herself able to move of her own free will again. She looked at the vial in her hand for a long moment, and shuddered at the thought of what had just transpired.
XIII (by Ceridith) Edit
A young-looking woman had collapsed onto her hands and knees in the dank room within the school of necromancy. The lich, Ras Frostwhisper, tossed a red ribbon onto the girl, which caused his son, Garrick, to emit a dark chuckle. Cilandra looked up at him, a strange sense of vulnerability piercing her pale green eyes.
She felt... different. She felt warm within again, but not that of the fiery rage, that of life. It was something she had not felt for a long time. But she also felt something missing. The dark energy which had flowed through her, which fueled her fel-weaving, was gone.
Cilandra eyes slid over to Elisia, her expression speaking her apology without spoken word. A frightened girl now cowered before the lich, not a powerful, wise warlock. She looked no more than sixteen, unlined face pale and sorrowful.
Ras turned to Elisia, motioning to Cilandra with his bony arm as he spoke in his deep, unearthly voice.
"This is the true form of the pathetic whelp that came to save you. All of her ability was simply stolen from the Master, and misused for her own greed. The power she wielded, and much more, can be yours if you pledge yourself to us, Elisia."
Garrick folded his arms as he watched the exchange between his father and cousin, frustrated with the delay. Cilandra had a chance, despite her nearly powerless state. She silently crawled across the floor, slowly circling Ras to get behind Garrick, all the while out of eye shot of both.
Elisia caught sight of Cilandra, and quickly looked back up to Ras. She tried to appear as if she were pondering the offer to give Cilandra more time, for whatever it was that she was planning.
Garrick growled with impatience. "Stop wasting our time, wench!" Elisia shot her bastard cousin a dirty look in response.
Once she had a clear path to Elisia, beyond the sight of her captors, Cilandra reached into her pocket and withdrew a small rune. In the barest of whispers, she began to chant.
"Your time is up, Lady La'Roche. Make your choice now," Ras commanded.
Elisia glared up at him, and then spat onto his robes. "I will never become a pawn of your Lich King." Her voice was acidic.
Garrick's eyes lit up, seeing that he would finally be able to retrieve his birth right. Before either father or son could respond, Cilandra finished her spell. A portal opened before her, and, taking advantage of the group's surprise, she quickly muttered another spell, aimed at Elisia. The shackles popped open.
Ras bellowed, "Subdue her!"
Garrick began to cast a counterspell. It could not be completed; Cilandra hit Garrick at full force from behind, taking him by surprise once again as she knocked him forward. She moved past him and grabbed Elisia's hand. Both of them dashed for the portal, Ras and Garrick floundering behind them sputtering fragments of spell toward their backs. But it was not to be for father and son. Perhaps it was the element of surprise, sheer luck, or simply the strength of their love, but both Cilandra and Elisia disappeared through the portal, which collapsed half a second after their escape.