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The Lore of Poldaran: Chapter 0: Fangs in the ForestFollow

#1 Oct 31 2009 at 2:35 AM Rating: Good
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Prologue

The inn was a bit of a musty place, certainly not the most well kept inn he had ever had the misfortune to stay in. However, it was the only inn in town, and the only other option was to stay in a tent near the Greymane wall, which would not offer him much opportunity to investigate the town's residents, which was his primary mission.

Thomas reached into his wallet and paid the innkeeper the agreed upon sum, a price nearly double what one would expect. But he was forced to pay it in order to keep up their cover story, he and his new wife needing a place to stay while they sought sanctuary in Gilneas. The decision to add his "wife's" fragile health as part of the cover certainly explained to the villagers why they weren't staying closer to the wall, but it did mean he was going to be spending a lot more money than he would have otherwise. The Kirin Tor would be receiving a bill for every coin he had to spend.

He was also unhappy about having to work with this girl. She was a rank amateur, and had never taken part in a covert operation before. Worse, she was still only a Journeyman, not even a full fledged Magus. Reginald had tried to calm his worries by giving Thomas a glowing report on her accomplishments and qualifications, but that did little to quell his fears about working with a girl no older than sixteen, possibly younger. With Thomas being almost thirty, their marriage cover story made him look positively creepy. Glowing recommendation from Jaina Proudmoore for her services during treaty negotiations with the Horde and distinguished service record from the Battle of Mount Hyjal be damned, he just hated the looks he was sure he would receive from others during the mission.

The Archmage who had assigned them to work together had told Reginald that she was along not for her skills as a mage, but for other skills only vaguely related to those. Reginald trusted that assessment, and as head of the mission team, Reginald's word was final. Thomas did not care for that, but had to live with it since that was how things had always been done. The head of the support team was always technically in charge of the mission since they were less likely to get emotionally involved and thus could be counted on to make more rational decisions than the undercover investigator.

After receiving the payment, the innkeeper motioned the young barmaid over. "Show these folks to their room, Elizabeth." The brown haired girl nodded. Thomas' companion, Amanda, greeted her with a warm smile and motioned for the girl to lead the way. Thomas had to admit, the girl was a natural actor. Her blue eyes did not betray even a hint of nervousness. Her blond hair, held in a simple braid in the style popular among young peasant women only added to her seeming innocence and warmth. And her fair skin allowed her to blush nearly on command, which she had used to devastating effect on the town's gate guard to gain them entrance to the city after dark. Her low cut peasant's dress surely added to the effectiveness of that particular ploy, with the way it displayed her ample cleavage.

Thomas caught himself staring and quickly looked away. He already looked too much like some lecher, now was not the time to act like one by staring at his companion in this manner. He glanced over to the barkeeper, whose smirk told him that he had been caught in his gaze. He sighed silently. This was already proving to be an unpleasant mission.

They followed Elizabeth up the stairs to the final door at the end of the hallway. The girl opened the door and led them inside, where she lit the small lamp on the table just inside. "This room isn't much," she said, "but it's unfortunately all that we have left. I apologize if the bed is a bit lumpy," she said, indicating the fairly large curtained bed. "And I also apologize for the dust. We haven't rented this room out in weeks, so it seems that we need to clean it again."

Amanda smiled warmly at her again. "As long as the bed is bug free and the blankets are warm, this room will be just lovely. Thank you, Elizabeth." It came in a flash, and if Thomas had not been looking at her, he would have missed it, but a look of sorrow and terror crossed Elizabeth's face. Amanda also seemed to catch it. "What's wrong, Elizabeth?" the girl asked, with all the subtlety of an Arcane Explosion.

"Nothing," the girl said, her face a bit ashen. She shook her head. "No, I can't let you stay here," she said in a whisper, shutting the door to the room. "If you remain in this town, your lives will be in grave danger. You must conclude your business quickly and leave. You might safely make it through a single night. Perhaps two. But if you remain beyond the next full moon, you will surely die. I beg of you, get out of here while you can!"

"Can you tell me any more?"

The look on the girl's face was one of sheer terror. "No, I've said too much already. I'm sorry, I have to go." And with that, she hurried out the door.

Thomas and Amanda exchanged worried glances.



Fangs in the Forest

Arthur was a rather imposing sort of man, tall and muscular with a large frame. Even his salt and pepper hair did nothing but increase the man's stature, rather than make him look his age. He was just the sort of War-Magus that Thomas was glad to have along if things became dangerous. Thomas had worked with him before, and knew that his real name was Silva, though he had never really talked with the man before, but he knew that he could count on the man in a fight, and that's all that really mattered. He had taken the name Arthur and was playing the role of Thomas' Uncle, in the event he had to leave this house where they were basing the support team to contact the field agents.

