Deep in the Cleft of Shadows...Shiryou waited.
The Cleft was the ideal place for any warlock. It was practically ruled by them, ignoring the rogues, and with a few quiet words and gold coins exchanged it was easily done to request a place of privacy. This was where he was now, deep in one of the caverns of the Cleft, undisturbed and alone. Just as he liked it.
Strathis, the spirited felsteed stallion, pawed anxiously at the ground, his eyes burning. Shiryou gave a low grumble and closed the tome he had been poring over. When the stallion wished attention, all else had to wait.
"What is it?" he growled; although long-time associates of the warlock would recognise the odd softness in his tone. Ever the horseman when he was alive, being undead and with a twisted demonic steed had changed nothing. A minute later he was rigorously grooming the steed, brushing his coat until it shone a deep glossy black.
"What do we do with this druid..." he mused aloud as he brushed he stallion's neck. "He is going to be a problem...as is his little orcish friend. They suspect me already..."
Reflexively, he glanced over to the entrance of the dark cavern. The Cleft was the haunt of rogues as well as warlocks, and Shiryou trusted no one.
"Suspecting without good proof," he continued, his eyes narrowing in thought. Strathis gave a loud harrumph. "Perhaps this is something I can play upon...to ensure their ravings do not gather the attention of their fellows..."
At length, Shiryou wandered back to the tome, recalling an important summon. It had seemed insignificant at first reading, a mere alteration upon the usual summoning of a demon but now...now he had a feeling that perhaps he had not looked at it from the correct angle.
He found the page he wanted, studied the ritual until he was certain he remembered the details. Fetching out the soul shard, he began his work.
Varuul watched the warlock close his spellbook and begin his preparations. His hiding place, a narrow ledge high on the cavern wall, offered a clear view of everything below for his feline vision. The rogues inhabiting the Cleft of Shadows had proved to be little threat as he slipped past them, stalking the Warlock in the aspect of a great cat, hoping to discover some clue to what his plans might be. He had followed and watched for nearly two days, and it seemed that finally his prey was putting some scheme into motion, here in this dark and secluded place.
The Warlock's muttering to himself had only confirmed what Varuul already knew, and he considered whether or not the speech had been a show put on for listeners. Surely the forsaken had not detected him? Not for the first time, he wondered if he should have told Herodotus of his mission. His lips pulled back from needle-like teeth in a feral smile. No, the old orc was not best suited to this kind of work. Better that he remain unburdened by the strategies of the wise, free to swing his axe without hesitation when the time came. Varuul had a feeling that his old friend's axe would be needed before too long.
Seeming satisfied with his preparations, the Warlock began his incantation as Varuul watched intently. If this summoning was indeed part of his twisted plans for the Praetoria, the druid wanted to know exactly what he was dealing with.
Shiryou's eyes narrowed.
He was no fool. People often imagined that his arrogance made up for a lack of intelligence, but they were wrong. Very wrong. And Heswena, concealed with invisibilty to watch for potential spies, have given him the signal that he, with his detection on, had spotted.
A glance in the direction she had indicated revealed nothing, and he quietly commended the spy's skill. It had to be a rogue, he reasoned. No others were so skilled with stealth...
The druids, with their cat forms. He had seen their effectiveness before, skulking through the shadows. His eyes narrowed further, narrowing it down to just one suspect.
Throughout all this he did not skip a beat, continuing to summon the beast. It was a mere whim that he had decided to summon the great Infernal; he found the idea foolish, normally, what with the chance of the beasts breaking free of his control and being left without one of his more loyal demons to defend himself. But nonetheless - he had to do it, to see if he could.
He spoke the last word, tearing the rift between the world and the Twisting Nether, calling the demon forth. The great being almost filled th cavern, it's sickly green hellfire lighting up the dim cavern, tiny, malevolent eyes glaring down at the being that dared to summon it. Strathis gave a worried snort, the ever-restless steed stamping and pawing at the ground. The imp, Garrott, twitched nervously, its head flicking from side to side. Shiryou remained impassive, his own gaze meeting that of the mighty Infernal's. No matter how many times this being broke free, in the end it would be forced to bow to him. That, he would be certain of.
