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A Cord of Two Strands — Part 7

This is the final part of a 7 part series. If you’re new to the series, you can start at the beginning with start at the beginning with Part 1 or you can go to an index of all seven parts.

I’m honestly kind of sad to end it; it’s been fun to share it with you.  But there are more stories waiting to be written, and I can’t write those without closing this one.  I hope you guys have enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing and posting it.

From Part 6:

“The chase ends tonight, Markcus!” Aleron replied hotly.  Markus only laughed again, sending a dark bolt sailing in his direction.  The mage blocked the attack, but only just.

“You are willing to fight, but what about your little apprentice?  Have you taught her enough, Aleron?  Arcis was stronger than she, and still she was not strong enough to defeat me.”

“Do not touch her, Markus!  This is our battle alone.”

“Is it?  I was aware of no such restrictions,” he replied.  This time, the attack came whizzing towards Sonora, close enough to singe hairs.

“So, you like to play.  I enjoy a good game myself…shall we?”

The Parting

Suddenly Aleron’s vision clouded.  He tried to fight the influence, but it overtook him, and he sank to his knees.  Then Arcis stood before him, fighting the battle of her life once again.  He reached for her, trying to throw shields up to defend her.  “I will never become one of you!” he heard her yell at her assailants.  “I would sooner die!”

“You may have that chance, little mage,” said a voice that sounded like Markus, if Markus was ten feet tall.  Aleron called out, but spells rained down upon her again the same way he had seen it in his nightmares night after night.  If only he could get closer!  He fought, crawling towards her, desperate to save her.

Sonora watched in horror as her mentor crawled upon the ground like a child, lost in a vision she could not see.  “Leave him alone!” she cried.  “You have tortured him long enough!”

Warlocks now crowded around them, watching their master toying with the prisoners.  “Have I?” Markus finally replied to Sonora, not bothering to look at her as he quite delighted in Aleron’s struggling form.  “Then perhaps it is your turn.”

Sonora gasped as Markus began to grow and change grotesquely.  In a few seconds, a tall, dark form stood where Markus had been.  She didn’t know what to call him, but “Markus” seemed inadequate.

“Sarah!” the deep voice called.  “Sarah, come forward!”  A hooded figure stepped out from the crowd.

“My lord,” she replied, kneeling.  She alone seemed to be unsurprised by this change.  Even the others in the crowd took a step backwards.

“I tire of these trifles,” he told her.  “And you still need to prove yourself to me.  Dispose of the girl first.”  Sarah stood and turned to Sonora.  In a flash, the draenei fell to her knees, a dull ache in her chest where the spell had hit her.  Had Markus’s spell hit her like that, she would be long dead.  Sarah was a  more even match, but Sonora still did not like the odds.  She struggled back to her feet and sent a blazing ball of fire at Sarah’s head.  The spell hit the warlock enough to cause her to stumble and knock her hood loose.  Cascading brown hair fell down around a still beautiful face, and in an instant, she knew this warlock for who she was.

“No!  How could you?!” Sonora screamed at her.

“I did what I had to do,” she replied coldly.  “I am an outsider no more!”  Another spell came flying at Sonora, and she pushed herself to the side; it took effort, since the ache in her chest still caused her to lean over, panting.  She could not do this alone.  She flew at Aleron, landing on her knees next to him.  “Leave him!” Sarah shouted at her, launching an attack that sent Sonora tumbling away from him.

She felt sore all over, but struggled to her knees again, this time preparing a shield she hoped would last long enough for her to get back to Aleron.  Sarah continued to cast shadows at her, but Sonora gratefully noticed that they were being absorbed by her shield for now.  She sent another fireball in Sarah’s direction, catching her hand this time and causing the woman to curse.

“Aleron!” Sonora cried desperately, finally reaching him.  “You must wake up!” She felt as though she were talking to an empty shell; Aleron was lost somewhere in a memory.  She grabbed his shoulders, grunting with the effort.  “Aleron!  ALERON!  ARCIS IS DEAD!”

A voice far away called his name.  He could not leave his daughter; could not let her suffer alone!  He turned back to Arcis, but while he had been distracted, she had fallen and now lay still.  The voice spoke to him again.  Arcis is dead, the voice repeated. But I am not!

