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Khorvis    80

[[ Big crosspost from https://thegrim.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=11661 ]]

Khorvis was used to spirits.

The ancestors of his lost Clan, the elements of Azeroth, the souls of Grim who had passed. They all behaved according to principles known to the orc. Praise their memory, honor their work, do well by your people. Follow these tenets and the spirits would aid you in the quest for Peace. Excel and they would welcome you among them.

These spirits were different.

Clutching the hem of his fur-blanket to his lower lip, Khorvis cowered in the darkness of his chambers as he lay on his mound. His biological eye adjusted to the lightless stone as his engineered oculus scanned for heat signatures. It found none. What he could make out in the void of the small hours both competed with and complimented the abyss of his imagination.

Twisted forms of shadow contorted as they pressed through the hewn granite walls. While vaguely humanoid, they betrayed the bilateral symmetry of familiarity. Instead, some aroused the primeval disgust of evolutionary dead-ends: grotesque abominations abandoned by the future to short-lived three-headed existences, or painful splinterings into multi-spined miseries. And yet away these shades would not fade.

Frantically rubbing his eye, Khorvis watched as spidery limbed nightmares peeled themselves from stone and skittered their shadowy horror across the vaulted ceilings until they hung over his place of unrest. In what felt like a slow-motion reel, the thing painstakingly gaped its tenebrous maw until it had unhinged both its own inorganic body and space itself. An abyss of starless eternity opened above the disturbed Inquisitor, sucking in every last shred of luminescence from the chambers. Even hope seemed torn from Khorvis's heart as he stared up into the eventual nothingness that awaited him.

No, not nothingness. Something lurked out there in the void. Just beyond the periphery of everything. Something terrible and unknown, all-devouring and all-hating. Khorvis summoned the bottom of his reservoir of willpower and tore his gaze away from the ceiling to his side.

A shadow stared from empty black sockets into his eyes a mere inch from his face.

Khorvis screamed and swung a metallic fist through the cold air where the shadow had resided. As a single organism, the dark monstrosities swarmed over the stones and sent the High Inquisitor into a flight. Howling and cursing, Khorvis burst from his chambers and charged downed the passageway towards the Great Hall. He could feel the terrors giving chase, despite his refusal to turn his head as he ran.

"BLOODY! FEL!!!"

Huffing and panting, he snatched a torch from a wall sconce and crashed through the oaken double doors of the Great Hall. Khorvis caught sight of the illuminated Tome of Abendicus and ended his mad dash beside the pedestal. He spun and swung the torch like a troll berserker defending Hakkar. The warm light of the earthly flame spread  across the orc's rampage.

There were no spirits. The only shadows cast were by patronless ale steins and overturned barstools. No hundred-limbed evils. No expansive maws spreading to swallow up all of life. Only mundane and ordinary shadows.

Khorvis turned again and glared at the Tome. He had doubted himself, at first. May be the war had finally taken the bite from his bark. Sanity was ever in short supply among the Grim - may be the Madness was spreading...

He would have questioned his dreams, were this not the third time in as many nights that the Shadow had returned.

"MAI'KULL!!!" He bellowed down the hallway towards the Supplicant quarters. "LE'SARA!!!" He roared at the ceiling, spirits only knew where that mage laired.

The High Inquisitor, clad only in his leathers, stood with crossed arms before the illuminated tome, waiting for the counsel of his arcanists.

Edited by Khorvis
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Khorvis    80

Maikull wrote:

The candles flickered dimly in the stone halls of the Grim’s Library. All the tables and chairs were put in their proper place, with the exception of one table. There sat an undead mage, Mai’Kull. Adorned in the purple Fireweaver Robes, his mask and hat were discarded for once and lay atop the table. There were very few, if any Grim who were active the hours he was, and felt no need to hide his face. The loss of his Sin’dorei Grace to undeath still shamed him, especially around other elves, however he was not one to openly admit it.

Various books and tomes, some open, ranging for various topics were also scattered about the table before him. Titans, Old Gods, Demons, The Chant of Light. Mai’kull rubbed his eyes, even undead his eyes grew tired of so much reading. He was still on edge of his discovery within the Tomb of Tyr, and wanted to not only identify what Old God was trapped there, but if it were truly dead or lurking about.

With a snap of his fingers, the empty goblet at his side filled with conjured glacier water, and once it reached the brim he reached down and took a long sip. Things didn’t taste quite the same, something he felt he would never get over. Setting the drink down he flipped through the pages citing the Church of Light before him. 

[align=center]


"BLOODY! FEL!!!"

[/align]

Mai’Kull perked up at the sound of the disturbance, ‘That didn’t sound good’. He sat there in silence, allowing his senses to take over and absorb every detail. The air, the pressure, the temperature, the sounds of stomping feet, then a crash as a door down the hallway was breached. Mai’Kull sprung from his seat and blinked across to the Library door. Clenching his fists a barrier of icy aura surrounded the mage, his eyes glowing with power as he emerged from the archway into the hall. He had just taken the first few steps towards the sound of the commotion when another roar echoed through the chamber.

[align=center]

"MAI'KULL!!!" 

"LE'SARA!!!"

That was Khorvis, and he did not sound pleased. Something was wrong. Dashing down the hallway he rounded into the Great Hall and came to a stop. The hall was empty, save from the High Inquisitor himself in his basic leathers. His arms were crossed, but he looked out of breath, distressed. Which was not a sight you wished to see an Orc in.

“High Inquisito---“ he began to question, but his eyes glanced to the side taking note of the Tome of Abendicus upon the pedestal next to him. A look of sudden realization crossed the Mages face. He had read what was within the book many moons ago, now he understood why he was tasked to do so. Regaining his composure, he began approaching Khorvis, “It started for -you- then?” he inquired to the Orc.

[/align]

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Khorvis    80

Kiannis wrote:

Kiannis shot upwards from his cot in a cold sweat. He had come to find his initial supplicants quarters to be more than adequate for his living situation, and decided that the space would serve well to keep the elf nearer his charges. A solemn reminder of his frivolous past, bad dreams were not an unusual occurrence to the man- however lately they had become darker- less bearable. He stands, stumbling several steps to his small writing desk, to open a drawer and pluck one of several dozen cigars.

Suddenly, as he turns, the room seems to expand to gargantuan proportions- Kiannis so incredibly small in the center of it all-- only to snap back to its original proportions after a moment that seemed an eternity. He holds his head and steadies himself on the door frame as he shoulders out into the hallways.

Vertigo.. unusual. He has trouble thinking the words as he slinks to the nearest ascending stairwell. Perhaps some fresh air..

He takes a deep, calming breath as he leans his back onto the stone fortifications atop the towering ramparts. Pressing a small pebble to the tip of his cigar, he begins to recall the morbid visions of his slumber.

The memories come fast. Blurry, ill defined and fragmented. The dreary horizon of northern Lordaeron- Four figures take cover inside of a rotten farmhouse as the flimsy door bows inwards under the assault of something savage outside. The focus changes involuntarily just as the door falls inwards, revealing a stuttering, twitching mass of rancid ghouls charging forward. A snow covered mountain rises to the right, the elf trudging down the slopes in a knee-high blizzard. Suddenly a shot rings out- Kiannis looks over his shoulder just in time to see a shadowy silhouette indent the snow. The grassy basin of Arathi- Immensely tall stonework palisades loom in the distance. Kiannis kneels in the dirt, holding a lifeless form. The body turns in his arms, a female elf, snarling and snapping as her face decays nearly before his eyes- It lunges out and sinks her teeth into his exposed neck.

A minute or so passes as Kiannis furrows his brow intensely. These were not quite the memories he had ruinated on for so long- and yet somehow they did not seem wrong. His pondering is cut short as he hears a familiar voice bellowing from below. He would saunter in just about the same time Mai'kull entered, staying near the door in the flickering shadows of nearby torchlight. He looks between Khorvis and the Forsaken, still drawing on his acrid cigar, offering a short nod.

