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Kerrah
10-11-2008, 03:00 PM
NOTE, READ THIS FIRST:
This is a prequel to my longer project, Blood and Light (http://forums.scrollsoflore.com/showthread.php?t=2087). It details the backstory of a character and spoils a heckload of stuff. If you ever intend, or are even open to the possibility of reading B&L, do that before moving to this. If you are only interested in shorter stories, feel free to read The Mask, for it has other meaning than serving as a backstory drop.

As for how much you should have read before being invulnerable to these spoilers: All of it.

The Mask is a story of the Cult of the Damned, and why the hell someone would ever join them. What makes a person choose the doom of the world? This fic offers some possibilities, as well as detailing my personal guesses about its organisation before WC3.

Enjoy.












EMPTY SPACE TO PROTECT PASSERS-BY FROM SPOILERS!






















THE MASK


The dark, damp pine forests of northeastern Lordaeron were as silent as the deepest and oldest graves ever dug. Not a thing stirred in the shadows cast by the tall trees. Even the spiders which had recently filled the forest with their gray webs had by now left, fearing the rising shadow which still hid from the eyes of civilisation.

Even the trees themselves had started to die and rot in a matter of few months. The dark green of their nettles and the brown of their bark had turned into lifeless gray. Here and there some of the older pines, which had already been in bad shape before this rot had begun to spread, had collapsed, unable to hold their own weight erect any more.

Wizard Calum Sliverberg moved very slowly. He had not seen a single living thing after he had passed into this dead part of the woods, but he still felt like he was being watched. There was a constant little tingle of magic around him, as if something unseen was spreading darkness through the very earth under his feet.

He was surprised that the people who had told him of these lands hadn't mentioned of this. Surely this effect couldn't be too new to have been seen by them.

The lone traveller still had not gotten used to the feeling of his boots sinking into the soft ground. Whatever had chased away the animals and was killing the plants had also turned the litter above the dirt into a gooey, sticky mess. The wizard could very well imagine someone sinking entirely into the swamp-like ground and being lost forever.

Sliverberg climbed atop a rock to rest and scout ahead. As he wheezed and stretched his neck to see farther, he started regretting his venture into the forest. The rangers had probably lied to him about the information he had asked. Accourding to his contacts in Dalaran, Kel'Thuzad had perished during a voyage to Northrend. It made no sense for him to be here, in the Fernettle foothills, in the middle of nowhere, within a slowly decaying forest.

Calum Sliverberg had only met the archmage once, during the Second War. The Kirin Tor, which Kel'Thuzad had been a member of back then, did not participate in the warring itself, but instead stayed back and trained war magi to help the war effort. Sliverberg's paths had crossed with the council's by chance during the evacuation of the Violet Citadel.

Along with most of the grand army of the Alliance, he had been helping the people of Dalaran cross Lake Lordamere into Lordaeron City to evade the incoming wrath of the Horde. The city's leaders had insisted on being the last ones, since unlike the normal citizenry, they could defend themselves from most threats the orcs could pose. Finally, when only the Kirin Tor and their greatest servants remained, the army escorted the greatest wizards of Azeroth northwards.

Antonidas, the council's leader, had declared his intent on using an ancient safety measure that would lock the entire city underground, saving it from the incoming army until it could be reclaimed. It was during the hasty preparations for this feat, which did end up locking the city away, that wizard Sliverberg met with Kel'Thuzad.

The two had not talked much, only exchanging compliments for the stories they had heard of each others' magical capabilities. Kel'Thuzad had also told the younger mage he was sorry for Signy, his wife.

The wizard now looked into the dark skies above himself. From the first moment he had seen Kel'Thuzad, he had felt there was something different about him. Even Antonidas, Kael'Thas and Krasus seemed to pale before the old, bearded man in purple robes. Calum Sliverberg had somehow known from the moment that Signy had died that the one person in the world who could help was Kel'Thuzad.

Even the rumours that the old wizard had been exiled for practicing forbidden magic had not scared him away. He followed the trail north and searched, tracking down all the wealthy archmage's former locations from the land and asking about him. It turned out he'd sold almost all of his former possessions and travelled to the frozen roof of the world, vanishing into the snowy wastelands.

But these rangers said differently. Accourding to them, Kel'Thuzad had briefly visited their home village only recently, talking to a few of the peasants he seemed to know. He had been secretive, but one of the hunters had heard the peasants calling him by name.

Perhaps it was just some hedge wizard attempting to trick the poor by posing as a famous man? From the looks of this forest to which he had travelled, that seemed likely. If Kel'Thuzad had indeed returned, why would he live in a rotting, dying wood in one of the least visited parts of the continent?

There was of course the possibility this had something to do with the forbidden magic incident the Kirin Tor had tried to stay quiet about. Nobody had any elaborate information of what kind of magic the archmage had been caught trying his hand on, but if he indeed did have something to do with this forest, it couldn't be anything good.