The house actually belonged to a distant cousin of Arthur's, so it was easy to get permission to use it, and since the two actually looked vaguely similar, it wouldn't be hard to pass him as the other man since his cousin was a bit of a recluse, tending to avoid company as much as possible. The downside was that his cousin also avoided cleaning, so the place was a horrible mess. Upon arriving, Amanda had immediately located a broom and had enchanted it to begin cleaning for them and had pressed Reginald into getting a bucket of water from the nearby lake so that when she had completed enchanting the feather duster and turned to the mop, it would have water waiting for it.

Thomas chuckled at that. Reginald was the man in charge of the mission, highly experienced at serving Dalaran and the Kirin Tor. The casualness in Amanda's tone as she ordered him around had shocked everyone there, Reginald especially, which is why he could not come up with a response other than grabbing a bucket and heading out to the lake.

Thomas had worked with that man on multiple occasions as well, and also knew his real name. Magus Yadier, expected to become an Arch-Magus the next time promotion exams were held. He was a bit of a legend among Dalaran's secret operatives. None of his missions had ever failed, and the worst any of his team members had ever suffered was a broken leg. That alone was worth note when you considered that no other team leader had a death free record and perhaps an eighty-five percent success rate. But what made him a legend was that his missions were all the ones that had been deemed highly dangerous, if not nigh suicidal.

The other woman on the support team was another veteran, quite the opposite of the young girl he had been partnered with for this mission. For this mission, she was to be known as Samantha, but Thomas knew her as Kath'leen, another decorated War-Magus with plentiful victories under her belt. She had entered the military at an early age, so in addition to her training with spells, she was proficient with a half dozen common weapons. The only area that she lacked skills in was her social skills. She was extremely shy around new people except when she could fall back on her comfortable role as a soldier. That was why she could not be an undercover agent, as she tended to either be unable to approach people or dealt with them as a drill sergeant might deal with a lazy private.

Amanda had taken her shyness as a challenge and had begun working on making her open up almost immediately upon meeting the woman for the first time. It made her quite uncomfortable, but Thomas enjoyed watching the determined young girl try to befriend the other woman, who seemed more afraid of her than she would have been an army of rabid murlocs.

After returning with the bucket of water, Reginald had everyone sit at a table so they could begin the mission briefing, since they did not have much time before Amanda and Thomas had to go rent a room at the inn. "Alright folks, here's what we know. There have been rumors of half man, half worg beasts roaming these woods. They're said to be extremely vicious, so I would not venture from the village or the main roads unless you have to. A few villagers from Ambermill also say that if you come close enough to Pyrewood Village at night, you'll find that the entire village has become Worgen like these beasts. That in particular is what we're here to investigate. If people have been infected by some kind of magic, we have to put a stop to it, especially before it spreads."

"What of the keep in the hills above the village?" Thomas asked, studying a map of the region.

"That keep belongs to a man by the name of Baron Silverlaine. He's technically still the Lord of these woods, but with the fall of Lordaeron, his power really only extends as far as Pyrewood Village. If what we've been told by the people of Ambermill is correct, there is also a former member of the Kirin Tor living there as well, one Archmage Arugal. He fled Dalaran during the Scourge invasion. Librarians at Dalaran say he had a number of valuable books in his possession before he fled. One of them is still missing, the Book of Ur. They are unsure what information it contains, but it was located in the special section of the Library only accessible to members of the Kirin Tor, so it is quite likely that the information within could be dangerous. While going into the keep is to be considered a last resort, if we find ourselves there, we are to locate that book and return it if possible." He paused and looked at Amanda, whose brow was creased with thought. "What is it? Do you know something about that book?"

"I've heard the name Ur before. Let me think about it for a moment." She closed her eyes for a moment and then jumped from her chair. "I once overheard my uncle and my father talking about Ur. Uncle was very interested in Ur's research regarding other worlds."

"I never heard that Ur was working on that kind of thing," Thomas said.

"Nor have I," Reginald agreed.

"His research was deemed dangerous by the Kirin Tor," Amanda said. "Uncle was a member of the Kirin Tor, so he was aware of it, but they put in quite a bit of effort to keep what he was doing secret from most of the population. The last thing they wanted was a populace worried that the Kirin Tor might inadvertently open another Dark Portal and expose us to another Horde. At least, that's what Uncle told Father when he asked about it."

Thomas let out a low whistle. "You don't think that's what Arugal has done, do you?" he asked Reginald.

"It is possible," Reginald said.

"If that's the case, I don't know that it could get much worse," Samantha said.

