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Vionora

Eclipse: The Catalyst

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Gloved hands pulled the hood of her cloak over yellow-blonde hair as she stepped out of the clinic. Daylight was waning, but there was still a little left. The hood protected her from prying eyes; those who might see her own blue-glowing eyes, or her dusky skin, and choose to take an issue with either. It had been the same in Silvermoon amongst the Horde as it was here in Shattrath amongst the Alliance. She'd never truly belonged anywhere.

She picked her way over the uneven ground of Lower City toward the market. Sometimes, she wondered why she bothered buying food or other necessary things for herself. All she had to do was stop eating, and eventually she would expire. Living felt like little more than a force of habit at this point, and one she couldn't break herself.

In exchange for the small number of coppers she'd been paid this week, she picked up a loaf of bread and some bruised fruit. The sun had moved low enough to cast the Lower City into shadow by the time she started heading home. Her shack was near the other end of the City, and it was a long walk there.

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Bheegon stalked on all fours through the darkening streets of Shattrath, drinking in the magic of the city with the two mouthed and toothy tentacles protruding from its shoulder blades. The felhound had been scouring outland for days in search of high elven magic at the command of his master Malhavik. He had tasted the magic of hundreds of blood elves, all tainted and unusable for his masters plans. Failure however meant excruciating pain, and thus he refused to give up empty handed. Just as the denizens of Shattrath began turning in for the night, he tasted something different. A faint yet pure magic slowly fading into the nether. Excited at the prospect of a successful find, Bheegon locked onto the magic trail and followed it into the Lower City market. The trail grew strong and he soon found himself shadowing a peculiar hooded elf. Bheegon began slavering profusely as the sweet magic grew strong in his tentacled mouths. With a very low eldritch growl he called to his master. His task was complete. Bheegon stayed out of sight as he trailed his prey to a dilapidated wooden shack at the far end of the city. His master would be here soon.

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By the time Vionora reached her home, she realized she was being followed. It wasn't uncommon for a lone, unarmed figure in the Lower City to attract attention; only the evident fact Vionora had next to nothing to her name, and her reputation as a healer in the clinic, had kept her from being attacked all this time. Except for once, recently, but that was different.

The priestess turned around when she reached her door, looking at the rough surroundings. Something made her think of a prowling beast, and she frowned, unconsciously rubbing the back of her right hand. There was nothing to be seen, but she felt watched. Stalked.

But she didn't go inside and bar the door. Besides the fact it would offer little protection – the other incident had proved that if she had ever thought otherwise – she was not afraid to begin with. What would happen would happen. She lowered her hands, waiting to see if something or someone would reveal themselves.

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It was very late at night when Malhavik arrived in Shattrath. He walked unusually fast through the run down lower city, with only the pale green flicker of felfire emanating from between the bones garnishing the warlocks shoulders and hood to light his way. He passed many beggars and would-be thieves, but the frightfully tall demon walking beside him was more than enough to scare away any fools seeking to steal a valuable trinket. The demon brandished wicked great swords in four of her six arms, and had a putrid cascade of felfire where a typical womans hair should be. The two walked briskly through the Lower City to meet with Bheegon the felhound.

After a short while they found Bheegon drooling hungrily, circling an old shack. Malhavik grinned behind his ceramic mask, tasting the untainted magic of the resident inside the shack for himself.

"Put your swords away dear Shahriah, we need this one alive and well." Malhavik approached the wooden door and was surprised to find it unfastened. He gently swung it open and stepped inside, the demoness behind him stooping low to fit.

