Journals of Alhazred

Fiction based on the World of Warcraft game setting

Friday, February 03, 2006

New Chapter Opening Visual

Possible New Visual Look for Story











Monday, January 23, 2006

The Price of Belonging: A Forsaken Rogue's Tale

…I watched the family for most of the evening with my faced pressed against the glass of the great room window. The skills of stealth I had by necessity been forced to learn, ensuring that my presence went unnoticed. As I skulked there watching the family, the warmth and love they displayed toward each other left me desperately wishing I could enter and share the warmth of their fire and companionship.

Unfortunately, my quasi-life forever bared me from having so dear a comfort. It seemed ages already since I had last felt warmth, left alone the simple pleasure of family and given the fact of my undeath, I could look forward to a possible eternity on the fringe of humankind. Waking as one of the Forsaken had been a blow to my soul that I was still learning to deal with. Coming from a family tradition of glorious military service, it had been understood that eventually I would meet my end on some far-flung battlefield or in defense of my kingdom from invaders of her border, but the thought that I might possibly be denied peace in death had never entered my mind. It was thought that in the first days of my awakening I might possibly loose my identity and devolve into madness and near mindless hunger like one of the revenants of the Scourge.

Despite the general callousness of the undead, it was very much through the patient efforts of my Forsaken Advocate that I was able to piece together the broken fragments of my soul. The mortal coil of my attachments to all the things I had loved about my life was a constant hindrance in my acceptance of my new reality. With an obviously deeper understanding of my needs than I myself had, my Advocate has offered the salvation of duty to another purpose. Within the ranks of the assassins, I could channel my confusion into mastering the deadly skills they offered. It spoke to the state of my mind that I, someone who had always tried to live a life of honor, would so eagerly grasp the lifestyle of the assassin as a means to save my sanity. I poured the dedication I normally maintained into my study and quickly mastered the skills of subterfuge and poisons. It was this rapid acquiring of skill, that had led me to my present position looking in on this family at leisure. They were to be my last test, the confirmation of my acceptance of my new nature, but also my dedication to the Forsaken and their agendas regardless of how it might affect the living.

This brought me back to my current vigil. For three more hours I was content to merely watch them and vicariously drink in their living energy. All to soon I knew it must end and then my real purpose would begin…

*****

After the humans finally turned in for the night, it was simplicity itself to let myself into the house. Moving silently through the parlor, I took the time to browse amongst the mementos they had collected. Small portraits and souvenirs, each a memory, spoke to the devotion this family held for its members. The collection of precious and expensive books that stood in a corner shelf spoke to their devotion of learning. The large tome of fairytales, a lavish luxury given the price of books let alone one devoted to the entertainment of children, told me of the father’s love of his children. A trinket shelf devoted to the parents showed the handy work of items obviously made by the hands of youth. One in particular, a crudely carved statuette of a knight’s horse held my attention. Without really understanding why, I placed the horse in my pocket before moving on.

Upstairs I crept till I came to the master bedroom. Silent as death, I eased the door open and made my way into the room. I quickly took stock of the room and saw the woman and her husband were asleep. I moved to the bed and pulled out the specially ensorcelled dagger I had been provided. I saw the paralytic venom I had applied to the blade earlier still coated the blade. It would ensure that my work was undisturbed. A quick jab to both of them started the poison working, so quick was its action that neither had time to cry out from the pain or surprise. I quickly started on the second portion of my task and was on my way to the next room within several minutes.

One by one I moved from room to room. Each one a methodical application of the assassins art in pursuit of my goals till eventually I stood before the final door. Entering as I had the others, the enhanced vision afforded me by my undeath allowed my to view the details of the room. Obvious appointed in bright colors, it was filled with the lovingly crafted toys of a youth that enjoyed life. Yes, the room was study of the innocence I so longed to hold onto and this was no better expressed than by the youngling nestled in his small bed before me.

Moving up alongside the sleeping boy, I found myself merely staring at his sleeping form. The cherubic face, so pure in its youth, was untroubled by the horrors of the world beyond his window. Before I could stop, I found myself reaching out and gently brushing back a lock of the soft brown hair that had fallen across his face. Despite the whisper like touch, he stirred in his sleep and I took a quick step back. So undone was I by the human compassion I thought I had left behind, I stumbled into the bedside stand, knocking over a glass figurine in the shape of a griffin. The child was a light sleeper; for the noise disturbed him enough that he started to rub his eyes and to my dismay turned his head in my direction.

“Go back to sleep Jordan.” I told him quietly.

“Daniel? Is that you Daniel?” he asked me, still rubbing sleep away.

“Your just dreaming Jordan. Close your eyes and you’ll be back to sleep before you know it.” I said once again in a near panic.

“I knew you weren’t really dead Daniel. Momma and Daddy cried a lot when we got the news, but I told them you could never die. Not you Daniel, you were always so strong.” He said groggily.

“Everything dies eventually little brother. There are worse things than falling in battle. Now close your eyes, and think of another dream. Something nice, like when father would take us to see the changing of the royal guard, with all their finery and the big gilded horses of the knights.” I managed to choke out.

“ I love you big brother.” He said simply and snuggled back down into his bed and closed his eyes.

Staring at the ceiling, the last vestiges of my humanity screaming inside me, I silently pleaded for a forgiveness I knew would never come. I would never again be clean for I was certainly a damned thing for this nights work. After a moment to collect myself, I leaned back over the bed… The echoes of my anguished screams chased me from the house as I completed my work and stole off into the night carrying a sack heavy with sin.

****

Back amongst my own, I presented my offering to my Advocate. With a solemnity in keeping with the horror the sack contained, Grigor withdrew the bloody still beating hearts of my family.

“This final task severs your ties to the mortal’s world. You are this day reborn in truth and take your place in the ranks beyond life.” He said in ritual, “ As befits birth, you will take upon a new name. No longer will you be called Daniel, for that is another life beyond you. Hence forth , you will be known as Abdiel. Each of these offerings will stand in your place as sacrifice for transgression against the will of the Forsaken. Once they are gone, the full measure of our displeasure will be yours alone to bare.” Then in an unheard of gesture of understanding, he leaned forward and squeezed my shoulder in a companionly grip.

“What we ask is not easy Abdiel, but necessary. Mortal life will never again be in your grasp much as you are now beyond death. Harsh is the path we are forced to walk, and your heart must be dedicated to our purpose. We are your family now, and while comfort is not something in our nature to offer, we will offer you something to belong to and respect for your skills. In the coming centuries it will have to be enough, for it is all we have to give.” And with that, he turned to leave.

The dead cannot cry and of all the things I will miss about life, I believe that is the one simple act I will miss the most.

As I followed him from the room, I slipped my hand into my pocket and felt the ruff edges of the horse I had carved for my father when I was ten. I had one more thing to learn to endure in the coming years…regret.

Of Defias and Honor Betrayed Pt.3

Journal Entry

A fortnight to the day saw the fulfillment of my vow. Using my contacts within the Border Guard, I was able to locate four stalwart adventurers that shared my desire to see the back of the Defias broken.

Garibaldi was a promising mage whose sister had been defiled and murdered by a band of the thugs one lonely night on a stretch of the Elwynn road while making a journey to Stormwind.

Morrison, a battered and embittered young warrior whose twin brother had lost his life while safeguarding a caravan from Redridge, with a desire to fill the void in his soul with a river of blood.

Nathaniel the Priest, who forsook his vows of holiness and left his peaceful monastery to walk a path of vengeance when the young nephew he believed would follow him into the clergy was killed during a pilgrimage to the chapel of Northshire.

Ginner, a well trained rogue from Stormwind’s Old Town, rounded out our party. Cynical and prone to seemingly cruel acts, his generally self-indulgent life had come to a screeching halt when his wife, an equally accomplished rogue in her own right, had meet her fate at the end of a Defias knife after a disastrously failed burglary attempt of a Defias outpost.

We each entered the mine not with some glorious vision of heroism or civic duty, but in the service of Death. Thoughts of vengeance and retribution insured that no quarter would be given and even Nathaniel, the most likely to be conflicted with our path, showed a surprising ruthless practicality.

No, of them all, my own reasons for the slaughter we wrought were less than pure. Oh, I was true in my conviction to put to rest the spirits of Edward’s victims, but in the deepest part of my heart I knew I fought for another reason entirely… Edward’s madness resonated closely with an anger that had been with me for many years. As I watched the kingdom I was born to degenerate in decadence and the common people that were it’s backbone ground under the thumb of royal indifference, I found it all to easy to see the seductive lure of VanCleef’s rage. Given the power and will to make a change, I could not say that I would not rationalize the same acts in order to effect change.

Edward was a shadowy mirror of my soul posing questions to my conscientious that I was not ready to ask of myself. More importantly, he was a potential rival to any future plans I might have for power. His death would serve well to open door into the halls of power that my calling would normally close, so practicality if nothing else demanded his destruction. It was with these thoughts in mind that I followed my companions down into that den of corruption.

The upper level of the mine was an extensive network of excavations. As we moved deeper into it’s depths, we uncovered warren after warren filled with the bustling activity of lower level members as they sought the dredges of the precious metals that the mine still possessed as well as making even more room for new members and equipment.

Once the first of the miners turned his pickaxe on us, the killing began. After a time, I simply stopped caring let alone counting the dead. From tunnel to tunnel we moved burning everything we left behind till eventually we came upon the mine foreman. A massive ogre by the name of Rhahk’Zor. Under normal circumstances, he might have been a formidable opponent, but with the killing fury driving us one it was but the work of minutes before he joined his workers in death. The ogre had been guarding a heavy wrought door that separated this new portion of the mine from the old tunneling.

After Grinner used his specialized talents to neutralize the door, we found ourselves in a cavern filled with goblins running here and there hard at work in what was obviously a lumber processing station. As we watched, a huge lumbering mechanical golem came into view carrying a massive timber in its claws. So strange was the contraption, that it was a few minutes more before we noticed that a goblin appeared to the be directing the machine from a seat within what would have been it’s head.

