Khorvis

Dark Star Rising

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Baal’themar stalked in the shadows on the outside edge of the marching party. They headed to the Grim Halls, he wondered if the Grim might try to capture him after this mission was over and they had Khorvis safe. He scanned the people that had joined, so far he couldn’t see anyone that would go out of their way to stop him. He made a plan to escape if things started to look like they were going to turn on him.

His pack was heavy with the ritual components. Stones, gems and cubes made of bone… He remembered the creation of the unholy and blood icons, Stromsky had given him the Ice icon and he had the blade needed to focus the ritual from Lilliana.

Just get the old orc and leave. He thought to himself, he repeated his mission. Get him out and safe, then you’re done… don’t push your luck. He sighed and emerged from the shadows to join the main party as they formed up outside the Grim Halls.

He walked to Edgar without looking at the others, he slowly pulled each component out of his pack. The Bonecube, Bloodstone Crystal and the Elemental Ice stone. Emerged from his pack, followed finally by the Dagger that Edgar had asked for, Kiannis had kept the blade safe before he handed it to Lilliana for the ritual. Baal’themar remembered the man handing it over to her rather than him… distrust ran deep between the two elves but none of that mattered.

They would need to work together to save their brother… save him from his hellish prison.

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The sky blood fell running in rivulets down Bager's bone face. It collected in droplets on the bones and beads of his harness and dripped down to mingle with all the rest from his perch, unseen in a tree near the clearing. He remained motionless, empty eyesockets turned towards the party as they gathered. The massive black form of the Chaoseater was easy to spot, head and shoulders taller than the others, dotted here and there with the glowing eyes of skulls. 

Bager watched as he swung down from the saddle of an equally massive worg to survey the site of the coming ritual. There was a glint of light off crystal as the Death Knight turned partially toward his mount, something seemed to pass unsaid between them, then the great beast leapt into the foliage and was gone. Finally he strode forward, eyeing something the biggest pink orc Bager had ever seen was pulling from a pack. He choked back a laugh as he waited, watching.

 

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In the maelstrom, the heart of Azeroth, Stormsky stood still just a few steps away from the portal that would take him to Dalaran, a portal he needed to use to make his way to the location where the ritual to rescue Khorvis was going to take place.

In the eyes of others, it would have seemed like he had spent hours in the exact same spot, taking a few steps back every once in a while before moving forward towards the portal again, but always stopping in the same place, close enough to actually see the other side but far enough to prevent him to use the portal.

“Just let me go… I proposed this ritual… I should be there... I must help!” he muttered angrily to himself.

For as long as he remembered he could hear and interact with the elements, first through dreams and whispers, later he could feel their presence and speak to them through meditation, now he was able to communicate directly with them, sometimes even when he didn’t want to, it only took a thought, that was the downside of choosing his path as an elemental shaman, he thought sometimes, to never be alone in his mind.

Out of all the elemental spirits he had contact with, five always stood out, the first ones he befriended, and the ones who had been with him every moment of his life, good or bad times they were there, in one way or another, each representing a different element, Brazion of fire, Hialaq of water, Venthesh of air, Petrik of earth, and last Vitalon representing the element of life.

All of them had fought alongside Stormsky more times he could count, sometimes giving him advice, some others manifesting directly in the physical realm to aid him in combat, or just providing him the power he needed to defeat his enemies or help his allies. These elementals became a second family to Stormsky, a very dysfunctional one due to the conflicting nature of their personalities and elements, but a family nevertheless, and not once they had acted against him until now.

“Please release me… I must go” He said, now having an inner conversation with this second family, A resounding answer echoed in his mind “NO!”, out of all the times he wished that the elementals would work together in perfect harmony, this was not one of them. He had been stuck in a combat for control of his body for hours now, and even though the elementals weren’t powerful enough to control him without his permission, they were strong enough to stop him from taking any action.

He had tried dozens of times now, always with the same result, every time he approached the portal, the elements stopped him from using it, “It is not easy to move when you have the weight of a mountain in each of your hooves, is it?” Petrik said, laughing at Stormsky, “And even if you could …” Venthesh started saying as Hialaq finished the sentence “Your muscles won’t work at subzero temperatures either”, Brazion spoke next “Try as you might Storm, even you cannot concentrate enough to free yourself without breathing correctly, and tell me how does it feel having an inferno in your lungs?”.

Stormsky glared at the four “You…. Cannot do this….let me go help them, I already told you I am willing to take the risks and live with the consequences! I am a Shu’halo... I am part of the Horde… I don’t leave people behind!”

Vitalon, who until now had been silent, finally spoke “You have no idea of the mistake you would be making and of the true consequences it would bring, even if you could rescue Khorvis… his soul along with the souls of anyone who goes into that place will be tainted by the shadow, they will NEVER be the same, There is no protection, no spells… NOTHING! That will prevent that from happening… After that… each of them will carry that shadow for the rest of their lives… growing, some… the stronger ones… or the lucky ones will die before it takes control…. The rest… will eventually succumb to it”.