Inside he found a modest if not poor household, and a lone elf sitting at a chair staring at him all most expectantly. Malhavik noted the pale glowing blue eyes immediately and his grin grew so wide it began tearing the corners of his dry mummified mouth. "Greetings good lady, I am Malhavik and I've come to collect you." he said with a low bow. The elf sat motionless as the demon closed the door behind her. Malhavik approached the elf and withdrew his mask and hood, revealing his long pale blonde hair and ghoulish face with black ichor beginning to drip down the corners of his mouth. He leaned in close enough to her that she would feel his putrid breath if he had been breathing, and she still did not move. "Silent are we? Well that's quiet all right my dear we will have plenty of time to get to know one another in the coming days." He rasped softly as he grabbed her arm and attempted to kiss her hand. Just before her pristine elven skin could touch his exposed lower jaw she jumped back from the chair and out of his grasp. She then bolted to a window in attempt to flee, but a cold sickly sensation in her right leg caused her to fall short of her goal. She turned to look at her leg and to her horror saw the skin on her shin and calf had turned a dull purple color, and was visibly twising and crawling over the muscle and bone beneath. Before she could scream she felt the impossibly long fingers and nails of six different hands lift her up and hold her mouth closed. She had just enough time to see the warlock ripping a dark hole in the empty space in front of him before a grimy strip of cloth was tied over her eyes. "You'll absolutely love my home in Trisfal! The mist is thickest and most beautiful this time of year". Malhavik said joyfully. The three then stepped into the void and the house went silent.

The warlock, demon and their captive found themselves standing before a ruined crypt in Agamand Mills. Malhavik slouched more than usual and begain walking into the ruin. "Put her in the lowest chamber please. I need to rest a while after traversing the void for so long." Shahriah carried her captive like a new born and began descending the long winding staircase to the depths of the crypt. Once there she opened a heavy marble sarcophagus and placed the elf inside. With a slow grinding she slid the lid shut, and the elf was left in darkness and silence.

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As far as deaths went, slow suffocation wasn't the worst. Vionora knew from experience.

That said, she didn't think the warlock, Malhavik, was going to let her die in this coffin. He said he was "collecting" her... She didn't know what that meant, but it was probably worse than this.

Experimentally, she pushed on the lid. It was, of course, secure. Close darkness surrounded her, making her own breathing unnaturally loud to her sensitive ears. She was no longer panicked, however, as she had been earlier.

It actually surprised her that she had reacted the way she had. "You still value your life," she'd told Naheal, illustrating the key difference between them. She knew she wouldn't have resisted if it were only her life being threatened. But there was one thing she'd forgotten she couldn't stand, and that was the fel.

Vionora had been amongst the few who had refused to turn to demons to feed their magical hunger after the fall of the Sunwell. She chose to stay quel'dorei. She'd found other ways to survive, though at times it had been difficult. These days, she spent nearly twelve hours a day asleep just to keep her energy needs low.

Demons were unclean. Disgusting. Tainting. She believed that on such a deep level that it wasn't something she even really thought about. But she'd never had reason to associate with warlocks.

Now she was in the grasp of one. The feel of the fel magic that imbued the Forsaken had made her react viscerally, like an arachnaphobe on whom a spider had been dropped. Even now, she shuddered.

She'd thought she had endured the worst the world could conjure up for her. But the fel hadn't existed in Stratholme. Undead, certainly, but death and gore and even disease and rot didn't bother her. Demons... Demons did.

If the only threat had been to her health, or whatever passed for her consent, she would not have cared. But to bring the fel into it... the taint she had avoided for so long...

Her leg hurt. She wondered if she should try to heal it, or cut it off.

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Malhavik sat at a stone table across from the marble sarcophagus containing his captive. He had before him layed out a number of nefarious looking stones and reagents. From a hexweave bag at his side he withdrew a large crystal vial with a dark red liquid inside. He stood up from the table and walked to the center of the room. After uncorking the vial he poured it into a large pool at his feet, and then used the butt of his gnarled staff to trace various runes and summoning circles in the open space between the sarcophagus and table.

"Shahriah" He called, "It is time we begin. Fetch out our guest before she parishes in there please".

The lithe demon entered the room from the staircase behind him and approached the captives cage in four easy steps. She removed the lid and pulled the gasping elf from the sarcophagus.

Malhavik tossed a length of course rope to the demon. "Bind her and put her in the center if you please." Like a mammoth spider, Shahriah bound the girls arms and legs and dropped her into the center of the room with a wet plop.