Garibaldi took the initiative, standing and firing balls of flame into the wood works, as he made his way toward the golem-like construct. We quickly fanned out around him and started killing goblins as fast as they could throw themselves at us. So caught up in his need to burn, Garibaldi was almost brought low by a swipe from the lumbering monstrosity till Morrison intervened. While the warrior kept the attention of the driver, Grinner stealthily climbed the up the back of the thing and started ripping out cables and whatever parts his hands could reach. It seemed mere moments, till the machine started to spark and smoke. Grinner jumped from his precarious position just as the thing lost its balance. Jumping from his seat, the large goblin was able to roll to safety as his creation crashed to the ground. Of us all, it was Nathaniel that reached him first and with a swing of the heavy hammer he kept at his side, caved in the goblin leaders head.

As we moved farther into the mine, we eventually came to what appeared to be a smelting works. The sheer amount of industry that had been erected within the mines was startling. Once again, we were confronted with goblins busily rushing to and fro at their task. We engaged these workers with the same pitiless determination we had used to dispatch their brethren and it was not long before the bodies were once again piled high.

We eventually came to another massive door deep within the bowels of the mine. After Grinner’s attempts to get us past this obstacle met with failure, we made use of some of the blasting powder stored in the tunnel behind us to breach the door using of all things a mammoth bronze cannon not unlike those used aboard ships of the line. After the cannon made splinters of the door, we were confronted with an astonishing sight… A gargantuan cavern in which a huge heavily armed ship floated. Everywhere we looked, we beheld crew loading provisions and weapons. It appeared that Edward’s grand scheme was to eventually take to the seas not only to disrupt the shipping lanes, but also to bombard the walls of Stormwind while lying off the coast. Judging from the size of some of the cannons this plan, while obviously the product of a demented mind, may very well have been feasible. With this secret bolthole leading out to the Great Sea, Edward could play a cunning game of cat and mouse with the royal navy that would have disastrous repercussions for the kingdom’s already shaky economy.

What followed next was a dizzying fight to the ship. Defias pirates rushed us seemingly from everywhere. I remember ripping souls from my attackers as quickly as my mind could think of the words. Faces were a blur as we smashed them down in our run to the ship. By the time we reached the boarding ramp, I was saturated with the stole energy of who knows how many fallen and could feel their agony like a sweet dark wine that had me almost drunk with the godlike feeling of power it conferred. At that point, I could not have stopped the slaughter even had I been willing, so tight did it have me in its grip. My companions were much the same, all caught in the vise like grip of battle madness. I remember the fight through the warship as much of the same. One thing I learned was that in the midst of such carnage foes loss their individuality as each is equally deserving of your next strike. The cook, first mate and captain all fell before us like the rest of their crew till eventually the captain’s quarters and our real prize was before us.

The final moments of VanCleef’s life were lived as violently as the rest it. Though he fought with skill and passion, the outcome was assured the moment we gathered toward this end. I know some enterprising bard is not doubt at this moment frustrated that I would not provide forth coming details of that last battle, but I have no desire to afford Edward any tainted glory even in death. I will say that such was my blood fueled hatred by the end, that I chose to inflict the most sever vengeance it was in my power to enact. With hardly a thought, I ripped him from his body. While negating the chance of resurrection, it was also in my mind to deny him the dark embrace of the afterlife. No, his sentence was pain and an unending quasi-life. To this end, as we made our way out of the cove to the coast, I stopped long enough to throw the crystal containing his screaming soul as far out to sea as my arm would allow. It still fills me with an unwholesome delight to this day to picture him at the bottom of the ocean, screaming out his madness into that deep forgotten darkness for all eternity.

After returning Edward’s head to Sentinel Hill, I parted company with the party. No fond fair wells were exchanged between us. We had each done what our demon’s demanded of us, and while not people I would call boon companions, I still wished their souls some rest from the pasts that haunted them.


By the hand of Abdul Alhazred
Vizier of the Conclave of Warlocks.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Visions of Combat:Druid

While not completely combat oriented, I still think this tale will make you smile.

Visions of Combat:Druid

…It did not take me long to find the tracks of the young human who had invaded my forest sanctum. Even had the trees not whispered to me of his passing I would have still been able to pick up his tracks. It never failed to amaze me that no matter how much time they spent in the wilderness, humans still managed to leave a trail that a half-blind kodo could follow.

It took less than an hour to finally come upon him. Gun in hand, he was apparently stalking Grimclaw, the Ironfur bear that I lived in this part of the forest, for I could see Grimclaw’s spoor at his feet. For a moment, I was almost tempted to let the fool actually find the surly giant. It was after all getting close to winter, and the bear would certainly find the opportunity for a quick meal agreeable.

No, this one was mine and it was about time that he learned why people left this portion of the woods alone…

I quickly closed the distance between us, moving silently from tree to tree. When I had moved close enough, I allowed him a glimpse of me. Predictably, he quickly fired at the great gray shape he most likely thought was the bear. Moving once more from tree to tree, I continued to taunt him with brief glimpses while all the while he furiously loaded and fired the noisy smelly rifle he carried. He must not had planned to be out long, for eventually his ammunition ran out and at that point, I broke from cover and quickly blinded him with a flash of Faerie Fire.

Briefly blinded, he stumbled into a tree and I quickly called up the tree’s roots to entangle him. Once he was securely snared, I casually walked up to him and folded my arms.

“Well, what has fortune brought me today? I asked, as I leaned forward and peered into face. Blinking furiously, I saw his startlement when he finally beheld me in my entire elven splendor.

“Wha…What is the meaning of this elf!?” he asked furiously, “By what right do you attack me like this?”

“Why by the right of the death I smell upon you, as well as the interesting collection of pelts I see swinging from your belt.” I said with as much surprise and innocence as I could muster without cracking a smile.

I could see the panic start to take hold in his eyes. Any moment now, I knew the pleading would start and was not disappointed.

“Please let me go! I meant no harm. I was simply trying to earn a living. I only take what I can use!! If you let me go, I will never come back. This I swear on the Light!” he cried.

I pretended to give it some thought till he desperately said, “You’re a Druid. You’re supposed to revere life and harmony. Where is the justice or forgiveness in this? It was simply a mistake!”

“Tell you what human. If you can answer three questions I will let you go.” I told him.

“Ask me anything!” he said with eager desperation.

“Will a predator kill for sport?” I asked him.

“No! A predatory kills from hunger!” he exclaimed.

“Ah, but the great cats of Stranglethorn Vale will often play a delicious game of cat and mouse with their prey. Even animals need amusement.” I told him. And with that, I quickly changed my index finger into a talon and leaning forward, open a thin painful gash from his right brow to his chin. I leaned back and licked my nail clean as I contemplated my work and my next question.

At this point, his initial cry of pain had turned into a ragged sob and he blinked frantically to clear the blood from his eye.

“Next question.” I told him sweetly.

“How many animals have you killed this day?” I asked

With evident relief, he quickly said “Six! I took six animals!”

Waving my finger back and forth before his nose I told him. “Really? But I see a wolf pelt at your side and the only wolves in this part of the forest are Grinner and his mate Leaf Catcher and their litter. They whelped four joyous pups this past spring. Apparently you have robbed those younglings of one of their parents. "

"Given that this looks to be a harsh winter, one or more is likely not to make it to spring, since one parent will not be enough to hunt for them. So, in fact you have killed seven or eight if not ten."

"Throw in the fact that wolves mate for life, and I expect which ever one is left will waste away mourning the loss of its mate."

"So, that makes the total possibly eleven.” I then slashed his other cheek. After that, I rammed my altered finger into the hollow of his shoulder. Working the nail around , it was satisfying to hear his howls of pain. After a bit, I casually withdrew and proceeded with my next question.

“One more; just one more. If you answer this one right, I will let you go.” I promised, “What is the lesson to be learned from this encounter?

Lifting his head and staring at me with pain and hate filled eyes, he choked out “That you Elvin bastards are the only ones that have a right to your precious forests, may the Twisting Nether take you!” then slumped in his restraints.

I could tell that he had given up all hope of walking away from this, so I decided it was time for the game to end.

“Wisdom often comes with a harsh cost human.” I told him gently. Then to his surprise, I released the roots that held him. Dropping to his knees, it took him a minute to understand that he was free. Recovering himself, he quickly jumped to his feet, turned and ran.

I waited till he had made forty paces before I started my change. Looking over his shoulder in his panicked flight, I saw the terror on his face as he saw me shift. His headlong race for safety was quickly brought to an end, as with but a few bounds, I caught him and ripped the great muscle at the back of his right leg. Falling to the ground and rolling over to face me, he started to crawl backwards as fast as his damaged leg would allow him.

Changing back, I sauntered up and used my weight to pin him. He then started to scream and curse me. “Damn your lying black heart! My family will come looking for me, and when they find what has befallen me, your stinking woods will be filled with hunters looking to take your head you filthy beast!”

I leaned in close like a lover and whispered into his ear “I certainly hope so. In fact, I’m counting on it.” Then started to change once again. As my shape rippled from Elvin to dire bear, he started to scream in earnest. I started with his face first…

****

Later back in my den, I went through his belongings. I chuckled when I thought over our conversation. Stranglethorn Vale’s large predatory cats were not the only things that enjoyed a bit of entertainment with their meal from time to time.

Thinking about those last words shared between us, I sincerely hoped his prediction came to pass. Grimclaw was not the only bear in these woods that needed to prepare for his winter hibernation…

Visions of Combat:Warrior

This is the first in a series of vignettes focused on combat in its many forms. For while the results may often be the same, the methods and perspectives are unique.