As the crackling of flame filled the small cavern Shiryou whispered softly to the imp, in the gutteral tongue of the Forsaken, trusting to the deafening sound of the Infernal to block the spy from suspecting he spoke. "Tell Heswena to track whatever it is daring to spy upon us. Tell her to remain hidden at all times and to flee the moment her spying is suspected."
The imp gave an almost impercetible nod and began dancing and gibbering in Demonic; at first, the usual excitable gibberish the small demons were prone to, but then quickly carrying out it's instructions before turning back to prance about the cavern.
A quick gesture and Shiryou had dismissed the Infernal before it's link to the world was complete and risked the being breaking free. "Enough for one night," he said sharply to the imp. "We rest now, until the morning."
With that, he closed the tome and retreated to the small sleeping chambers. Even undead, he needed his rest. The demons would stand guard and watch for intruders.
Varuul waited, as still as the rock the cavern was carved into, for several minutes after the forsaken left. He had carefully considered all he had seen, something was out of place here, something small maybe, but significant. As quickly as the thought entered his mind, he had the answer. The warlock did not seem the type to allow his servants to dance and chatter as the imp had done during his summoning. The display from the imp worried him much more than the appearance of the infernal, for he had seen such monsters many times, and slain them more often than not. All he knew of Shiryou told him that he kept tight control of his minions, and it seemed likely that the imp had acted as it did to carry out some hidden order.
He remained in his hiding place, watching and listening for any sign of a trap. Several more minutes passed with no trace of any living being other than the small lizards darting in and out of cracks in the rock below the ledge. Perhaps the imp had simply been carrying out some small task for its master. If not, what trap could his foe have set that would be a threat to Nature's chosen?
Varuul dropped silently down to the cavern floor, his paws raising not the slightest sound as they struck the rock, then immediatly distorted and grew into hooves. He straightened, shaking his great horned head and flexing his shoulders, unaccustomed for a moment to the tauren body that was his true form. He looked around carefully, but all remained still, and the half expected ambush did not come. A successful mission, even if it had not provided the answers he had hoped for, he thought as he prepared to leave.
Abruptly, he snapped his head around, fixing his senses on a small patch of shadow behind him. He spun on one hoof, the raw power of his magic crackling across his hands as time seemed to stretch out before him.
"So," he thought in the extended moment as he turned. "The warlock is proving to be a worthy foe."
As quickly as she felt she was discovered the succubus was gone, her orders ringing clear in her head. She fled swiftly and silently back to the cavern, to await what her master would say when he finally awoke.
"Was it him?"
Shiryou hadn't fallen asleep yet, his mind churning over recent events. He was answered with a nod. "I thought so..."
The druid was going to be a tough foe. Shiryou half closed his eyes and rested his hands upon his chin. He knew well his great disadvantage; that he was forced to work alone, with only his own brain, whereas his foe had the luxury of allies. However, Shiryou was sure of something - he had both time and cunning on his side.
A direct attack upon the Praetoria would be foolish. Foolish beyond measure. The druid, the priest, the mage, the orcs - all were far too powerful for him, and he didn't doubt that any confrontation between him and them might render him with a death that he couldn't claw himself back up from. No. This was going to require both a great deal of cunning and patience.
But then, Shiryou was undead, and he had all the time in the world.
He knew he could not attack the Praetoria directly. But...indirectly...
What he needed to do was to fracture them. To set them all squabbling at each other's throats, perhaps even to tarnish their outside reputation as peacemongers and pacifists. The attack on them had to come from within as well as without. The question was, how...
He thought of an earlier meeting with a night elf, and smiled...
He had been intrigued to see Varuul entering the Cleft, knowing his long-standing distrust of warlocks. The Cleft felt almost a home-from-home for Mat, in this foreign Orc city, despite the warlock presence in what he considered the rogue quarter. He resisted the temptation to wave with his usual cheerful hello and instead proceeded to see where Varuul was going.
It should not have been any surprise. There was the warlock Shiryou, mumbling some arcane nonsense as he dabbled in powers Mat would never understand nor want to. Varuul had been somewhat obvious in his disquiet at the "marriage" ceremony of Deacon Cabot, and now he was spying on the newest member of the Praetoria. If the warlock truly was to be considered a member.
