I have written a short story that is deliberately left incomplete. I would like us to collaborate and make the "guild lore". I thought it would be cool for others to contribute and make it an on-going guild project. I have tried to ensure that it does not contradict the other story that Andrew wrote (which I cannot find). I have left it as ambiguous as I can, to allow you to contribute in your own special way. As you can see, I have invented a character towards the end. Feel free to invent your own :D.
See the story below. Please reply with your own continuation of it :D
A hooded lady walked slowly through the corridors of a vast ancient hallway. It was a dark and dreary building in a poor condition, exemplified by the occasional leaks of water falling from the ceiling, which was itself supported by enormous and clearly aging pillars. The arched roof held many water-damaged mosaics which made some of them unrecognisable, although those that she could see appeared to represent strife violence, strife, heroism and villainy. She paused to observe one a lot more closely: it depicted a coiled serpent with venom dripping from it’s fangs, apparently preparing to strike Satyr. The Satyr was gaping open-mouthed at the serpent, ready to conjure a defensive aura to protect itself from the impending attack. She was sure that the Satyr would have succumbed during this particular encounter. Having witnessed the barbarity of Satyrs in her own adventures, she pondered how much this vile beast would have suffered from the potent venom during his final moments. She certainly hoped it was severe.
The hooded figure was quickly awoken from her thoughts by a particularly large splash of water falling directly onto her face.
“Ugh!” she cried out in a combination of anger and shock, simultaneously dropping her mace and shield.
Clearly, this was not a place she wanted to spend too much time. Regaining her composure, she bent over to pick up her weaponry and began a determined forward march. Although she had some trepidation about what lay before her, she sensed that she was tantalisingly close to her objective. There was no turning back now.
She continued walking for several minutes while avoiding unstable and water-logged grounding wherever she could. The further she walked, the more her frustration grew. The building seemed endless, and there was no evidence that she was anywhere near what she was looking for. She only encountered more corridors, sculptures and what began to increasingly resemble mini-waterfalls. In frustration, she threw her mace to the ground and screamed at the top of her lungs,
“There’s a special place in the void for the dogs who built this blasted place!”
As the echo of her voice began to fade, she took a deep breath and looked down at her mace. “I really have to stop dropping that,” she muttered. As she bent down to pick her weapon up once again, a dazzling green light caught her attention.
“What the… surely not?!” she shouted, with a mixture of shock and excitement.
She picked her mace up and ran full-speed towards the source of the light, stepping directly into large puddles of water on the way. As she ran closer to the light, she realised that it was coming from a small crack in a wall. There appeared to be a room parallel to the corridor she had moved through that seemed to be inaccessible. This would mean one of two things: she either had to find an alternative entrance or destroy the wall. Since her patience had run very thin, she strongly favoured the latter option. Hopefully it wouldn’t bring the already poorly maintained structure crashing down upon her.
“This should be fun”, she said with a beaming smile, while beginning to conjure a large ball of fire that she would soon blast a hole through the wall before her. As she began casting, however, the flames lit up the darkened area around the wall to reveal something she had not expected. She saw an inscription, with a clear-carved hole in the wall. Halting her previous spell, she used the flames to provide just enough light to read the text. It said:
Seven figures all of different traits
Sentience discovered but never known
Bound together between victims and fates
The Serpents decree that the seeds must be sewn
“Well that was as useful as a chocolate stove”, she muttered to herself in annoyance once again.
She began to scan the area around the inscription more carefully, wondering if her first solution was still preferable to enduring riddles and dark corridors. It was then that she noticed a small carving below the inscription that look almost like a horizontal key-hole.
“What the…” she gasped, “I know what to do! I know what to do!”
Excitedly, she reached over to her back pack and pulled out a brown, wooden totem. Taking a deep breath, she turned it horizontally towards the engraving in the wall. To her utter jubilation, a green light beamed out of the perimeter of the wall, and the inscription began to shake uncontrollably. With a loud crack, the wall began to split in half, making the light almost blindingly bright. She pulled her hood over her face, until the light gradually began to dim and the noise subsided. This was no wall; it was a door. She was sure that the room it hid contained what she was looking for.
She once again took a deep breath and walked into the room. Her suspicions were quickly confirmed when she was confronted by an awe-striking sight: seven enormous statues arranged in a semi circle. Seven figures stood before her, each demonstrating unique and idiosyncratic forms of power. A banner hung above them: seven serpents wrapped around a pole, each prepared to strike against an unwitting foe.