It was the same thing he had heard from another female voice.  He remembered his wife, turning away from him in anger and slamming the door behind her as she disappeared forever.  And then he remembered the imprisonment, and Sonora, and Markus.

“What have you done?!” Aleron shouted in rage as his mind returned to the present.  He surveyed the scene.  Sonora lay next to him, a weak shield protecting her as she clutched her chest.  A true-to-life nightmare stood in front of him; Sonora may not have known what to call him, but Aleron did—an Eredar warlock, straight from the pit of hell and the Burning Legion—and at his side—

“Sarah!  What are you doing here?  Has he taken you prisoner, as well?”

“No, husband.  I am not a captive, but a servant.”  Aleron looked at her in shock, some piece of his heart breaking at the sight of his wife pledging her loyalty to this demon.

“Why, Sarah?” he asked weakly.

“You and Arcis were always together.  The more she came into her power, the less I mattered.  And then she died, and you spent every waking minute in your tower, every day swearing you were close to finding those responsible, and every night leaving me alone!  Markus offered me what I really wanted—we are equals at last, you and I.”

“Enough!” the Eredar bellowed.  “This ends now!  Finish her!”  Aleron watched in amazement as his wife—the woman he had loved because she was strong and stable and normal—channeled a spell that would certainly mean death for the weakened draenei.  Aleron had only a moment to act, but the choice was clear.  She was not the woman he had pledged his life to; this was a monster.

He felt the ground between them shake, and anticipated the spell before the dark runes appeared at Sonora’s feet.  He leapt for her, pushing her off of the circle of death forming below and taking the full brunt of the attack.  The pain writhed within him, but he had built up a tolerance to this in the year of his captivity, and he turned to face the surprised warlock.

Aleron used Sarah’s distraction to his advantage, muttering a few words that conjured a ball that was not frost nor fire, but some unlikely combination of the two.  He watched in agony as it hit her fiercely in the chest.  The searing cold burned her from the inside out, and she collapsed as the warring elements within her combusted.  Aleron looked away, unwilling to watch her die.

UK Frostfire

Sonora stood slowly, shocked at what had just taken place and feeling Aleron’s heartbreak washing over him in waves.  Then she noticed Markus muttering, and inhaled sharply.

“Aleron,” she said quietly.  He understood, and looked up in time to deflect the spell the demon warlock sent at him.  But a curse followed, and the sorrow he already felt welled up inside of him so great it pained him.  It threatened to engulf him entirely, and he warred against the internal agony.

He fought through the curse and cast a counterspell at the warlock, followed by a series of bolts similar to the one he used against Sarah.  A few of them landed well; Aleron noticed the Eredar cringe as his arm began to bleed.

The warlock began to rain fire down upon the two, and Sonora’s shield weakened and broke.  Aleron spoke a word that interrupted their attacker, but it would not last against the stronger magician’s resistances.  Aleron sighed deeply, and Sonora looked closely at him.  He was still weak; this man who had been too weak to safely portal them away was fighting the battle for their lives.

And then she realized—part of his strength was within her.  They had siphoned it from him and given it to her.  There was only one way to survive Markus—she must give it back.  Sonora placed her hand on Aleron’s shoulder as he stood before the warlock and pictured the magic flowing through her and into him.  Her experience was not enough to fight this demon, but his was.  If she could give him strength…

Suddenly Aleron felt warmth wash over him, and felt Sonora’s hand.  “It is the only way,” she said quietly, before he could protest.

“But how?”

“The Light,” she stated simply.  What it had taken the warlocks months to perfect, the Light could do in a single act of wisdom and sacrifice.  Sonora and Aleron had become two strands bound together by fear, torture, hope, persistence, and ultimately Light.

With renewed vigor, Aleron turned to face the warlock.  “You have torn apart my family, Markus.  You have left only me, and that is where you have erred!”  Spurred on by the pain of his losses and Sonora’s faithful spirit, Aleron began to hurl spell after spell at the warlock at a speed even he could barely comprehend.  The two exchanged attacks, until finally, Aleron focused his energy on a powerful blast that caused the Eredar to fall back, breathing with some difficulty and blood dripping from several wounds.

Aleron himself had not been spared a few battle scars.  A gash across his face dripped blood into his mouth that he spat onto the ground.  His hand burned where he had been seared by one of the warlock’s spells, and his head throbbed with pain he couldn’t place.