...As the huge troll walked out onto the sand of the arena, I tightened my grip on the haft of Rivenspike. I could almost feel the mighty axe’s desire to spill black blood, and I smiled tightly as I looked over the edge of my shield at yet another challenge to my supremacy as Gladiatorial Champion.

Once, I would have been looked at such competitions as the product of degenerate societies. But as I felt the familiar rage and blood lust building, I knew that my people had forgotten the truth we knew when we were less civilized, that life is sweetest when walking the thin edge of destruction. The air was more crisp and colors more vibrant when fortune might at any moment strip them away.

The young bravo stopped a yard away and brandished his trident and net with a fierce yell trying to dominate my will. He had just started to swirl the net above his head when I felt the familiar energy of my hatred hit my heart. As my vision narrowed down till all I saw was this tyro before me, I gave a mighty yell. All of my anger, all of my bloodlust and the sheer raw joy of power and life I pulled deep from within me and put into that howl of defiance.

The sound hit my opponent like a solid blow and I saw his eyes widen in fright. The moment his arm started to falter in the swinging of his net, I sprinted forward. Covering the distance between us in a single heartbeat, he had not recovered enough to block my tackle as I rammed the spike of my shield into his collarbone.

Wind blasted from his lungs and reeling from the impact, he could not defend himself from the vicious swing I slammed into his side. I felt the impact of his ribs shattering as Rivenspike pierced deeply through his cuirass and I knew that at least his lung, if not his heart as well, had been punctured. With an explosive grunt of agony, he dropped to his knees and vomited forth blood and mucus on to the sand.

Taking an instant to adjust my footing, I brought the axe over in an overhead chop that I drove straight into the hallow joining his shoulder and neck. His chest piece may as well have been made of cloth for all of the resistance it offered, as I split his torso from neck to navel.

Blood fountaining over me, I planted my boot in his chest and with a mighty tug pulled the war axe free. Battle? Challenge? No, this had been an execution and as his body pitched forward, I casually brought the axe up and allowed the weight of his body to sever the head on the cruel keen edge of Rivenspike.

As I slowly came down from the rush, I could feel his blood thick on my face and body.
With the usual weariness and disappointment that came after a killing, I quickly replayed the fight in my mind.

Twelve beats of my heart to end this threat to my glory. Twelve beats… I have done better, but I was younger then.

I heard the arena master walking up behind me, bringing me my winnings. The money mattered little really compared to thrill, and as I turned to accept my reward with the adulation of the crowd ringing in my ears, I wondered if he would give me two next time providing I promised to share the purse…

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Of Defias and Honor Betrayed Pt.2

Journal Entry


My last few months in Westfall were occupied with ferrying supplies from Gryan’s contacts in Stormwind and Lakshire in the Red Ridge territories. While I felt that my skills would have been better utilized by further soirees against the Defias, I knew that this was Gryan’s attempt to keep me out of the clutches of the bandits, once he learned that a price had been put on my head by the Brotherhood.

Eventually, with constant and pointed comments, I was able to make Gryan see reason. If the Defias really wanted to claim my life, distance would not really be a factor given their reach. With my firm conviction that the time was ripe to strike a decisive blow against that raiders ringing in his ears, he decided it was time to beard the lion in its den. To that aim, I was directed to seek out an old rogue of Gryan’s acquaintance named Wiley at the inn in Lakeshire. It was Gryan’s belief that Wiley was our best chance to finally start putting a face to the shadowy leadership of the bandits.

-------------*----------------

Wiley was a cantankerous old goat, with a reputation as the town drunk. It took half the silver in my purse’s worth of lager and Gryan’s signet ring to finally convince the old man that he could trust my confidence, but I was presented with a much different person once we had moved our meeting to the room I have reserved for the night. Wiley it seemed, was actually a member of the royal intelligence service SI7. The image he cultivated for the citizens of Lakeshire was merely the cover of a shrewd mind and someone I rapidly came to believe was an Adept at his craft.

Lakshire was known as a resort town of the wealthy of Stormwind, and drunkards are often considered beneath notice. This placed him in a perfect position to over hear the private discourses of noble and commoner alike, but it was surprising to see real fear in his eyes when I turned the conversation to the Defias.

Fortune it seemed favored my mission, for Wiley had managed to acquire information that the Defias were planning a major offensive. He had also learned that the Defias were being aided in their plan by a mercenary group of Kobolds and Gnolls. Most surprising, was the knowledge that a group of renegade goblin engineers were working closely with the group. This last I found startling, not out of a belief in the inherent goodness of goblinoids, but because goblins were notorious for backing which ever combatant they felt most likely to win a conflict, as well as providing the most profit. The fact that they would align themselves with the Brotherhood was an ominous indication that what ever the leadership planned was serious indeed.

While I worked over this information, I asked if he had any insights that could uncover the mastermind behind the organization. Wiley’s demeanor became quickly agitated, but after an obvious internal struggle of some weight, he pulled a crumpled note from a pocket and pressed it into my hands then turned to leave. In the doorway, he turned and bade me pass along a rather cryptic message to Gryan… “The Stonemason’s fee will be paid.”

------------------*-------------------


While Gryan seemed rightly disturbed by the news I brought back, he was obviously puzzled by Wiley’s parting message. He obviously knew something concerning stonemasons, but did not believe it was relevant to our uncovering the leadership of the Defias. Not one to let go of any possible clue though, he decided I should take the news to Mathias Shaw. According to Gryan, Shaw was the spymaster of SI7 and in the perfect position to put the final pieces of the puzzle together. It seemed that Gryan and Shaw had fought together during The First War, and Gryan was finally calling in an old debt. I was told to check out the rundown militia barracks in Old Town. Old Town was a decrepid section of Stormwind rampant with crime and the seeder elements any large city attracts. Fitting that the leader of a group of spies and assassins would make his nest within the heart of Stormwind’s decay.


------------------*--------------------


Even had I been blind, I would have known the moment I entered Old Town. The ever-present smell of urine and rotting garbage warred with the distinctive smell of unwashed bodies. A festering pestilent collection of homes and shops, I most times could not bring myself to loath its inhabitants, even though I generally distain personal apathy. A life of backbreaking labor, hunger and poverty while in the midst of the obvious wealth the rest of the city enjoyed, made it easy to see why it was suicide to go unarmed even during the day.

Indeed, Old Town had forgotten itself even as the palace did its best to ignore its existence. As long as the plebs remembered their place, the rest of the cities inhabitants merely shook their heads at the instances of murder and larceny conducted in its shadowed alleys and commented that such could be expected from “Those kinds of people.” Truthfully, the only thing I found myself hating them for was the knowledge that their stink would permeate my cloths for days.

So, I was in no mood for the posturing of the young bravo guarding the front gate of the barracks. With the knowledge that this run down building was the headquarters of SI7, I was sure that there were mostly likely crossbows tipped with something deadly and poisonous pointed at me from the moment I stopped in front of the young punk, but that did little to dissuade me from raising my palm toward his chest and giving his essence a little tug to show him that I offered more pain than he was likely trained or paid to deal with. As I expected, after releasing him from the pull of my sorcery, he made no attempt to hinder my walking through the gate and up through the front door.

Once inside, I found myself in the hallway of a well-appointed facility. I did not cool my heels long before I was met by an unassuming older man in the livery of a butler and told that Shaw was waiting in his study. As I followed the gentleman, I had to smile at the thought that this manservant that looked so much like my grandfather mostly likely had forgotten more ways to kill a person than the entire garrison of Sentinel Hill, with the exception of Gryan, had yet learned.

Shaw’s office turned out to be well appointed in leather and exotic wood. Lush tapestries hung on the walls along with amazingly detailed maps of the Eastern Kingdoms as well as what appeared to be topographical maps of many of the regions of Lordaeron. The calm handsome man sitting behind the large desk that dominated the far end of the room watched me with intelligent hooded eyes as I walked forward and started to introduce myself. With a gesture, he bade me to silence. Shaw knew who I was and why I had come. Indeed, it was his respect for Gryan, and the fact that he did not suffer fools gladly, that had allowed me past the front door despite my actions with the guard, whom I learned was named Thaddeus.

After offering me a snifter of an especially excellent brandy, Shaw quickly got the point of my meeting with him. At his request, I handed over the note Wiley had given me, as well as recounting his comment concerning a stonemason. Shaw looked over the message, then got up and walked to a collection of cabinets that occupied almost the entire right hand side of the room. I saw as he opened one of the cabinets, that is was filled with folios stuffed with reams of paper. After a brief search, he pulled one from the collection and brought it back to the desk.

After giving it a quick perusal, he handed it to me and said that it contained the answers I sought. I must admit, it seemed awfully convenient as well as anti-climatic that he would have the answer to the leadership of the Defias Brotherhood so readily to hand. After saying as much, he told me with a strange smile, that a skilled woodsmnn knew that some fires must be left to burn for the good of the forest. But that the Master woodsman also knew how to read such fires, for eventually it would need to be extinguished. I was then told to make haste back to Gryan and lay the matter to rest.

While waiting on a gryphon back to Westfall, I looked over the folio. This was how I came to know the name Edward Vancleef and his connection to the Stonemasons and the Defias…


Edward it appeared was once a highly skilled engineer during the First War. Trained in techniques of stealth and insurgent tactics by SI7 itself, his specialty was infiltrating behind enemy lines to destroy the Hordes mechanical defenses. After the sacking of Stormwind and its eventual reoccupation, Edward turned to his equally exceptional talents in stonemasonry having been taught by his father, a master mason in his own right.

It was Edward that organized the efforts of the stone craftsmen in rebuilding the once great capital. Once the work was finally completed, Edward was one of the first workers exiled from the city gates at sword point when he sought payment for his efforts on behalf of the capital. Whether from a misunderstanding concerning the nature of the craftsmen’s desire to help, or simply from greed, Edward soon found himself joined by the rest of the men and women who’s backbreaking toil had restored Stormwind to it’s former glory.

