Ranavos

First Strike ((Open))

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"The Sin'dorei are our honored allies, huntress, and my Queen has quite a bit of sway with your leadership. Should you prove yourself to be useful to our purpose, it should be a trifling matter to disperse whatever malcontent your actions have or have not caused." Keraph wasn't being entirely honest, as he knew not the nature of the elf's alleged crimes or whether or not it would be worthwhile to aid her, but just as he said, the amount of effort he would invest in the matter would depend on her worth in his machinations. He quirked an eyebrow at the odd construct that began to repair his door, but shook his head dismissively as he turned to the other new arrival to the hall.

"Interrogator Blight, how good of you to join us. You need not answer for your disappearance; many of our bretheren have done the same, in light of our city's occupation by the Orcish brutes. Your work before and since then is commendable, and I may yet have need of your services. We have here many who I do not fully trust, and it will put me at ease to have one that I can rely on among them. Besides that, should there be any hint of treachery or betrayal coursing about their minds, I know that you will be the first to know."

He took a moment to look over those who had gathered within his hall. A human 'lich', sent forth by a powerful if unreliable member of the fold; the rogue, who he still kept his eye on as she skulked through the shadows; a huntress of the Sin'dorei, who seemed a touch naive but also displayed skill and some level of promise; and Rykor, the Forsaken interrogator who was an unexpected but extremely fortuitous addition to the group. He was reasonably sure that the four of them could handle the tasks that he was ready to put forth, and if they proved to be incapable of doing their job, it would not be the first time he betrayed those who served him to preserve his own station.

"Very well then. Since you have all invited yourselves into my domain, let us speak of business. For the tasks I shall set forth, each of you will be well compensated. I will not have it heard that I do not pay due respect to those who are capable of serving well, even if only for a short period." His eyes coursed between the four of them, examining each as he spoke for any reaction. "If any of you have any love for the Horde's current Warchief...well, you'll likely be killed, but step away now, for what I ask of each of you is to be my hand, and strike against Hellscream in vengeance for the injustices he has and continues to inflict upon my people. There are certain members of the Kor'kron overwatch in particular who have earned my ire, as well as a certain Forsaken individual who is far too loyal to the Warchief to be allowed to remain unliving. I am unable to exact justice upon them myself, as the last time Infection overstepped our reach while 'dealing' with our occupiers, many were summarily executed and the rest disbanded for fear of further scrutiny. This is why you see my once regal hall in the state that it now remains; a hollow shell of it's former glory, of Infection's former glory. As such I must rely on more subtle measures to deal with my foes, and I believe that the four of you are more than capable of enacting my plans. In the interim I will make myself present and observed in the Lady's court, such that no measure of suspicion can be drawn on me. Should you be captured, I will not speak on your behalf, nor will I admit any knowledge of your persons or any plans you may allege to have made with me." He once again examined each of his gathered 'guests', scrutinizing for any signs of hesitation or disagreement. "Now then, do any of you have a problem with this arrangement?"

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This arrangement... Ranavos had mixed feelings about it. It was quite obvious that the Alliance needed that tyrant dead, Garrosh held no regard for Alliance lives, slaughtering anything that got in his way, but, Garrosh was also tearing the Horde apart, killing those who questioned him with no remorse. Taking down the Warchief would only make another stand in his place...It was best to opt for the lesser of two evils at this point. The only thing that worried him was becoming Keraphs lap dog. 76 had warned him about this, and it was starting to become clear. If he must serve Keraph in order to become stronger, then serve he must.... For now.

His grip on his weapon tightened. The thought of betraying his father by serving his rival angered him. Perhaps, when everything is over and he got what he needed from Keraphs training, the lich could dispose of Vens rival to redeem himself.

"I accept, on a few conditions. One, that I work on my assignments without Horde 'allies'." He shot a glare towards the Blood Elf then back to the warlord. "Two, that I am to be paid in training, not gold. And three, that I clam everything in Infection that belonged to my Father."

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As Rykor listened to Keraph's plot as he looked over each of the others in the chambers. During the speech Keraph was giving them the priests head quickly snapped and his eye locked on the lich and a small grin began to form on his face as he took a long breath in. Rykor could smell his anger growing, perhaps by something the warlord had said or maybe just being in the location he was in, Rykor did not know nor did he care much. Fear and anger made the mind easier to gain access to but he did not make any attempt to go inside the humans head for he was not stupid and such an attempt could send that weapon in his direction. "Warlord Keraph, I do not see any reason I shall not aid you in the name of Infection."

Looking around the room again he took another long breath in and then exhaled. "Fear?" he mumbled under his breath as he looked around for the woman lurking in the shadows. Rykor's eye sight was not one of his strong points but focusing on the woman, he could make out about which side of the room she was on and he changed his stance to make sure his back was not facing any of the living. "What would you have us doing for you Warlord? For I am no warrior of any sort." his voice was almost like a whisper but was so very clear and easily heard by all.

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As soon as the Forsaken stated he would help clear her name the huntress’s whole demeanor changed. Becoming fully comfortable in the room she placed her hands on her hips and watched the room. She realized then that the female that was spoken of before had not come out of hiding yet. The warrior continued to speak, and what he spoke of made the women’s eye sparkle with an unnerving glint. She had similar plans and now with the current situation she could have everything blamed on the Alliance. Not even the Lich’s objection could spoil her mood, but she did however pucker her lips at him as he gave her a glare.

