III - Call of the Council

The Lore of a Loremaster

Topic/Postby Liandrix » 11 Dec 2012, 04:55

III - Call of the Council

Call of the Council

Lordaeron – 1 year prior to the first war.

A foul, course smell reached his nostrils as he clung with his back to the wooden wall, crawling back against the mouldy surface and making it creak. The sound seemed magnified in the gloom of the small house. Gloom that hadn’t been there a moment ago, like the moss on the tiles of the floor, or the darkness behind the windows. He gripped his sword tightly against his armoured chest, but Aran could not stop it from shaking any less than he could shut out the female voice that called out his name.

The house seemed deserted at first, just like the rest of the village he and his squad were supposed to check for ‘unusual activity’. Capital City had received multiple reports on strange events occurring in Holden Hill. Unexplained phenomena that were taking place, people who went missing, strange noises heard in the night. The reports kept piling up until finally the City sent a group of lightly armed soldiers.

Judging by the size of the village and its poor defences Aran assumed it was possible for the village to have become victim of a raid. There was but a single watchtower which they had passed on the hill. It had been crudely made. It consisted of nothing more than four spikey logs driven into the ground and covered with wooden plates. There wasn’t even a roof to keep the watch dry, if it was even manned at all. But when their party arrived in the actual village in the warm sun of late spring it seemed perfectly in order, aside from the fact that it had been abandoned completely. Not a single living soul, be they man, woman, child or dog had been left behind. Finding no immediate threat Aran had spread out his group of eight, searching the houses for clues as to what had driven the inhabitants away.

That’s when the sun had vanished.

The sky had turned a murky green, cloudless. Aran was the only one to witness it, all the others were inside. But they witnessed other things. The first scream came from the other side of the village, but it was so loud that the man might have been standing right next to him. Other shrieks followed in quick succession. Aran unsheathed his sword and ran down the hill for the first house. When he entered he found one of his men, slumped against an upturned table, the hilt of his dagger sticking out of his belly. Both his hands were firmly clasped around it in a death grip.

In the next house he found another. This one had attempted to crawl through one of the windows but the glass had cut him open, he hadn’t made it through. In the other houses he found similar scenes. All of his men were either dead or gone. No traces of struggles or fights were found. In the house where he had heard the first scream at the end he found it deserted, but that is where he heard the voice the first time.

Aran.”

The whisper was hardly audible, but he recognised it instantly as the voice of his wife. But it could not be. Tricia had died giving birth to their child. It had happened years ago, when he had been away from Lordaeron.

Aran mentally shook himself. He must have mistaken the wind for her voice, that’s all. He made to sheath his sword when he heard it again, louder.

Aran, where are you?”

In the shock he missed his scabbard and dropped his sword, cursing he bent to pick it up. As he straightened he saw her, standing in the doorway. His knees gave out and he landed noisily on the ground as his wife slowly advanced. She was wearing the same clothes as the day she died: a light-blue dress with a white apron, and a yellow ribbon that held her long auburn hair out of her face. The front of her apron had a shockingly red stain on it, and he could see blood seeping down her legs and onto the wooden floor, leaving small crimson pools behind as she moved ever so slow towards him.

Where were you Aran?

He found the strength of his legs again and he propelled himself out of the room, away from her. He had bounded out of the house and shut the door, sliding against the wall without making a sound. But now the wall creaked, as if it were old and falling apart. Moss started to grow on the floor where it was clean before. The light from the windows faded and the smell of decay thickened until Aran felt ready to retch.

“Light …” Aran whispered softly into the descending gloom. Nothing made sense to him. His wife was dead. That thing that stalked outside was not his wife, it couldn’t be. But she looks so real!

My love.”

The voice was so close to his ear that he jumped to his feet where he lay. Without looking behind him he drove himself through the backdoor which had previously been locked, and ran, he simply ran. He had to get away from the village. He made for the line of trees, trying to ignore the sickening colour of the sky or the smell of death or his shaking jaw. He ran.

But before he reached the cover of the trees a branch shifted, and then another, and more. All around him green skinned creatures rose from the woods bearing long spears and leather shields or long curved swords. They all smirked at him, their lips stretching over their tusks and shouting words he couldn’t understand.

Aran knew instantly that these were forest trolls. But what are they doing here? Aran thought as his hand slowly crept to his own sword. They belong in the south. His hand found only air and he realised with cold dread that he had left his sword in the house with his wife— No! Not with my wife! With a ghost! Ghosts couldn’t have harmed him, they couldn’t even have touched him. He felt like a fool.

One of the Trolls stepped out of the line and lifted a blunt stave with small skulls hanging from the tip.

“Zul’jin curse you Human!” it screeched in a strange accent that suggested its mouth was too big to utter the words.

More and more Trolls appeared from behind the trees and started surrounding him. Aran was defenceless against an immense force and his men were likely already dead. He had to use all his willpower to force himself to stand stiffly still, until he felt a small hand crawl over his shoulder and creep up towards his neck.

It’s all right, my love. It’s all going to be all right.

Aran felt something warm spread from between his legs.

*


A cool breeze wafted from the open shutters, carrying with it a hint of freshly baked bread. Long stripes of weak sunlight shone on the floor. Spring had finally broken and summer was upon Dalaran. The warmth was in the air, but in the early morning the wind still bore a ghost of winter. It never reached Liandrix. He was sitting behind his desk, surrounded by piles of books that formed a solid wall on the cluttered surface. Behind it lay a small pile of quills and empty inkpots, most of them broken or ravaged beyond use. Liandrix himself was snoring rather noisily, his head resting on a scroll.

A loud bang jostled him awake and for a moment he wrestled with the scroll on the desk, attempting to straighten it out like a pillow. By the time he realised what he was doing the door of his study had opened and a man was standing in the doorway. Liandrix put down the scroll.

“Robert, what are you doing here in the dead of night?” Liandrix asked as he stifled a yawn.

Robert turned his head to the open window, then back at Liandrix. “It’s morning, Liandrix. By the Light I’d wish you’d sleep sometimes!”

Robert smirked as Liandrix covered his mouth with both of his hands to hide another yawn. He was a tall man, imposing in the Kirin Tor colours and in his width as well. Liandrix always thought that he ate bricks for breakfast the way his muscles stretched his robes. He had more size than most of the guards in Stratholme.

Liandrix pushed himself to his feet and glanced over his fort of books. “Darn.”

“Come on, the council is waiting for you to brief them on the Trolls.”

“I have the report right here,” Liandrix said, feeling grateful for finishing it before he fell asleep.

“Then take it with you, we have to go now!” Robert said as he vanished through the doorway.

Liandrix hastily grabbed all his loose scrolls and hurried after him down the stairs. “I’m not going to take my report to them myself, Robert. I’m only advising the Open Council!”

Robert turned around when he reached the bottom of the stairs. “Yes, and you'll be doing it in person, now come on. And wear your robes would you? Someone might start thinking you hate the Kirin Tor colours.”

Liandrix didn’t hate the Kirin Tor colours, but he did dislike how everyone was always looking at him. He had been in the Kirin Tor for a year now as Expert on Lore and Anthropology and the first thing he had noticed is how differently the people – mages included – looked upon a wizard of the Kirin Tor. He understood now why people such as Althanir and David Spellsword chose to hide their appearance.

Robert turned to march on but Liandrix ran in front of him and stopped him with both hands on his shoulders. “Look, I don’t mind advising them, but politics is not my place, Robert. I leave things like that to you. Can’t you just go in my stead?”

Robert slung an arm around Liandrix shoulders and started walking again. “Would that I could, my friend, but they summoned you specifically. They’re in a right state, even the Grand Magus is attending.”

Liandrix nearly lost his footing. He had never told anyone, including Robert about his encounter with the Archmage and the fact that he spent weeks living with the man. He hadn’t seen him in fifteen years. Liandrix had moved out of the wooden cottage when he got initiated into the Kirin Tor and had received accomodations somewhere between the Violet Citadel and the archives. Liandrix rather preferred to spend his time in the direction of the latter. But now they were heading for the Citadel.

Derreck and Falen had both left Dalaran. Derreck had eventually concluded his study and moved back to his birthplace somewhere in Azeroth near Stormwind, while Falen had earned his Master colours in Advanced Alchemy and was now in Capital City. Liandrix was the last to leave Master Cohlien Frostweaver and that left him apprenticeless, which Cohlien seemed to take as a reason not to lose his prized hat anymore, but Liandrix rather thought he’d miss having an apprentice around, and so chose to visit him from time to time.

“Speaking of encounters,” Robert said silkily, “how did your encounter with Catherine end yesterday?”

Liandrix groaned. He had forgotten about meeting Catherine. “I fell asleep at the desk. I doubt she even came over.”

“Ouch,” Robert said as he patted his shoulder. “Looks like you missed your chance.”

“Look, it’s not like that with Catherine and me, we’re just friends.”

Robert spared him a look so dry Liandrix wondered how he could pull his face like that without spraining a muscle. “It’s well you aren’t into politicis, Liandrix; your lies are as see-through as my wife’s briefs. I mean come on, she offered to check out your tome on ‘Dwarven Fabric and Their Magical Components’! If that’s no spell for a steamy night … “

Liandrix felt another of Robert’s ‘My wife and I’ tales coming. Once he got started on one of those it was difficult to stop him.

“She’s a tailor! Of course she’d be interested in a book like that.”

“Oh Lian.”

They were drawing up to the Citadel, an immense building in the north-east corner of the city. Robert marched straight up to the steps that lead to a violet portcullis but Liandrix hesitated to climb the steps. Robert turned to look at him.

“Come on, it won’t be that bad. I’ll be there to back you up, remember?”

It wasn’t the council that worried Liandrix, although he preferred not to face them either. He wondered how the Grand Magus would behave once he saw Liandrix. Would he remember him? Talk to him? Perhaps he’d already told the other council members about their enounters. Perhaps he wouldn’t recognise him at all after such a long time.

Robert vanished through the entrance, and Liandrix reluctantly followed him in.
Last edited by Liandrix on 06 Aug 2015, 21:20, edited 1 time in total.
"The motivation to study the Arcane should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it.."

~ Loremaster Liandrix Emmot
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Topic/Postby Liandrix » 14 Dec 2012, 19:45

Robert led Liandrix into a large oval chamber that was covered in small gold and purple panes in the shape of a triangle that bore the eye of the Kirin Tor. Liandrix seemed to be the only one present of the Kirin Tor who was not wearing its colours, although he had donned the badge as a sort of compromise.

In the middle of the chamber stood an oval table made of dark wood. It was so huge that it was surrounded by no less than eighty chairs. Not all of the chairs were filled, though Liandrix had never attended an Open Council before where more than a quarter of the chairs had an occupant. He guessed that more than sixty were occupied today.

The Open Council had little to do with the Supreme Council, also called the Six. The Supreme Council and its meetings were closed to anyone but its members, and no one knew who they were, aside from the Grand Magus who stood at its head. The Open Council had no particular members but simply gathered whenever there was a problem to discuss, be it a war or a problem on some farm. Whoever the problem that was discussed concerned was present. This also meant that anyone could call for an Open Council.

Today’s problem seemed to concern everyone. There seemed to be a representative from every corner of Dalaran, including, Liandrix saw, the mayor of Southshore and also the Regent of Stromgarde. Aside from these Liandrix could see some familiar faces he knew such as Aidan Somerset, head of the Battlemages; Meredith Dippel, head of Liaison; Archmage Gilbert, the head of finance; his former master Cohlien Frostweaver, who sat next to Aidan and conversed privately; Loremaster Krasus, a High Elf for whom Liandrix had written his report on Forest Trolls; Archmage Norlan, the chief Artificer; and Korrigan, the librarian in chief of the Archives whom, despite his rather jittery nature, Liandrix liked to work with.

Then there were the more prominent mages that were hard to miss. Among them of course the Grand Magus himself, David Spellsword; on his right sat Archmage Antonidas idly twiddling his thumbs as he looked content at his surroundings. A chair further sat Kel’Thuzad, now head of Research and Cataloguing; and on the Grand magus’ immediate left was none other than Prince Kael’thas, who sat in robes of shockingly dominant red and violet lined with gold. Liandrix guessed that more than half the secret Council of Six — if not all of it – was present. He could probably figure out who was a member, but he rather disliked politics and so chose not to mingle with their kind either.

Liandrix saw Krasus beckon him over and after a nod to Robert who had taken a seat next to his master of Estate and Architecture he moved inconspicuously to his own master.

Liandrix slid his report on the table towards Krasus and to his dismay he indicated that he should sit next to the Loremaster at the table. Liandrix did, and carefully folded his hands in his sleeves as Krasus flipped through the pages, nodding approvingly.

“I don’t understand, I thought this was an issue with magic, why has half the city come?” Liandrix asked as his eyes roamed the chattering crowd. He got the impression that there wasn’t yet any structure in the talk that was going on. Evidently the actual meeting hadn’t even started yet.

“Well it all started out as a magical issue -- and make no mistake, it still is – but a few days after the taskforce Capital City had sent to Holden Hill went missing a letter arrived asking for aid on the matter. Now the city is divided into a group that wants us to interfere with whatever is going on and a group that begs to remain impartial to any foreign matters. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Capital City is accusing us of not taking responsibility for a magical calamity.”

“King Terenas is accusing us of tampering with magic in Holden Hill?”

Krasus frowned indifferently. “Well if I know King Terenas then he’s likely just asking for help in his own way. I’m sure he sees that it is no fault of ours. Although it does create more pressure for us to act.”

“Why don’t we, then?”

Krasus gestured to the Council in general. “That’s why. Apparently word got out on the whole situation and now all the settlements in Lordaeron have gathered and are divided in groups of ambassadors that are either worried for their homes or opposed to let us aid them at all. I’m rather reluctant to add my theory on Troll Magic to the stack, but all the facts point towards it. They’re going to think it’s a new Troll War.”