Stormsky took a few steps back from the portal, stopping his struggle for a moment, he had done this before to recover his strength in order to try using the portal again, this time was different, Vitalon had spoken… the most common and yet the most difficult spirit to commune with, very few shamans have had the honor of sensing an elemental… a spirit of life, even less have had the opportunity to communicate with one. Stormsky had listened to him before… but only in whispers… or visions, watching Vitalon speak to him so clearly and in such a direct way shocked the shaman to the core.

He took a large breath, as the other elementals stopped their attacks, “What am I supposed to do then? Nothing?! That is unacceptable!” Brazion took his turn to speak “You have always fought with the rage and passion of a fire elemental, but you cannot win this fight”, “You are still a mortal… we are eternal… ” said Petrik, “Calm down, breathe... allow yourself to see, to think” Venthesh remarked before Hialaq spoke “Like water… change your ways… adapt… figure out a way to help them without leaving this place, without going into the shadows”.

Stormsky finally realized what the elementals were trying to do, they weren’t against rescuing Khorvis, they were just trying to protect the young shaman from going into the Shadowlands and they weren’t going to stop. After a brief moment Stormsky grinned at them “So you do care for this mortal piece of flesh after all”. The elementals awkwardly stared at Stormsky then at each other without responding, always too prideful to admit such a thing.

The shaman proceeded to find a place where he could think and after some time he proposed a plan “Alright… since you will not allow me to leave the maelstrom, then I need us all to help the party from here… together… Petrik, nature is born out of the earth, out of your element, empower their nature spells, whatever form they take, either for healing or damage, just empower them with your might. Brazion use your fire as a guiding light for them and bless their blades with your flames. Finally Venthesh and Hialaq, you two are going to work together, merge your elements, air and water to power up the ice crystal even more, do not let it be depleted and strengthen the protective aura it provides. I will be your anchor, so that all of you can manifest in this realm at the same time, do you all agree to this?” and without hesitation all the elementals responded at once with a resounding “Yes, we do”.

Stormsky sat down using all of his focus to empower the elementals and project them to the place the ritual is going to be performed “There… I see them… Baal’themar, Edgar, Chaoseater, the others…even that orc hunter… Bager, they're all gathered, it’s time… Brazion, Petrik, Venthesh, Hialaq go now, may the Earth Mother be with us all”

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The roar of his Mechano-Hog died down as Mai’kull parked nearby the Ring of Mushrooms. He had left the Guild Hall shortly after everyone else as he packed extra supplies in his side car. It was a pleasure to be working with Chaoseater once more. Though they did not talk, he admired and respected the Tauren’s presence on the battlefield during their joint venture across Azeroth. Baalthemar seemed a bit on edge back in the hall, but he was sure there was enough bad blood there to warrant it, not that he knew or cared of the particulars.

 

He began to unload some of the machines he brought to aid in the ritual. Knowing the troubles, he had encountered simply opening a window, he had brought several items to aid them in their venture. Several Failure detection pylons were reconstructed with a Void Crystal core to provide energy for the ritual and limit the strain on the summonses. The Mage’s Manual of Void-Calling tomb sat in the seat, with several separate slips of Dark Parchment sticking out in random pages.

 

The mage collected the volume and opened it trying to conceal the pages quickly as he shoved the book inside his robes. He turned to the growing crowd and those already in attendance and waved towards the circle. “That’s it…something about that spot in particular, but there you can reach out to other worlds. I was able to open a window to the Shadowlands from there, but could not reproduce the same results anywhere else. These damn Fairy Dragonflies come by ever so often and use this to syphon energy from the Emerald Dream.

Edited by Maikull
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Tahzani had followed the group with a growing sense of unease. They were united in their task but the distance between several of them suggested an amount of distrust that could prove hazardous to the success of this rescue attempt. He was unsure of his place in the ritual, but if Khorvis could be pulled back to the proper plane, he would help in any way he could.

He hardly paid attention as the undead began to speak, the area they had been lead to was too distracting. The unnatural formation of mushrooms and the lingering ambience suggested it held great potential. The veil was weaker, and as such, easier to pierce by unblessed amateurs in the art. In time it could develop into a larger problem as this errant weave in reality developed into a full-blown hole. But for the moment, it suited their needs. 

If the old orc had truly been in those lands for so long, he feared there would be little left to recover. Still, even pulling him back just to kill him here would be a greater mercy than leaving him to expire in the darkened land beyond.

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Theira took her time in her feline feral form to scent the air and ground to track Baalthemar.  She kept herself hidden and prowled the tall grasses and bushes the region rank with the scent of undead never sat well with the druid.  She could see the gathering after some while her eyes narrowing at those attending she kept her body low to the ground so better to slink her way beside the rogue.  Bright yellow reflective eyes came into focus as the druidess revealed herself to the gathering as a large wild cat.  She sidled up beside Baal with a soft quiet purr the growling once as she scented the pack with the items he carried.  She remained feral while she looked over those familiar and some unfamiliar faces her cat ears folding back she looked up to Baalthemar saying nothing.  She settled down to beside him shifting forms, the grass around her seemed to grow taller flowers to bloom in her presence.  She sat in a almost meditative stance muttering only to Baalthemar  " Fear not, I will mend you as needed."