“I accept your terms whole heartedly, and believe me I won’t be caught”

The second Forsaken, the one that nearly gave the huntress a heart attack spoke next, he was an odd man but the warrior actually trusted him.

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As Keraph began to detail his plans, Nika finally separated herself from the shadows and ventured closer to where the group was gathered. The look she gave Keraph as he spelled out his terms was one of incredulous disgust. She gave a faint shake of her head as a light scowl settled across her face, but she kept quiet and listened in.

When Ranavos stated his conditions, Nika shot him a look of mild surprise. Most people would blindly accept. She was pleased to see him negotiating with the warlord. A faint smile flickered across her face for a brief moment, before she turned back to listen to the others. She kept an eye on Rykor though, watching him with some suspicion.

Once Keraph finished speaking, Nika gave a toss of her head and stared at him. "Clearly you must be suffering some kind of brain rot to think that you're offering anything I'd have the slightest interest in. You don't impress me, and I don't give a damn about your 'compensation'. You have nothing of value to offer me and frankly, I don't care if.."

Nika paused and drew in a slow breath as her tongue began to run away with itself again. She sighed, reeling her temper back in check, and nodded her chin towards Ranavos. "I'll go with him, to help him out. Not to help you out. You can continue to rot, as far as I'm concerned."

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Keraph nodded his affirmation at the two Horde members of the group, pleased that they were both willing to acquiesce so readily. It seemed that loyalty was still strong among the Forsaken, and that just as expected, Garrosh Hellscream had no shortage of opponents within his own Horde who were ready to act against him and his lackies. At Ranavos' more conditional agreement, the Warlord smirked. He still spoke with the arrogance of an entitled prince, and that did not much bother the decrepit warrior. "You will receive your training, my 'Prince'..." As with every time he had called the lich by that title, his words seeped with droll sarcasm, "...and provided you survive it, you have much to gain from the tutelage of the most skilled knight in Her Majesty's service." To his own self-serving compliment he spoke with the arrogant seriousness of one who truly views himself as the best. "And whatever toys your errant 'father' left behind are yours. Venedict was privileged with generous access to Forsaken resources to fuel his odd experimentations, and I'm sure the results of his work still lay about in the laboratory that lays beneath this hall. Should you prove to be a capable supplicant, you may find yourself with access to similar resources, if it was indeed Venedict's intention that you carry on his work." He grinned viciously at the lich, his sharpened teeth forming a wicked crook that betrayed deeper intentions for Abner's ambitious 'son'.

It was then that the impetuous rogue once again reared her fierce demeanor at the warrior, stepping out of the shadows to lash out at him with bellicose words of dismissal. Keraph seemed more amused than anything at her fiery attitude, and as she finished speaking he responded in a sickly-sweet mocking tone. "If you do not wish to be rewarded for what I am sure is already a rather beneficial proposal to your Human self, it makes little difference to me. Go for the sake of your 'Prince', aid him in his task, keep him safe, I could care less. With any luck you will die protecting him, and he will return to me ready to become more than he is, without your belligerent nature holding him back." He ribbed at the rogue, almost delighted to attempt to incite her further, something about her wildly opposing nature driving him on in interest. "The two of you will go alone, and I will send the other two against a different target, as it seems doubtful that all four of you are capable of working with each other without at least half of you ending up dead. So go with the little Abner, and if you need some manner of motivation to work for one so 'vile' as myself, then consider this enough: if you do not return successful in your task, then not only will the little prince not gain what he seeks, but the two of you will be put down in a rather unpleasant fashion by myself and those who serve me, and your corpses will herald my triumph against a pair of antagonistic foreign invaders; either way, I win. Until then, I will give you your targets and wait patiently for your return. Continuing to rot, as my lady asks."

With that, the warrior bowed low, a sardonic flourish of his skeletal hand punctuating the dishonesty of the gesture.

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Ranavos grinned as the Warlord accepted his arrangement, focusing only on the positive things that he said, but Nika seemed to be up to her tricks again, it was better to leave now before his 'sister' spits out more insults and prompting the warrior to harm them both. Casting Unholy Strength on himself, the lich lifted his heavy weapon and rested it on his shoulder with a noticeable small step back from the weight of it. "Now then, Nika and I shall check out Fathers quarters to see what we can use for your future mission. In the mean time, you can brief the others on their mission." He spoke with an almost arrogant tone. Grabbing Nika by the shoulder, he nudged her away from the warlord. "If you would be so kind, Keraph, please direct us to Venedict quarters. You may call upon us when you are done with the others." In reality, the Little Abner just wanted to quickly claim his 'gift' before Keraph could.

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The human female finally showed herself and it caused Orion to growl at him a bit. The female started spouting off to the Forsaken that was allowing her a chance to keep her head while in a hostile city. The huntress shook her head muttering to herself about humans and their lack of manners. This coming from the elf that broke down a door, the pot calling the kettle black some would say, but at least the elf was welcome in the city and could easily leave without losing her head. From behind her there was a whirling and buzzing sound, and small gnome she had placed to repair her damaged had completed its task and compacted itself back into a small block like form.

