HERE BEGINS BOOK FOUR: THE PRIMAL DARK
A Brief Discourse on My Work; In Which Kelith Vedan Tells Me of His Tenure at Dalaran
I have peered back over my notes in the most curious fashion. I recall beginning this monumental tasks many months ago; I recall, nearly a year ago, when Kelith Vedan so unkindly kidnapped me from my home. I recall my loss and my hate of my most cruel Master. Reading my original writings, I can even see where I anticipated my own demise when I began to compile my work. That is very far from my mind now. The man I called once Most Cruel, and Most Hated Master has vanished. Before my eyes I have seen his figure cast and recast again in the base element of life. As his story grew and his person was revealed, as I studied my notes of the tales he had told me, the veils that had been cast before my eyes by my conventional and bounded thought were torn away. The yoke about my neck that prevented me from looking about but always forced me to look straight ahead has been undone. The lies of the world have come crashing down, and with them, all of their glory and pomp. Kelith Vedan is not a monster - he is a hero of the individual, and the ultimate triumph of the will of men over the will of Gods.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
My Master woke me from my sleep very early that morning. He told me we were to go see the glistening city. This was before my master ran himself through with a blade, bested by his worse, more feeble nature. He woke me from my bed almost, but not quite, gently. He led me down to where he had prepared me some meal for breakfast. He is not a very good chef, Master, but before his niece (of whom I am now allowed to write) came to live with us, he either subsisted on my food or I on his gruel.
After eating the meager meal before us, he urged me outside. He had prepared a wain of a most ordinary nature. I was surprised to find it pulled by a most ordinary horse. Atop that horse sat the smallish, almost mousy woman he had identified to me as Meris. He told me that was not her real name, but that she would be our driver for the day. Meris seemed unhappy to be reduced to such a role. She said as much to my Master who glared at her with such a look that could wither trees. Meris didn't say anything after that. She just waited as my Master and I climbed into the cart and sat down.
The trip was long, and Master needed to freeze the river in Chillwind Canyon to allow the wagon to pass over it. Other than that, it was uneventful, save for the story my Master was unweaving for me. He tells his tales very simply, and without frill. This is one of the reasons why he found me to write for him I believe. He has no sense of the dramatic, and seems delighted to pronounce even the most horrifying of things as though they were commonplace. You must excuse the amount of drama I infuse his stories with - to me I see them as vivid images in my mind while he speaks. The towers of Dalaran are foreign to me, so I have to ask him again and again what they look like. The attitudes of mages are so far removed from my everyday life that I must beg him to act them out - and indeed, my Master is quite good at acting. That is where he excels, I believe. Not on the page, but in the amphitheater. His poetry is not of the best quality, and his fiction is drab, dull. His portrayal of other people - those that never existed included - is always frighteningly accurate. It is almost as though he never lived his own life, but merely constructed it as a game after watching others live theirs.
Upon arriving at the shimmering city I was at once shocked by the magnitude of the magic that was visible there. My Master had often performed little magical tricks as part of his everyday life. His little tricks could not have prepared me for the vast web of spells that shields the city from harm. I can imagine even now the wizards that must be repairing in their lofty aeries and meditating upon the great and unwieldy net they have lifted into the sky. This performance of power reminds me of My Master on many smaller scales. The Wizards of Dalaran have done what my Master will some day do. They have taken the Law of the world into their hands and bent it, and twisted it, and reshaped it until it performed not as it was wont, but as they desired.
When we reached the hidden city My Master told Meris she could wander about, but not to get too far away. Here and there Kirin Tor messenger boys and summoners lurked in the ruins. My Master told me that they too had been locked out, and their communication with the wardens of Dalaran was brief and disjointed. My Master had a sad smile on his face when he said that they could simply go to -him- if they wanted orders from a real Kirin Tor. I nearly asked him why he looked so sad, but refrained. I was still anxious back then about posing too many questions. What had happened in that tower room so long ago, when Kelith struck me across the head for my nosiness, had not fully left my mind. My Master must have recognized the question in my look. He pursed his lips and sucked his teeth heavily before answering it.
"The filthy hill-man has taken my token, my seal. I am a Kirin Tor without a seal. That means I am just a man who claims to be a Kirin Tor."
Strangely enough, I understood. It is hard to know what that feels like unless you too have felt the need to hold a symbol to make you who you are. I once had a membership to the exclusive society of Gnomish Engineers - a Brotherhood. That card had long been lost after My Master kidnapped me from my home. Without it I felt just as he did. As though I were lost, adrift in a sea of myself and unable to locate me for the trees. Or am I mixing metaphors again? Suffice to say - I was everywhere, for I had no anchor, which is the same as being nowhere. That's how Kelith would have put it. Everywhere is the same as Nowhere.
Then My Master told me of his time as a teacher. Many things came and went in this story, and it took him until sundown to relate to me. Then, he went and fetched Meris. They had a private conversation which consisted of him pointing his finger at her and scowling deeply. Then she drove us home. When we reached Caer Darrow I wrote down everything I had heard that day before going to bed.
The next morning, I wrote chapter two of the Fourth Book of Kelith's life, and today I edited it.
The Life of a Professor
Upon graduating, the boy that had entered Dalaran was gone. The war had taken away his parents, and he had not even known. Never once did he send a letter home, or inquire as to what they had been doing. It was common for contact to be lost with apprentices in all crafts - but never so wholly as this. His parents were gone, his friends were dead by his own hand, and a terrifying illness had overtaken him. He was prepared as a vessel to receive messages from the Great Dark Beyond - he was so close to madness that he might as well be on the other side of that tenuous borderland. More; he had destroyed the Library dome and the Clock Tower of Dalaran with his final spell as a student. Kelith Vedan entered manhood already indebted to three forces.
Firstly, he owed the mundane things to the College of Magery - many thousands of crowns of work-hours to repay the damages he had caused. Secondly, he owed his position to the mysterious and unwholesome Kel'Thuzad, who often prowled the hallways of the school talking to unsatisfied students and drawing them into a special circle of elect. Thirdly, and most menacing of the three, he owed his continued existence to the strange and noxious voices which babbled on inside his skull. The visions had quieted since the Exam, to be sure, but often he still felt things in the shadows.
The position he took was as a professor of Philosophy at the College. It was the most natural course for him. As he had debated it with the Ascendants day in and day out, he was prepared to answer questions and present fully formulated philosophical arguments. In addition to teaching the classics, he had taken to forwarding his own views with a brash note - at least, for a while.
As the youngest professor and only student to be employed by the College of Dalaran fresh out of the school himself, he was the source of some sour brooding. As the sole survivor of a mass-murder under mysterious circumstances, he was an outcast. He himself was afraid to unmake that opinion of him which most of the faculty had. He hardly trusted himself around other people outside of the classroom.
