“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.