Enjoying the camaraderie and freedom the work provided, the group begins to become more and more jovial. Glad as they were to be free from the confines of the Nexus, Azjol'nerub is like another world entirely. The caverns were massive, so much so that in places they couldn't even see the top of the cave through which they ventured. Cataloging deeply set ley lines and observing and collecting Nerubian
scrolls and various artifacts, the group mentions rumors of Malygos once spending time amongst the spider men. The rumors were never substantiated; why would such a wise and secretive individual spend so much time amongst a xenophobic, dangerous mortal race? What could they possibly teach him? Seeing this, though, they all begin to understand the fascination that may have taken hold over their master. These people, regardless of whatever else they were, were scholars first and foremost.
Venturing deeper into the inner sanctum of the mysterious spider men, the air was surprisingly clear here. It was free of the stench that accompanied the dead ones wherever they roamed, the stench that permeated Northrend, which only served to increase the high spirits of the little group. The cadre of mortals, which was comprised of two elven magi, a human and a troll, had lit a fire. Telestra smiled at her elven companion as he surprised the group with a bottle of Silvermoon wine he brought along. The human had some preserved greens and salted pork. The troll had brought along an exceptionally fine pipeleaf that was little known to the two northern races. The lone drake and his two dragonspawn attendants sat a few feet away from the fire, preferring the cool air, and broke into stores of fine Talbuk Venison
, a delicacy one of the Blue Flight
had brought back from Outland along with the Netherwing
Feeling content, the group of mortals sat around blowing smoke rings into the air. Feeling more and more attached to the mortals, the drake lifted his head and obliged their game by blowing complex shapes through the rings -- leaping dolphins, Kul'Tiras
galleons, a wind serpent
, a miniature frostborn Malygos -- while in front of him his two attendants snoozed to his left and right, his ever-faithful servants. Feeling oddly safe in the confines of the cavern they had broken camp in, no one stood sentry.
The party slept soundly, until the drake awoke with a roar. Clutching his head in apparent agony, great chains burst from the ground, tying him down. Three orcs dressed in ceremonial garb stepped forth, surrounded the drake and muttered an incantation. Outnumbered, the orcs were quickly cut down. Telestra notices a talisman clutched in one of their hands; a crudely etched ogre's head leers malevolently up from it. The grand magus breaths a single phrase: "Twilight's Hammer
Clutching her staff, she turns to warn her dragonkin companions of the threat, only to see something that makes her heart skip a beat: Levinast, the drake who had been tied down, had killed the two dragonspawn who had hurried to tend to him. The chains still bound him, but they did not bind him to the ground. They seemed to lead nowhere, constricting his body without hindering it. With a roar and a bound, he is amongst the mortals who were examining the slain cultists. In a single fluid motion, the drake froze the human solid with the blue's characteristic ice breath and shattered him with his tail. He then turns to the troll, knocks him over and pins his head to the ground, taking care to pierce his claw through the back of his head. He also crushed the bag the troll had carried.
Trying not to wretch as she sees his body twitching horribly, Telestra stumbles backwards, frozen in fear. Levinast is bearing down on her, preparing to sink his teeth into her torso. Her companion, the other elf that had come and the last surviving member of the party besides her rushes in and leaps onto the drake's head. Saying the incantation, he plunged his flaming hands into the young dragon's eyes, blinding him. Levinast screamed in agony and rolled over, catching up the elf in his claw. "RUN!" She can't leave, she had to help him! Before she could react, though, Levinast had ripped the elf's head clean off and flung the corpse sideways.
Leaving the now blind drake to rage blindly about the massive cavern, Telestra fled deeper into Ahn'kahet
! Panting, she paused to listen to the now distant sounds of Levinast's unfocused wrath. Whatever the cultists had done to him, he was lost. Perhaps Malygos might think of a way to return him or put him to rest. Hugging herself, she realized with horror that all of their reagents had been crushed in the bag when Levinast attacked her Darkspear
companion. She moved on, looking for a way out without having to face the drake which had opened itself so much to the mortal's hearts.