In his classes he was healthy and hale - for a time. Then, even those began to slip away from him. He was given a little villa atop a pleasant little hill in Dalaran to dwell in. The entire road was known as the Rue de Mystere as it was home to many of the College's faculty. It also housed several exotic shops that imported items of strange occult value from all over the world. Kelith frequented the bookshop with regularity, perusing over the texts acquired from Undermine or Stranglethorn.
He was required to teach three classes a week, and on the days he didn't, he moped about the campus. Many of the spots he had frequented as a student he visited again as a professor. However, this time he had no retinue of faithful followers who were overjoyed to hear his views. The students kept mostly away from him and the faculty distanced themselves altogether. His physical appearance had grown intimidating as well. As the voices removed hours of sleep from his schedule, and as he visited the outdoors less and less often (choosing instead to stay inside and perhaps read a book), his stature began to be affected in a most unpleasant way. His cheeks grew sallow and thin. His eyes appeared to withdraw into his head as though they were afraid of being caught in the open. Great black circles hung under them, granting the distant icy orbs the appearance of men in long inverness coats. He found himself eating less, which drew out his fingers into long slender wands of ivory as his flesh paled.
A year went on like this, with his form growing more and more withered. As his flesh began to evaporate, so did his confidence. He could be seen in the corridors, rubbing his hands together, frowning, glancing frantically at the corners of the halls. He bore a look of someone almost... hunted. It seemed as though he were constantly attempting to stay one foot ahead of some sinister force. In some ways he was. The Voices grew insistent and unhappy with him when he did not obey them - and he had not obeyed them since the Exam. He shut them out, pretended they didn't exist. As a result, he was filled with a frightening anxiety which drove him to and fro like a top. He easily became anxious about the least thing.
Leon Illyich approached him one December evening during his first year. The lion's mane was blowing too and fro in the breeze. It looked almost like a vibrant halo of light with the city in the background. Thick pregnant flakes of snow had just begun to fall. Professor Illyich puffed out his cheeks, then buffed out his chest and walked over to Professor Vedan. Vedan was seated upon a stone bench, in one of the Library’s Gardens. It was growing late, and the sky was dark. Kelith had been about to get up and head home, not properly outfitted to sit much longer in the steadily increasing cold. Professor Illyich, well outfitted indeed (wearing a sweater over a turtle-necked shirt as well as a pair of warm wooly gloves, a scarf, and his robes atop all that) approached him.
"I do say, Vedan," he began, his basso vocce somewhere between a bassoon stumbling badly through an orchestral rehearsal and a man chewing too vigorously on his food, "I do say. Do you think you might wish to find your way over to my little, humble little really, tiny itsy bit of a thing, home a few evenings hence?"
Kelith looked up at him, his eyes wide. This was an unnerving sight to Illyich, as his Kelith's eyes were like two pure white orbs in a field of black. It was almost as though he had swathed mummers paint beneath them, the great sickle-shaped dark splotches where so impenetrable. Illyich paused, frowned, and then continued talking, as though Kelith had asked the question Illyich had wanted him to ask.
"What for? Why, for a solstice celebration, of course! Did you know that the trolls -" and here Kelith frightened him again. He suddenly cut of Illyich and, with a great deal of force, replied,
"Yes. I did."
Illyich stumbled over his words. "Of course you did, you were always one for trolls, ha, hum, silly me. Well, I'll just be... going now..." Leon said, deciding he had experienced one too many frights for the evening and would rather not, after all, eat a dinner with the very unsettling Kelith Vedan.
Kelith shrugged, feeling lost and hopeless. He had been praying that Leon would stop and sit with him, that he might unburden himself of some (if not all, for oh no, he would be arrested if he unburdened all, oh yes, verily, ho, hum, arrested right quick) of his dark secrets. Instead, he recognized the sign that Leon had uninvited him to the solstice festival in the same breath that he had invited him.
Kelith stared at the snow for an hour before he realized it was freezing cold out and he stood to go. He staggered home in the snow, the little flurry building up into an appreciable storm by the time he got to his villa. He lit a fire with magic when he arrived, and dozed off on the couch, aware that there were things that he could not hear or see crawling around in the shadows of the room.
The days came and went in Dalaran. A week passed, and then another. The cold became more bitter. The Solstice Festival crept nearer. Kelith wandered from his class to his home in a state of perpetual alarm. The sun was obscured from the sky by heavy clouds coming down off of Lordamere Lake.
It was about this time that the news of a madman named Arugal reached the College. Archmagus Kel'Thuzad chose to let the thing go un-watched. He did not send out wizards to discover what was happening. Kelith, however, kept a keen eye on the tale of young Arugal. He felt that perhaps this criminal vizier could assist him in his plight - as he had no one else to talk to.
Kelith turned to Leon for aid, as Leon was the only professor who had even been half kind to him. One morning, after his class, Kelith followed the proud figure from his own class to the teacher’s lounge. The place was sunken into the ground, a bit like a Dwarvish hunting lodge held in the heart of the school. A warm fire always burned in the hearth during winter, and it was blazing on that day. The heads of mythical beasts adorned the walls, accompanied by a several pairs of crossed staves. A stairway climbed down along the wall, depositing the professors into a comfortable room of leather upholstery, complete with bookshelves, a small wet bar, and a billiards table.
Leon went straight for the bar, and Kelith slipped in behind him like a fleeting shadow. "Leon," Kelith hissed under his breath. Kelith had taken to such bizarre forms of speech as though he were afraid something might hear him. Leon nearly leapt ten feet straight up, and the drink he had made for himself trembled in his hand.
"By the Nether, Kelith! You nearly, ho hum, nearly in fact caused me to spill this all about my good clothes, you know!"
Kelith bowed his head, his ghastly visage hidden in the fire's shadow. "I'm sorry Leon, I was just... just wondering what they were saying about that fellow... the deviant..." Kelith trailed off.
Leon raised a mammoth bushy eyebrow and passed Kelith his scotch. "Here, you have this. You could use it. No, ho, what deviant was this? A-a-ah, the lad called Arugal, hmm? Yes, yes, I recall now," Leon chattered to himself. Kelith took the scotch gingerly, but swallowed it all in one gulp.
"Yes, Arugal. That was his name. What... Leon, what has become of him?"
Leon frowned and made idle noises with his lips as he thought. His hands busied themselves by pouring another drink. "We-e-e-ell, I do believe... I do believe he's fled to Silverpine. Something about trans-dimensional gates. The Archmage says that he has some kind of insights into the Nether Portals that the old madman Medivh made. I wouldn't worry though - the lad was never able to cast even the simplest of spells without a full guide laid directly in front of him. I'd be surprised, surprised I say, if he didn't blow himself to smithereens out there, hm?"
