Join Date: Apr 2006
”What in Light's name are you doing?” Sven asked incredulously. The creature before him stood seven feet tall, vaguely humanoid aside from the talons in its hands, fangs in its mouth, its small, pitch-black eyes, its distorted face and the three horns on its head. And Eric was going to barter with it? “It's a demon!”
“Actually, I am not”, the demon said. “And would you please close your mouth, farmer, I am trying to talk to your elder brother here.” It brandished its bronze talons for a moment and turned back to Eric.
Eric simply nodded, looking oddly calm. “Stay out of this, Sven.” He turned to the demon and spoke: “What is your name?”
“I can't believe this!” Sven cried out and shook Ladimore's sword before himself in anger. “YOU ARE BARTERING WITH A DEMON! What would father say?”
Without warning, the beast stepped toward Sven and swung its hand. An invisible force struck the farmer in the chest, and sent him flying backwards. “Listen to you much smarter brother, boy, and keep to yourself. This is your last warning.”
Sven landed on his back and felt himself slide across the ground for a short distance. He felt like he'd been hit with a battering ram, and yet the pain seemed to fade away quickly. He saw his sword nearby, and another black spot had appeared on it. He grabbed it and started to pick himself up.
“My name is Druj”, the three-horned demon spoke in a calm voice, as if he had not just assaulted Sven. “Thought we have met before, I am glad to make your acquaintance, Laterbrus, apprentice of Arugal.”
“You killed my master”, Eric said hesitantly.
Sven saw the demon shrug slightly. “Yes, I disposed of his soul and took his body for a vessel, but let me remind you that you were trying to kill him as well at the time.”
“Fair point”, Eric admitted. Sven stood up and leaned on his sword slightly, looking for a chance to attack the beast.
“I have something you want”, this Druj said and pointed at the Scythe, which was untouched at the back of the room. “And you have something I want.” He looked at the warlock before him expectantly.
“I do”, Eric said and tapped his chest. “The rift Arugal used to summon his Worgen troops, sealed and inactive for now, but ready to be released. And as you must guess, it is protected by enough spells that no one will ever use it without my willing assistance.”
Druj laughed. It was a sharp laughter, like someone throwing shards of glass at a chalkboard. “I wouldn't bet on that. But you don't have to worry, I have always been partial toward deals and barters, myself.”
Sven fought the urge to start pacing. Was the demon already focused enough on the discussion to not notice him sneaking up on it? It was best to wait for a little while longer...
“I already reasoned out myself that the Scythe is related to this rift”, Eric said. “Can you confirm that?”
“Yes, I can. The rift is a distortion in the natural barriers of reality which protect Azeroth from foreign invaders. The day Arugal created it, its opposite was created elsewhere, to balance the scales, so to speak. Don't ask me why it spawned as a branch of wood: let us just presume it is based on the expectations of the nearest sentient being, that poor, naïve Night Elf.” Druj took a short glance toward Sven, who felt himself freeze. So he was not forgotten after all.
Eric nodded thoughtfully. “So then, uniting the two...”
The demon gave a hoarse chuckle. Its horns seemed to twist for a moment, only to visibly snap to their original positions as it spoke. “May we pause for a minute? I've kept my eyes open on all the players present in this game, and I think two are about to enter the playing field in a few seconds...”
It turned to look at the door expectantly. Eric did as well, hesitantly. Sven took a few steps away from the door, keeping his eyes on the demon. He wasn't about to fall for this trickery.
He heard steps in the hallway. They stopped a little ways before the door. Eric called out: “It's all right. Hiraxen and the Dark Riders are dead.”
Windfarer and Kra'osha appeared in the doorway, and stared at Druj in shock. The demon bowed and spoke: “Long time no see.”
“What is going on here?” The orc asked, turning her eyes on the bodies littering the floor. She snapped her eyes back to Druj, and her fists squeezed into fists.
“Wait!” Eric said, stepping between her and the beast. “It's all right! No one has to get hurt, any more. Let me explain.”
Sven opened his mouth to protest, but saw the demon looking his way with a warning look in its eyes. His words died in his throat, and he felt as if the air in his lungs lost all temperature at once. Breaking eye contact, he started coughing, and almost missed the next part of the conversation.