With the nobility refusing compensation, or even acknowledgement of the efforts of Edward and his guild of masons as well as his fellow disenfranchised engineers, Vancleef soon grew bitter and rallied those of similar sentiment into a force with which to extract what they felt they were owed. Taking the name The Defias Brotherhood, the Defias tattooed the emblem of a cog upon their palms and held to the philosophy that “The machine will not run smoothly if the parts go renegade.” Indeed, it became their rallying cry

The following years saw the ranks of The Brotherhood swelled by outcasts and malcontents, as well as those technically skilled individuals that wished unrestricted freedom in their research, regardless of its potential danger to those around them.

Banditry, thievery and extortion became the order of the day and the means for Edward to continue his personal campaign to extract his payment of the flesh and blood of the realm that had betrayed him. All of that skill, technical knowledge and force of personality corrupted by his thirst for vengeance.



I hold to the old stricture of “An eye for an eye.” After all, even a dog that is abused by its master is justified in turning upon him. But Vancleef had become a diseased feral cur that savages all those around him in his need to inflict pain like that which he endures. Instead of seeking shelter within the very bosom of the people he and his represented, the better to foster sympathetic ties to the community, he instead brought death and hardship. In the end, he had become worse than the treachery that had spawned him.

It was with a cold and calculating fury that I returned to Gryan with his answers, and a vow that before a fortnight, Edward would pay for his butcher’s bill. The payment that was owed to Elywnn, Westfall and the rest of the Eastern Kingdoms, not in the name of the king, but in the name of those people like Gryan, Mister and Missus Saldean and my father, the common folk of the land who’s innocent blood cried out for justice. Their shades now had an advocate, and I would call him to accounting for his madness, or await him in hell.



By the hand of Abdul Alhazred
Vizier in the Conclave of Warlocks

Monday, December 26, 2005

Of Defias and Honor Betrayed Pt.1

Journal Entry

What defines a nation? Some might say it is the laws by which it governs itself. Others may look to the general prosperity of its citizens or the marvels of its architectural achievements. For myself, I believe that the underlying worth of a people can be determined by how it meets it obligations to even its weakest members.

A poignant example of this is the region of Westfall. Once considered the breadbasket of the nation, this once fertile territory learned a harsh lesson about the priorities of those to whom obligation is an inherited responsibility. Having spent selflessly the flowering youth of its sons and daughters in the dark times of the Third War, the Westfallians returned to find the land they fought so desperately for over run by brigands and the marauding depredations of its indigenous gnoll tribes.

Having received the empty regrets of the capital concerning the necessary manpower and resources needed to retake their lands, those that once wearily dreamed of laying down their swords have had to strap on their burden once more to stand with those few remaining men of honor that believed in their vows to safeguard the realm they once swore allegiance to. Ask any veteran what the true lesson is of warfare and the promises of its ruling class. Most will tell you that only in fairytales do the costs of Happily Ever After end with the defeat of the enemy…

A month after my introduction to Ethani and her party saw me laying claim to a bunk in the garrison tower of Sentinel Hill in Westfall. Marshall Dughan, having realized his attempt to draw uncomfortable attention to my occupation with The Order had not born fruit, decided that he would be rid of my presence by banishing me to the edges of the kingdom. I am sure that he no doubt looked forward with anticipation to news of my demise from the blades of the Defias that over ran the area, or possibly from the stubborn traditionalist peoples that still made it their home.

I will admit that my first week was filled with suspicion, but the harsh reality of their situation quickly helped the beleaguered guards and homesteaders to look beyond my vocations reputation and accept the unique help I would be able to provide. I must admit that my willingness to help the Westfallian’s with the most basic of tasks, such as recovering lost property or helping one Mrs.Saldean acquire the ingredients for her rightly famous Goretusk Pies, did not hurt as well. Although the hand I had in the thinning of the malfunctioning Harvest Golems, as well as the ever present gnolls, may have went a long way to opening the doors of my fellow kinsmen, I believe it was most likely the pies that won them over more than anything. Certainly the head of the People’s Militia, Gryan Stoutmantle, seemed to appreciate the change from the usual rations.

Gryan was an interesting example of the people he safeguarded. Creased and scarred from a lifetime of martial experience, he nonetheless retained a stoic and dry sense of humor that I found I appreciated along with the frankness with which he entered conversations. The most distinctive impression I had of the man was that while keenly aware of the odds against him and his men, he would not put aside the burden he had taken on for his people till his duty eventually called upon him to make the inevitable sacrifice that all true heroes makes in the end. I only hoped that when he was eventually called upon one last time to give up his life in their defense, the people of Westfall would properly honor the man, who even with the crushing knowledge that his kingdom had abandoned him, had stood as a shield against the chaos around them.

As a symbol of his growing trust in my desire to prove my worth and sincerity, Gryan told me of information he had acquired that spoke of an encampment of Defias that had recently setup an outpost in the Jangolode Mines on the western edge of Westfall. Seeing this as a perfect opportunity to prove my abilities against their greatest threat, I assured Gryan that I would deal with this outpost. After the meeting, the scout Galiaan found me preparing for the mission. He asked, that if possible, I recover any of the symbolic red bandannas the Defias always wore from the ones I managed to dispatch. This would go a long way to not only boosting the moral of the farmers, but the rest of the garrison as well he said. I agreed to do my best in this regard and set off to start making a real difference to these people.

****

Two days later I returned to the tower exhausted and battered, but bearing fifteen bloody and torn bandannas as proof that the Defias Brotherhood would have to be a bit more discrete the next time it planned on expanding its foothold.

Stoutmantle was much pleased, so it was no major feet to get him to agree to allow me to scout among the Dagger Hills. This range comprised the eastern edge of Westfall and included the abandoned town of Moonbrook and the acknowledged stronghold of the Defias leadership, the Dead Mines. Gryan also charged me with further removing any of the Brotherhood I might find in the mountains close to the mines. So after a hot meal and a night’s undisturbed rest, I made what repairs were needed to my gear and set off once again.

I found the Dagger Hills to be an interesting lesson in stealth and field craft, as the entire range was infested with sentries and small camps. Were I could, I managed to catch the bandits in unguarded moments away from their brothers or relied on the talents of my servant Voxil to even the odds when single combat was simply not an option.

Strangely, in the midst of all this, I stumbled upon the encampment of a rather peculiar dwarf named Grimbooze Thunderbrew. After speaking with the odd little brewmaster and sampling a bit of his wares, I could only come to the conclusion that he had wandered into these mountains while under the effects of rather potent stout, and had simply not recovered enough since then to make his way on to his homeland. Here it seemed was a unique opportunity to do a little something for the guards of the tower of a more personal nature and I quickly inquired about purchasing a keg of the dwarf’s best brew. Grimbooze sadly informed me that he could not meet my request, as he barely had any of his own personnel stash left. But, if I would be willing to bring him the ingredients necessary for his gods given gift, he would produce a keg of ale the likes of which would make the King of Ironforge weep gratefully in his cups.

It was with this promise that I made my way to the Saldeans farm. I was well acquainted with the Saldeans, and knew that Mr. Saldean would be willing to part with some of the recoverd hops we had found within the Harvest Golems I had helped him deal with. So, with cargo in hand it was not long before I was back at Grimbooze’s camp watching a true artist at work on a craft he loved.

The rich and tantalizing aroma of his brew promised a grand celebration when I returned to the Hill with my latest collection of Defias apparel. Using a special alchemical process perfected by dwarven brewmasters, Grimbooze was able to have a perfectly aged keg of his finest stout ready by morning. As I thanked him for his generous hospitality the previous night in sharing not only tales of his adventures but more of his personal stock, along with the accompanying headache, he agreed to seek out Gryan and company. After all, men who could truly appreciate the rightous glory that was dwarven lager were rare and precious in this world and in need of cultivating he said.

Needless to say, that evening found the garrison toasting not only the success of my mission into The Daggers, but also savoring steins of what was possibly the masterwork of one of the finest dwarfs it is still my pleasure to have met.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Tales of the Fallen: Kralnor's Staff

This is a stand-alone story to celebrate the genius that was Kralnor. For those of you wishing to find out more about this wunderkin, I recommend http://www.thatsjuicy.com/kralnor/book.htm


For Kralnor, your staff was indeed a good one…
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I was studying the alchemical uses for Fadeleaf the first time I came across the name of Kralnor. My master was fond of giving me quizzes on his favorite hobby, and that day saw me deep in the stacks of the library that the Conclave of Warlocks maintained.

It was not uncommon at any given time to find numerous apprentices tracking down this bit of arcane knowledge or that piece of trivial lore for one of their masters projects, so it was not surprising the see my friend Malachi two tables over. Only the top of his curly brown hair was visible above the fortress of books he had built around himself, and I smiled at the thought of him feverishly scribbling notes from one of the military treatise he always found so fascinating.

With a shake of my head, I turned back to the discourses of the warlock Alaric on the many, and rather boring, uses of Fadeleaf. After my fourth yawn in as many minutes, I closed the dusty old tome and decided that Malachi obviously needed rescuing from his barricade.

Quietly walking up behind my friend, I smacked him on the back of the head. With a startled yelp, Malachi jerked around in his chair and gave me an evil glare. “Damn it Abdul, I thought you were Yorgi come to tell me I had left a smudge in one of the books again!” Yorgi was the librarian, and spoke of in whispers by all the young warlock apprentices. Quick with a curse of silence when anyone so much as sneezed from the dust accumulated by all the many grimoires, Yorgi was also known to give his imp free reign to wander the stacks looking for young boys trying to catch up on much needed sleep. It was agreed by us all, that taking a succubus to one of the grand dances at the palace would have been preferable than to be in his ill graces.

“Stop barking like a gnoll before you drawn The Grumplock down on us fool!” I admonished in jest. Malachi quickly looked around then grinned sheepishly. “Aye your right, but you still had no cause to hit me.” He said. “Glad you’re here though, you should read this.”