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Khorvis    80

Marrgot wrote:

The shaman known as Marrgot stared blankly at the jumbled characters in front of him, and ever so slowly raising his pen, striked them out.  Groaning with more than a little bit of frustration, he flipped open the journal next to him, trying to make heads or tails of the writing. His writing. Marrgot couldn't even read his own words now. This infernal... condition... is getting worse, he thought. 

It had started... about a day ago, if he remembered correctly. He had been translating some anceint texts when he realized that at some point, the letters started... changing, like their component parts were being rearanged. At the time, he had dismissed it as a misconception born from his unfimilliarity with the language in question, but then the problem started expanding. Soon enough, Marrgot had stopped being able to read even Orcish. He had thought it was simply sleep deprivation, but he soon found that presented it's own problems, as the constant sounds of wind and rustling paper, not to mention C.I.L's[*] constant clicks and mutters as they organized everything, always lulled Marrgot into sleep. Now they were more irritating than anything he could possibly imagine. Making it worse was that the darkness started to move like the letters, with silloutes of bookshelves and totems becoming shadows of monsters and assasins. 

Maybe I should talk to a healer... He thought tiredly, putting the journal back on the shelf. As he wandered slowly twoards his bed, his lethargy was suddenly dispelled by a loud cry coming from the main hall. Even more suprising, the voice sounded familliar. Was that... Khorvis? Marrgot shook his head.


Then it happend AGAIN, and yes, that was Khorvis. Even more intriuging was the contents of the words themselves. The High inquisitor was calling for the two mages, Maikull and Le'sara. Sighing, Marrgot grabbed a pen and parchment, for whatever good they would do, and rushed out of his quarters[*]. Something might be going on here, and he did NOT want to miss a chance at live documentation.  

Soon enough, he found Khorvis, noting Maikull and... Kiannis, for some reason, had also found their way here. He had just regained his thoughts when the Forsaken spoke. 

"It started for -you- then?" Maikull asked.

Marrgot, bieng qutie confused at this point, sat back into a shadowy corner and watched proccedings, for now. 


[*]((C.I.L is a person... sort of. they're kinda like Marrgot's assistant, but I'm not finished with the character so I won't go into too much detail))

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Khorvis    80

Khorvis wrote:

"IT?!"

Usually focused and collected in the heat of battle, Khorvis appeared out of sorts now having been confronted with what might be the beginnings of madness. The forked braids of his beard were loose and askew, grey whiskers sticking out in random whisps, and his hazel eyes were bloodshot from stress and lack of sleep.

"If by 'it' you do mean the attempt on my life by the very shadows of my chambers! A chase by black spirits through the Halls! Then aye, 'it' has bloody well started!"

The orc gesticulated wildly as he yelled. Nearly slapping Kiannis as the elf entered, Khorvis grunted at the Inquisitor a terse greeting. "You do be up early, before the sun, ranger."

He then returned his attention to the mage Mai'kull and the tome of Abendicus while failing to notice Marrgot's quiet hiding. Glancing between the open book and the arcanist, a solid thought congealed within Khorvis's skull.

"Then you have had the chance to read Le'Sara's translation of this old text? Have you distilled its intent?" Leveling a foul glare at the book, he could have burnt a hole through the binding if the heat of his stare were to manifest. "I do swear that I will feed that rotten tome to the corehounds if it has brought some curse into our Halls..."

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Khorvis    80

Maikull wrote:

Mai’kull walked around to the proper side of the podium, and began flipping through pages of the Tome of Abendictus. Finding the passage he was looking for he began to recite;

“Some of our order have begun recounting visions, received both in slumber…”


He paused for a moment as he read ahead to the next words, he gave a brief sigh before continuing,

“…and in waking.”

He looked about the hall. To judge everyone’s reaction to these words. He knew something was wrong with him, but not while he slept. The mounting anxiety, the subtle whispers in the back of his mind. Sleep was the only time he was at peace. There was being cautious, but he was feeling down right paranoid. Maybe this explained why. He knew Khorvis was affected the worse, but they could not be the only ones to feel the madness descending, they too must be concealing it as he was. 

“These text’s read of the fate of the Priest Abendictus and his followers. It’s a warning. It started subtle; night terror, visions, hallucinations, whispers: things we could dismiss…sound familiar?”  He closed the Tome, still watching those in attendance. “Next thing you know, you have kinsmen losing their damned minds and murdering each other in the middle of the night.” He could see Khorvis was unnerved, shaken but still together, for now. Orcs were never fun to fight when they were frenzied. 

“It all started for them after the discovery of this ‘Penumbra’, whatever the Fel it is…and started for us, when we started to examine this tome and relics of Maledictus, items I am assuming are connected in some way to Penumbra.”

“Destroying the tome will do us no good…” he said in reference to Khorvis’ malevolent glare. “If your plagued by a demon, you kill the thing that summoned it, and shatter its link to this world, else you’ll only end up facing another later on. And the secret to discover that is right here.” He said, motioning his hand, as to display the book which lay before him.

Reciting this time from memory; 

“The timid priests of the Cathedral of Light do not even know what decays in their hallowed catacombs. The essense of Penumbra will always be a threat to the Human race. Perennial and lurking, the darkness will no doubt rear its many heads…”

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Khorvis    80

Khorvis wrote:

[[ Some musical accompaniment, if that is your thing. ]]

"The Cathedral of Light."

Khorvis said the name of the institution aloud again. His gruff baritone registered along the ancient timbered crossbeams of the Great Hall with little sonic competition. The gloomy trio stared together at the Tome with the High Inquisitor's intonation echoing in their ears. The stirring of a shardling in Deepholm was more likely to break the silence than the Grim who contemplated Mai'kull's reckoning. In that void of interdiction, the Tome appeared to assume a more intimidating aura, now dismembered of its sensory impediments.

The wrought-iron sconces of the Great Hall flickered and hissed as a phantasmal wind whipped through its corridors. In a gale-force shear, all of the the torches were extinguished simultaneously, plunging the Grim into inky darkness. The gusts dissipated and in their wake lurked a foreboding silence.

Khorvis immediately dropped into a defensive crouch, moving his hand over one of the rough-hewn banquet tables and clutching a butter knife. He held the simple blade up in a combative stance designed for quick evasive reaction, leveled along the height of his neck. Scanning the unlit breadth of the Great Hall, Khorvis failed to identify any intruders with either his biological eye or the mechanical implant. Only the heat signatures of Kiannis and Mai'kull registered, spread loosely around the Tome's pedestal. Marrgot's outline was blocked by a pillar, and thus missed.

Even still, the sense of foreboding grew as his comrades moved into their own defensive postures. Khorvis grunted a terse order to stay silent. The small hairs along the backs of his arms and neck began to raise, and then he remembered. The ancient vaulted ceilings of stone, inherited by the Grim from masons of centuries passed, wallowing ever in shadow and neglect. The cobwebs of the rafters had been so thick that they could suspend the very bridgeworks of the Thandol Span...

"The shadow falls from above!" Khorvis howled and swung his meager blade over his head as an onslaught of spidery creatures wrought of the Void descended upon the Grim!

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Khorvis    80

Maikull wrote:

[align=center]


The Tome appeared to assume a more intimidating aura…

[/align]
He felt the shift in magic in the air. Did it just react too what Khorvis said?

[align=center]


A phantasmal wind whipped through its corridors. In a gale-force shear, all of the torches were extinguished simultaneously, plunging the Grim into inky darkness. The gusts dissipated and in their wake lurked a foreboding silence.

[/align]
Mai’kull was still focused on the Book. He could still make out the magical aura of the Tome sitting atop the pedestal. His mind racing on options as he took a step back away and prepare himself for whatever was to come. 

[align=center]


"The shadow falls from above!" Khorvis howled

[/align]
Mai’Kull finally looked up and was able to take in the complete darkness around him as Khorvis shouted out. Tackling the worst of the problems first, Mai’Kull filled the hall with light once more as the magical aura around him combusted in bright flames, illuminating the creatures descending upon them.

