Champagne Supernova

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((written in collaboration with Q))

Determined to keep his sobriety after last year's Midsummer misadventures, Qabian was heading to the bank on the Bluff to see if he had any leftover torches to juggle and maybe that fire staff when a crackle came over his hearthstone followed by an ethereal voice. "Qabian Amberlight, yes? I believe we have some information you may be interested in."

"Who is this?"

"Mu'fah said you were looking into certain cosmic phenomena."

"Ah, the Ethereum? Yes, and?"

"We should meet. This communication is less than secure. Bring payment."

Qabian looked thoughtfully at the entrance to the bank. There was no reason he should trust them, but with some, the Ethereum included, money could speak louder than most deceits. And this was simply information. It would not take long. "Fine."

"We'll summon you."

"You'll what?" Qabian frowned. "I'll be right back. I just need to see to something." He directed this message to Nymare before finding himself pulled through the Nether.

* * *

Two ethereal beings stood on the edge of some broken world staring out into what at first appeared to only be a starry darkness, shaped by the customary enchanted wrappings used for most all dealings with humanoids, as Qabian appeared behind them, stumbling forward as if dropped from a few inches up in the air. The mage brought one hand to his throat as his breath was momentarily stolen from him and something bittersweet and acrid took its place in his lungs. He coughed several times as he tried to regain his posture and some dignity.

"Forgive the... atmosphere... Qabian Amberlight," one addressed him without bothering to turn and greet him or even see if he had come through in one piece. "Things here do not tend to work quite as they would on Azeroth." As if proving his point, a loose end to one of its many wrappings was picked up by an otherwise imperceptible breeze and fluttered in the air briefly before snaking slowly back down into place. While Qabian was dusting himself off, the ethereal accompanying the first turned to speak. There was light. Despite the apparent darkness, there was in fact light. It glimmered off of what armor was worn over the wrappings, making each motion the ethereal creature made twice as hard to follow, but there was no discernible light source.

"What do you see, Qabian Amberlight?" The ethereal observed him quietly for a moment and then asked in addition, "And can you breathe?"

Qabian narrowed his eyes at the ethereals, clearing his throat once more as either he adjusted to the air or it adjusted to him. He took a deep breath and nodded. Seeing that the elf was, in fact, all right, it motioned for him to step forward and asked once more, "What do you see?"

Stepping forward, Qabian suddenly found himself enshrouded in darkness, the only light now coming from the violet glow and wisps of energy seeping out from between the wrappings of the Ethereum to his left and right, but before him lay what must have been the heart of the cosmos itself. With startling clarity, he could see the swirling of a galaxy. Solar system after solar system, star after burning star. His mind went back to the Eye of Eternity, observed in the wake of Malygos' defeat, but this was closer and more alive, less a system in balance and more a system in motion, invisible scales tipping behind the burning colors and lights of matter and gravity.


"When this world we are on died, the trauma warped and broke the atmosphere in ways your world's intellectuals and savants will probably never be able to explain, even if they knew such a thing existed," The second ethereal explained. "Light. Air. Sound. Gravity. Here, it is all bent, traveling on broken currents. Amplifying, magnifying, mutating, pushing, pulling. What you are witnessing out there is the final breaths of a galaxy far, far away, the lights being channeled and magnified by the broken physical laws of this shattered planet."

The first continued from there, violet tendrils moving like smoke from a fingertip pointed at one particularly small and bright star.

"That one has reached its end. Too small, too dense, the matter it has accumulated from its stellar companion has pushed it past the limits in mass that stellar bodies can maintain before the contents within explode in chain reaction of detonations, expelling the energy. It will take its companion with it. The combined nova will set off, in turn, a larger chain reaction throughout the stars in this system."

Qabian stepped forward, pushing past the pair of ethereals, staring wide-eyed at the swirling mass. Conversations on energy and the nature of the universe echoed through his thoughts. Nymare... "This is... highly unique, very interesting, and absolutely intriguing." His brow folded as he looked out over the stars, one hand going pensively to his chin. "And what am I? The highest bidder?"

The ethereals' expressions were so difficult to read, although their wrapped skulls glanced toward each other a moment before they responded. "Yes."

"Hmm." Qabian needed a way to bring Nymare to this place, an excuse to leave and return, to not merely act as a witness, but to share. He thought quickly as he looked out over the stars. "The best use of this would be made with recording devices, tools, reference material to aid in the analysis. You've brought me here without all these things. You expect me to pay for this show? As interesting as it is, something like it could be done with solely illusions." He doubted any tools he had could provide him with more enlightenment than the observation itself, but the explanation for departure and return seemed reasonable.

"This is no illusion, Qabian Amberlight."