Mat turned, ready to leave unseen by either party and having no interest in their political games, when with a flash an Infernal appeared before Shiryou. Mat had seen them before of course, having associated briefly with the fallen warlock Vishaa, and had seen the damage they could cause. He felt a stirring of emotion for the first time in a long time. There were young and inexperienced rogues in the Cleft, and should Shiryou lose control they would be placed in danger. He gripped his shanker ready to drop to the cavern floor and confront the demon before any damage could be caused. But then it was gone, banished to whatever hell it came from. Mat relaxed, and slipped away. But he would be keeping an eye on these two from now on, the developments of this guild "alliance" were beginning to unsettle him.
The bolt of energy struck the rock where the demon had been moments before, sending shards of stone flying up with a loud crack. Seeing his foe fleeing through the shadows, Varuul lowered his hands. There was no need to give chase, he knew already where Shiryou made his lair and he was not yet ready to confront him. First he needed proof of the warlock's treachery.
He walked back towards the cavern entrance, his shape once again twisting and folding into that of a huge lion, then slipping into the shadows. As he left the Cleft of Shadows, undetected by its unsavoury inhabitants, he wondered why Aevuulmat had followed him. The thief was skilled, but could not hide from one with whom he had shared the shadows on so many occasions. It was worrying that he had even attempted to conceal his presence from Varuul as well as Shiryou. Surely his loyalty to the Order was not failing? It would be unfortunate to have to ask Hallow to remove one of his most skilled agents. But he would talk to Mat first, the thief's love of wealth and powerful magics was legendary, and it was possible that he had come in pursuit of some treasure that he did not wish to share.
Varuul maintained his unseen travel through The Drag, intending to leave the city and spend what remained of the night in the nearby forest, where nature would guard his sleep.
It was a good morning.
Shiryou enjoyed walking through Orgrimmar. He found the primitive yet proud city greatly appealing, bustling with the Horde. A few shot angry glances at Luudrom as the ever-faithful felhunter trotted at his side, but Shiryou merely rolled his eyes at them and paused to scratch the demon's spines. He liked the felhunter. It reminded him of, albeit a rather demonic, twisted, magic-feeding one, a dog.
Events were going nicely. Very nicely. Shiryou smiled to himself...just a little more slaving for these Horde fools, a little more grovelling for their tasks so he could hone and perfect his powers...then he would be ready. Very ready.
He wondered if the druid was about. Maybe some choice comment about how he just had to ask for the succubus...
"This is what I need...."
Shiryou was strolling through Orgrimmar, scanning through a scroll that had recently falling into his possession. There was a slight smirk on his face as he contemplated it's contents. Oh yes...it was exactly what he needed.
He had spent the last week quietly plotting, gathering together the items he needed; the reagents, the potions, the materials. Now all he really needed was time to put the needed items together - to gather all these things ready to create it. Just needed time...
And to remove irritations out of the way.
A small bird darted over the rooftops of the city, unnoticed by those below, and came to rest on Varuul's outstretched hand. He studied it carefully as it looked back at him, and some communication seemed to pass between them. After a few moments Varuul nodded slightly and raised his arm sharply to send the bird on its way, then watched it disappear over the roof of a nearby shop.
The warlock was on the move, putting his plans into motion no doubt, but the scroll his messenger had reported worried him. He had seen Shiryou cast spells from memory several times as he had watched from the shadows, and knew that any spell that required a written aid would be powerful indeed. He remembered the demon back in the cavern, and how the warlock had studied a magical tome before beginning his spell. Perhaps this scroll also contained a spell of summoning.
He stepped back into the shadows of a doorway, and vanished. Had anyone with sharp enough eyes been watching, they would have seen a large cat stalking down the street like a feral ghost, moving in the direction the bird had come from.
Maluti looked slowly around the corner. Her eyes searched for someone. Suddenly they stopped to move. There he was. Maluti knew that she was told to take some rest and to stay away from her master for a while. But his last lesson had made her more nosy than usual. His speech about great evil had deeply impressed her. Sure Varuul was right by saying that she was far too inexperienced and too weak to face such evil at the moment. But she really wanted to know more about it and she was sure she would be safe anyway. Varuul had promised to take care of her, so she had nothing to fear.