Looking over his shoulder, I saw that I had been correct. It was indeed another of the accounts of the Second War that he always found so enthralling. Malachi simply could not put dreams of battleground glory and martial exploits out of his mind. A large lad with surprising physical strength, it was not shocking that he excelled at the weapons training that we all were obliged to take part in. But for Malachi, the lessons were more than simple precautions for a warlock that might find themselves in a situation were magic was slower than a good sword. I myself was fond of dagger work, and took some pride in praise from my instructor, but felt that if it ever came to me relying on a dagger for protection, I deserved what came for being unprepared. Malachi on the other hand came into his own when he held a fighting staff in his hands. Gone were any doubts about his skills or the taunting of the other apprentices when he was slow to grasp even the basics of rudimentary magic. Many were the snide comments that found their reply on the practice grounds at the end of Malachi’s stave.

“What now, some account of Sir Extremely Boring and how he saved the Hand-Maidens of Selune from their virginity?” I sked, in as bored a tone as I could. “Very funny, but no.” he said with exasperation. “This is an account of the Arch Warlock Kralnor, an how he fell holding the Searing Gorge pass from a Scourge incursion till Alliance troops could arrive.”

“So” I said

“So, Kralnor was the Warlock that perfected the technique for staff use while casting. He learned to alter the somatic gestures of many spells to be able to cast with one hand while welding a weapon.” Malachi told me. “It says here that his body was returned to the Conclave and buried in the Mausoleum of the Fallen.”

“I’m sure its all very noble and interesting, but how this Kralnor fell will not keep you from getting another trashing from your master Bogdan if he finds out you were in here skylarking again!” I told him. “I’m sure that is not the reason you were sent here Malachi. You really should be studying for you next test. I know you scored low marks on the last three you have taken.”

“True, but this could be something that might give me an edge.” He admitted. “I’m not as smart as you I know Abdul, but that just means I must find a way to play to my strengths.”

This was more wisdom than I was used to hearing from Malachi, and if he was willing to risk the ire of his teacher again so soon, then it must be something he thought worth the chance.

Taking a deep breath, I asked, “So tell me, what have you found so far?”

“Kralnor was said to have written down his fighting style along with his altered spells in a small manual. It may be that the manual was placed along with the rest of his most personal items in his crypt!” He said with more passion than I had seen him use for anything.

“Let me see, your plan then is to not only sneak into the Mausoleum of the Fallen, but then to rob the grave of this Kralnor?” I asked aghast.

“This manual could be what I’m looking for Abdul. With the knowledge it contains, I could start an arcane fighting school or find a position as a BattleLock in one of the Kings regiments. You know I will never have a seat of respect in the Conclave. I’ll make a good warlock, but not a great one. This might be my way of making a name for myself.” He said in all earnestness.

“What you could do is get yourself killed.” I told him. “But if you really mean to go ahead with this insanity, you will need someone with a little common sense.” I said with a smile. “When do you plan to do it?”

“Tonight. Bogdan is meeting with Master Algarve to discuss the relationship between our resurrection stones and soul shards. He won’t even know I have slipped out.” Malachi told me.

“Then I will tell Garza that I need to help you study for your next summoning test. He knows you, so might just believe that.” I said chuckling; “I’ll meet you at the Mausoleum after midnight.”

“Thanks, I knew I could count on you my friend.” He said as I gave his shoulder a companionable squeeze.

I returned then to my Fadeleaves and prayed that tonight would not go as badly as I knew it could…

****

I met Malachi at midnight. With the skills all young men bent on mischief master, it was not hard to elude the guards and make our way into the crypts. I did not fear magical traps or sentries, knowing that the Conclave traded shamelessly on their reputation to ensure that any covetous grave robber knew better than plying their trade in a tomb of warlocks. Our worst scenario was to be caught by the night watch on the way back out.

After searching for the better course of two hours, we finally found the resting place of Kralnor. The sarcophagus was impressive, being made of marble. Glyphs of Warding had been etched along its base and a crest was engraved upon the lid. Feeling more than slightly uncomfortable, I accepted one of the pry bars that Malachi had thoughtfully purchased in the Dwarvin district earlier that day.

“Ready?” I asked him

“It’s here! I know it!” he said as if to himself as he started to work the lid.

With another deep sigh, I shrugged and put my back to the effort. After a bit of near backbreaking effort, the lid finally shifted with a reluctant release of corpse gas. Gagging on the stench, I turned away as Malachi put those formidable shoulder of his to the task of pushing to lid all the way off. With a final explosive grunt of strain, Malachi succeeded in sending the lid crashing off its base.

I heard his exclamation as he peered into the sarcophagus and hurried to peek inside. Kralnor was nothing more than a yellowed skeleton encased in rotting silk robes. Clutched in his bony fingers, and running the length of his body, was a staff that gave off a faint silvery glow and seemed to be made of metal. Strangely, the stave seemed to also have a grainy pattern along its surface as of some highly polished wood.

“Do you know what that is?” Malachi turned and asked me, wonder in his eyes.

“An interesting alternative to glow lights?” I asked disgustedly.

“And you talk as if you’re the Gods gift to alchemy.” He said reproachfully; “All that horticulture knowledge and you don’t recognize Ironwood?”

“Ironwood?” I asked defensively.

“Yes, Ironwood. It comes from an extremely rare tree found in the oldest sacred groves. Harvested by druids and properly enchanted, its harder than dwarvish steel.” He exclaimed in exasperation. “It is also rumored to have the power to absorb some of the magical energies thrown at its welder to allow them to cast a stone form spell once a day.”

“So it’s a good staff.” I said in a huff

“It’s the best staff! There are warlocks that would give the entire contents of their lab for a staff such as this! Think of it Abdul, nearly unbreakable with the power of spell absorption, it can also channel the strength of the very stones…” He implored in near ecstasy.

“Warlock rocks. I get it, now can you take your new toy so we can leave?” I said testily.

Hurt by my cavalier attitude for so obviously a monumental treasure, Malachi turned back to the sarcophagus and gently pried the staff from Kralnor fingers. No sooner had the stave left its clutchs, the skeleton crumpled into dust; robes and all. Buried within the pile, was a worn leather bound book. With shaking hands, Malachi reverentially lifted the old tome from its resting place and opened the cover.

With his eyes alight and a look of pure excitement on his face, Malachi turned to me and said; “This is it! All of the secrets of his fighting art are here!”

“Great, we’ll both look it over at our leisure once we get the hell out of here!” I told him sarcastically.

“With luck we will make it of here sometime before dawn! “ I said furiously as I turned and started to walk away. “I for one don’t relish getting caught down here and reported to the Conclave.”

Just as we made it to the door of the crypt, we heard a sound behind us. Frightened out of our minds, we turned and beheld a ghostly figure leaning against the sarcophagus with its arms folded.

“Powers of Light Preserve Us!!” I cried out,the image of my life being ripped away by this spectre flashing through my mind.

Malachi took a shaking step forward toward the apparition. “We meant no harm Lord Kralnor.” He said with more steel in his voice than I thought anyone faced with such a sight ought to have. “Its criminal to let such gifts be lost to the ages. You have so much to impart to those of us you have left behind." He implored.

Kralnor’s ghost gazed at us in silence, with what I later swore was a twinkle in his eye. “Took someone this long to learn that huh? He said gruffly.

“And I suppose you believe you have the heart to take my teachings into the world boy? He asked Malachi with a scowl.

“Sir, I know my heart as well as my place in this world. Your techniques are the fulfillment of my path. I will do you justice.” Malachi told Kralnor with sincerity.

At that Kralnor gave Malachi a piercing stare, spending a long moment contemplating the young man before him. I believe he must have seen into my friends soul and knew the truth of his words for he eventually said; “ You may at that. Go with my blessing then, and leave me to my rest.”

“Thank you teacher!” blurted Malachi as he clutched the staff and book closer to his chest. “I will make you proud!”

“Get the F*** out I said!! My rest calls me and you two have disturbed me enough!! roared Kralnor. And with that, he faded away.

We both turned and fled as fast as our feet could carry us to the entrance of the Mausoleum. Taking just enough time to make sure the guard was not patrolling by, we ran till we came to the canal and there stopped before parting ways.

“You owe me Malachi.” I told him with a grin. “ That was the most idiotic thing I have ever done since meeting you!”

“Aye my friend, I know.” He admitted. “If you should ever have need of someone to guard your back, you have but to say the word and my arm is yours.”

I reached out and cuffed him quickly on the side of the head. “That’s what friends are for. Now I really must get home. If Graza finds me coming in at this hour, I’ll find myself feeling less charitable toward you in the morning. “ I said with a laugh. And with that, turned and started heading toward a long overdue rendezvous with my bed.

My last glimpse of Malachi that night was him standing at the edge of the canal, staff and book in hand wearing a foolish grin, bathed in moonlight and happier than I had know him since first we had met.

Yes, I looked forward to the next time he taught someone a lesson on the martial grounds…I looked forward to it indeed.


By the hand of Abdul Alhazred
Vizier of the Conclave of Warlocks

The Burdens of Faith and Darkness

Journal Entry

Elthani and her band, despite their allegiances, proved to be surprisingly companionable. The cynical side of my nature realized that it would hardly do to go around terrorizing the villagers of every hamlet they might stop at. But the easy with which they affected such disarming charm, given the usual methods they were known to employ, was almost more sinister in its implications than any outright manifestations of their authority. It was quickly apparent that winning the hearts and minds of the simple peasantry, like those found in Goldshire, would be fairly easy regardless of whatever deference the threat of their Order might bring them. It was no hardship to image facing the flaming end of a torch-welding mob, were I to come to odds with the group, after all I was a warlock. The usual gamut of fears and prejudices that word implied would weigh heavy against what meager goodwill my time with the patrols and the defeat of Hogger would afford me. If nothing else, the threat of having the village burned to the ground for harboring heresy would force their hands.