David Spellsword got to his feet, and, owing to his height, it had the effect that his half of the table immediately fell silent. The Grand Magus struck quite an imposing figure, even next to Prince Kael’thas. It wasn’t as much as his clothing as the way he stood. While he had been Verdwald Slopes he had been ancient looking, stooping and clumsy with his limbs. Now he looked simply powerful, the way his straight back pushed out his chest, and his grey hair, which had been an entanglement as Wald, was now sleek and pulled back into a large grey mane. His staff, the one Liandrix had seen in his study lay before him on the table, glowing slightly.

“I would ask the Council to appoint me as its chairman,” David’s powerful voice boomed through the hall, silencing those few still chattering. “All in favour of my appointment of chairman raise your hand.”

Almost all those present raised their hands instantly, a few straggled, unfamiliar with the proceedings and simply looked at their superiors for guidance. Only a few put their hands on the table as a sign that they voted against the notion. The Grand Magus smiled as he nodded and took his seat again.

“I would ask the Council to state the facts as they stand on the Holden Hill case.”

A reedy man dressed all in black and gold rose from his seat. He held his head high and his arms tightly folded behind his back. He carried an air of importance, and also certain arrogance. He didn’t look to be older than Liandrix.

“The Council recognises Dorian Flint, Chief Ambassador of Stratholme.”

“Thank you,” the man said shortly in a thin voice. Although from Stratholme himself, Liandrix did not recognise the man.

“Twenty-three days past, Capital City received a report that cumulated a series of queer events that had been happening at Holden Hill for a week. The events ranged from disappearings to sightings of ghosts of deceased loved ones. The City Watch was overwhelmed by all the dealings they had to quell. A request was made of Stratholme to send aid and that request was honoured by sending a messenger to Holden Hill in order to seize up the size of the matter in person. Unfortunately nothing was heard from the messenger again. We noted this into a report of our own and sent it along with the other reports to Capital City.”

The Ambassador sat down stiffly and the eyes of the Archmage roamed the table for a moment until a decorated officer Liandrix had not seen before rose to his feet. The man looked almost as old as the Grand Magus, but fitter. His grey hair was short, as was his well-kept beard. He looked like a man who had seen many battles in his lifetime.

“The Council recognises Alistair Mograine, Supreme General of Capital City.”

“I thank you, Archmage,” the voice of the General sounded rasped, as if he had trouble squeezing the words out of his throat. Liandrix thought he could hear a rattle coming from his mouth as he breathed. Apparently the man was a lot older than he looked.

“When we received word that a scout had been sent … and lost to Holden Hill for this matter, and that all communication with Holden Hill had been severed Capital City sent out nine men to investigate the situation. Due to the situations described in earlier reports I demanded we be kept informed daily. The reports I received lead up to the eve before reaching the village. We did not hear anything for two days and instead of sending a messenger of our own or another party we decided to lay down the matter to the Kirin Tor of Dalaran.”

The hall grew quiet and David Spellsword nodded understandably at the General. But the old man did not resume his seat and looked like he wanted to say more. The Archmage leaned towards the General, frowning.

“Anything you would like to add to this matter, General?”

Mograine coughed in his fist before casting a glance around the table. Eventually he looked back at the Grand Magus. “I am too old and weathered to deceive myself in hoping that my men are still alive, Archmage. But I will not stand by and watch their sacrifice be in vain. I urge the Council to recognise the gravity of the situation.”

“Duly noted,” said the Archmage.

The next to rise was Meredith. She had aged a lot in the past years and her hair was now a grey bundle on the back of her head. Nevertheless, she stood rigid as a doorpost when she addressed the Open Council.

“The Council recognises Archmage Meredith Dippel, head of the Liaison office.”

“Thank you, Grand Magus,” Meredith said in a voice as strong and harsh as a whip.

“The office of Liaison has attempted to coordinate a large-scale mapping of the situation by sending messages to all settlements in Holden Hill’s vicinity. Unfortunately by the time this plan was executed the word had spread in the region which resulted in a storm of fearful answers. If the reports we received are accurate, which I doubt, all of Lordaeron is in peril. The only pattern we can discern from our attempt is the number of villages that have remained silent completely. It seems that Holden Hill is not the only place where all its residents have vanished. It is notable that Holden Hill is, however, the eastern most harassed village. Other settlements include Fartail Mill, Silver Creek, Founders Hill and Vindrake Fort.”

Liandrix cursed inwardly. He knew those settlements well from the maps he had been studying not six hours past. He had hoped Krasus was wrong.

“—Otherwise, the extent to which this problem reaches is unknown. Letters to Azeroth were mostly answered in confused writing suggesting that this problem has not yet occurred in the south. Requests have been received not to be involved in our matters.”

Meredith sat down again, looking impassive as if she had read out a weather report. After a moment of silence the Grand Magus made a general gesture.

“The facts stand thus. The Council would now hear—“

“I think we’ve wasted enough time and words on this matter!” a voice boomed through the room. Liandrix looked to his right where he saw a tall officer who had left his seat. He wore broad armour of silver and gold. A huge broadsword hung on his hip.

“The Council has not recognised—“

“Sandor Dathrohan, Knight-Captain of Hearthglen,” the Knight cut in. “The facts are clear Archmage. We should not spend words over the matter, but men. I cannot allow Hearthglen to be threatened so.”

Old Alistair Mograine jumped from his seat. “Capital City will not yield any more lives to this madness. This is a matter for Stratholme. I have yet to see them exercise their resources to help lift this problem!”

At this Chief Ambassador Dorian Flint rose indignantly from his chair. “Stratholme will not mingle itself with matters of foul magic! It is Dalaran who should use their assets to vanquish this forsaken occurrence!”

More people rose to declare either their consent or disapproval of that statement at which point others mingled with their opinion. Out of the corner of his eye Liandrix saw David Spellsword reach for his stave. It emitted a fierce white glow before he slammed the bottom of the stave on the table. The silence was instant an absolute, and judging by the way some of the Council members continued their attempt to throw words at one another Liandrix guessed he had used a spell.

“The Council has heard the facts,” the Archmage’s said gently. “We shall now hear the theories.”

At this he turned to his right and looked at Krasus. The High Elf rose slowly from his seat and seemed hardly perturbed by the previous commotion. There was little that ever disturbed Krasus. Liandrix had never known him to make a fuss over anything; instead he dealt with situations in a calculated and deliberate manner, as if he had all the time in the world.

“Thank you, Grand Magus,” Krasus said with a delicate bow.

“I have taken all the reports into consideration in the past few days, looking for a pattern in the occurrences that could be linked to a specific type of magic. Most reports seem to agree on an array of disappearances, ghost sightings and strange weather patterns. By cross-referencing the reports on singular sites I discovered that there were contradicting events that have taken place. I thereby concluded that most of the incidents seemed to deal with matters of the individual mind.”

“Get to the point,” Mograine growled from across the table.

Krasus observed the general with calm eyes. “There is but one sort of magic that can be related to these incidents: Troll magic.”

There were whispers all across the table, except from the corner were the Kirin Tor sat. Dorian Flint’s small voice piped up a little louder than the rest. “Do you mean to tell us that we are being attacked by Voodoo?”

Krasus regarded the man patiently. “Voodoo is not their magic; it is their religion, of sorts. It is the belief that all beings contain a spirit and that those spirits linger in this world, ready to be used for any purpose. They are the foundation upon which Troll magic is based.”

Dathrohan got to his feet again, but before he spoke he carefully looked at the Grand Magus first.

“The Council recognises Sandor Dathrohan,” David said with a small smile.

Dathrohan turned to Krasus. “How can it be a Troll attack? They haven’t been seen in Lordaeron for thousands of years, I believe.”

Nine hundred years, thought Liandrix

“Nine hundred years, in fact,” Krasus said.

“Their only refuge is in the south, and it’s impossible that they could have sneaked their way through Kaz Modan, all the way to the north!”

“Improbable, not impossible,” Krasus replied.

“Well if this is your only proof than it’s a folly to trust on this theory, I say. Trolls do not fight with magic alone, and certainly not a lot. They fight with spears and knives and swords same as us, though far poorer, I must say,” Dathrohan said in his deep voice, to general agreement from the many officers present. “I would hear other theories.”

Krasus simply looked at the Knight and did not speak. Liandrix fidgeted in his chair. There was much Krasus had not yet mentioned, most of which was in his report. But after a moment of silence Krasus let out a long breath, and resumed his seat. Liandrix stared at him.

“Master …” Liandrix began, trying to find the proper words, “I believe there are some aspects of these occurrences that could strengthen your theory.”

“Perhaps. However, I rather dislike professing words that another has written as my own theory.” He gave Liandrix a significant look. Liandrix tried to see if Krasus was playing some sort of joke on him, but he didn’t crack a smile.

Very well, then. Liandrix grasped the edge of the table, trying to ignore how sweaty his hands had become by then, and stood up from his chair. Suddenly the whole table was staring up at him. All the officers, every single ambassador, all the mages of the Kirin Tor; they all looked up at him silently whereas he had always looked up at them, before. They all looked a lot smaller from this angle.

“The Council recognises Liandrix Emmot of the Kirin Tor.”

Liandrix looked at the Grand Magus. David was staring intently at Liandrix, his hands intertwined and his head resting on the tips of his fingers. He was not smiling.

Liandrix realised that their relationship had grown in the past years. He had grown. He no longer was the scared, inexperienced boy that needed to be rescued from his own creation. He had studied magic and its history dutifully for over a decade, now. This was one of the first times he had a chance to show the Kirin Tor what he had done with their resources.

“There are two main Troll settlements in Lordaeron that were once a threat to our nation. These are Zul'mashar and Mazra'alor. Judging by the reports— or the lack thereof, it was clear that there were five abandoned villages: Fartail Mill, Silver Creek, Founders Hill, Vindrake Fort and Holden Hill. Draw a line between these villages and you will create a perfect circle around the ruins of Mazra’alor.”

Liandrix was surprised how strong his voice sounded as he spoke. The Council remained quiet, tension and curiosity upon their faces.

“There is more. The magic of the Trolls is often dubbed as the magic of nightmares. Their incantations would inflict the mind and alter its perception of reality. A ghost of a passed loved one is something another cannot conjure; it is something you alone can dream. All dreams and nightmares are personal, as are the reports you have read. Also, Troll magic is based on ritual. Not a spell is simply spoken before it is cast. The spirits must be appeased in order to receive their power. Holden Hill was the first village to become prey to their magic. In any other case a calamity with magic would simply spread in all directions. Now, however, the villages were hit in a pattern. A ritual. These attacks were not random; they were deliberate.”

There was a moment of silence in which Liandrix expected someone to object, but no one raised his voice. Not even Sandor Dathrohan, who had resumed his seat during Liandrix’ speech.

“All in favour of accepting this theory as fact,” David Spellsword said suddenly.

Liandrix slowly lowered himself back into his chair and watched in bewilderment as not a single hand remained on the table.
Last edited by Liandrix on 06 Aug 2015, 21:38, edited 3 times in total.
"The motivation to study the Arcane should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it.."

~ Loremaster Liandrix Emmot
User avatar
Liandrix
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Posts: 1002
Location: The Netherlands

Topic/Postby Liandrix » 12 Apr 2013, 21:53

“Will you stop marching the carpet to shreds, Liandrix? You’re making me dizzy.”

Liandrix pulled his hands from his sleeves and turned to look at the man sitting behind his desk.

“It wasn’t supposed to go like that, Robert!”

Robert grinned as he rested his feet on the desk. “What wasn’t supposed to happen? Your flattening the entire Council with a handful of arguments?”

“They’re sending me to go investigating the Troll occurrence in the east. I was supposed to point them in the right direction, not join them!”

“Isn’t Krasus taking point on this?”

Liandrix made a helpless gesture. “No. Krasus says he has other matters to attend to and told the Archmage I’d go in his stead.”

Liandrix, not sure what to do aside from pacing the room, dropped into a chair by the window.

“I don’t get it,” Robert said. “What are you so worried about? All you will do is head over there to confirm your theory and catalogue any magic you find. Are you taking any battlemages with you?”

“One,” Liandrix said. “Kel’thuzad chose her.”

“Aááh, Cecilia,” Robert said grinning. “No surprise there.”

“One of Korrigan’s apprentices is also coming, and a mage sent by Alonda who thinks a fifth Troll species might be responsible.”

“Is that likely?”

Robert’s tone was clearly feigned interest, but Liandrix started to answer anyway, but was cut short by a click behind him.

The door to the study swung open and Catherine strolled in as if it was her own home. She stopped when she spotted Robert leaning back in his chair, grinning, and his feet still firmly planted on the desk.

“Pardon me, is this a right time? Only, I heard you were leaving Liandrix, I thought I’d say goodbye before you go.”

As the whole plan was kept strictly secret even from most of the Open Council members Liandrix was at the cusp of asking how she had heard, but Robert’s unhidden mirth spoke pages on the subject and so Liandrix remained silent.

Catherine quietly closed the door and brushed her golden curls out of her face. In that instant Liandrix forgot what he had been talking about with Robert, but he knew it was of no importance. Catherine stepped inside the room as she removed a flimsy cloak. She was wearing her blue tailor’s dress which housed a set of pouches with sewing materials and cloth. Liandrix had never seen a tailor wear such a dress and assumed she had made it herself. In her hands she clasped a parcel that looked to have been wrapped in haste.

Robert allowed his chair to return to four legs and the bang that followed woke Liandrix from his state of mind.

“Well, I ought to go. Master Kysera will want to see my theses on Dwarvish column architecture and its magical components,” Robert said with a wink in Liandrix’ direction.

Catherine’s blue eyes followed Roberts movements until the door clicked shut behind him and then subtly glided back to look at Liandrix. She held out the parcel.