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The Chaoseater’s massive form loomed behind the undead mage eyeing his assortment of tools and contraptions. The black plate that shrouded him whirred and clicked with internal mechanisms as he shook his head and turned towards the mushrooms. He began striding deliberately around the circle, widdershins in the parlance of druids who sometimes kept brighter groves than this sacred. Coldly glowing eyes watched the Matron from behind their clear crystal visor.

When three circuits had been complete the Death Knight stepped into the circle, his voice rumbled like stone on steel and shook droplets from the undersides of the mushroom ring.

“The Shadowlands will not be like any land you have known. This is the place between worlds, the darkness that devours. You who would pass, who would pierce the veil, step forth into the circle.” He paused rain streaking down across black metal dotted with the glowing blue of stylized skulls. “If any doubt your strength or ability, be gone now. Doubt, fear, these are a sweetness to the beings that torment he whom you would save. And in carrying them beyond thou would doom all.”

After a moment he turned to the tall elf, Baalthemar his name was “You have the items?”

Edited by Chaoseater
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Mai’kull approached the ring, but did not enter. From his analysis of this ritual, anyone tainted by shadow magic would jeopardize the mission. He would instead act as field support in maintaining the portal, and if worse came to pass…

 

Instead he withdrew the tome from his robes, separating the extra sheets he had concealed earlier, and flipped it open, there was a pulse of demonic energy from the magi for a moment, as he whispered demonic words from the book. He was still unsure exactly what he was saying, but every time he recited the words, the Void-caller was sure to answer the summons. Ignorance was possibly bliss in this case.

 

The hulking Void being rose from the shadows of the Maleficar; draped in an ethereal shawl with gothic lanterns hanging off its shoulders, the large Naaru-like structure on its back loomed over the figure, and sparked with an eerie light. “My void-caller is the one who initially located Khorvis. He was charged with safeguarding him in the shadowlands until we could pull him out. Wherever that stubborn Orc has taken refuge, this being will help lead you to him.”

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Following the Voidcaller, Khorvis emerged slapdashedly within an expansive monstrosity of stone and arches. The reliquary, hitherto undisturbed, vaulted to shadowy heights and was alighted by machinery unfamiliar to the orc. Lines and curvatures resembling the ancient Keepers of Ulduar hearkened to their Titanic originators - indeed, the constellations of pinprick evanescences could only illuminate one conclusion: here was a tomb of the Makers.

Khorvis slowed his pace in a spat of momentary wonder. It was a disjointed portrait: a lone orc, painted in the Azerothian hues of life traversing the timeless majesty of a black and white mausoleum dating to the very beginnings of his visceral home. Mice could find more warmth of hospitality in a cathedral of the Light. And this orc had worn out his welcome.

Hot upon the heels of their prey, the wraiths boiled forth from the cavernous exit. These were no phantasms of the ethereal imagination; frothing and clattering, these beings of shadow heaved their asymmetrical limbs with the desperation of a starving pack of worgs. Maws gnashed their ebony canines. Limbs flailed and chests buckled, spewing forth insanities wrought of a night to eclipse all summers.

There was no further passage. No escape and no further depth to descend for the Lasher. He turned, centering his stance upon the middle of the dais sealing Tyr's tomb. A readiment of green fists. Khorvis turned to his companion.

The Voidcaller responded with a conciliatory expression, and then the stars of its face winked out. With a whisp of shadow, the void elemental vanished.

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Edgar Hornridge, servant to the High Inquisitor of The Grim. Slave and bone. His origins were banal. To grandstand the circumstances of his resurrection would be to discredit the honorable history of the Ebon Blade (post-Menethil, to be certain). A creature and cretin of secondhand necromancy, Boneslave could at best be said to embody the subservience of the orcish Peon. And yet, Reviled and Berotten, this peon still had an oddity hidden within the rusting mail of his cuirass.

The deathknight moved among the circle of attendees. The reasons of their patronages varied and concerned the corpse little. Edgar haunted past the elf Baal'themar, tall and changed. Some wrestled with an unrequited loyalty to an orc long since past his prime. The tides of of war swelled and receded, but the certainty of Elune always promised a future for the hungry of conflict.

Intersecting the shadows of the pines beneath which the Matron skulked, Edgar was not oblivious to the feline form. Slinking and pausing, waiting and hunting, she prowled the periphery. It was her eyes that pierced the circle of shades, yellow slits of reflective skeins that heralded pools of amber. In those depths a warrior could lose the entirety of his sanity, lost to the carnal baseness of being. Still, from those same pools sprang the fervent intensity of life - the aching urge to survive and endure.

The rains crashed against Boneslave's rusting armor as he dutifully placed the runeworks about the ritual circle.. Setting down the Elemental Ice Stone, a particularly wicked whisp of wind sheared his faceguard from its housing, revealing the morbid decay oft hidden from decent company. That lifeless rictus gaped wide at the assault of the elements. From afar, the shaman Storm would be able to peer through his farsight and witness the unfettered and guileless joy that Edgar alighted upon the unseasonal squall.