“This being is named Druj”, Eric explained loudly. “The reason why he possessed Arugal back in Dalaran is because he wishes to possess the rift that Arugal used to summon the Worgen into Azeroth. He needs it to free himself of a spell my master put on him. A spell that locks him to this world, and keeps him from returning to his own.”
“What?” Windfarer asked.
Druj nodded and stepped forward. For the first time, its voice seemed to lack mad glee, and instead sounded... bitter. “It is true. For long, I have attacked this world, trying to find a way in, to invade it. Arugal caught wind of my plans, when I tried to manipulate him, and he used his knowledge of dimensional magics to trap me in between layers of reality. Before that, I could reach in and communicate with people, and yet I returned to my own home in between doing that. Now, I am not truly in Azeroth, but I am unable to leave it either.”
Eric loosened the collar of his black-and-orange shirt, and dug out a large crystal pendant. “Arugal's rift, and the Scythe of Elune. Together, they'll have enough power to send him home. And to keep him out for good, this time. He may be wicked, I have no illusions about that, but he'll finally be banished from Azeroth for good.”
“Indeed. I think I've spent long enough here to appreciate my own world a bit more”, the demon spoke and turned to take a step toward the Scythe. “In return for delivering the rift, I will let you have that old thing.”
“What do you say?” Eric asked his friends hopefully. “We're all worn and tired. We stand no chance against him! This way, we can make sure no one in Azeroth has to suffer him any more, and none of us will come to further danger!”
Sven blinked his eyes. They were not even talking to him, but he was starting to see the truth now.
The truth was that Eric had gone stark, raving mad.
“How can we trust him?” Kra'osha asked the warlock sceptically, nodding at Druj. “What assurance do we have that he won't use the Rift to summon a demon any or something?”
“I will cast the spell myself”, Eric said. “He will never be given access to the materials.”
Suddenly, Druj burst into laughter, startling even his newfound ally. “Oh, Laterbrus, you joker! How can you keep a straight face?”
“What? What are you talking about? What are you doing?” Eric asked him, taking a cautious step backward.
“You know what I'm speaking of!” The beast said with a sadistic smile. “You know it's not me whose trustworthiness they should doubt.”
Eric shook his head, but before he had time to protest, Druj turned to face Sven, Kra'osha and Windfarer. “Let me ask you three: what is your friend here going to do with the Scythe?”
A silence fell into the hall. It felt like a tomb. Nobody had an answer.
“Well, after I'm gone, he has the Scythe and he has the rift. He even has this nice fortress no one knows of! What did Arugal do? What is Arugal's apprentice going to do?” It smiled its cruel smile and suddenly lifted off the ground, levitating a few feet over the floor. “He's had the power to summon the Worgen any time he wanted with the rift - just like Master Arugal did - but he's not done that. And why has Hiraxen not summoned any Worgen with the Scythe? Could it be that your heroic little friend is keeping something from you. Something about what the possessor of both those things can do, perhaps.”
Sven shook his head. This was a ploy. He shared a look with the others, and they seemed to share his opinion.
“Oh, you don't believe me?” Druj asked and flew behind Eric, taking a hold of his shoulders. “Then hear it from the man himself. Laterbrus, you have no reason to lie and hide the truth any more! You've reached your goal. Now you just have to let your friends know what that goal is!”
Eric closed his eyes. His words were almost too silent for Sven to hear. “Why are you doing this, Druj?”
“I want to see this for myself”, the demon said with sudden grimness. Its face warped for a second, only to snap back. “They have to find out eventually. Better get it done now, kid.”
There was a long silence in the room. Eric said nothing, and slowly his failure to answer became a confirmation unto itself. The bronze claws pressed against his shoulders, tighter and tighter, but he didn't seem to notice, trying to keep himself from meeting the eyes of his friends, or his brother.
“Tell it isn't so, Eric”, Windfarer said cautiously, his speech spell sounding more human than normal. This was the first time Sven heard him use his brother's real name.