“So he was right,” she thought to herself, “there was more to the order than the rest of us had thought”. He was right all along… how foolish to doubt him.
She quickly regained her composure and walked towards the first statue on the left. It depicted a powerful Night Elf female wielding a bow with an arrow that she was about to fire. As the hooded figure looked more closely at the statue, it appeared that this was no arrow, but a serpent! It was as if the Night Elf was about a living serpent at an unsuspecting foe! The obvious ferocity of this Night Elf aside, her face revealed something more subtle. She seemed to be smirking and winking, as if she was taking an unusual amount of pleasure in this particular kill. Under the statue’s right boot, the hooded figure noticed an engraving, illuminated with a dark-red colour. Nilaratha of the Seven: Deception, it read. There was further text below:
A lady of deception
An incomprehensible ally
A devastating foe.
So this was what Nilaratha looked like! There was no doubt about it now: she had found the monument of The Seven Serpents. As she considered the consequences of this discovery, a chill ran down her spine, causing her to shudder. She had to remain calm; she needed to be absolutely certain that they were all here. She began to slowly walk towards the next statue…
The Elf could hear his own thump echo through the halls for as long as it took for the adrenaline to wear off and the deep thudding ache of pain to run through him. Laying on his back and in a puddle that's slime clung to his clothes like a smoke he saw the thin beam of light shining on his face, the floor above had given way to a damp and dark cavern or so he thought.
Muttering a short healing spell overy his legs he pushed himself against a nearby wall. Whilst regaining his breath he'd soon realise that his custom designed hat had not followed through and must be somewhere on the surface. Thoughts of some unsophisticated individual trotting around in his hat in clothing that certainly wouldn't lend themselves to it coursed through his mind and overpowered any pain or discomfort. His adrenaline had returned.
Habitually touching the rim of where his hat once was he shifted into his feline form, pupils adjusting to the shadowy cavern, which turned out to be some sort of corridor. What's more the walls were adorned with something other than moss and water, there were intricate carvings, some faded, most obstructed but carved by hand nontheless. Then his nose twitched, a scent was creeping it's way through the halls, a warm and recent scent.
someone was here...
Low to the ground his four paws fell silent, his ears and nose flicking and twitching to every drop of water, every beat of an insects wing but his eyes stayed true to the trail he'd set for himself. He'd take a left, another, and follow straight through as the smell intensified it was mixed with some thing else, something smelling much more musty and ancient than perhaps even the corridors themselves, much like the deepest recesses of a cave something had been recently disturbed. Fresh dust particles filled his nose and filled the air, suspended by the still air.
Finally upon turning a corner he saw the glow. It's colour hard to tell, his feline eyes adjusted to such darkness saw it as a brilliant white beam compared to everything else.
The sky flickered sullenly with the echoes of distant fireballs as they streaked across the sky, but the lone figure stumbling across the barren ground hardly noticed.
Puffs of red dust rose at each stumbling step, then the weary footsteps betrayed the figure, and she stumbled and fell to one knee.
Drawing a big sigh, the young dwarf lifted her head and forced herself to her feet. Only a few steps away was the tent of her mentor, along with her bedroll and some much-needed rest.
The battle around the Dark Portal in the Blasted Lands had been raging for days, and now was Avanture’s first chance for a rest in over 48hrs.
She pushed aside the dusty opening to the tent, to reveal a dimly lit interior, with a small brazier burning in the centre.
Arranged around the brazier were wooden and stone icons of various design, with bowls of herbs ready for preparation hanging from the roof.
A shuffling step to her right startled Avanture, and she gasped, realised in her weary state, she had simply been standing at the entrance to the tent not moving.
Kordoss, her mentor, shuffled in to view, his stocky frame still standing strong, despite his advancing years. His white beard was carefully painted and twisted over his left shoulder. With a wan smile Avanture remembered the time when he caught his beard on fire several years ago, while preparing tinctures over his brazier.
He glanced up at Avanture irritably, and snapped, “Stop standing there gawping like a fish girl! If you’ve got time to stand around, then you’ve got time to grind these herbs”, he thrust a handful of Peacebloom at Avanture and gestured at the pestle and mortar next to the brazier.
Sighing, Avanture shuffled over to obey her mentor. She had learnt not to question his demands, and she often found herself being pushed beyond normal levels of endurance performing tasks often beyond her ability to understand.
The rhythmic twisting of the pestle and mortar almost lulled Avanture into a doze, and it wasn’t long before Kordozz took the prepared herbs and added them to the mixture steeping over the brazier. The smell arising from the pot triggered memories.