So it was that I put on my best smile, and with a skill that almost half convinced me I had squandered an obvious talent for the stage, proceeded to indulge in idle conversation with Elthani and party. Eventually after much ale, and the hour grown late, I found myself nursing my last stein in the company of the priest Japheth. The usual patrons of the tavern having already made their way home, and the rest of the inquisitors taking to their rooms for the night, I found myself quietly contemplating the fact that I owed at least a votive candle to the Goddess of Luck the next time I passed the Great Cathedral in Stormwind.

Such thoughts also turned my mind toward Japheth. During the evening, Japheth had remained mostly silent only rarely offering commentary on the conversations we all shared. It was not difficult for one of my vocation to discern the touch of Darkness in those around me, so I found myself quickly fascinated by the fact that sitting next to me this evening was a being even more wrapped in dark tails of folklore than myself; a Shadow Priest.

Much to my dismay, and due in no small part to the ale I had drank all evening, I found myself turning and asking the one question his nature fueled my curiosity to ask. “Why do you do it?”.

Lifting his head from what I assumed was contemplation of the contents of his own stein, Japheth focused his gaze on me and asked why I, of all people, would need to ask such a question of him. I stammered a quick apology, but Japheth merely sighed and turned more fully toward me, inviting me to ask my question again.

My curiosity getting the better of my sense of self-preservation, I asked him again why he would willing devote himself to the worship of Dark Gods. I at least made the pretense of fighting for the portions of my soul I sacrificed toward my art. Granted the distinction was slim indeed, but it made me feel less a monster when people learned of my calling. He on the other hand willing gave of his humanity and despite also paying homage to the Gods of Light, could not wipe away the stain of blood his other Patrons demanded for their favor.

With more patience than I likely would have been able to show, he explained that while the Gods of Light offered comfort and succor to the troubled, as well as gifts of healing and restoration, the Gifts of the Dark Gods were not without merit as well. Yes he admitted, destruction was their dominion, but destruction in the cause of righteousness was a burden worth carrying.

The Dark Gods, he said, were not particular about what their priesthood did with the power they bestowed so long as they received due tribute and their pound of flesh. Darkness shed no tears over the loss of individual evil in the world, such was their wisdom in the nature of creatures, that they knew another would rise to take its place with a quickness that Light could not engender in its own followers. So by allowing a simple priest of Light access to the bounty of The Dark’s Gifts in exchange for homage, the balance was never in real danger of shifting to righteousness. The two-fold boon of winnowing the chaff from its own ranks as well as the opportunity of seducing the priest fully to the Left Hand Path was pragmatic in the eyes of the Gods.

Surely, I said, the Gods of Light would take a deem view of one of their Shepards walking such a murky line. Judging by the sanctimonious speeches I had heard spouted by certain Paladins and the general members of the clergy, the Gods of Light brooked nothing less than unswerving devotion to purity.

Japheth laughed at that. The Gods of Light understood that the condition of intelligence was a constant balance between the profane and the exalted. He understood that blind devotion was not what they desired but rather the reasoned choice to nurture those around us, as well as being an example of perseverance and grace to the ideals of the Light. In Japheth’s eyes, anyone could be pious while fortune smiled on them, but true faith was forged in adversity.

I admit, that such philosophical insights were not normally mulled over by my kind. Warlocks are generally cold in their logical approach to the dark forces they weld. For the most part, we view the energies we channel as no more than a tool to meet our needs, and most would view that which is Holy as just another form of weapon, if they bothered to think about it at all. Make no mistake, we are as prone to self-doubt concerning our motives and the lengths we will go to achieve them as the next man, but most of us rationalized the constant choices more as challenges to our commitment than as a way to sooth our often troubled spirits.

I found the idea of walking such a precarious balance as the shadow priest not only troublesome, but dangerous as well. The chance that one would find oneself abandoned by their source of power simply for straying too far to either side of the line they walked must require more diligence than I could conceive of. Truly, Japheth and those like him must have had inhuman levels of personal strength.

At that, he admitted that the selection process for training of would be Dark Priests within the Order was harsh indeed. Not only selected for specific aspects of personality, they were endlessly put to the test proving their ability to contain and control the Evil they willingly took upon themselves. Apparently the amount of priests that could endure the path long enough to reach the zenith of their power were almost nonexistent. Most he said, eventually either gave up the boon of dark power to better service their comrades in a supporting role more appropriate to their clerical desires. Some fully slide into the abyss from the ecstasy of their ability to force their desires on those around them. Generally, those who chose the later were eventually hunted down by the very comrades they had once stood shoulder to shoulder with.

Japheth was as aware of the rumors as I was of rogue priests that managed to continue their growth in darkness despite the vigilant eye of the Church. These he said were thankfully rare, with the idea of a fully empowered rogue Shadow Lord being as beyond reach as recovering the lost art of Necromancy. After all, whom would willing endure the company of such a creature so far lost and with so little to offer aside from endless pain?

With that last thought, the obviously weary priest excused himself and left for his room. I stayed by the fire a bit longer musing over our conversation. With my newly acquired insight, I realized that Japheth was at crossroads within himself. I imagined that the burden of his vocation and the choices he had made so far explained his stoic yet somber demeanor. As I finished the last dregs of my drink, I silently wished him luck in his decision regardless of the eventual outcome.

I knew the unwholesome fulfillment that utilizing my own shadow talents provided me, and the struggle that all warlocks fought to remain their own masters in the face of that power. To think of that darkling pleasure being a never-ending presence in everything I did in service to my own profession was sufficient to provide me a shudder as I stood and made my way to my own bed.

As I lay there waiting for sleep to come, I came to the conclusion that the continuous link a priest maintained with their Deities, and what those confusing and capricious Entities demands from their servants, was a price that even I would not willing pay. I would never be the pawn in some cosmic game of control. Indeed, the ways of Warlocks were preferable, for aside from the obvious sense of paying your respect to a Higher Power when they had obviously intervened on your behalf, I mastered my own destiny.


By the hand of Abdul Alhazred
Vizier of the Conclave of Warlocks

The Fall of the Dogmen's Champion

I imagine that hubris is a trait that all practitioners of the arcane struggle with during their long careers. Channeling the energies of death and creation as well as those of the soul seems so much grander than merely welding a sword against destiny. I was certainly full of my power on the day of my quest for Hogger. After all, I was no novice to combat and fully believed that I had the measure of this gnoll regardless of his daring and obvious prowess.

He would teach me a lesson of conflict I have yet to forget. That while power and skill are equally as important as preparation, they will only see you as far as the first blow against a desperate enemy with nothing to loose. After that, Fate and Lady Luck rule the battlefield. If you are fortunate, the Gods will favor you that day and you will live to heed the lesson. It is said that the Gods are sympathetic to the foolish, given that I am sitting here writing this after all these years, I would say that I agree…

Journal Entry


Taking the gnoll’s past attack pattern into account, I felt they were mostly likely crossing the border from Westfall to make their raids, then fading back to the safety of the plains. Given the large numbers of Gnolls roaming the grasslands, it made the most sense for him to make camp along the West Elywnn River. This would put him in a good tactical position to not only watch the Westbrook garrison, but also the road from Stormwind in case the capital finally decided to take matters into its own hands.

Using the tracking techniques I had learned during my time with the boarder guard, it was not long before I found signs of raiders in the area. Deciding that strength was needed now more than stealth, I pulled out a shard to summon the voidwalker Voxil. As the soul energy opened the rift to Voxil’s domain. Voxil was twice the width of a man and full of the malice characteristic of his kind. I had seen the frightening strength that Voxil contained, so it was with some relief that I saw the shackles of my power materialize on its wrists before it fully entered our realm.

With its fierce presence at my shoulder, I continued moving along the rivers edge till I came upon a clearing. Peering through the trees, I saw a camp of the Hyena men. It was no real surprise to see that no sentries had been left to keep watch, but it was still unexpected that I would find them carousing and so totally off guard. As I watched, the Gnolls passed along great casks of wine I assumed must have come from one of their many raids on the caravans plying the trade routes to Stormwind. They even had the carcass of some large animal roasting on a spit over their campfire. Truly, it seemed they had little fear of discovery.

I continued to sit and watch the gnolls at their feasting till eventually I saw an abnormally large specimen get up and make his way into the woods. Judging from the deferential treatment the rest of the party showed this creature and the large necklace of boar tusks worn around its neck, I assumed this was my quarry. Realizing that he was most likely going off to deal with the effects of the large amounts of alcohol I had seen them all consume, I knew that this would be my perfect chance to take him without engaging the others. The trick would be to draw him far enough away from the others that they would not hear the fight, although with the boisterous nature of their revelry, I likely could have ridden a patrol of light calvary past their camp without drawing notice. Regardless, with any luck they would assume that he had merely passed out in the woods and was sleeping off a drunken stupor. Deciding a trap was my best chance; I had Voxil move on ahead of Hoggers direction with instructions to wait at the river.

Keeping to the trees, I made my way around the clearing to the spot that Hogger had entered the woods. Moving as silently as possible, I tracked him several yards into the forest and circled him till my back was once again pointed toward the river. When I judged that Voxil had had sufficient time to position himself, I deliberately stepped out from around the tree I was skulking behind and stepped on a branch at my feet. Hogger drew the sword at his back with a speed that was surprising for one in his inebriated state and turned to face me. During those precious few moments, I casually raised my hand and gave him a gesture that even one of his intelligence would have no trouble understanding then turned and bolted through the trees.

The audacity of a lone human standing there showing such contempt worked exactly as I planned, for with a ripping snarl Hogger took up the chase. To make sure that he would continue in pursuit, I reached into the satchel at my side and flung an apple I had been saving over my shoulder at his head. I admit, it wasn’t the most impressive display of bravado I could have made, but judging from the sounds I heard behind me at the time, it was effective.