Sliverberg finally heaved his way down and continued treading in the bog-like terrain. He quickly performed a spell that allowed him to sense the direction of north before continuing west. He intended to travel to a good lookout point on the cliffs of the mountains, where he could see any smoke rising from campfires. If that didn't reveal anything, he'd travel across the forest a few times and scan it with magic to reveal life. Without any animals around, that could actually work.

Suddenly, something moved to the wizard's left. He recoiled right as if he had been hit, so shocking was the sudden sound of a twig snapping. A dark shape stood behind one of the pine trees, looking at him with intent. A hand rested on a rotting branch, holding it tightly.

Sliverberg stood poised, ready to defend himself if necessary. "Who are you?" He asked with a steady voice. He was suddenly reminded of the day in Alterac, when he had defended his family from a group of bandits.

The person stepped left, revealing himself fully. He was certainly not Kel'Thuzad, that much was for sure. He was dressed in brown cloth rags that must have been cold in this weather and seemed to have no boots at all. His hands were slowly twitching, but seemed to have no weapons in or around them. He took a slow, shaking step forward.

"Stop," the wizard warned, "I am a mage. Step no further or risk your life."

The man's head rose up and tilted, as if he had trouble understanding speech. Only now did Sliverberg look into his eyes, which were glassy and empty, apparently seeing nothing either. His skin was pale, dirty and damp. As the man took a third step, understanding fell into the wizard, making his skin crawl all over.

The last reliable record of the dead being raised from their graves by magic was over three thousand years old and only detailed it being done to animals, as the one guilty of the crime hadn't been able to do it to more complex beings. There were legends of ancient necromancers who had commanded small armies, but those were likely exaggerated. What matter right now, however, was the walking corpse less than ten steps away from Calum Sliverberg.

He reacted now, no longer feeling any need to hesitate. He spread his arms and sent waves of magical flames at the cadaver, burning its front side and making it unsteadily fall down into the wet ground. Now he understood why it had been damp all around.

While destroying the creature had been much easier than killing an orc, Sliverberg was shaken. Were there more of the living dead around here? Should he contact the Kirin Tor and ask for their aid? Was Kel'Thuzad connected to this?

He was shaken out of his pondering when suddenly a hand grasped around his ankle. As he tried to back off, his eyes hit the charred corpse, which was now dragging itself across the ground, its arm stretched and fingers curled to seize his foot.

He was about to strike the thing with lightning at first, but had the presence of mind to not use electricity against something attached to himself. He instead pointed at the struggling corpse with his left hand and shot out a series of blades made out of solid air. One of the airblades cut the monster's arm holding him in two, one pierced its body and the third cut its face deeply. Despite the injuries, the corpse kept dragging its way to him with its remaining whole hand and, in what was even more unsettling, its severed hand still squeezed at him with full force.

Sliverberg had had enough. In the Second War, the soldiers had called him "Calvir the Callous" after his wizard name and his habit of calmly destroying dozens of orcs without flinching. It was time he tapped into that feeling of indifference again.

As the monster reached with its hand to grab his other foot as well, Calvir drew it back and kicked at the thing's face. Before the impact, he brought forth a blanket of arcane around his boot. As a result, the kick was enhanced by the elemental power of fire.

The corpse's head exploded upon contact of the kick. Calvir grinned with childish glee as blood sprayed in an arc, turning the ground red. A large number of orcs had made the mistake of thinking a wizard was helpless in close-quarters combat back in the war. They too had suffered the embarrassing fate of being killed by a single punch or kick infused by magic.

The hand's grasp at his ankle slowly eased until the limb dropped into the ground, as dead as it was supposed to be. Calvir made his decision: He would turn back and contact the Kirin Tor from Stratholme. Any practice of necromancy within the known world was more than worthy of being shared with them.

Then the recently reborn silence of the forest was broken yet again when a group of people suddenly strode out from the darkness of the trees, aiming their movement straight at Calvir. The wizard turned back at them and lifted both his hands, again readying to defend himself.

These people were alive, however. All were dressed in bleak, dark gray robes and each carried in their hands a crude knife. They stopped a good distance away from Sliverberg and one immediately announced: "You have defeated your fear of death, and can pass into the realm of blight."

The wizard stayed silent for a second. The strangers were obviously casters of some sort, and he preferred if he didn't have to find out what kind. He decided to try the most obvious route. "Thank you for the offer, but I refuse it for now."

He did not turn his back to the men, who seemed to have expected such an answer. "This offer is taken by those it is offered to," one spoke darkly, "whether alive or dead."

Calvir's next thought was to kill the men as quickly as possible, but he knew he had little chance. They had been anticipating him, and likely had plans in case he proved hostile to them. Giving up, he sighed and lowered his hands. "Very well. Lead me to this realm, then. I wish to speak with the man in charge."

Smiling grimly, the third man turned around. Sliverberg very faintly head him mutter: "They all do."



In the very centre of the plagued forest was a clearing filled with tents inhabited by men in bleak gray robes. None seemed to give Calvir any specific attention, making the wizard get the horrible feeling he wasn't the first visitor to be tested and brought into the camp.