Sven started to shake his head, only to be interrupted by Eric suddenly bursting out: “It's not my fault you never stopped to ask what we're going to do once we get the Scythe. What did you expect, that I'd hang it on a wall? Arugal's army was limited, because all he had was the rift. With both it and the Scythe, I have enough power to realise what he never could.”
Sven blinked his eyes and lifted his gaze. His brother was scowling at them, teary-eyed and red-faced. Judging by the tone of his voice, he blamed them for not figuring out... whatever this was, sooner. “What?” The farmer asked blankly.
Suddenly, Druj's voice echoed through the chamber: “I TOLD YOU TO BE QUIET, CRETIN!” A bolt of lightning was hurled toward him, and he felt it connect with his throat.
For a few moments, Sven lost all perception of time and place. He was floating through a void of colours, sensations and smells. Someone yelled something, and there were the arcane sounds of spellcasting... then he smashed onto the floor face-first.
The world returned to its painful, regular form. Every part of Sven's body ached, but especially his neck. He became aware that he was able to breathe, which must mean that Ladimore's sword had protected him again. This time, though, the pain caused by the spell wasn't going anywhere.
He opened his eyes and saw that Windfarer had been struck down already, while Kra'osha slowly walked backward to put distance between herself and Druj. A spider-web of black tendrils spun around one of her fists, darker than anything Sven had seen before.
“I don't think so!” Druj said and vanished, only to appear again behind her. It squeezed its hand around her fist, and her spell seemed to absorb into its flesh. “I'm not falling for that again.” It hurled her across the room, causing her to smash against a wall, and then waved its hand so that the black stone reached out and grabbed her, capturing her in appendages of stone. Runes etched themselves on the wall around her, and shone with some magic that must be there to seal her magic.
Eric stood still, right where he'd been before. He watched his friend get defeated, looking concerned, but not moving a muscle to stop it.
Sven reached to grab his sword, seeing another large black blemish on it, only to freeze when Druj started to turn. The demon did not look at him, though, but instead caused Windfarer's seemingly unconscious body to levitate into the air. Glowing glyphs sparked to life around him, dancing around in erratic patterns and flashing in different colours.
“Very well, then. The distractions have been dealt with”, the demon said excitedly. “I hope you don't mind if I call in some backup to help us with my journey home.”
Eric said nothing, but Druj did not seem to need an answer either. It opened up a hand, and the black spell Kra'osha had created appeared in the air. “Thank you for this, orc. I won't have to spend my own energy to fetch something from the Void.”
“The void?” Eric asked, speaking for the first time after his earlier rant. He sounded calm, but Sven could tell he was only barely holding in his emotions.
“That's what I call my prison”, the demon explained and flicked the black tendrils forward. They expanded into a gaping rip. Reaching an overly long hand inside, it pulled out something.
At first Sven thought the object that Druj dropped next to its feet was a bundle of blue cloths with golden details. Then his eyed widened as he saw a hand reach out. It was a person. A woman.
“Meet Archhareveim Kaisafa”, the demon said to Eric offhandedly. “Also, my longest-standing servant should be in there somewhere... Aha!” It yanked out the flailed, burned form of Atar, causing Sven to stop breathing for a few seconds in fear of being noticed.
The pyromancer slowly stood up, looking unsteady. Eric stared at him for a moment, and then turned his eyes to the woman, as did Sven. She slowly raised her head, revealing a very pale face full of confusion and fright. She had dark red eyes.
Druj closed the pitch-black rip, causing a large wham sound, and then rubbed its hands against each other with enthusiasm. “Very well, I think we have all we need here. Kaisafa's mind holds certain secrets to dimensional magic which will make the spell easier. I am going to take her with me. She has her uses.”
The woman groaned, and tried to climb up. Druj shook its head and tapped a bronze claw against the back of her head. She let out a short scream before freezing absolutely still, a blank look on her face.
Sven felt his blood boil, and he forgot caution. He sprung onto his feet, sword at hand, and charged Atar, who stood closest to him. In that moment of surprise, before anyone could react to him, he cleaved the pyromancer in two neatly and turned to run toward Druj.
