Guilt and Blame

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Guilt and Blame

Post by Melnerag on Mon Mar 05, 2012 11:37 am

I am reposting the old Story I wrote years ago when quitting WoW for Warhammer (the fool that I was!) Posting it chapter by chapter, as previously people were put off by the length. Next chapter will appear in several days. It was written asa 'tribute' to the awesome roleplay that took place on Defias in the 'Olde Good Days', and contains several of old DB characters. The story takes place in time between the fall of the Netherdawn Empire and formation of the Hand of Nightmares.

Chapter I : The End of Good Days

In the warn spring evening around half past eight a lone figure clad in simple blue robe and a pointy sky blue hat walked underneath the Trade District arch of Stormwind City, passed the bridge stopping for a brief moment to cast it’s gaze upon the canals and exhaled soundly before at last heading towards the Old Town. The man of average height hesitantly strode along the canals edge, with the massive towers of the white-stoned keep appearing before him as he followed the turn, the thoughts of the upcoming ordeal and the greatly cherished past started floating up in his troubled mind. As he walked on, he whispered to himself “This is how the Good old days end, Arcadius…”

“This is how the good old days end, Arcadius…” said the man dressed in friar’s robes, with long dark brown beard covering his throat and long hair to his shoulders, frowning on Arcadius from underneath his thick brows. Arcadius, a young mage clad in blue robe and with his newly acquired hat simply nodded, letting his friend continue.
“Clement is a good man, I am sure I will be able to learn much from his great wisdom and one day become a Bishop myself” – continued the friar, peering at a thin mocking smile on Arcadius’ face.
“I will learn more about the Holy Light...” - he continued, but suddenly busted into laughter, his determination ruined by the sardonic chuckle of his friend. Both friends laughed for a while and patted each other’s backs. Danrick, the friar, raised his gaze and blankly stared at Arcadius’ pointy hat, a moment of silence came.
“What?” asked Arcadius, breaking the silence and turning his eyes upwards, Danrick just kept staring.
“You will not get me again ye tricky fox!” yelled out Arcadius, but he knew that he will not last a moment longer, and so he took off his hat and inspected it. As he expected, there was nothing wrong with it, but the friar was already laughing hard about his friend’s lack of self-confidence.
“It is a good way to say Farewell, we will always remember this moment Arc, always remember the jokes we just made and always laugh at them” spoke out the friar in overly dramatic, prophetic way as Arcadius picked up his sack and entered already collapsing portal to Dalaran.

And indeed, thought Arcadius, Friar’s Prophecy came true: he could no longer remember the times of low tide in their friendship, which lasted from very infancy. They did not meet for a long time and his return to Stormwind sadly yielded no meeting, and nobody knew where Danrick has gone, he simply vanished as if he never even existed. And for their “old man” next door, Bishop Clement, he resigned and is now living somewhere in Elwynn forest in complete solitude.

The thoughts took Arcadius further into the present, to this very day. The goal of his nightly promenade was clear, and not a pleasant one: he was to meet Mage-Lord Antron, why? He had not a single idea. It has been a year of hard work for him running a little store of arcane goods down in the Mage District, and he could feel with tips of his fingers that the meeting and the “anniversary” had something to do with each other. And he didn’t like that thought.

Crossing the bridge to the Dwarven District Arcadius shivered seeing a couple of Night Elven females sitting one in another’s lap on bridges edge, peering upon reflection of the moonlit Stormwind keep. He pulled his hat down his eyes and hastily made his way onwards, before a more intimate chapter will come to this romantic scene. Passing the arch towards the new District he could almost experience his very soul sinking to the heels in anticipation of the upcoming ordeal, and sound of the clock beating quarter to nine sounded as last nail into a coffin. The wizard turned right and entered the Smoking Blade, only to be held by the bouncer who simply stared on his ridiculous, sky blue, pointy hat.
Hatless, but with mind no less troubled by memories and thoughts Arcadius found a table for two men under the stairs and fell onto the chair, laying his simple pocket watch on the table and following tedious advance of it’s arm. As the young waitress came up to him, he didn’t even look at her and muttered “Wine”, the arm was nearing nine o’clock, time of the meeting. The waitress almost slammed the crude ceramic jar of wine and a simple copper chalice into the table as Arcadius failed to raise his eyes from the watch, the arm has finally reached nine in the evening and the sound of Stormwind Clock acknowledged that, Arcadius smiled at the well-calibrated precision of his chronometer and poured a glass of wine.