“Ahh, there all better.” Bella seem to forget that there were others in the room as she turned her back to them looking at the door. “Marvelous, such a handy little tool I was able to find.” Making her way over to the small gold block, but she passed it, placing and ear to the door, she could faintly hear the sounds of guards searching about, but they were still no closer to finding the small band of rebels then they had been before. The huntress pushed off the door, swooping down to pick up and gnome brick and placing it somewhere within her armor; before stopping next to Rykor. “I suppose we will be working together then” jutting out her hip she placed a hand on it, the other mocking a salute towards the priest, “Nice to meet ya there Bones”

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Rykor looked at the rogue as he spat her mouth off to Keraph at first his gaze was a harsh and mean look but as he looked between the two of them it twisted into a creepy grin. Most of the time Rykor's face showed no emotion as if he was just an empty corpse which found delight in bring pain to others. As the young lich began speak of his fathers things Rykor watched him closely and something felt off about the lich wanting to head off out of sight with the female rogue, but his focus was shattered when the female elf stood next to him. As he turned his head the grin changed to a frown and his eye narrowed "Bones?" Rykor was shorter then the elf as he was hunched of slightly but as he focused on the elf looking her in the eyes his figure became more shadow like starting with his head down to his feet until he was nothing but that, a shadow. "You will call me Rykor my dead and respect your elders." After he was short with the elf he snapped his head towards Keraph "Not to question your thinking Warlord but does the lich need to take the female with him? She could stay he with me..I mean us." A look of pure evil took over his entire face as he became his solid form again but anyone who knew Rykor knew that this look on his face would only lead to pain or death for someone. Rykor interlocked his fingers as he looked about the members of the group.

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Nika watched Keraph as he attempted to goad her on further. Her eyes narrowed, but her mouth curved into a bitter smirk. Her thoughts were interrupted as Ranavos wisely put his hand on her shoulder and began to steer her away, but she turned to look back over her shoulder when Rykor spoke up.

"Right now, there's other business to deal with. I'm quite certain I could mop the floor with you, but there's plenty of time for that later. I'm not hard to find, considering I live in Orgimmar." She shook her head with a derisive snort, then turned to follow wherever Ranavos led her. As entertaining as it was to verbally poke at Keraph and his associate, she had to admit a bit of curiosity at seeing more of Venedict Abners lair, and what it might contain.

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Somewhere else in the universe, Inzema felt his ears tingling. Not the tingling that meant someone was talking about him, but the tingling that meant he was missing out in causing mayhem for people he knew. He shrugged, wondering what plans he was missing on adding entropy to, and returned to stabbing the poor sot he had come across.

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Keraph nodded at the lich, waving him off towards a shadowy corridor to the right of the hall's head. "You will find the laboratories down that passage, past the training and...interrogation rooms. Dear Nika will recognize the latter from her brief stay at our fine hall, some time ago." The warrior grinned wickedly at the rogue, flashing sharpened teeth at her once more. "I'm sure you will be able to find whatever Venedict left behind. His 'gifts' have a habit of making themselves apparent to those they are intended for." He flicked the glowing coin between his fingers as he spoke, and waited for the pair of humans to make their way down the hall before addressing the remaining two in the room.

"I do not trust either of them. Obviously because they are human, but for deeper reasons as well. One seeks to gain from me, and the other...well, I'm sure she would be rather satisfied to simply bring me to an end. However, my ambition is to remove our city of the Orcish taint, and they will be of use in that endeavor. Should they be found lacking, or should they attempt to deviate from their assignment, you have my leave to do whatever you feel is appropriate to address the situation." He let the words hang a moment, making sure that they understood, before continuing. "Now then, as for your assignment. There is a member of the Kor'kron overwatch, one 'Graz'thal Bloodsnarl'...Orcs and their savage naming conventions...who has been a constant thorn in the side of proper Forsaken. He leads a pack of worg-riding raiders through the forest of Tirisfal, harassing and interrogating innocent citizens of Lordaeron under the pretense of rooting out dissidents of Garrosh's leadership. It is an excuse to flaunt power and target those weaker than he and his fellow raiders, and it has garnered Garrosh far more enemies than it has prevented. It falls to you to track his pack of worg-riders down in Tirisfal Forest, and dispatch of them in...whatever manner you desire. It will no doubt be suspicious when they do not return to the Undercity, but tensions against the Kor'kron seem to be escalating of late, and I doubt they will be able to come to any conclusions before the next stage of my plans are underway."

He turned to Rykor, addressing the Forsaken directly. "Graz'thal has a habit of targeting any of our bretheren, whether or not they are acting even remotely suspicious, but a bit of deception on your part could goad them into a trap set by the two of you. I will leave the details to you, but it would be fortuitous to engage them on your terms. I am sure the huntress knows a thing or two about setting an ambush, so I trust you will be able to handle this task together. Are there any questions, Interrogator Blight? Lady..." He furrowed his brow as he looked at the huntress. "Why, I don't believe I actually have much of a clue as to who you are, Sin'dorei, but I am sure that you are capable of accomplishing this task. I trust I am correct in this assumption?"

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Giving a nod to Rykor letting him know she heard him she turned her attention back to the two humans, for right now they were safe, but if they proved to be a liability she would attempt to take them out while they were on their missions, that way it would look like they failed and where killed by the gaurds. She continued to watch as they walked away before pulling her attention back to the Forsaken she had just sworn her life too. His words caused a grim to form from ear to ear as he spoke of permission to do them in if they proved useless. Her fingers laced around the leather straps holding her mail on her form.