To trolls, Lilliana and Tahzani, the corpse flounced and twirled with mad glee, arms outstretched. A child dancing in the rain. Edgar almost carelessly tossed the Bloodstone Crystal to the feet of the trolless in his antics, seemingly mocking the ritual itself, until the prism began to glow warmly with a deep crimson. The light caught both the smiles of Lilliana and Edgar: smirking, quirking, cackling, and outright giggling. These were the living (and unliving), laughing in the face of death and shadow. Blood and life surged within their veins, and the thrill of travelling so close to the edge set the ring of mushrooms aflame with anticipation.

The spinning and dancing came to a clattering halt as Boneslave stumbled before the dark presence of the Maleficar, like a Grimrail prototype falling to pieces while upon the tracks. He bent low and now scuttled, for here was one who, despite the heat of his flames, exuded no warmth of life. To Mai'kull, Edgar deferred in the clear manner of servant to master, and once again the decrepit deathknight somberly, mournfully even, went about with the finishing touches of the ritual.

The Bonecube was nestled beneath one of the great toadstools, at the third point of the mushroom ring. Once the third runework was activated, a shimmering came upon the air within the enclosure, like a thin film of grease upon a polluted pond. It caught the light of the failure detection pylons at strange angles and cast a pallor upon the faces of the gathered.

Without hesitation, Edgar reached out with his rusting gauntlet and plunged it into the chest of the Maleficar's Voidcaller. Here the oddity of Boneslave made itself apparent: his uncanny affinity with the space between shadows and the hidden recesses of the plane of death. Talents often wasted upon such a spineless servant, finally they came to pay their dividends. Edgar pulled the Voidcaller to the center of the ring, and as he did so, the lanterns upon the creature's shoulders began to glow more brightly. It offered little resistance, confused and disoriented in the deathly fog of the ritual. Entranced and rooted at the middle of the circle, its constellation of eyes slowly spread apart, like the expansion of the stars, each racing away from one another, until they formed a ring about the Voidcaller's face.

The gauntlet retreated from the shadow elemental's chest, and Boneslave, exhausted, made his way upon hands and knees to the ritual's final participant. Chaoseater towered above the lowly knight. A great hulking mass of metal and ice, relating the two as both deathknights seemed to challenge the limits of absurdity. Edgar unsheathed the Blackrock dagger, an artifact that had been so close to Khorvis Bloodstar over the years, one that bore his stench and history. It was pointed villainously at the Voidcaller before being offered up with bowed head to Chaoseater.

"The way is ...ughhh... prepared. You must open... the path."

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Theira watched the spectacle play out before her with a mixture of interest and disgust.  She slowed her breathing so not to choke on the fettered stench of decay and brought herself up to standing.  Thoughts, doubts started to trickle their way into her mind for what she had signed herself on for.  Being a beacon of mending and life giving itself walking into the wastelands of death.  Theira frowned deeply closing her eyes with worry perhaps her presence here would attract more harm than good.  The druidess shifted her weight and straightened up holding her staff in hand.  She shook her head of the doubts heeding Chaoseaters warning of bringing such thoughts with them determined not to be the weak link in the chain.  Her eyes opened and burned with a new sense of determination, a spark of the wilds.  First and foremost she was here to release Khorvis and maintain the lives of those here.  Theira stood tall and ready as she glanced to Chaoseater now prepared to face down whatever darkness came.

 

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Baal'themar rolled his shoulders relaxing his body before they needed to fight, and there was no doubt... there would be a fight. He checked his blades, both still had a thick coating of poison. Baal'themar smiled. We are coming Khorvis... just hang on a little longer. He waited for the others to make a move

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His bone face twitched and spasmed as Bager held back a fit of laughter and excitement. Within the mushroom circle the air had grown thick with the potential of what would be wrought here. The Steelborn had taken a dagger from the skeletal orc slave and knelt. He had been there, kneeling completely still for long minutes now, even the blue skulls of his armor had lost their glow, and the massive Warchief seemed like nothing so much as a statue. It was all the Laughing Skull could do to keep from cackling.

Even now he knew the Steelborn was drawing his power, the might that Bager had first seen on his homeworld of Draenor. A power more fundamental than any of strength at arms or skill in combat. It was an idea, an underpinning. He had heard this one called many things. A Death Knight, Steelborn, Lord of War. But now he would truly be himself…. The Gatekeeper.

 

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The rain sputtered to an uneasy end, silence fell over the circle and it’s inhabitants, and still the massive steel form knelt unmoving and unmoved. After what seemed like an eternity there was a loud crack, like the shot of a dwarven rifle, and a lance of glowing purple energy shone from a point on the edge of the circle. A glowing rune of some unknown script, seemingly punched through the very earth as cleanly as a scribe draws on parchment. Another crack resounded from the opposite side of the circle, and another, all in a rattling rush until at last thirteen glowing sigils defined the circle around the gathering. The sky above grew black consumed by an unseen void stretching into the unknown.