Flashbacks of Kordozz berating her for not knowing the different properties of herbs, the hours spend out looking for the huge varieties of plants Kordozz demanded every day, the chopping, the brewing, applying poultices, scraping, grinding……then it occurred to her…she had smelt this combination before. Kordozz was brewing a potion that would provide a short-term boost in energy to whomever drank it, followed by a deep lethargy.
Avanture was puzzled: why would Kordozz have a use for this potion during the battle to prevent the Burning Crusade from invading our world? Surely there were better potions that would boost our troops without the side effects.
“Ach, yer gittin’ in th’ way again!” Kordozz grumbled, and he grabbed her by the shoulders and shoved her towards her bedroll. “Yer no good to anyone in this state! Git yerself ter bed, ye’ll only git a few hours kip before you’ll be needed again!”
Puzzling over her mentors’ actions, but more than used to obeying him when he demanded it, Avanture was unable to fight her exhaustion any more. She was asleep before her head hit the pillow.
Shouts of alarm startled Avanture awake. She sat up from her bedroll and looked around the tent. Kordozz was nowhere to be found. She rubbed her face wearily, realising she had probably only had a few hours’ sleep.
Listening to the shouts from the battle still raging outside, Avanture got up and stoked the brazier higher, hoping to brew a rejuvenation potion to get herself going again.
Suddenly the tent flap was shoved to one side, making Avanture spin around in alarm, hand reaching for the mace where she had propped it against the table before heading to bed.
She relaxed for an instance as soon as she realised it was Kordozz returning, but this quickly turned to alarm as she saw the blood quickly spreading from his side.
He started to fall, and Avanture dashed forward to catch him before he sit the floor. Gently she turned him over onto his back, “What happened Sir! Quickly let me summon the spirits of water to aid you!”
“It’s too late”, he muttered, coughing up flecks of blood. “Quickly before it’s too late…..go to my chest”.
Reluctantly Avanture gently laid his head to the floor then ran over to Kordozz’s travel chest, heart pounding in fear. Kordozz was always very secretive about his chest, and she had never been present when it had been opened. It was heavy, but she grabbed it by the handle and heaved until it was next to her mentor.
“Avanture”, Kordozz wheezed, “you have been an obedient student. You have learnt everything I could teach you about the ways of the Shaman. There is so much more you need to know…..about the truth…...of who ……we really serve.”
Alarm thrilled through Avanture: surely she hadn’t been in league with the filthy horde all this time?
Her consternation must’ve shown on her face, as Kordozz reach up to pat her cheek, “Dear child, so naïve still. Open my chest. The combination is 2275 then direct the smallest Earth Shock spell at the clasp”
Avanture still as instructed, and was rewarded with a click as the locked flicked open.
“I haven’t much longer……open the chest……look for a black pouch with a pair of green snakes entwined upon it.”
Avanture rummaged around through vials and flasks, ingredients of immense rarity, and gems worth a fortune. At the bottom of the chest she found the pouch Kordozz had asked for.
“Take this…...to the Temple…..of Atal’Hakkar………….situated in ……..the swamps …..north of here……Find the statue…..of the Night Elf…..bearing……a serpent arrow……there……you will be…..guided…..to the…..order.” With a final sigh his eyes glaze over and his body goes limp.
Confused, Avanture opens the pouch, and inside she finds a small wooden totem bearing the entwined snake icon.
Gazing out of the tent to the distant chaos, demons and alliance locked in desperate battle for dominance over the ruined landscape. A sense of futility fluttered in her chest, then she remembered what Kordozz said: “Guided to the order”. Which order?
Avanture’s sense of responsibility to the Alliance warred with her curiosity for who this mysterious “order” were. Clearly, they had their own agenda and had been giving Kordozz instructions for a while. Who were they, what were they trying to achieve, were they trying to keep the Alliance strong or trying to undermine it?
The questions buzzed through her mind, and she realised she had to know the answers.
Packing her backpack with a few essentials, she walked out of the tent and headed north. Behind her the fireballs continued to rain down and the screams of the dying echoed faintly in her ears as she strode across the red, ruined landscape towards an uncertain future.
"Dig, dig, dig! Work, work, work! Maybe I find shiny!"
This was the thought that Kruxx repeated to himself over and over, both to keep himself motivated and to drown out the other strange voices talking to him inside his tiny brain.
Kruxx was the most hard working of all the kobolds in his particular clan, but his efforts were somewhat underappreciated. Today he had planned to change all of that. He got up bright and early, grabbed his pick and went down into the deepest reaches of the mine to get a head start over everyone else at finding the shiny objects they all craved. Ting, ting, ting, went his pick as it struck the stone wall in front of him, and all through the day he slaved away digging deeper and deeper into the earth.