But Sonora had suffered most.  The amount of energy she used channeling her own power into Aleron had weakened her considerably, and she had already been attacked several times that day herself.  She felt dizzy and weak, and stumbled a little.

Feeling her hand slacken, Aleron turned to look at her.  “Sonora, are you okay?”

“I feel weak,” she replied honestly.  “I do not know how much I have left to give.”

A dark laugh replied,  “You have nothing to give.  Arcis was a powerful mage; she would have been great within the ranks of the Shadow Council, and greater still as a part of the Legion!  But she gave her loyalty to her father, and it left her a weak, simple-minded fool.  You have a way of doing that to people, Aleron.”

Too late, Aleron noticed Markus’s spellwork.  “No!” he shouted, putting himself between them.  But the curse had already taken effect.  Sonora lay on the ground, rocking as if trying to comfort herself.  The pain washed over her in waves she couldn’t bear.

Aleron knelt beside her, cradling her head as she whimpered.  Then slowly, the whimpering stopped.  Her breathing came in shallow gasps, and she turned unusually sunken eyes to him.  “He is wrong about you, Aleron,” she said in a voice barely above a whisper.  “Arcis was strong and faithful because of you.”

“Sonora, you have been so brave,” Aleron said, tears welling up unexpectedly at this draenei who had become as much daughter as friend.

“You made me brave,” she replied softly.  “Do not blame yourself, my friend.  I am proud of you, as Arcis must have been.”  She lifted feeble fingers and touched the center of his chest.  Light glowed at her fingertips.  “The Light leads us down paths that are difficult to follow, but follow them we must.  May the Light bless you; may the Naaru grant you their gift. Be strong, Aleron; be strong for Arcis…and for me.”  A rune appeared above Sonora’s face, and Aleron knew that this was nothing arcane—this was a magic older and stronger than either one of them.  The light from her fingers warmed him.  He felt stronger than before, and fully replenished.  He watched as Sonora took a final breath and collapsed in his arms.

He stood and turned to Markus, scowling in anger and hatred at the injustice this one evil soul had wrought upon his life.  Aleron began attacking, fireball after fireball coursed from his fingers, entwined with the light Sonora’s gift had bestowed within him.  The glow from the fire he swirled in his hands reflected on the angry tears streaming down his face.

Where his spells alone had injured the Eredar, the light within him now burned the warlock, and he grimaced at the hot white pain each blessed spell carried into his skin.  He fell to his knees, trying to fend off the mage’s righteous fury.

“Help me!” Markus said, casting a spell into the ground.  Aleron waited for something to happen, but the earth remained still.  The warlocks in the circle stepped back, doubtful and afraid.

“NO!” the demon shrieked.  “Do not abandon me!”  He pounded on the ground in a futile display of desperation.

“This ends now.”  Aleron now stood above the quivering, injured beast.  He cast a spell that was not his own; it came from somewhere within him, from the pieces of Arcis and Sonora tucked away in his soul.  He placed his hands upon the warlock’s back as light flowed through them.  Where the light touched, the Eredar burned.

“No!  This cannot be!” cried the smoldering demon.  Several moments later, what was left of the monster he knew as Markus lay shriveled on the ground, an empty husk of ash.

Fingers of sunlight curled over the horizon as day broke.  Aleron took a deep breath, not moving for several seconds as the myriad emotions of everything that had just happened passed over him.  He had no one to go home to, and no foe to chase.  His heart felt like a rock thudding within him; solid and unmoving.  He had known true loyalty and love, and it had disappeared like a vapor.

But a small warmth stirred within him, and he found comfort in it.  He tucked it away.  He must not be weak; they had trusted him with themselves, and he must be strong for them.  He was injured and worn; he would allow himself some rest, as the warlocks had all scattered with the death of their master.

***

When he awoke, it was dusk and the area remained abandoned.   Perhaps he would seek out the Kirin Tor; perhaps they would let him come back to Dalaran.  But right now, a task remained, one that broke his heart.

Aleron sighed deeply, picturing Shattrath City in his head, and vanished.

THE END

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A Cord of Two Strands–Part 3

This is part 3 in a 7 part series. If you need to, you can go back and start at Part 1 or go to the index of all seven parts.

Progress

That evening, as they sat together pushing the foul mixture around their plates, Sonora looked closely at him.  He looked unnaturally worn, though she guessed he was only middle aged.