"There is another thing to consider," Reginald said. "The Forsaken have been active in the area lately. They might have launched their own investigation into Arugal, as we believe a former member of the Kirin Tor is stationed at the Forsaken's nearby fortification, the Sepulcher. I don't think that they'll interfere with your investigation needlessly, but try not to antagonize them if you run across them. We don't need another enemy out here." He sighed. "So, any other questions?"

Before anyone could respond, Amanda rushed from the table, suddenly forced to stop a fight that had broken out between the broom and the mop.

** * **

Amanda closed the door to their room softly and sighed. "I'm not sure I want to know what kind of meat that was that they fed us. I've never eaten anything so incredibly bland. Hasn't the innkeeper heard of seasonings?"

Thomas chuckled. "Salt can be rather expensive, especially this far from a port. You know, you might be able to find a general merchant in town who stocks some less expensive sea salt. I believe there's a man in Southshore who runs a side business harvesting the stuff, so some of it may have found its way here."

Amanda's eyes lit up. "That would be lovely," she said. "I think I'll go look for some while you check out the situation at the Greymane Wall tomorrow. At the least, it'll give me an excuse to get out of this inn for the day. The innkeeper and his patrons are not the most friendly bunch."

"I noticed that," Thomas replied, taking off his boots. "I suspect that they're tired of the refugees seeking shelter on their way towards Gilneas." He realized that as he was talking to her, his eyes were once again wandering where they should not. He looked away quickly. She did not seem to notice. "Anyway, you go ahead and take the bed and I'll sleep on the floor."

Amanda's eyes flashed and Thomas suddenly felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. She crossed the room towards him. "Come now, beloved," she said, putting her arms around his neck. "I know we haven't actually said our vows yet and are only betrothed, but think of what would happen if someone found out you were sleeping on the floor." She leaned in close, pretending to kiss him on the cheek. "We're being watched," she whispered softly. She returned to a normal volume. "They might think that we're lying to them about our relationship and kick us out of the inn. Or at least they'll make us get a second room so that we won't be co-habitating out of wedlock. We really can't afford a second room, not if we want to save money for provisions to take us as far as Southshore in the event that we can't find refuge in Gilneas." She frowned at him, conveying a look of fear and spoke softly, but loud enough that anyone listening could hear. "Besides, I want you close by in case Father sends his men after us. I don't want them taking me back home to that monster. I'm a woman grown and can marry the man of my choosing, my father be damned."

"Alright, Amanda, I'll stay here with you," he said with a smile. Thomas was impressed. With a single brilliant move, Amanda had covered up the reason behind his comment to anyone who might be listening as well as giving them a story to fall back on should the villagers begin suspecting anything about them. And she had detected the spies before he had, displaying to him her keen instincts. The only downfall was that now he was going to find himself having to maintain control while sharing a bed with this beautiful young woman. He was suddenly painfully aware of the fact that her body was pressed against his.

She smiled impishly at him, probably guessing his thoughts. "Good. Now that it's been settled, go look out the window." His eyes must have betrayed his confusion. "Just because we're sharing a bed doesn't mean you get to look at me while I change into my nightgown," she said. "There are some things you're not allowed to see until after we've actually gotten married."

He nodded, unsure of his ability to speak coherently at the moment, and went to the window. It was raining outside, and the dampness had brought a fog rolling across the streets. The city, and especially the castle on the hill, looked especially menacing with the fog all around it. Thomas was suddenly snapped back into reality by the realization that this place was likely to be highly dangerous. He looked out over the rooftops of the houses nearby and thought he saw a figure on one of them, but when he looked closer it had vanished.

A lone wolf's howl and the sound of rain was all that he could hear a few minutes later as he climbed into bed.

** * **

Amanda sighed as she sat up in bed. Even if she had slept a few hours beyond when Thomas had gotten up to go to the Greymane Wall, she still was getting up far earlier than she used to. She pulled back the curtain on the bed and looked out the window. It could not be any later than nine in the morning.

Her stomach rumbled, so Amanda decided it was time to see about some form of breakfast. Rather than chancing whatever the inn was serving, she decided to raid her travel provisions for a bit of bread and cheese. She discovered that her bread had begun to mold, so she added a trip to the bakery to her plans for the day. It would be just one more person she could talk to in order to find out what was going on in town.

Breakfast finished, she got dressed and headed downstairs. As it was the night before, the inn's main room was dimly lit and smoky. She greeted the innkeeper warmly as she approached him. "Excuse me, sir, but is Elizabeth working today? I was hoping I could get her to show me around town. I have a few errands to run while my husband is out."

The innkeeper scowled. "Who?"