"So you say."

"And we are not charging you for the show. No. We are charging you for the door."

He turned to stare at them. "Oh?"

"To return to Azeroth and back again. As you see fit," one remarked.

"And bring back all of the recording and observing paraphernalia you feel you need in order to get your money's worth from this little venture we are offering," the second finished. "But you will not have an eternity. Twenty-four Azerothian hours, at most."

Qabian raised an eyebrow. "Azerothian hours?" He looked from one to the other, then a slow smirk drifted over his lips. What better way to celebrate fire and ruin than to witness it on a galactic scale first hand? The mage slipped off his glove to reveal his hand holding a green gem the size of an apple. "The other half when this proves to actually have any value."

Their cloth faces looked down towards the gem in his hand and then back up to his face. "That wasn't the agreement."

Qabian shrugged and moved to put his glove back on. "Your choice."

They looked towards each other, light effects rippling beneath their wrappings, then the first stepped forward, a small black box in his own ephemeral palm. "We will take the gem. Here is the device that will open the doors. The time constraint is your responsibility. We will contact you to receive the rest of the payment once you have been assured we are not petty illusionists."

The mage laughed and the exchange took place with something akin to respect, the respect of those who understand that the ones they work with consider them obstacles of annoyance rather than comrades. In a blink, the two ethereals were gone, leaving Qabian with the darkness and the stars and a small rather nondescript black box. He stared at the device a few moments, then brought it close to his face somewhat warily, examining it. With his ungloved hand, he flicked the box with a touch of arcane. A series of runes made of purple light flashed outward and then seemed to be sucked back into the box again as the dead planet shimmered around him.

* * *

Qabian found himself standing back in front of the Thunder Bluff bank. He frowned, put his glove back on, and moved back to the fire in front of Cairne. It was only when he reached it that he realized the tables with their drinks had been removed, as well as the festival decorations, and the skies were quiet of fireworks. "What the hell?" he whispered to himself. Those bastards. Azerothian hours... He stepped through a portal to Silvermoon. Sure enough, the celebrants were gone, the fire dismantled, the ribbon pole removed. Fucking -- He ran down Murder Row and heard someone mentioning the hangover they were recovering from after the previous night's festivities and fireworks and let out a breath he hadn't realized he had been holding. One day. That's not so bad. "I'm still going to unravel those money grubbing, non-existent energy balls," he muttered. They hadn't bothered to mention time as one of the things being twisted by a dying galaxy.

He looked at the box in his hand. He'd have to fix this, but it would still be worth it. It would be worth it if those deceitful puddles of astral vomit wanted the rest of their payment. He moved through the city towards the woods. "Where are you?" he asked Nymare over the stone.

* * *

For the first time since he had left her standing before Cairne's fire pit the night before, she heard his voice. The chill and the altitude made it difficult to find her own words at first, but when they came out, they seemed to echo the frigid bleakness of her surroundings.

"Some place cold." She was not happy. Her drake angled downward and tore through the sky down toward the Argent Tournament's grounds. "You?"

"Some place broken. Join me?"

Sliding down from atop her drake, she withdrew her hearthstone. A few moments later, she disappeared in a flash of green light.

* * *

The woods were quiet, almost deathly so compared to the constant barrage of fireworks, drinks, and drunks moving over and through it only a few short hours ago. She had waited for him all night, expecting him to eventually find her and, together, they would watch the fireworks from the tops of alliance kegs like they had last year. And then, after enough time had passed, she expected he would eventually find her and take her home. The sun had rose and was threatening to set again since then, its dying light streaking her face in rosey shades as she rode through the woods. She knew the place he meant.

And did, in fact, find him exactly where she thought she would. Climbing the steps to the highest tier of Duskwither spire, a few quick flames from her fingertips helped clear the path of any unfortunte former apprentices who stood between her and Qabian's back as she stepped up behind him, glaring. Where were you while we were...

He paced back and forth on the side of the platform where he often sat in silent thought, his agitation more than clear as he didn't notice her approach. Pursing her lips, she stopped and purposely brought her boots together with a soft collision of fabric and her own irritation to announce her presence. He looked up at her and smiled as he always did when he found her again after an absence, but the smile quickly faded on recollecting that to her, he had vanished for a night without explanation. How did you explain that a few minutes on another world was a whole night on yours?

He shook his head, then his face brightened again with a certain glee he had when contemplating violent ends to things, eyes flashing at her. "I have something to show you."

Her eyes squinted to fel green slits against the setting sunlight as she peered at him, ears folded back a hint in anger. She had been ready to demand to know where the hell he had been, but when he got that look in his eyes... She lifted her chin and pushed back the initial urge to shove him from the spire.