Maluti watched the bird landing on Varuuls outstrechted hand and was deeply impressed by his great nature power again. But something was different from the other times when she had met her master. He really seemed to be worried about something. He had already showed her the evil in this land and that every life also contains death. But he had always looked calm as if everything was under his control.
Suddenly Varuul disappeared and for a short moment Maluti started to panic. Where had he gone, she couldn’t see him anymore. But then she remembered the first lesson he had given her. She concentraded for a while to sense his presence. There he was again. Maluti sent away the cat that was standing next to her. It would just increase the chance to get spotted by him. She moved on and hid herself carefully in dark corners as best as she could while her heart was beating incredibly fast.
Varuul located the warlock easily, and followed from a safe distance behind him as he walked to the rooms he rented in the city, and began to unlock the complex magical protections he had placed on the door. He had sensed Maluti's presence some time before, but now she had reached out her mind to find him as he had taught her only hours before. He allowed himself a brief moment of pride in the rapidly growing talents of his apprentice. Extending his magic, he whispered his words to the wind, so quiet that even he could not hear them, but still they were carried to the ear of the young tauren.
~You are foolish, my apprentice. The foe I face is powerful beyond your understanding, you will be killed if you follow me. Now is not the time to punish you, however...~
~Since you are here, you can be of use to me. I did not expect the Warlock to put his plan in motion so quickly, and have not had time to rally my comrades. Seek out an old orc named Herodotus, I sense his spirit here in the city, in the Broken Drum tavern as usual if I am not mistaken. Go to him, and bring him here to the warlock's dwellling. You will recognise him by the ridiculous beard he wears~
~He may be drinking with an...associate of mine named Aevuulmat. Bring him also if you find him, we may need as many blades as we can call upon~
The familar voice inside her head made Maluti start. She listened intensely to Varuul’s words while she was feeling the heat of her face. After the first shock a great anger spread through her body and took control of her thoughts. She cursed her own weakness. She wanted to grow stronger as soon as possible. She didn’t agree with her master to wait any longer. She had never been a patient Tauren. She had already improved her abilities in quite a short time and she was sure that Varuul’s task would help her to do the next step. Suddenly a new message interrupted her silent moaning: She was still allowed to join her master in this task. She just had to inform his comrades and to return with them quickly. She forced herself not to cheer loudly. She sneaked to a safe place with lots of trees and bushes that hid her black body and then started to run with bright eyes as fast as she could.
Coljun had followed Maluti, the apprentice of his old friend Varuul. Although he did not know her in person, he had heard the stories of the remarkable progress she had made under the guidance of Varuul. Though this hadn’t been the only reason he had decided to follow her, he sensed something was wrong, how he knew this he could not tell, he just knew it.
Coljun followed her on a safe distance rendering him nearly untrackable, even though she was more capable then he had been at her age, his skill was still greater than hers, he hoped.
Shiryou hurried down towards his lodgings within Orgrimmar, the felhunter close at his side. So close now...and so little time.
He knew the druid was tracking him. The felhunter's keen sense of smell and sight could detect the steathiest of rogues and their mind link kept Shiryou informed of such stalkers. Clutching the scroll closer, he moved as quickly as he could, cracking his knuckles into place as he went.
Into the chamber he went, betraying no sign that he knew he was being followed. Bending over his desk, he leaned forward, reading the arcane symbols as he absently scratched the felhunter's spines...the Shadowbolt spell just resting on his lips.
Mat looked up to see the source of the commotion at the front of the pub, and resisted a smirk at the sight of an eager young tauren bustling through the throng. Youngsters were a rare sight in this gloomy establishment, filled with drunken old war veterans, never mind a young tauren female. He moved to slap Herodotus across the back of the head to wake him and share the joke, but was halted in alarm as the tauren set her eyes on his table and started moving towards him.
"Varuul, what trouble are we in now" he muttered as the realisation dawned. This had to be one of the old druid's followers. Mat sighed, finished his drink, and began to try to wake the drunk orc by his side to hear what dangers their lives were headed into next...