Fireblast over Kainnis and a Fireblast over Khorvas, clearing both combatants line of sight; He could feel the burning magic within him heating up. Targeting the largest concentration of void-spiders he could see he infused one with swelling fire energy. It wouldn’t take long before its physical form could no longer sustain the magic and it would detonate, taking its friends down with it and spreading the effect to the ones who managed to survive ((Living Bomb))

The residual magic from his spells had ignited several of the demons within the hall, each one flaring up for a brief moment as if a lightning bug. Sending out a stream of flames from his hands, he managed to fend off a few which had managed to surround him. He had to nullify the book, it did this. Rather there were spiders in the loft or not, he was sure it was the tome that beckoned them to attack...

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Khorvis    80

Marrgot wrote:

“This really is a priest job.” Marrgot muttered angrily, leaping away from a shadow. Franticially calling upon some lesser spirits, he sent a lightning bolt flying at the nightmare’s face. The aberration vaporised with a howling scream Marrgot expected to wake the entire guild. Maybe only Marrgot heard the scream. He didn’t really know how these things worked, and he didn’t have time to figure it out.Taking the few seconds of calm he had, Marrgot reached out to the elemental spirits that occupied the area and, as a result of weeks of meditation and proper respect, felt them respond almost instantly. Lightning burst from his hands, leaping from one target to the next as if it had a mind of it’s own. ((chain lightning)). For a moment, the electricity illuminated the area around it, and the fight seemed to be going in Marrgot’s favor. Then the lightning was gone, and in it’s place was darkness.

If these creatures were insects, then darkness was their nest. In it, they multiplied rapidly, and with these conditions, that meant they had a infinite army with no clear weaknesses. Or many clear strengths. Or clear… anything. Know thine enemy, The mantra went, and right now Marrgot was definitely failing in that regard. 

Well if you can’t know what you’re up against, know what they are. His grandfather’s words echoed in Marrgot’s head, as some back part of his mind took over the fighting part. Right now, his enemies were fighting a disjointed, surprised, surrounded, and ill equipped group of people duressed by nightmares, who were separated by hordes  of enemy forces. Wonderful. Marrgot thought. 

The main problem here was the separation. Each grim was isolated from the others by a wall of opposition, fighting their own wars. If the grim were to fight together, they could cover one another, and communicate easier. 

Since nobody else seems to be taking command…

Mustering as much volume as possible, Marrgot shouted to his allies. 

“TELEGRAPH YOUR LOCATION!” 
He then raised a hand to the sky and shot a lightning bolt straight up, clearly visible in the darkness. He hoped his friends would figure out what to do from there, because the monsters seemed to respond to all the noise Marrgot made, as  they were attacking him in greater force than before. 

Time to let my unconscious do the thinking and lend my focus to the fighting, he scolded himself as he once again reached out to the elements.

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Khorvis    80

Khorvis wrote:

Khorvis dove to the side and barely dodged the wicked chain lightning that tore a hole in the air where he had been standing. The primal, crackling energy connected with one of the wraiths and forced its incorporeal form back into the Void. Scurrying underneath one of the broad oaken longtables, the orc emerged on the other side to confront a trio of spectres.

"Dream or not, I will carve your bloody black flesh, hauntlings!" Khorvis roared and charged the horrors, spinning and slashing his butter-knife like an assassin's dagger. His blows simply whiffed through their misty forms, drawing nothing more than a rancid chill in his arms. Growling, the warrior sank back into a defensive stance to reassess when he noticed the tell-tale glow of Maikull's spell in the belly of one of the beasties.

"Kodo piiiiIIIISSSSS!!" Khorvis howled as he again launched himself from the magical annihilation and in the direction of the old beer engines of the saloon. A crash and a splintering of wood as the orc's cartwheeling form rocketed away from the detonating wraith. He emerged from the debris, knife in hand, flailing wildly as a massive spray of ale spewed from disconnected hoses.

The wraiths closed in.

"I'll take you all together!" Despite his most berserking efforts, the blade met with no meat. The shadows' claws sunk into green flesh, tearing and pulling. Khorvis howled and continued his buttery bladestorm as the torchlight faded and altogether disappeared. Alone he was left in a pool of darkness, with utter nothingness stretching in every direction.

Khorvis stood alone, his leathers and his knife the only wards against an infinite darkness. He sank to his knees, his aged eyes grasping for purchase, yet there was none to be had. The knife clattered away. Time drifted away.

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Khorvis    80

He had done it again. In the face of danger, his strength had not been enough. It did not matter how many years that he had pushed himself, his training with all manner of weaponry. There were foes who simply laughed at his brute force and crude sticks.

Another failure. Another prison. The Commander would not be so forgiving this time. It was unlikely that Acherontia would be there to save his spirit. No cabal of felmancers to piece his hide back together. No Tuskinar to drag him from the bottom of the bottle.

Despair closed in upon Khorvis, the darkness a mountain bearing down upon his solitary form.

...

After what was an unremembered amount of time, the orc lifted his gaze, though the notion of "upwards" was entirely subjective at this point. At first the void appeared uniform in its emptiness, like staring down into a dark well. Slowly, his eyes began to focus on something... not darker, but more empty. A hole in the void of space, and though it could be purely the lack of reference, it seemed terribly far away.

Khorvis strained his senses to ascertain the shape of this anomaly, but it was futile at this distance. Even his mechanical eye, so perfectly crafted by Bloodscream, failed to achieve the proper dilation. He stood on shaky legs and took one step forward.

SMACK

The darkness exploded in a shower of stars, spots, and pain. "FEL! COCKS!" Khorvis roared and clasped both hands to his face. The nose was definitely broken and blood gushed between his fingers. He lowered his hands, staring at the blood, as the spots gradually faded, and the way it dripped to the floorstones. He paused.

Stone? Looking up, Khorvis faced a masoned wall with a blood smear at head height. He made a throaty grunt, stuffed as his nostrils were, and spun around. The Great Hall, familiar in its aged banquet tables and trophied arches. Had he returned to the Grim bastion? His spirits threatened to rise but wavered just below his jowls. Something was quite wrong with the scene.

It was as if he were looking through a fogged mirror, or a still pond laden with a skim of a rancid oil. Shadows twisted slowly in a light whose origin appeared untraceable. Strangest of all was the state of the Hall. Never had Khorvis remembered the stonework being in such disrepair. The mortar was literally cracking and trickling dust before his very eyes. The very beams of the cathedral ceiling, ancient timbers thick as a Tauren, sagged in decrepitude. Through a ragged hole in the roof, the astounded warrior thought he caught a glimpse of that perplexing maw in the void.

"By Grom's rotting arse, where the fel do I be?"

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Khorvis    80

Familiar corridors wound and met at all of the expected intersections. The ancient and ornate stonework bore much of the same wear that years of passing hands and brushing armor had imparted. Even the strange marble beasts cunningly wrought into the cornices by whimsical masons of yore crouched in the same positions. And yet the Halls simply felt wrong. A queer decay marched through the complex, never settling for long, and though from one glance to the next it seemed to vanish and clutch at a different vantage, it always tormented the mirror-memory of this dreamworld that Khorvis now haunted.

The orc paused in an alcove and deliberated internally. The spectres had not followed him here - thank the elements - and there did not appear to be any immediate danger. Though this unsettling blight twisted the enclave he had once considered the most safe of demesnes, the structure maintained its integrity. No, the most frustrating aspect was the peculiar lack of Grim. Khorvis had been wandering the Halls for at least an hour; he should have encountered someone - anyone. A courier, a Supplicant. Fel, even a shit-stained peon returning from the stables!

Not a soul. It was bloody unnerving and the warrior was getting pissed. With meaty thud, his fist connected with the alcove's wall, this time breaking no bones. Khorvis grunted and snarled through a clotted nose, then took notice of his hand. Unlike the ashen grey world about him, his own flesh and leathers stood out in warm, saturated hues. Swampy greens and darkened hide. He brushed away some dried flecks of blood from his palm and tried to ignore the dissonance. Time to find some answers.