"Elizabeth. The girl who showed my husband and me to our room last night."

"Lass, I don't know what kind of game you're playing at, but we don't have a girl who works here."

Amanda was becoming frustrated. "But I saw her last night. She was about my height, had brown hair. She was wearing a blue dress. Surely you're just pulling my leg."

The innkeeper growled. "Look, lass, we haven't had a girl working here since my own daughter grew up and left home five years ago. I don't know what you're playing at, but this isn't funny."

Amanda was desperate. She knew she had seen a girl last night. She was sure Thomas would remember her as well. "Please, sir..." she trailed off when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned to see a bespectacled older gentleman with a look of concern on his face.

"Excuse me, miss," he said. "You're looking feverish. Are you unwell?"

His even tone snapped Amanda back into reality. She realized that she could not afford to make a scene. She took a moment and gave him a look of apology. "I'm sorry," she said. "I must have forgotten to take my medicine this morning." Several of the patients looked concerned, so she tried to think of an illness that would put their minds at ease. She quickly decided upon one she had read about in a story. "Don't be alarmed," she said. "It's not catching. I was born with a defect, a tiny hole in my heart. It leaves me frail and the doctor was unsure whether I would live beyond my tenth birthday. It's only thanks to the medicines he gave me that I'm alive. Without them, I'm prone to being emotional."

"I've heard of such an illness," the older gentleman said with a nod. "I had not heard that medicines had been devised for it, though."

"It's an experimental treatment. I'm not sure what's in them, to be honest." She reached into a small pouch she carried around her neck and rooted around, hoping to find something to pass off as a medicine. She found something that would suffice, a small mana gem she had that with a bit of illusion would pass as a pill if she put it in her mouth quickly. She crammed it into her mouth and concentrated, absorbing the mana within, causing the gem to disappear. She was now holding more magical energy than she was accustomed to, so she would need to burn it off at some point. She looked at the innkeeper. "I'm sorry, sir. I must have dreamed up this girl and without my medicine had confused her for reality. Please accept my apology." She turned to the older gentleman. "Thank you, sir. I probably would have hurt myself had I carried on much longer. My heart probably would not have withstood much more agitation."

"That's quite alright, miss," the older gentleman said with a smile. "I wouldn't be much of a doctor if I didn't recognize when a person was feeling ill."

"Doctor?"

"Oh my, where are my manners? I seem to have forgotten to introduce myself. The name's Livingston, but I would be honored if you would call me Stanley."

"It's nice to meet you, Stanley. My name's Amanda."

"A lovely name for a lovely young woman," he said, at which she blushed. "Now, forgive me for intruding, but I seem to have overheard you saying that you needed someone to show you around town. I have only been here for a few days, but if you'd accept the company of a foolish old man like myself, I believe I have enough knowledge of town to show you how to find most of the important places."

"Thank you, doctor. I'd be delighted to have your company on my errands. And with a doctor along, I would feel much safer should the ravages of my illness overtake me."

"Splendid. Well then, shall we be off?"

"Let's get going! I believe that this town's baker has a delicious pastry with my name on it and I would not want it to get cold."

As they walked from the inn, Stanley slid a small piece of paper into her hand. "Put that away and don't look at it until you're safely in your room," he whispered. "This place is not safe for a servant of the Kirin Tor. All eyes are upon you."

** * **
#2 Oct 31 2009 at 2:37 AM Rating: Good
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Thomas was uneasy. The note that the old man had given Amanda had told them to meet with him in a clearing a few hours from town at noon the next day. Something did not sit right with him, however. The man's timely intervention had stopped Amanda from blowing their cover, but he had also guessed that they were working for the Kirin Tor. This could be dangerous and it might just be time to cancel this mission and escape. Nonetheless, they had to discover what they could about this man first. And to do that, they had to meet with him, no matter how foolhardy it seemed.

They found the man sitting on a fallen log about fifteen feet from the edge of the clearing. Amanda waved at him in greeting, and he waved back. As they approached, Thomas sighed to himself. This just did not feel right. It was like they were being watched. Well, watched by more than just Arthur, who was hiding out nearby, shielded from view by an invisibility spell.

"Doctor Livingston, I presume?" Thomas asked.

The doctor's smile disappeared. "Let's go ahead and skip the unnecessary pleasantries," he said. "I've asked you here because we're both investigating this town, so let's just put our cards on the table and get everything out in the open now." He pulled a gem from his pocket and squeezed it lightly. His form shimmered and within a few seconds a walking corpse stood where the doctor once had.

"Forsaken," Thomas said flatly.