Far away in Tirisfal Cabot was troubled. He often came to the old ruined chapel to gather his thoughts, and he needed it now more than ever. An uneasy feeling had been nagging him ever since the Council of Nagarash had first proposed the alliance. The whole idea had seemed ludicrous - a priest of The Light marrying a dark witch for goodness' sake! Maybe they really did seek a better path, but he suspected otherwise. Still, The Light does work in mysterious ways, and what better way to keep an eye on the agents of darkness. It was a bold move, and a risky one for all the Praetoria. He had carefully selected the Praetoria's agent in the exchange from among his most trusted advisors. Hiera was strong, she would not be turned to darkness... and yet lately her reports had become less frequent.
The warlock Shiryou troubled him too. He was a wild card, with much anger and bitterness to the world in general. Perhaps allowing him into the Praetoria was tempting fate. Then again, old sayings were there for a reason, and his watchword for the last month or so had been: "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer."
Cabot lay back on the pew and closed his eyes in meditation. Within seconds it began. A demon, an unnatural blend of rock and fire, stood tall before a small hamlet. He knew with horror what would happen, and yet was powerless to stop it. The demon surged forward, ravaging all in its path. Houses were tossed aside like dirt, their burning wreckage scattered to the winds. Up on the hill the demon's master revelled in the destruction, his maniacal cackling carried away by the wind...
Cabot leapt to his feet. Visions were never without purpose. The demon's master was familiar... all too familiar... and yet he couldn't quite place him. Who? Where? When would they strike? Seizing his staff he strode towards his steed. The orb glowed as he murmured incantations of communication. The time of reckoning had come. The Praetoria must be rallied to unearth this scheme and stop this reckless evil!
Hiera returned to her chambers far into the deepest reaches of the Mage Quarter of Undercity.
- Nobody suspects anything yet.. giggle ..This is almost going to well..
She started casting several wardingspells, Both to block scrying and more mundane means of spying. Whatever she was about to do could not be seen by others.
- Hmm.. where did i put that tome..
Hiera searched through the many bookshelves of her chambers. As she janked a part of the decor on the shelve to the left, a hidden vault came out of the wall. A quick search through it revealed what she were seeking. A hunge tome bound in Ice, its surface seemed to shimmer in the gloom of the chamber, and a skull with a vile grin could be seen. The tome eminated smoke that looked like morning fog on a frozen lake.
- Long time no see, eh?
She looked at the skull for a while. Talking to it as if it were a old friend. As she opend it ig gave the cracking sound of ice breaking, and small ice shards fell to the ground. As she put the tome down on her desk and started to read the words out loud, it seemed as the chamber started to freze.. a white shimmer strated to spread out over the old stone walls, and icecikles stared to form on the the torches. After a few moments the chamber looked more like a frozen tomb than the study of a firemage.
- And now for the final part..
Hiera paused. Knowing that the plan were in motion.. there were no turning back now. If she failed.. only the sligthest bit.. it would mean the end of her.
- May just as well get it over with.. sigh
As she started to read the second page of the tome, the room started to fill with whispers. Chaotic.. uncomprehendble.. tortured.. evil. She found the the one she was seeking.
- Master. I wish to speak to you.
There were a pause.. the whispers seemed to stop. With the exception of some barely audiable gibberings they have all stopped for a while. The lights in the chamber seemed to dim. Then a booming woice filled the room, the sound it made could remind you of someone speaking with a frozen throat.
Excuse me for interuption you in your dealings master. But i would like to inform you that the plan can be set into motion now.
The Praetoria suspect nothing?
No master. I am sure of it.
What about this council?
There are one that seems to be suspicious. But he will be easily dealth with.
Good. Now, you know what you must do. I will inform him.
The woice vanished. And along with it the whispers and frost. Hiera put the tome back into the hidden vault and locked it.
- sigh It have been done. And now for the hard part.
She stood up. Streaching a bit, the sound of joints cracking echoed in the chamber. Hiera opend a old closet. Its doors creaking, as if they had never been used before. She pulled out a blue robe. It was coold to the touch, and its surface seemed to sparcle with small icecrystals. After puting it on she went over to the northern part of her chamber. Taking out tomes detailing the elemental use of frostmagic.
- Lets see if i still remember a few of the old tricks.