In the middle stood a log cabin obviously constructed of the trees that had been cut down to create this clearing. Calvir was lead there and told to enter. He hesitated, but realised he stood even less chance now, surrounded by nearly a hundred of these people. Perhaps he'd get an explanation on what exactly was going on in here within this house.

Taking a deep breath, the wizard opened the door and stepped in. His escort stayed out.

The inside of the cabin was considerably warm and homely. The fireplace was radiating heat, the floor had a rug and there was a rather expensive bed in one corner. In the middle of the room stood a table with six chairs, within one of which sat a wizard Calvir recognised immediately.

"Kel'Thuzad!" He exclaimed, not knowing whether to be disturbed or relieved at the discovery. The old archmage smiled in a way that made it look as if he truly wanted to do it, but had forgotten how to do it properly.

"We meet again, Calvir the Callous," the man said calmly, "I have been waiting for you for quite some time now. Please take a seat, we have much to talk about."

Calum Sliverberg stood still and stared at the bearded face. He felt like staying up and demanding to know exactly what was happening, but Kel'Thuzad's way of speaking made it clear that there would only be one way to get information out of him. Calvir sat in the chair opposite to the archmage.

Kel'Thuzad scratched the back of his neck and sighed in an annoyed manner, as if he was about to do something he hated doing. "Very well then. You are here, I am here, we are prepared for the talk that will change your life."

Calvir felt the arrogance eroding what was left of his patience. "To change me to what? Into another one of your apprentices, like those men outside?"

"While you are correct about your future as my apprentice, not all of those dogs outside are worthy of that distinction. I am under a deadline and can not take the time to train all of them myself. Only the most powerful and promising ones deserve it."

Calvir felt like he was running through a very dark room, blind to his surroundings. "What is the meaning of this camp, then? Are you raising an army of warlocks?"

Kel'Thuzad scoffed at the guess. "I am not under any arcane pursuit here. This camp is a spiritual place, the birthplace of a new religion that will sweep over the world soon enough."

Finally things clicked in for Sliverberg, who blinked his eyes in disbelief. "Is this some kind of a sect you're running? Is that it? You've become the messiah of some religion of your own making?"

This time the old wizard laughed. His laughter was hearty and loud, but somehow cold and lifeless. "You have no idea what you speak of, Sliverberg. I have been to the edge of the world and back. I have seen what will become of Lordaeron. I have met the servants of a god whose shadow will cover the faint blaze of the Holy Light. I have been witness to a power greater than anything the Kirin Tor have even heard of.

I have seen my own end, and my rebirth!"

Calvir shook his head, repressing ridiculing laughter. "They said you had gone mad in Dalaran, but they never said anything about raving delusions."

Kel'Thuzad fell silent. A smile rose his face. "If I am a raving madman, then where did the living cadaver you defeated to earn your entrance here come from? The art of necromancy was burned from the very books of magic by the wizards of Dalaran thousands of years ago, and I have resurrected it with knowledge gained from my god. How do you explain that, Sliverberg?"

Calvir stood up. "I have no time for this. I came here to ask for your help with... something, but it seems I should not have bothered. I decline your offer and bid you farewell."

As he turned around, the old wizard's calm voice rang in the cabin. "Would that 'something' happen to be your wife? From what I have understood, you were willing to do a great deal of dangerous things during the war in the vain belief that you might slay the orc who had cursed her. Perhaps you have searched for me thinking I might possess some miraculous way to revert death, some way to reunite the two of you?

Now that we are in the subject, what happened to your son and daughter? Was their mother that much more important to you than them?"

Sliverberg stared at Kel'Thuzad, feeling his hands turning into fists, his teeth grinding against each other. He wanted to speak, to mention Kel'Thuzad's own estranged son, just to insult him in any way, but he could not. The sorrow of the past years was all piled on his shoulders and now this man was reminding him of it.

Without thinking, he whipped up a hand and released ten tendrils of fire which snaked into the air and flew at the archmage. Kel'Thuzad simply sat in his chair and closed his eyes. When they opened, a blue ethereal glow covered them. A wave of frost and ice exploded outwards from the wizard's body, putting out Calvir's attacks like a heavy wind puts out candles.

The other wizard stood up and spoke. Even though Kel'Thuzad's speech still came out of his mouth, it was echoed by the speech of some otherworldly aspect, which sounded like it was coming from thousands of miles away, but was carried here by the sheer will of the speaker.

"Calm down, Calum Sliverberg. You have much to learn, and the time for your death has not yet come."

Calvir simply blinked as he heard his own voice ask: "Who are you?"

The eyes glowing with deep, azure blue looked directly into the depths of his soul. "I am Ner'Zhul, the Lich King."

Kel'Thuzad's hands spread out and magic pulsed from his fingers. Calvir saw the reality around himself twisting and distorting, until he was standing in the middle of a black void with this Ner'Zhul who was speaking through the archmage's body.