Khorvis exited the alcove and marched past a corroding brass obelisk. He followed a trail of plaques set into the floor, down another passageway. His head too prepossessed with the determination to solve this enigma, Khorvis failed to notice the scratches and gouges obscuring the runewords beneath his feet.

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Khorvis    80

"Hrmph! This place DO be queer..." Khorvis muttered as he ascended the secret stair in the High Inquisitor's office, glaring backwards at the desk receding below. The contents of the office had completely changed; no longer did the relics of his past sit above the mantle. The Lasher's desk of resolve too was missing. Instead, relics of a vaguely Tauren descent dominated the quarters. "I must speak with the goblins tasked with housekeeping..." He shook his head and continued his ascent.

Passing the still-maimed portraits of Inquisitors, Khorvis mounted the observatory. Strange - according to his memory, the glass had been repaired with thicker panes within the last year. The Commander's orders had been quite clear after the debacle with the Fel corruption. Which did not explain why the windows were shattered. Instead of a view of the Nether, the observatory stared out over the landscape of a grey Tirisfal. The sky was an broiling mass of silvery mammatus clouds, a condensation of expectant hatred bearing down on the still pine forest, but that all paled in comparison to the landscape's zenith. Where An'she should have hung, sublime in her passage, gaped ... what Khorvis could only have subconsciously characterized as the empty socket of the Earth-mother's skull.

Void. Blackness could not begin to detail the maw that sucked from above. The sheer emptiness, the absence of anything at all struck Khorvis like a hammer to a Pandaren gong. A stark hole in the sky stretched outward into infinity, imposing the sensation of falling upwards - or rather, that the observer hung tenuously to Azeroth and risked plummeting into oblivion.

A sickening wretch, and Khorvis backed away from the contents of his stomach (quickly they hissed and sputtered, then finally evaporated in a grey mist). Overcome by fear and vertigo, the orc stumbled away from the vista and down the winding stair. This was madness. a vision sent by the devils of the Nether. Under no such sky could a world exist. He clutched at the banister and dared to glance back towards the dread vision.

All along the walls, the portraits darkened. Disfigured faces of past Inquisitors twisted and split open like overripe fruit. From their mouths crawled horrors of shadow, warped and deformed beyond any recognizable form. With ebon claws upon countless limbs, the spectres skittered over stone and mortar towards their prey.

Khorvis fled.

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Khorvis    80

Down the crumbling passages of the Grim Halls Khorvis ran at breakneck pace, casting occasional terrified glances over his shoulder. The wraiths still pursued, scabbering along the floors, walls, and ceilings with gnashing maws. The old orc's heart was pounding so loudly in his ears that he thought the aged vessel might burst.  By the time he had descended below the catacombs, spots were beginning to creep at the edges of his vision. These beasts were unlike any mortals Khorvis could recall: relentless, unswerving, unyielding. Switching paths and circling chambers, he did his best to evade the pack, but the nightspawned hounds continued to corral him. Outflanked and out of options, the warrior made his choice.

A descent into the earthen bones of Tirisfal, through tunnels long ago quarried though not a part of the original stronghold's plan. Khorvis knew how dangerously close they did stray to that awful, pulsing source of evil. They had all felt it years ago, when the rogue mage Knithawk was shackled in the bowels of the catacombs. Something horrid lurked in the bedrock below the Whispering Forest. Now there was no other escape...

 

-------

 

As the Deathgate closed, Edgar "Boneslave" Hornridge abruptly halted his ascent from the catacombs. The folding between the Shadowlands of the Ebon Hold and the Grim Halls neatly turned closed but not before he caught a familiar scent. The Master... fleeing? Boneslave turned and stared down the ancient passages to those subterranean depths. Yawning caverns and pitch blackness were all that awaited the fool who strayed down their way. That, and a dark foreboding that kept the Grim at a safe distance...

Edgar hurried his rotting way up towards the Hall proper. The was no reason in the slightest for The Master to haunt himself to the depths. Not unless he was in grave danger! Matron Theira and the others! He must find them quickly, tonight, at that foolish auction!

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Almost a week had passed since the meeting in the Cantina took place, almost a week since Rutilus and some of The Grim entrusted him with finding out how to send a group into the world of shadow… the shadowlands to rescue Khorvis, and yet Stormsky was no closer to finding out the information required to successfully do the ritual.

His memories betrayed him; “three crystals… gems, one filled with the essence of frost, one with the essence of blood and one with the essence of undeath” was all he remembered. Two of the gems had already been obtained, Baal’themar had the blood one, “Earth Mother only knows what he killed to fill it” Storm thought, and he had filled the frost gem which was filled with the assistance of Northrend elementals. As he placed the object on his desk he angrily muttered “At least the trip to Northrend was not a complete waste of time… those Knights of the Ebon Blade could not be more secretive if they wanted to”. He took a long breath and proceeded to read his mail, he hoped that maybe his former mentor Doomcrusher, a shaman turned death knight, might have answered his request for information.

Soon enough his hopes were rewarded, there it was, a letter with a compendium of runes and protection spells attached to it, he slowly read over it.

“Greetings Storm.

I apologize for the late response; I hope that by the time this letter reaches you, you had already changed your mind about performing this ritual, but after knowing your stubborn being for so many years, I highly doubt it. Therefore I will give you all the instructions you need to do this as safe as it can possibly be.

Even though this ritual has the same bases as the one you mention, it is different than the one you and so many adventurers went through on Northrend, Koltira phased you into the shadowlands just enough for you to be able to kill his tormentors, for you to actually rescue someone from there you will need to physically enter that realm using a portal.

The ingredients are the same, gems filled with every aspect of a death knight’s power... that you already know; you will also need the help of a death knight to perform the ritual.

When you select the members of the party that will go into the shadowlands, do NOT include anyone who wields or has wielded dark magic, this includes death knights, warlocks, shadow priests, necromancers… since their soul has already been touched by the darkness, they will act as a magnet when you go in, attracting every twisted being of that realm to your party. Also do not bring any one who wields fel magic… the investigations after the being Xhul'horac was destroyed, showed that the shadow beings can absorb the fel and become stronger and more chaotic. It’s safe if the party is made of users of elemental energy, nature, arcane, and holy based magic, these beings are not affected by physical attacks so make sure you enchant the weapons of those who cannot wield magic.

Once the party has been selected, have the death knight link you all first to the blood gem, this will act as your safety net, a link to the mortal world, this will allow the death knight to quickly extract you out of the shadowlands if the need arises, it will also help each of the party members sense one another… remember in the shadowlands nothing is as it seems, you may be one feet away from someone and not even realize that person is there.

Afterwards, have the death knight attune you to the frost gem; this will give you a protective aura that will hide you from the shadow beings.

The third step is to cast protection and containment runes all around the place where the portal is going to be located, because this portal can also be used by the shadow to enter the physical world, I attached some spells that will help you keep them contained.

The next and final step is the opening of the portal, the death knight will channel the energy of the undeath filled gem to open it, once opened it can only be closed AFTER the party has returned, if it closes with people inside, their links to the to the other crystals will be shattered, and they will be as lost as the person you are trying to rescue.

Once you are inside, do not stray too far away from the portal, the benefits the crystals give you will diminish the farther away you are from them, so make sure you cast the portal close to where you think your friend is being captive. If you go too far, the protections will be gone. Also remember the protections and the portal will not last forever, and the larger the party that goes in, the less time you will have for the search.

Try to avoid any kind of confrontation or interaction with the shadow beings, you cannot win and if by any chance the protections fail… run, you will be in their world and they will overwhelm and consume you if you do not escape.

This is all the information I can give you… again… I hope that you change your mind, but in the case that you do not, I wish you the best of luck, you are going to need it.

May the Earth Mother be with you son.

Doomcrusher.”