Her face became serious as he spoke of names and places, recalling them from memories. She started thinking of the surrounding areas trying to think of the best place for her to be in order to get a kill shot without being spotted. His pause caught her attention and with that she smiled. “Ambushing is a specialty of mine. I have yet to hear you name uttered, just Warlord, and by the looks of it, it is very fitting.” She gave him a quick once over, she knew very well her feminine charms had very little to no effect on Forsaken but it was second nature to her. “I am Bella Sin’riel at your service my Warlord.” Her voice was shifted as she spoke the last few words, letting them drip with a tone that could be either taken as flattery or mockery, depending on how the person took it.

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Ranavos nodded at Keraphs directions with a smile and gently nudged Nika to follow, he didn’t want her verbally pestering the Warlord any longer. Both of them ventured forth, walking past the obvious training rooms, the lich had actually picked up walking speed as they passed the interrogation rooms as lurking there long enough would invoke bad and painful memories for the both of them.

Finally, it seems like that had arrived at their destination. A door stood before them, aged greatly by time. The door seemed heavy, sealed solid and was covered in runes. Runes seemed to run amok along the doors arch, running up from the floorboards, to the ceiling and down again to the other floorboards.

Ranavos rubbed his chin for a moment, thinking.... He knew he had to solve this, Nika knew nothing of magic, in fact, she was scared shitless of it. “The runes have probably lost their charge considering how old the door looks. Stand back Nika.” Again, the lich gently nudged Nika to the side and went into a battle stance, holding Forgebreaker in both hands. With a loud grunt, he swung the heavy weapon, the hammer side of it facing the door.

A normal door would of shattered upon contact, but not this one. A powerful force of magic repelled his attack, leaving him speechless. Lowering his weapon, he looked at Nika for a moment before reassessing the situation, studying the runes in particular.

“Blood runes... Detection.” The Lich said aloud..... Another pause followed by a sigh. He was starting to understand what he had to do. Ranavos took off his right gauntlet and placed the palm of his hand on the axe side of Forgebreaker. Inhaling deeply he slid his palm downwards on the blade, cutting his palm. He didn’t look at Nika during this action, he only bit his lower lip to suppress the stinging pain. He allowed the blood pooled in his hand, this was when he approached the blood runes. As soon as he was about to place his bloodied hand on the runes, the locked door began to rumble. Fragments of the door give way before sliding out of sight and the magical barrier faded away, leaving only a rush of stale air to greet them as well a dark room.

Ranavos licked the blood off of his hand and turned to Nika with a prideful smile. “Come on, Nika, We have not come this far to be chased away by some dark room. Stay close behind me.” Placing his gauntlet back on the Prince stepped forward into the dark room. Runes on the floor reacted, glowing red at this step before their light raced to a column in the chamber that started to emit a light on its own. The magical barrier of the door started to reform behind them as an object in the room popped into existence before their very eyes in the column. It looked like a brain in a jar in a pillar of light.

Ranavos shielded his eyes from the light, but something else troubled him. He felt his Mana levels slowly drop, as if something was draining it from him. His mind was clouded by static, but a very familiar voice spoke to him.

"Welcome back, Lord Abner."

The lich froze in fear. That was Venedicts voice... But he wasn’t here.... Unless that brain in a jar WAS Venedict.

“...F-Father?”

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Nika followed grudgingly.. especially when it came time to the runes that guarded the room he intended to enter. She stood back as he attacked the door, a scowl on her face. It took coaxing to get her to enter, and she gave him a questioning look when he seemed almost protective of her.

Once she saw the brain, her eyes locked on it and flared angrily. "Not again!" She turned to Ran. "What are you planning on doing with that? Don't even think of taking that out of here, unless you're going to destroy it." Her eyes went huge. "You aren't going to eat it, are you?!"

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“Eat it? Are you mad Nik-” Ranavos paused mid sentence as the static in his head intensified for a brief moment before softening again. A blue ghostly image of Venedict faded in beside the young Abner, causing Ranavos to take a step back in fear.

“Not quite, no.” The image spoke.

“But...But... Then who are you?” The Lich questioned.

The ghostly image looked back at the Lich, almost mirroring his movements. “Inquiry invalid. Specify question. Myself? Or that?” The image pointed to the brain in the pillar.

Ranavos looked at both entities with a puzzled look. Wondering why the image of his Father was speaking like this. “Both of you.”

The ghost of Venedict looked over the Prince as it spoke. "We are connected, so I suppose it would be easiest to explain it than myself." The image walked slowly towards the brain "You are looking at quite possibly 'Father's' greatest invention: The Mastermind Project. Or... part of it at least." The image shrugged.

“Connected?” Ranavos wondered aloud. What if this image of Venedict was just a by product of his Overbleed illness? That would most certainly explain his dropping Mana levels. He returned his attention to the brain “So, this brain is what Father left me as a ‘gift’?”

"Part of it. This one is not connected to the network as of right now, and therefore is uncorrupted." Then the ghostly vision raised and eyebrow. "You are losing Mana because You are the power source, just like he was, of his creations-- those he left to you. As for my image being as it is and the connection to the project... well... You have seen this one before. And I am a steward of sorts to aide you in its usage."

Everything was starting to slowly make sense to Ranavos. He nodded at the projection then quickly gave a glance at Nika, who was probably freaked out by all of this. “Can Nika see and hear you?”

"She cannot.” The image responded. “We could calibrate to her mental frequency at the Pillar, but she does not trust us... not after what happened to Jon. I would also advise against allowing others to access such a source of power."