“I brought you something to take on your trip.”

She ripped the poorly wrapped package herself and extracted a long purple scarf with golden ends and golden lettering on it. Before Liandrix thought to hold up his hand Catherine had swung the scarf over his head and wrapped it around his neck, pulling him closer.

“Accentuates your hair,’ she grinned.

Liandrix couldn’t help but grin back, and then stopped and wondered how stupid it must have looked. To give himself a reason to look away he glanced down at the scarf.

Loremaster Liandrix,” Liandrix read aloud. “I’m not a master.”

“You tell stories like one. Besides, I like the way it sounds. Somehow it fits, doesn’t it?”

“Best not let Krasus see it, though,” Liandrix said somewhat anxiously, and Catherine laughed.

“I do like your stories, Liandrix. Promise me you’ll return with one.”

“I promise.” Liandrix felt both reluctant to leave her in Dalaran and impatient to get on his way in order to retrieve a good tale from the trip. Catherine just made him feel that way.

“Just so you know, you still owe me a story from last night.”

Liandrix bit his lip. She actually stopped by! Hastily he reached back for the book sitting on the corner of his desk. It was the book on Dwarfish tailoring he had meant to give her then, but before his hand could complete the journey Catherine covered it with hers.

“I wasn’t talking about the book.”

Liandrix was suddenly aware of how close she was standing.

“I just wanted to give you a good luck charm for the journey.”

Liandrix could smell the perfume on her skin.

“I- I’ll wear it all the time,” Liandrix stammered.

He felt soft hands slip around his waist.

“I wasn’t talking about the scarf.”

*


“Well you took your time, you’re the last one to arrive,” Kel’thuzad said in a somewhat agitated voice.

Liandrix made the party count five, which was indeed the last. He was grateful that Kel’thuzad wasn’t too angry with him, although he never did seem to get angry at all. In fact, his greeting was quite furious, in relative terms. They had assembled in a small clearing outside the city normally used for practising translocation.

Behind Kel’thuzad Cecilia was sliding a wand carefully in some unseen pocket of her vest. Although clad in the navy blue-and-purple battle-uniform of the Kirin Tor she somehow managed to look even more radiating than normal, like a fierce mermaid the Southshore sailors often spoke off, although in those stories the mermaids usually wore their hair loose whereas Cecilia was wearing hers in a tightly bound braid. She turned back to resume her conversation with a wiry wizard Liandrix knew to be Oliver, the apprentice of Korrigan the librarian.

That left the woman behind Oliver to be the mage Alonda had sent to bear witness to finding a new Troll species. The woman could not have been more different than Oliver. Where Oliver was lean and seemingly as jittery as his master, she seemed confidently bored and managed to stretch her robes farther than Robert did, excluding the intended muscle quantity.

“… Back before nightfall,” Liandrix heard Cecilia say in a soothing voice to the librarian’s apprentice.

Kel’thuzad’s dark eyes remained fixated on Liandrix. “What’s the matter with you? You look … rattled. You’re not getting jitters about the expedition as well are you?”

“I’m fine,” Liandrix said, forcing some strength behind the word to sound surer. Kel’thuzad turned away indifferently and marched to the middle of the clearing where he began the procedural casting to create a portal.

Alonda’s apprentice waddled over to Liandrix instead and introduced herself as Bernadelle. “I do hope a new Troll species is responsible for these dealings, it would further my career to no end. Not that it needed any such thing of course; I wouldn’t have been chosen to participate otherwise. Master Alonda always speaks highly of my attainments, so I am sure you have heard.”

Liandrix instantly decided he’d rather hear one of Roberts ‘my wife and I’ tales at the moment. Fortunately Bernadelle did not ask him for specific information on the subject of Trolls, but chose instead to continue her summary of her latest accomplishments in her field. Kel’thuzad’s call to approach the portal came as a blessing.

Cecilia and Kel’thuzad flanked the portal. It looked like a disk surrounded by deformed air and mist. Liandrix could see a rolling landscape through it and that the sun had a much lower position in the sky. He wasn’t given much more time to investigate their landing spot as Kel’thuzad ushered them all through the portal, Cecilia taking the lead.

So much for translocational safety measures, Liandrix thought. He clutched his scarf and stepped through the swirling mass of colours.

On the other side Liandrix immediately sensed something amiss. It wasn’t until Oliver’s querulous noises reached a new pitch that Liandrix realised the absence of ambient clamour. There wasn’t a single sound in the air. No birds calling, no wind blowing, no leaves rustling. The silence wasn’t absolute, owing to their presence, but it certainly was disconcerting.

If Kel’Thuzad had noticed the strangeness of this place he gave no hint of it, and approached Cecilia who stood at the tip of the hill overlooking the village with her wand in hand. Both her hands were held up next to her face as if she had her face pressed against a glass window and was trying to peer through. She turned around.

“Completely deserted. Not a single living soul is in that village.”

Kel’Thuzad led the way to the church which stood solemnly in the centre of Holden Hill. Along the way Liandrix hadn’t spotted anything unusual about the place, aside from the silence.

“Perhaps they’re all still there, but invisible. I’ve seen such a thing before,” Bernadelle’s drawling voice sounded from the back of the party.

Liandrix clenched his teeth. Any invisible beings would have been spotted by Cecillia immediately. They all entered the church one by one. Once inside, Kel’Thuzad laid a device on the floor consisting of a purple orb supported by a golden goblet. The orb was encased in ornate silver lines and covered in Thalassian words.

When the device stood the whole group looked at the stationary artefact. It neither moved nor glowed nor made a sound. The silence it created was of the sort that pressed on your hearing, the sort that forced you to make a movement just to be sure that sound still existed. But this silence stretched, and stretched. And when Bernadelle’s voice sounded through the hollow interior of the chapel it seemed magnified tenfold.

“I don’t think it’s working.”

Kel’thuzad gave no hint of annoyance and kept his eyes on the device. “It is working as it is intended to work. It records active sources of magic in the surrounding area. There simply aren’t any sources to speak of.”

Kel’thuzad turned away from the device to look out of one of the long rectangle windows while Bernadelle seemed to swell beyond the limits of her robes.

“I knew it! This has been nothing but a useless goose chase! I cannot believe I put so much time into this foolish errand!”

Liandrix looked at Kel’thuzad’s unmoving form and wondered if that was indeed the case. But the evidence he had laid down upon the Council table was infallible, and any sort of magic would leave its traces behind, no matter how small.

Liandrix blinked once as he looked closer to where Kel’thuzad was standing and felt the thin hairs on his neck rise as he noticed what was amiss in this picture. Kel’thuzad had two shadows; one leading away from the window, and one creaping towards it. When Liandrix blinked again one of the shadows had vanished.

“—Hours and hours of research and the Kirin Tor send me to this useless excuse for a village!”

Liandrix looked at the orb no one seemed to notice anymore. It had turned a radiating lime-green and was vibrating visibly in its casket.

“Master … “

“—And not even a thank you for my consistent dedication!”

“…Guys?” Oliver’s jittery voice carried through the hall. He was staring out of a window. “What happened to the sun?”

Then Kel’thuzad laid eyes on his device. “Everyone out, now!”

But before anyone could move to obey a resounding crash made the floor beneath their feet quake and suddenly the ceiling gave way to be swallowed by a huge swirling vortex in the sky. It was the same colour as the device that still was still pulsating a murky green light in their faces.

The vortex pulled anything in that wasn’t stuck to the ground or the remains of the church. Pieces of brick and glass were sucked into the green abyss. Liandrix threw himself at a tapestry in a desperate attempt to stay on the ground and he saw the others make similar efforts. Oliver was screaming uninterruptedly, clutching a bench as the wind yanked at his clothes.

Liandrix could hardly believe what he was witnessing. If this was Troll magic then he had vastly underestimated their magical prowess. He reached for a brass handlebar for a more stable position but when his hand came close an electric shock made him pull it back. The very air seemed charged with energy.

Yet still … They weren’t flying up with the debris. The vortex seemed to pull everything in but them. Taking a deep breath, Liandrix let go of the drapery he had been holding on to and managed to stay on both feet.

“It’s an illusion! It’s not real!” Liandrix shouted into the raging winds.

Kel’Thuzad released the windowsill he was grasping, swept his robes over his shoulder and pulled Cecilia to her feet who was eyeing the green whirlpool with disbelief, until Kel’Thuzad pulled her away.

Both Bernadelle and Oliver scrambled to their feet at that point and made for the doorway.

“Stick together!” Kel’thuzad shouted, but Oliver had already shot past the two large doors and vanished from sight.

Liandrix followed Bernadelle and Kel’thuzad brought up the rear with Cecillia, who had her wand out. They pushed the doors open and as soon as they had crossed the threshold the wind died down to nothing. Above them the sky was clear, albeit green still, and there was no sun to be seen; nor was there any sight of Oliver.

Cecilia pulled herself free from Kel’thuzad, turned back and dashed to the church. “The Cataloguer is still inside!”

Kel’thuzad made to stop her but seemed to think better on it and instead turned to grab Liandrix by his scarf. “Emmot! Is this magic the sort we were supposed to encounter?”

“It’s the same kind of magic, but …” Liandrix could feel something different from what he had expected. For one, the illusion seemed to have been the same for everyone, there hadn’t been any individual encounters. But something else felt off as well, something he couldn’t put his finger on. He was oddly reminded of the time he and his fellow apprentices had unwittingly conjured Troll magic of their own.

“But what!” Kel’thuzad urged.

Cecilia returned with the device in hand. “Kel, something is wrong. I can’t get a reading on—“

Cecilia lurched as if she had hit an invisible barrier. A shadow creeped up from behind her stationary form.

“Cecilia!”

Cecilia’s arms closed around an object on her midriff. Liandrix felt his knees grow weak as behind him Bernadelle screamed.

Liandrix hadn’t noticed Kel’thuzad releasing him but suddenly he was sprinting towards Cecilia who was scrambling her bloody fingers over the blade in her chest in pure panic. She was pushed aside by the shadow behind her which took the form of a tall, powerfully built Troll. It released the handle of the dagger he had pushed through Cecilia’s back and his hand came back with a purple glow. He cast the approaching mage a leering smirk.

“You be walkin’ straight into my trap, Humáns,” it drawled with a thick accent. “Your Arcane powers be mine, now.”

The Troll plunged a blunt stave decorated with small skulls into the earth as Kel’thuzad flung out an arm at the Troll, meaning to cast a spell.

Nothing happened; nothing but a slow rumbling that seemed to come from the Troll. Liandrix realised it was laughing. He could see Kel’thuzad struggling as if trying to break through some invisible bond. How a troll could steal Arcane energy Liandrix could not imagine, and thought perhaps it was bluffing, but the Troll was certainly successful in preventing one of the most gifted mages from attacking him, and it turned its back to him unconcernedly. The Troll raised both his glowing hand and his stave and after a moment the air in front of it began to shimmer and turn, and a portal appeared.

Liandrix could not see through it as it appeared to be black as night, but he could feel the Arcane energy radiating from the gateway. He tried to organise his thoughts but the hum in the air felt like a bee in his mind. The Troll turned to face the three remaining expedition members.

“It be the time of Zul’jin! It be the time of the Amani!” And with that he cast himself into the darkness of the portal.

When the Troll had gone Kel’thuzad threw himself at the lifeless form of Cecilia while Liandrix carefully approached the swirling portal. He slowly raised his hand and appraised the energy that came from the portal. It was Arcane, to be sure. Yet still there was something amiss that he could not place. It was as if there was a piece that matched the puzzle, but did not belong.

Liandrix clenched his jaw in annoyance. He felt like he was a hair-width removed from the answer. The Arcane energy felt somehow tainted, unpure. But how could that be? Any impurity in the Arcane would become a leak or conduction and would cause the energy to nullify itself. Perhaps if he used a conductor of his own …

“Out of my way!”

Liandrix was flung aside, whether by magic or physical force he could not have said, and Kel’thuzad sprang at the portal.

“Wait! You don’t know where it leads!” Liandrix shouted uselessly, and somewhere deep inside he had a hunch where it would take him.

Kel’thuzad was gone. Behind him Liandrix heard a sob and he turned to see Bernadelle clutching the grass in a pathetic heap.

“Stay here!” he told her.

Looking back to the portal that still did not show its destination Liandrix gathered his waning courage and stepped firmly through the circle of shadow. As all around him colour and sound congealed to a single entity, the last thought that crossed his mind was of Catherine.
Last edited by Liandrix on 06 Aug 2015, 21:54, edited 3 times in total.
"The motivation to study the Arcane should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it.."

~ Loremaster Liandrix Emmot
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Liandrix
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Topic/Postby Liandrix » 30 May 2013, 17:10

Liandrix landed on hands and knees on a cold marble floor. The room was gigantic, and dark, and he understood why he hadn’t been able to see through the portal at first. A first glance told him his hunch was correct; they had landed in Dalaran, in the middle of the Violet Citadel.

All was quiet, he was alone. The windows high in the vaulted ceiling told him it was night. How long had they been in that church? Where was the Troll that named itself Zul’jin? What had happened to Kel’thuzad?

A door banged open close to the huge double entrance doors. Liandrix knew it to be a passage down to the chambers below, and also the Violet Hold. Had it been there where Zul’jin had gone? To search for Arcane artefacts? But it was the steward of the Citadel that strolled out to meet Liandrix, and he seemed to be unhurt, if a bit unsettled.

“What is the meaning of this?” The short bald and bearded mage said. He was dressed in nightclothes with a cloak around his shoulders. “A portal in the middle of the Citadel? The Safeguards are blazing with alarm signals!”

The steward waved an arm above his head as if to cast the portal away.

“No don’t!” Liandrix shouted, but the steward had already cast his spell.

A dull hum struck the air, much the same as it had in the church. It was a vibration that seemed to shake Liandrix’ very brain.