"Indeed. My name is Vincent. I'm a Deathstalker in the employee of the Banshee Queen, though I'm currently taking orders from the Sepulcher."

"I see," Thomas said. "What interest do you have in Pyrewood Village?"

"It's not so much the village that concerns us but the activities of the mage who has taken up residence in the Keep. We are here to assess the danger to the Forsaken and divine whether he is responsible for the Worgen now infesting these woods."

"It is much the same for us," Thomas admitted. "We have also heard rumors that he has been experimenting on the villagers, but have not as yet substantiated those claims."

"It is as you fear. I have seen one of the villagers turn into the form of a worgen. I do not know how many of them are afflicted by this magic, but there is evidence that it is quite a few."

Amanda put her hand on the Deathstalker's arm, not showing any of the customary revile of the undead that most humans had. "Excuse me, Vincent, but I'm confused about something."

"What is it?" he asked, apparently as confused by Amanda's gesture as Thomas was.

"Well, I don't understand why you would reveal yourself to us. I thought that the Forsaken in this region were hostile to Dalaran."

"I understand. While there is a bit of a struggle between the Forsaken and human settlements in this region, I am not so bent on my hatreds that they overwhelm my own sense of self preservation. You see, I am not the first Deathstalker to be sent out here. Nor are you the first mages to investigate on Dalaran's behalf."

"What?" Thomas said, incredulous. "They told us nothing of another mission previous to this one."

"They may not have known. Dawnweaver believes that a local archmage ordered an investigation without consulting the Kirin Tor."

Amanda's brow creased. "Dawnweaver? You mean Dalar Dawnweaver?"

"Yes."

"By the goddess! Dalar's alive?"

"I wouldn't necessarily call it that, but he still walks this world," he said with a guttural laugh. "Now, as I was saying, we're not the first people our sides have sent. We believe that the others were discovered by the locals when they lost sight of their objectives and fought each other. That's why I arranged this meeting. While I'm not sure that we should work together, I do believe that we should at least each do what we can to stay out of the way of the other."

"I can agree with that," Thomas said with a nod. "This mission is dangerous enough to begin with. There's absolutely no need to further complicate it by antagonizing each other."

"Excellent. Unless you have any further business with me, it's probably best that we both be heading back to town. Separately, of course."

"I do have one thing," Amanda said.

"What is that?"

"Next time you see Dalar, tell him that Silas' oldest daughter says hello."

The Forsaken's expression did not change. "I'll make a note of it when I send my next report to him."

** * **

Amanda sat up in bed with a start. She had heard a loud noise, she was sure of it, but now things were quiet. Perhaps a little too quiet. She strained to listen, but could not hear anything in the taproom below. It could not be more than an hour past midnight. The taproom never emptied this early. Something was wrong. She shook her partner's shoulder. "Thomas, wake up," she whispered.

Thomas groaned. "What is it, Amanda?"

"Something is wrong. I don't know what, exactly, but I think we may be in danger."

The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end as he suddenly felt the danger as well. "Try to contact Reginald. Let him know that we may need assistance."

She reached out with her mind, but could not reach much beyond the inn. "I can't get through. It's almost as though we're surrounded by a magical barrier."

"Get changed. We're leaving," he said, his tone serious.

Amanda did not have time to change, however, as no sooner had she stood up, the door exploded inward. In the doorway stood a man in silver hooded robes. "Dogs of the Kirin Tor!" he shouted. "Take them alive!" he ordered as he walked away.

Dozens of villagers streamed in the door. "Come quietly, mages," one said. "The Master wants you alive, and we'd rather not risk hurting you."

Thomas acted quickly, placing a magical barrier between them and the villagers. "This won't hold long. Quickly, Amanda, flee out the window and get to Reginald. I'll catch up as soon as I can."

Amanda slipped on her house shoes and shattered the window with a bolt of arcane energy. "Don't try to be a hero," she said. "Let's get out of here."

"I'll give you a few seconds lead and then follow. Now hurry!"

Amanda nodded and looked out the window. There were villagers on the street, so going that route was impossible. She would have to keep to the rooftops. This would present a problem, as she really was not an athlete, so she could not make the jump from rooftop to rooftop using her own physical strength. It was unfortunate that she did not have the magical knowledge she would require to fly, but she did have one trick that she had devised that would help her. With a thought, the muscles in her legs became fortified with magical energy, tripling their strength.

Her first leap went a little far, launching her past the first house into an alley. Thankfully no one was there, so she was able to leap again to the relative safety of the next house. She needed a few seconds to charge up the energy required for each leap, so it was not a quick means of travel, but at least it would allow her to make it to the edge of town in relative safety.