Kruxx felt no pain or weariness in his limbs; he was too determined for things like that. In fact he was so determined that it wasn't until he briefly stopped to tighten his belt that he realised he could no longer hear the bustling sounds of his clan-mates mining far behind him. Without the ring of his pick striking, he was now stood in complete and absolute silence. But this didn't matter to Kruxx; he had a shiny to find!
Ting, ting ting. Dig, dig, dig. Work, work, work. For hours, days, weeks perhaps, this was all Kruxx heard, until suddenly, as if from nowhere another sound found it's way into his small little world.
Drip, drip, drip.
What was this new noise? Was it a shiny? The only way to find out was to keep digging. And so, with a refreshed sense of confidence, Kruxx continued on.
A short while later (the dripping noise now much more frequent) Kruxx came across a rather different looking stone. This was not like the other stone he had picked at, all rugged and sharp. This stone was smooth, and perfectly flat. Quickly he chiseled away the surrounding earth to reveal a vast flat wall, clearly unnatural in origin, stretching in all directions as far as the light from his little candle could reach. What should he do? He couldn't turn back now, he had come so far. He couldn't climb over it, there were no foot-holes, and he had seen many of his fellow miners learn the hard way never to dig straight down. That was a sure way to get yourself stuck in a pit of lava. He had two choices left. He could dig his way around the strange wall, or he could dig straight through it.
Needless to say, he chose the latter.
The stone in this wall was much harder than that of the tunnel so far, and for the first time since his great excavation started, his resolve began to waver a little. He had only managed to dig a yard or so into this tough new stone and was on the brink of giving up when a small piece of the stone in front of him fell away revealing, under closer inspection, some sort of room. Peering through the tiny hole he had just made, Kruxx could see a stone corridor stretching both to his left and his right. The walls were all as smooth as the one he had just dug through and were lined with huge pillars which supported the distant ceiling.
With a combination of pushing, pulling and frantically swinging his pick about, he managed to create an opening big enough to climb through, and after doing so the light from his candle illuminated the whole room revealing beautiful images carved and drawn onto the walls and ceiling. Kruxx paid little mind to these though. He was focused on something much more interesting.
A short distance away from where he stood, the light of his candle was reflecting back at him. This was it. This was what he had been searching for the whole time. Candle light being reflected back at you was a definitive characteristic of... a shiny!
Kruxx ran towards the shiny, pick in one hand, candle held steady on his head with the other. At last he had found it! Lying neatly on the ground, next to a rather large hole in the floor, was a hat. It was a rather ugly hat Kruxx thought, with it's strange ruffles and vibrant colours, but it had one redeeming quality. Fastened to one side of the rim was a beautiful pin, a small blue gem set within it. As he held it close to his face, the light from his candle bounced through it, shining blue sparkles all over the room. Kruxx couldn't wait to show his new hat to all his friends back home. He went to place the hat upon his head when a sudden realisation came upon him. If he were to wear this hat on his head, where would he keep his candle? This just wouldn't do. As much as he loved his new hat, he would NOT abandon his beloved candle. The solution to this latest dilemma however, came a lot quicker than even he expected. It was simple! He jumped up at once, raised his pick, and struck the hat twice, piercing two large holes through the top of it. Next he turned the hat upside down, pushed his skinny legs through the new holes and and fastened his belt tightly around the rim, making sure the shiny pin was in plain view.
Heading back down the corridor towards his tunnel Kruxx started to hear a strange sound. It wasn't the drip, drip, dripping that he had gotten used to by now, but a low rumbling. This was known by all kobolds to be a bad sound and Kruxx began to grow nervous. As he got closer he found the noise was coming from his very own tunnel which now, to much surprise, had a small stream of water flowing from it's opening into the corridor where he stood. His heart pumping wildly, he began to back away, first slowly, then faster and faster until he lost his footing and fell head first through the hole in the floor!
Down he fell through the dark, and with a gigantic crash he hit the cold stone of the chamber below. Luckily his candle was unharmed, although it now sat slightly lopsided due to a growing lump on his head. However, before he even had time to gather his thoughts, there was a second crash, though this time much louder, and a cascade of water started pouring through the hole from which he had fallen, now growing larger and larger as the bricks and stones around it began to come loose. Immediately Kruxx jumped to his feet, and began to run. Where he was heading, he had no idea. In a burst of speed he managed to reach a smaller hallway which broke off from the larger chamber. It was a miracle he had managed to make it this far without being crushed to death under the rubble or caught in the tide of water now chasing him through the dark corridors like a stampede of angry thunder lizards.