It was almost ten over nine, and the Lord didn’t yet show up. Arcadius grabbed the jar of wine, and started nervously turning it around it’s axis, the arm of his watch was still moving on, brutally counting out the time. If this was a usual meeting, he would’ve gone away by now, but deep within his heart he knew: that he better wait even if it takes forever. As the arm of the watch reached ten over nine, and the jar of wine was empty, the waitress came again, but this time she sat right in front of him. Arcadius pulled his hand back from the jar in a shock, and lifted his gaze expecting to see the lord, but his eyes fell on the young waitress: a tall dark skinned woman with waist-long copper red hair and deep green eyes, it would be wrong to describe the way she was dressed, a description of how she was undressed would be more fitting in this situation.

The wizard coughed slightly; unaware that woman was part of the staff and hesitantly spoke out, stuttering at almost every word
“Miss, excuse me but this chair is occupied”
The woman simply glanced at him and grinned, answering in completely proper common to Arcadius’ great amazement.
“Staff member here; and I will stand up when your date comes. She is late, isn’t she?” - Said the waitress half-mockingly and winked at the mage. Arcadius half sighed, half gasped and slightly loosened the collar of his robe as red spots started appearing on his neck, he peered at his nervously shivering hands and hid them under the table. In a moment he regained his composure and tried to pull off a thin smile, answering to the inquiry.
“I am not waiting for a woman, miss. I am meeting The Archmage” – spoke out Arcadius in clearly spooked voice, laying emphasis on “Archmage” as if he was meeting Khadgar himself. As he saw woman’s smile widen and inner ridge of her brows lower in a playful frown, he realized that his answer wasn’t nearly as good as he expected.
“Then perhaps I could keep you the company for a while, and get you something to drink?” asked the waitress chuckling, her large southern lips curled in an innocent smile. Arcadius could feel as the red spots were rising from his neck onto his cheeks, but he knew that ordering something will buy him at least few minutes.
“A jar of wine please…” said he peering in woman’s eyes and as the ridge of her copper red brows lowered even further, he added “Two! I mean two, and an additional glass!” The waitress stood up with a brash inelegant movement and moved towards the bar, Arcadius sighed and noted that at least her waist and legs are properly covered. He knew he was just tricked in ordering, and paying, but he couldn’t do anything about it.

It was Fifteen minutes past Nine, and no signs of Lord-Mage Antron, Arcadius took his time to study the Blade for as much as he could see from his canny dark corner under the stairs, a large table was occupied by three scarlet crusaders, with long beards and greasy hair, their scarlet-red armor and tabards were covered in road dust and dirt and winged helmets were standing on the table next to large pints of ale. The three men leaned towards each other, whispering and chuckling about something Arcadius could only guess about. At the bar stood a young knight in simple chain mail shirt to his knees and an old bent and chipped sword, surprisingly, the belt was very elaborate and expensive, adorned with gold and precious gems. His eyes finally found the young waitress, pouring a mug of ale for the young knight, exchanging few words with him and then bringing large roasted duck to the Scarlet Crusader’s table.

He withdrew his gaze from the long copper red hair and studied the whole picture, the Knight sighted and followed the waitress with a woeful gaze, Scarlet crusaders seemed invigorated by her approach. As the woman leaned to put the duck on the table, youngest of the crusaders, a gaunt man in mid twenties with wide cheekbones and shortest beard pulled the knot of her shirt, if it even can be a called a shirt. His friends chuckled as the youngling moved his mug righter under the plate with duck, preventing woman from setting it on the table, and peered onto her naked chest with the gaze of a slave driver inspecting his goods. Arcadius could feel a strange rush of adrenaline, commanding him to stand up and interfere, but the awe-inspiring size of the scarlet war hammers kept him sitting.