“What’s this? Some jape of yours?” the steward asked.

The portal was still there. Whatever had blocked Kel’thuzad’s spells was apparently still in effect here.

“Listen to me, that portal wasn’t created by me, but by a Troll by the name of Zul’jin,” Liandrix said hurriedly.

The mage snorted. “A Troll? Here? Conjuring a portal? That’s the most ridiculous—“

Bright light appeared beyond the windows overhead. A sharp, flickering glare that seemed to dance across the glass.

“What is this?” the steward of the Citadel asked, but Liandrix was already sprinting towards the door.

He heaved one of the double doors open and peered through the crack out into the waning darkness. Light played with shadow on the face of the structures around him. Dalaran was burning. The steward appeared at his shoulder and squeaked when he saw the flames rise above the houses above the city. The streets were empty.

Liandrix spotted movement from the opposite building; a figure crossed the street and approached the citadel in a zigzag motion, as if it was confused or looking for something. The mage at Liandrix side recognised it sooner than he himself did.

“TROLL!!” he shouted.

Now Liandrix saw it too. It wasn’t Zul’Jin, but it was unmistakably a troll. It was dressed in leather and wool and it wore several beaded bands and necklaces made of bones. It seemed unarmed at first, but when the Troll spotted the two mages in the doorway of the Citadel it cried out something in a foreign tongue, brandished a thin weapon threateningly and advanced.

More shadows appeared from buildings; Trolls, all of them. They were running around, seemingly in disarray, yelling their strange words and creating confusion.

“We are under attack!” the bald mage howled. “The Grand Magus! I must call the Grand Magus? Where are the battlemages?”

At the same moment the Steward ran inside there was a whip-like crack in the air and a tall Troll appeared in a flash of blue light on top of the steps, not ten feet away from where Liandrix was standing. It brandished a long ornate staff. Liandrix had just enough time to witness a flash of red and purple before he was blown back onto the marble floor of the Citadel’s atrium.

Liandrix scrambled to his feet as fast as he could. But what was he to do? They were confronted with a an army of Trolls, the city was already burning and he could feel something blocking his Arcane energy still, like a giant fist closed tightly around his mind.

The door creaked and Liandrix’ heart skipped a beat as he turned to face the Troll, his mind racing through ideas by which to defend himself with. The purple staff preceded the creature that held it as Liandrix raised his hands protectively, his mind void of a design to fight.

“Antonidas?”

The tall Archmage strolled into the atrium in robes of flowing red and purple, holding his staff in a protective manner as the red ruby on top emitted a fierce glare. He pointed the staff at Liandrix who immediately lowered his hands, trying not look like a threat. The Archmage ran his fingers through his greying brown beard as he observed the hall. Eventually his eyes locked onto Liandrix.

“Where did that Troll go?” he asked. His words were measured, but Liandrix could see the fury behind his eyes that his voice concealed.

“Troll? There’s— I don’t…”

Antonidas seemed to notice the portal in the back of the room and moved past Liandrix. Carefully he raised a hand and caressed rather than touched the dull edges of the portal.

The truth suddenly struck Liandrix. Much like in Holden Hill, the whole city here had been struck by an immense illusion. The Trolls he had seen appearing in the streets must have been none but the citizens of Dalaran themselves, concealed somehow to look like forest Trolls. The fire must be part of the illusion as well, then.

The Archmage turned away from the portal and carefully eyed Liandrix up and down. His eyes seemed to indicate recognition.

“What happened in Holden Hill?”

“An illusion,” Liandrix said as he recalled the events in the abandoned village. The image of Cecillia swam through his mind; the surprised look on her face as she groped her hands bloody on a blade that stuck from her chest; the empty, blank look in her eyes as Zul’Jin pushed her lifeless form aside.

Archmage Antonidas seemed to realise what he was thinking, or at least understand what must have happened for he did not ask further. He struck out an arm to uncover it from its sleeve and took off a golden ring lined with tiny rubies along the band. He held it in his palm as he carefully touched it with the tip of his staff.

“It won’t work,” Liandrix warned. “Something seems to have happened to the Arcane here.”

The Archmage frowned at Liandrix for a moment, his staff still poised above the ring in hand.

“There are Safeguards in place no amount of altering of the Arcane could temper,” Antonidas said gently, and firmly pushed the ruby onto the ring. Nothing happened.

Liandrix was not surprised the spell had not worked, but the calm look that Antonidas bore gave him pause. Something else nagged at him as well, and it wasn’t long before he figured out what. Archmage Antonidas had used a spell to blast Liandrix back into the Citadel. Also, the Illusion seemed only to work outside. Once Antonidas had crossed the threshold of the building he had regained his own identity, and had also sensed that something was wrong.

“The whole city is in the grasp of an illusion, but I think Zul’jin is casting it from this location.”

“Zul’jin?”

“The Troll, he—“

There was a loud crack in the air and a flash of blinding purple light in between the two mages and out of nowhere a tall man strode into the atrium. He had a long grey beard that was bound into a loose braid and a mane of grey hair that ran to the back of his neck. He was dressed in simple robes of blue and grey and bore no staff or wand as far as Liandrix could see.

“David,” Archmage Antonidas began as he gave a small smile.

“I know. The sentinels? “

“I called them as well, they should be here momentarily.”

The Grand Magus locked eyes with Liandrix, and proceeded to observe the portal behind him before looking back at Antonidas. Liadrix realised that Antonidas had used the staff and the ring to call for the Grand Magus and the battlemages.

“Zul’Jin’s doing apparently,” Antonidas answered the unasked question.

“And you …”

“Came from outside, he must still be here.”

“The artefacts are untouched,” the Grand Magus mused. It sounded like the two mages were discussing the weather.

“Kel’thuzad went after him!” Liandrix blurted out. “I don’t know where they went but I know he must have followed Zul’Jin.”

The two old mages looked at one another for a moment and seemed to come to the same conclusion without communicating in words. Liandrix was amazed how they could do that.

“Only one direction for him to go. Come.” And David Spellsword moved to the stairs leading up to the upper tier with Antonidas and Liandrix in tow.

Liandrix feared that the Archmages didn’t take the threat seriously. They climbed the marble steps of the long circular stairs slowly while overhead the shadow of the flames still danced among the glass. When they reached the top their way was barred by a set of doors so plain that they seemed out of place in a grand building such as the citadel, but Liandrix knew they hid one of the most powerful creations the Kirin Tor had ever conceived.

He had learned the secret, by the name of the Arcane Root, years ago from Robert. The room held nothing more than a spell engraved into the floor which could amplify any given spell cast while standing onto it. While most spells can be empowered as such in any given place, this particular spell was wrought into the stone, combined with both the spells in which the whole city was built and the leyline on which it was built to begin with. The amount of power one could harness from the spell could inflict unimaginable damage, and was therefore kept strictly secret even from most of the Kirin Tor.

So when the trio burst into the chamber and Liandrix saw the Arcane inscription glow a murky green he felt himself sway on the spot. The Troll stood not on the spell but behind it, staff in hand and his other high in the air as it chanted in the languages of spirits. The Arcane root consisted of a giant circle in which words of Arcane Power were worked in patterns consistent with the architecture of the entire city on a small scale.

Kel’thuzad was plastered to a wall next to the door. Purple bands of Arcane energy kept him in place by his hands feet and chest. He looked unseemly furious, his usual handsome features twisted in uncontrolled rage. His teeth were bared in a silent snarl and his long dark hair concealed what would likely be a glower meant to kill. He didn’t even notice the new arrivals. For the first time Liandrix spotted a hint of worry on the faces of his superiors. Both Archmages stared from Kel’thuzad to the active Arcane Root and Zul’jin, who was still chanting uninterruptedly whilst staring straight at the Grand Magus.

Antonidas stepped in front of David Spellsword with his staff slightly raised. Its tip glowed blue and pulsed for a moment and went still. Zul’Jin leered.

“Your power be useless. It be mine, now. The spirits are with me. Tonight the Gods shall dance in the halls of the wizards. Jan’alai shall come. Akil’zon shall come. My brethren await. The Amani shall come!”

The Troll grasped his staff tightly and thrust it into the air above the Root, the skulls, beads and medallions bound on its tip rattled. He continued a chant in his own language and seemed to get more and more exited. Zul’jin looked slightly insane.

“I think it is time to send this Witch Doctor back from whence it came,” Archmage Antonidas announced as he raised his staff once more. The troll did not seem to notice this time, or perhaps he simply ignored the mage.

“It’s not a Witch Doctor,” Liandrix said before he could stop himself. Both Antonidas and David turned their heads. Liandrix looked from one pair of unblinking eyes to the other and pointed at the Troll, now positively howling the strange words over the glowing Arcane Root.

“He is dressed in leather and wool, and is wearing weaponry other than his staff. Only Troll warriors wear that type of clothing, and Witch Doctors do not use knives or daggers. Also, his muscle mass is much higher than the average Troll. And the staff does not belong to him. Do you see the markings beneath the skulls? They differ from the markings on his face in the way that points out that whomever the staff belonged to is from the same tribe, but not of the same family.”

“This Troll is not a Witch Doctor? He is showing more aptitude towards the Arcane than I’ve ever known a Witch Doctor to show towards Troll magic!” Antonidas retorted. Behind him the Troll had fallen silent and was staring at the mages again.

Liandrix stole a glance at the Arcane Root. “I’m not so sure it’s Arcane magic he is casting through the Root.”

Zul’jin jabbed with his staff in their direction. “I be Zul’Jin, da leader of dem Amani, speaker to gods, slayer of humans. You be right, I be no Witch Doctor, but I have been given da secret of da spirit magic and the language of dem Gods! They approved of me, and so the Gods taught me how to use your spiritless magic.”

Spiritless. Liandrix looked at the Root that was oozing thick green smoke and was reminded of that time in the pine forest with Falen and Derreck. He had figured out the connection that made their magical creatures what they had been. But the moment had been made obsolete by David’s arrival, and now he had forgotten. The hum in the air he had felt downstairs had jolted his memory, but he couldn’t quite recapture his theory. And yet …

It hadn’t been the first time where the energy in the air seemed out of place. He had felt the vibrations in the air before, in the Church. Had he also felt them in the pine forest?

A flash of purple light covered them all in shadow and Liandrix’ head shot up to see a violet projectile being fired at the Troll. It had originated from the staff of Antonidas. It seemed to grow as it travelled and gained speed as well, but as it sped over the Arcane Root towards Zul’jin it suddenly halted in midair, revolving slowly around its axis. There was a short moment of silence in which the bolt started to vibrate violently before it exploded, showering the mages in miniscule shards and grains.

Liandrix covered his face with his arms as he was showered with Arcane crystals. When he resurfaced he saw that both Archmages had been hit with equal force. David rose carefully but Antonidas jumped to his feet in shock.

“This cannot be!”

Liandrix moved his hand over a thumb-sized shard wedged into his belt. He grabbed it delicately with two fingers and was rewarded with a shock that jolted his whole arm. Shaking it loose he pulled the shard from the leather and let it fall to the floor. He stared at it. No Arcane energy would be capable of causing a static field like that. Being a current of energies it could never hold energy in a static place. An Arcane spell cast with a field of static energy was possible, but it would destroy its Arcane potency and make it weak.

Liandrix couldn’t believe he hadn’t thought of this idea before, however. Creating a static field was a way to shield oneself against magical attacks. But the process was tiring, and yielded no full-proof shield unlike a solid shield based on Arcane energy. The static shield would simply absorb the negative energy of the spell and unstable and weaken it, but it would never fully stop it. It was a weak form of Arcane; a half of the full potential and so mages did not ever bother with it.

Antonidas cupped the tip of his staff with his left hand and a dark orb of energy formed around it. Behind him David wore a grim expression but did not stop the other Archmage. An orb was not as strong as a shard in terms of containing unstable Arcane energy.

“WAIT!” Liandrix shouted before Antonidas could throw the orb. He turned affronted.

What?

Liandrix was unsure of how to proceed. The one thing he knew was that Arcane magic alone would not work.

“The boy is right, we cannot just attack him so,” David said gravely.

“We must act now! Before this Troll turns this entire city to ash with his spells!”

Liandrix felt the pressure in his head as he tried desperately to think of the solution as to how to pass the Arcane Root without disturbing its energy. He needed a connection to negate the static fields, but without the proper binding it was useless.

Then David Spellsword turned and looked at Liandrix and Liandrix looked back, meeting his gaze. He didn’t speak, he didn’t need to, but he could tell the Grand Magus was telling him something, or asking him.

And then he remembered.

Somewhere in this citadel, in some dusty office, David Spellsword had revealed his identity, but not before transporting the both of them there without physical contact. Liandrix had questioned it at the time stating that a connection must be established before a host could transport another entity. Later he had found out he had been right, but there had been more to that theory than he had known at the time. But he knew now.

Zul’jin had sunk to his knees with the staff raised in both hands above his head. He seemed to be praying, his mouth forming silent words. Liandrix raised his palm, his fingers interlocked and he closed his eyes so he could focus in order to create the binding he needed.

A vision of Zul’jin swam in his mind’s eye as he focussed on the energy surrounding him. He had been right. There was a static energy shield that was constantly being fed. It protected the Troll and the Root, and yet … it seemed not to originate from the Troll. Liandrix found this strange. In order to feed such a static field continuously one would require unimaginable power. Nevertheless, the connection was made, at last.

Liandrix opened his eyes and every other pair was directed at him, including Zul’jin’s. Liandrix looked the Troll straight in the eyes. Now he just needed to release the proper energy, at the proper time. His hand glided over his robe. There was another jagged piece of crystal in the folds of his robes. Time seemed to have stopped. Liandrix shook with the effort of maintaining the binding, focussing on conjuring and keeping his hand over the Arcane crystal. Unbidden, an old thesis swam before his mind. He had written it himself, before casting it in the bin.