“What is your name?” Sonora asked.

“They call me Ultraking, Highness, and Majesty,” he said, his face twisting at the words.  “They have quite a sense of humor.”

“I did not ask what they call you,” Sonora replied.  “I asked you for your name.”

He smiled bitterly at her.  “It has been a long while since someone called me by my name. It is Aleron.”

“I am Sonora.”  Silence made her nervous, so she said, “Tell me about yourself.”

Aleron blanched.  “There is not much to speak of,” he said shortly.  Sonora looked at him in surprise at his cold response, and he added gently, “I prefer not to talk about myself; why not tell me about yourself?”

Sonora explained about her father and her trip to Stormwind as she had to Markus.  Aleron listened with some interest, having not had anyone to talk to in a long while.  His mind wandered to a similar scene in a much different place.  A table next to a warm fire; a young girl chattering on about the Kirin Tor and friends and the future…

As she finished, Aleron sighed deeply.  “I think we should go to sleep,” he told her.  “There is no way to know what they plan for us tomorrow.  Goodnight, Sonora.  I wish we had met under better circumstances.”

“As do I, Aleron.  Good night.”

The next morning, they had barely gotten through breakfast when the door opened and the now familiar figures entered.  There were no comments, no taunts.  They were eerily silent, and Aleron and Sonora looked at each other with raised eyebrows.

In a few seconds, the guards outside their door joined the warlocks, and Aleron eyed them warily. “Come here.”  Neither moved.  The night elf glared from under her hood.  “This will be easier for you if you comply, but you will do as I ask regardless.”  Suddenly the two guards were at their sides, and in the next moment, held them tightly.

“Turn them so they face each other,” the night elf commanded.  The guards followed orders, and Aleron and Sonora looked at each other.  Aleron could see the terrified look in the draenei’s eyes, and tried to silently reassure her.

“Are you ready?” the warlock asked her short, hooded companion, who merely nodded.  “Then let us begin.”  The gnome stepped forward and began to channel some kind of spell on Sonora.

Some aspects of the spell Aleron recognized.  They are trying a direct siphoning! Aleron realized suddenly, knowing that it could lethally overwhelm the young draenei.  “Stop!” he shouted.

“Silence!” the night elf hissed, and the orc holding Aleron drew a sword and held it effectively against the human’s neck.

The gnome finished her spell.  Sonora felt strange, and the concern on Aleron’s face combined with his shout terrified her.  She watched as the night elf approached him and began to cast her own spell, and the black circle seemed to descend into Aleron’s body, causing him to twist and wrench painfully.

“Now!”  The gnome and night elf together began to chant, channeling what Aleron knew must be a complex matrix.  He wished he could trace it, examine it, find its flaws; but the unnatural power inside him made it impossible to focus.  And then the bands of light began to move out of him.  He groaned at the familiar and unpleasant soul-sucking feeling, and doubled over as it intensified.  Sonora gasped, but before she had time to consider Aleron’s fate, the full force of the magic struck her.  At first, it was like a small pang, but it grew and grew, radiating through her body.  She cried out fruitlessly as the burning sensation she felt increased ten fold, and she felt as though she would certainly burn from the inside out.  Her head began to throb, and then it felt as if her whole body was vibrating.  She completely lost herself in the pain, not seeing or hearing anything but the increasing sensations in her own body.

“No!” Aleron cried out, seeing Sonora wracked with pain.  I will not be the reason she dies! He fought against the darkness using him and tried to focus.  He closed his eyes, forcing himself to probe; to find the place within him from which the flow originated.  It took precious time.  He pushed onward, finally finding the end of the spell matrix; the thread that tied the two of them together.  With the last bit of energy he had, he tugged at it with his mind, whispering a counterspell and successfully unraveling it enough to break the flow.

He fell to his hands and knees, winded, and looked over at Sonora.  She flopped, completely lifeless in the guard’s arms.

“How dare you!” the night elf yelled.

“Never mind,” said her counterpart.  “I would still call this progress.”  The night elf nodded, but continued to stare furiously at the mage.

“Leave them.”  The guards dropped their victims like sacks of grain, and Sonora landed with an unceremonious thud.