Kelith nodded, muttering "Silverpine" in a subdued hiss. Leon smacked his lips and handed Kelith another drink, as he noticed the previous had been emptied.
That night, in his little house, Kelith poured a drink for himself. He had forgotten the solace that could be taken in liquor. He also mused over what Leon had told him. The boy Arugal; insights into the Nether; couldn't have cast a single spell without help... These things began to coalesce into an image that was quite startling. Was it possible that, like Kelith, Arugal had stolen a forbidden glimpse at the notes of Khadgar? He had to find out.
The staff of the College received the day of the Solstice off for celebrations. Kelith had no plans for Solstice, deciding against interrupting Leon's revelries with his hissing and his hunted looks. Instead, he took the opportunity to go out of the city. He paid several crowns for a horse for the day, and he rode out of the west gate at a full gallop. He was determined to find and speak with the wizard Arugal before the evening was out.
He came, after hours and hours of riding through the grim forests of Silverpine, the evergreens towering above him in ethereal splendor, to the village of Pyrewood. It was aptly named, being surrounded by a palisade of tall pikes and composed nearly entirely of Silverpine timber. It was a sad little village, squelched in mud. Wandering through it on horseback, Kelith saw signs that it had never really moved out of the early Black Ages, when Lordaeron was not a kingdom but a cluster of warring principalities. The houses were built in an older mode, centuries out of date. Their window sills and door frames bore strange markings above them, and Kelith sniffed in disdain at the hints they carried to the pagan religions of the Hill People.
Pyrewood was a mass of superstitions. Old women spat when he passed them, warding themselves from the Evil Eye. Kelith felt it was appropriate, considering he must himself appear to be the figure of Death, pale and drawn, upon a cream-colored horse. He often heard the word "sorcerer" murmured under the breath of those that went by, and it was not in any loving tone.
At last, he came to the center of the dismal village, where a well had been driven into the mud. He dismounted and pulled his peaked hat down snugly to fit over the tops of his ears. Here in Silverpine, the cold was bone-biting. He felt it through his robes and through all his layers of clothing. He wondered how the peasants could survive with such ragged things as they wore. His high leather boots and robes marked him as a scholar of Dalaran, but the people of Pyrewood avoided him as if he were instead a specter.
He stopped an older man, hair already gone from a life too filled with woes. The man's puckered face turned towards him, his eyes filled with loathing and dread. "Excuse me sir, I am looking for -"
The old man muttered something. Kelith leaned in closer. "What?"
"Winvale," he said. "Go find the Winvale, eh? Let -him- deal wif you."
Not comprehending, Kelith straightened and looked for another. He found a young girl walking from the Church of the Light and incongruously fiddling with what was obviously a chain of Seer's bones. "You! Hold! I must talk to you!" he called, his thin form squelching through the deep mud.
The girl stopped, waited for him. "I'm five!" she announced. Kelith bit back a vitriolic reply.
"That's wonderful. I need to know about a man named Arugal."
"Aru-gal? The crazy boy," she announced. Kelith nodded.
"Yes. The crazy boy."
She thought for a moment. "There's a corn farm, just north of the bridge near Fenris Isle."
Kelith made a face. Fenris Isle? The island in Lordamere Lake was not called Fenris Isle, but Crescent Island. Something strange was afoot. He nodded and thanked the girl, offering her a shiny crown, which was morn than her father would make in his entire lifetime. The voices that were always with him began to buzz, and he decided it was time to leave.
He mounted his horse, a scarecrow figure with a wide hat and a sick gaze. He was like some kind of nightmare from the early dreams of the world, his robes gathered about his ankles and his boots buckled high. His peaked hat was embroidered with stars and sigils.
He kicked the horse into motion and, as he did, he glimpsed the ruins of the old nameless keep atop the Pyrewood hill, long since fallen into decay. It seemed to crawl with life, but Kelith new that what he saw atop it's walls were things no other man could see.
He rode with speed to the corn farm that the girl had spoken of. Harvested sheaves of grain stood out starkly against the massive and ancient pines. The farmhouse was a ramshackle old structure, and it reminded Kelith of his own home so long ago. Against his will the corn became the corn of his home, the dead field becoming a golden honey-colored summer. He saw himself running through the wheat. He saw the other boys and girls running about as well. He remembered - he was father Elfeater, and they were the Elves, running to find the Sunwell for safety. Then, as he watched, his figure passed beyond a tuft of grain in his minds eye. When it emerged, he was no longer a child, but a beast. Hideously deformed, he fell upon his friends and ripped them to shreds, feasting upon their innards. There was more, as well. He saw the little girls of the village taken by his beastly hands, and cruelly deflowered before their deaths. From atop his horse he hissed at the spectacle of memory gone sour and kicked his steed towards the farm.
He dismounted just as a long low howl sounded across the forest. He muttered something about wolves in this season. Then, he approached the door and knocked on it. After a few seconds, it opened, revealing a deranged looking young man with a heavy seal of the Kirin Tor hanging from his neck. His hair was disheveled, and he wore a stained white shirt, and pants supported by suspenders. Kelith gazed on him in dismay and said, "Arugal?"
"The one and only," the man answered, in a voice surprisingly deep. Deep though it may have been, however, the madness that underlie it could not be mistaken.
Arugal invited him in. The farm house was a mess. It seemed as though the man had been living in squalor for several weeks and had not bothered to pick up after himself. Books lay everywhere, and a foul stench that Kelith could not quite place filled the air.
"Arugal," Kelith said over a decanter of whiskey, which Arugal had produced. "Tell me. Kel'Thuzad says that you have found... some manner of Nether pathway?"
Arugal nodded, his eyes bulging and luminous. "Oh yes! The transversal of the Nether is quite simple, once you understand it!" A bubbling giggle escaped his lips. "You see, I can call to things from across the Void!"
Arugal held himself proud, as though he had accomplished something vast. "Things?" Kelith asked. "What kind of... things?"
"Why, let me show you!" Arugal shouted, his voice far too loud for the tone of the conversation. With a chortle and a giggle he hefted Kelith up by his elbows and led him to a door that had been padlocked several times. As they approached it, the smell got suddenly worse. Arugal clucked and burbled to himself, making strange noises. Eventually, he got the padlocks open said "She will be docile now, oh yes, oh yes!"
Kelith, beginning to wonder if he had made a mistake, followed Arugal down what appeared to be a rotten wooden staircase leading into a basement of earthen walls. Something down there smelled foul, and from time to time Kelith could hear it moving around. Arugal picked up a lantern at the bottom of the stair and lit it, casting the room into dim light. Kelith heard it before he saw it, a yowling sort of complaining that only an animal could make.