A chill went down Stormsky’s spine, even if he was just phased into that realm, he was able to feel the sickly cold of the darkness crawling ever closer to him… waiting just an opportunity to grab him, But Khorvis was a friend of the people close to him, and if they wanted to try the rescue he would help them. With a renewed resolve Stormsky stood up heading out to relay this information to Rutilus Luna.

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Maikull    26

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Mai’kull followed the void caller into the depths of the forests outside of Tirisfal Glades. It had been acting really strange, especially around the Guild Hall as of late. As where his understanding of Shadow and Void Magic were growing, he was still unable to communicate with his minion. However, his Water elemental was also lacking in the vocal department, so he had grown accustom to the point-and-gurgle communications the blobs produced. 

“Are we there yet?!” he annoyingly asked. And yet again, the Void Caller turned to give a nod, and beckoned him forth. They had been walking for almost an hour now, had he REAL directions he could have flown or teleported to wherever this damn thing was leading him. “I swear by all that is unholy, if your leading me into some fel-ridden trap, I will bind you underneath a Naaru for the rest of your existance!” the Archmage growled.

In his studies, he had heard of some more skilled demonic minions attempting to turn on their masters. He was warned not to give his full trust onto these creatures as Mages do to towards their Water Elementals. He was greatly considering summoning his own to back him up, but the damn Void Caller would not sit still long enough.

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After what seemed like an eternity, they finally came upon a clearing in the forest. The starlit sky above them illuminated a ring of fungus that was oddly positioned in the clearing. The Void Caller had stopped at this ring, and was motioning for Mai’kull to enter. There was a queer magical force in the air, not shadow, or arcane, but something different, yet oddly familiar. Feeling this could not be a demonic coup, the Maleficar followed the Void Being into the ring. 

There was nothing special as he crossed the threshold. He took notice of several plagued doe looking at him, which was odd they were stationary, but he could see no reason why he was brought here. “Is your damn brain addled!? Why am I here?!” he barked. The Void Caller only sighed, shaking its head in frustration before firing a Void Bolt at the center of the ring, then turning back to its bewildered master. 

“Is there something there?” Mai’kull asked hesitantly, still feeling no sense of any but the queer magic around him. The Void Caller raised his hands in defeat before beginning a looping ceremony. It raised its hands in a large circle formation and began summoning a mists of Torment around itself as if attempting to start its own ritual, unleashing bursts of shadow-magic as it continued to loop its hands in a circular motion.

Catching the Demons drift, Mai’kull prepared himself for what was to come next. “I swear…Chained to a Naaru…” he repeated as he focused his magic.

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The focusing magic at his feet, the Forsaken fired a torrent of Arcane and Shadow energy at the Void-Caller, shattering its corporal form and leaving behind a pocket portal. To call it an ACTUAL portal would be incorrect as it was not accessible, least not that he could sense. It was more like a window, but to what he was unsure. Was this what his void caller was trying to show him!? He had a good hold on the magical flow, but he was un-sure how long he could maintain it. He was fine to see this little charade through to the end as long as he was confident he could slam the door shut should things go south.

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Khorvis    80

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Down the final set of stairs fled the orc. Chiseled into the very bedrock itself, the floor was slick with a musty condensation, like a glass that fogged from the breath of some rancid beast. Khorvis could hear his pursuers not too far behind, perhaps some two hundred yards. They would find his tracks shortly - there could be no rest here. He arrived at the bottom of the descent and came to an ancient well. Though simple in design, it yawned hugely, spanning some twelve feet in diameter with a kneehigh lip of stone.

Khorvis peered over the edge. Blackness. There was no bottom to see, and even the walls seemed to widen into the abyss. No - wait, there was something. The aperture of his mechanical eye dilated to its fullest extent. Khorvis a caught minor twinkling in the depths, and a shimmer. He leaned over futher, and without warning, the crumbling nature of the Shadowlands struck his purchase upon the stone lip. With a choked howl, Khorvis plummeted down... down... down...

...

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A hole wreathed in shadow opened some few feet above the cavern floor. No, it would be more accurately described as a window pane pivoting from two dimensions into three. Long-stalked mushrooms sprouting from cracks in the earth brushed their caps harmlessly against the window's dressing, passing through it as if it never existed. But the view was certainly very real to Mai'kull.

A massive cavern stretched on in every direction as far as the hazy mists of the Shadowlands permitted. Ancient rock formations that challenged reason sprouted from every surface. Some even hung down from a tenebrous ceiling, many scraping the crowns of their mirror images. Lichen clung to stone surfaces and emitted a dull glow that cast an eerie pallor upon the entire scene which centered about a wide lake. The surface of the water was mirror-smooth, reinforcing the feeling that this world had lain untouched by time out of mind.

The notion was abruptly shattered with a howl as the figure of a leather-clad orc tumbled from a crack in the cavern ceiling and slammed into the lake's surface like a green meteorite. There was a splashing with no shortage of cursing, but shortly the orc had swam his way to the water's edge and dragged himself sputtering on the dry land near the window of shadow.

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Maikull    26

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There was several minutes of silence as Mai’kull examined the portal before him. It looked like his own surroundings, but slightly skew and off colored. He squinted to try and make out the details, to see if anything was moving around but at first could make out nothing. Then there was a distinctive splashing sound, as if something hit the lake. His initial reaction was to look off from the portal to the lake behind it off in the horizon, but could see no calamity. 

Then there was the off sound of cursing and growling, of the likes he had not heard in a long time. His eyes tracing back to the portal before him, he wondered if the sounds were instead coming from it. “Khorvis?!” he shouted out. The former High Inquisitor had been missing since their run in with a pack of shade spiders in the great hall some months back. They had all concluded that in that fray, the orc must have lost his mind and ran off, thinking he would slink back in a drunken stupor at some point once he regained his sanity, as apparently happens often amongst their ranks.

He could still hear the grumbling and cursing, but it was slightly echoed, confirming it was coming from his portal and not nearby. As his mind wandered on the possibilities, his focus waivered and the energy from his hand fluctuated for a moment causing the event horizon to quiver. “SHIT” he cursed as he exerted more energy into the beam to re-stabilize the connection. Before was a consistent flow, but now he was exerting himself to maintain it, and now was unsure how long he could keep it open. “KHORVIS!?” He shouted once again into the spectral looking-glass.

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Theira sat on a fur rug in front of a roaring fire hoping the heat would penetrate and sooth her aching muscles.  The Matron had been working on her endurance and reusing the talents of Ursoc, blood soaked the right side of her face and arm.  She adjusted a bandaged over her eye and sat gently breathing allowing all the aches and pains to settle.  She was strongest now with restorative magic although felt it prudent not to heal so that she'd better dodge her enemies attacks the next time.  No pain no gain thought the Arch Druid as she used her clawed fist weapons to delicately pick out scabbed and crusted blood from her fur.   Some time passed as Theira relaxed before long she felt a twinge in her stomach as if someone or thing was watching her.  She flicked her ears back as her animal instincts confirmed what she had been feeling.  

He spoke is a low rumbly growl as he addressed her "Matron.." The Chaoseater  from Blacktooth Grin stated with the utmost disdain.  Theira closed her one remaining good eye a moment as a sarcastic smirk crossed her maw.  She recognized his voice well - since their last argument.  "Ah, Chaoseater - to what do I owe this pleasure?  I wouldn't have imagined running into here in a inn.  No, I'd have thought the comforts of a inn be far to delicate a pleasure for you and your kin to enjoy.  More of a Rutilus Luna thing... "  She remarked now turning to face the large hulking brute of a Tauren Death Knight.  Chaoseater responded with a grunt and walked around her to properly face her.  The Matron watched his hulking heavily armored mass as he moved her thoughts drifting towards hoping he'd not stand to closely to the fire so that she did not need to smell anymore of him than necessary.  The druid sighed a bit looking at him now with a forced smile, as she did she saw some more of her order mates come through the door.  She forced herself to stand in greeting of them, Nikkoma noticing her wounds walked by to heal Theira shooting Chaoseater a cold dark look as she did so.  The Matron nodded in greeting and in thanks to Nikkoma and Nik and Iku headed towards the bar.  