A static shield can serve as a shield if properly inducted with the right energy. But the process is taking more than it could ever protect. The shield is quite useless.

The Troll looked at him steadily. Perhaps it was Liandrix’ imagination, but he seemed tense. He was no longer praying. Perhaps he should not have stopped now.

A static shield however powerful has a flaw. If encased, imbued or even grazed by the wrong energy …

Liandrix looked at David. His eyes held a twinkle that he was sure hadn’t been there a moment ago.

… the whole process, the energy, the static shield …

Liandrix’ hand hovered over the shard in his robe. His palm extended towards Zul’Jin. A silent prayer from a place far away in his past escaped Liandrix’ lips.

… will shatter.

His hand connected with the shard. At the same time he released the energy he had been focussing. When ice can burn like fire.

There was a jolt in his arm, followed by an impact to the atmosphere, an effect seemingly reverse of a hum striking the air. The static field did not just shatter. It backfired. But the explosion came not from the points of origin as Liandrix had thought but from the Arcane Root itself. Silver specks shattered off the Arcane spell in the ground, upwards, where they clashed and exploded, flying in all directions. In midair the silver specks turned to streaks of water, which turned to ice, which turned into spikes.

Liandrix had no time to cast a protective spell; he had used up both his energy and his time to form the proper spell at the proper time. He had no chance.

He saw a shadow moving in the corner of his eye, as if in slow-motion, and then several things happened at once.
A darkness spread across the windows above as at the same time a fierce glow half blinded Liandrix. The ice that had come from the imploding shield shattered upon an invisible barrier. Behind Liandrix he heard a muffled groan and an impact to the floor as Kel’thuzad fell from his bindings. Across the Arcane Root the Troll Zul’jin, although protected from the ice shards himself, was firmly planted against the wall behind him. The whole situation had reversed itself in a matter of seconds.

Finally everything was quiet around Liandrix. Carefully, as if afraid that something else might explode, he glanced around the room.

Kel’thuzad was slowly disentangling himself from his robe. His bindings had vanished. Both the Archmages had a staff in hand, pointed towards the troll which was now stuck to the wall as only seconds before Kel’thuzad had been. Liandrix wondered for a moment which of the Archmages had been the one to stop the ice. David’s staff had seemingly come from nowhere.

The situation seemed to be under control. The light outside the windows was gone, meaning that the illusion had probably ended for Dalaran. But when Liandrix glanced at the inscription made into the stone before him it continued to pulse with an eerie green glow.

“You be too late,” Zul’jin drawled from his uncomfortable position against the wall.

David lowered his staff. Liandrix rather he didn’t. “Whatever harm you thought you could do to Dalaran has ended, Zul’jin.”

The Troll grinned, displaying his tusks in full. “jah, da gods shall not be dancing here tonight. But that be not an issue.”

Liandrix took a step back as the staff of Zul’jin, that was laying at his feet, started smouldering, sending green smoke to rise up to fill the domed roof and cover the windows.

It be no matter …

“David …” Antonidas muttered.

… If dem gods cannot come here …

“I know, I feel it too,” David answered as he raised his staff protectively.

… We shall go to da gods!” Zul’jin started to laugh.

Liandrix heard distant footsteps from behind the doors. Now that the illusion had lifted battlemages must surely be on their way.

“Jan’alai! Take us to the land of flames!” Zul’jin shouted as he looked at his burning staff.

The staff rose into the air, still burning, then shot towards Zul’jin. And when the tip of the staff connected with the Troll’s head the world vanished. The floor beneath their feet disappeared, the windows turned black as night and the walls fell away. Liandrix had one last fleeting look of the Archmages as they shared a look, of Kel’thuzad who snarled in Zul’jin’s direction, and of the door that seemed to burst open in an unnatural slow manner, before that too vanished in a sudden tidal wave of smoke ash and fire.
"The motivation to study the Arcane should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it.."

~ Loremaster Liandrix Emmot
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Topic/Postby Liandrix » 14 Sep 2013, 22:42

Before Liandrix got a chance to open his eyes he breathed in a mouth and nose full of ash and convulsed into aggressive hacks and coughs. Beneath his hands he felt heat rising from the surface he sat on, he could feel it through his robe. A warm wind was blowing in his face. Carefully he opened an eye and then the other, but kept squinting for the ash in the air made his eyes prick as if he hadn’t blinked in an hour.

Around him, as far as Liandrix could see, endless fields and hills of ash and sand stretched out to form a desolate, dark, and orange place, as if they had found themselves amidst the coals of a fire almost extinguished. There was no end to the horizon. The hills continued on and on until they gradually merged with an orange sky that seemed aflame, though there was no sun present as far as he could see. Clouds consisted not of white patches but of storms of fire that raged above their heads. It made for a fearful sight, but the storms seemed to be high above them at least.

Liandrix moved his fingers over the surface of ash and sand. They seemed to have gone to an entirely different world. His first thought was another illusion, but this was different. He could no longer feel any connection to Dalaran.

Kel’thuzad was the first one on his feet, and the Archmages followed suit. Only Liandrix stayed where he was for the time being while Kel’thuzad looked around wildly. Liandrix wondered if he was trying to find out where he was, or where Zul’jin had gone.

The two Archmages stood aside one another like sentinels. David had dispatched his staff again somehow while Antonidas had one hand firmly wrapped around a staff he had planted into the dark soil. His other hand caressed his long greying beard. Finally Liandrix rose from the hot ash and approached the two elderly mages.

“What sort of place is this?” Antonidas asked, somewhat to himself, but it was David who answered.

“This place … this world, it is incomplete.”

Antonidas nodded slowly as he stared into the distance. “Something is amiss. Not all the laws that govern our world exist in this plane.”

“We were not transported to this world. Rather, the world was formed around us. What is the source then, I wonder …”

“What’s that over there?” Liandrix pointed to a dark heap some distance removed from the group. He could see it past the two mages, and as soon as he pointed it out Kel’thuzad sprinted past him.

“Is that … ?”

It was. Lying on the glowing floor with his arms at his side and his eyes closed and his tusks jutting upwards was Zul’jin. He seemed to be either sleeping or dead. Kel’thuzad rushed past the two Archmages and looked at the distant form of the Troll.

Antonidas suddenly turned towards the Grand Magus. “Do you feel that?”

David nodded. “Yes I— wait!”

With a roar of fury Kel’thuzad struck out with both hands and a purple bolt shot towards Zul’jin’s unmoving form. It created a tidal wave of ash as it sped towards its goal. With lightning reflexes Antonidas ripped his staff out of the ground and in the same movement conjured a shield out of mid-air that deflected the attack, shattering the bolt into a million miniscule pieces that joined the debris on the ground.

Both Archmages advanced to the lifeless body of the Troll, Antonidas with his staff in hand. But Kel’thuzad seemed to have grasped their meaning, or at least lost the will to lash out once more for he was now running his hands over Zul’jin’s contour letting them hover just an inch over his skin.

“Can you feel it?” Liandrix heard David say as he appeared over Kel’thuzad’s shoulder.

The mage nodded. “He is connected, to all of this … this place.”

Then Liandrix felt it as well. The binding he perceived felt not unlike any other binding between an element and the Arcane, except this binding wasn’t mutual, that is to say, flowing in both directions, from and to the host. The energy of this place was simply flowing out of Troll. Liandrix reasoned that the source of this energy had to be the same source that had been feeding the static shield before. Yet now, somehow, that source seemed to be Zul’jin himself.

“It’s the stave,” Antonidas said calmly as he observed Zul’jin’s dreamlike state. “That staff of his is the cause of all of this. I saw it too late.”

Liandrix hadn’t seen it at all. Antonidas turned to look at him.

“You said he wasn’t a Witch Doctor, that he was a warrior. You were right. He said he had been given the secret of the spirit magic. It was the staff that he had been given, probably by another Troll, and he simply used it. And now …”

“It is using him,” David finished. “You are right. The staff must somehow hold power that we could not counter. It’s the reason for all these illusions, the reason he could draw Arcane energy from the Root, the reason he—“

Zul’jin stirred, and they all fell silent. Liandrix got to his feet at last, looking closely at the Troll. He then realised he hadn’t moved at all, it was the air that was shimmering above him, as if he were burning up. The three mages approached Zul’jin at the same time Kel’Thuzad backed away, looking uncertain.

The shimmer seemed to reach a pitch and a shape formed in its place. Liandrix felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise as Zul’jins form appeared above its dormant twin. Its eyes were open and malicious; its lips were pulled back into a victorious smirk.

The party of four formed a crescent in front of the shade and Liandrix asked himself a question he had asked himself a dozen times that day.

Arcane? Troll magic? Illusion?

A hiss escaped the lips of the wavering form as it looked at the four mages. “Welcome to da world of da fire spirit humáns. It be here that I witness your death.”

David Spellsword took a step forward. Void of a staff he folded his arms behind his back in an apparent open and friendly gesture.

“Forgive me … Zul’jin, but it seems you have that reversed. Only, your … condition begs the opposite.” With that he gestured with a nod at the solid and profoundly lifeless form of the Troll warrior.

His eyes narrowed at the same time as the fiery sky above them gave a mighty lurch. The golden and orange clouds that seemed locked into an eternal struggle were tossed across the blazing canopy as if they were seconds from forming a burning hurricane. David Spellsword gave them a momentary glance before settling his gaze back on Zul’jin. The Troll smiled a crooked smile.

“Fool, my spirit be eternal and beyond da realms of da gods!”

Liandrix felt a prickling sensation on the back of his neck that rapidly spread across his body and made goose bumps erupt all over his skin. Shaking off the feeling he glanced around to see if the others had felt the same, but their eyes were fixed on Zul’jin. All except one. Archmage Antonidas was looking straight at Liandrix out of the corner of an eye. When that eye met those of Liandrix his ears suddenly picked up the slightest of winds which seemed to carry the whisper of a word, but less: the ghost of a whisper.

‘Stall’

The prickly feeling abated and Liandrix suddenly realised that what he had felt had been an Arcane binding so thin he was hardly convinced it had existed at all. He had been so immerged with Troll magic that he had completely missed the familiar magic of pure Arcane.

Liandrix’ mind raced. Did Antonidas wanted him to stall the Troll? Why? But of course he knew. He had followed the sky above when Zul’jin reacted to the question of the Grand Magus. David was testing him, trying to find a weak spot, an exit out of this place. He simply needed more time.

Liandrix stepped forward just as David stepped back. The whole process of communicating with Antonidas in that manner had taken but seconds. Now that it was over Liandrix could clearly feel the subtle Arcane flows moving back and forth. Both Antonidas and David were prodding and poking their way around the field and Zul’jin. He did not seem to notice, or if he did he did not show it.

“I don’t understand, Zul’jin,” Liandrix spoke slowly and deliberately, making sure he had the Troll’s attention.

“How could a warrior command such power? I thought only Witch Doctors could talk to the gods and commune with the spirits.”

By the manner of which Zul’jin grinned at him he knew he had used the proper deference.

“Dat be true, humán,” the Troll drawled in its thick accent. “I be granted da great …” Zul’jin seemed to struggle with a word, “… honour of wielding Zakala’s staff of da Seven Spirits.”

And much like David was wont to do, Zul’jin seemed to grab the staff in question out of another world. The crooked skull-adorned staff appeared as see-through as the image of the Troll itself, and judging by the lack of energy surrounding it, just as non-existent.

“Da war between da Amani tribe and da elves be long past. We be scattered now, chased away from our homelands and driven off like frightened animals; dem elders call it peace.” Zul’jin spat and the burning soil hissed in return. “While dem elves and you humáns fed of our lands my tribe starved, but da elders did not care. Dey believed we would prosper soon. Dat da spirits had foretold it so. But dat be years ago, and nothing be changed today.

“But den Zakala comes. She be more dan a Witch Doctor. She be talking to spirits and gods alike. She be speaking many tongues. She travelled from tribe to tribe, bringing word dat da gods be on da warpath and dat dem gods were looking for a champion, one to unite all da tribes and lead dem to war to reclaim our ancestry.

“Dem elders be saying no. Dey say dat we must remain divided. Dat we must live in our separate tribes. But Zakala comes to us and shows us visions of da plans of da gods. Dey be showing us how to defeat your magic. But dem elders did not approve of her meddling with da tribes. Dey held a moot where dey decided that she must disappear. Zakala heard of da moot from da spirits and told our tribe of dem plans and asked us to help da spirits.

“My chance be here. I offered my spear and said I would bring her da heads of da elders. Zakala accepted and showed me where da spirits told her where da elders would gather. In the night I followed da path she had drawn to a remote sanctuary. All seven elders be der. I knew den dat she be a true speaker of spirits.”

Liandrix looked again at the staff Zul;jin was holding and silently counted seven small skulls dangling from the tip. He felt a chill run down his back.

“When I returned with dem heads Zakala named me da champion of da gods. She bound da spirits of dem elders to da staff and showed me its power. She taught me many things den: da tongue you speak, what magic you use and how to fight it, da lay of da land.”

“She knew all of this?” Liandrix asked without thinking.

“Jah. Dem spirits guided her … and me. Da spirits did not just told me what to do, dey showed me how I would come here; which roads to choose, which paths to pick. Dey showed me how I would draw you out and steal your magic and use it against you. Dey showed me being here and use your own power against you. Dey showed me how da Amani would rule da lands.”

Kel’thuzad suddenly snorted. “I’ll bet you they didn’t show you how you’d be lying here, dead!”

Liandrix felt a sudden urge to strangle the Archmage. He had been caught up in Zul’jins story completely. Perhaps it was his love of lore, but he wanted to hear it all.

Zul’jin turned his dark eyes on Kel’thuzad. “Very well den. You will see what I have seen, mage. And you will see it now!”

The apparition of Zul’jin turned its back on them and cast its staff into the sky.