"There she is," Arugal said, and then Kelith saw "her" in the shadows. It was a thing like a wolf, but also like a man. It had the features of a wolf, but was built to walk on two legs like a man would. As he gazed at it, he thought for a moment that there was something wrong, beyond the obviously bizarre quality of the creature. Then, he realized that its (-her-) belly was distended to a grotesque measure. The thing was indeed pregnant.
Arugal put down the lamp and walked over to her. He kneeled by her bulging stomach and placed a hand gently upon it. He then turned and, with a wild look in his eyes said "Worgen. It is called a worgen. They come from... somewhere else."
Kelith knitted his brows as a problem presented itself. "Is there only one?" he asked. Arugal nodded.
"I have not risked bringing over more yet... but soon," he said, with a grin that threatened to divide his head in twain.
Kelith took a step back. If there was only one, he wondered, how on earth had it gotten pregnant? Perhaps Arugal had called it over that way...?
Arugal smiled again, at the worgen this time, not at Kelith. "Oho, and soon the sons of Arugal will teach those Kirin Tor bastards who mocked me."
Kelith hissed in disgust, those words confirming his fears. He turned and began to walk up the stairs. "Wait!" cried Arugal "Wait! Now that I've shown you, you can't go!" he moaned.
Kelith didn't respond. Arugal began to run after him, and Kelith too broke into a gangly run. Once he was outside, he knew he would have to find a way to delay Arugal while he mounted and got away from this filthy place. He wheeled on the madman and shouted the syllables to a spell of fire. Arugal’s shirt caught with a loud fumpf noise, and he began to shriek as he dropped to the ground, attempting to put it out. As Kelith rode away, Arugal doused the fire, and he heard him shrieking "I will find you, you bastard! You cannot run!" Then the field was filled with lurid red light as Arugal’s voice called out in arcane tones.
Kelith rode out of the field and away from the farm before Arugal’s newly called Worgen could get his scent. But here he was, pounding through Silverpine, and a storm brewing in the clouds. Snow began to fall as he crossed the bridge he had come over hours earlier, looking for Arugal. He could not see it for the clouds, but the moon marked Midnight of the Day of the Solstice.
In his head, the Voices buzzed.
A Friend Returning
He was riding through the woods at full gallop, praying to Fate and all the Gods (though they did not exist, he reminded himself, it never hurt to try) that he would not stumble upon the crazed Arugal’s Worgen minions. His best bet was to ride south to Pyrewood, he reasoned. Within its wooden walls he would be safe for a time while the fiendish beasts that Arugal had called to his side hunted the forest. He resolved to return to Dalaran in the morning and remove himself as far as he could from the corrupting influence of the backwater hill-villages which had clearly reduced Arugal’s mind to sludge.
As the trees whipped by on either side, the low and constant buzz of the Voices in his ears began to take on a somber note. They droned and complained. They cajoled and whined in turn. Always in tongues that he could not understand, and always just at the edge of his audible range, they chattered away. The trees began to blur. Instead of pines, huge spinal columns loomed on either side, veins and ligaments pulsing along their twisted lengths. The moon was blotted out from the sky, and his horse reared.
With a great cry of pain or terror, the mount bearing Kelith pitched him to the ground. He felt his body jounce as it hit the ground. A stone slammed into his head with great speed, and another into his back. His jaw went slack as his form came to a rest. His eyes wandered up among the trees - now again turned to deciduous growths rather than horrific organs. They traveled to gaze at the hole in the sky where the moon should have been. The stars were burning fiercely, but their light alone could not block out the fathomless cosmic emptiness which lay between them. Without the moon, Kelith felt like he was naked before the eyes of dark intelligences that slid beneath the curtain of the sky like titanic squid beneath the serene glass of the sea.
He felt he could see the slither of those empty things beyond the blank spaces in the sky. He felt he could see ripples moving along the folds of that awful veil, to soon to be ripped aside to let the whole of the world be exposed to the bleeding face of the Nether where creatures and forces too mammoth for the mind of men or elf to encompass them.
His body twitched, and he realized that his life was slowly seeping from wounds in his back and he felt the juxtaposition of his limbs which spoke of terrible trauma. He knew then if he moved but a fraction of an inch, he was lost. Shards of bone moved about in the back of his neck, sliding here and there as he lay nearly still.
At first he thought the stranger was one of Arugal’s Worgen, come to silence him from telling the tales of the mages depravity. Then, as the strangers outline resolved into that of a man, he thought Lucius had come to speak with him, forgetting again that Lucius had been dead for two or more years by his own hand. He was unprepared for the features of the figure in the starlight to be his own.
The doppelganger approached him with his own haughty stride, which had evaporated long ago when he accepted the Professorship. His sanity and his pride had fallen a long way since then, but the Kelith that appeared to him seemed not to feel those cares weighing his shoulders down.
"Hello, my friend," the apparition said to him, grinning. "We meet again."
"Again? I've..." Kelith trailed off, the pain too great to speak.
"You are fine, Master Vedan. You will stand now, and pay later. You have always gone that path." The figure grinned luridly, and Kelith blinked. When his eyes opened again, it was gone. Fearing for his life, feeling the dark circles under his eyes now as he never had before, he stood slowly. His body seemed fine, as though it had never been broken. He pulled his peaked hat down sharply, adjusted his boots, mounted his horse, and rode.
Pyrewood was still his goal, and he knew what he had to do there. The knife of knowledge lay into his mind as he rode. It sliced his conscience to ribbons. Another must die to sate whatever madness had taken hold of him, and die she would.
He shuddered, the black compulsion irresistible.
A Brief Thought on Innocence
In the village of Pyrewood all was silent. The lanes of mud which had never heard of pavement, let alone seen a flagstone, were at rest. No wandering soul moved about the town, for this was the dead of the night. Somewhere deep in the woods a howl climbed up to the empty sky. Mounting the black vault of heaven it paused at the place where the eclipsed moon hung.
Solstice had come to Azeroth. Solstice had come also to Pyrewood, and with it, it had brought Kelith Vedan. A scarecrow figure out of legend (for he was all hat and boots and hardly anything in between, the scrawniness of fear having eaten away his frame) he climbed the walls and dropped into the streets.
The mud protested his arrival. It sucked angrily at his boots as he walked like a man driven. His steps were quick and filled with fright, as though something was moving behind him with a pitchfork in the small of his spine. And oh, something was, but no villager who peered from that window would have seen it. He twisted and turned as he walked. His hands alternately went to the air or to his ears, as though to drive something away.