Now healed Theira started removing the eye patch and bandages.  Chaos remarked "Red is a good color on you Matron - " Her rebuttal swift "I'd expect it should be Chaoseater, tis our guilds colors.  We bleed often for Horde interests."  He grunted again his stance tall and rigid "And what of - The DreadHorde, do you and would you bleed for them?"  Here we go again Theira thought, he had been at her about honor and distrusting Rutilus Lunas place within the DreadHorde since she had made the choice not to join them in the assault of Alliance cities.  The Matron narrowed her eyes at the Death Knight giving him a very dull tired expression.  "When the DreadHorde NEEDS for us to bleed for it - we shall answer the call.  When there is honor or defense in the matter yes.  When it consists of murdering a bunch of defenseless women, children and orphans - sorry to disappoint you Chaoseater then NO.  We won't, surely you can handle a toddler with a wooden sword on your own."  Her responses never pleased him as he growled a bit but pleasing him couldn't be furthest from her interests.  "What about when these orphans grow to become a real threat and they come for us.  What then Matron when the bloodshed they could cause could have been avoided?"  She crossed her hands together and state to Chaoseater as frank and bluntly as possible.  "Then I will deal with them when they get there - with honor, the honor you've accused us of not having.  As equals...as a challenge, as a fair and honest fight."  She huffed dismissively of the conversation knowing well the both of them could lock horns for hours.  

Theira sighed harshly before turning away from the brute to stare into the fire when suddenly their conversation reminded her of something still very prevalent in her mind.  He was a Death Knight - recalling that Storm Skychaser had a ritual in mind to use them to aid Khorvis.  She narrowed her eyes disgusted with the idea of asking  Chaoseater for help and how.  She turned to face Chaos having thought of a cunning angle on which to bait him to her cause.  "Chaoseater... about those events prior, you do enjoy The Grim don't you, raiding with them must have been right up your ally."  He huffed towards her "Their interests mirror my own quite a bit Matron... - " She continued "Then the prospect of helping The Grim, a Grim in need might sit well with you.  To the point Chaos there is need of you to help this Grim, a friend of mine and I am asking for it."  Chaos stood a moment considering before responding dryly. "I despise you Matron,  but for the DreadHorde  I am there."  Theira regarded him honestly with a slow and accepting nod.  "Well, since we're being sincere - know that I despise you too.  You, the forsaken, undead and demons of any kind.  You're outside of the natural balance of this world and the realm I am aligned with.  Products or by products of the Legion and should all be exterminated for the abominations that you are. - Don't take that to personally Chaos, tis a Druid thing."  She smiled sweetly at him as he returned her glance with a look of murder slow vapor leaving his maw as he exhaled. 

She cleared her throat and paced around the fire "But, personal feelings aside - Khorvis needs help.  Storm Skychaser spoke of a ritual he could perform to help extract him from the Shadowlands.  The Shadowlands is a realm opposite to my own, which I suspect is where you come in.  I am waiting to hear back from Lilli or some Grim about more details but for the time being Chaos I'd appreciate you speaking with Storm."  She stopped short of the fireplace to turn and look at him.  He considered her words leaving more questions than answers and agreed to seek out Storm Skychaser.  Theira nodded and sat back down on the rug while searching for her pack of cigarettes.  Chaos remarked "Is there anything more Matron?"  She simply shook her head.  "No Chaoseater, not unless you're interested in spending some quality time with me." She smirked as he turned to leave.

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Faylea    17

Vanry moved aside a bookcase to reveal hidden stairs, she looked back at the two men that had asked her to create this stone.
Stormsky had asked her to aid him in the creation of a powerful artifact to open a portal to the shadow lands, then Baal’themar found her at the Ledgermain lounge and asked her the same. So the two had followed her home. Not that I need or want them here for this. She thought quietly before she asked them if they wanted to join her down in the study. 


Unfortunately for Vanry the two had agreed to follow her into her study and witness the ritual, despite her offer of wine and food if they stayed in the manor. 


Vanry knew of course that Baal’themar wouldn't have a problem watching what she was doing. He didn't seem so sentimental. She would need him later to help her with one of the components but she was terrified of him. Their first meeting had shaken her so much she would not put it past the man not to kill her on a whim. 


The thought had made her bring Stormsky along. She hoped that he could be the buffer between her and that clawed demon. If there was another, harder to kill witnesses maybe she would not be his victim. 


Stormsky seemed the gentle type. She did not know him long, but she saw that he valued life. Something that could prove to be a problem if he got upset in the middle of her ritual. Paranoia whirled around in her mind as she gave the men a little nervous laugh. 


It will be alright after all, what can they do to me once I am in my circle of power? She thought as she took her first step down into the dark.
The three slowly made their way down the stone stairs toward Vanrys’ study. The smell of dust and burning candles hung in the air, tall bookshelves full of old tomes stretched to the ceiling. 


The floor of the room was carved and etched with runes, the runes created a large ritual circle. This circle of power helped Vanry focus her necromancy and control the flow of magic within the study. The circle itself surrounded an alchemist table, thick dark wood coated in vanish and bound with fine elven smith work stood at the very center of the room. 


The light from the candles cast shadows across the room. The slight flicker of the candles cause the shadows to dance over the stone walls and bookshelves, they moves across the room with a sickening shudder, like a corpse full of writhing maggots the sudden rapid movement followed by the still calm of the dead after they had eaten their fill.


Vanry and her guests got settled into the study, she asked Baal’themar to aid her in picking a suitable human sacrifice to begin the ritual. She showed him the cell that held her human cattle, a fundamental truth of necromancy. You need bodies to work with.
While Baal’themar selected a strong specimen for the ritual, Stormsky had picked up an old book, Vanry moved quickly to take the book away from him, taking the tome away from the large Tauren.


She ran her fingers over the tome, it was locked tight with thick iron locks and dark warding runes, and she carefully put it back into the bookshelf. “Don’t read magic you are not ready for. You could get really hurt.” Stormsky raised an eyebrow at her and simply nodded with a slight and knowing grin.


Baal’themar returned with his chosen human and held him aloft like a cat that caught a mouse.
Vanry looked at Baal and nodded at his pick. “Bind him to the rings here.” She pointed to an iron ring bolted into the stonework of the floor. Baal’themar pushed the human to his knees and bound his hands behind his back, the human grunted as the large elf pulled the bindings tight against his flesh.


Vanry closed her eyes and relaxed herself, she needed to focus on the ritual. It was simple to kill a man but the control needed to direct the flow of energy needed to create this artifact would take a great deal of her willpower.


Stromsky and Baal’themar interrupted her work with idle chatter, anger ran up her cheeks. 
“You both will remain silent while I work, or you’ll leave.” She said in a stern voice, her eyes remained closed while she started to focus again. 
Her focus was interrupted again by a solid thud as Stormsky stood up from his resting place. He announced that he needed to leave to heed the call of the Earthen Ring. With that the large Tauren walked out of the study and left the two elves in the dimly lit room.


Vanry hissed to herself, having to restart again made the back of her neck burn but she pushed down the annoyance and forced herself to calm down.


She felt the shadows coil around her their cold embrace was a welcome feeling after the heat of anger. She opened her eyes to the man bound to the floor, his eyes full of life.


Vanry moved to stand in front of him using the circles power to help her gather the powers she needed, slowly she reached out with her willpower, with care she drew out the humans’ life force. A faint pale blue glow leeched its’ way out from the man’s eyes.  He screamed of course, they always did at first.


Baal’themar watched on, his hand rested on the hilt on his dagger and his eye alert despite his calm face and relaxed posture Vanry knew he was aware of her… and her power. 


She couldn’t help but grin at the thought of this man being on edge because of her. And rightly so. She thought.
The humans’ screaming reached its fever pitch as they neared the peak of the ritual, his body was a withered husk of dry and broken flesh, his ribs and bones could be seen through his skin. A ball of pale blue floated above him, all that he was or could have been was floating above him.