The demon flicked a hand, and sent out a glowing, dark green globe flying toward Sven. He dodged it and rushed forward, only to take another such spell right in the face.
The farmer fell into the floor, once more. He was like a bell that had been rung, shaking all over, but he felt the sword in his hand shake all the more.
“Oh! So that's how you persist!” Druj's mocking voice spoke out loud. “Let's see how many blows you can survive.”
“No! He doesn't have to...” Eric said, but trailed off, as if not sure how to continue. Sven squeezed the sword harder and started to stand up.
“I'm doing you a favour, Laterbrus. You know as well as I do that he'll never let his brother command the Worgen against Stormwind. I'll kill him for you. You can pretend you wouldn't have done the same without me”, the demon said and landed back on the floor to stomp its foot. A pillar of fire appeared below Sven, enveloping him for a few moments.
A great pain shot through the farmer for as long as the fire lasted, and then vanished when it did. Ladimore's sword looked charred, while his body remained untouched. The demon's mocking voice spoke to him: “Look at you! Someone gave you a sword, and now you think you're a big hero!”
He stood up, only to have a new bolt of lightning thrown at himself. It impacted with his right shoulder, and sent him spinning through the air for a few moments. He landed on his stomach, and miraculously found himself still holding the weapon.
“I'd say you don't know how to give up, but you obviously do! I saw the surrender in your eyes every time you looked at your brother on your way here!”
He took a deep breath, ignoring the shark pain on his shoulder, focusing on the awareness that his body was still whole, and got back up on his knees and looked up. His eyes met Eric's.
No words were said. Druj snapped his fingers, and Sven felt a tightening in his chest. He didn't know how, but he knew that the demon was trying to stop his heart.
The sword in his hand shattered, and a backlash of magic sent him flying through the air for the umpteenth time that day. He hit the wall near where Kra'osha was imprisoned, and fell down, barely holding onto consciousness. The last spell had been stopped, but he felt sick, like his heart truly might stop any second now. Shards of Ladimore's sword were littered everywhere. The weapon was no more.
Druj vanished, and then reappeared right before Sven, looking down on him. “It's about time we put an end to this. But first, tell me. You young, heroic types. What is with you and magic swords?” It lifted a hand, to snap its fingers once more.
“You can't blame us. All the good weapons are swords”, a voice answered the question.
The prisoner Sven had freed was standing at the doorway, holding a dark grey blade. His clothes and hair were still dusty, but less so than before. His hair, which was now visibly auburn, had been tied on a ponytail behind his head. When he'd been released of that prison cell, Sven had thought he hadn't been a captive for very long. Right now, aside from the dirt, he didn't look like he'd been a captive at all. There was a sort of... glow about him, his presence extending all the way through the hall.
Druj looked at him for a moment, and then scowled. “YOU!” It sent out a green orb of magic, like it had at Sven. The prisoner ran toward the attack, and at the last minute swung his sword to send it flying away. When he reached Druj, the demon teleported to the other end of the room, and for the first time there was a look of concern on its face.
Eric looked at the man, then his sword the sword. He looked torn, like he wasn't sure whether he wanted to help Druj or not. “Who are you?”
The prisoner blocked a bolt of lightning, an intense look on his face, and took a short look at the young mage. “If you aren't going to help me, stay out of this.” He charged toward his foe again.
“I will flay you alive!” Druj screamed and started sending attacks left-and-right toward the intruder, who dodged and parried, fighting his way toward it. Sven blinked his eyes, still dizzy from the impact with the wall, and very confused by this.
Suddenly, he saw the woman named Kaisafa stand up. Her eyes still had that distant look in them, and she moved in an... off way. She extended a hand, and the Scythe of Elune flew into it across the room. She turned to Eric, and held her other palm open for him.
Reluctantly, Eric dug out a pendant he'd shown earlier, the one he said contained Arugal's rift, and handed it over to her. Kaisafa took it, and threw it onto the floor, shattering the crystal. She then grabbed the Scythe with both hands, and started to glow. Sven was no mage, and even he felt goose bumps from the magic she was channelling.