When we finally made it to the river, I broke through the trees and gave a quick mental command to Voxil. In a faintly unsettling display of initiative, Vox had hidden himself in the water. With my command, he surged up from the river and sprung onto the bank. Even protected as I was from his power through the nature of his binding, I still felt the tail end of his enchantment as he sent a blast of augmented hatred at Hogger. Focusing on the new threat, the gnoll leader launched himself at the voidwalker.

Voxil, with his usual disregard for injury merely opened his arms wide to accept the bone jarring impact that flung them both back into the water. As they both broke the surface, I saw that Hogger had dropped his sword and was trying to choke the life from my servant. I took a moment to incant a demon skin spell at the same time I started the somatic gestures needed for my spell of corruption.

Hogger and Voxil’s struggle had taken them back onto the riverbank just as I finished the spell and I saw the first effects of the mystical rot take hold as the hair on Hoggers body started to turn gray. Despite the darkness eating away at his flesh, Hogger’s strength seemed to increase as his rage grew and as I watched in stonishment, Hogger lifted Voxil over his head and hurled him several yards away. I could feel through my link that Vox had been stunned and quickly went through the passes of an agony curse as the Gnoll sprinted toward me.

In what seemed like the blink of an eye, Hoggers massive paws were around my neck strangling the air from my lungs. As blackness started envelope my sight, I could feel the muscles of his forearms writhering in the grip of my curse. Truly, I knew my death was upon me for nothing seemed to affect this monster as more than a goad to further destruction. In desperation, I quickly gripped his head in both my hands and sank my thumbs into his eyes. As I felt one of his eyes rupture, Hogger flung me away with a howl. Never before have I ever been as thankful for my obsession for preparation as I was that day, for as I hit the ground the health stone I had prepared earlier that day broke in my satchel. I immediately felt the rush of stored vitality start healing my brutalized throat. As quickly as I could draw breath, I poured forth my terror into a word of fear that I spit out at Hogger. Pouring the remaining reserve of energy I had into the enchantment, it hit the reeling gnoll like a physical blow and drove him to his knees.

Gone were thoughts of tactics and strategy; gone were thoughts of the alchemical aids I had nestled in my pack. My only purpose was survival and to achieve it, I had to quickly end the life of this foe I had so badly underestimated. In my training, I had learned a technique to draw on my life force to replenish the well of my magical power. Although dangerous in my already depleted state, I siphoned off some of my remaining strength and staggered over to the warchief. At the same time, Voxil finally managed to recover from the mauling it had received. With a roar of its own, it rushed over to the kneeling and wounded gnoll leader and wrapped its massive arms around Hoggers chest in an attempt to crush the life from him. Giving no thought to the fact that my aid had returned or the fact that I now had precious time to make use of the restoratives I had prepared, I reached out desperately and grasped Hogger’s head in my hands again. With one last great effort I drew deep of my reserves and with a scream poured out pure darkness into his face. The bolt of shadow was almost a solid rope connecting us so furious was my casting. With a violent shove, I pushed myself away from the now silent and twitching gnoll champion. As my knees gave way to exhaustion and I sank to the ground, I saw Voxil take hold of Hoggers head and with a sound like thunder cracking, snap the gnolls neck.

Eventually, I regained my senses enough to take my small dagger and sever a paw from my fallen foe as well as retrieve the necklace of tusks. I realized that my word would hardly be good enough for the dear marshal and proof would be needed to stay any talk of falsehoods. I also finally had presence of mind to make use of one of my precious healing potions to mend enough of my wounds to allow me to make it back to the garrison of Westbrook. I was both weary in body and soul when I finally laid those grizzly prices upon the desk of the duty sergeant and it was with some reluctance that I turned down the offer of rest and food to recuperate. I wanted nothing more than two things before the sun finally went down. One was the sanctuary of my own room, where I planned on sleeping like one of the dead and second was to see the look on Marshal Dughan’s face when the runner sent by the sergeant reached Goldshire with word of my achievement.

In a sign of appreciation for my actions, the sergeant pressed upon me his desire that I at least accept some meager reward from his grateful men. Not wanting to be rude in the face of such sincerity, I made my way to their small armory and without much thought grabbed a fighting staff off the rack. I thanked the garrison for their generosity and using the staff more for a walking stick, started on my journey back home.

When I finally entered Goldshire, a throng of cheering peasants in front of the inn awaited me. As I made my way through the gathering, accepting their thanks and affectionate pats on the back, I finally came face to face with Dughan. With a smoothness that belied the anger I knew he must have been feeling, the Marshall gripped me by the shoulder and in a loud voice proclaimed that a speech was in order. With a weary sigh, I turned and faced the crowd. I told them then that what I had done was only what should be expected from those charged with the safety of our small town and that with the threat of such depredations a constant companion, the fact that the good towns people continued to ply their trades showed that heroism was not merely a trait of a select few or the stories of past accomplishments, but was something that was nurtured everyday in the lives of those that lived in these troubled times. As I turned and looked at Dughan again, I still believe that at that moment he would gladly have sacrificed his commission in his desire to throttle the life from me, so with was much surprise and some small amount of trepidation that I watched an unholy glee light the Marshall’s eyes as he leaned over and whispered in my ear that he had someone he wanted me to meet.

Upon entering the Tavern, it was quickly obvious that our destination was the well-appointed and heavily armed group at the bar. As we came up to them, the lone female of the group turned and offered me the same curious look I had seen across the body of Surena Caledon on the Brackwell farm. Caught momentarily off guard by meeting the beautiful mage face to face, I wondered what she and her companions were doing in the company of Marshall Dughan.

To cover my surprise, I took a moment to look over her attire. I felt my face blanch as I saw the crest on the tabard she wore over her silken robes. It was the emblem of the Orden de la Sangre Rosa, the Order of the Blood Rose.

The Order of the Blood Rose was the militant wing of the Church of Light charged with rooting out the taint of the Infernal. After the last Great War, the sovereigns of all four of the alliance races agreed that there was a need to safe guard the integrity of their realms from internal and external corruption. Taking the lead in the crusade against treachery and heresy, and with the tacit agreement of its sister religions, the Church of Light empowered a cadre of heroes. Drawn from the various monastic orders of the Great Races, with unprecedented legalistic powers, the Order was of the understanding that any excesses in pursuit of their mandate would be over looked.

Based in the Dwarven city of Iron Forge, the Order was rumored to employ the very same tactics and profane knowledge as the criminals they pursued as it suited their needs. Certainly one would need to have access to the same knowledge as ones foes in order to prepare for any eventuality was the general observation given on the few accounts the Order was called on to justify its methods and generally accepted as prudent in these troubled times. Acknowledged wisdom was not to delve too deeply in the business of the Order, despite rumors of corruption within its very ranks. My own order, the Conclave of Warlocks even allowed The Blood Rose to recruit from within its ranks as needed, despite the knowledge that we were certainly under constant observation by the Order. Even the zealots of the Scarlet Crusade were said to tread lightly when the Order was on the march.

With a grin usually only seen on the face of sadists at their play, Marshal Dughan introduced me to the mage whose name was Elthani. Elthani extended her hand as a chuckling Marshal Dughan turned and walked over to join her companions, who had moved to a nearby table. Despite the very real danger this Lady represented to one of my calling, I took the proffered hand. To do other wise was unthinkable and I resignedly accepted her offer of a flagon of mead in toast to my exploits, as well as to share a table with her and her companions.

The harrowing adventure of earlier today hardly seemed of consequence anymore… the Inquisition was in town.


By the hand of Abdul Alhazred
Vizier of the Conclave of Warlocks.

Marshall Dughan and the Skein of Hogger

Journal Entry

I spent over a month learning what I could about the nature of the voidwalker that I now was able to summon. I must admit that at the time I was appalled that the ritual would require the living spark of another life in order to succeed. The spell to drain the soul into the enchanted crystal for fueling the magic was innocently simple in its application but repugnant in its implications. As a consequence and more to relieve the burden to my conscience, I experimented on the wildlife teeming in the forests of Elywnn.

Through trial and error, I found that the life essence of sufficiently robust animals could be used as a substitute to human sacrifice. Many a wolf and bear found their death at my hands while I perfected my spell craft, but I realized intellectually that a time would come when a conveniently located alternative would not be available. To be frank, I found that I had no compunction when it came to using the soul draining technique on what I have always considered lesser beings. Thus murlocs and gnolls were considered acceptable in my eyes and sufficient for my needs when available, truthfully they were little better than animals themselves despite being cunning and vicious combatants. I could only hope that when the time came to turn such art on another human being, that my training and instincts would take over were I was sure my emotional reactions would fail me.

During my tenure with the border guards, which all citizens are obliged to spend time in service to, I had ample opportunity to develop my distain for the humanoids inhabiting Elywnn. I found it no real hardship to be under the orders of Marshal Dughan and tasked with assisting in the efforts to drive them from our lands. Enduring the patronizing and self-serving speeches of Dughan was another matter entirely.

Marshal Dughan was the epitome of the politically appointed commander. Often vehement in his condescension of the intelligence and abilities of both Murlocs and Gnolls, it did not escape my notice that our proud Marshall was not know to sully his hands by leading any of the raids himself. I had joked on more than one occasion with a couple of my fellow patrol that if Marshall Dughan was as able with a sword and shield as he was with rhetoric and officiousness, I could see no reason why we were not already drinking to his honor in the very shadow of Orgrimmar.

So it was with no real surprise that during a supply run to the Westbrook garrison on the western edge of the forest that I noticed a wanted poster for an especially brutal gnoll named Hogger. It appeared that this Hogger was making an attempt to rally those of his verminous brethren too stupid to realize their time on our lands were over. Hogger was credited with at least a dozen organized attacks on the surrounding farms and homesteads as well as ambushing several patrols.