"Show me?" She paused as she stepped toward him, though, and a hand lifted in warning. "For your sake, it had better not be anything attached to your body."

He winced, but managed to keep his grin as he held out the small black box towards her on one hand. "This..."

Nymare leaned forward, peering at the box lost in Qabian's shadow. She glanced between him and it in confusion. He had given her a rune. He had given her a ring. It could not be more jewelry - or she hoped not, after being missing for nearly a day. Giving up on figuring it out, she looked back at him.

"What is it?"

"It's a key. Through the door... You'll like it. I know you will." He beamed at her with confidence. "Unfortunately, I'm not quite sure how it works yet." He held out his other hand with a little less confidence. "Hold on?"

Where there had been anger, there was now a sense of wonder... very apprehensive wonder. His admission of not knowing how this thing in his hand worked bothered her, but then she had done her own experiments with other questionable means of travel, which is the only thing she could guess he meant by terming it a "key" to go "through the door". So far, the worst that had happened involved her hugging Evanthe or spending some time as an orc. Both brows raised, she slid her hand into his and stepped in close, literally holding onto him.

* * *

He clung to her in turn, wrapping his other arm around her, holding the device behind her back. He touched arcane over the surface of the box and squeezed his eyes shut. He felt the sensation of stolen air again, and opened his eyes to survey his surroundings as he breathed as deeply as he could. "Looks like the bastards actually want the second half of their payment after all." He dropped his arm from around her and turned his attention to her. "It worked. Are you... all right?"

She hunched forward after being released, eyes wide as her lungs struggled with the air while the rippling of fabric and space made no sound. Coughing, she got her baring and started to turn to face him, ready to question, but was stopped by what waited in the sky beyond. "What.. the... by the Sun, Qabian..."

Nymare stared up in awe, mouth agape.

Qabian pointed to the star the ethereals had indicated. "It's ending. And with it should come a chain reaction of fire and destruction. And we have the best seats in the house." He smirked at her momentarily before his eyes were drawn back to the blazing mass for a few moments.

In the darkness around them, Qabian slipped out of his tabard, tugged off his gloves and shoulderguards, and unbuckled his belt. He did all this in silence, accompanied only by the soft whispering of fabric. He shouldered out of his robe and laid it down on the ground before them. He tucked the small black box carefully into the top of one boot and knelt down on the fabric. He began to cast a spell, then glanced over at the swirling stars, a momentary consideration that he had no idea if this would work crossing his mind, but he was comforted by the idea of setting the entire Ethereum on fire if it didn't. He conjured two mana pies, a selection of strudel, croissants, cinnamon buns, and sweet rolls, as well as two bottles of sparkling water and laid them out over his robe as best he could in the dark from the glow of his own eyes and the strange shine to the place. "Happy Midsummer?" he asked, looking up at her eyes.

Still keeping her eyes to the sky, she wandered forward as if in a dream and knelt next to him. So this is where he had been? His voice helped pull her back, "Midsummer" being a point of familiarity, and she glanced over at him in the darkness, the fel glow of his eyes burning through and giving the features of his face shape. She indulged in a grin.

"Impressive, but it's missing..."

It was more of a feeling than a sound - an empty sort of release, like the opening of a tomb - what came before the light, something small at first and then growing in intensity enough to penetrate whatever hungry dark they had found themselves sitting in on this broken world.

"Fireworks?" Qabian asked and nodded toward the sky once more.

It was everything the ethereals had said and more. First the one, and then its companion, the colors and light shifting as the brightness warped through the broken atmosphere. And then another and another. He shifted towards her over the cloth, wrapping one arm around her waist, his face next to hers, as together, they watched a galaxy begin to unravel in explosions of light and color. The pattern grew various and extensive, covering the expanse before them in the brilliant deaths of stars. There was magic and destruction in every otherworldly burst. They found themselves occasionally lit by the tide of ruin in their darkened astral theater as they observed, moments stolen from reality in a way that never should have existed at all. Illusion or not, the experience was one of a kind.

As the stars met their ends, what they left behind were trails of pure magic. The pair of blood elves could sense the trails on a level beyond the traditional senses, appreciate them on a level likely denied even the ethereals themselves. A web of ley like the one they could not see but only sense as it covered their familiar world now formed across a galactic cemetery.

Qabian pressed his lips to Nymare's shoulder, then whispered in her ear. "Enjoyed the show?"

In response, she turned to face him, eyes luminous in the dark and thrilled beyond any expressive words, but still some came to her lips in a sort of awed purr, "I love you."

Darkness settled once more across the sky, leaving the two Sin'Dorei to revel in the echoes of the event that now permeated through space with the palpable silence of celestial death.

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