“Jan’alai! Let loose your flames!”

There was a rumble like distant thunder and in the burning sky the churning flames opened like the sun breaking through the clouds. And out of the momentary stillness flew a form, a creature Liandrix had seen only in sketches. The Quel’dorei referred to it as ‘Dan’dracon’, a dragonhawk. But what Liandrix had learned of the dragonhawks in Quel’Danas indicated that this monstrous being had the size of dozens such dragonhawks together. And unlike Zul’jin, whose hoarse voice was shouting Troll words at the god, it appeared to be completely solid. It struck the sky with wings of a dozen flames, each longer than a tree. When its tail swooped down towards the ground, a giant whip of molten gold, the sky seemed to crack open. Having such a monstrous being descend upon you with talons like the jaws of a saber-toothed tiger was a frightening sight.

Liandrix stood frozen, gazing at the oncoming threat, until a wind from aside almost buffeted him off his feet. Liandrix thought the movent of the dragonhawk’s wings created winds of gale-like proportions, until a bright purple substance he could only describe as liquid glass crept between the group of mages and Jan’alai.

Alle three Archmages were casting a protective shield cooperatively. David Spellsword and Antonidas had their staffs out and Kel’thuzad stood amidst them with both hands pointed at the shields centre, his fingers in strange angles. When the ends of the shield connected, forming an immense dome around the party the winds abated, but instead of the Arcane energies disappearing with them they ripped at Liandrix’ mind. It was an incredibly uncomfortable experience. One could compare it with a tent being buffeted by a powerful wind and the storm lines being pulled taut, except now those lines were attached to one’s consciousness.

The burning world around them was rendered to a violet storm of silence. Zul’jins form had quieted down as well; they all watched with bated breath as Jan’alai crashed down onto the field of embers, sending up a wall of dust. The collision caused the earth to ripple outward and sent the mages staggering.

Liandrix wondered why the dragonhawk had chosen to land in front of the shield rather than attempt to smash through it, but before the dust had cleared and Liandrix could ponder upon it further the creature’s wings swept through the debris and wrapped themselves firmly around the shield. Liandrix quickly rose to his feet. The shield showed no outward signs of breaking but he cast a net of Arcane energy of his own to fortify it. He felt how the web of Arcane currents of the different mages connected and crossed. They formed a constant recurring flow of energy. This form of casting Arcane magic was time consuming but highly necessary for a spell of this magnitude. Conjuring such a shield would normally render the casters exhausted within moments. As it was, they had limited time to think of something to get out of this situation.

Where the giant columns of flames that made up the dragonhawk's wings connected with the shield the air shimmered and violet sparks flew off the shield to rain down on the four of them. Liandrix gritted his teeth out of sheer pressure caused by his focus on the upkeep of the shield. Judging by the other faces none of them were able to form a proper offensive spell. No magical battle was ever won defensively. But what were they to do? All the lore in his long years of studying had not taught him to battle a god. The burning wings wrapped firmly around the shield meant that attacking through their own shield would be a great risk. They weren’t protected, they were trapped.

“Antonidas …”

David Spellsword was holding his ornamental staff with both hands and even from this distance Liandrix could tell his palms were sweaty and his hands were shaking. The huge violet crystal on top of the staff cast a fierce white light that was reflected by the streams of sweat that were running down his temples.

“Antonidas, can you cast a tri-dimensional translocation?”

Archmage Antonidas seemed to have great trouble holding his own red crystal-tipped staff aloft. He cast a troubled look over his shoulder.

“I thought you were attempting a quantum-dimensional rift!”

“I was.” David’s eyes flashed back and forth between Antonidas and the shield. It was the first time the Grand Magus looked anxious, and the sight caused Liandrix’ courage to drop a little further down his boots. Zul’jin meanwhile was moving back and forth, marching between the mages, looking hungrily at their struggle.

Antonidas gave David an apologetic look. “I can’t, David. This world’s geomagnetic field is completely unfamiliar. There are no poles to navigate on and its useless to project an energy flow through an Arcane shield when the energy fields behind it are stationary. Can’t you open a rift back using the reversed energy source?”

David took a moment to answer. “I can open it …”

Everyone turned their heads to look at the Grand Magus. They had all heard the unspoken end of that sentence; ‘…but.’

“You can’t keep it open?” Antonidas asked.

“It’s the same problem we’re facing with translocation. Channelling a force through a stationary field requires a constant feed.”

Liandrix understood the implications. Trying to accomplish a translocation in that way would be like keeping a trap open and grabbing the bait with the same hand.

“So that’s not an option either,” Antonidas said with finality.

“It is an option,” David said firmly, “the only one we have.”

“You’re saying someone must stay behind?” Kel’thuzad said suddenly. He had his dark eyes on the Grand Magus, and Liandrix thought he saw a hungry look in them.

“There are other possibilities,” Antonidas began, but David cut him short with a sharp hand gesture.

“You know the situation, Antonidas, and you know our duty. We cannot risk the rift becoming a connection. This creature, this world must stay here!”

“Then let it be me!” Kel’thuzad hissed. “Let me stay here and take care of this creature!”

“No! Zul’jin must remain in this realm. He or his creations must never be allowed access to our world.”

“He killed Cecilia!” Kel’thuzad roared. “He slew her like an animal!”

There was a thunder strike overhead and the shield was marked by a crimson tear that stretched from one end to the other. The fierce storm-like wind that suddenly raged through the protected dome drowned out every other sound. The giant dragonhawk wasted no time and plunged its beak into the crevice. Biting cold shot through Liandrix’ spine, and from the corner of his eyes he saw the others react under the heightened pressure. The shield was beginning to demand its toll. Overhead Jan’alai was trying to push its beak deeper into the gap while the mages below tried to lace the tear back up as if stitching a wound.

“Let me conjure the rift!” Kel’thuzad shouted through the mayhem. “I will make that Troll regret its very birth!”

There was no mistaking the wild look in the eyes of Archmage Kel’thuzad this time. There was a glint in there that Liandrix found strange in dark eyes such as those. It made them seem cold and vicious.

“It does not need to come to this, David,” Antonidas continued. “Dalaran needs you!”

“This is not open for discussion! Archmages, you know your duties. You know the stakes, and you know what is expected of you. You know your responsibilities!

Liandrix couldn’t be sure but he thought that the David’s gaze had included him. It was only now beginning to dawn on him that Grand Magus David Spellsword was planning on sacrificing himself for them. David Spellsword, who had lived with him as Wald, who had taught him the definition of magic, who had revealed the truth about his past.

There was a loud crack overhead like two pieces of metal colliding and Jan’alai’s beak sank a few feet. More tears started appearing and cast purple lines on the ground. The flame columns of its wings were starting to burn through the sides of the shield.

Then, with an almighty yank David pulled his staff out of position and cast it at the rest. “NOW! GATHER!”

Liandrix flung himself towards Antonidas as if the Archmage had summoned him. He too had abandoned the shield which remained intact for now. Kel’thuzad didn’t move. He had his eyes on Zul’jin who in turn was leering at the Archmage as if challenging him to attack. Liandrix didn’t want to imagine what would happen to them if Zul’jin was killed.

Then Kel’thuzad started for the Troll’s lifeless form; the one that lay unconscious at the feet of its apparition. Out of the corner of his eyes Liandrix saw Antonidas gave his staff a swing as he shouted Kel’thuzad’s name. Liandrix felt a yank on the scruff of his robe and was pulled closer towards Antonidas. He made the same gesture towards Kel’thuzad but at that moment the shield vanished, having been abandoned by all four mages.

Jan’alai crashed down around them, its burning wings forming a wall of scorching flames. Its beak plunged into the soil and cut off both Antonidas’ spell and Kel’thuzad’s advance. Liandrix felt his skin smoulder as the temperature exploded upwards. Each breath burned in his lungs and filled them more with the dust that floated in the air around them. His breaths became shorter by the second and he could feel a panic building up inside him.

Jan’alai rose from its position, pulling its beak out of the ground. Liandrix caught a glimpse of David. There was a bright white glow around him that expanded for several feet. He was standing on a spell drawn into the burning sand. With his staff held in both hands he stood as still as a statue. He looked ready to cast the rift and send them back, but he seemed to be waiting for something.

Then Liandrix spotted Kel’thuzad. He was getting to his feet to continue his advance just as the god-like dragonhawk turned to the Grand Magus, mercifully raising its wings to allow the heat to abate slightly. Kel’thuzad clawed his way to the Troll as debris fell down around him, his features distorted with hate and his hands glowing a dark purple colour.

Zul’jin’s ghost form meanwhile was shouting in his own language at the massive creature as it reared on its burning tail. From what Liandrix knew of the Troll tongue Zul’jin was shouting for the dragonhawk to crush the Grand Magus. Liandrix felt he should intervene in the situation but he was torn between the Grand Magus standing coolly in front of Jan’alai as it descended and Kel’thuzad as he raised his hands to fire his spell at Zul’jin’s lifeless form. Then a cold wind suddenly caught the back of his neck that exploded into a storm. The floating dust and falling debris were replaced by a roar of icy winds.

Liandrix turned to see Archmage Antonidas standing at the heart of the storm, his red and purple robe whipping violently in the wind. The red ruby on the tip of his staff had turned an icy blue and the power radiating from it raised goose bumps on his skin. Including the spell work Zul’jin had woven into the Arcane Root this was the most powerful spell Liandrix had ever witnessed. Antonidas was throwing all he had at Jan’alai, who was still balancing on its tail. The storm, though cold it was, was not enough to douse its flames.

Kel’thuzad emitted a triumphant shout as he reached Zul’jin, throwing himself through the apparition to get to the real one on the ground. Liandrix looked back at Antonidas for aid just in time to throw up an Arcane shield for himself. But even with the shield the shockwave that originated from the Archmage threw Liandrix flat on the ground. The whole ground shook as the force behind the wind tripled and continued to grow until Liandrix was sure he would be blown from the ground altogether. Then with an icy realisation Liandrix saw that it wasn’t the blizzard that was blowing Liandrix back; it was pure Arcane energy, radiating from Antonidas. The energy was of such proportions that it was creating and feeding its own static shield which formed a visible orb around the Archmage. The whole concept of such power coming from one mage was unreal.

Antonidas suddenly plunged his staff into the ground and all around him the burning soil froze solid, the effect spreading outward until everyone found themselves on a frozen waste. Liandrix felt cold radiating from below where at first he had felt heat. The effect was closely followed by another shockwave that shattered the frozen ground. Great rents raced outward, creating great jags of ice that jutted out of the earth.

Kel’thuzad’s process had come to a halt right before Zul’jin’s unconscious body. Jan’alai seemed thrown off balance at first but managed to stay upright.

With a mighty crack that reverberated through the entire frozen plane Antonidas pulled his staff out of the ground and raised it high above his head and the whole place seemed to follow suit. There was a great rumble and more cracks and rents along the surface connected and gigantic pieces of frozen earth followed the movement of his staff, shooting into the air as if they weighed nothing.

All around Liandrix the ice flew up and he wondered in panic when he himself would be next. When he dared look up he saw jagged pieces of ice breaking against the fiery flank of the dragonhawk. The force of the attack was too great for the creature to withstand and it retreated slightly from David.

Pieces big enough to cave skulls rained among the four mages; around Antonidas who looked simply terrifying, surrounded by his orb; around David who stood impassive, but was obviously focussing hard on his own conjuring; around Kel’thuzad who was crawling on all fours, trying desperately to reach Zul’jin; and around Liandrix who expected to die at any second. He felt weary beyond explanation. Even his panic could no longer make him move.

There was a great screech as the dragonhawk crawled upright and seconds later Antonidas’ voice thundered across the field.

“Now, David!”

In answer, a beam of bright light shot out of the white crystal of David’s staff, momentarily illuminating his ancient, lined face. The beam shot straight towards Zul’jin and when it hit the still body it split into three ways; one beam for each of the three mages.

When the beam connected with Liandrix the world vanished. The icy earth beneath him disappeared and the burning sky turned black as night. Liandrix had one last fleeting look of the Archmages; of Kel’thuzad as he made a lunge toward Zul’jin’s body, his eyes filled with uncharacteristic hate; of Antonidas as his powerful image slowly turned back to normal. But not before it was planted firmly into Liandrix’ mind; and of David Spellsword, who was bathed with light as he looked their way.

It could have been his imagination, but Liandrix rather thought he could see a smile on the old man’s face, before he too fell away in a sudden tidal wave of smoke ash and fire.

*
"The motivation to study the Arcane should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it.."

~ Loremaster Liandrix Emmot
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Liandrix
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Topic/Postby Liandrix » 06 Aug 2015, 22:53

The stretch of wall was completely empty. No, it was more than empty; it was bare. Whereas all the walls were covered with either violet or golden paint or a collection of paintings, this piece of wall was void of any manner of decoration. Its colour was a dank, stained grey, as if it hadn’t ever been given the courtesy of a cleaning. And yet, Liandrix was looking at it as if it was a priceless work of art.

As it happened, the stretch of grey wall was framed by a painting on either side. One painting depicted the city of Dalaran as seen from a hill, and the other was of a road leading under a dense canopy of trees. Around the grey wall with the paintings were three staircases. Two of them leading up, and the third and widest of them lead down to the atrium of the Violet Citadel.

The Citadel was completely silent, as silent as it had been when Liandrix had entered it by means of a portal from Holden Hill not twenty-four hours ago. It hadn’t been completely peaceful then. Illusions caused by Zul’jin’s magic had plagued the city of Dalaran then. But now all was peaceful once again.

Liandrix was starting to grow impatient. The strip of parchment in his hand had been crumpled out of sheer frustration. He had gotten it only a few hours after returning from the alien world Zul’jin had sent them all to. When they had returned, when the Grand Magus David Spellsword had sent them back from the world of fire and ash, the home of the fire god Jan’alai, Archmage Antonidas had urged their secrecy, telling both Liandrix and Archmage Kel’thuzad that they were not to disclose anything that had happened.