It was beautiful in a strange way. What would hers’ look like? Would it be pale blue? She asked herself for a brief moment before she plucked the last thread of the humans’ life.


The man collapsed into an empty husk, his fleshed looked brittle and dry as if ravaged by countless eons.


Vanry slowly looked toward Baal’themar who stood at the side of the dead mans’ husk. “Move aside. I need to make a vessel to finish this.” Baal’themar stepped back and made room for whatever she was going to do.


With the swirling ball floating within the circle of power Vanry set about creating something to hold the raw necromantic energy. She waved a hand toward what was left of the humans’ body and the leathery flesh that was once healthy and pink boiled away in a thick black ooze that slithered away from his bones.


Vanry looked at Baal’themar as the room darkened around her, the candles closest to her dimed and died as if the air had been pulled out of them, an aura of malice surrounded her. Her elven guest watched on, his hand no longer resting on the hilt, his blade was gripped in his hand. Not yet drawn but ready. She smiled, and returned to her work.


The bones clattered toward each other, she worked the bone into new shapes, unnatural shapes. She settled on a cube. She took her time to make the surface smooth, the inside however was a labyrinth foul magic and necromantic runes.


Finally satisfied with her work she moved her hands and the two parts became one, the pale light seeped into the porous bone and deep into the grim cube. When the light faded she sighed and walked to the morbid artifact. The air of malice slowly faded and warm candle light returned to the room.


“Done.” She looked at Baal’themar, he had relaxed again. “This will work for your needs.” She pulled the cube from the air, she ran her thin fingers over the bone surface and felt the rough edges before handing it to Baal’themar.


He took the cube with a slight nod, and stashed it safely inside his pack. "I trust you can find your way out." She says heading to a chair with as much care as possible to mask the trembling in her hands. The rituals always took something from her, leaving her numb and cold. She crossed her arms as she sat down.  “Thank you, Vanry.”  He turned on his heel and walked up the stairs, leaving Vanry to her rest.

Edited by Faylea
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Khorvis    80

Meanwhile, as the intrepid cadre prepared their ritual to pass through the veil into the Shadowlands...

...

Bedraggled and breathless, Khorvis slugged his way from the underground lake with the squish and schlomp of soaked boots. The smooth cavern floor gave tenuous purchase to his slippery soles and more than once did he lose his footing and fall to hands and knees. It was during one such of of these abasements that the orc jerked his head upwards at a familiar sound. A voice!

"KHORVIS?!" shouted Mai'kull again from the window to Tirisfal. The target of the mage's incredulity crawled some few feet forward to come face-to-face with the porthole. Khorvis, too, could scarcely credit his senses with the sight of one of his Supplicants. Wiping stagnant water and sweat from his eye and prosthetic, and double confirming Mai'kull's connection, the Lasher launched into what alternated between a blistering tirade and a fervent plea:

"Supplicant Mai'kull, you arcane-addled fool! Do this be your doing?! Trapping your High Inquisitor within this queer land of shadow and torment?! I will have your bloody hide! Scraps knitted into feedbags for my kodos! No! No, ancestors do bless your finger-wiggling heart! Quickly! You must use your magicks! Teleport me away from this prison!"

Khorvis worriedly cast a glare behind him and towards the cavern's ceiling, to the crevice from which he had fallen. Turning back to the window, he reached out to clutch its sides, but his meaty paws merely passed through the shadows with futility. He released a primal wail, shaking his head, and barked again at his voyeur:

"NOW! THEY DO BE COMING!"

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Maikull    26

Mai’kull was pleased to see and hear the cursing of Khrovis. But as the Orc drew closer and closer spewing his slurs and insults, the Mage could feel the power consumption from the portal begin to grow. 

Ancestors do bless your finger-wiggling heart! Quickly! You must use your magicks! Teleport me away from this prison!" He heard his mentor cry out. He could see Khorvis desperately grasping for the portal, but he just phased through it. At his disturbance of the event horizon, the gateway began to waver and grow opaque.

The power draw was becoming too great for the Mage to maintain, and he was forced to cut the connection. As the portal closed before him, he could hear one final plea: "NOW! THEY DO BE COMING!"

He wasn’t sure what was more disheartening. The feeling of complete uselessness being unable to assist his mentor, or the sound of actual fear and terror from an Orc. Both were quite unsettling as the mage knelt in the clearing, looking dumbstruck. 

Finally it struck him, The Voidcaller! Reaching into his pack, he pulled the ‘Darkened Tomb’ from its leather pouch and snapped it open. Shade magic crept from the volume as the mage instilled the text with his own energy as he was instructed, and once again, the Voidcaller stood before him, calm and now content.

“You can go to him…” the Mage stated plainly, still holding the text open in his hands.
The Void Caller nodded slowly.

“Can you bring him back?”
The Void Caller shook his head, holding out his hands as if showing nothing to offer.

The Mages mind flashed with calculations before looking up at the creature.
“Protect him…From whatever is chasing him, until I can find a way to get him out!” he ordered.

The Void Caller sighed deeply, as if a child was just reminded to do their chores.
“DO IT…” the Mage barked, snapping the book closed violently. “…And I set you free.”

No matter what race, class, or creature; Mai’kull knew that when given a personal stake in an objective one would become more devout. The plan seemed to work as the Void-Caller perked up at these words and began to spin around on the spot, muttering in its native language as it slowly faded from his view. 

Hopefully that would help buy Khorvis some time until the Mage could figure out how to set him free. Feeling magically fatigued, the Maleficar summoned his Flaming Charger and rode off at a wild pace for the Guild Hall.

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Chaoseater    17

Bager choked and quivered, body tensing with barely restrained laughter. He hung like a spider from the rafters of the Knight Commander’s chambers, as he had for a day a night and a day. The beads and bones of his ceremonial garb shifted lazily in any stir of breeze through the arched windows of the tower room but made no more sound than the well oiled chain that secured him to the musty ceiling. The carved bone of his face did not turn away from his prize as the fit passed. The Knight below sat at his desk putting quill to parchment, and both attendants and soldiers came and went with never a passing glance at the shadows above where the Laughing Skull priest hung suspended and motionless.

 

The pink Orcs of this land were an endless source of amusement for Bager. He fought back another spasm of laughter as he considered how much the gods must hate them. They had not even been blessed with thicker hides or tusks, their claws were dull short things, even their eyes were all but blind as his very presence showed.

 

Finally, the Knight below drained his cup, and shortly thereafter his bladder, before sweeping on his blue cloak with its golden cat embroidery and striding purposefully from the chamber. The Laughing Skull released the grip he’d held for days and chain slithered through his palm as he plummeted towards the stone floor, with a fluid motion he grabbed the pink orc chief’s chamber pot and flexed with arm and leg drawing himself smoothly back into the rafters. From there, he swung from post to post, out one of the arched windows, and across the slate rooftops of the pink orc castle.

 

Bager had just delivered his prize to the kitchens, an ingredient to the Knight’s dinner even now bubbling in a cauldron, when a lance of frozen pain shot through him. Thoughts filled his mind, words from tongues the he did not know, ideas and terrors that were not his own, but below them all was a single thread of understanding “COME TO ME.”

 

He shook himself, bone charms and beads clattering as he slipped out a doorway into the evening’s gathering shadows. Mere moments had him over the pink orc’s stone walls and out into the forest where he began running, bare feet leaving no mark of his passing as he made for the Swamp of Sorrows and the only one to whom the Laughing Skull could be so summoned.

 

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The Steelborn was leaning over his maps when Bager found him in the war room of Stonard. He took a moment to admire the massive form that had become his anchor to this world. The blackened plates, glowing blue lines of energy pulsing through the eye sockets of rough skulls carved into their surface. A long black cloak hung obscuring him from this angle, pooling at the giant Death Knight’s hooves, but he knew there was no part of the Steelborn’s form that was not shrouded in metal and machinery.

 

Though he moved as quietly as ever, he had progressed no more than a few steps into the warroom when the deep rumble of stone on metal of the Chaoseater’s voice rolled out “Report.”