There was a rustle of movement from in front of the trolls. The Blood crystal rose into the air, spinning slightly. Light from the runic circle played and danced within its many facets as the gen lifted over the heads of the onlookers. It spun faster, its lines blurring, the light somehow becoming more intense, casting blood hued beams across the circle until finally it shattered a sound like the deathrattle of some massive beast. Fine crystalline shards spun and ground themselves into a fine mist which when swirling as though with a mind of its own around the clearing twisting and curling around each of the participants. Serpents made of wind and mist coiled and sprang to the center of the circle where they crashed into the kneeling form of the Chaoseater where they exploded in puffs of red dust which drifted towards the ground, briefly defining ghostly unseen chains in the air. Chains that seemed to link each of the inhabitants of the circle with the inert Death Knight before fading away with the remnants of the mist. Still, all would feel the sharpening of senses, the connection between them all at the very edge of perception.

After another moment of silence the wind outside the circle whipped up, and the sky above flashed with a lance of lightning. As if on queue, the stone of elemental Ice lifted from the ground, tumbling and spinning slowly in the air. Rain began pelting down in a torrent, and where it struck the stone icy stalagmites formed, expanding outward. Like it’s red brother, the ice stone spun and whirled, it drifted to the center of the clearing above the large black figure and after a moment that stretched into infinity it exploded. Icy needles shot out in every direction but the missiles were not as deadly as they seemed. They caused no pain where they struck, did not sink past the surface, but spread covering any and all in a rime of thick frost. Armor was reinforced, claws and weapons because razors sharpened by crystalline edges, and a subtle cold power permeated the party. Not the debilitating cold of most magic, but the bracing cold felt by a powerful predator in the depths of winter, one lunge away from the sustaining blood of a kill.

Though the rain outside the circle continued, within it sputtered to a slow halt, becoming instead a lazy snow flurry, and finally channles in his armor flooded with blue light and the Chaoseater rose. He took one long stride forward, and plunged the black dagger into the ground. With one long glance around he regained the center and with the rasp of steel on steel he drew the massive cleaver-like sword at his back. Runes along it’s length flared to life at their master’s touch and a swirling vortex of unholy light flickered at the tip between shattered shards of steel. He faced the dagger where it stood in the ground and raised a hand to his left all three fingers outstretched.

All but forgotten, the bone cube shot through the air to the massive Tauren’s hand. He turned his frozen gaze to it, turning the bauble this way and that before whipping it into the air. The bone surface was lost in the gloom until it came falling back, tumbling end over end. Black cloak whipping in the wind, the Death Knight spun, faster than should be possible for a being of his size and brought the sword around in a flat arc, catching the cube as it fell and slicing clean through. A wail of pain and fear broke free from the empty halves of the box, accompanied by sickly green and purple mist that writhed and tangled, offering glimpses of a tortured human face, before it shot towards the sword encapsulating it in a shrieking tornado of magic, until it was consumed by the nexus at the end of the blade.

 

Purple energy crackled over the Chaoseater’s armor as he re-sheathed his dark blade and grunted. Compressed air shot from vents in his helmet with sharp bursts of satisfaction. Finally he raised a hand as bolts of barely contained energy lept out, tearing up the ground and tracing a large rune beneath him. He reached out in the direction of the blade delicately, softly, and with a gentleness unbecoming of the dreaded Warchief of the Blacktooth Grin he took reality between his fingertips and drew it aside. The deep rumble of his voice swept out in a whisper that nonetheless shook the circle and the forest around “Aparturum”

Before the group a shimmering purple door stood tall, the darkness and gloom beyond impermeable past the first several feet. The Death Knight kept his arm raised and glanced to the others.

“Your way is prepared. I shall hold the gate, but know this. None shall pass back into this world tainted, and the door will not remain open for the laggard. Be about your business, for the way will not survive the hour….”

He turned his visor back to the portal and he seemed to dismiss them all. Again he drew his sword and stood. Ready.

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Mai'kull stood resolute as the waves of shadow washed over his robed form. The last traces of the Voidcaller drifted upwards as the gate to the Shadowlands bisected the elemental from earth to crown. An unfortunate end for a creature who had simply desired freedom, but every one had their parts to play. Master and slave, general and grunt, each participant in this ritual must embrace their station. The sacrifice at the hands of Chaoseater spread the way for the party and to their quarry. Through the gateway, a distorted and grayscale passage was revealed bearing all of the hallmarks of Titanic design. Somewhere in that tomb retreated the late High Inquisitor, taken body and spirit into the Shadowlands.

Open Gate.jpg

In the lull of the ritual, an ominous calm had come upon the circle. The gateway just... hung there, as did the echo of Chaoseater's final statement. The Whispering Forest was deathly silent despite the squall raging outside of the mushroom ring. Like a leypetal under glass, the gathering existed oblivious to material externalities. All attention was drawn to the center.

Tainted Sky.jpg

The void-attuned pylons hummed in pitched oscillations and reacted with a split-second crack and explosions of arcane oblivion to a shifting in the inter-planar aperture. Barely afforded the transmission of their appearance, a frantic vanguard of spidery wraiths were shattered and ripped asunder as they attempted to exit the gateway. Mai'kull focused his attunement to the failure-detection system and heaved the lion's share of his mana into maintaining the wards. A rattling staccato of voidlings issued from the portal at an ever increasing pace, each meeting near-instantaneous destruction in showers of greasy ash and photo-negative vaporizations. The firs and pines of Tirisfal alighted from their undersides in flashes of white and sapphire until the entire squall seemed a stop-motion reel of images, like those designed by goblin tinkers to amuse children.