He ran until his little legs could carry him no farther and he collapsed on the cold, damp floor. At some point a while back the collapsing tunnel had blocked off the water and it was now no more than ankle deep, but Kruxx had continued to run anyway, just in case. Now he was lost, cold, alone and without any means of going back the way he came. A shiver down his spine told him it was time to get to his feet again. He couldn't lay around here all day, especially with the floor as wet at it was. He decided to head towards the direction in which the water had not come from. This seemed like the safest plan to start off with and until he came across some means of escape it was all he could really do.
He walked a long way, blindly guessing which direction to travel in whenever faced with a choice. Eventually the water around his feet drained to mere puddles which should have suggested to him that he was travelling upwards, but after the long day he had been having, the thought never even occurred to him. After turning what seemed like an endless number of corners, Kruxx immediately stopped in his tracks when he saw, in the distance, a faint green light. Doubting his day could get much worse, he cautiously crept closer to investigate. As he approached the source of the light, he could barely believe what he was seeing.To the left of the hallway in front of his was an open door, the green glow coming from inside was blinding in comparison to his brave little candle which had somehow managed to stay lit through this whole ordeal. He could hear footsteps from beyond the door and as his eyes adjusted to the brightness he was able to make out eight figures. Seven of them were stood perfectly still, carved from stone. The eighth, however, was the source of the footsteps. A hooded lady was walking between the statues, inspecting them one by one. As soon as he saw her, Kruxx knew exactly what she was here to do.
She was here with one sole purpose: To steal his candle! And he was not about to let that happen!
Stormwind city had an unusual relationship with the elements. Whenever Rhanglose tried to speak to the cobble-stoned earth or the ocean by the harbour, she was taken aback by how little she could understand them. The were gruff, speaking in accents more akin to goblins, and never had much time to spare. She thought them unfriendly, like these dark, moonless streets of Old Town. The stone beneath her hooves whispered of criminal deeds, and the recently extinguished street lamps held faint memories of tragedy.
"Nice work, kid." The alley’s shadows shifted, a dark-furred pandaren materialising beside her. "The guy we’re looking for is meeting some ‘friends’ down in this inn’s basement. There’s too many for us to take out quickly, so we're going to need help." Out of her bandolier, Blackpaws pulled a small green stone bearing a serpent coiled seven times etched in relief. She held it to her head and closed her eyes in concentration.
Rhanglose nervously glanced to each end of the alleyway. Draenei were not known for subterfuge, so her first mission with the Seven Serpents filled her with dread. ‘Capture and interrogate’, she was told. ‘Be swift and silent. Do not reveal yourself or your allies.’ She was no rogue. She wasn’t even all that sneaky. How are you supposed to sneak with hooves, anyway?
The unease gnawed at her. The Serpents were dedicated to uncovering any threat to the Alliance, the Horde, and Azeroth as a whole. Those that she'd met were stronger, wiser and more daunting than any master she'd known. She felt very small in the organisation, like she was a nobody amongst legends. Rhanglose didn't know what she could offer that they themselves could not provide with ease.
Was this where she truly belonged?
"Alright," Blackpaws pocketed her green stone, "backup’s on the way. Did you set up yet?"
"Y-yes, I have." Rhanglose fidgeted. She could feel the mental link connecting her to the totems she had secreted in key locations around the inn.
"Good." Blackpaws smiled, nodding. "We’ve been looking to catch Lord Praxit for years. Did you know? He's so slippery even I couldn’t catch a trace of him." She munched on a peach that had apparently always been in her palm. "It didn’t even occur to me to just ask the floor."
"The elements see many things." Rhanglose replied neutrally. She didn’t tell of the exact words that Stormwind’s elements had used, which had made her ears turn a delicate shade of purple. At least she hadn’t been sent alone.
The pandaren was older and much more experienced than Rhanglose was at this sort of skulduggery. Any patch of Blackpaw’s fur that wasn’t already dark as carbon had been covered with dyed leather and cloth. Aside from her eyes, it was like looking at a bear-shaped hole in the world. Rhanglose considered her codename to be pretty apt.
They waited for some time. Several people had passed the alley since they’d arrived, but they never noticed them. It seemed whenever she was near Blackpaws their eyes would look right through her, as though they weren’t there. Even a pair of curious watch guards patrolling past the alley had peered in and seen nothing. It was highly intriguing. Rhanglose leant over to inquire-
A brilliant, golden light poured into the alley, blinding them both.