Archmage Kel’thuzad had simply stormed off without a single word. Antonidas had then assured Liandrix that they would speak again on all that had happened, and that he had to wait for his summons. The piece of parchment Liandrix was holding were those summons. They read but three short lines.

The Supreme Council calls you

Where all paths end

Midnight


It hadn’t taken Liandrix more than a few seconds to figure it out. There weren’t many paintings in the Citadel, and these were the only ones depicting paths. Then it had just been a matter of waiting. The slip of parchment said midnight; he had received it at dawn.

Liandrix had been unsure what to do first when he had returned. There had been several things on his mind, not the least of which was Catherine. But as much as he wanted to see her again there were other matters to attend to, other people he needed to pay a visit, despite Antonidas’ orders.

Liandrix first went off to find Aidan Somerset, head of the battlemages. He proved more difficult to find than Liandrix had anticipated. As he had guessed, Aidan had pulled his full array of mages to repel the Troll attack. But being an illusion, the mages had ended up attacking one another. What resulted was quite a battlefield Liandrix was grateful he hadn’t witnessed. He had found Aidan in the House of Healing where mages were tending to dozens of injured.

Making sure to tell Aidan no more than he needed to know he explained that Oliver and Bernadelle were still at Holden Hill. Aidan had not wasted a second and had dispatched a team of five battlemages. Liandrix had offered to lead them but Aidan had assured him it was not necessary. And it hadn’t been. Not six hours later Aidan had sent for him with news that both of the mages had been found in a healthy state, if a bit drenched from the heavy rains that apparently had been raging in Holden Hill.

Next on his list was the debriefing of Krasus. Liandrix realised that this was in stark contrast with Antonidas’ orders but was under the impression that the Supreme Council meant to bury the whole situation to prevent panic breaking loose in Lordaeron. Liandrix felt it important to narrate the entire episode if ever it would occur again.

When Liandrix had met with Krasus he had found the High Elf sitting at his desk amidst stacks of empty scrolls and paper, almost as if he had been waiting for him. Krasus himself had been the perfect narrator; writing as fast as Liandrix could speak, stopping him to ask for detailed accounts at the right points and making careful suggestions where Liandrix fell in doubt. The whole recantation took half the day. The biggest problem had been properly interpreting the spells encountered. Krasus had more experience with spells, but as he hadn’t been present all he had to go on was Liandrix’ account of things. yet at the end of it Loremaster Krasus had pronounced himself satisfied about Liandrix’ detailed dictation.

Afterwards he had gone to Aidan to receive the news that both Oliver and Bernadelle had been found and then he had made his way to Catherine’s cottage, only to find it abandoned. He went back to his own study, hoping perhaps that she had been there, waiting for him, but that had not been the case either. It had been then, after fulfilling the tasks he felt he had needed to do, that he had realised just how exhausted was. The study had brought on such a strong feeling of amenity and refuge that it was all he could do to reach his bed before collapsing on the floor. He had therefore been incredibly grateful to have woken up before midnight.

Now he was standing before the grey stretch of wall, waiting. He was still exhausted, the few hours of sleep he had gotten had not nearly been enough and now he had to face the Supreme Council. The Council of Six; although now there would be only five. Wherever David Spellsword was, it was no longer in this world. David had been such a large part of his time in Dalaran, the thought of never seeing him again made Liandrix feel oddly lonely.

Liandrix felt it before he saw the disturbance in the wall. The dirty grey wall transformed a little but not very much. If anything, the stretch of wall now looked like a liquid mass, but only if one would look directly at it. On either side of the wall the paths on the paintings expanded beyond their frames, and below his feet Liandrix saw the top of the staircases elongate until they connected with the grey wall. Liandrix took the hint. Where all paths end. He took a step forward, stepping into the wall with full conviction.

There was a feeling of stepping into a wall of dry water, the sensation of being weightless for a moment, before he stepped out dry on the other side. There he found himself on a pedestal, staring at a storm. The whole room seemed to be a miniscule tornado suspended in mid-air. There was no floor beneath his feet and nothing in sight in the distance. He almost missed the shaded figures displayed around him.

Liandrix started to break a sweat. The room looked like the proverbial storm in a glass of water and it made him feel very small. It was overwhelming. For a moment a vision flashed through his mind in which he was surrounded by a storm of fire and ash, in a plane far away. He strained to return to the storm in the room. He felt tired beyond words.

One of the dark figures, the one right in front of him, stepped forward and the disguise vanished like a shadow before the sun, and Liandrix looked up, and into the old face of Archmage Antonidas. An image of a mage surrounded by a different storm wielding terrible power swam before his mind’s eye.

“Liandrix of Stratholme, of the Kirin Tor, you have come to answer the summons of the Supreme Council,” Antonidas’ voice boomed as if he was speaking to a large crowd.

Liandrix sighed and braced himself as he looked straight into the Archmage’s eyes.

“No.”

A slight frown creased the top of Antonidas’ brow and Liandrix heard himself apologising, though thankfully he did not do it out loud. It was important that he establish his relationship with Antonidas and the Council early on and not play their game, or he would never be able to do what he must.

Liandrix saw Antonidas’ frown and the Archmage opened his mouth to retort, but Liandrix quickly forestalled him.

“I felt it necessary to appear before you all to convey the importance of what needs to be done. I came of my own volition.”

The shrouded figure left of Antonidas coughed. Liandrix ignored it.

“Nevertheless,” Antonidas said after a pause, “we called upon you to be debriefed upon the situation.”

Liandrix folded his hands into opposite sleeves. “I shall await my turn, then,” he said pleasantly.

Antonidas cleared his throat before he continued. “We all regret the loss of David Spellsword. His sacrifice for us is one to be remembered. We should be grateful that Zul’jin’s attempt at abusing the Arcane was unsuccessful. It is important to draw lessons from all that has transpired here. However …”

Now that the rehearsed part was over Archmage Antonidas seemed to have embarked upon the pinnacle of this session. Liandrix kept his face impassive as Antonidas continued.

“Zul’jin’s antics have touched and chafed more of our core than anyone else ever did. He has penetrated our deepest secrets and observed and used sources of our greatest power. No one, not a single soul must ever be allowed such entrance to these artefacts again, and no one outside of this room must ever know what happened in this building or the world the Troll created using the Arcane Root. No one must ever even know of its existence!”

A ringing silence greeted these words. For all purposes the storm might not have been raging around the room at all. Antonidas’ voice had been rising gradually until he had almost been shouting. It showed the usually quiet and composed Archmage in a whole different light. Liandrix decided not to point out that he had known about the Arcane Root for some time now. Antonidas’ tone of voice made it even more difficult for Liandrix to focus on what he needed to say. For this reason he let the silence stretch until the point where he thought Antonidas must surely speak.

“Archmage …”

Grand Magus!” a dark figure on his left snapped angrily.

Liandrix looked at Antonidas and tried with all his might to keep his temper under control. He had expected for Antonidas to take the position of Grand Magus at some point, but the speed with which he had taken it angered Liandrix more than he had thought it would. He felt as if the memory of David Spellsword had been insulted by not leaving the position untaken as a sign of respect. It made the words Antonidas had spoken earlier sound empty and false.

“Grand .. Magus.” Liandrix paused. He had lost his momentum and the stares of the shadowed Archmages were bearing down on him. He felt like he had been driven into a corner. He chose a different tack.

“If someone would actually succeed at using the Arcane Root for their evil ends, what would be the consequences?” Liandrix asked, knowing full well the magnitude of what could be caused.

Antonidas looked straight into Liandrix’ eyes and he felt a surge of both joy and pain as he saw once more the deep compassion that he was used to from the old wizard.

“All of life in this world would be gone.”

Again Liandrix let the silence linger for effect. He hoped it gave the Council the impression that Antonidas’ answer had stumped him.

“Then we must do everything we can to prevent such a breach again, and in order to do so it is of the utmost importance to carefully and completely archive what has happened today. This occurrence must be made public.”

There were loud cries of protest around Liandrix, but nowhere near as loud as from the figure on Antonidas’ immediate right.

“If we do not log what happened then the next time we might not be as lucky as we were today. The knowledge of how Zul’jin entered and was defeated must be spread so that all those who follow in our footsteps will know how to stop the Arcane Root from being abused again.

“How dare you suggest such a thing?” a snide voice Liandrix had no difficulty in recognising said.

The dark figure on Antonidas’ right stepped forward as his guise was cast away and a tall figure was standing before the storm behind him. Prince Kael’thas Sunstrider glared down at Liandrix. It was all he could do not to cringe away from the Quel’dorei’s gaze.

“The Violet Citadel has been home to the most powerful Arcane artefacts on the planet, and you are suggesting that we make them public? That we hand magical knowledge that has been collected for thousands upon thousands of years to the common people? Are you suggesting that we release secrets that the Kirin Tor have kept to themselves for as long as we exist?”

Liandrix felt the power behind the words but did not let it drive him away.

“The publication of these events, of these secrets, is essential in preventing a cataclysmic attack on our world, our way of life! I urge the Council to see reason in this act. Zul’jin, despite all our actions to preserve our secrecy, despite all that we have done to keep such knowledge to ourselves, this one creature has managed to uncover and use the power of an artefact that should not even be known to most of the Kirin Tor itself! And if one small insignificant being can come to such knowledge than surely others will be able to as well. It is essential that you realise your power is not unique, that there are other beings in this world with the ability to harness these secrets and have unknown and untold abilities of their own! We should not maintain our blindness, our ignorance that we alone are in possession of the secrets that this world contains!”

Liandrix suddenly realised that he himself was shouting. He expected that he had at least surprised the Council with his arguments but although Antonidas seemed at the very least a little impressed at his words, or otherwise surprised by his tone of voice, Prince Kael’thas positively expanded with rage.

“I will not allow you to undermine the authority of the Kirin Tor! These secrets are not meant to be known by the faint-hearted. These are our secrets and there can’t be any reason to disclose our knowledge in this way. If there is any being with your so-called power, let them come! Let them try to circumvent our defences again! They will fail.”

This time there really was a silence, and Liandrix was at the wrong end of it, but he had one more spell to cast. He had one last breath to spare, and it was a desperate one.

Liandrix turned to Antonidas. “Grand Magus, members of the Supreme Council, I beg of you to allow this situation to be made public. This occurrence must not be forgotten. It is part of our history now, and it is our history that makes us wise. I ask of you to give me leave to recount these events fully and completely in order to prevent such a thing from ever happening again.”

The Grand Magus sighed visibly as he looked down at Liandrix. But whether his posture spoke of relenting or refusal he could not say.

“My dear boy,” Antonidas said, and Liandrix felt a twinge of anger at being called ‘boy’. David had once called him that. It seemed a lifetime ago.

“Believe me when I say that I understand your reasoning; that I know the stakes that stand on this decision. And I would perhaps consider putting last night’s details on paper … if it had not already been done.”

Liandrix felt an icy sensation trickle into him. Antonidas could not know that Liandrix had already disclosed all that had happened to Krasus. But the Grand Magus’ eyes flicked to the dark figure in the far right of where he stood and the feeling of cold fear spread. The darkness surrounding the person wavered and vanished. Loremaster Krasus was looking down at Liandrix with a steady gaze.

Liandrix couldn’t believe it. His own master of Lore, whose passion lay in the logging of every historical event concerning the Arcane, who had allowed Liandrix to dictate the events of Zul’jin, had betrayed him to the Kirin Tor.

That Krasus was a member of the Council of Six he found less surprising. In fact he had hoped he had been right in guessing that Krasus with all his historical knowledge was a part of the Council. It could have given Liandrix an opening through which he could make his case. But never had he expected for Krasus to go behind his back and report to the Council. Especially not after listening and carefully writing down everything that Liandrix had said.

It was over. Liandrix knew that the Council would see this as a betrayal. Liandrix had attempted to make public the attack on one of the biggest secrets of the Kirin Tor. He would certainly be exiled from Dalaran for this. Although now that he thought about it he realised that they would probably not be able to let him live with what he knew. Liandrix suddenly remembered how Antonidas had paused at the word ‘situation’ at the start of the session. This session had never been about the debrief. They had wanted to hear for themselves what Liandrix would say. He had walked straight into a trap.

Once again Liandrix felt the weight of the stares from the Six bearing down on him. He had to force himself to look at the Grand Magus. Antonidas opened his mouth and Liandrix braced himself. But at that moment there was a strange sound behind Liandrix that sounded like a boot being pulled out of deep mud pool. When he turned to look he saw Archmage Kel’thuzad emerge from the liquid wall.

“You are late,” Prince Kael’thas said at once. Kel’thuzad ignored him. Antonidas himself remained silent and Liandrix did not blame him. He was trying not to stare himself.

Kel’thuzad was still dressed in the clothes he had worn during the expedition and the fight with Zul’jin. He had been clad in black robes then, but most of the black colour was gone. There were large red stains that were burnt in several places and most of the underside had been torn up to the point where you could almost see bare skin underneath. The largest parts of his sleeves were muddy and ripped to shreds. His hood had completely vanished and the belt was torn and dangled loose from his robes. Liandrix could also discern bloodstains on his gloves, which were already very red from the residue from Zul’jin’s world. To say he looked a mess was a complete understatement. His face was worse.

There was little trace left of the handsome youth. His long dark hair was in complete disarray and seemed to be soaking wet. His fair skin was splattered with mud and blood. There was a wound on one cheek he was sure would leave a scar, and all traces of the calm, controlled demeanour were gone. Instead he wore an expression of disgust, his mouth pulled into a snarl which disfigured his features. His once dark and deep eyes now had a glassy look, as if he no longer perceived the world around him.

