Journals of Alhazred

Fiction based on the World of Warcraft game setting

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

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


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