The Outlands Chapterbook
by Kelith Vedan
I touch pen to paper to record these thoughts not for any creature in Azeroth, but for those who have managed to unshackle themselves from the petty concerns of that place. This may be considered a defense, both of myself and the last friend I have on this world or in any other, the soldier-in-the-Light Rheyl.
This is in no way an apology for my actions as a man before the shard of Oshu'gun crystal was placed in my hands. For those who would persecute Rheyl, this may be a means to see him in a different light - but for me there is no redemption.
A man of little account
The wind mutters through the trees, and reminds me of distant arguments my parents once had when they thought I could not hear them. Those were the days when I yearned to make my hands more than just the calloused tools of a farmer; to wear rings upon my fingers like the mayor did, and to wield the endless reservoirs of power that the servants of the Violet Citadel summoned so blithely. Those were different days.
The wind is not the herald of Azerothian summers here. Here it can blow cold and sour, swept in from the scouring wastes of the Nether that touch the very fragments of the decaying Draenor. Here is a land that echoes with the constant thrum of disintegration, it's very foundation sinking into the mire of nothingness. It's surface is sullied with the presence of Legion Forge camps, the outliers of the forces that burning Sargeras launched countless ages ago to undo the dross physical form of this world and all the rest. So this, then, is the last step before the dream of Veras WInvale and Kelith Vedan comes true - this sad land, filled with so much knowledge, but ever on the precipice of utter destruction.
There was a time when I thought that the ending of the physical world was my greatest desire. It would at last free those who worshiped the Darkness to be as gods, making and unmaking worlds as they chose. I was, of course, blinded by my own desire to the truth of the matter. I was nothing more than the chief slave in a land of the enthralled, each of us bending to a greater desire. I was no freer than the Light-bringers I so hated for their idiotic devotions. I myself gave of myself to a greater desire, that of my hateful and spiteful masters, the Dark Ones. Here, amongst the nexus place of a thousand Worlds, I see my folly. But it took a betrayal and a savior to do this - and, ironically enough, he who betrayed me was my closest ally and he who saved me is a devout servant of the Light.
I awoke to the sound of Lazarus padding through the halls, frowning and hrrming. My days had become endless lightless affairs locked within the mighty walls of my innermost sanctum, the Tower at Caer Darrow. I had grown used to spurning all contact with the outside save through the gnome Lazarus, who carried my messages to and fro and my brief encounters with Osrien Poynard who came once every so often to my tower to speak with me. The visits from Poynard had ceased months ago, and it was only through Lazarus that I learned he had vanished into the greater darkness. That thin and sere cleric had always been overly interested in the shadowy arts, and I did my best to humor him. His body may have been ready for the change, but his mind certainly was not - if any mind ever can be. So, I spent my days in quiet contemplation and study, ever expanding my sphere of knowledge. Yet, I never sought after wholesome secrets, but always those which led me in an ever more twisted way down into the darkness of my own heart. My room was at the Tower's peak and I had adorned it with trollish tapestries recovered from ruined cities and paid for in full in gold called forth from the void. It was a lonely room with no windows, for I had no use for the outside world. My only portal to any other place besides the spiraling stairs was a great quicksilver mirror that I had commissioned for me at great cost from the Mages of Stormwind. Of course, they never knew for whom they were building such a monstrous device, but any Mage worth his salt in the Plaguelands would be able to feel the twisting of the ley-lines to that mammoth glass, the whole of the mystical energies of Caer Darrow bundled up and channeled straight to me.
Lazarus lived below me, in the chambers that made up the rest of the tower. He took care of my nominal need to communicate with the organization I had so long ago called the Council of the Eye, but his intercessions between myself and them had grown more and more infrequent. At last I was alone with the Dark Ones guiding my hand as I did my work. Far-flung work it was, too. With the shimmering mirror I had built I sailed across the Great Dark Beyond, through the shifting planes of the Nether, to explore worlds new and strange to me. Throwing my mind into the vastness of the multiverse, I saw things that no Azerothian other than Khadgar and Medivh have seen. My consciousness traveled the great waves of time and clung desperately to the ley-lines that knit all worlds together. Yet, always I turned these travels to some perverse purpose - to spy out secrets better left unknown.
It was with such intentions that I awoke to hear Lazarus muttering. I ignored him as best I could, the soft probing sounds of his Hmmms floating up through the stairwell. Wrapping myself about in my house coat, I quietly approached the opalescent mirror and sat, cross-legged, before it. I had been hesitating recently, taking stock of all that I had done. Two weeks prior, Veras had entered my Tower unbidden and found me sitting before my Black Book, reading over the verses I had composed in my youth. It was that moment in which he decided to betray me. Perhaps he sensed in me a lessening of my fire to finish our monumental work, or perhaps he had simply tired of my orders and snapping tone.
As I lowered myself to the ground before the mirror, the Tower was rocked by an impact. The ruins of the keep shuddered, and a horrific screech echoed across the wasted landscape. My eyes opened and my teeth set on edge. "The wards!" I hissed to myself, as had been my custom.
The wards indeed. I should have known that no Lightbearer, no matter how strong or how wise, could pass my barriers unaided. I should have known that I had been betrayed, but I did not. In that moment I did not realize it. I simply scrambled to prepare myself, to defend my home and Tower. For all I knew, a vengeful agent of the Legion or a power-mad member of the Council had broken into my home to take my life and my Black Book. The first thing I went to get was my store of glimmering stones. Each one held the screaming clawing spirit of a trapped creature; it was with these that my most powerful magics were fueled. I rushed down the stairs and into the vault where they were stored, to find the place empty. My fear was transformed to fury - who could have moved them? "Lazarus!" I howled. "My shards!" But Lazarus did not answer. With a growl I fled the room to find another one of my weapons - the curling staff atop which sat a glimmering gem. It was not where I had left it. At last, in my desperation, I returned to the vault to open the hidden safe where I kept the Black Book which I had written so long ago. It too was gone.
Suspicion began to creep into my mind. "Winvale," I thought. "The hill-man has betrayed me."