“You’ve looked a lot better, Lord Valmy. Glutted yourself on all the power and resources you stole from me… and now look what you are without them. I have to say, though, this Fel Horde battlesuit was a nice find. Never got it to work, though, did you? You were never all that attentive with reverse-engineering the orcs’ tech just because you thought it beneath you… well, maybe you’re right about that, but there are some uses to it. A good engineer does not dismiss what works simply because he didn’t build it.”
Professor Rakeri Sputterspark clasped his pincer-hands behind his back as he paced around the tower outside the Cobalt Assembly in the Azure Span. On his knees in front of him was the bound and bloodied form of Lord Eldred Valmy. The exiled Gilnean warlock was shackled using a set of magic-nullifying cuffs, typically used by the Kirin Tor or the Wardens to imprison magic wielders. He gave a light snort before backhanding the lupine sorcerer. “Pathetic wretch. You think I would owe you forever just because Marennia groveled to you to resurrect me?”
“Spare me the speeches, Sputterspark,” Eldred snarled. “Kill me and be done. For all the good it will do.”
“Yes, you’d expect that, wouldn’t you? But we are warlocks, you and I. We have both been killed once, and yet… here we are.” Rakeri chuckled. “No. I have something better in mind for you.” He looked up to the Nightborne in the high-collared robe standing at his side. “Will it work?”
“Even with what you have taken back, Professor… I do believe so, yes. It has enough magical talent of its own, not to mention what it took from the other.” The Nightborne peered at Eldred, his metal-tipped gloves running through the worgen’s exposed fur, inspecting him as if he were cattle waiting for slaughter. “I think it will do nicely. There will be certain items required, of course.”
“Twitch will carry whatever is necessary. Make whatever preparations you need, Aldos. For such a thing as this, we can either have it done quickly…”
“Or have it done right,” Lord Aldos Relsyn finished, nodding in agreement. “I think we should make contact before we begin, to inform him of the… circumstances. I have felt the essence begun to stir since you came to me.”
Rakeri was silent for a moment… then finally nodded. “Yes, I think that would be ideal. With the risks we’re taking, I think it best to cover all the ground we can.”
Relsyn knelt and began drawing a rune on the floor, before opening an embroidered pouch at his side and pulling out what looked for all the world to Rakeri like a lich’s phylactery. But he could feel the power from this artifact, and knew it was not Scourge magic… but something far more familiar to him. He set the recepticle in the center of the small runic circle and began to speak in Eredun.
The bound Gilnean recoiled into himself. Even Rakeri had to repress a shudder, for the voice was less heard as felt in his bones. “Scion of Argus, once agent of the Legion, now… perhaps something more,” he said calmly. “Your skills are needed, and your powers a welcome addition to ours… and to the Council.”
The Council. An ethereal figure appeared in the circle, a ghost that could easily have been mistaken for draenei… but for the wicked glare in his eye and the sneer on his face. Your little Council was responsible for this mess, you wretched pygmy. What possible reason would I have to return to this cursed world? The Burning Crusade is over. Kil’jaeden and Talgath are dead, the Dark Lord bound by the Betrayer and the Pantheon… Argus is gone, and the Legion is broken. All thanks to you disgusting mortals. So why should I help you?
“Well, if you would prefer we scatter you to oblivion…” Rakeri smiled coldly. “Lord Relsyn has been kind enough to keep your essence preserved until we can bring about your return in some form.”
The ethereal figure’s eyes narrowed. And why would you do that?
“A mutual enemy. The one responsible for your current state.”
That got the spirit’s attention, as he knew it would. What do you have in mind?
“There has been a recent… expansion of users of the dark arts. Among peoples who never wielded it before. Including your erstwhile puritan brethren… even those who served Turalyon on Argus.”
Warlocks among Velen’s flock, and in the Army of the Light? The spirit laughed scornfully. You lie.
“I assure you, I do not. It is a recent development, but nonetheless it has happened.” Rakeri folded his arms across his chest. “It would be the perfect cover. Oh, you wouldn’t be welcome in the Exodar in all likelihood, but they would just suspect you were a draenei gone off the rails, rather than… something more.”
Hmm… The spirit considered this. You are not bringing me back and delivering my killer into my hands out of the goodness of your clockwork heart, Sputterspark. What is your price?
…what? That was not what he was expecting.
“His latest scheme is a take on an ancient idea. The Eightfold Path. The belief that peace is an artificial construct, and that war and chaos are the natural state of existence. You’ve probably heard of it.” The spirit nodded. “We and some others, non-warlocks in a few cases, think it’s a good idea. But it’s flawed from the beginning because of who is running it. The man is an imbecile. Constantly picking petty, unnecessary fights.”
The spirit snorted. Says the one who kidnapped the dog because he stole some of your books.
Rakeri scowled. The hell of it was, he was right. “Perhaps, but it was also done without idiotic fanfare.”
Fair enough. Go on.
“Lord Relsyn and I intend to remove him. I have a plan or two in mind, something he brought to me as a suggestion based on some of the work he’s engaged in up near Tyrhold. Something about time rifts?”
“Indeed,” Relsyn confirmed, nodding. “There was one that was particularly… amusing. I think you may find it a better punishment than death.”
You intend to let him live? Stripped of his power in some way?
“Among other things, yes. And he will, of course, be yours to use as you see fit. That part, at least, is out of the goodness of my clockwork heart, Kalimos.”
Kalimos’ eyes narrowed… and then he laughed. You are a vile creature, Sputterspark. I like you. Then he sobered. You are not expecting me to take charge of this little cult, are you? If you are intending to recruit for it, letting slip that it is being run by a “draenei” - and any idiot would be able to find out I am not - would attract that unwelcome attention.
“The thought had occurred to me,” Rakeri agreed. “It’s also the same reason I am not intending to, either. I have a reputation of sorts to maintain with the ignorant sheep I have to work with.” He nodded to Relsyn. “Our friend here will do so. Oh, the fools in Suramar know he was a loyalist of Elisande during the war, but the hunters have busied themselves elsewhere, more or less. There’s the possibility of somebody alerting House Vendross, but… our mutual ‘friend’ has a saying about timid men being destined for timid jobs.”
Indeed… Kalimos was silent for a moment, considering it. Very well, Sputterspark. We will play this your way. For now. He glanced at the bound and blooded figure next to him. And this, I take it, is your offering?
Rakeri grinned. “One of.”