"I will provide the narration," the Lich King spoke, leaving no room for arguments. He waved Kel'Thuzad's left arm in an arc and the darkness around them boiled. Within seconds, they were standing in the middle of the Redridge mountains, on a hilltop south of Lakeshire. Calvir knew where this was going.

"Yes," the duality of voices spoke, "this is where it all begun for you. This is where you were damned forever." He pointed a finger into a valley to their left. Calvir could see his own shape, dressed in bright red robes, fending off orcs as his wife, son and daughter ran for their lives.

The barbarians ran with weapons raised, screaming in anger as their fellows fell to the wizard's magic. One stayed back and used spells of its own, which Calvir's past self easily blocked, his efforts fueled by burning rage and the urgency of protecting his family.

Then one slipped past. It was a dark ball shining with deep purple. It didn't hit the wizard, as it was meant to, but went just past his torso, gliding away. Calvir closed his eyes and listened as the past version of his wife screamed in pain upon being hit by the stray spell.

As he opened his eyes, he saw himself running to help his wife and the orc warlock turning to flee, realising it was out of companions to sacrifice. The red-robed version of himself bent next to Signy and asked her what was wrong. She just kept screaming as if she were on fire, even though there was physically nothing wrong with her. The orc had escaped now.

"Yes. If you had taken the time to finish that warlock instead of running to help your wife, she would have been cured since the curse would have lost its power from the death of its caster. Is it not ironic? The best way to save her would have been to have not ran to her aid."

Calvir felt his blood boiling again, but he stayed quiet. The scenery shifted again and after a short moment of abyss, the two of them were standing in Dalaran. Sigmund, Signy's brother, was standing there along with Guy and Mary, her children. They were looking at Calvir's own past self, who was staring at Signy, who had just passed away. He had never found the orc who had cursed her.

A primal scream filled the room as the black-robed wizard bent back and put his palms on his face, having lost everything he had been fighting for since that day in Redridge. The very universe shattered around him, every single piece of matter turning meaningless. Knowing that she had lived the last years of her life in the pain caused by the curse made it even worse. Calvir saw himself falling to his knees, crying uncontrollably.

Sigmund strode next to him and put a hand on his shoulder. "Perhaps it's better this way. She is with the Light now."

The large man only got a look of contempt. "If the Light had anything to do with this, I'd rather have her not be with it in the afterlife."

Sigmund shook his head disapprovingly. "Just calm down. I have lost a sister just like how you've lost a wife. A good human being has been lost today, but this is not the end of the world-"

"TO ME IT IS!" Calvir's face was red with anger. He pointed a single finger at Sigmund's face. Fire lit up around it.

For a second, everyone in the room stared at the bright flames floating around the finger, then Calvir suddenly drew back his hand and fell onto the corpse of his dead wife.

"[i]Truly pathetic, don't you agree?" Said Ner'Zhul in a passive voice. "Crying and shouting will not solve things. You have realised that, haven't you?"

Sliverberg backed off as all the action in the room around the two of them stopped. He had indeed realised after leaving on this quest what had been wrong about his way of thinking. The wizard hesitated as the Lich King turned back towards the show of past he was giving. Calvir saw his past self moving again.

"Please, Sigmund, leave us," a broken voice said. After hesitating a moment, the soldier turned and left the room. His brother-in-law stood up and turned towards his children.

"Guy, Mary. I can't live without your mother, but I can't leave you alone in this world either. I will go to find us a solution. Someone must know some way to make this wrong into a right. I'll find some way to recover your mother... I'll find us a world where our family can go on. That is a promise. The next time you'll see me, we will be on a road to a world without any of this nonsense."

Mary was crying, but Guy stood there, unblinking and silent, staring at his father. Like so many times before, his way of coping with things was absolute, stone-cold calmness, reminding of his father's cognomen-worthy callousness.

The room melted away. Kel'Thuzad's body turned away from Calvir in the void and the dual voices of the old wizard and the Lich King spoke. "Now that we have seen your past, we will talk about your future... No, not only yours, but of the entire world of Azeroth."

Sliverberg had heard enough. He lifted both his a hands and released everything he had left, every piece of his magic, at the possessed necromancer without any kind of restraints or filters. The attack would likely kill him as well, but he was damned in any case.

Nothing happened. The wizard could not even touch his magic, much less use deadly force. Ner'Zhul acted as if he had not noticed, even though the both of them knew that one did not stop an effort like Calvir's without consciously trying.

"I will soon start the cleansing of this world through my servants, which I need more of. That is where you come in. Of course, you will not join out of a sense of piety or any other spiritual reason, as most of the people here do. I am a benevolent god when it comes to those who serve me. They receive immortal lives and great power. Those things, however, do not interest you."

A silence fell into the void. The 'god' was expecting Calvir to name what it was that did interest him. After a moment's hesitation, the wizard spoke: "Signy."

"Yes." Suddenly there was an emotion in the two voices. A bitterness and hurt. This Ner'Zhul truly meant it when he said his next sentence. "It indeed is a tragedy that one should lose his wife like that."