The young knight near the bar swiftly leaped to the table and took the scale from waitress’s hands, politely keeping his gaze to the side. The youngling-crusader took out a gold coin and turned it couple of times in front of woman’s face, smiling meaningfully as she stood there paralyzed by anger and shock, two other barkeeps peered at the situation, hands on the throwing knives.
“Get out of here foul swine before I send you into nether’s embrace for violating this ladies honor!” - yelled out the knight, holding the scale ready to be thrown. The crusaders chuckled, standing up at once and grabbing their hammers.
“You have insulted our brother, you better start running!”- roared the oldest crusader. The waitress took the moment to hide behind her defender, peering over his shoulder. The Knight just stood there staring at the three crusaders with a pitiful expression on his face.
“Are you deaf!? We shall teach you to show proper respect” roared the three crusaders in anger, the young Knight politely coughed and smiled at them.
“Don’t bother answering, pup. You are dead now!”- yelled the youngling-crusader as he lost patience and raised his mighty war hammer for a swing and smashed it towards the knight, knight skillfully dodged pulling the waitress along and watched the hammer crush a large hole in the table. The waitress hissed “property damage”, but stayed behind the defender.
The older crusader placed his hand on youngling’s shoulder and pulled him out of the establishment. The third crusader followed swinging from booze and dropping a purse on the table as he left. As the three left, shouting could be heard from the outside as they were most likely fighting among each other. Waitress stretched on her toes to kiss her savior, the young knight blushed. Arcadius found himself unwillingly grinding his teeth in jealousy, and peering on the two with hatred in his eyes. But he was soon relieved as the waitress picked the two jars from the bar and swiftly moved to the wizard.

The woman set back at her spot without bothering to knot the shirt and cover her breasts, the Knight peered around for a while and then moved towards the table under the stairs with slow pace.
“are you alright?”-asked the both men at once, but with different tone. Arcadius sounded irritated, the Knight calm, thou both of them blushed and kept their gaze from her chest.
The woman smiled and peered at the knight meaningfully beckoning him closer and whispering something in his ear. The knight nodded, and went for the exit.
“Thank you for the reminder milady, you saved me again” - said he while turning around.
Waitress picked the jar and poured both glasses, without dropping her gaze from Arcadius and grinning playfully.
“your…shirt…miss” - politely, yet hesitantly stated the wizard as he found himself unwillingly peering at her chest. Arcadius bit his lip, cursing under his breath and muttering “damn you temptress” while expecting an answer…
“You can call me Ehlik.” - Said the waitress tonelessly while continuing to pour the wine.
“Isn’t that a bit trollish!?” – exclaimed Arcadius proudly, perhaps with greater pride than he meant to. Then he caught himself on the thought that the shirt is still open and he should ask again.
“—and Ehlik, the shirt” - added he.
“Why don’t –you- knot it if it bothers you?” - answered Ehlik grinning and winking at the wizard. Arcadius could feel the sweat running down his arms, back and temples as he has chased himself into this unpleasant situation. But he stood up and went up to the woman, trying to knot her shirt.
“Yes it is a bit trollish. Now don’t think that I am a half-troll, will ye.” – answered the woman trying to suppress the laughter.
“uuf, no of course no..m…Ehlik. You must be from the booty bay?” – asked Arcadius, trying to block out any perverted thoughts as he was so close to her chest.
“You know of the place!? You knowledge is remarkable.” – stated the waitress surprised, even thou deep within she was gloating over wizards foolishness and inexperience, and Arcadius understood that very well.

Sitting once again on his chair, Arcadius’ back felt wet from the sweat and he could feel the heat. He very well understood that his face was as red as a cancer, but from within his condition was even worse: confused feelings, a wicked drive, uncontrolled emotion and unexplained hatred for that nameless brave Knight with his expensive belt. Arcadius pulled both hands through his blonde hair, letting them fall at both sides of his face and peered blankly in front of him. Ehlik was gone to entertain other guests, but a desire to be at same table with her again was raging within him. Perhaps tomorrow he will come here again. All of a sudden the wizard could feel as if he was being watched, he turned around and saw Lord Antron, a short wizard in elaborate black and violet robes and mantle, clean shaven face and wide black hat covering his eyes.