Ranavos looked back at the image and tilted his head. “Not after that happened to Jon?.... Who’s Jon?”

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Nika eyed Ranavos hard as he started to speak with someone or something she could not hear. She looked around slowly then took a few steps back. Her eyes swept the room while he talked to the unseen specter. Finding a chair, she lifted it while his back was turned.. and then with a shout of anger and defiance, hurled the chair at the pillar that housed the brain.

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"Jonathan Ableham Senior was your--" As Nika took a chair from one of the work stations that were organized into points of a circle around the room and flung it into the pillar the vision stopped speaking. It's attention turned to Nika as the pillar's barrier activated right before the chair hit. There was a flash of light as it repelled the chair in a small arcane explosion, sending soldering fragments of wood through out the room. "She has quite the temper, doesn't she?" The ghost spoke.

Nikas sudden anger shocked Ranavos, both emotionally and physically. He felt his mana levels drop as the chair was shattered from the barrier. The blinding light from the barrier dazed his vision, but being the big brother that he is, he rushed to Nikas location in an attempt to aid her. “Nika! Can you hear me?!” He turned his head to the direction of the ghost, seeking answers. “What did you do?”

“*I* have done nothing... yet. It is her that triggered the defense barrier of the device." It's eyes looked back at Nika, and what happened next would be quick. The image that took on Venedict's visage would at long last be visible to Nika as well as it lifted its hand to her... and suddenly she would find herself getting excessively tired until she would succumb to slumber. Afterwards, when Nika fell asleep before the vision's feet, it looked back up at Ranavos. "What is your Inquiry?

Ranavos felt Nikas body go limp. His shoulders slumped down while he shook his head side to side, disapproving Nikas previous action, oh what a fool she was. With his vision now returning, he looked at the brain, then to the ghost. “Where is Father?”

"Warning. This unit has been quarantined from the corruption that has inflicted the network. To gain this information, quarantine must be broken. This could lead to exposure."

The lich paused for a moment. “What is this ‘Corruption’?”

"Warning. This unit has been quarantined from the corruption that has inflicted the network. To gain this information, quarantine must be broken. This could lead to exposure."

It seems like this Corruption was causing a restriction on information. Perhaps one more question would do... “How come I have no childhood memories of Father while I was growing up?”

"Warning. This unit has been quarantined from the corruption that has inflicted the network. Incomplete data available. I can only speculate with what records I have."

"Then tell me what you know"

"Records on Corruption have indicated altered or removed memories."

"So... My memories could of been tampered with by this Corruption?”

"Correct. The sparse records we have access to on this individual unit show a concern of altered memories from Father."

“Hmm... Do I have to be in in contact with Corruption for it to affect me?”

"Uncertain. Records of the Corruption are incomplete. This unit was put under quarantine. Other records of new theories and developments may exist, we cannot be certain."

This Corruption seems like bad news, but it is also blocking answers that Ranavos wants. “Do...Do you think I can fight this Corruption?”

"Records of the Corruption are incomplete. This unit was put under quarantine. Other records of new theories and developments may exist, we cannot be certain." The vision paused for a moment. "When Father discovered the Corruption he tried to contain, control and destroy it. Due to factors such as his absence and the quarantine... we project the probability that he was unsuccessful."

Ranavos scoffed. “Then for Fathers sake, I will destroy this Corruption! Where is it located?!”

"Warning. This unit has been quarantined from the corruption that has inflicted the network. To gain this information, quarantine must be broken. This could lead to exposure."

Ranavos has had enough of this. He will have to pay the price for his gluttony over knowledge as well as face the wrath of Venedict from corrupting his gift. He patted Nika on her head before standing up, his gaze fixed on the brain. “Break the quarantine.”

"Are you certain? If exposed you could be subject to irreversible madness among other things."

A sigh escaped him. “I have nothing left but Father, Nika and vengeance. Yes, I am certain.”

"As you wish, my prince." The image gave a bow before Ranavos's vision started to get blurry, the buzzing in his head getting far worse. "Establishing connection to the Mastermind Network now. Brace yourself." Those were the last words Ranavos could hear before his world went black, leaving behind the shackles of the physical world around him...

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Ranavos's eyes opened with a jump, the room around him seemed... larger. He was kneeling in the center of the room, the floor, embossed with the Abner family crest. He took a moment to look around and take in his surroundings. There were working stations, each with a different image projected upon it. There were various maps and figures between the seven workshops. One image looked like a perfectly preserved Keraph Xalascent, the second was of an older man, the third being of Seventy Six, the fourth was some sort of book, the fifth looked like an alchemist set, the six looked like the very brain he was using and the seventh looked like his father... floating in a giant vial. Each station resting on a star point of the family crest. Next to Ranavos phased in the ghost once more, his voice now containing an otherworldly echo.

"Welcome inside the Mastermind Network. For your safety I have set up a barrier that renders you safe and undetected until you leave its sanctuary. What is your Inquiry?"

“I am inside the network? I have left my physical body?” The lich wondered aloud.

"Your mind has melded with this particular Unit. Your body has gone into a trance like state. Currently you are still save within this unit, you have not stepped away from Quarantine."

Ranavos nodded as he understood what was going on now. He was experiencing some form of mental magic. This worried him, there was no telling what lurked in mental realms such as this. He eyed the Family Crest on the floor, then he glanced at each workstation, but only one caught his interest. His Father. The Prince wasted no time in trying to reach his Master, he stood up sprinted towards the image of Venedict. The Seventh Point upon their crest lit up and activated a portal where the image had been. Ranavos, speeding as he was, found himself hurled into it.