However, the moment of weakness did not last long, for then Kel'Thuzad's body turned towards Sliverberg. With a voice as strong as steel, Ner'Zhul announced: "She will be your reward. Serve me, and you will have her."

"No." Calvir shook his head and then locked his eyes onto the blue glazing ones before him. "I saw that monster in the woods. I may miss her, but I do not want her to be like that poor man, unable to think or speak. I thought that Kel'Thuzad might know some lost art of magic that could bring her back to me, but seeing that corpse made me realise how unnatural that would be. She is dead. It will be better for everyone if I die than if she returns to life."

The Lich King did not seem surprised by this turn of events. His gaze was analytic, as if he was witnessing the primal actions of some animal instead of the rational choices of a human being. "What about your other promise then? You swore to your children that you would find a better world. Can you be tempted with that possibility?"

"There is no perfect world you can offer."

"Is that so?" The blackness around the two of them warped, and then they were standing in Browndale, the town where the Sliverbergs had lived before the coming of the orcs. The people whom the wizard had known walked on the streets, going about their business just like in the good old days.

The only thing different was that they were dead.

The people were all undead and simply trod the streets like they did years ago. Nothing had else than their state of living had changed, it seemed.

"When life has been plucked out of this world, people can have back what was once theirs," promised Ner'Zhul, "free to live immortal, endless lives, ruled by me."

He let a hand sweep around, showing the carefree people. "Life is cruel, life is unfair, life is chaotic, and painful too. All those things are unnecessary in un-life. With no free will but mine, the people will be truly free for the first time ever. There will be no crime, no injustice, no violence, no poverty, no hunger, no war. Only peaceful, everyday life.

And should a threat such as the orcs rise up once again, all will unite together to defend their homeworld. Should a natural disaster take place, all will help the victims. None will be left outside. There will be strength, freedom and peace in unity, which can solely be gained from the gift of undeath only I can promise.

This is my promise to you, Calum Sliverberg. I promise to cleanse this world of selfishness, violence and injustice. This is the perfect world I can offer to you.[i]"

Calvir walked to the statue in the middle of the plaza. Adolf the tailor and the farmer brothers, Alex and Axel, passed him, talking about things happening in the wide world.

"This is an illusion. He is trying to trick me." He told himself, leaning against the statue. The stone form of Lord Bavar Browndale, the founder of the village and the ancestor of the Sliverberg family, looked east, towards the Black Morass. A warm western wind blew the wizard's hair at the direction of the lord's interest while colourful autumn leaves filled the air.

"[i]You can't fool me," the dual voices assured, "I know all and see all. You have thought of this before and seen the connections I have now spoken. You knew in advance that the root of all evil is that rotten concept of free will, and you now only fend off the thought because it is offered to you by one such as myself."

Calvir closed his eyes and ground his teeth together. "If I do choose to do this, my children will die violent deaths. Even if you promise to give them good, happy lives in undeath, they will suffer. I can take on a face of uncaring and slaughter people, knowing they will one day thank me for introducing them to true freedom, but I can not doom my children to that, not after all they have went through."

"You can force strangers to make the sacrifice that is needed for their own happiness, but not your own children." Somehow, the Lich King's voice was without blame, convincing Calvir that his concern for his family was being understood and sympathised with, not ridiculed. "If I can solve this problem, will you serve me for a righteous cause?"

Calvir turned away from him once again. He thought about his brother-in-law, Sigmund. It did not take a pious one like him to see that what Ner'Zhul was offering was against the will of the Light.

The Light has not saved Signy from a slow, painful death.

He thought about King Wrynn. The monarch was still young, but had shown a great deal of righteousness and love for his people after regaining his homeland. It was thanks to the efforts of people like Calvir and Sigmund that he had been put back in power in Azeroth, and the Lich King's plan would once against cast him down.

But he could not help but to remember how the son of Llane Wrynn had recalled the rebuilding of far-off towns like Browndale, opting for a more centralised kingdom, and thus indirectly cancelling the Sliverberg family's place as the lords of the Browndale region. Guy and Mary would live as commoners because of that choice, stripped of the position that was rightfully theirs.

He tried to think of all the people he had met during his travel from Dalaran to here, but they would all be happier in the long run. Most of them had mentioned the heavy taxation king Terenas had set upon them. The Lich King would not need taxes.

"Tell me," he said quietly, "how is it that you will assure Guy and Mary will not suffer?"

The scenery around him melted. He was once again standing within Kel'Thuzad's cabin. The necromancer, his eyes still blazing in blue, walked to a corner and started digging through some random debris there. Eventually he found what he was looking for: A simple iron buckler. The skinny, long fingers curled around the metal, radiating magic into it.

"Behold, Calum Sliverberg. A true believer of the One True King will never go unrewarded, unlike most of the devout of the Light. I can see great things ahead of you, and I will reward you in advance."

The shield slowly changed shape in his hands. Calvir could not make out what it was turning into at first, but realisation rushed into him shortly. A visage of iron, to cover his true being. The Lich King was making him a mask.