Arcadius could feel the cold, he was no longer prepared for this conversation and simply peered at the Lord.
“I half expected you to be late” said the lord tonelessly as he took off the hat, revealing his grey hair and all-penetrating unforgiving eyes as he sat on the chair not long ago occupied by Ehlik.
“Is this how younglings welcome their superiors? By Staring them down?” pronounced the lord sarcastically, and as Arcadius opened his mouth to give an answer, the archmage continued.
“I swear this is worst insolence I’ve ever seen!” spoke out the old mage with irritated tone.
Arcadius gestured for the glass of wine, as he previously agreed with the staff, he did his homework well: Lord Antron only drinks wine, then finally got enough courage to answer.
“Exalted Lord, forgive my lack of tact, I--” managed to say Arcadius before being interrupted again, this time with raging tone.
“I am not interested in your excuses”
Arcadius could feel the heavy gaze of the archmage, and almost read “I will kill you” on his emotionless face. But as the elaborate glass of wine arrived, Lord didn’t even bother looking at the waiter as Arcadius so much hoped. Lord picked up the glass of wine, smelled it, and splashed it out on the floor.
“Is this urine of a plagued pig what goes for wine nowadays?” yelled out the lord, smashing table with his fist. The personnel could not help but to bring him his favorite Northshire Abbey Wine. Arcadius peered around, and as his eyes met Ehlik’ he was overcame with shame for his weakness, he could feel something rushing in his veins, giving him power, giving him determination.
“I will not stand for this Archmage, you better show a degree of respect if you wish to do business with me!” angrily spoke Arcadius, interrupting to politely smile at the waiter who brought a jar of wine, Then he could feel a stab in his knee, but suppressed any screech of pain.
“I will carve out your kneecaps whelp, I am a violet lord and demand your respect” calmly spoke the archmage, but great arrogance and mockery could be heard in his voice.
Arcadius once again sought Ehlik’s green eyes, but was unable to find them. All determination and power vanished in an instant as he was speechless from anger and fear.
“You better listen now. I am buying your shop for Five Thousand gold pieces. Now” commanded the Lord.
“But it is below the price I paid for it!” protested Arcadius, but was interrupted again.
“Am I bothered?”- pondered the lord, frowning at the young wizard in front of him.
“No milord…” - Answered Arcadius.
“Then we have a deal” – stated the lord, raising his head arrogantly and staring Arcadius down.
The young wizard peered around, as if desperately looking for help. He could see Ehlik leaning on the pillar at right part of the bar, with arms folded on not so long ago naked chest, peering at him with an amused smile.
“No.” – firmly stated Arcadius, as he could feel that wicked poison once again rush in his blood. He felt as if he could take on the whole world. The Lord frowned even more, his thick grey brows covering his eyes almost completely, Arcadius could feel the electric all-consuming tension, as if his very life was sucked out of him.
“No!?” – asked the lord with voice filled with hatred, belittling and arrogance.
“No” – confirmed Arcadius, as the fear was once again getting him. He unwillingly moved deeper into his chair, and lowered his eyes not to see the Lord’s anger-twisted face.
Antron stood up, his garments toppling the table, but he managed to grab the glass first, only to angrily smash it on the stairs behind Arcadius.
“You will regret getting in my way insignificant insect, you will consider ten copper a generous offer for your dung-hole of a shop after I had my way with you!” – yelled out the Lord for all Blade to hear, Arcadius kept leaning back on his chair, face twisted in fear of random pyroblasts flying around.