Malhaviks vibrant yellow eyes shone brightly in the dim room. "You know my dear I haven't yet learned your name! Not that it matters of course, I didn't exactly invite you over for tea did I?" He let out a hearty chuckle.

The elf looked calm, but the shifty glances she made at his demon betrayed her.

"Not a fan of demons? Well don't you worry your pretty little head my dear, if everything goes well you'll soon have something in common with them!" With as pleasant a grin as he could manage he turned back to the table and began collecting his instruments.

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Her head was clearing, having grown fuzzy from lack of air in the sarcophagus, now that she was able to breathe again. She watched the back of the warlock as he worked, the blindfold originally tied over her eyes having loosened and fallen to her neck. The nearby demon bothered her, and she wondered if he'd used that to terrorize her more. She looked at it all very detachedly. One might think her resigned to her fate, but that was too simple a description of the void in her soul where any sense of self-preservation should have been.

She couldn't change anything that was going to happen. If she was lucky, it would be relatively quick. If she wasn't lucky, it would still end eventually.

"Vionora," she said after a brief silence. "Now, anyway."

She shifted within the constraints of the rope, feeling her robes soaking up the crimson underneath her. It failed to bother her. But what he said about having something in common with the demon did. She didn't want to have anything to do with demons.

If she did... It would be worse than what had happened to Jazziks. Vionora would not just have done terrible things. She would be a terrible thing. It was an intrinsic difference she had never thought to fear, before now.

She had to reflect on how strange it was to be feeling fear after all this time. It was like another part of her, another Vionora, lived inside the same skin. If only she could cut it out, she thought, like an arrowhead.

Other than those words, she offered nothing else. She didn't see the point in asking what he was going to do to her. Knowing wouldn't change anything.

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"Vionara is it?" Malhavik turned from the table, with several soul shards in hand. He began walking around the room placing twelve shards in a perfect circle around Vionara.

"What I'm about to do is nothing personal my dear, its just that your the ideal specimen for my research. Untainted like your Sin'dorei cousins."

Malhavik closed his eyes and the first of twelve soul shards began to glow purple. The crystal shattered and a purple mist spilled out, slowly coalescing into a small black portal.

"You see I'm simply a curious spell weaver trying to learn new and exciting means of inflicting maladies."

The portal began to grow in size until it was large enough to fit a man. Black talons attached to meaty brown skinned fingers protruded from the portal and began stretching the edges wide. Large twisted horns ending in four points began to extend from the portal, and a growing chorus of hissing screams followed.

"This requires a vast amount demonic energy though, far more than these soul shards and myself can contain."

A massive hoof cloaked in felfire stomped onto the stone floor, and the portal heaved as the Terrorgaurd pulled himself into the cold world.

"Now if I could figure out how to store unshaped demonic magic in a living vessel, my hypothesis is that it should rival ten soul shards!"

Malhavik extended one hand towards the Terrorgaurd and green magic began spewing from its eyes and mouth, spiraling into his outstretched hand. He then pointed his other hand towards the elf on the floor. The fel magic raced over Malhaviks shoulders from one hand to the other and shot through the air into Vionara's chest.

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She jerked back, but the energy struck her bound form anyway. A soundless gasp escaped her as fel magic poured into her being.

It was worse than anything that had ever happened to her before; and what had happened to her was enough to make most blanch. She had been tortured, killed in hundreds of inventive ways, violated and worse. Those memories flashed before her eyes now, but even they couldn't overwrite what was happening now. This... This violated her soul, a place that before, only she had ever damaged. Extensively; but she had done it to herself.

The veins beneath her dusky skin turned black, the glow of her eyes changing to a strange gray hue. The natural reservoir for mana she carried as an elf was filled with fel. The sensation caused her to heave and vomit onto the floor, but that provided no relief. She gasped and struggled against the ropes until they bruised, even after the channeling had ceased. It went on and on, because it was inside her now.

As far as his experiment went, it appeared to be a successful at first. She was a perfect reservoir for his magic. However, it was slowly draining away as the moments passed. It appeared she wouldn't be able to hold this amount of energy for more than about a day, without additional precautions taken.

The trauma caused her to pass out in short order. This time, dreams were her respite.