Finally, the item was complete. It resembled a skull, except that instead of a mouth or a chin, it had a number of small slits through which the wearer could breath and talk. The wizard blinked in disbelief upon thinking about it a little more. Was this all? "I understand that it's better for my children if they are never branded as the offspring of one of your followers, but... This is not enough."

"I understand." Ner'Zhul said patiently. "Not only is a simple piece of metal inadequate to guard your identity from the world, but you also want your children out of the way before they are trampled by the rising storm. Both of those problems have answers, so listen to my words.

Once put on, this mask will never come off. It will not be knocked into the ground during a battle. This mask will become you, you will become this mask. The enchantments I have placed it in ensure that no one can recognise you as long as you have it on unless someone who does know who you are, yourself included, tells them.

In the war against the Horde, you hid behind a mask of uncaring, destroying hundreds of living, breathing, thinking beings without so much as flinching. In this war, you will have an actual mask, and as before, you will be known for it.

As for the second of your concerns, you will leave later today. Ride to your children and tell their uncle to move them back to Azeroth. The process of our war will be slow enough to allow them to die of old age before we reach that far. Tell the Highlord that it is urgent, but do not tell him of me or Kel'Thuzad. After you can be sure he will do as told, leave, ride back here, and embrace your destiny.

The next time you step inside this cabin, you will be the apprentice of Kel'Thuzad, the Prophet of the Lich King."

The wizard stared into those eyes of azure flame and silently nodded an acceptance to what had been said.



Calvir and Kel'Thuzad walked out of the cabin. The elder necromancer ordered a few nearby cultists to get supplies for the newest member. "We are still under a schedule. If Calvir here makes a swift trip to tie in the remaining loose threads of his former life, I can start his training in time to have him trained for the scourging of Lordaeron."

As the robed men left to do the task, the necromancer let out a very heavy, weary sigh. "Our God's presence tires me physically. He can only appear to us mortals rarely, and he requires a person of great arcane power to anchor himself to. However, to show the truth of this world to one lost sheep is more than worth it."

Three new cultists approached, their hands held behind their backs. All of them looked somehow defiant and arrogant, but still the respect they showed towards Kel'Thuzad as they bowed seemed as genuine as could be. "Master," one of them spoke, "our mission was successful. The Barov family accepted the Lich King's missionary call, they will bow to his will if he can answer their needs for power."

The old necromancer nodded seriously. "I am not surprised. Some people can not see the truth by being told it, some must be bribed into claiming they can see it, and one day they truly will.

Such was that case with you, was it not, Faerlina?"

One of the caped figures nodded and spoke, to Calvir's surprise, with a female voice. "Indeed, master. I only cared of your promise I could be a part of the destruction of Kirin Tor, your promise of revenge for my brother."

Kel'Thuzad tipped his head at Calvir and calmly remarked. "His brother was caught using demon magic by agents of Dalaran and was executed without a trial."

The woman did not seem to mind Kel'Thuzad sharing her personal information with stranger. She simply stayed back, a passive look on her face, not even seeming interested on Calvir's presence there. The tall man next to her coughed slightly.

"Speak, Maleki." Kel'Thuzad told him.

"The Barovs had a pretty good suggestion to us. It turns out there are miles of tunnels running under the Caer Darrow castle. They recon we could use a base of operations for our acts."

Kel'Thuzad rubbed his chin. "Indeed. Calvir here did find us on his own, and others can too. A dungeon like that would also serve as a better training environment for the apprentices than this camp...

Gandling, you are from Caer Darrow, are you not?"

The third of the necromancers nodded. "Yes master. I served as a teacher in the local school for magic with an elven colleague. She got killed and the school destroyed by the orcs, of course. Why do you ask?"

"Ride back there and spread our word among the populace. Hold all meetings in the dungeons, and teach our craft to any of the Barovs who can manipulate the arcane. As my most promising apprentice, you will have the honour of leading our first branch coven.

Your new school awaits for you."

The dark-robed man bowed deeply and thanked his master most graciously. He then turned and returned to his horse, almost running out of enthusiasm.

Kel'Thuzad dismissed Faerlina and Maleki and lead Calvir to the supplies the other acolytes had gathered. "You will leave immediately as well, though unfortunately we can not spare a horse. May the Lich King watch over you from your shadows."



Calum Sliverberg turned around, peered his eyes to see if anyone was following him and cast a spell to detect any significant life in that direction simultaneously. Just like the other hundred or so times, he saw and felt nothing.

He still could not believe the cultists could be stupid enough to believe he was truly joining them. They had to know he was lying. Ner'Zhul had claimed he could read Calvir's mind, but yet he had not reacted when the wizard had chosen to alert the authorities about all of this.

Calvir resolved to continue walking along the road, keeping all his senses sharp and his mind focused. He was expecting the necromancers to jump him any moment now, but he had a few useful spells up his sleeves that would allow him to escape their grasp... hopefully.

There was one more thing, though. Calvir opened his bag and took out the ugly mask he had been given. After watching it for a second, he threw it into the forest, hearing it let out a slight humming noise as it whirled in the air.