The prisoner fought his way toward Druj, his back turned on the sight of the woman. Sven blinked his eyes and experimentally tried to move. He found out that it hurt. A lot. His unexpected ally reached the demon, and before it could move away, cut its flesh with that ugly sword.
Druj screamed and backed up a bit before floating up into the air, trying to get out of the reach of the man. The prisoner jumped and stabbed his sword through its leg, seeking to pull it down by force. The leg split into two, at the wound to drop him off, and then came back together. The demon floated in the air and looked at its opponent.
“Where did you come from?” It asked, its eyes briefly moving to watch Kaisafa. It was buying for time, to let her do whatever she was doing.
The man seemed to consider throwing his sword. He passed the chance, and instead waited for an opening. “I was here all along. Your lackeys captured me months ago. Seems you were too busy spying on this lot to notice.” He pointed a thumb over his shoulder at the rest of the people in the room.
Sven started to get up. Nobody was looking on him, once again, except Kra'osha (who was still bound to the wall). She seemed unable to talk, but gave him a nod and a supportive look. Nearby, Atar's upper body clawed the ground futilely, as if trying to stand up. He was surrounded by a puddle of something that must have been his inner organs once, before they were boiled for years. His legs still spasmed in reflex.
Sven fixed his eyes on the female mage. A portal of raw energies was starting to form in front of her. It was completely silent, but looked very potent, with many swirling energy lines around it.
“You are a vengeful man”, Druj said at the prisoner. “It wasn't anything personal, the business with the elf...”
“I didn't come here to hunt you down”, the man said. Though his face appeared calm, Sven could tell he was just barely holding a tide of fury behind. “But whether or not that is my goal, I will gladly see you done for, devil.”
“It's a shame, for now-” Druj said, taking a quick glance at Kaisafa again. It saw Sven, who was running toward the woman, ignoring the pain in his chest. “NO! STOP HIM!”
Eric stepped in his brother's way. Sven scowled and tackled him, pushing him into the magic vortex in front of Kaisafa.
“NO!” Druj's voice cried out just before Sven's world exploded into pure whiteness. The white broke into an endless rainbow, which then faded to black, from which spawned a new white...
He fell onto his stomach on something hard. It was uneven, so it couldn't be the floor of that hall... Surprisingly, he didn't feel dizzy or disoriented, despite whatever had just happened.
Opening his eyes, he looked around. He was in a wilderness of dark stone and a few bushes. It seemed to be early morning, or maybe late evening. There were several shapes lying on the stone around him. The only one he recognised was Atar's lower body, which thankfully did not more any more.
One of the people started to get up. Hastily, Sven pushed himself onto his feet and looked at who it was. To his relief, it was the prisoner, his face calm. He sheathed his sword before taking a look around himself.
“Where are we?” Sven asked, looking around for something to arm himself with. For all he knew, Druj or some other threat could jump out any second now.
The prisoner shrugged and knelt next to the two lying shapes near himself. “Your friends: the orc and the Forsaken. They are unconscious, but I think she's alive and he's... animate.”
“Where's my brother?” Sven asked, wondering whether he wanted to make sure Eric was dead or make sure he was alive so he could punch him.
“What's that in the bushes?” The stranger said and pointed beyond Atar's legs.
Sven carefully circled the half-body and peered into the leatherleaf. Truly enough, Eric lied there, breathing but unmoving.
“We'll have to find shelter. Who knows what beasts lurk this wilderness”, the prisoner said and looked into the sky.
Sven hefted his brother out of the bush and looked at the man curiously. “Who are you, really? And what do you mean, who knows? I've lived around here long enough to know how to survive in the wilderness.”
“I'm sorry I lied about my name earlier, Sven Yorgen”, the man said. “I wasn't sure yet whether you were an ally or a foe, then. I'm Guy Sliverberg.” He offered his hand to Sven, who shook it.
“And as for your second question...” Guy pointed into the sky. Sven closely lifted his head. What he saw made his knees almost give out under him.
I've been planning this chapter since the late days of Blood and Light
Co-creator of UFS, a joint urban fantasy setting.
Originally Posted by Pliny the Elder
True glory consists in doing what deserves to be written; in writing what deserves to be read; and in so living as to make the world happier for our living in it.