Apologies folks, should have written this one earlier
For a few moments Shiryou forgot the stalker, so intent was he upon the words of the scroll, muttering the words to himself and cracking his knuckles in glee. It had taken a lot of time and pain and effort to get this scroll - and even more sacrifice on his side to learn Ereden; the demonic tongue, that would make it work. Hence, he allowed himself to gloat for a few precious moments as the fruits of his labour finally came through.
A mistake that almost cost him as suddenly the druid burst in, the massive Tauren's size filling the tiny cavern, brandishing a staff in his hands and his eyes burning with anger. "This will not come to pass!" he boomed, as Shiryou quickly hopped back behind the altar with the precious scroll upon it. "The Earthmother has seen what you are plotting, warlock, and through me she will not let it happen!"
Shiryou acted quickly, knowing he did not have enough time. The warlock was cunning; he knew that underground, the druid was denied one of his more potent spells of binding him with roots, but that certainly was going to stop the Tauren and moments later the Moonfire ripped through him, knocking the frail Forsaken to the ground. Scrambling back up as the Tauren charged, he clawed for the scroll and finally, raising his hand at the beast, shouted the words of the spell.
"Xi romathis xi ril Mordanas Archim!"
On seconds the scroll was consumed in bright Fel fire, streaming through Shiryou to be blasted out at the druid. The Tauren fell back, expecting this to be burning fire - but it was nothing of the sort. It was far more insidious. And as Shiryou staggered forward, triumphant, Varuul struck out at him - only for his hand to pass straight through.
"A twist on banishing," the warlock hissed, leaning on the desk for support; the spell had taken it's toll. "I hope you like it. Only unlike the satyrs and elementals...this isn't temporary. A few moments and you'll be getting a first hand taste of the Twisting Nether."
The Tauren was roaring at him, but Shiryou heard nothing. "At least now you can't meddle with my plan." He reached into his robe, and fetched out a dull grey stone, iridescent with a sickly green shimmer. "You know what this is, don't you? Not even you are that stupid. But I feel it's only fitting, don't you, that my first summoning of this demon is brought about to wreck havoc on the miserable human communities that abandoned us?"
He stepped closer to the Tauren, who by now was almost invisible. "With any luck your poor friends will get here in time to save you. But I imagine you've got just maybe five minutes before you fade out completely and get to meet the Burning Legion in person...Not that it matters. Those five minutes are all I need to get my head start. Good luck."
With that, the warlock swept swiftly from the room.
Maluti stopped as she found the old decrepit bar. She bent over and tried to catch her breath. A chaotic noise came from inside this house. It was a mixture of laughing, shouting and sometimes it sounded like a chair breaking. Maulti looked at Rise, her animal servant, and noticed its nervousness. She let out a deep sigh. Annoyed by her servant’s weakness she loosened the invisible bond that linked her souls. Rise purred thankfully and ran away unusually fast.
As Maluti focussed her attention on the entrance of the pub again, ready to enter, an old troll came out. He tumbled in a strange way, but still held a pint of strong dwarfen ale in his hand. He took a deep gulp, before he stumbled over his own feet and landed on the ground. As Maluti rushed to help him up again, she heard a loud snore emanating from the troll.
“What a disgusting place” she thought by herself. Matuli had never expected her master to have friends who would visit such a hole. Then she remembered her mission again and that she had to hurry. Without thinking what would welcome her inside this sinful place she walked inside.
The air was filled with smoke, the smell of alcohol and something she tried not to imagine. When she entered the main room all eyes were suddenly on her, some very surprised, most lustful. Maluti tried not to show the fear that was trying to overwhelm her and focussed on her task. She looked about the room, searching for the orc and the undead her master had described to her. Maluti grinned when she found what she was looking for. Without wasting a second she walked resolutly to the table of her master’s companions.
Just before she finally reached her goal a drooling orc caught her arm. He glanced over her body as if he wished to rip her clothes off. “’ey black pearl, wanna lemme swim in ya sea?!” he asked and started to grunt which seemed to be laughing. Maluti’s eyes flashed angrily as she quickly drew a little dagger and cut the orcs arm. He screamed in pain and released her arm. Without paying attention to him she turned around and looked into the undead’s eyes. “Come outside, I have to tell you something important about your friend and my master Varuul, the death druid. Wake your friend and hurry. We can’t afford to lose time. I will inform you during our travel!”