I spoke with the garrison leader concerning the warrant. Inquiries into the specifics of the raids proved that this new war leader was more daring and innovative than I was used to hearing of from gnolls.

I found myself angry that with the capital no more than a couple of hours away by brisk walk, that Marshal Dughan had not at least appealed to the commander of the standing army in Stormwind for a small contingent of Paladins to deal with this marauder. I imagine that the need to save face in front of his peers combined with his almost pathological aversion to anything that smacked of personal responsibility was what held his tongue and allowed these rampages to continue.

After some thought, I decided that with the aid of my new servant and the spells I had researched, I would see if I could bring this Hogger to accounting. Not only would this garner me notice within the Conclave, but would also serve to expose the uselessness of the good Marshall in the minds of the simple peasants of the region.

It was with these thoughts in mind that I made my way to the room I had taken at the Goldshire Inn. Realizing that the coming battle was likely to be the greatest test of my abilities so far, I pulled out my spell books and alchemy tools and started to prepare. The coming day promised to be a long one indeed.


By the hand of Abdul Alhazred
Vizier of the Conclave of Warlocks

Further Down the Path: The Sacrifice of Surena

Journal Entry

Surena Caledon was to be my first object lesson concerning the authority of the Conclave. Surena was the renegade student of Gakin the Darkbringer. Gakin, while powerful, had always been known to take on female students more for their comely shape than any real talent or loyalty they might have possessed. Needless to say, this had caused Gakin to be censored by the Conclave on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, Gakin was also the senior member of a prosperous trading family in Stormwind and used to having his indiscretions sweep under the Conclaves rugs.

The populace at large might be surprised to learn that the Conclave is ever vigilant and tends to deal harshly with the renegades of our order. The sentence is usually brutal and swift. Most often, such tasks are given over to the younger warlocks of the order as both a test and reminder that the grace of the Conclave is mercurial at best. The Conclave is ever aware that we are always one atrocity away from the inquisitorial fires of the Church of Light. Certainly high priest Rohan and his crony; the paladin Lord Shadowbreaker; have been know to give rather pointed sermons on the perils of allowing the infernal to fester within the very heart of fair Stormwind.

So Surena’s fate was sealed and I was to be the agent of the Conclaves justice. Gakin would provide my payment when I had returned with a token of success; a bloodstone choker he had given his former student in exchange for a meaningless tryst. My fee for this butchers bill, the means to summon a voidwalker. According to Gakin, Surena apparently had joined a bandit party operating out of the Brackwell farm somewhere to the southwest of Goldshire in the Elwynn Forest. Armed with this knowledge, I packed my travel satchel and made for the countryside.

Stopping in Goldshire to get directions from the always resplendent and equally pompous Marshall Dughan, it did not take long to find the farmstead. The Brackwell Farm grew pumpkins and the harvest was in evidence as well as an abundance of wild hogs that apparently had moved in when the bandits had taken over. I glimpsed one particular sow in the middle of the patch that strutted through the rows with an entourage of two boars in tow. I was amusingly reminded of certain noble women I had the dubious pleasure of meeting while accompanying my teacher Graza to functions at the palace.

Bringing my mind back to the task at hand, I noticed a handful of sentries spread throughout the grounds with a small group clustered near a decrepit farmhouse at the back of the pumpkin patch. I decided that my best bet was to circle around the farm to the right sticking to the tree line as much as possible till I could come up behind the cottage.

Eventually I had a clear few of the back of the cottage and one sentry to the front left of the building. I decided this was the appropriate time to call up my imp familiar Gyax. Gyax materialized in his usual cloud of sulfurous stink and listened attentively while I outlined my plan. Moving to within 30 yards of the sentry, I gestured for Gyax to move off to my left and waited for the sentry to move away from the cottage. Gyax had called a fireball into his hand and intently focused on the human before him. After a brief moment, I quickly nodded my head and Gyax let loose with his hellfire.

The ball of hellfire streaked away from us and slammed into the back of the sentry staggering him and drawing a startled shout of pain. Whirling in our direction, smoke billowing from the back his of leather cuirass, the bandit pulled the short sword at his side and charged my servant. The surprise and shock of the attack had just the effect I had desired and I started to cast a spell of corruption while the foolish bandit was focused on Gyax. I felt the energy leave me in a rush as the bandit finally closed the distance between us and swung at my imp. I saw the rot start to spread across the bandits face as the shadow energy spread through his body. With a cry of pain and disgust, the bandit turned to me and attempted to take my head with a backhand swing right as I completed my second spell. My curse of agony struck quickly enough that the bandit convulsed and dropped his weapon in mid swing as I threw myself to the side. Gyax was by this point beside himself in glee at the destruction before him and with a shivering giggle leaped upon the fallen bandit. I just had time to see my familiar jam a flaming hand into the mouth of the flailing man on the ground as I snapped my head around to see what was happening at the farmhouse.

Coming around the back corner was the second sentry at a dead run, sword raised high. I quickly jumped to my feet and hastily muttered the words to a demon skin spell. As I felt the fel energies coalesce around me, I flung my hand out toward my coming attacker and shouted a word of power. The shadow bolt hit the enraged sentry in the chest but did not completely halt his headlong rush. As a consequence, my arm was opened up from shoulder to elbow as I tried to pivot to the side. Gyax at this point had finished off the first bandit and jumped upon the back of our second attacker. Reaching around with a taloned hand, Gyax began clawing at the throat of the bandit and I realized this needed to end quickly. Concentrating despite the pain, I gestured at the man and watched as his leggings caught on fire. Following up the immolation spell with another curse of agony, I stepped forward and stabbed him in the back with the dagger I always keep handy for just such emergencies.

I must confess, I was surprised that the whole farm had not risen in arms with the noise we seemed to have been making but as I looked around, I did not see any more guards making their way toward us and heard no sounds of alarm being raised. Thanking the fates for small miracles, I pulled a health potion from my pouch to deal with the gash. As I downed the bitter potion, I remember silently thanking my mentor Graza as well for his love of alchemy and his desire to impress upon me it desirable results. I vowed to make sure I took the time to keep a ready supply of the little concoctions on hand if I was going to be engaging in any more clandestine assassinations in armed camps.

Gyax made his way to my side after taking a moment to pull a choice tidbit from the carcass at his feet. I started toward the cottage and shook my head as I noticed the imp gulp down the last of the tongue he had recovered.

Pressed up against the back of the cottage, I placed my head against the wall and tried to discern how many people were inside. After hearing not a single sound coming from the cottage, I reached out with my magical sense and realized that a spell of silence had been cast within. This explained our unusual fortune in not rousing those inside. While a spell of silence is good for ensuring your secrets remain inviolate, it also renders you deaf to threats such as the one I posed. I know understood the number of guards I had spied through out the farm, as a meeting of importance must have been taking place inside.

I was just about to start making my way toward the front of the cottage when I heard shouting and the sound of clashing arms coming from the direction of the pumpkin patch. Keeping low, I snuck around the side so I could see what was occurring. I nearly laughed out loud when I saw that a band of adventurers had engaged the remaining sentries of the farm. This stroke of good fortune quickly eased my mind as to how I would proceed with those inside the building. Deciding that discretion was needed at this point, I watch as the bandits were quickly dispatched.

The party then moved on the farmhouse. With a definite flair for the dramatic, the lovely mage of the party hurled a flaming globe through the front door as her friends rushed forward. Before the warriors could barge into the confined space, a woman and two men came rushing out, cloths smoldering. While the two men drew their weapons and rushed forward to meet their assailants, I saw the female start gathering flaming energy in both hands. Well, it seemed that Surena was indeed home and not exactly disposed to entertain guests.

Surena hurled the gathered magical flame toward a burly warrior in cheap plate. The man was thrown from his feet to lay stunned more than a yard way. A young novitiate cleric moved quickly to his side to render aid while their comrades redoubled their efforts to bring down the bandit leaders. Surena was in the midst of a sorcerous exchange with the lovely lady mage when I decided to make my move. Quickly directing Gyax to assist the adventures with the two bandit rogues, I quickly began to move along the front of the house. I came up behind Surena and had just started to reach for her when she spun around and placed her palm against my chest and shoved. Augmenting her strength with magical aid, she managed to fling me into the cottage where I smashing into the back wall driving my breath out in an anguished yell. Believing me dealt with, Surena turned her attention back to the mage and started gathering flame for another strike.

Struggling to draw breath, I felt my rage and humiliation racing to the fore. I had not been handled so readily since I had arrogantly accepted a duel from a young warlock bravo during my first year of apprenticeship. By all that was unholy this was going to end! I quickly used my link to Gyax to bid him switch his assault to this arrogant renegade who would dare lay hands upon me and drew my dagger. Pulling myself to my feet, I saw that Surena’s attention was divided between the assaults of the adventurer mage and my familiar, so she was not prepared when I reached around her head with a handful of hell flame and seared her mouth shut. Spinning around in horrified shock, I watched Surena’s eyes bulge and lock with mine as I drew my dagger across her throat. Using my weight, I bore her to the ground and slowly pushing my dagger into her heart. I knelt there beside he, locked in our death gaze till the last light of her life fled.

I quickly tore the choker from her throat and stood up to see how the rest of the battle was progressing. I noticed that one of the rogues was down and the other fleeing into the woods with the party at his heels. Only the mage had remained behind, staring at me with a curious look. Finally with a small nod, she turned and raced after her companions leaving me there surrounded by the dead. I called Gyax to my side and with a sigh, turned and made my way from the now truly abandoned farm.

Later the next day I returned the choker to Gakin. I steadfastly refused his inquiries as to the method of her death, but would have gladly demonstrated her last moments on him but for the promise of the voidwalker. Knowledge and power demand sacrifice and Surena was mine. She would not be the last.


By the hand of Abdul Alhazred
Vizier of the Conclave of Warlocks