"BLACKPAWS? WHERE ARE YE?"
Blackpaws cringed as the booming voice thundered down the street. On feet lighter than snow, she rushed over to a wide, heavily armoured dwarf shining brilliantly within a golden aura. "I’m here, I’m here. For the love of night, can you turn down the volume for once in your life?"
"ACH, SORRY." The dwarf replied in what he must have assumed was a whisper. "Y’KNOW I’M NO’ GOOD AT BEIN’ ALL SNEAKY."
Blackpaws patted the dwarf’s broad shoulderplate, which to Rhanglose seemed ridiculously wide. "It’s all good, Fezco. We found the baddies and we need you to go get them, alright?"
"OCH, WHY’D YE NAE SAY SO?" Fezco boomed. "I’D’A BEEN HERE FASTER THAN THE LIGHT COULD CARRY ME!"
Rhanglose covered her ringing ears. Wasn’t this supposed to be a stealth mission?
Blackpaws merely smiled in exasperation, pointing Fezco around the corner and to the inn’s front door. The sound of stomping boots and the voices of an angelic choir rang down the street, which became suddenly illuminated by four golden wings sprouting from the dwarf’s back. In the alleyway, Rhanglose could hear a door being kicked in, followed by a booming warcry, "THA CRUSADE CANNAE BE STOPPED!", and the following sounds were muffled by the heavy door swinging closed.
Blackpaws returned to Rhanglose’s side, her palm in her face. A few lights had turned on in the windows of nearby houses and it seemed every dog in the area had begun barking.
"Should he be going in there alone?"
"Old Loudmouth?" Blackpaws raised an eyebrow. "I’ve seen that dwarf take blows to the head that would have shattered steel. Trust me, I’d choose him over any fortress in the Eastern Kingdoms. He’s as tough as they get."
"So... he's going to capture Lord Praxit?"
Blackpaws barked a laugh, surprising herself with how loud it was. "Hardly. By the time he’s finished throwing his shield around, Praxit will be long gone." She tapped Rhanglose on the shoulder and pointed to the wall of the inn. A purple frame of a magical door etched itself into the stone. "That’s why we’re here."
Rhanglose turned to Blackpaws, but the pandaren had disappeared.
The doorway opened, a fracture in space, an artefact of warlock magic. Four figures ambled out of the portal; a pale dwarf with a staff, an enormous hulking human woman and the sultry form of a succubus were lead by a well dressed gnome with a top hat and green moustache. "And on Hearthstone night of all night-" the gnome groused, before catching sight of Rhanglose standing awkwardly by herself in the middle of an unlit alley.
The party froze, caught in the act of escape. The gnome tutted, snapping his fingers and pointing at her, which broke the awkward spell. He waved a hand, encasing himself in a dark, purple-ish magic.
The huge woman grinned, cracked her knuckles and grabbed two massive hammers, carved from some dark, gnarled tree, which were slung across her back. With a mighty yell, she leapt at Rhanglose, both hammers raised high and falling. Rhanglose shielded her face with her arms, her mind calling out for protection.
The cobbles below her answered.
A great earthen elemental erupted from the ground in a shower of heat and stone, its two massive, brickwork arms catching the warrior’s hammers. The two hulking brutes struggled in a show of strength, muscle against mortar. The elemental roared a vulgar string of obscenities, which fortunately, only Rhanglose had the training to understand.
"Get her!", the shadowy gnome commanded, "There’s only one of her!"
"Guess again." A blackjack, appearing out of thin air, smashed into the back of the gnome’s head, knocking off his hat. He crumpled to the floor, his shadow form snuffing out along with his consciousness. The pale dwarf rounded on Blackpaws as she materialised, firing a bolt of black energy from his staff. Blackpaws threw down something from her bandolier, causing a flash of smoke to boil through the alley, blinding everyone.
Rhanglose struggled to maintain her summoned elemental. The brutish woman railed against it with powerful blows, each strike chipping off slate and stone. She called to whatever elementals were in range to rebuild her ally, brick and earth coming loose from the surroundings to repair the damage.
"Ooh, a pretty one!" Rhanglose cried out in pain as a whip slashed across her face. The warlock’s succubus sailed over her on tattered wings, rolling her whip around her hands. "Come now, fallen one. I want to hear those screams!"
Wiping the blood from her eyes, Rhanglose called to her palms the essence of storms. She struck out at the demon with bolts of lightning, but its lithe movements made it impossible to hit.