After some breathless moments of arcane annihilation, the emergence of these wraiths slowed to intermittent forays and proddings, each weaker than the last. The Maleficar finally relinquished his tight rein over the wards and allowed their design to follow, affording the mage opportunity to address his companions.

"The Steelborn speaks truths. You must not tarry beyond this gateway. I will remain behind to ensure that the way is clear... and that nothing undreamt escapes."

The shattering of a final wraithling punctuated Mai'kull's portentious pronouncement and the onslaught ceased. 

Edited by Khorvis
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"Let's get this done then." Baal'themar growled as he walked toward the portal... he wondered if he was going to return, and what state Khorvis was in... it didn't matter in the end, he would save his brother or die trying. He stopped at the edge of the portal waiting for a moment for the others.

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While Baal’themar stood waiting for the others, a fire pillar suddenly appeared several yards behind the ritual site, illuminating the entire area in the process. Within it a fire elemental could be seen and heard “I am Brazion, let the light of my fire guide you back, as your weapons burn with my power”; fire sparks started flying out of the pillar heading directly to the weaponry of the assembled party quickly igniting flames around them. Daggers, swords, arrows, whatever weapons were present, they were now empowered by a glowing red fire.

Just after the fire elemental display, an earth elemental rose from the ground, looking at Theira he spoke “Matron, Petrik of earth stands with you today, your spells will have my blessing”, with these words an earthen shield was formed around the Matron of Rutilus Luna.

Finally the rain and wind took shape into two more beings, Venthesh and Hialaq, an air and a water elemental respectively, “tonight, the forces of wind and water will protect those of you entering the shadow realm” they said, while the armor of those empowered by the ice crystal shined with a light blue hue.

As the four elementals stood united, another presence made himself known to the party, one that wasn’t there but was watching them from afar, “Good luck” Stormsky whispered.

Edited by Storm Skychaser
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Theira bowed her head towards Stormsky and the Elemental graciously accepting the gift of the earthen shield.  With that she cracked a grin and walked towards the portal, she nodded towards Chaoseater and stepped through after Baal'themar.

 

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Baal'themar felt his armor freeze, the sudden cold made him gasp. The ice magic hardened over his armor adding yet another layer of protection to his combat gear. He growled and looked at his daggers, they glowed like embers, but their heat didn't burn his flesh. Thanks Storm... he grinned thinking of the Tauren before stepping through the portal and into the unknown.

Like with all portals he was ripped between reality and spat out in a slight daze. He looked back to the portal and watched Theira walk through behind him. "We don't have much time. 'the way will not survive the hour' " he quoted Chaoseater. Baal'themar looked around trying to find some sign of Khorvis.  "Right well... fuck this place." He smiled at Theira and started to jog. "Think you can keep up old girl?" he asked her with a sly grin.

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Theira huffed a bit using her staff to assist her walking, the elder Tauren walked with a bit of a limp but quickened her step and pushed herself to keep up with Baal.  "I may be an old girl yet but I am not without some tricks."  She grinned at the elf before leaping forward with a flash of green light shifting into her feline form.  With four legs versus two she would able to pad after the rogue easier.  The large cat kept her eyes and ears forward as she scented the air as they ran hoping that some sign of Khorvis would reveal itself and she might be able to track him.  Theira ran beside Baal'themar with claws extended for each stride surveying the horizon for any threats as they searched.
 

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Edgar emerged from the shadow rift upon all fours, bounding like a blood hound. He circled the immediate hallway, crisscrossing between the legs of Baal'themar and Theira, sniffing the dusty air, before scrambling back through the portal. A pregnant silence was magnified by the muted image of the thunderstorm raging back on the other side in Tirisfal. After a few moments, Boneslave reemerged with Lilliana and Tahzani in tow, periodically spinning to make certain the two trolls followed. Satisfied that the party of five now moved as a unit, the decaying deathknight trotted down the sloping passage. The most casual of observers would see that he trailed some scent. Indeed, the foul odor of the late High Inquisitor drifted up through the complex and would be immediately apparent to the pinnacle of olfactory evolution housed in the Matron's snout. 

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The confirmation came in a bilious rasp. "This way... quickly... The Master... ugh, Bloodstar is near!" There was no pause for assent as Bonelsave tore off into the depths.

---

They came as a swam, biting and clawing as a pack of wolves snaps at hamstrings from the edges of the herd. The shadow wraiths leapt at Khorvis with no regard for their own defenses. This would be their fatal mistake. Old and injured though the warrior might have been, a cornered veteran with nothing left to lose would have been occasion for pause, at least for any mortal. Spindly bones snapped like twigs and multi-armed horrors were flung through the air like ragdolls, for Khorvis was here in the Shadowlands in the flesh. No longer did his blows sail through apparitions. Here fury swelled and erupted in a whirlwind of rage and Ogre curses.