The sudden, heavy echo of a horse's slow trot almost made the mage jump out of his skin, but as he turned westwards, he saw that the noise belonged to the mount of an armoured knight. Relief washed over him. The two of them could share the horse and ride to Stratholme, gathering together enough men to storm the cult.

Calvir started running, waving an arm to make sure he was seen. The knight replied to his gesture, lazily waving a hand in greeting.

Calvir arrived to the soldier, trying to speak in explanation to his state of alarm, but failing partly due to his state of fatigue from running through the forest, but mostly because the mounted man suddenly descended to his feet and drew his weapon from the leather straps that had kept it attached to his horse's side.

The long-handled steel war hammer glinted with a divine force and a small golden spark lit in the man's eyes, as he spoke: "How dare you defile this land by your presence, orc?"

Calvir was almost too amazed to dive out of the way of a direct attack from the paladin's hammer. He tried to speak something as he took running steps to evade the man's wrath, but even in his state of panic he realised, that if the paladin thought he was an orc, there were no words capable of calming him down.

Therefore, the problem was that the paladin thought he was an orc. As he backed off from another hammer-swing, Calvir devoted to solving that problem, fast.

He lifted both his hands, quickly rising a wall of ice between himself and the knight. With the moment's distraction, he closed his eyes and tried to find out what kind of spell the man was under. To his amazement, the man was as clear as a white sheet.

That was extremely bad. The first rule of de-enchantment was that if one was sure somebody or something was spelled, but could not detect any magic in it, he was wrong in the first count, not the second. Being constructed from a purely chaotic force, arcane spells could have their true nature masked or their functions locked from other casters, but never be hidden, not even from a hasty, off-handed search.

More interesting details were flowing in Calvir's mind at the moment, but he had no time to think about theory as the paladin smashed his wall of ice down and charged once again.

Calvir sidestepped and sent an invisible force to push the paladin away. He needed to find his way out of this fight as soon as possible, or someone would get hurt.

Suddenly he saw, in the edge of the forest, dozens of black-robed figures. Kel'Thuzad was among them. They were behind this, he knew.

The paladin got back to his feet and, to Calvir's surprise, chose not to charge blindly, but instead he took a knife from his belt and threw it. Before the wizard could even think of stopping it, the knife flew past his face, scarring him deeply.

The left side of his world went dark, permanently.

The mage fell to his knees and screamed in pain as blood flowed both from the deep wound connecting his left eye and ear and the now empty eye socket. He could hear heavy footsteps coming to him. The paladin would end him, the cultists would end the paladin, everything would turn the way they wanted.

"You will die along with the rest of your kind," the knight spoke, "and the children of Lordaeron will live their lives without having to bear existing in the same world as you black-blooded filth."

The children of Loraderon.... Guy and Mary.

Calvir looked up with his remaining eye. The paladin was holding his hammer up victoriously, readying to strike down and smash his opponent's head.

Either they both died, or only one of them...

Either he accepted his death, or he lived on...

Within an instant, the wizard's choice was made. As the soldier's hands begun swinging his hammer down, Calvir lifted his own hands up and released what he had left. No restraints, no mercy.

The blinding light ascended and engulfed its victim. For a second, the wizard's good eye could see nothing. When he could, the man in armour fell backwards, letting out both a clank and a thud when he hit the ground. He was as dead as a stone.

First, Calvir felt relief. He had protected himself. He would see Guy and Mary yet, he would...

Then it hit him. He'd just killed a paladin. It had been so instinctive that he had not thought about it, but now, as the height of anger went past him, the realisation finally came to him.

Calvir started breathing quickly again, this time out of fear. He looked at the charred body before him, sunk so deep into his thoughts that he didn't even hear Kel'Thuzad step next to him.

"The Lich King knows all," the necromancer said silently, "including the fact that you would not turn to the righteous path on your first chance. The paladin's misperception was caused by a spell you fell under when you accepted the mask from my master." He waved a hand and Calvir felt something in the arcane around him shifting. The curse he didn't know he was under had lifted.

"What good does this do, then?" He asked. "Why would I side with you now?"

Kel'Thuzad sighed in a way reminiscent, though not identical, to the way people sigh when they are asked something painfully obvious. "Because if you do not join us, we'll not hold down the paladin's spirit and instead let him tell his fellows how Calvir the Callous killed him. Your children will likely not like being branded by the entire continent as the offspring of a murderer of holy men."

The apprentice necromancers were now channeling a spell next to the knight's corpse. A small green orb, strapped in red restraints, appeared in the air between them. The priests of the Light would hear the cries of the spirit if it was freed.

"Here is the true 'deal with the devil' that will be struck," Kel'Thuzad spoke, "we will put the paladin's soul in eternal safekeeping, and people will never know of what happened here, your children will have a chance at life. In exchange, you will put on the mask. In addition to the enchants the Lich King told you it has and the curse you fell prey to, there's one additional enchantment, which will take place the moment it touches your face.