 

Bager grinned, though the bone of his face always bore a sharp fanged smile “Bager has been quite busy Warchief. He spreads the word of the gods to the pink orcs far and wide, yet they do not see. He servers them orc water soup…” His words caught in his throat as a cold knife twisted in his chest, pain wracking his body. The sensations passed after a moment and the Warchief of the Blacktooth Grin turned to face him.

 

“I care not for what dishes you serve to whom, Grot. The Rutilans, were your objective….” glowing blue eyes narrowed behind the clear crystal of the Steelborn’s visor.

 

“Ah…. *heh* yes Well. I have befriended Feathered orc who walks like cat, she is quite the…” an arm of purple lightning crackled from a massive steel fist and Bager felt himself jerked bodily across the room. Metal fingers wrapped around his throat and pulled him close to the Warchief’s visor.

 

Chaoseater grunted, compressed mist blowing from vents in his helmet. “I did not send you to make friends Grot. You were sent to watch, to report on their movements. You have failed me… but will not do so again” Every inch of Bager’s body exploded in wracking pain. Ravagers tore out his entrails, spreading them steaming to the ground. Ants tore through the eye sockets of his face and ate away the flesh beneath. Fire engulfed him to quickly be subsumed by a cold so intense he thought to shatter as he fell to the ground.

 

The pain seemed to go on and on, but after a timeless expanse that from the burning of the candles could not have been more than a few minutes, the pain ebbed. Bager pulled himself to a kneeling position before the Steelborn and he noticed it had begun snowing. Inside. He cackled, and turned the carved bone of his face to the imposing form “Thank you for your gift most terrible of gods. Bager shall do your will, speak it and it will be so.”

 

Those cold burning eyes watched him for another moment, only the slow ripple of the greatcloak where the Warchief’s tail swished betrayed any trace of animation. At last he turned gesturing to a blank space on the floor. The snow intensified, swirling into a tiny blizzard which settled in places, grew in others, until the flakes resolved themselves into several forms. There, in miniature were the Warchief himself and several of the members of Rutilus Luna, though all was in shades of white, the detail was exquisite and it was no trouble to read the emotions in their faces or the setting of their tiny frozen diorama, The Filthy Animal tavern.

 

The figures began moving, he heard a click and a whirr, and as if from far away Bager heard the words of the figures emanating from the Warchief’s chest. They bickered and spat words at each other, circling with talk of honor and orphans, he stifled a laugh. But then there was talk of shadowlands and allies lost or found and he leaned forward interest piqued. There was to be a ritual, a journey to a place of darkness and ghosts. As the tiny white vision of the Warchief turned and left, his massive black form dropped his hand and the snow lost it’s form, collapsing into a quickly melting mound on the floor of the warroom.

“I shall lead the ritual to open a portal to these Shadowlands into which this Grim has been drawn. But I trust not these Rutilans….” the Death Knight growled deep in his chest and Bager’s beads clacked together with the subtle rumbling in the air. “The Ritual will leave me weakened and with the depleted numbers of Blackteeth in the field…..”

 

The Steelborn turned back to his maps grunting “You will follow…. At a distance and unseen. Should any of these Rutilans draw blade or spell against me when the Ritual is concluded, you will disrupt them, then join me as we slaughter the traitors and any they hold dear.” He drew a sheaf of paper sealed with his glowing sigil and cast it at the floor between Bager’s knees “Your orders”

 

The Laughing Skull priest cackled and scooped up the paper, a single snakelike ripple through his body brought him into a backward spring and to his feet. Bager bowed low “Bager listens, and Bager obeys Steelborn.” He bowed deeply, bones and beads scraping the floor as he backed away, not turning until he was already back in the muddy expanse of the yard in Stonard.

 

Bager chuckled to himself as he turned and broke the seal on the paper, reading the details of the ritual assembled by someone called Skychaser.

 

He had seen the Steelborn take the field in countless contests, his very presence in battle could shatter pink orc lines that seemed insurmountable. But the metal and contraptions of his shell were only physical barriers. Bager had not seen the Warchief’s true power stir since that day in the Black Iron gorge when he was reunited with his face.


A tremor of laughter shuddered through him as he thought of the upcoming ritual. Bager was certain he would find it hilarious.

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Khorvis    80

The window slammed shut once Mai’kull’s concentration failed. Khorvis stood there in panting agony, both physically and emotionally. A brief glimpse at freedom only to be snatched away without so much as a farewell; it nearly broke the old orc’s spirit. He almost despaired, back upon his hands and knees, vomiting whatever lakewater he had inhaled after his fall. Gazing into the slimy reflection of his offal, he caught the glimmer of a candle-light.

Khorvis lifted his head and found himself staring up at a hooded creature of the void. Twin lanterns swung from the hulk’s shoulders, framing a face of stars that bore an unsettlingly familiar visage to that of the living. Expressive and cunning, the face seemed to call to the orc to follow, as a flame beckons the moth.

“Back, demon!” Khorvis growled as he jumped to his feet.  Though he was without blades, the old orc was far from defenseless, between the Hand of Ashran and his tusks. Yet rather than assault the warrior, the Voidcaller drifted away, still beckoning with its wispy arms. Khorvis could only spare a momentarily confused look, as a swarm of clicks sounded from above.

The crevasse from which the orc had fallen was writhing in shadow. No, it was not a discrete mass. A horde of spindly spectres were pouring from the catacomb’s well, streaming over the cavern ceiling and racing towards the stalactites. Dozens of multi-legged wraiths with horrid, twisting mouths, intent upon their fleshy prey skittered down the walls and began their circle of the lake.

Khorvis stumbled backwards, knowing this was a force too large and far beyond his martial skills. He spun and saw the Voidcaller drifting down the slope of the cavern floor towards a passage in the wall, its frame wrought with odd runes. He was unsure, but it appeared that the bedrock here was set in blocks by masons, as impossible as that should be.

In the end, it mattered little. Khorvis fled the army of wraiths and followed the Voidcaller into this unknown tomb.

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Khorvis    80

The squall crashed against the northern coast of Tirisfal. It was unusual for a front to surge southeast from Northrend to Lordaeron, as the Maelstrom often pulled the warm waters from Stranglethorn and Vash’jir to temper the northern kingdoms’ clime, but as An’she set over the far islands of Tol Barad, the North Sea raged against the rocky shoals of the Banshee Queen’s demesne. Pitiless and full of spite, the freezing rains pelted the ancient pines of the Whispering Forest. Salt spray burst over the sentinel cliffs, which had stood as a bulwark to the distant icebergs since the Sundering itself, and misted into the woodlands, leaving behind a thick fog.

A skittering penetrated the murk and gloom, like a beast scrambling through the brush. Edgar “Boneslave” Hornridge, servant and minion to the late High Inquisitor Bloodstar, came to a halt, travelling upon all fours, and sniffed the night air through fleshless nostrils. The mists curled inside of the Forsaken knight’s skull like incense within the seer’s tent.

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“Quickly! This…ugh… way…!” The unassuming corpse moaned over his shoulder, his head turning upon his spine a full 180 degrees. Twin pinpricks of light glowed within his eyesockets, distant lanterns to guide his charge through the fog. Locating the remainder of the party, Edgar forged ahead, racing between the pines that lead to a queer ring of toadstools.

The party in question steadily trod beneath the spindly boughs of the Whispering Forest. It had been a somber and guarded march from the Gallow’s End Tavern, where in Brill they had gathered over the course of the stormy day. Some could claim to be comrades of Bloodstar. Some simply wore the same colors. Others knew his reputation and saw it as their duty to the Horde to see this ritual to the end, the Nether take their chance of success. Their torchlight pressed out against the forest’s darkness with a willful futility, a carriage for their unbent intent.

In the wake of Boneslave, they arrived at the clearing in the hills above Deathknell and the Grim Halls. Here was the last known contact with the missing High Inquisitor. Here was where they would breach the veil between Azeroth and the Shadowlands.

Edited by Khorvis
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