The tide of shadowfiends broke upon the orc and slowly receded into the corners and crevices of the chamber. Heaving and panting, Bloodstar wiped away whatever ectoplasmic offal had spilt from the enemy upon his muzzle. He turned, keeping his knuckles raised in a defensive posture, watching the shades roost among the stalactites. Something ever more foul was brewing...

"Do that be all you can muster, shadelings?! Spectres and smoke! You do be a pitiful goatsucking lot!"

Laughter nearly overcame the orc in his exhaustion, hysterics to be sure. The urge died in his throat as the wraiths quaked as one hive-minded entity then hunkered stone-still. For the first time, Khorvis took notice of the large, nearly-evaporated pool of something in which at the center of the chamber he stood. In a dimension of grey hues and eternal shadow, the liquid firmly interrupted with a virulent green glow. It lapped at the orc's feet with alien intent, promising some hidden madness or unknowable depravity.

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Khorvis stumbled backwards, kicking his boots to splatter away the clinging green phage, and not a moment too soon. The pool frothed and roiled madly in counterpoint to the wraiths' stillness. From the vermilion shallows emerged a black skull, elongated and wholly foreign to the bilateral symmetry of familiar Azeroth. Multiple jaws lashed on their hinges, clashing against underbitten incisors, and dozens of eye sockets gaped their bottomless shadows as the vile film slid away.

Having breached the surface, the skull was followed meter by meter of armored and fleshless form. Where the wraiths had only emulated the shadows of this plane, this new monstrosity seemed to suck in the light around it, feeding off the whatever it neared. At last the beast finished extricating itself from the pool. Here, buried in the depths below Tirisfal and the Grim Halls for time out of mind, had lurked a viceroy of shadow. Khorvis faced the voidlord.

---

The party had not far to travel. Mai'kull's wards had cleared the way of wraiths and the short passageways were without deceit. With two hounds hot upon the trail, the five emerged from the tunnels some several meters above the tomb's floor. From a vantage, they gazed down upon their quarry and a black skull rising from a bubbling pit of green shadow.

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Baal’themar ran next to the others the familiar stench of his friend slithered its way deep into his lungs, he coughed at the pungent stench of friendship and grinned. He pushed himself hard to make it to Khorvis, the sounds of muffled yelling and rough barking of insults gave him hope. He bolted through the tunnels alongside the others, as their path dropped out into a fall he could see the creature that loomed over his friend.

Baal’themar leapt into the air and spread his arms wide, daggers in hand. The thought occurred to him that this creature might be ethereal and he would pass through it harmlessly only to smash into the ground. Too late now. He let out a roar as he fell toward the beast.

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The large cat hot on the heels of Baal'themar huffed with heavy panting to ignore the stench which surrounded them.  She pounced in unison with him however calculating her leap to land at a  shorter distance from the hulking monster.  She unshifted back to a humanoid form as she touched down as Baal'themar sailed above her his weapons drawn.  She was unsure if her magic would even work in this realm, or work the way it was meant to regardless seeing him about to collide with the voidlord she had to try.   She flicked her wrists and cast towards Baal'themar bestowing upon him an iron bark and then ran towards Khorvis now at a distance conjuring up green swirls of restoration magic and hurling them towards the warrior.  Theira wasted no time assessing there was none to waste - the time to act was present there would be no time to lick the wounds until this hurdle was vanquished.  She shouted out staff extended towards Khorvis "Khorvis we've come for you!"
 

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"Khorvis we've come for you!"

The Lasher spun in amazement and nearly took Theira's staff in the jaw. A shadow passed over him and he quickly glimpsed the bladed form of Baal'themar passing above in what could either be an incredibly brave or utterly stupid leap. The elf connected with the voidlord, twin daggers sinking deeply into the aberration's elongated neck. Khorvis felt his muscles sloughing off exhaustion and bruises as the Matron's healing magics took hold, and yet the queerness of the Shadowlands still left an emptiness gaping in the pit of his stomach.

Emitting an ear-piercing wail, the voidlord thrashed and swiped at Baal'themar. One of its many limbs ripped at the ironbark shielding and nearly gored the rogue's pink flesh before Baal'themar leapt away to his comrades' side. Vile black ichor oozed from the towering shadow's wounds, splashing into the pool and darkening the tint. The voidlord moved to counterattack, but a loud crack! shattered its momentum and it stood blinking its multitudinous eyes in confusion.

Lilliana's mind blast caused Khorvis to turn again with a feral grin. She responded with a mischievous wave from the tunnel's cliff edge and twirled her staff mockingly. Tahzani seemed distracted, concocting some bizarre spell, but he too gave the trio a quick nod. Boneslave scrambled up to the orc and squatted with the fevered loyalty that only a family hound displays for its long departed masters. The fast reactions of the ritual party had bought them some respite from the voidlord, but the pause would be short.