Or so she thought. A howl from the direction of the inn sent a chill down her spine as the moon came out from behind a cloud. She looked back and could see several figures bounding onto the rooftop of the house closest to the inn. Even in the moonlight, they were far enough away that the shadows obscured their features, though she almost thought that they looked like worgs. "Alright girl, time to get moving," she told herself.

She leaped from the last house past the town's wall and far out into the field between the town and the nearby woods. She looked back and could see that the creatures were closing in on the wall. With a thought, the magic in her legs altered slightly, enhancing her running ability rather than jumping. With a few steps she was off on a full run towards the woods.

A howl sent another chill down her spine as the first of the creatures reached the field and bounded after her. Judging by its speed, she could just barely keep ahead of them if she could keep up her pace. So she had to hope that nothing would get in her way.

Life for Amanda was never easy, however. After more than an hour of running, she found herself at the edge of the lake. She tried to run around one edge, but quickly realized that the creatures had her surrounded. One of them was approaching from the edge of the woods. She had to begin searching for options. She lacked the ability to water walk, so that was out. And she did not feel strong enough in her teleportation skills to allow her to make it to the other side of the lake. It was more likely that if she did make it, she would embed herself in a rock, or something horrible like that. No, long range teleportation was out of the question. And she doubted she would be able to swim faster than these monsters.

That left her with only one option, but it was risky as well. There was a reason people took a few seconds between short range teleportation 'Blinks'. They were tiring enough in a single bound, but to do another immediately would risk her passing out and drowning. However, it was the only option she was comfortable with.

As the creature came nearer, she could see its full form. It was a Worgen, a half man, half worg creature. Its jaws looked immensely powerful, and its eyes were filled with hatred. "Give up, girl. There is no escape."

Amanda smiled, hoping to project an image of fearlessness at the monster. "You're quite right about that. If you tangle with me here, you will not escape. I'll give you one chance, leave me in peace before I'm forced to kill you."

The monster laughed. It was a horrifying, guttural sound. "It is useless to try to pretend to be unafraid. We can tell by your smell, your movements and even the sound of your heart beating that you're afraid. Come now. Surrender peacefully and we will deliver you to the Master unharmed."

"I'm sorry, but that really isn't an option. Goodbye," she said as she spun on her heal and unleashed the magic she had gathered for the first in a series of dangerous Blinks.

** * **

Reginald could not believe the stubbornness of this girl. "Amanda, you've used up most of your strength. There is no need to come with us. The other two and I can handle a few villagers."

"That's what you're not understanding," she said. "More than half the village has become monsters. You're going to need all the firepower you can get."

"How can you know that? Detection magic is not capable of alerting us to this curse. How is it that you know? Did you see that many of the creatures?"

"I don't have to see them transformed," she said. "I can't explain how, but I know when someone has been altered."

"That seems far fetched. Come now. You're a Journeyman. How is it that you can know something that Master mages do not?"

"I said I can't explain it." Her voice was filled with frustration. "I just do. But that doesn't really matter. If you do not bring me along, I will just go on my own. I need to help Thomas. He got captured buying me time to escape."

"I'll have you bound to a chair. With ropes of warded against magic."

"No," she said. "You'll TRY to have me bound to a chair. I'm going and that's final."

Samantha decided that this conversation was going nowhere and intervened. "Reginald, we can't leave her here. Especially not tied up. Those creatures may still attack this house, and we'd be dooming her. Like it or not, we're going to have to bring her along."

Reginald thought that over. He was not happy with the decision, but he could not fault the logic. "Fine. I guess we have to. But you are to do exactly what we tell you."

Amanda shrugged. "Alright."

"Let's get going, then."
#3 Oct 31 2009 at 2:37 AM Rating: Good
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It didn't take long for Reginald to regret bringing the girl along. There were over a hundred Worgen within the Keep, and the girl had a habit of attacking each and every one of them from point blank range. She was going to get herself killed if she kept doing things that way.

"Amanda! Your spells should have a range of at least thirty yards! There's no need to touch your foe to hit them with a frostbolt!"

"They don't have time to dodge this way," she said with a shrug.

Infuriating. That was the word Reginald had decided on for his report. Assuming they lived to report the events of this mission. He did not have much time to think on it, however.

"Bats!" Arthur yelled.

Reginald looked to the sky. Dozens of massive duskbats were circling overhead. At the top of a nearby stairwell stood a large silver furred worgen. He seemed to be directing the actions of the bats with a large staff. "Focus your fire upon the worgen!" Reginald commanded. Arthur and Samantha joined him in unleashing a barrage of fireballs at the enemy. Amanda joined the attack using much less effective arcane bolts. "At least she's not trying to punch him," Reginald said under his breath as he dodged an attack from one of the massive bats.