Because you could not be trusted otherwise, the Lich King has linked his will directly with the mask. As long as your spirit is in touch with it, you will be unable to betray his cause. Perhaps this will also give you a chance to know that he truly does mean what he said was his aim, but it is irrelevant. If you take this step, there will be no turning back."

Calvir stared at his feet. Dark thoughts passed through his mind. For what seemed like days, he simply stood and thought. Then, finally, he spoke up to the dark figure still next to him.

"I am doomed, whichever choice I make. This way I can still protect my children from harm."

He dug out the mask he'd hastily thrown to his backpack. Kel'Thuzad informed him that he could hide it, and the scar he'd received, with magic so he could still complete his mission of sending Guy and Mary to Stormwind before devoting the rest of his life to the Lich King.

The thing was cold in his hand. Somehow, that made him think of the icy blue glaze that had filled Kel'Thuzad's eyes in the cabin. Ner'Zhul's power was within this item.

Without saying a word, he slammed the piece of metal to his face. There was no physical method of keeping it still, but it stuck there when he removed his hands nonetheless. He was just done wondering when something would happen when something did happen.

The world around him dissolved and he was once again in nothingness with Ner'Zhul, who was this time a ghostly blue figure. He tried to speak, but was suddenly assaulted by images, by thoughts, by memories.

Images of green, everlasting fields... Nagrand. Thoughts of brown-skinned people living simple, happy lives.... The orcs. Memories of Ner'Zhul himself with his mate, whom he loved more than life itself...

"Rulkan."

The blue shade took the form of an old orc. "We share more than you would like to believe." He said. "Once I show you why I am doing what I am, there will be no need for any monitoring, you will serve me by your own choice."

Now it's back to Redrock Isle work for me.

Drz
10-12-2008, 02:55 AM
At first i thought this story was boring but making Calvir look like an orc to the Paladin made the story excelent the whole time, but how on earth can a throwing knife scar the eye andt the ear? =p I guess i lack imagination to imagen how Calvir was positioned.

PS. You typed alot of times soldier as solider, not that i mind it but thought i'd tell you that. The story itself was good but this was also my 1st fan fiction one-shot so it does feel short even tho thats the point of it. It would had gotten boring prolly if you had added some unneccessary mumbo-jumbo stuff anyhow.

Kerrah
10-12-2008, 04:12 AM
At first i thought this story was boring but making Calvir look like an orc to the Paladin made the story excelent the whole time, but how on earth can a throwing knife scar the eye andt the ear? =p I guess i lack imagination to imagen how Calvir was positioned.

It was a magic knife! True story.

PS. You typed alot of times soldier as solider, not that i mind it but thought i'd tell you that.

Sutpid finegrs. Fixed.

The story itself was good but this was also my 1st fan fiction one-shot so it does feel short even tho thats the point of it. It would had gotten boring prolly if you had added some unneccessary mumbo-jumbo stuff anyhow.

These short stories have the strength of allowing me to give short characterisations and locale descriptions for the heck of it and detailing things that I could never make a full length fic about.

Lon-ami
10-12-2008, 05:16 AM
You should write as a job. You'll earn shinnies, trust me.

Kerrah
10-12-2008, 07:16 AM
You should write as a job. You'll earn shinnies, trust me.

Thank you, and that is my intention.

Zula
10-12-2008, 08:11 AM
Thank you, and that is my intention.

You will earn tons of shinies with your skill.

I must say I liked how Calvir ended up serving the Lich King it makes his end in Blood and Light much more meaningless.

Timolas
10-13-2008, 08:48 AM
A good read, certainly. I am glad to have Calvir expanded upon. Gives him depth, naturally.
At first you worried me because it seemed he blindly agreed to serve them, but when it was revealed that he was lying I understood the scheme with the Lich King foreseeing his choice.

I still prefer the Rage and Blood and Light, they did have a much more attractive and involving atmosphere. I'm probably only saying this because I have something as grand as them to compare it to.
Still, I guess aside from the magic excuse there was the thing about the chance that there would be a paladin showing up right then being unlikely, and Kel'thuzad was maybe just a tad bit less like his RoC self. Was fishy that the paladin would report Calvir if he saw him as an orc.

But I understand anyway; don't worry.
I look forward to the next work.

EDIT: And a thanks for the nod towards the 'ancient necromancers'; Mnesthes' Veridian cult. For the Four Gods!

Kerrah
10-15-2008, 02:39 AM
The more I think about this fic, the more silly it becomes.

I mean, it was always my plan to have the Sliverbergs be nobles, but my plot device for justifying their living in Lordaeron is just stupid.

Lon-ami
10-15-2008, 09:06 AM
Nah, just let the plot continue the path. If you have to change things, change them. I'm sure you'll fin the proper way to explain things without retcons.

Thank you, and that is my intention.

Anyway, don't forget:

Sharing shinnies with me is good. Hell true! xDDD

Edit: You should ask someone for cool pics, or just made them yourself, and add them to the fic. Book style stuff. I loved when the characters had wowmodelviewer-created pictures.

But, anyway, I like as it is.