"What's the matter darling? Lost your thunder?" The succubus taunted lashing out with her whip, scoring Rhanglose’s arms and tearing her clothes. "Let’s see a little skin, hmm?"
Rhanglose almost lost the power she had summoned, the excruciating pain of the demonic whip felt like fire on her flesh. With a cry, she fired out at the demon, the bolt straying far to its side. The demon laughed at her poor aim.
She felt the electricity dancing through her fingers. The elemental power allowed her to grasp the wayward bolt, pulling it towards the demon. The lightning curved, wrapping around the succubus. Rhanglose grasped the lightning with both hands, electricity numbing her teeth, and she heaved the succubus over her shoulder. The demon crashed into the stone behind her, stunned into silence.
Rhanglose allowed herself to feel a little victorious. Then the crunch of hammer on stone burst from the smoke cloud, the remnants of her elemental showering her in dirt and stone. The giant woman hefted her massive mallets easily, stepping out of the smoke. She smiled thickly as she said, "Forgive me, but I must break you."
"Break this." Rhanglose muttered, followed by a quick incantation. In a puff of chromatic smoke the woman vanished, and in her place stood a moderately large, and very confused frog. Rhanglose took a moment to catch her breath, laughing hoarsely. "At first, I didn't know why I was taught that spell," she told the frog, "but I can't say I regret it."
A black bolt screamed out of the smoke, catching her on the shoulder. She fell back, clutching at the wound and whispering through gritted teeth for a surge of healing before the fel magic ate into her skin. Blackpaw’s smoke had cleared up by now, and Rhanglose could see the dwarven warlock flanked by two slavering felhounds. Blackpaws was nowhere to be seen.
One of the hounds turned their sightless gaze in a random direction and howled. The warlock immediately cast a spell of fel fury, covering that area in flames. The shadows burned, ejecting Blackpaws from their protection who sailed, smoking, through the air. In a flash of steel, she drove two daggers into the hound's head, silencing the howl. The other hound bayed as its sibling died, lunging forward and sinking its teeth into Blackpaws’ arm. She yelped in pain, stabbing the hound with her free hand until it too lay dead.
Taking advantage of the distraction, the warlock conjured a ball of wild flames and tossed it at the rogue. The explosion blasted Blackpaws into the wall, and she crumpled to the ground. From the fires, tiny imps burst into life, cackling and cartwheeling. They advanced on Blackpaws as she lay helpless and stunned, their sharp claws and teeth glistening.
A bolt of lightning struck one of them, then bounced to its neighbour. It jumped from one to the other, roasting each imp to a crisp.
Rhanglose scowled at the warlock, her hands alive with electricity. The pale dwarf spat a curse, balled a green flame in his hands and sent it skyward. Just above the alley, a cloud appeared, born of demonic fire, dark and broiling. The fire blossomed, solidified and fell from the sky, crashing to the ground and burning a hole into the alley. A green, rock-like monster rose from the glowing crater, it's unnatural heat charring the walls and scorching the air.
Rhanglose could hear the elements crying out in pain from the demon’s presence, their essence burning away forever. She clutched her head, the pain of the dying elementals surging into her. The infernal approached, his dwarven master smirking in triumph. The ground melted under its molten weight, the heat blistering her blue skin. It roared, a sound like two planets colliding, and raised a horse-sized arm to flatten her into paste. She couldn't react, couldn't think. The elements were deaf to her, and she to them. With her eyes shut tight, all Rhanglose could see was a green light brightening beyond her eyelids.
Steel clanged against stone. A beastly warcry lanced through that terrible pain and snapped her out of the shock. The great demon stumbled, its arm shattering the cobbles to her side, sending Rhanglose rolling. She laid on the ground for a moment breathing in the not-horribly-burning air. The voice of the wind came to her now, urging her to look.
The infernal clawed at itself with clumsy arms, emerald fire fountaining out of several gashes in its stone skin. And whirling around it like a dreadful monkey, Blackpaws stabbed and slashed with all her might and finesse. Her dark clothes burned with rising red flames, looking like a vengeful fiery spirit. Rhanglose thought she could see a fire burning within Blackpaws, as though the flames of heroism blazed through her very soul.
The infernal buckled under the onslaught, tripping and smashing into the wall. It picked itself up, bellowing. Suddenly, it silenced itself and stood stock still. Blackpaws paused in surprise, her dagger poised to strike. Then a great green spell of darkness smashed her off the demon.
