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A Fate Worse than Death

((Written with Mayanna))

Laelithra needed time away from the front. Even a demon hunter could only manage so many days fighting without rest. So, she’d sent a message ahead to Rastovaar that she would be home, and he should expect a few days of what passed, among them, for relaxation. It hardly deserved the term, but she was looking forward to doing something other than hacking demons to pieces. All told, she was in a good mood when she returned to Dalaran, making her way toward her little rented room and figuring she would get there ahead of Rastovaar and sneak in a little sleep before he got in.

Then she saw their door. Pinned to it was a note addressed to her, written in gleaming magical ink for her ease of reading. The note itself was simple, summoning her to a meeting in the Hall of the Guardian. A meeting she would have ignored, but for the fact that the note was pinned to the wall with a curved felsteel dagger.

Unlike most demon hunters, Laelithra had found her particular demon, a sayaad, to be a calming influence, easing some of the more explosive moments of anger and irrationality to which she had been prone in her life before becoming a demon hunter. But as she stalked through the streets, the sayaad’s presence did nothing to calm her fury. More than once, a guard stopped her, as she carried the dagger in question, her white-knuckled grip on the hilt not exactly the sort of thing one might expect to see in public. She shouldered past them in each case.

When she reached the small sideroom in the hall, Laelithra gripped the blade tighter. It might be better, she thought to herself, to simply kill whoever this was and put an end to whatever game they thought they might be playing.

A single figure occupied the room, a human man of medium height and build whose only distinguishing quality was his arcanist robes. His back was to her as he scanned over the books filling the shelves of the small library. “Nothing would be accomplished by killing me, I am only a messenger,” he said calmly without so much as glancing back.

Laelithra’s lips pressed together in a thin, angry line. She stepped into the room, still gripping the dagger hard. “I suppose you’ve said that to every person who walked in here?” she asked through clenched teeth. Curious, though, that he’d noticed her as she came into the room in perfect silence.

The strange mage finally turned to face her. “You are the first to meet me here, Miss Evensong.” His lip quirked slightly, as though her name amused him. “I see that you received my note.”

Laelithra could make out more details of his face than most. That was, in part, due to Dalaran casting near-blinding magical light on everything nearby. It had taken her some time to grow accustomed to it after her first visit, but by now it actually helped her to see better. That he was a mage helped, too. She didn’t like the flicker of amusement that passed over his face.

“You really don’t have much in the way of time before I decide to kill the messenger,” she grit out.

“It is worth your time to listen a bit longer, I think.” He made a gesture, like tracing a circle in the air and spoke a few words of invocation. An image began to form inside of it, like a window into a house.

“Are you going to be this smug when I’m feeding you pieces of yourself?” she growled, surprised at her own anger. Even the sayaad within her recoiled slightly, attempting to calm her down, reminding her this kind of blind rage was not useful in almost any situation.

“Now if you do that, who is going to make sure that nothing happens to her?” His head tilted towards the image he’d conjured and the draenei visible through it.

Laelithra glanced toward the window and froze for a moment. “You have until I reach you to either defend yourself or convince me not to kill you,” she hissed angrily.

“If I do not leave here then my associates will pay your friend there a visit. At a minimum. And certainly an Ebon Knight fighting on the battlefields is in a dangerous place.” He smiled. “All that you need to do is listen to my offer then let me leave.”

Laelithra ground her teeth in silent anger for a moment before deciding the sayaad was right. This wasn’t the time to let her rage rule her. She took a breath, then stepped farther into the room. “You have one minute.”

“It is simple, I need you to get something for me from the Maw of Souls. Someone like yourself should not find that task so terribly difficult.” He smiled again, looking completely relaxed. “It is a pendant, shaped like a sword and quite likely in Helya’s possession or near her.”

Laelithra snorted. “You want me to, what, walk up to Helya and steal a pendant from her, then just give it to you? Who are you? Who are your ‘associates’ and what do you want with it?” she asked, mostly because it was the question the sayaad prompted her to.

“How you accomplish the task is up to you. Yes, I expect you to give it to me after you have done so. I am Neil Mordin. The rest is not important to the matter at hand.” He watched her curiously, as one watches a squirrel to see what it will do next.

“You’ll have a lot of dead ‘associates’ trying to kill Rastovaar,” she warned. “Especially when I warn him someone’s coming after him. He’ll have an easier time murdering your whole organization than I would stealing from Helya. And I’m certainly happy to add a set of hands to that work.”