From there the world around him reformed, with every direction filling with a new interface to guide him to what knowledge he desired. As he looked below him, it would be as if he was floating over the globe. In his hand was a book. The lich had noticed that the ghost had not appeared yet, in its place, a book. Nothing else to do but open it, so he did. The pages gave off a bright silver-y white light as it floated from his hands. Ranavos focused on the pages.

"Where is Venedict Abner?"

His question formed as words inside of the tome. A small light from the globe below him shined, showing his current location in the Ruins of Lordaeron only to have it whisked south of him as the world rushed towards his new destination-- something like a galaxy was under his feet now, the light blocking out the map. The his was soon filled with a sense of dread within the pit of his stomach. Something was wrong... perhaps it was from leaving his physical body behind. Ranavos looked around, trying to gain answers, but felt a weight upon him, pushing him down towards the miniature galaxy. The send of dread getting far worse.

Panic started to set in, he didn’t know what to do. Was everything supposed to work like this? If he had gotten in trouble, how would he defend himself? Magics of the mind were a mystery to him, would his normal spells work in this altered reality? He didn’t know, it was unknown to him, and that’s what scared him the most. He sank even further... getting closer to the stars that surrounded what looked now to be a blackhole that was intent on devouring him. Ranavos attempted to flee, knowing clearly that something bad would happen if he got too close. He tried jumping, running, anything to escape. Further and further he sank. Now that he was getting closer it, it seemed the Galaxy was contained in some sort of structure. Something large...

...And before his very eyes, the black hole became a Maw that laughed at him.

"So The Prince Has Come To Play..."

Ranavos’s struggles just seemed to amuse it, the pull getting stronger. Below him formed a citadel of undeath. One that in, during his struggles, he crashed into. As he fell the world gave way like glass shattering into tiny pieces that flew from his point of entrance.

The lich quickly recovered from his fall. This was not good at all, the voice he heard was definitely not Venedicts... And that maw, it sent shivers down his spine. What was such a malevolent creature doing in Venedicts network? Perhaps, this was the corruption? Or some sort of defence mechanism? Whatever it is, it is halting his progressing to find his Father. All around him, the floors, the walls, even the ceiling that was reforming above him were of a ghostly pale blue light. Not one of them truly solid as they were littered with cracks and shards that seemed to try to fit together has neatly as possible. As soon as he stood up, he was assailed by angry whispers that sounded as if they were from his father.

"What are you doing here? Turn back! It is not safe! I did not give you gifts to squander on fool’s errands! What are you doing here? Flee! Turn Back! This is not a place suited for Children! Get out! It is not save!"

“WARNING. CORRUPTION DETECTED.”

From the hall before him the shadows collected from the cracks of the world and formed into a Mawed Tentacle that was speeding towards him. It’s teeth were as long and sharp as great swords. It moved too fast for Ranavos to focus on. The whispers continued. Devilish laughter echoed through his mind, leaving him stunned as it came for its meal.

"And Thus Ends The Princ—"

Before it could snap its jaws upon the Prince, an image came to defend him. Clad in full Death Knight regalia stood an Image of his Father. Behind them formed from shards of blue and white came another gateway portal.

“Though the Portal. Now. I can’t hold him for long like this!”

Ranavos dashed into the portal without a second thought. If it wasn’t for Venedict, who knows what would of happened to him. If that... thing was the Corruption the ghost was talking about, then fighting it would be no easy task. But for now, he was grateful that he had allies to protect him in this unknown realm. When Ranavos stepped through the gateway, the fractured world’s vista had changed. From the sterile halls of a fortress of death that felt hauntingly familiar, the shards of varying blues and whites depicted a cathedral. The light pulsed in a much more lively way through the scenery, where a young Venedict and who appeared to be an Evellin in a dress huddled together in a corner. The young Ven had his back to Ranavos, his focus upon Eve.

Ranavos wondered if it was safe to approach them. Would his Father lead him into a trap?

“H-Hello?”

He spoke, directing his questionable greeting towards the male child. Venedict: The Teenage Venedict didn’t seem to pay Ranavos any mind. His hand wrapped around his sister’s hip.

“It’s nice to see you again-“ The world seemed to freeze in place for just a second, the cracks in everything around him—including the young forms of his aunt and father—then seemed to skip a beat. “-Eve. It’s been too long.”

“It has.” Eve’s smile grew wider as Ven closed the gap between the two, while slightly shorter she seemed more developed at this point in their lives. “I brought you a gift.” Her hand moved behind her, removing a book from a pack she had stashed away. “I know how much you love studying, against y-“ Once again, there was a pause for no more than a second. “-Mother’s wishes.” A roguish grin spread upon the beautiful features of her young face.

“Odd…” Venedict’s voice, the one Ranavos was more familiar with, mused behind him.

Ranavos perked up and turned around to face his Father. A bit of shame overtook him. The Lich thought he could handle the Corruption on his own, that was not the case and his father had to save him, hopefully he wouldn’t be scolded to harshly for that.

“What’s going on here?! This entire realm is in complete chaos!”

Ranavos turned around and he saw the armoured Venedict again, who seemed on edge as his eyes seemed to search at the cracks within the landscape for something....