Rhanglose choked as Blackpaws’ smouldering body cracked limply to the cobbles. Her daggers slid across the ground, resting a few feet from where Rhanglose kneeled. She thought to cast a healing spell, but the elements would not listen.
No. No, it was not the elements that wouldn’t listen. Deep within her, a force of such cosmic fury boiled like steel in a furnace.
This was not time for healing.
The warlock approached, dusting his hands and smirking. He looked down at the unmoving pandaren, weaving a killing curse in his hands.
Rhanglose rose. Not in the way that you would stand with arms and legs. Rhanglose rose like she had forgotten gravity held any meaning. Like restraint was something for other creatures to worry about.
The fire in Blackpaws’ clothes snuffed out. The air chilled and boiled simultaneously. The ground quaked, rattling even the rooftops.
Rhanglose ascended. The elements found themselves a perfect vessel with which to unleash their great fury. Prime colours coiled around her, reality warped in the space she occupied, changing the world for just a fraction of a second, enough for the world to blink, and allow the impossible.
The dwarven warlock stared, gaped, then hid behind his infernal. The demon wished it could do the same.
Primal energy exploded across the alley. The infernal instantly shattered into minuscule fragments, peppering the warlock with fel shrapnel. His broken body crashed into the wall and collapsed, covered in demonic debris.
The elements lay Rhanglose gently onto the ground before vanishing. She felt a strange sense of vigour, as though all the night’s fatigue had been washed away by some great spell. She marvelled in the afterglow of her communion, before reality reasserted itself with a huff.
"Blackpaws!" Rhanglose leapt over to the prone pandaren. The elements answered her immediately, showering them both with a healing rain. Blackpaws’ wounds and burns subsided and she stirred fitfully into consciousness.
The rogue looked over the scene of carnage, noting details with a few quick glances. "Not.... bad, kid." She groaned, the rain having not yet soothed all the bruises away. She smiled bittersweetly, directing Rhanglose’s attention with a nod of her head. "But it... looks like our new... friend... got away. Figured... he'd give us the slip somehow."
The spot where Lord Praxit had been left by Blackpaws was now vacant.
Rhanglose smiled, directing a small stream of the healing water into the more severe wounds. "You know? The elements grant me sight of many things I do not understand at that moment. There's a chance I might be suited to this kind of assignment after all." She pointed down towards the far end of the alleyway. Struggling within a prison of bark and stone, Lord Praxit fought uselessly against the work of Rhanglose’s earthgrab totem.
She marvelled at how wide Blackpaws’s eyes could bulge. The pandaren relaxed and flopped back onto the ground. "Not. Bad. Kid."
Rhanglose let herself breathe easily for the first time since she’d been tasked with this mission. It had been a bit touch and go, but she finally had an answer to a question that had plagued her.
There was indeed a place for her in the Seven Serpents.
Blackpaws’ eyes snapped open. "Do you get the feeling that we’re forgetting something?"
There was a croak and the colourful poof of a hex spell reversing. And then a giant, musclebound woman towered over them, her teeth bared and eyes ablaze, wooden mallets gripped tightly in each hand. "I will eat your hearts." She promised, swinging her hammers high above her.
A golden shield sailed through the air, striking the woman directly in the side of her head. She maintained her pose for an endless second, before her eyes rolled back into her head and she collapsed.
"BLACKPAWS! DID YE GET THE WEE BASTID ALREADY?"
Lord Praxit awoke in unusual conditions. He did not find himself in his luxurious, elven bed with his cadre of favourite women. Instead his arms and legs were bound with tight leather straps to some sort of revolving table. The mechanism activated before he could properly gauge his surroundings, swinging him around to come face to face with an elf. At least, only elves had ears like those. The rest of her face was covered by a leather mask without any eye holes. "You're not one of my exes, are you?"
"An ex? No." The elf chuckled. "This is the first time you and I have ever had the chance to be... intimate."
The elf pulled away, and Praxit saw she sported the leathery, tattered wings of one who had been touched by fel magics. There was a keen and familiar smell that pervaded the room. Squinting, Praxit managed to make out a claustrophobic stone walled room filled with drawers and tables and cabinets. And on every surface lay a dozen or more metal instruments, some pointed, some hooked, all sharp. Some of them didn't even look all that clean.
The elf returned, holding a massive cleaver as big as his head. It was then that he placed the smell: blood. And following that, the name of his captor.
"Now my friends want me to ask you to tell me one very important thing." Chernobael the Butcher rested the pointy tip of her cleaver on his collar.
"Who... are the Void Lords?"