As the clouds broke beneath me I could just make out my destination in the distance. Ravenholdt Manor's roof top reflected the evening sunlight. My griffin's wings beat in a laborious rhythm against the prevailing winds. The oppressive weight of the gemstones I was to deliver to Wrathion seemed as much a physical burden to my mount as they were a mental agony to me. Seldom had I so anticipated the completion of a contracted as I did this one. With a stumbling lurch the poor beast landed in the well guarded courtyard. Once my identity was confirmed by one of the guards, I swiftly removed the heavy saddlebags. With a pat and a word of praise for a job well done I turned on my heel and I headed into the manor.
Wrathion and Fahrad seemed not to have moved much since my last visit. Positioned at either end of a large table covered with maps and dispatches they were consumed with their quest to discover every last member of the Black Dragonflight. My rude deposit of the saddle bags into the middle of their contemplation gained me their rapid attention.
"Ah! Do you see how they shimmer?" Wrathion asked after dumping some of the shadowy gemstones out into his hand. "Many fine gems sparkle in the light, but only these seem to sparkle with darkness." The look on the boy's face didn't seemed more thoughtful than entranced. "I'll preform an enchantment on these while your on your next mission." So Kaitou had been correct in his assessment, Wrathion was going to do something to those gemstones or at least turn them to his purpose. "Are you ready? The gems you collected will be able to augment the power of the weapons I gave you, but I require another ingredient. It will come from your next target."
A snort from Fahrad drew both of our attention. "We've located her here, in the caverns beneath Karazhan." Pointing at the top most map in the middle of the table Fahrad continued. "Fearful for her life, she is researching arcane secrets buried beneath the foundation."
Wrathion then took up the narrative. "Her name is 'Nalice'." I gave a start of recognition and then Wrathion confirmed my suspicions. "And until recently she stood at Wyrmrest Temple as a representative of the Black Dragonflight." But just before the Cataclysm she had disappeared, no one had known why. Then the destruction of the Sanctums...the death of Korialstrasz and all the hatchings. "Now? She's on the run." This I hadn't suspected. A target I KNEW, my mind raced with the possibilities. Fahrad's voice drew my attention back.
"She's surrounded herself with a small army of deranged dragon cultist." Fahrad continued with his debriefing. "They may not be right in the head, but they're well-armed. And dangerous." With a shrug Fahrad rolled up the map and reconnaissance notes before handing them over to me. I could tell nothing from his expression how he felt though his tone as he discussed Nalice was both dismissive and mocking.
Wrathion once more took control of the conversation. "Your primary mission is to destroy her, but if you can bring me back a vial of her blood, I'll be able to use it to augment the power of the daggers I've given you. Your accomplice Zazzo has already been dispatched to the scene and awaits you there. He'll have more details." Oh lovely my gnomish babysitter was going to be there to hyperventilate in my ear again. Just what I needed. At least this time I was going somewhere I was familiar.
"I hope to see you back from this mission alive." Wrathion's tone seemed almost a dare. "But if I do not, I want to say I have enjoyed seeing you work. You're a credit to your race." With a wave he dismissed me. "Good luck." I glanced at Fahrad's face but it remained an impassive mask as he observed his prince once more consumed with the gems I had delivered.
The journey to Karazhan was uneventful. I good nights rest in Darkshire's inn before the final leg resulted in me arriving well rested. Zazzo was his spastic best when I arrived and while I was fresh and rested, he was looking a little frazzled.
"Madness. Insanity!" Zazzo jumped up and down with agitation. "I don't know what Nalice is doing down there, but the entire basement radiates with diabolical arcane energy. She's got an entire cult worshiping her as a goddess." Wring his hands the gnome mage gestured to the greatly altered Karazhan landscape. The ghosts of the past that had previously haunted Karazhan had been exorcised and now its streets were filled with Dragonkin and cultists. However as Fahrad had insinuated they were not very bright. Patrols only graced the center streets and buildings. Like a fly buzzing my ear Zazzo's voice penetrated my mussing once more. "If we're going to take her out, we have to do it soon. I hope your ready for this."