To his great relief, two mighty gauntlets grabbed Lord’s shoulders and Arcadius could see two fully armed Disciples of Light dragging the aggressor away despite his threats and swearing. They took him under his shoulders and dragged towards the exit. Hyperventilating, and listening to echoing yells and threats addressed at him, Arcadius sat perched on his chair as all of a sudden Ehlik appeared in front of him.
“I thought you were a pathetic rag…” – she stated with a soft chuckle, then added “it will be Five gold for the drinks and three for the mess”.
“As if it is my fault! He drank that wi..” – tried to Protest Arcadius, but as he saw Ehlik’s brows lower with every syllable he pronounced, he simply answered “Fine” and laid the eight gold pieces in her open palm. As he stood up, wet from cold sweat of fear and breathing as arathorian horse after day’s galloping, he was suddenly pulled closer by Ehlik who mockingly bit his ear, and then pushed him towards the exist. Overcame with wicked joy and a strange feeling of triumph he strode out of the Establishment, forgetting his ridiculous sky-blue hat.

With his gaze turned left, he could see the Lord holding his wrist as if in pain, and staring down the Disciples.
“One more arrest attempt and you would pray to eat grass for the rest of your pitiful lives instead of me reporting your doings to Sir Northlight!” – said the lord with a cold voice of a killer. The Disciples backed a bit, and thumping with their heavy war boots walked away. Lord raised his fist towards Arcadius, and did a slit-throat gesture with his another hand, pulled on the hat and with his mantle waving in the cold night’s air, walked away towards the Old Town.

Folding arms on his chest, and inhaling the calming, chilly air Arcadius walked towards the Cathedral Square Bridge. His thoughts were overwhelmed with heavy burden of his own weakness, he knew he could never win her heart even if he wanted too, all along she was just playing him to make him come again another evening and drink some more. He sighed at own thoughts, and skillfully forgot about it, locking any signs of affection towards the troll-named lady from his mind. As he crossed over into Cathedral District, he peered at the house at Canal’s edge. It is there he dreamed to live, with front windows enchanted by moonlit view of Stormwind keep, and back windows on the Cathedral Square. Suddenly the realization of own insignificance once again overwhelmed him as he passed along the front door, in all those years he achieved nothing, he is still single and still poor. The odor of Ehlik’s perfume and exotic tint of her skin once again came to his mind, her near-radiant copper red hair, he felt as if he could touch and play with them. Once again he’s shaken his head, he is an underachiever: and better stop dreaming.

Arcadius slowly climbed the Cathedral stairs. He stopped at the top to catch his breath, and headed into the magnificent building. As he crossed the arch, he could feel the serenity of that place negate all ill thoughts, and ward off the realization that he might not even meet the next dawn with Antron now against him.
“Greetings, Imbecile, welcome to the Cathedral of Light” – imagined Arcadius, he could so vividly hear brother Sarno say that with his toneless, boring and utterly annoying voice. Wizard sighed and moved onwards, Brother Sarno was already away for the night and place occupied by him felt especially bald and empty. As Arcadius was nearing the now empty altar, he could make out two figures near the furthest left Pillar, recognizable by their specific hats: Bishops Farthing and Fortesgue.

Arcadius coughed to get attention of two whispering men, and when they turned their gaze towards him he spoke: - “Good evening Fathers, light be with you, any new news on Ex-Bishop Clement?” Both bishops sighted, that was the way Arcadius was greeting them for a year now.
“No, none at all.” – answered Farthing.
“Sadly, no” - confirmed Fortesgue.
“How was the life treating you, old friend” – asked both Bishops in tone, peering at clearly exhausted and troubled Arcadius.
Arcadius sighed, but decided to share his hardships, for even with Cathedral’ calming working, they were still too much of a burden.
“I’ve been thinking of Danrick, and Clement Today…” – said Arcadius as a interlude to his confession, same Interlude he was using for a year.
“We pray for them every day” – added Farthing in moment of silence as Arcadius was thinking how to formulate his next phrase, Fortesgue simply nodded in agreement.
“I don’t know how to Be, Fathers. The Life refuses to give up being hard on me, I achieved nothing so far, and will never achieve anything at all. I met somebody special today…but I realize…I am not worth her company” – almost crying said Arcadius, peering at two wise men for an advice.
“No challenge can be too hard for a man of Faith, Arcadius, no matter what life brings to you: good or bad, come to terms with it, learn from it and move on.” – said Farthing prophetically.
“Remember tenacity, friend, no matter how small you are, with enough effort and determination you will get where you want to be” – said Fortesgue nodding sagely.
Both bishops nodded, in approving of one another’s statements.
“Don’t dwell on the past, Arcadius, things will never be as they were before the Plague, before the War.” – said Fortesgue with his gaze drifting off for a second.
“And remember, never lose Faith. Especially not in yourself” – said Farthing smiling.
Arcadius gave both men a deep bow, if he had his ridiculous hat on, it would touch the floor. He turned around, and under the sound of a blessing walked away from the Cathedral, his heart and soul lightened for a while.

to be continued...