“You have entered a battlefield. One I tried to keep you out of.” His hand was resting upon his weapon. “But… This isn’t right. This isn’t where I sent us…”

“Mother did always loathe the idea of magic studies.” The younger Venedict chuckled behind Ranavos. “But, really, you didn’t have to. It’s just nice seeing you again.”

“Always so sweet, always such a charmer.”

Ranavos huffed and turned around, crossing his arms as he watched the ‘possible’ memory of Venedicts past. “So you sent me a useless gift that required me to enter this said battle in order to use it to its full capacity!?” He turned around to face his father yet again. “I wanted to save you from this Corruption, to bring you back!”

“I mean it! Every moment I’m stuck here without you, it’s like being trapped under the ice of Brightwater Lake in the winter, drowning. Magic be damned, being an acolyte of the church wouldn’t be so bad if you were here at my side.”

“Oh Venny, you’re so dramatic!” She rested the back of her hand to her forehead, giggling at how absurd the young teen was being. Her smirk grew larger at the opportune moment to tease him again. “But… if the Lady Proudmoore’s missing book doesn’t interest you, I’d be happy to return it.”

“If I’m breaking one rule, why not both?” The young Venedict shrugged, a grin likely upon his face considering his words and the look upon Eve’s face as they began to kiss.

The older Venedict narrowed his eyes as his hand began to rise. “I safeguarded one of my greatest creations, from my most ambitious project so that whether this… Usurper beats me or not at my own game, my Legacy would reign supreme. And what do you do? You charge in as reckless as my idiot brother. You’ve distracted It, yes, but you have distracted myself as well.”

“Well then... What does it want? I’m sure I can get rid of it!” Ranavos piped in.

The Armored version of his Father stopped looking at Ranavos when the room darkened. Bells could be heard, then screams of terror and death… and then behind him, the doors burst open. A fractured version of a young Urivial rushed into the room. “Ven! Where are you?! We’ve got to g—What are you doing here?” His voice got dark, full of suspicion. Ranavos stepped behind his armoured Father upon seeing Urivial. “W-What’s going on? He can see me? Isn’t this a memory?”

“Not quite.” Venedict readied his weapon. Between the shards that produced the likeness of his Uncle, shadows twisted to rearrange them. “I should have known… An ambush.” Where Urivial once stood was one of the dreaded maws of Corruption that shot forward to attack The Prince. There was nothing Ranavos could do in this realm to fight back, he could only jump out of the way from the gaping maw. The Armored Father took his spot—one of the large teeth slicing through his shoulder. He let out a scream as his form flashed from blue to an even brighter orange. There was a sound of choking behind Ranavos that did catch his attention though, he turned around to see what it was, clenching his fists for they were the only weapon that he had.

Evellin’s form, too, gave way to shadows, her tongue pressed down the teenage Ven’s throat as it elongated as the tip developed teeth of its own. The teenager was collapsing onto the ground as the black shadows clouded his form like ink in water. The two teenagers’ collapsed into a pile of black ink that reformed into another Corrupted Maw.

"WE HAVE YOU NOW, LITTLE PRINCE."

Ranavos was horrified upon seeing that scene unfold before him. Venedict had been harmed and now the Prince was surrounded by this murderous creature. He doubted that his fists alone would even harm the Corruption. He needed to flee this place, but with every corner he turned, the Corruption was waiting for him. If his Father couldn’t combat this, what hope does the lich have? Ranavos hissed at the maws, trying to get their attention away from Venedict. Who knows, perhaps he would get lucky.

The Corruption’s attention was locked on Ranavos from the start, for he was the true target. The bladed teeth opened wide from the Maw as Ranavos just stood before his Father’s back—who’s body of blue seemed to cloud like blood in the water to an orange colour as the teeth slid through him seemingly effortless-ly. Diabolical laughter could be heard echoing through Ranavos’s mind.

"Such Fight, Such Courage, Such Foolishness. All of it in Vain."

And it seemed the Corruption was right, as the world around them seemed to slow as Its teeth were about to sink into the Little Prince’s flesh.

"What are you doing?!" His Father’s voice urged him as his voice invaded his son’s mind. A dissolving limb reached over Ranavos’s shoulder, the shards melting and fading away into static energy—Energy that even still shoved Ranavos down to the floor. A floor made of the same shards as everything around them. Shards that gave way for Ranavos, forcing him into a free-fall.

"Flee!"

Stuck in freefall again. Venedict had saved his life, but how would he escape this realm? There was no clear exit. Ranavos continued to fall, perhaps Venedict was leading him towards the exit? As the Little Prince Abner fell from a shattered reality into a nebula of thought, the charges of lightning seemed to get worse. With each flash, the seven shards that fell with him would give new images as they spiralled in their downfall. But for now, Ranavos moved them to the side as his fears of the Corruption kept his curiosity at bay. Above him was a multi-leveled battle field. From where he had just fallen, the Corruption finished his Father—leaving nothing but an Orange Skull for them to collect—taking it to the main arena, where five others fought against eleven tentacles and their nexus of madness.

That, was, until the skull had been placed next to its sibling.

"Retreat!"