I simply nodded before slipping into the shadow. Nalice's henchmen were nothing compared to Creed's Worgen. They were preoccupied with the some strange devices which seemed to be collecting the stray arcane energy that surrounded Karazhan. Even better I KNEW this place, had walked its shattered pathways many times before. It was a breeze to slip along the outskirts of the village and around to the cellar's entrance. The only true start I had was when one of Karazhan's former residents decided to make an appearance, however she seemed to feel that I was not worth her notice, merely drifting on after staring at me for a few moments.
Nalice herself was holed up in the deepest part of what had once been the Master's Cellar, the extended storage catacombs beneath the keep. The particular area she was using actually contained a a well I knew the Violet Eye had noted for its arcane energy. So consumed was she with her arcane studies she didn't even notice me until I garroted her human throat.
"An Assassin! Did the little whelpling send you after me? Come rogue. Let's dance." Eyes blazing Nalice went after me with everything she had, and as a dragon her her skills were immense. "I've got some secretes of my own, rogue." She taunted as she suddenly became invulnerable to my attacks putting a shield around herself and throwing arcane landmines across the floor. However it was simple to see that these generated not from herself but from devices she had manufactured, not unlike the ones her cultists had been working on. Quickly disenageing them made her vulnerable once more. "I...I need more time!"
Nalice's eyes darted around the room seeking assistance but her lackeys were far away, she like many others of her kind preferred to plan alone and it would be her undoing. Wounds riddled both of our bodies but it was clear that Nalice was in worse condition than I. "This isn't how it ends. Not for me. I'm a survivor." I almost felt pity for her. She was right. She had been survivor. She was running from her own flight, from the rest of the dragons, but what kind of life would she have had? Hiding out in the cellars of Karazhan? Pretending to be a goddess? Madness was only a breath away, ending her life was a mercy. With a final thrust my dagger hit home. With a shutter I felt Nalice's life begin to slip away. With a shimmer she lost control over her human form, I leapt back not to be crushed by her draconic weight. "You cling to a shattered world..." she groaned "Your time comes....Soon enough..."
It took me a moment to locate a vial to gather some of the pooling blood. It seemed that no sooner was it in my possession and corked than I felt Zazzo's presence once more."Nalice. Dead?" I gave a tired affirmative then felt the pull of a arcane teleport.
"You did it? She's dead? Unbelievable! You're some kind of miracle worker!" Zazzo seemed to leap around me as I collapsed on the ground before him. His superfluous praise making me a tad uncomfortable. I was just doing my job. "Here, give me that blood. I can perserve its energies in an arcane matrix for your trip back." Gingerly handing him the vial of blood, the mute testament to my accomplishment I watched with bemusement as he waved his hands around muttering over it.
Once he finishes he hands it back to me as if the vial contains something toxic. "Done! You'll want to get this back to Wrathion as soon as possible, along with those two daggers of yours." Wiping his hands together he continued. "I don't know what he plans to do with this stuff." Zazzo adds with a shrug. "Between you and me, sometimes that little dragon kid creeps me out. Good Luck!" His duty to me completed Zazzo gave a relieved sigh then ported himself out of there.
By this time I had recovered enough to drag my own sorry carcass up and make my way back to Ravenholdt. Fahrad and Wrathion still circle their table, contemplating their next target, however at my entrance they both look up.
"Ah, you've returned! I no longer sense Nalice's presence. Is she dead? Or has she somehow eluded us both?" Wrathion watched me with glittering eyes as I pulled out the vial of blood and listens intently as I give them both a brief discribtion of what transpired in Karazhan's cellar. "Incredible! Few assassins would be clever enough to infiltrate Nalice's wards and use her own magic against her." Wrathion crowed his face wreathed in smiles.
"She allowed herself to be defeated." Fahrad interrupted bitterly. "The others will not be so weak."
"Perhaps." Wrathion conceded. "For that reason, we will need to gather more supplies....But first." Wrathion motions for me to hand him the vial of blood and my daggers, his face is a mask of equal parts reverence and revulsion. Part of the blood he pours into a rune covered bowl that Fahrad hands him into which he drops the gems I collected one-by-one, muttering an incantation. The bowl fares with smoke and light. Then Wrathion reaches in removing the gems which he then places at equal intervals along the daggers. Without warning he takes the remaining blood and pours it over the blades of the daggers, and the steel seems to writhe and twist as though a living thing. When the smoke clears, the shape of the daggers has changed and now they literally wink at me.
What have I gotten myself into.
To be continued....