Kel’thuzad marched past Liandrix, leaving muddy footprints behind, and faced the Council.

“You – are – late!” Prince Kael’thas Sunstrider repeated.

Kel’thuzad’s eyes flickered back and forth between the Prince and the Grand Magus and eventually settled on Antonidas.

“I received your ‘summons’ moments ago, when I returned. I have important work to do. Why was I summoned in this manner?” he spat the last words.

“Insolence!” Kael’thas said, and he turned to Antonidas. “You ought to reconsider this!”

But Antonidas didn’t take his eyes from the Archmage.

“Kel’thuzad,” Antonidas began gently, using his name rather than his title. “What happened to Cecilia is something we all deeply feel—“

“She was my wife!” Kel’thuzad roared. “And after she was slain like a pig she was left to rot on the ground! None of you even considered sending help for her!”

Prince Kael’thas opened his mouth to retort but Antonidas lifted his right hand and allowed Kel’thuzad to continue. Liandrix was astonished how that simple hand gesture silenced the Prince of Quel’thalas.

“And then my one chance of retribution was denied me as you allowed that monster to live! Zul’jin lives while Cecilia lies dead!”

Antonidas allowed the harsh words to reverberate through the circular room for a moment before he spoke.

“Fifteen years ago you were told that your marriage was controversial at best. You were explained the reasoning behind our initial refusal. You were shown the danger and risks involved with such a binding in this place, and yet you persisted. You chose your future, knowing what it might bring, and now it has.”

Liandrix bit his lip as he looked from Antonidas to Kel’thuzad. Although the Grand Magus had spoken calmly, the words had arrived like a slap in the Archmage’s face. He had as much as told Kel’thuzad that it had all been his own fault.

“Now …” Antonidas continued for Kel’thuzad showed every sign of wanting to retort, “the reason why you were summoned.”

And with that Antonidas lifted his left arm and gestured towards the silent shadow figure on his left. The figure’s shadow was cast away until it had completely vanished. There was no one there.

“We, the Supreme Council of the Kirin Tor, offer you, Archmage Kel’thuzad, a position among our number. The Council welcomes you. The Council has need of you. The Council requests your counsel.”

Kel’thuzad looked briefly at the vacant spot next to the Grand Magus.

“What has happened is now in the past, Kel’thuzad. It is over.” There was a pause in which Antonidas looked at Kel’thuzad imploringly. It was a look filled with such sadness that Liandrix swore the Grand Magus was weeping.

“I beg of you, let it rest. There is naught to see but pain, loss and sorrow behind you, Kel’thuzad.”

A moment passed in which Liandrix saw doubt flicker across Kel’thuzad’s dark eyes, but it quickly vanished, to be replaced by rage.

“This is not over!” He shouted at the Grand Magus. Then he turned on his heels and marched to the exit.

Before he reached the wall he stopped and turned his head to look at Antonidas.

“I accept the offer of the Supreme Council!” Then he was gone in a flurry of mud and blood.

After watching Kel’thuzad leave Liandrix turned in time to see Prince Kael’thas urge Antonidas to reconsider the appointment, but the Grand Magus shook his head.

“I reconsider nothing. And that brings us back to a matter so violently interrupted.”

Liandrix felt goose bumps erupt on the back of his neck. He had almost forgotten that the Supreme Council was about to hang him. In a sudden fit of humour he wondered if Archmage Kel’thuzad would vote against it.

“Liandrix Emmot,” Grand Magus Antonidas began in the same sober and gentle tone as used for addressing Kel’thuzad. “Fifteen years ago you joined the ranks of Dalaran’s scholars and it did not take you long to ‘stand out’ above your peers. Just last year you joined us with your expertise on lore, and aided Loremaster Krasus here in his research.”

Loremaster Krasus was looking blankly at Liandrix. Did he even care that he had sold out his student?

“Your anthropological studies were of paramount importance during the last open council session and your research and knowledge of the Troll species was proven essential.”

Did Antonidas know that his Troll-knowledge started when he and his fellow apprentices had abused Troll magic? How much had David told him about Liandrix? Did the Grand Magus know about his past as well? He did not know. He dared not ask.

“And finally last night, you managed to turn the tide against Zul’jin, preventing him from doing great harm abusing the Arcane Root.”

Liandrix could not claim credit here. True, he had known how to negate Zul’jin’s spell casting , but he was sure David had as well. Liandrix had connected the dots some time ago. David had done almost the exact same thing while freeing him from the rampaging Troll magic fifteen years ago.

“Now, in light of more recent events and the development of others, it is the opinion of the Supreme Council …” Here Antonidas looked around at Prince Kael’thas, who looked bad-tempered; at Krasus, who stood still and impassive; and at the still dark figures, as if he could discern the other Council members; and finally back at Liandrix who stood rooted to the pedestal, waiting for a trapdoor to open up beneath him.

“… to grant you the colours of the Loremaster.”

Liandrix blinked. He must have misheard the Grand Magus, or he had momentarily been lost in thoughts again.

“I understand the trepidation in your new position,” the Grand Magus continued, confirming the fact that Liandrix had in fact been named Loremaster. “Therefore the Council has decided to preserve its right to allocate your new project at once.”

Liandrix felt a weight hanging on these words he didn’t like. It felt like a term he had unwittingly agreed upon.

“You are to leave for Stormwind where you will join a taskforce of Kirin Tor mages who have already established a foothold in the kingdom for us. We have gotten repeated requests for a Loremaster to join their ranks for they seem to have some trouble with an unknown species there. It should be the perfect task for you.”

Liandrix swayed at the enormity of the task that was set before him. Stormwind. That was deep in Azeroth, at the other side of the continent.

“When must I leave?” he heard himself ask.

“At once,” Prince Kael’thas answered. There was something triumphant in the way he had spoken.

Liandrix looked at Krasus for support, but the High Elf was simply staring at him, the way he always did.

The Grand Magus had a sober look about him, almost a if he regretted giving Liandrix this assignment, but when he spoke, it was without pity.

“Good luck with your task, Loremaster Liandrix. The Kirin Tor will await your progress. Do not disappoint us.”

*


Liandrix found himself in a courtyard in the light of a crescent moon. He knew from the pale silhouette of the city that he was at the opposite side of Dalaran. He couldn’t tell how long he had been wandering through the city, or which path he had chosen, but dawn was not yet there. His mind had been solely set on his meeting with the Supreme Council. The experience of the meeting alone was enough to make one’s head spin. But to be granted Loremaster colours after a single year in the Kirin Tor was absurd. He had wondered about the Council’s motivation. Had they promoted him to keep his silence? That they would demand their colours back should he blab? Or had they simply granted the title so that they could ship him off to Stormwind and be well rid of him? Eventually he had put the question from his mind. The reason for his promotion was ultimately irrelevant. He was going either way.

More the question was Stormwind itself. There was little Liandrix knew about the kingdom, aside from the fact that its king was called Llane. And if the knights and generals at the open council were an indication they had as much pride as a court full of Quel’dorei Princes.

And then the act of moving to the other end of the continent itself. He would have to abandon most of what he possessed. He had wondered what he would take with him. Oddly enough, the only thing he was certain to bring with him was the book he had taken with him from Stratholme. It wasn’t much in the way of literature, and he had read it forth and back several times, but he found it to be a source of comfort and certainty, and he had read it or at least flipped through its pages whenever he felt out of sorts for any reason. He would also have to abandon all the knowledge he had not attained, and he hoped therefore that Stormwind had its own sources of knowledge.

And then there had been the biggest question of all: Catherine. It might have been a day, but Liandrix was long past being timid. Something had happened to make him realise that time was too short for him to be shy and unsure about his feelings. Perhaps it was because he had witnessed what had happened between Kel’thuzad and Cecilia.

Most of his time wandering and wondering had been spent on Catherine. Should he drag her with him to Stormwind? Uproot her whole life and career here? Or should he make the smarter decision and just leave her here and forget about her?

With a heart heavy with doubts and a mind full of questions he set off towards the cottages on the outskirts of Dalaran. Whatever was decided he thought he should include Catherine in his decisions. Liandrix thought he could make out a silver lining on the horizon through the thick canopy of trees, so dawn was fast approaching. He was surprised, therefore, to see light shining through the windows of Catherine’s house.

He hurried through the front yard Catherine liked to decorate with her self-made dresses on wooden frames. Liandrix had once explained to her that farmers used the same method on their farmland to prevent birds from picking it clean.

Liandrix rapped on the front door and waited a moment with bated breath and in complete silence. He heard a hurried commotion from the inside and then the door was flung open and a wall of light flooded out into the night, completely blinding Liandrix. Something flew against him and wrapped itself tightly around his body.

“I knew something had happened when night fell and you hadn’t returned. And then, when I saw the fires break out in Dalaran I feared I’d never see you again,” Catherine said, her voice trembling.

Liandrix hugged her back, all thoughts of Stormwind blown from his mind, and then he kissed her. He kissed her until he remembered that he should breathe, he kissed her until he was sure the sun must be high in the sky.

“You know,” Catherine began once they had parted, “when I told you to bring back a story I hadn’t expected you to bring me a Loremaster.”

“Yes, well, I hadn’t expected … wait, how do you know about my promotion?”

“Your promotion? What are you talking about?”

“What are you talking about?”

Catherine gestured back into the room. “I’m talking about your master of course.”

Liandrix moved past her into the room and looked down at Loremaster Krasus as he rose elegantly from his seat.

“What are you doing here?” Liandrix demanded bluntly. Somewhere he thought he felt angrier with his presence than he should.

Krasus looked at Liandrix in a level manner. “Waiting for you.”

“Liandrix glared at him. “And how did you know I’d be here?”

Krasus gave him a small mysterious smile. A smile from Krasus was rare to begin with, but this one was different from the few he had seen this last decade and a half. It wasn’t a smile fit for a Quel’dorei, or a human. It appeared to be from a different sort of creature.

“I know many things, Loremaster Liandrix.” Krasus tilted his head a little. “Catherine, my dear, could you give us a moment? There is something that needs be discussed.”

“Liandrix … “ Catherine looked from one mage to the other. “… Why did he call you—“

“I’ll explain later,” Liandrix said shortly.

When Catherine had obliged and gone up Liandrix didn’t waste a second.

“Why did you sell me out to the Supreme Council?” Liandrix demanded once he was sure Catherine was out of earshot.

Krasus gestured for Liandrix to take a seat on the sofa but he stayed on his feet. He was not going to assume an inferior position this time.

“Why did you let me record last night’s events? Why put it all on paper if you were planning on throwing me in front of the Council anyway? Why go through the trouble?”

“Recording your findings was of the utmost importance, Liandrix. The Supreme Council would never have done it themselves.”

“If they would not allow it then why—?”

“Because I serve a purpose other than the Council’s desires … or Dalaran’s.”

Liandrix became very still. Was Krasus spying for someone? Liandrix opened his mouth to demand clarity but Krasus interrupted him with a hand gesture not unlike the one Antonidas had used to forestall Prince Kael’thas.

“Please don’t ask me whom I serve, Liandrix. Rest assured that they have our best interests at heart and that the information you have provided is in safe hands. The Supreme Council is not aware of this. They have been left in the dark.”

“And yet,” Liandrix said gravely, “I am to go to Stormwind.”

And at those words Krasus’ face filled with sadness. It was a shocking sight to behold on a face that was usually so impassive.

“I tried, Liandrix, I truly did. I swayed the Council where I could, but I could not prevent your allocation, nor Kel’thuzad’s admission into the Council.”

“You didn’t want Kel’thuzad as a Supreme Council member?” Liandrix asked amazed.

“If the Council had considered my recommendation it would have been you sitting among the Six.”

“You suggested me as a Supreme Council member?” Liandrix asked in complete shock.

The very idea was preposterous. For him to be in the Supreme Council, the seat of power of the Kirin Tor, the most powerful and knowledgeable wizards in the world. The very notion alone was insanity.

“The chances of my succeeding were minimal, yet I felt I had to try.”

“Why?”

“For reasons unwise to speak of,” Krasus answered shortly. “But now is not the time to ponder the past. You must focus on Stormwind. They need you, Liandrix. They need a Loremaster. They need a source of knowledge in a realm of knights.”

*


Eventually Liandrix managed to delay his departure for several months, which gave him enough time to prepare. And the first thing he had done after Krasus had departed was asking Catherine’s hand in marriage. One could argue that it was too soon, too sudden, too unsure and too far away. But Liandrix saw in none of those arguments a reason not to marry Catherine, and fortunately neither did she. Life was short enough without wasting it on arguing.

Most of his preparations disappeared into research about Azeroth and its history. If he were to go to a place scarcely known to him he might as well go prepared. Krasus had warned him of Azeroth saying that people there had different customs, habits and beliefs. Being an anthropologist he didn’t need to be told twice. Krasus also warned him about the politics of court. But Liandrix would stay well away from that. He loathed politics.

Liandrix found it hard to get used to his being a Loremaster. Aside from the public renown that he hadn’t even got used to as a member of the Kirin Tor, he was now recognised and approached as a Master of the Kirin Tor without donning his colours. Robert found the whole deal more than amusing, spending his time addressing Liandrix as Master and asking him when he would take over as Grand Magus. Fortunately the wedding between Liandrix and Catherine drove most of those episodes away, although he paid for that luxury by having Robert tell even more steamy stories about his own love life than usual.

All too soon the moment of departure had come, and although Liandrix and Catherine were given the luxury of travelling by portal, Liandrix couldn’t help but feel he was about to embark on a journey far away from safety and home. But whatever the life in Stormwind was going to be like he was determined to make something of it. Young or not, experienced or not, he would earn his Loremaster colours. He would strive to improve the knowledge of the Arcane and fight back common superstitions; whether he thought he was worth it or not.
"The motivation to study the Arcane should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it.."

~ Loremaster Liandrix Emmot
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