He arrived at his goal with minimal fuss though he had turned back once when the spire of the church presented itself. He had only gone three paces in the opposite direction when he felt the chips and flecks of bone sliding in his neck, the reminder of the fall from his mount, the reminder of who he had to thank for his miserable life. He turned around again, daring to walk within sight of the steeple. He watched it as he went wondering where his faith in the Light and in goodness had gone. Then he remembered what he had done to Lucius. He thought back to the slate of years that spoke to him out of memory and he was reminded why he could no longer invoke the name of the Light with a peaceful mind. There was no going back into those hallowed halls and pretending that everything was all right. Nothing was right - and he doubted it ever would be again.
His destination was a spot just below a window into one of the wooden houses of Pyrewood. There he crouched like a jackal, licking his chops. His fingers curled and uncurled as a will other than his own sent a tremor through his frame.
His hands reached up. They grasped the window sill. A preternatural strength hauled him up, through it. Like some feline thing that steals the breath of children in the night, Kelith alighted in the open window. Within was a dark room. He knew who was in this room, because he had given her a shiny gold piece earlier that day in exchange for information - she had told him where the crazed Arugal lived.
She was there, murmuring in her sleep. Her hair was silver in the starlight, spread out like a halo around her head. Kelith blanched at the site, turned away. He felt a light hand on his shoulder.
"Do it. There is no other way," a voice muttered to him. He did not have to turn to know it was himself talking.
"No," he pleaded in a half-whisper. "She's so young."
"All the better," the voice assured him. "You'll be doing her a favor - protecting her from the life of misery she'll lead."
He shook his head, his eyes glistening with tears. "No, no, I can't. She's innocent. She hasn't done anything wrong. Everyone else... everyone else was proud, or stupid, or corrupt, or they betrayed me or I... or I... or..." his voice trailed off.
"Everyone else? She is just as guilty as they are, Kelith. No one is innocent. Children are the least innocent of all, Vedan. Don't you believe me? Let me tell you then. When she was five years old, two years ago now, she went to go with her father as he cut wood out in the forest.
"She wanted to play hide and seek, but he would have none of it. He had to do his work, fulfill his quota for the day. He told her to wait on a stump until lunchtime, when they could have a picnic.
"She waited there for a few minutes, all the while sulking at her father. Eventually he had to be stern with her, and raised his voice. She grew furious, but could not say anything to him; after all, he was much bigger than she.
"She waited until his back was turned, and slipped off. She would make him play one way or the other, and she was going to hide as well as she possibly could. That would show him. How sad he would be when he couldn't find her. Then she would have her victory.
"Well, once he realized she was gone, it had been hours. He went berserk. He didn't know what to do. He went off into the hills looking for her, leaving his axe and his wood and all his belongings behind. She heard him calling, so she slipped away form her hiding place and ran back to the village. She knew he wouldn't return until he had found her.
"And he didn't. He was afraid to go back, afraid she had been killed by a bear. He couldn't face his wife until he found some trace of her. Little Melissa. So he kept walking. He kept calling. The hour grew late. Snow began to fall.
"He stayed out, looking. The sun set. It was cold. He was lost. He no longer knew where in Silverpine he was - he did not know the way home, and he couldn't find his darling daughter.
"They didn't find him until the next years thaw.
"She's very innocent, wouldn't you agree?"
Kelith did not speak. The specter put his hand over Kelith's and slowly moved it to the little girl’s sleeping head. Kelith turned, closing his eyes. A few words were muttered, and all her breath slowed. Flecks of ice formed on her lips.
"Remember your father, Melissa," the specter said. And then to Kelith: "Remember Adon."
An Unexpected Kindness
Two years passed. Then Three. Kel'thuzad vanished from the school of Magery. He had been the only reason why Kelith was allowed to stay on, and then he was gone. Daily Kelith grew more pale, more sickly. Hourly his tension increased. Every moment was a torment. No one would talk to him now. No professor at the college would approach him, no students ever sought him out.
With Kel'thuzad's disappearance, he began getting stern letters from the City and the Archdean. He was allowed to give his lectures only once each due to the morally offensive content within. He didn't know it, but the Scarlet Tower was afraid of the unrest growing in the Lordaeronian countryside. Rumors of a foul cult had begun to surface, and all potential wildfires had to be stamped out before they could spread.
Then, one day in his class, Kelith crossed the line. He had just put on his reading glasses to begin the lecture. The intense strain of his days necessitated the ground lenses on his eyes, for otherwise he would never be able to focus on the words before him. He was going to speak a lecture about Nicholos Mockieyavellich, a famous Aleteranian thinker who had justified Alterac’s betrayal of the Alliance during the Second Great War.
He never read it aloud. He saw, amongst his pupils, a ghastly vision of himself. He looked upon his own face rotted away like a corpse, half grinning. With a shriek, he shouted "Stay back, fiend!" and unleashed a spell of fire into the seats. The place where the ghostly creature sat was incinerated. The students to either side were badly burned, and one would never recover from the coma that Kelith's magic put him in. His days at Dalaran were over.
He found himself wandering the streets of the city, wondering what he was going to do. Laughter began to bubble up in him, and it made him afraid. It was not the kind of healthy laughter that a man may laugh in easy days when the sun is shining brightly and all is well. It was hysteria. He felt a terrible feeling, as though if he gave in to it, he would begin laughing and it would never cease. His lungs were straining, as was his throat. He clenched his teeth. His eyes frantically strove about the street, looking for nothing, for everything, for something to stop what was happening.
For five years he had been tumbling down a dark staircase. Now, at last, the stairs were gone and he was in an empty tunnel that delved straight into the heart of madness. There were no more railings, no more helping hands, no more routine to steady him. There was simply emptiness.
He staggered into a public house, his feet leaden. His peaked hat was out of style, for it was the same one he had worn for his entire tenure as a professor. It was battered and old, and his shadowed eyes peered out from under it as though it was the lip of a cave. He had the look of a hunted man.
The colors of the tavern didn't help his complexion. It was set down into the street-side, with a wall of glass looking into the heart of one of the great canals of Dalaran. Legendarily clean, fish occasionally passed by. The interior was lit by small enchanted lamps that looked like paper orbs, each glowing with a deep blue hue. The entire pub was designed to evoke images of being beneath the waves. Not of Lordamere Lake, certainly, for it was still littered with wreckage from the war. Perhaps Southshore, or the verdant waters of Stranglethorn Vale.
Kelith swayed for a few moments, drinking in the sight of the place before he took the faltering steps within. His high leather boots shuffled softly on the stone in a mockery of grace. His body extended into elegant lines a dancer might envy as his cloak became caught beneath his own feet, pitching him forward and over the little stone railing of the entryway.