Lost for days, Telestra looked about the cavern. She had found it strangely comforting when she first arrived, and she still somehow felt that way about it. She wouldn't starve; conjuring bread and water was a parlor trick. No longer focused on leaving, something beckoned her deeper. She knew that if she could only reach it, whatever it was, everything would make sense. It wasn't really a voice in her head, but that was probably the closest thing to describe it. The presence piqued her curiosity.
She began encountering more cultists, sneaking past most of them, silently lighting up the others that noticed her in some dimly lit corridor. The expedition would not be in vein, she could feel it. Finally reaching the innermost reaches of Ahn'kahet, she beheld the strangest and most horrifying creatures she had ever laid eyes on. They seemed to sense her, and indeed, the door to the room she had just entered slammed shut behind her. Splitting off, her and her images quickly dispatched the two small creatures that flanked the room.
Then she saw it ... It rose up from a corridor, approaching her. Suddenly the presence she had felt no longer seemed to radiate the comfort she had felt; she understood properly for the first time. The creature didn't speak ... It didn't need to. Everything she had felt the day her party died came crashing back to her, and then some. The strange presence this creature gave off had prevented her from feeling the full pain of her friend's madness and demise. Now though, it seemed to deliver it in a crashing blow, as if her reprieve had merely been a loan, and it was now taking its interest.
Suddenly hating the thing she had sought so blindly, she forced herself into a false sense of arrogance and tried to laugh. "Tricking me here ... don't value your li ..." She couldn't finish, as more memories crashed over her. The mages she had killed, convinced that Malygos was right. Or was she? Did she just want to keep her power? No! She could not think such things now, she knew she had a fight for her life!
Splitting once again, she began flinging fire balls at the horrible monstrosity that hadn't so much as twitched. How long she had stood lost in those thoughts she didn't know, and even as she muttered incantations which she knew better than just about anything else on Azeroth, more horrible thoughts crept unbidden into her mind.
Crying out, she noticed movement behind her and immediately cut short her assault on the faceless monstrosity. Turning around, she flings a fireball at a shadow, which turned out to be nothing. She whirls around, hurling another fire ball at whatever it was. Her own mirror image? Or was it the smiling face of her jovial troll companion? The visage dissipated, whatever it was...
Suddenly, Levinast burst in through the roof the temple they were in, landing on her and pinning her to the floor! She kicked out, but her feet connected with nothing -- but it had been so real!
Turning to eye her tormentor, she saw the creature stare at her with cool malevolence. Then it moved towards her. Raising its tentacled hand, it wrapped it around her head. As if hypnotized, she came to her senses just in time, wildly flinging frost and fire in front of her. Too late, though! The tentacles wrap tighter and tighter around her head! She was going to die here, having pursued this creature deep under the world! This creature who had called her here, convinced her that it held truths, answers to the world around her. She closed her eyes, waiting for it to come, waiting for her head to cave and know oblivion, willing it.
It didn't come. She opened her eyes, and she was alone -- but it wasn't the same room! She was back in her study in the Nexus! Why then, was there no door? Confused and desperate, she curled up in a ball and shuddered violently. Somewhere, from far away, she heard a chuckle, a laugh ...
Back in Volazj's temple, the mighty harbinger of the Faceless
had not moved at all. His two guards lay dead in front of him, slain by the magus he had called. The one injury he bore was a welt on his extremity that functioned like a hand, the one spell she had managed to cast at him. In front of him, curled up, crying, desperate and alone lay the elf, utterly broken.
Two members of the Twilight's Hammer moved her body towards the sacrificial altar. Though her body was small, the tremendous amount of arcane energy would be quite satisfying to his master. Volazj was pleased; one thing the mortals did not get, he mused, was how much easier a victim is to deal with once pushed over the edge.