Aleron crawled to the place Sonora lay.  “Sonora,” he said hoarsely.  “Sonora, can you hear me?”  He could see her shallow breaths, but she did not respond to him; did not even flinch.  “Not again!  Do not let this happen again!”  Aleron carried her to the makeshift bed, biting back against the sorrow he felt within him; she reminded him so much of another lifeless form…

Click here to go on to Part 4: Memory.

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A Short Tale About an Old God

Once upon a time, a terrible fiend burst through his watery prison and corrupted the stalwart protectors of the land of Azeroth.  It became clear that something had changed within the walls of the Titan palace known as Ulduar, and a band of twenty-five strong, dedicated adventurers (under the banner of Chi Cerca Trova and the united Alliance forces of Azeroth) dared to find out.

After fighting through the corruption and facing several outright monsters, the adventurers approached Sara, a woman who appeared to need assistance.  In truth, the great monster only used the form to masquerade himself.  He was great and terrible; a deceiver and murderer who could devour the minds of any who came upon him unprepared for his trickery.

He sent waves of Guardians against the adventurers, but they stood firmly against them, turning their destructive might against the avatar of the beast.  His illusion shattered, the monster appeared from the depths of his prison and thrust his many tentacles at the adventurers.  Those with swords and daggers hacked at the twisting, poisonous limbs, while the spellcasters in the group held off their vicious curses and unleashed their magic upon the biggest and most lethal arms of the beast.  Some of the adventurers were lured into visions, but bravely fought their way out, keeping their wits about them as they attacked the very head of the monster.

The Old God roared in pain and unleashed terrible minions upon the group, trying to overwhelm them to the point of insanity, and some were lost.  Those who remained steeled themselves against the forces of the evil one, and though each expected a fatal blow at any second, they fought as though they expected to live forever.

And suddenly, victory fell within their grasp, and each of them fought twice as hard.  They rained blows upon the monster and his minions, until the last of his awful resources had been extinguished.  The remaining adventurers focused on their intended goal, and held their collective breaths as the final spells whizzed towards the beast’s head and the last dagger slashed into his grotesque flesh.

And suddenly the monster Yogg-Saron fell to their might, and lay very still among them.  Those who had fallen in battle were resurrected, and there was great rejoicing among the twenty-five and among the citizens of Azeroth.

Now they have uncovered a new challenge — the waking of the Titan creation Algalon, who exists to cleanse Azeroth of the imbalance in its Keepers.  Can they save Azeroth from a certain end?  Only time will tell.

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A Cord of Two Strands–Part 2

This is part 2 in a 7 part series; click here to go back to part 1, or you can go to an index of all the parts here.

An Introduction

“What brings you to Stormwind?” Markus asked Sonora, inclining his head with feigned interest.

“My father firmly believes in diplomacy and cultural understanding.  He wanted me to come to Stormwind City ‘for the experience.’”

“You sound a bit dubious,” Markus noted, glancing sideways at her.  As he suspected she would, Sonora blushed again.

“I mean no disrespect,” she said.  “Only I—“

“Do not worry, Sonora,” he interrupted.  “All of us have questioned our parents’ wisdom at some point or another.  You seem intelligent; you will figure it all out in time.”  At his complement, she forced another blush back below her skin.

Markus smiled inwardly, knowing he had made an impact on the girl.  He needed to be sure he had her complete confidence for what he planned next.  “I think we should go to the Mage Quarter of town,” he suggested.  “My old haunt.”

“You are a mage, then?” Sonora asked him, her interest piqued.

“Of a sort,” he answered smoothly.  “But it is something I prefer not to brag about.”

Markus led her around the Mage Quarter, ending at a tavern.  “This, m’lady, is the Slaughtered Lamb.  Sounds disturbing, I know, but its name is its worst feature.”  Sonora walked into the darkened pub and glanced around.  The clientele seemed a bit questionable.  One man in a stained shirt and ripped pants sat guzzling whiskey at a table which contained several feathers, a dagger, and something that Sonora thought might be an eyeball.  Behind the counter, the barkeep smiled at her with yellow teeth and an odor so strong she could practically taste stale alcohol.

“Well, Markus!” said the barkeep.  “Long time, boy.  Where have you been?”

“Oh, you know, here and there,” Markus said vaguely, winking at the man and throwing him a charming grin.  “I am escorting this lovely visitor around Stormwind, and thought we would stop by for a drink.”

“I have to keep the place open somehow,” replied the barkeep.
“We’ll take the back table.”