Melnerag

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Join date : 2010-01-29

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Re: Guilt and Blame

Post by John Helsythe Amaltheria on Mon Mar 05, 2012 12:25 pm

A-ha ;p had already read this one. I recommend people to read it who haven't yet. Just finished the netherdawn empire thing too, brilliant. We want more...maybe new stuff. Mmmm.

_____________________________________________________
John Helsythe Amaltheria (Helsythe), Chapter of Holy Anethion, Witch-hunter
Jeremya (Jeremya), Omen of Discord, Wrathblade
Nordim Crojwin, Watcher of The Night Watch, Bartender at The Scarlet Raven
Veryan Arrowsong, Natures Grasp, TBA

John Helsythe Amaltheria

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Join date : 2010-01-30

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Re: Guilt and Blame

Post by corleth on Tue Mar 06, 2012 4:43 pm

I shall be following this!

corleth

Posts : 2605
Join date : 2010-12-27
Age : 72
Location : NOWHERE

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Re: Guilt and Blame

Post by Melnerag on Fri Mar 09, 2012 12:57 pm

Chapter II : Vengeance and Justice

The night appeared to last an eternity, although it still seemed short. Arcadius could not shake off a strange feeling of wicked and unpleasant warmth, his sheets sticking to his skin. He was not completely asleep, but was incapable of waking up. He could feel the smooth touch of the copper-red hair, and a strange, unexplainable feeling of loss and solitude as the vision of Ehlik was slowly drifting away, he knew all he had to do was to reach out with his hand and hold her tightly from vanishing into the darkness of his dreams, but he could not, he dared not.

Arcadius finally woke up with the fifth strike of the clock, it was still dark. Limping on one leg he slowly moved to the kitchen, took a simple copper chalice and kneeled down to take some cold well-water from the bucket under the table. Once refreshed, he pulled on his robes, stepped into his sandals and went outside. The rooftops were shining dimly, as the dawn was already on its way. He was compelled by strange and unexplained power to walk to his shop few streets away.

The light of torches was blinding in contrast to the darkness and chill of the night, at the steps of his shop stood four Stormwind guards, and a group of workers was removing the furniture and equipment. It came, the ordeal – it’s darkest hour. Perhaps if he simply complied to Lord’s demands, he would now sleep well, knowing that he had five thousand gold coins to settle elsewhere, now it looked that he had nothing at all. He grabbed his face, hands wet from tears and fell on his knees. Through haze of weeping he could see that the source of light was coming closer.
“Oi! Why ye crying here on the streets?” – shouted one of the workers with his low, nasal voice.
Arcadius could not take it, instead of answering he wept more, dropping with his face on the dew-soaked grass. All of a sudden he could feel being lifted by two hands, turned on his back and tossed on the grass – through tears he could see the dark silhouette of the Archmage.
“Quit crying, I can’t stand malcontent people” – hissed the lord apathetically.
“You ruined my life…I hate you!” –cried Arcadius, nothing mattered to him at this moment , not even his own life. He worked one whole year to get this shop running, and it was hard work, now it was all undone before his very eyes.
“You should rather thank me, imbecile”, the lord took a small pause, letting what he said sink in and has overwhelmed any attempts by Arcadius to say something with his dominant voice, continuing “I withdrew your license; your equipment and this building will be requisitioned by the Kirin Tor”.
“r..r…requisitioned!? how could you take away my life’s work! This is all I have!” – yelled Arcadius, grabbing his face once again. But for the moment he wondered if that is the same Lord he met in the evening…
“Yes, requisitioned. You will be paid three and a half thousand gold pieces by Dalaran for all supplies, equipment, furniture and the building. If you quit crying and hurry your pathetic ass to the bank, you will find your gold already there. Unlike you, some people work fast”, the Lord proudly posed, basking in his own charity, he then turned around letting his long mantle sweep over young mages’ face, took few steps and blinked away.