His feet maneuvered to keep him from crashing five feet to the floor of the pub, which was down a flight of steps from the stair. It was elegant and quiet, unlike him in every way. Ragged and tattered, a pair of eyes under a hat brim, he looked like death itself come to claim its first victim of the night.
He sat with a heavy thud and, when a serving woman went by, spent the last of his money on sweet Goblin booze. He could feel it rotting his teeth and his stomach as he drank it, but the more he downed the farther away the constant hum in his ears got. He drank and he drank, and he became more and more relaxed. Then, he woke with a start.
He was on the street, the entire affair that led up to that moment a sort of continuous haze. His face was kissing the cobble, and he felt like a mishandled sack of potatoes. He stood gingerly, and looked about. The evening was well advanced. The streetlights had lit of their own accord, and not many people were out and about. His jaw hurt terribly, and as he rubbed it he realized with a terrible jolt: They were talking again, not only loud, but clearer than they had ever been.
The Voices, his constant companions, were speaking as if they were in another room over, not a whole galaxy away. They didn't sound tinny and strange, like a man trying to communicate over a long distance - and they weren't whispers. They were the strident voices of intruders in the hall. They were the bold tones of the thieves in your bedroom who don't care if they're caught. THEY were talking right behind him. He knew if he turned, THEY would be there.
He didn't turn. He didn't even move for a while. Eventually he got his feet back under him and stiffly wandered off into the city.
The hours passed as he wandered, always trying to keep at least a street between himself and the Voices. If he ever stopped, if he hesitated, he could hear them draw nearer. It took an immense effort of speed to outpace them, and nearly as much to hold them at bay. They were following him, driving him through the city. He felt like a fox being hunted down as the escapes were narrowed down, the alleys no longer viable, the only way out was up, the only way out was towards the Hill - but that was the center of the city, he couldn't go there, once he was there he would be arrested for vagrancy - and yet... the Hill was a maze, he could lose them at the foot of the Violet Tower, he could give the terrible things the slip somewhere up amongst the oldest places where mages had gathered since the beginning of beginnings...
He should have known he couldn't get away. He reached the Hill. He kneeled down in defeat at the very entrance to the Violet Tower. It loomed over him in judgment, radiating its impervious light. From within he knew that the Kirin Tor were watching him. They were dissecting him. He was the least of their order, a failure and an outcast. He was insane; a murderer and a drunk. He had risen from the slime of the peasantry to shine only briefly where rank was erased. He had burned in that place, he had almost felt like he was a noble himself. Then, he burned out. The star fell, and he was consigned once again to live beneath the world of the lights. He crawled amongst the primordial mire, the layers of mud above him choking him, pressing him down.
He was doomed. He was weak. He bowed his head against the pavement as the voices approached. They would come upon him at any minute now. He was going to die as soon as the Kirin Tor felt the Fel presence in his soul, in their city. This was the end.
"Kelith?" he heard. He trembled. He flinched. He pressed his face into the ground. "Kelith Vedan?" the voice said, and he clutched at the cobbles. He tore off his hat and presented his bare head, that it might be struck from his shoulders.
"It -is- you!" the voice exclaimed. "Why! You look awful! Kelith, Kelith, come come! What has happened to you? I thought you were at the College! My father said you had become a professor there! Surely they don't let their staff wander around dressed like this, eh, surely they don't!"
Kelith slowly picked up his head, his hair a tangled mess, his hat crushed beneath his fingers.
"Come Kelith, come have a drink at my home. I don't live a few blocks away, so come. You can stay there till you get on your feet and we sort this out, eh?"
Kelith turned, shocked, amazed, and stunned. He slowly laid eyes on a stocky man with blonde hair and a face he recognized. Beneath the robes of an Ambassador of the City, wearing rings and holding a cane, he saw Kevin Shrieve offering his hand.
Into the Night
The home of Kevin Shrieve was all that he had imagined it would be. Kelith had never before seen such splendor - not in Stratholme City, nor at the estate of Torbin. A grand and mighty tower to rival that of the Violet Order with a small garden out front and what most certainly had to be extra-dimensional space within.
Corridors the size of cathedrals stretched away to the horizon. Pools of water, fed by fantastical fountains, sat here and there. Glittering glass and crystalline gems hovered about, providing light. Furniture carved by the most cunning hands, stairwells of sweeping grandeur, everything was beyond imagination in its complexity and its glory. Kevin was offering not only a place to sleep, but a vision of how things could have been - how they ought to have been.
Kelith could see himself walking these halls, musing over these dusty books, and sitting in these velveteen chairs with great comfort. He nearly succumbed again to the hysterical laughter when he envisioned himself living as Kevin Shrieve lived. He knew it was impossible, but just for a moment he wanted to forget that. He tried to shut out his past, his blemished history that marked him as a man not fit to walk in the light of day. He grasped the seal of the Kirin Tor about his neck, and his fancy nearly convinced him that he was not a criminal, a madman. He was almost certain it was he who lived in this magnificent tower, and Shrieve who was paying a kindly visit.
It only took one glance down to dispel that fantasy. His clothes were torn and ragged, his hat bunched up in his hand. His boots were covered with mud and slime come from dragging himself through alleyways while trying to escape his impending doom earlier in the evening.
Kevin prattled as they walked. He talked of times at the School, of times that had gone by, and of times yet to come. He was convinced that the cult which held the land in its grip was something more than it appeared. He, and some other advisors of the Tower, seemed to believe that the recent plague in Lordaeron was somehow connected to the activities of this "Cult of the Damned". Kelith listened as best he could, but his mind kept wandering. After a time, the beautiful tower began to feel less like a vacation spot and more and more like a dead organ.
Stairways became skeletal constructs, and the glass orbs that floated about providing mage-light seemed to be blank eyes that were watching him. They walked ever deeper into the labyrinth of Shrieve's tower, and Kelith began to feel more and more nervous as they did. He nearly leapt out of his own skin when Shrieve unexpectedly turned around and announced "Here it is!"
"The guest room, here it is!" he said again. "Please, feel free to go inside and have a rest - you look like you need one. There should be a few pairs of extra robes in there, if you want anything to get dressed in. I'll have someone wake you up for breakfast in the morning, so we can properly talk about everything that's happened. I can't believe the School kicked you out!"
Kelith muttered under his breath, warning Shrieve not to try too hard to defend him.
"Nonsense, man! I'll go and sort everything out, and you'll have your old position back in a matter of hours. I've become a rather wealthy alumnus, as you can no doubt tell, eh?" He laughed warmly and kindly and elbowed Kelith a bit to make his point more salient.
Shrieve left Kelith there, and went off to who-knows-where in his Tower. It was the last time Kelith would ever see him, and whether he lived or died to this day we do not know.