After a bit of food and drink, Markus leaned forward.  “Would you like to see some magic?” he asked, a bright twinkle in his eye.

“Certainly,” Sonora said, smiling.  She watched as Markus’s fingers began to move, and he uttered soft words she couldn’t quite make out.  Suddenly, a small figure made entirely of flames appeared.  Markus began to swing his fingers in the air, as if  playing a song on an invisible instrument, and the fiery figure danced on the table.    She smiled in appreciation, watching it sway and turn.

Mesmerized by the glowing image, Sonora failed to notice that Markus’s focus was elsewhere.  Markus brought his hand down quickly and grabbed Sonora’s, startling her.  Before she could even gasp, he uttered an unfamiliar syllable, and suddenly, Sonora knew only darkness.  It was cold, so cold and so dark that Sonora felt as though she were falling into meaninglessness.  Then, just as it had started, it ceased, and she stumbled backwards as her hooves touched solid ground.

Sonora looked around slowly.  She was in a dark room with only a few candles flickering.  Many forms of all shapes and sizes seemed to be engrossed in doing things—things Sonora didn’t recognize or understand.  Many of them wore robes, and all of them looked ominous.

Suddenly, she heard a voice behind her.  Markus!  What had happened?
“You have seen my façade, Sonora.  Welcome to my reality.”

He looked up when the door opened, and his eyes widened when a young draenei stumbled in.  She looked as surprised to be there as he was to see her, and as she hadn’t noticed him yet, he waited for her to regain her footing before speaking.

“Hello,” he said, trying not to startle her.  Sonora looked up at the unexpected voice, and seeing the dark ring above his head, took a step back.

“I understand your fright all too well.”  He paused for a moment before adding, “I have been here for a long time, and this accursed spell is what keeps me here.”

Sonora found her voice enough to ask, “Are we prisoners here, then?”  His pained expression gave her all the answer she needed.  “Where are we? Is there no way to escape? Who are these people?”  He motioned to her to have a seat beside him on his small straw mat.  She hesitated, but seeing no reason to argue, complied.

“I could not possibly tell you where we are,” he began.  “They effectively knocked me out before bringing me to this place.  I am sure there are ways to escape, but this mental prison they keep me in has made it too difficult for me to thoroughly consider the possibilities.”  At this he sighed deeply before continuing.  “These people are the collective dark warlocks that make up the Shadow Council, a story for another day.”

“Why do they keep us here?” Sonora asked.  “Why have they kept you for so long, and what could they possibly want with me?”

“I am a mage,” he answered.  “They have been trying to harvest my magic for their own purposes.  Several weeks ago, they succeeded.”

“But I have no magic, and I am too young and certainly not important enough to be useful to them,” Sonora said.  “What does Markus want from me?”

“Markus brought you here?” he asked sharply.

“Yes, he was my escort around Stormwind.  Or, I thought he was.”

“I knew it!” he said angrily.  “That man has done darker deeds than I like to think about.  It makes sense—they did not choose me for my power; they could have used any mage.  They chose me because I was so close to catching him and—” he thought better about what he was going to say.  Sonora, surprised at the outburst, knew that whatever had happened between this man and Markus was personal and serious.

Both of them peered around to the door as it opened.  Sonora quivered slightly as the hooded figures entered, but her fellow prisoner only afforded them a defiant glance.

“Good afternoon, lady and gentleman,” the hooded night elf sneered.  She walked over to where they sat, and looked closely at Sonora from under the dark cover.  “We have big plans for you.”

“I am not interested in your plans,” she replied, gritting her teeth.

“Oh, what spunk!  Markus certainly knows how to pick them.”  Sonora remained fiercely silent, refusing to give into the warlock’s taunts.  “Stand up!” she commanded, her voice rising.  The prisoners got to their feet slowly.

“Come to me,” said the gnome to Sonora.  She reluctantly obeyed.  The warlock produced the filled orb and handed it to her partner.  The night elf held it out above Sonora’s head.  She tried to duck, but the elf stood eye to eye with her, and intimidated, Sonora relented.  The gnome began to chant, and the orb appeared to dissolve, leaving a hovering vapor.  When the night elf removed her hand, the vapor floated downward, until it disappear into Sonora.
The draenei grimaced; it burned slightly in a way that felt as if she had been lit from the inside.  Then, just as quickly as it had come, it ended, and Sonora slumped to her knees.  “That will be enough for now,” she told her companion in a low voice.
The two left together, clearly delighted.  As soon as the door closed, the mage joined Sonora on the ground where she sat very still.  “I feel strange,” she said, her voice slightly hoarse.