Shot through Ranavos’s mind, five voices in total. All of them in unison, all different variations of the singular entity they represented. Around Ranavos the nebula lit up like a storm, the light from the shards becoming unbearable as their images flashed away as quickly as they appeared. Nika Abner getting branded by a cog. Venedict and an elderly man watching from a hill as the Forsaken marched upon Southshore. A Tall, beautiful and strong featured Kal’dorei woman. A Gnome turning into a Goblin. Venedict and Evellin kissing in the halls of Lordaeron. Evellin having a blade ran through her. A teenage Urivial punching Venedict in the face. A Goblin turning into a Gnome. Quicker and quicker the images flash, forcing Ranavos to toss and turn as he fell, his vision getting darker. An older Defias man and woman talking to Ven as he worked on someone on a table in a room of shambles. Venedict’s reflection in a tank with a clone of himself.

Venedict.

A Maw.

Darkness.

"Ranavos…"

The Little Prince had been overloaded by the images he had seen. So much so that he lay motionless upon what felt like a hard stone floor as a voice of a boy urged him to get up.

"Come on, Ranavos. It’s time to wake up!"

Slowly his eyes opened, light beams shined through the windows. Where Ranavos had seen war and terror before, there was now serenity. Around him it looked as if the throne room of Lordaeron had been restored, the only really new edit was the fact that his own family’s crest etched the floor rather than the symbol that had once been humanity’s pride. But what did take most note of was the six year old with bright blue eyes and parted black hair standing before him in robes, a cat held in his arms.

“You’re finally awake, Ran!” The child’s sharp and thin features brightened as he beamed at the Prince.

Ranavos groaned as he sat up and ran his hand though his hair. He took a moment to look around, taking in the new peaceful scenery before setting his gaze upon the young boy. “Where am I? And who are you?” There was a pause in his voice as the Prince stood up, panicked. “I... I have to escape! The Corruption is looking for me.”

“Shh… shh… you’ll startle the kitty!” The child stamped his foot for a moment, his white robes flowed with the motion. “We all need to keep calm, It hasn't noticed we’re here yet.” The child put a finger to his lips with a frown before continuing. “But… you want answers, right?”

This child was a bit unnerving to him, for all he knows, the kid could be the Corruption in disguise, but Ranavos obeyed his wishes and kept quiet and nodded.

“You’re in my secret hiding place, where the Monsters haven’t found us yet.” The brilliantly blue eyes looked around the area. “It’s not very big… but that’s why I've been able to hide it. The Monsters still sometimes like to whisper things, try to get me out… But the others tell me to stay here where it’s safe and to protect Mister Kitty here.”

Ranavos nodded. “Father told me to flee. I need to get out of here and find a way to destroy this Corruption, or else it will destroy me.”

“Mister Kitty and I can help!” The Cat in the child’s arms warped from an animal to a grey cube with menacing looking glyphs upon it. “I can get you free, you can find a way to hurt the monsters, and then you can save us!”

Ranavos eyed the cube, attempting to read the glyphs. “Yes, once I’m free and the Corruption gone, I promise that I’ll free you and the others who are trapped here.”

“I’m afraid there may not be much left, Ran.” The child’s voice filled with sorrow. The glyph floated from the boy’s hand and towards the center of the room. “Are you prepared for that? For the choices you’ll have to make?”

Ranavos sighed and closed his eyes once he heard the child’s sorrowful tone. There was more to come and he knew it. “Yes. I’m ready.”

The cube hit the center point of the room, lines formed—parting each side into that of nine—before glyphs flew off of it, hitting equal parts of the floor from each other until thirteen surrounded them; Each glyph created its own distortion. From each distortion one of thirteen identical Sarcophagi came into existence. Images of beautiful angelic beings with slender forms from top to bottom were etched into each that had a black-gold luster. There were seven numerical indications upon each, the Numerals I and II igniting upon their halo crowns before they spoke.

Each Side, A Legion

The Prince Haunted

By Trials of Blood And Wit

As each of the Thirteen spoke, the world around him jumped from his current standings back to the reality he known.

W-WARN-WARNING.

“I hope so. Goodbye, my son.” Behind the child stood four other versions of Venedict Abner, the last remnants of an already costly battle.

WARNING. CONNECTION LOST. TRYING TO RECONNECT…

Ranavos awoke with a jump, he was back into his chamber with his gift and an unconscious Nika, the ghost of his Father pacing. “I’m sorry, My Prince. I can’t find him…”

Ranavos groaned again, that whole ordeal made his head feel like it was about to explode. He turned to Nika to see if she had awoken yet.

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Nika woke gradually to the sound of her ears ringing. Her body felt like it ached all over, though there seemed to be no distinct injury to herself. Groaning, she lifted a hand to her head and rubbed it slowly before cracking an eye open. She was flat on her back on the ground, with Ran nearby.. seemingly in similar condition.

"Wha.. happened?" She muttered, and sat up with a grimace.

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Ranavos got up quickly then regretted that action in moments, the room seemed like it was spinning mostly likely from getting up too fast. The sound of rustling caught his attention, his dear sister was finally awake. "Nika! Are you feeling alright?" He rushed to her side to aid her in anyway that he could, he made sure to block her line of sight from the ghost of his father. Seeing him would probably make her faint.

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"I'm fine.." She looked up at Ranavos who was hovering over her, and pushed herself to her feet. "Ran, listen to me. We HAVE to destroy that brain! Then we need to get out of here.."

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"About that, Nika." Ranavos was quick and to the point. "It is a valuable gift from Father and it's the only lead I have that could save him. I will not allow you to destroy it." He raised his hand and placed it on Nikas collarbone as well as opening a portal behind her. "I hope you can forgive me for this..." With a gentile nudge he pushed Nika into the portal.

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