Kelith walked into the room, lay down in the bed (which was enchanted to feel as though it were a mattress made of water) and tried to sleep. Strange lights danced on the ceiling, strange noises in the hall. At last, knowing that he would not be able to descend into peaceful oblivion (for would it be too much to be allowed to forget, if only for a few hours?) he sat up.
When he did, he saw, to his horror, that he was not in the tower of Kevin Shrieve. A terrible red nothingness stretched as far as the eye could see in every direction - vaporous and strange.
Something brushed by him in that awful mist, and he squirmed away from its wet and unwholesome touch. He heard far off screams and shouts - as though hundreds of men were being dismembered somewhere in the distance. Occasionally the vile mist would coalesce for a few seconds, forming a terrifying face, or a disembodied organ, or something else too horrible to describe. Then, he saw something else amongst the sea of sameness and lamentation.
A dark shape was coming, diving through the red nothing like a shark. It was headed straight for him, and at the speed at which it was growing (and oh! it was so large that it stretched now from horizon to horizon, and covered even what light was coming from above!) it must be incredibly fast. It was then that he heard the Voices again, for the first time since he had met with Shrieve.
They sang all at once, as they never had before, in perfect unison, and in easy to understand common. "Welcome Home, Kelith Vedan."
The Realm of Horrors
He was transported, taken, by the innumerable terrors that surrounded him. His eyes could not grasp their awful forms, and so instead they bled. His ears could not understand their mournful wails, so he clasped his hands over them. His body could not bear their touch, so boils and welts erupted from his flesh.
The vast red emptiness of the Nether, filled not with shapes but with half-imagined forms that gibbered and screamed like nightmare madmen, flew by with ever increasing speed. At some point the Nether itself vanished and Kelith knew they had left the Second World behind at last and entered the Third - the Great Dark Beyond.
He twisted and turned in the grasp of the many creatures which held him. He wanted to see where he was, where he was being taken. In one direction he saw the cruel pinpricks of light he knew to be stars - in the other direction, nothing. Beyond the stars... He had come at last to the place behind the glow of the midnight sky. This was the realm which had always sent shivers up his spine when he looked into the heavens at night. This was the place beyond the Beyond; this was at last the Great Dark.
The whispers in his ears grew louder and more frantic as time went on. There were no landmarks so he found it impossible to measure the speed at which he was traveling. There was no air, so he choked and sputtered, kept animated by some unwholesome influence from the beings that held him.
After an eternity of waiting something began to take shape in the distance. It was a cyclopean monument of living stone, wrought from pure element. The shine of the very distant stars outlined its slick black madness from the rest of the flawless void. He knew as his eyes adjusted to the features of the great monument that it was not as it at first glance appeared to be. It was not a library or repository of knowledge built to a grand scale, but rather a vision of hell itself before him. The sounds in his ears grew louder, and they too came from the Pit. He was in Hades, Sheol, Perdition. This was the end of the end, the place where the truly damned came to pay their penance.
The sounds being spoken by the demons at his arms and his shoulders slowly resolved into something he could understand. His nerves began to calm as those grating voices spoke. The babble began to sound like the soft patter of a rainstorm, with only occasional and terrifying shrieks like thunder in the backgrounds. They were speaking Vile. He knew Vile. With the words he could name them, and command them.
He pronounced several dread syllables aloud. As if in response, the creatures sped him faster to the horror before him. The bricks which seemed to defy all geometry and which, each, seemed to encompass the space of Azeroth, alone. How large was the building before him? He could not tell, for his mind could not conceive of such size.
He had been brought to the land of Nightmares. He stood before the Halls of his very masters, with whose magic he had tampered those years ago and whose language he had dared to learn. This was the realm of the Dark Ones.
The Wages of Sin
You who read these pages point unkind fingers towards my Master and blame him for all manner of atrocities. I know that even now there are those among you who would eagerly strike his head from his shoulders, leaving him without motive agency, without the power to carry out his will. Turn your gaze first, readers, within. For there is no beast of earth that is without guilt. To protest innocence is to be utterly without truth. If you would dare, before a heavenly tribunal, claim that never before had an impure thought or deed crossed your way, then all the more do you deserve the hellfire you readily judge upon others.
Reader, think upon this:
This very instant there are adventuresome folk who, in the name of the Greater Good slaughter those upon whose heads great wrongs have been heaped. At this very moment, a man is killing another for money. At this very instant bureaucrats kill hundreds with the quiet shifting of numbers, of funds. Woe unto thee who dares to make difference of good and evil - for man is beyond morality, and the wages of sin are not death. The wages of sin are life.
Picture if you would, an edifice of stone so old that even the stars cannot remember a time when it did not stand. However you peer at the time-wracked rocks they do not remain constant before your eyes. Even as you rove the grooves and dents in their surface, those very chasm and indentations become instead bumps and brail writ upon them. What once was a door is now a frieze, and what once was a pillar is now a pit.
What you have just seen in your mind is but a diluted image, a shadow of a shadow, of the place that Kelith's sins brought him. Those mighty halls lay for him betwixt a wondrous dream and a hideous nightmare. Within their walls lay libraries of infinite size, and power nestled within infinite might. Yet, also there were things that would break his mind, and his body.
While he spent his time in that awful place, the world of Azeroth changed but a little. Every fiber of his being, every atom of his soul, suffered there for sixty years. In the world he had left, scarce six months went by. When at last the creatures beyond the ken of man where done with him, he had become reconciled to the eternal presence of the Voices that lived in his skull.
So was he deposited again into Dalaran, mere days before the city fell. There was only one thought in his mind, a driving thought and goal. To bring his black book to tryst with the man the voices named “Veras”.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
In Dalaran, the canals did not carry away the wastes of the city. The Magi were too proud to expose their earthly wastes to the open air. Beneath the city there ran a system of sewers and catacombs, which had once been used (in times long passed) to store the less-than-spiritual remains of great Kirin Tor. As the city had grown in prestige and might, so too had it called more and more of the magically gifted behind its walls. Within a larger city, the sewers and catacombs grew. Over the centuries they had spiraled out of all control. No map existed to guide the lost through them, and no map could ever exist that would capture their true complexity. The older the city got, the more was added to the deeps that grew in its mirror image. Sometimes the Kirin Tor would open great vaults beneath the earth in which to position their strange orreries which measured the stars, or their mirrored rooms that called to them the flows of mystic energy which made Dalaran the city of Miracles and deprived the rest of the world of its magics.
The architects had cut so deep for so long that none could say how many fathoms the catacombs sank. An entire city in reverse, as if reflected through some dark film, lay beneath the streets. Very few men lived in this world, and those that did where either insane Magi who had dug for privacy beyond normal reason, or those who had nowhere else to go. The evening that Kelith Vedan returned to the city, there was a single man who did not fit either of those categories. He was a tall man, with red hair, braided like his fathers. He had left his home many days ago. The Dreams had shown him a shining city and he knew where the city lay. He could not allow the dreams to pass him buy unfulfilled for their lilting song was as a lullaby to him - an obscene melody.