“I would be surprised if you did not.”

“What was that?  What are they doing to me?”

The mage paused for a moment, deciding on the best way to word his answer.  Not finding anything but the outright truth, he finally said,  “I believe they are trying to give you magic.”

“That is…ridiculous,” she replied softly.

“That is the Shadow Council,” he said harshly.  “I imagine if it works on you, they will begin trying to siphon magic off of everything and channel it into themselves.”  I cannot allow that to happen, he thought grimly.

Click here to go on to Part 3: Progress.

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A Cord of Two Strands–Part 1

My short story for Blizzard’s creative writing competition didn’t make the cut, but my mageboy has encouraged me to share it anyway.  Because it’s pretty long, I’m going to post it here in parts.  This, then; is Part 1

A Successful Experiement

Runes hung in the air, glowing brightly.  Each one was a different shape; a different spell—but all of them were incomplete.  The fingers tracing them looked worn, but flew across the space with deceptive speed.  Lips moved in barely whispered incantations and many uttered curses.

One of the runes glistened for a minute, then a sound like a small explosion echoed through the chamber, followed by a violent curse from its creator.

A door creaked and a voice bellowed from behind it, “Keep it down in there, Your Highness!”  Then came a short snicker drowned by the slamming of the door.

A tall female with pale blue skin and hooves sat next to a fountain, looking incredibly lost.  “Diplomacy,” her father had said, “is an important part of our life now.  As a people, we have adjusted to many changes with this new alliance with the humans, gnomes, dwarves, and elves of Azeroth and Kalimdor.  Forging these bonds is imperative to your adult life.”  Faced with her father’s insistence, Sonora reluctantly agreed to a trip to the human capital of Stormwind.  She felt like an oddity here; many of these humans were unfamiliar with her kind, and looked at her strangely.

Just when she was sure she could take no more, her escort finally arrived.  A strikingly tall human, he introduced himself as Markus.  Brown hair and blue eyes, Sonora found him not unattractive.  “Sonora, I presume?” he said with a smile as he extended a hand, and she placed her hand in his.  “Peter at the Stormwind Visitors Center sent me to welcome you to Stormwind and show you around.  It is very nice to meet you.”

“The pleasure is mine, sir,” she said in her soft voice as he closed his fingers around hers and assisted her to her feet.

“Oh, please call me Markus,” he replied with another smile.  Her blue cheeks flushed slightly purple.  This blush did not escape Markus’s attention, and he grinned inwardly with delight.  She was just what he had been looking for.

Morning came, and he could sense the building waking up around him.  Today would be another day they could torture him.  For 475 days he had been in this room that served as his cell; days without magic that crawled by through his one dim window.

The guard outside his door handed him a small mug of water and a plate with gruel and a piece of hard bread.  Immediately after his capture, he had refused to eat, but found that this only made the torture more painful.  Using the bread as a makeshift spoon, he forced the tasteless mush into his mouth.  When it was gone, he tore at the bread with his teeth and sipped the water to help him swallow.

When he finished, he threw the plate at the door and put the mug next to the straw and joke of a blanket that served as his bed.  Several minutes later, a familiar voice called to him.  “Good morning, Ultraking,” the female voice sneered.

“I am more noble than you will ever be,” he growled back at her.

“That may well be true,” the voice replied from under a dark hood. “But this is my palace.  You would be wise to watch your manners.”

The captive clenched his jaw, and the tall elf in front of him took it as a sign of acquiescence.  She began to cast, her voice low and guttural.  The crown of inky black light above his head—serving as both the mind-control spell that kept him from blasting his way out and the source of his nickname—began to swell and brighten.  He braced himself, knowing what would come next.  Her shorter partner withdrew a trembling orb from her robe, and the circle of darkness above his head dropped down into his body.  He writhed in pain.  The first time they had tried this, and several times after, he had been forced to his knees and blacked out.  He now knew to force his body to relax as much as possible, though he clenched his teeth tightly against the burning swell within him.  After several agonizing moments, a stream of light tore from the center of his body and whipped to the orb with frightening speed.  The searing pain was gone, but it had been replaced with the feeling that his soul was being ripped from his body.  They had certainly gotten better at this, he noted with some difficulty.