Khorvis circled behind Baal'themar, still somewhat incredulous over the heroic timing, and tugged a spare dagger out of the elf's belt sheathes. "Took you bloody fools long enough!" He would have to question the lot of them over their methods of divination. Later. "But I do not look a gift kodo in her mouth." Friendships in the orc's life were few and far between. "We have dire business to be about!" Finishing his circle, he stood between the pair and the monstrosity.

Khorvis raised his dagger and pointed it at the voidlord's armored chest. "You did think to trap me in this forsaken realm, you rancid excuse for the scuff of my boot polish!" Hissing and spitting, a flurry of reverberant squeals issued from the black skull. They may have been words, but in what language only the mad could discern. "Aye, aye! But the dullard that you do be, you invited the Mandate into your very rotten home!" The warrior, now armed, began his charge. "Now watch the timbers of your house fall in flames!"

At the final instant before they met, Khorvis feinted left and dragged Baal'themar's dagger through the voidlord's hamstring and the blackened pool, so oiled with a skim of the otherling's blood. Storm Skychaser's elemental blessing activated and ignited the liquid in a racing expanse of flames.

Edited by Khorvis
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Baal'themar fought alongside Khorvis, the large elf slashed and stabbed around his brother, he covered Khorvis where he could and attacked when the orc made an opening. He smiled, "Now watch the timbers of your house fall in flames" Baal'themar quoted the frenzied orc warrior. "You missed your calling Khorvis, you should have been a poet." he ducked under a thrashing limb. "Oh, how the woman would have swooned for you and your honeyed words." He chuckled as black sludge doused him, blinding him to an incoming attack.

A thick tentacle slammed into his chest, the Iron bark and frost spells crackled with energy as their magic protected him from the spine shattering strength of the attack, the strike sent him off his feet and tumbling through the air into the filth around the pool. Slowly Baal'themar got to his feet, he shook his head and focused on the fight again.

He spat out a mouthful of dirt and voidlord blood. "Heh, note to self. Jokes after." he lunged back into the fight.

Edited by Baalthemar
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Through fire and shadow, the one-eyed pair worked their daggers through the inky flesh of the voidlord. Daggers forged in the Mandate, despite Baal'themar's current tabard, struck true to their nature. Khorvis knew that of all situations, it was in combat that one's true self outed itself. The lamb would nestle and cry in fear. The wolf would show her teeth and seek the heartsblood. These were the commandments of nature, chiseled into the stone of every mortal's flesh.

Fanged as they were, many of their strikes simply met smoke and ephemera - this shadowy realm twisted and contorted intent. More than once the warrior's blade clanged against the elf's, confused and disoriented in the rising smog. Simultaneously, it was becoming clearer that, despite the best efforts of Light-woven smites, rime-coated blasts, and earthen barriers, the melee was losing ground. Where one tentacle was severed, two more erupted from the flaming pool to take its place. This slow hacking at the aberration's trunks would leave the party overwhelmed.

The Matron Oaksong, from her vantage, recognized the forming pattern. They were becoming the flock of sheep, boxed in and outflanked by the black wolf. It was in such a time that she knew the shepherd must act decisively. Waiting until the voidlord had turned its back again to follow the darting form of Baal'themar, Theira cast aside her staff. She drew upon the fleeting connection to Azeroth that the Shadowlands provided and shifted into her most feral, predatory form - and leapt for the shadowling's neck.

Pads connected with armor plating. Claws snapped outwards and dug below, giving ideal purchase. With a terrible howl, Theira sunk her fangs into the back of the voidlord's neck. A searing race of shadow flooded her jaws, like a dam bursting and spewing forth a stagnant lake. The putrescence, far too rancid to swallow, forced her to shear away and with her bite came the upper spine of the enemy.

An otherworldly shriek exploded from the many throats of the voidlord in tandem. It gyrated wildly, swinging its long arms in a frantic attempt to dislodge this most vicious assailant. One limb struck Theira squarely in the neck, sending the druid flying across the chamber to crash sideways into a stalagmite with a sickening "snap". The others clutched at the mortal wound, futilely attempting to staunch the flow of ebon heartsblood. Far too late to save itself, the voidlord thrashed in its own flaming ichor and folded in upon itself as a collapsing star in its final moments.

The rapid implosion belied the deafening detonation that dropped the party to the chamber's floor. With a shiver, the wraithlings haunting the edges of the battlefield began to stir.

----

The hour was nearing its close. Reaper Mai'kull, having exhausted his patience studying the stoic horror that called itself Chaoseater, stared pointedly at the gateway to the Shadowlands.

"What was taking them so long?" The mission was simple. A quick extraction. Shut the portal afterwards and seal away the shadows. So what had gone wrong?

He could no longer allow this chain of events to meander its course. The Maleficar would intervene.

Gathering the most potent of his dark parchments and steeling his wits, Mai'kull of the Grim pushed past the deathknight watchman and entered the Shadowlands.

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The Twisting Nether Gazette is a role play forum for characters on the RP-PVP servers Twisting Nether and Ravenholdt.  We have been active since November of 2005, a few months after the Twisting Nether server originally went live.  Our purpose is to provide a safe and inclusive environment where role players can meet and interact with each other, and, of course, post their amazing role play stories, art, bios, and journals.

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