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For three agonizing nights Malhaviks attempts to turn Vionora into a fel-battery failed. As he made preparations for the fourth night, an idea came to him. The dark magic simply would not stick, and slowly drained from her after the process was complete. Vionora was the bottle for the magic and what he needed was a cork to seal it in.

After several hours of channeling, Vionora again fell limp like each night before. The voidwalker who he had been draining this night collapsed into itself, lacking the energy it needed to keep itself in the mortal plane. Malhavik moved hastily to her and raised her left hand to the green light emanating from his raiment. With a sharp protruding finger bone he began to carve demonic runes into her flesh and chant eldritch words of power.

When his work was complete the jagged bloody tears in her hand flashed a dark purple and slowly began to fade. Malhavik smiled as he collapsed into a sitting position. The work of the night had exhausted him.

"I certainly hope this works miss Vionora, I'm running out of demons to use!" He rasped to the unconscious elf. Now he only needed to await the elf to stir to study the results.

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When she awakened this time, the fel was still just as strong.

Her stomach was empty, had been empty for days, but that didn't preclude the urge to heave. Her eyes swam, her vision made murky by the strange gray that clouded it. She blinked a few times, but it didn't go away. She didn't understand what was happening.

Her left hand burned. She curled her fingers, and the feel of them against her palm made her realize her glove had been removed. She curled her other hand, but that one hadn't been molested. Why?

The well of... fel inside of her was almost familiar to her now. She wanted to take a knife to her gut as she once had and try to cut it out. Or die. That would be fine too.

She lifted her head, her blonde locks now dank and matted, and realized the warlock was watching her. If there had been any capacity for hope in her, she might have seized on the improbable idea right then that he was done, but instead she just assumed it was never going to end. Why should it? It hadn't yet.

The fel inside her wasn't going anywhere.

Somewhere, something laughed.

Then it howled.

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Malhavik peered curiously at the elf as she began to stir. His smiled softly, he had done it. His mind suddenly raced with ideas and schemes.

"Oh what delicious havoc we will bring to this world my dear" He stood abruptly and began pacing the room, clicking his skeletal fingers on the exposed portion of his jaw. He turned back to Vionora. Black and green smoke erupted from her eyes and mouth and funneled into Malhaviks hooded face. He was cloaked briefly in Fel fire and howled joyfully. He was completely rejuvenated, and there was still so much power left within the elf. He began weaving the spell he so often used to enslave demons. Vionora had enough demonic essence in her now the spell should bind her. Magical black chains shot from the shadows into Vionora's flesh and burrowed into her like metallic worms. A shallow grunt was the only sound she made, leaving Malhavik slightly sad. He always enjoyed the screaming part.

The remaining six soul shards exploded into portals to the void and the last of his demons pushed their way through.

"Now then girl, it's time we get serious. I'd like to pay a visit to the Sanctuary garrison before the next night fall and see what new forms of madness I can greet them with."

With a demonic bark from their master, the demons as one began pouring their essence into the elf, causing her to loose a horrible scream.

Malhavik pulled back his hood to listen.

"Ah... There it is."

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Somehow, she didn't lose consciousness. Maybe it was impossible with so much power flowing into her. It was not only sickening beyond measure, but it hurt, now, having the energy packed into her far beyond what she was ever meant to contain. Yet the pain she welcomed, because it distanced her from the awfulness of it, a bright, isolating fold, until she was sure she was going to come apart, just disintegrate into nothingness, the oblivion she...

Then, something broke.

All the energy in the room suddenly dropped away. It was as meteoric as an implosion, the sudden absence deafening and blinding to both elf and warlock, the implications stupefying and ungraspable. Vionora dropped to her knees without a sound, not knowing when the ropes has been broken, or when she'd even come to her feet; barely even able to register the relief from the sick or the pain, or the realization she was still alive and whole.

But there was something new. Something new; yet old and familiar.

The hunger.

She raised her gray-glowing eyes to the stunned warlock.

"What have you done?" she whispered. There was no horror in her voice. Just amazement.