When the worgen fell, the bats stopped their swooping attacks and scattered. But their problems were not but barely begun. A series of howls filled the air as dozens of worgs hurried down the stairs, followed by a red furred worgen and the most massive black worg Reginald had ever seen. The thing must have been at least half again the size of a man.

"Silva, err, I mean Arthur, deal with the big one! Samantha and Amanda, take care of the smaller worgs! I'll handle the worgen," Reginald said. His hands burst into flames as he began channeling his first attack spell. He unleashed the first fireball, but the worgen was quick, and dodged it. The attack instead struck a wall with immense force, a sign of Reginald's irritation. Bricks shattered, the shards flying everywhere.

The worgen countered by leaping at Reginald. Reginald blocked the attack with a mana shield in time to avoid injury and unleashed a counter of his own, striking the beast with scorching flames. It howled in anger and charged again. This time Reginald brought its charge up short with an explosive blast of fire, stunning the beast with the impact.

He followed up the attack with another fireball. This one scored a direct hit, slamming the monster into the wall with tremendous force and searing its flesh. It growled, all humanity gone, and charged again. Reginald was ready and a giant pillar of flame erupted from the ground beneath the creature, sending it into the sky. He struck again with a series of scorches, directing its path and finally impaling the beast upon the silver spire of the keep's chapel.

He looked around him and saw, to his relief, that the others had experienced similar success. The giant worg had been slain by fire and the smaller ones were torn to shreds by blasts of arcane energy. But something was wrong. It took him a few moments to realize what that something was.

"Where's Amanda?"

** * **

The room was pitch black, but Amanda knew that someone else was there. While there was no light, she could still see the magic permeating the room. She closed her eyes and cast a spell to conjure some light. The other person in the room hissed in pain. She opened her eyes slowly and saw someone she was not expecting. "Thomas?" she asked. "But, I saw the curse upon whomever was in the room with me. Please tell me that you haven't been infected!" she said.

"It's not a curse," Thomas said softly. "We had it all wrong. It's a wondrous gift. Join me in its power, Amanda. We can be together forever in the wondrous power of the worgen!"

"Okay, Thomas, I can't even begin to tell you what's wrong with that. So why don't I just tell you that I'm only interested in being friends and am not at all interested in becoming a worgen. I have enough trouble dealing with my magic training, there's no need to further complicate things."

He growled at the rejection and his face began to change as the transformation into a worgen began. "You don't have a choice! I'll turn you myself and make you mine!"

Amanda did the only thing she could think of. She charged her hand with magically created electrical energy and slapped Thomas as hard as she could. The combination of the blow and the shock sent him flying backwards.

"By the Light!" Thomas said. "What did I almost do? Please, forgive me, Amanda. I almost lost control."

"It's the curse. Thomas, I have to deal with Arugal quickly. Please tell me where he is."

"This room leads to the library he has made into his sanctuary. He should be - ARGH!" He dropped to the floor in agony. After a moment of convulsions, he spoke again, his voice quivering in agony. "Amanda, I'm losing control again," he said as he stood. "If you don't kill me, I may attack you. Please, I beg of you, end my life while I'm still a human!"

With a tear in her eye, Amanda nodded and placed her hand on Thomas' chest. "Goodbye," she said as she unleashed a frostbolt into his chest, destroying his beating heart and nailing him to the wall.

"Thank you," he said as the light faded from his eyes.

Rage filling her, Amanda turned to the doorway Thomas had indicated and began deciding how best to deal with Arugal.

** * **

"Impressive that you've made it this far, little girl," the Archmage Arugal said. "One would expect no less from the daughter of Silas Wintermoon."

"So you've figured out my identity," Amanda said, her tone betraying no hint of surprise.

"I still have friends in Dalaran, young Poldaran. They could not tell me how it is that the Council of Tirisfal expected you, a mere Journeyman, to be able to kill me, however."

The young woman, Poldaran of Wintermoon, laughed. "I have a reputation," she said. "Ever since my first fight, I've been dealing with enemies that are way out of my league and defeating them by exploiting any weakness I can find."

"Oh, and what do you suppose my weakness is?"

"You've shown me several. Arrogance is the most glaring one. However, you also suffer from something that affects every mage I've ever met, and it's how I will beat you."

"Pray tell, what might that be?" the Archmage asked, intrigued.

"For some reason I cannot fathom," Poldaran began, "every mage I've ever met seems to have some kind of need to overly complicate things. A simple frostbolt won't do when they could instead use a blizzard. Why summon an elemental to deal with a small threat when you could instead summon half a dozen elementals?" She smiled slyly. "I believe that it's a symptom of magic addiction that even you cannot see happening to yourself."