While this creature with a familiar face prowled the dark places of the city Kelith found himself in the tower of Kevin Shrieve. The man who had so ennobled himself, who had proven to be more than a petulant student, was nowhere to be found. His absence from his home much pleased Kelith, who had changed in almost every way. The years in a place without time had still eaten his looks away, leaving him with a face lined with woes. His hair was now fully white, done turning from its youthful shade. His heart was changed too - it was stronger than before. No more doubts plagued him, for they had been burned out under alien stars. He was certain of his path and of his desire to follow that path. It had been his own feet, after all, which had led him down the very first steps.
He took his things and left Shrieve’s tower. He did not hesitate to steal five hundred crowns and too stuff several of Shrieve’s books into his bag as he went. He knew they would be valuable on the road ahead, for Dalaran would not be his home much longer. He went out onto the street and began to search.
He combed the flagstones for a grate until he found one. It lay at the base of the Hill upon which the Violet Citadel gazed down balefully. Fearful that the mages within might scry his intentions through his solid flesh and see into the hidden chambers of his heart, Working quickly, he pried the grating from the road and slipped beneath.
He delved innumerable depths into the underworld of the city. He was led on by the flickering lights of his own magic and the insistent mumbling and pulling of the Voices. He knew which way to go without hesitation, and easily found his footing along crumbling stairwells and empty channels slick with the remainder of sewage that had flowed there.
Through the illumined vaults that the Kirin Tor of old had built, which bent leylines and drew the magics of Lordaeron to Dalaran. Through the ancient tombs of Archmagi and their servants. Through all of the decaying places that hid beneath the light. And yet, still he had to go lower. Still the man he needed to meet evaded him.
His descent began in earnest.
The Fall of Dalaran
Since time immemorial, the eastern gate of Dalaran was the only entrance to the city of magic. Though its canals flowed through secret ways beneath the earth, they were plugged and blocked by cunning devices of stone and iron. The spires of that sequestered city looked out upon the lake of Lordamere and all the lands that encircled them, imperious and beyond the touch of all enemies. Yet still, the Kirin Tor did not feel safe. It is a fact that Mages love solitude more than any other men. In the days before the City, there were the Tower Builders who made for themselves secret hideaways in lofty aeries to which only their apprentices would ever come. This thought of locking out the world, and of locking the knowledge in, clearly influenced the first clave of magi that constructed the Violet Citadel.
Yet, walls of stone are tools of the common men. It takes something greater to give security to a mage. Thus, in the earliest years of the City a defense was made that was long since forgot. Buried deep in a sealed chamber of stone lay the foundation for this great spell. It was an unflawed stone of immense size, and its magics were related to the earthly powers. Geomantic rock, infused with Kirin Tor spells and encircled by shining crystal mirrors which pulled from all quarters of Azeroth the magical element that ran all through the stone. This place was called the Chamber of the Shining Shield, and it was made to lift over the city a shield not of iron, but of purest magic. Only those bearing the seal of the Kirin Tor could pass through that deadly barrier.
Kelith Vedan did not know of this mystic shield - indeed it had only recently been rediscovered by the scholars of the Citadel as they searched wildly for anything that might assist them in warding off the coming plague. While Kelith had been wracked by madness and pain in the Beyond, the whispers of death in Lordaeron had grown. A huge cult had sprung up, with the former Arch-mage at its head. The disease that had stalked the lands on soft feet had billowed up into a virulent cloud of choking dust that killed all whom it touched and left their bodies profane. With the rising of the moon, so too would the recently dead find their way back over the horizon to torment the world of the living. A sinister force drove it all, sending the shambling and decaying monstrosities about Lordaeron like columns preparing for war.
Three days before Kelith returned from the Beyond, a missing prince returned home from his bleak travels in Northrend. Even as the very bells of the Cathedral rang out to celebrate his triumph, his blade found home in his father. King Terenas was dead, and the empty lands of Alterac, blasted by the second war and the betrayal of their lord, were filled with the servants of this new darkness. The Kirin Tor heard news of greater atrocities every day as their scouts and spies returned to the city in haste. All of their far-flung messengers hurried back to their home amongst those Hyperion towers. They knew the time of reckoning was coming and that Dalaran must not fall short in the balance.
Estoria Windspear, an elderly matron from a family of Southshore enchanters, discovered references one day in the Great Library of the city to a thing called the Shimmering Shield, or the Shining Shield. She altered the Citadel, and almost at once a flurry of clerks went to the various libraries that were scattered throughout the city and began delving for answers. The ancient Council of the Kirin Tor too began to search on their own, and masters sent apprentices to bring heaps of books and scrolls from the public places to be studied in the quickly vanishing serenity of the home.
At last the secret was unveiled - the Shining Shield, the Shimmering Globe, the great last project of the first Council of Dalaran. They studied it intently, examined its workings. Magi would have to stand on specially prepared platforms, long considered to be merely decorative plazas, and chant out a massive abjuration. The lines of the streets themselves, their very design, assisted to funnel this spell of immense proportions and erect a mighty wall of glowing force against the enemies of the Kirin Tor. Thus did the Magi find what they thought was their salvation.
Yet, there were worms in the heart of Dalaran that gnawed incessantly. Creeping deep into the tunnels beneath the city was none other than the newly reborn Kelith Vedan. He wore long red robes that were tattered and shabby. He wore a peaked hat atop his head and knee-length boots that were frayed at the edges. In his hand he clasped a glowing staff, its dragon-clawed top lit with dripping napthic fire conjured from the elemental gods. His hair was white, and his eyes were cruel. This vision of hate sank deeper and deeper by the second as armies led by the roguish prince trampled the fields without the city.
At last, on the night that Arthas and his creatures appeared before the Eastern Gate, Kelith Vedan found his target. The sounds of the crazed Voices in his head led him down, down, down into the darkness below the city and it was there that he found the Chamber of the Shield - and Veras Winvale.
The dangerous light of his staff revealed the room and the jagged entrance, which had not been built but rather had collapsed from some place above when the sewer-floor gave out due to being placed over that hidden hollow. Within that eight-walled room sat a gibbering madman the equal only of Kelith.
The intestines of a child draped around his neck, flesh dribbling from his chin as he laughed, Veras Winvale, his hair flaming red, was sitting athwart the ruins of what had once been a young boy. Kelith did not balk - he was in the command of the Voices now.
"Hill-man," he spat. "Stand. The time of our work has come."