She raised her hands, the bare left one now with the fel rune etched in purple on its back, and her still-gloved right one – but not for long, as she took the remaining glove and pulled it off. There, on her right hand, another mark: two nearly overlapping circles. And they glowed, a pulsing, feral amber.

In moments, it became clear that the pulsing of the mark echoed a pulsing in the room. It was almost like a heartbeat, betokening a frightened deer, a thundering hare: the giveaway of the chased, hiding, pursued, hunted. It evoked mindless fear, terror, a desperate struggle to survive.

The room changed. The underground lab expanded, impossibly, as though it was being viewed from a fish-eye lens, magnifying until it was a cavernous space all around them, distorted and nightmarish. The edges of reality glowed, and the shade of an Old God entered the mortal plane. The being stood over Vionora, gargantuan, towering.

I LIVE.

I HUNT.

The baleful thing's predatory gaze turned on Malhavik. She was a great worg, red, female, with multiple heads, all of them slavering, with maws designed only to shred and destroy, not to subsist. Her feet ended in claws, her tail a sickle. Her skin crawled like a pack of wolves.

YOU GAVE MY HERALD THE POWER TO GIVE TO ME. I WILL HUNT YOU LAST.

Her heads grinned, a horrifying, terrifying sight. Then, she threw them all back and howled, something indescribably worse. The sound pierced the earth and reverberated through the countryside, sending animals and sentient beings throughout Tirisfal into blind panic. It was like the sound of a hunting horn, calling all predators to the hunt, but all mortals were the prey, and could hear the predators on their trail, now.

The shade vanished, then, and the room collapsed back into its former dimensions. Vionora remained kneeling, now clutching both her hands to her chest, the pair of marks glowing. Her eyes were closed, but they opened, focusing on the warlock again.

"Do you know how many people I've killed?" she asked.

She didn't wait for an answer. It didn't really matter, anyway; this warlock had probably killed more people than she had, and couldn't have cared less about them.

"I thought I could atone for it. I tried. I gave everything I had, I suffered as much as I could. And in the end? This."

Her gaze moved around the laboratory, the shattered demon shards, the implements of the tortuous past few days.

"More suffering."

Her gray eyes glowed. They were so strange, as though they should have had color, but they did not. Why they had not turned fel green was unclear. But maybe they should have turned amber instead.

"It's clear, now. The answer isn't more suffering."

She rose to her feet, a vision of madness in her blood- and vomit-stained robes, her matted hair, her unaccountably strange gaze. Her marked hands glowed in the dim, murky light of the chamber as she raised the right one and laid it on the warlock's putrid face. With that touch, what power he'd still held started to drain away, an inexorable leak.

"The only thing that makes sense is to end the suffering. For everyone. Forever."

Vionora stepped back, and simply vanished.

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Malhavik stood alone in the dark room staring blankly at the center of his ritual circle. He blinked and rubbed his eyes in confusion.

"The fel just happened?" He asked aloud.

He fumbled aimlessly about the room hoping to find some clue to offer understanding. After several moments he stopped in the center of the room. The vile woman must have tricked him... Somehow tapped into the fel inside her to produce the fantastic illusion of the old god. He opened his mouth and a chorus of damned souls screamed in fury.

"How could he have let her escape? So much effort gone, resources wasted! How careless I have been!" He thought.

This elf was obviously no ordinary Shattrath refugee. He knew he must find her, and quickly before something happened to his precious well of power. His stock of demons was entirely exhausted in the ritual, and he wasn't yet willing to share his knowledge with the other warlocks of the Grim. He would have to hunt her alone.

"Vionora..." he spoke softly.

Somebody in Shattrath was bound to know her. He would start there. He donned his hood and porcelain mask and began climbing the the winding staircase to the surface, where his Bloodwing bat roosted in the large black tree outside the crypt. As he stepped out into the cool mists of Tirisfal Glades, he felt slightly light headed and unusually fatigued.

"How strange", he thought. He made a mental note to drain some of the refugees he came across in Shattrath. He'd be long gone by the time anyone found the magically drained husks of a few draenei nobody's.

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