"So, you think I'm suffering from such a thing? What would you recommend, then?" He smirked at her. "I know, perhaps I should just destroy you with the most direct attack I can!" he said, unleashing a massively powered shadowbolt at the girl.

Poldaran screamed as the blast struck her in the chest.


** * **

"What was that?!" Reginald shouted.

"It sounded like a scream," Samantha said. "Amanda might be in trouble!"

They rushed down the hallway and tried to open the door. It was locked, so Arthur was forced to open it with a swift kick. The door splintered as it opened. What they found was not what they expected.

The floor of the stairs to the library's balcony was blackened by the impact of shadow magic, but no one was near the site of the impact. Instead, Amanda, whose hair had suddenly turned red instead of blond, was standing up on the balcony next to the kneeling Arugal, with her hand upon his shoulder.

"You see, Archmage, you misinterpreted me. I wouldn't have told you about your mistake if there had been anything you could do about it. But the mistake had already been made. You see, none of this would have happened had you not made your protective wards needlessly complicated. You placed multiple wards against invisibility throughout the room, certain that they would keep you safe. Instead, you failed to realize that by using multiple wards, you had given yourself opportunities to make mistakes. Had you taken the simple approach a Journeyman would have, you would have just placed a ward on the door, and maybe the windows. Had you done that, you would have realized that the girl before you was an illusion and that the real me was invisibly sneaking behind you to kill you."

The Archmage said something that Reginald could not hear.

"Of course I didn't use magic to kill you," the girl said. "I'm already tired, and not sure that you wouldn't detect any attacks I prepared, so I opted to use a poisoned dagger instead. You're no more dead if you're killed by magic than if you're killed by a knife in the back." She suddenly laughed. "It seems I'm not immune from the insanity magic brings. Listen to me, monologuing like some kind of villain from a manga." She placed her hand on his back and finished him off with a frostbolt through the heart. He collapsed to the floor with a thud.

"Amanda, what's going on here?" Reginald asked. "We were told to bring him in alive if possible."

"I had higher orders. Arugal was to pay for his crimes. On the upside, I found that book they wanted," she said, holding up 'The Book of Ur'. "I'm not sure why they wanted it, though. It seems pretty boring."
#4 Oct 31 2009 at 2:44 AM Rating: Good
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Epilogue:

"Archmage, I want to state, for the record, that I am not happy that the girl was given secret orders. They undermined my mission and put my people at risk."

"I understand your anger, Yadier. However, the Council of Tirisfal has the final say on these matters, and we just have to deal with it. And you had better get used to it. Poldaran has requested that she be assigned to work with you whenever possible."

"What? Why?"

"She feels that it is unnecessary to risk anyone else finding out about her involvement with the Council. Since you already know, she figures that working with you would be the best way."

"This is absurd."

"Be that as it may, I have already been ordered to make it happen. As such, you need to prepare yourself, another mission has already been ordered by the Council of Tirisfal for the girl."

"What is it this time? Another infiltration mission?"

"No. This is an assassination mission, plain and simple. The mages of the Tower of Azora have requested our assistance in recovering a book that was stolen from them by one of their former members. You're also to kill the mage who stole it, as he's making trouble for the citizens of Redridge."

"What book?"

The Archmage looked at his notes. "Well, now there's an interesting coincidence."

"What's that?"

"Looks like you're supposed to retrieve 'Ur's Treatise on Shadow Magic'."

"Ur? Isn't that the guy who wrote the last book we retrieved? What is the Council up to?"

"Damned if I know. Just get ready. You begin your trip to Redridge in an hour."





Author's Note: I'm gonna do something I normally wouldn't do. Since I didn't have time to really edit this to make sure you would find out the real names of all the investigators, or at least to make things clear, I'm gonna add in this list to help you out.


The Two Investigators
"Amanda"(Journeyman Magus Poldaran Wintermoon) For more info on her, read one of my other stories.

"Thomas"(Magus Marcus Kirin) - Experienced undercover operative. A character whose adventures I may explore in a later story. I haven't decided.

The Support Team
"Reginald"(Magus Yadier) - For more information, read my other stories. He's a frequent character and is played in game by a good friend of mine.

"Samantha"(War-Magus Kath'leen) - Pop the name "Kath'leen" in the search box on Allakhazam or Wowhead for more info.

"Arthur"(War-Magus Silva) - Pop the name "Silva" in the search box on Allakhazam or Wowhead for more info.

Edited, Oct 31st 2009 1:48am by Poldaran

Edited, Nov 8th 2009 11:56pm by Poldaran
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