“And your friend?” he asked, turning to glance through the magical window. “Can she hold out against us as well?” Mordin snapped his fingers once, the noise echoed slightly in the small room and the draenei woman looked up and around.

“Can you kill her before we kill all of you?” Laelithra countered. “Because I don’t think it’ll take all that long, really.” She took another step forward. “For a messenger, you’ve got a lot of finesse with your magic. Do you even have associates?”

“You misunderstand me, we do not intend to kill her.” He smiled. “Her powers would be far more valuable in our service.”

Realization dawned on Laelithra, and her brows lifted in shock. “ couldn’t do that…” she said, not at all confident that there was any truth to the statement.

The image began to change, Desala’s features morphed colors to more closely match those common for the eredar. Runes traced themselves over her body. “Are you sure about that?”

Laelithra watched the display with unmistakable horror on her face. No. She wasn’t sure. And she wasn’t sure how it might be done, or that it couldn’t be done either at a distance, or with the snap of his fingers. “You’re with the Legion,” she said. “What does the Legion want with her pendant?” Could she even give them something so obviously powerful? Who would even know what it did that she could ask?

“What we want with it is our business. You only need to worry about getting it.” Mordin glanced at the image of the demonic Desala. “Assuming that you want to protect her, of course.”

“I don’t know if I see even a tiny bit of logic in believing that you wouldn’t just do that to her the second I give you what I want,” Laelithra pointed out. The sayaad was prompting her to play for time, frantically trying to think of some way around this situation.

“But you do know that I will if you do not do as I ask,” he pointed out. “What is your decision?”

“I want some assurance that you won’t if I do,” Laelithra said. “Something that will protect her, or some means of preventing it.” There had to be some way to stop it from happening, but he could promise her anything he wanted at this point, and there was no guarantee he’d deliver.

Mordin’s smile finally reached his eyes in true amusement. “Upon delivery, of course.”

Laelithra let the sayaad reach out in an effort to touch his mind, to see if there was any truth in the pledge. He was likely too on guard to outright charm into complicity, but she was fairly sure that subtler touches wouldn’t necessarily doomed to failure. She hoped.

His manner was calm and controlled as he waited for her response, but he was completely blank to her. Either there was nothing to read or he was somehow concealing his thoughts and feelings.

Laelithra’s lips pursed when the sayaad came up dry. She ground her teeth silently for a moment. He had her over a barrel. Saying yes bought her time to find a way to protect Desala, kill him and his confederates, and make sure they didn’t get what she wanted, as even the sayaad didn’t seem to love the idea of them getting hold of Helya’s trinkets.

“Fine. Tell me exactly what I’m looking for. I am not going to have a lot of time poking around.”

“It will no doubt appear strong in necromancy to you. I have already described its appearance,” he said impatiently. “I will be in touch again when you have obtained it.”

“You’re asking me to find an object strong in necromancy from the Maw of Souls. That is like asking you to find a shadow in a room with no light,” Laelithra pointed out. “There’s nothing there that isn’t strong in necromancy.”

“Well, if you can't do it…” he turned back towards the magical window and began to form a gesture.

Laelithra grabbed his hand and twisted it back, away from the window. “Do that and you won’t live long enough to be smug about it,” she hissed. “I didn’t say I couldn’t. I asked for more detail, you arrogant little twat.”

He ignored what must have been a painful twisting of his wrist. “You have what information I have to give you, now are you going to do as we ask?”

“Fine,” she said, twisting his hand just a little more in an effort to determined whether he was simply playing cool, or whether there was more to him than even her second sight was revealing. “I’ll do it.”

The wrist made a popping sound, not broken but certainly injured. “Are you quite through?”

Laelithra watched his face carefully. “For now,” she said, releasing his wrist. She’d seen people who could resist pain quite thoroughly, but before leaving, she took an opportunity to peer at him as closely as she could with her second sight.

Mordin merely turned back to look over the books again, completely dismissing her presence.

Laelithra watched him for a long moment, her brows contracting. Deciding there was no point in continuing to talk to him, she turned to leave, stalking silently from the tiny library.
(( I hesitate to this comment here, rather than elsewhere, but Mordin is being watched. If he appears in Dalaran, it will now be noticed. What this means and what he can hide is an unclear matter. But even the absence of information can be telling. ))
  • August 7, 2017
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Mayanna Stonewood
  • August 7, 2017
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