Finally, when the orb had been filled, the draining ceased.  Impacted by the sudden stop, he fell to his knees.  He looked up at the orb, and grimaced with concern.  It was completely unclouded; they had extracted his magic without infusing any of their own.  He wanted to believe that they would now release him, but he knew better.  The thought of what they planned to do with his concentrated power concerned him; there were many ways he could think to use it, none good.

Click here to go on to Part 2: An Introduction.

Click here to go to an index of all the parts.

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A New Achievement

No, I didn’t get Heroic: Glory of the Raider, and to be honest, I probably never will (we have a group of achievement-haters in our guild).  I don’t have a cool drake or neat title, but this sense of accomplishment is a lot greater than even my favorite achievements (Ambermist Jenkins, c’mon, you know you love it).

I finished a 9.9 thousand word short story.

Okay, yes, I call myself a writer, and I’ve certainly written things.  But that’s all I’ve ever done.  A few poems here; fragments of novel ideas there; a few stories that barely reached three pages, but never have I written anything to this magnitude.  What could have possibly motivated me to finish such a glorious feat in a young (shut up, all you 16-year-old prodigies) writer’s career?  I’m glad you asked, my friend:  Blizzard’s Creative Writing Contest.

Write a story about something I know inside and out?  Put myself in my character’s shoes and create art with it?  Relate to the characters in novels by Christie Golden and Richard Knaak, the pages of which I have turned so often they are worn from use and tears?  OF COURSE I WILL!

The awesome prizes aside (first prize being a trip to Blizzard to meet the writers of our favorite MMO and related franchises AND a hot, personal Frostmourne), this gave me a chance to put away my pretentious ideas stemming from the three years I worked towards the English Lit degree I never finished and get in touch with who I am as a writer.  I finally discovered what they always told me but I never believed: write from what you know.

The competition is fierce; I’ve read several excerpts from competitors and almost lost the resolve to finish my own tale, but with constant encouragement from my mageboy husband and a real love of the story I wrote, I typed out THE END about two weeks ago.  After that, it was read after read, cutting back dry dialogue here, choosing better words there, and getting input from other WoW lore fanatics.  Yesterday I submitted A Cord of Two Strands for better or for worse.

I don’t know if I even have a chance at winning, though I hope I do.  But I don’t need to be number one on progression; knowing that I wrote from that really cool point of inspiration inside of me and seeing my work completed is pretty darn satisfying.

That said, wish me luck!

And, of course, here’s an excerpt from my entry, A Cord of Two Strands:

“I expected it would be painful,” Aleron said.  “How do you feel now?”

“Okay, but I feel strange.  I—I feel as though I am shaking on the inside,” she said, blushing slightly at how absurd it sounded.  Aleron studied her for a few moments, lost in thought.  Suddenly, he glanced furtively around the room, then finally looked down at the straw of the makeshift bed upon which they sat.  Plucking out a small handful, he looked again at the draenei.

“Hold out your hand,” he directed.  She held out her hand dutifully, and he placed the straw inside her palm.  “Close your eyes, and try to push that feeling out of you.”  At her puzzled expression, he prompted her again, “Go on.”

“I am too tired for games,” she replied.

“Try.  You must do this,” he said fiercely, the first real spark of life Sonora had seen shining in his eyes.  Prompted by the strength of his response, Sonora tried again.  Closing her eyes, she tried to turn her focus inside herself.  She felt the shaking, like a reverberation within her.  She pushed against it with her mind, and was shocked when it felt as though it were following her focus.  Doubling her efforts, she pushed against it further, forcing it into her outstretched arm.  The feeling was so intense, she knew her arm must be shaking wildly, but she continued until she felt as though a blast of it went through her fingers.  The vibration seemed to settle back into her body, although not as strongly.  “My hand is warm,” she noticed aloud.  She was surprised to hear Aleron chuckling.

“Open your eyes,” he instructed proudly.  She did, and was shocked to see the straw in her fingers smoldering, smoke curling up above her hand.  The straw was clearly burnt in places, like the first breaths of a fire had passed over it.

“What have I done?” she said in awe.

“You have proven that you might be our way out of here!”

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