Arcadius remained on the grass, his robe soaked in dew and face in tears – he stared at the sky, as the stars slowly vanished one by one before the approaching dawn. For a moment he wondered whether it was a change of heart, a stroke of charity or simply some law even The Archmage had to obey. As even the brightest star started to pale before the radiance of the dawn, Arcadius thought for a moment of all the things he could do with the gold, move to Hillsbrad, save it and enlist into the alliance army…or chase after Ehlik. The first rays of the sun touched his face, and for a moment blinded him, he was in an ignorant and unspoiled joy.

The wizard slowly stood up, smile on his face vanishing as he was returned into the grim reality of doubt. He could never win her heart, not even if he had ten thousand. Crunched a bit, and woeful look restored to his face he headed out in random direction. He was treated as dirt, and worst of all- he was dirt. Even the thoughts slowly vanished, and he looked around him: far back he saw the workers and the guards rounding up their work, in front a bench, and a sign stating ‘Slaughtered Lamb’. It was probably too early for it still to be open, but it was worth a try , thought Arcadius.

He walked in, grabbing himself by his hair in an attempt to take off the hat – only to at last realize that he no longer had it. The mage eyed the interior of this infamous hellhole, it’s grim bartender handing the dirty mugs through a hole in the wall into the backroom. The inn was empty, Arcadius smiled in relief – he heard only bad things about the patrons. He walked towards the bartender, politely , perhaps too politely for a place like this, ordered a mug of ale and sat at one of the smaller tables following the foam settle. Arcadius lifted his gaze, and was thrown backwards in his chair by the terror – in front of him sat masked figure, a grim individual whose presence inspired a feeling of peril. Leaning as far back in his chair as he could, Arcadius peered right at the visitor, but avoided it’s eyes.
“Enjoyed your evening?”,- asked the masked man, his voice sounded human, in contrast to his dark appearance.
“yes! Yes! I did …sir”,- answered Arcadius, but his answer sounded more like a cry for mercy. The figure remained silent, studying the mage from underneath the darkness of his hood.
“They walk over you, and you enjoy it? Ha!”,- at last spoke the hooded man, with a mocking intonation – but his voice was also filled with detest. Arcadius simply sank deeper into his chair, forgetting about his ale and staring right into dark man’s eyes, paralyzed by fear and unable to speak.
“Do your bishop friends know about this? Of course they do! And what have they done – told you to be patient, to endure…ha-ha-ha…they told you to submit to your fate!”, The man started to laugh sinisterly, Arcadius tried to speak against such slander towards the bishops, but found himself incapable of speaking. Mage’s cheeks were wet from the tears, and clothes soaked in his own sweat.
“Listen closely, instead of submitting you should act against these pathetic dogs. The light will never give you a good life, you have to take it yourself! Why follow the teachings of weakness and humility, don’t you want to be powerful and celebrated? Now, take a sip of your ale”.
“It…it is poisoned!” cried out Arcadius, pushing the mug away. The figure sighed, which made it look even more human for a moment.
“You dimwit, it is your own ale. You ordered it and brought it here. Now drink” – hooded man made his intentions especially clear, considering he made a slitting motion at his own throat when giving the order. Arcadius swallowed, and took a large draught – emptying half of his mug at once, he could feel the warmth immediately spread through his body and fight the chill of terror. He could feel the feeling of lightness rise to his head, and confront the terror itself.
“Much better”- commented the man, as he saw Arcadius’ facial features become more relaxed “Now listen closely. You don’t have to live in submission under the light, Light is for the weaklings. Light is for the strong to keep the men like you down. If you got the gut, you shall denounce it and take what is yours--” cultist saw that Arcadius was about to protest, but his dark and intense stare was enough to defeat mage’s attempts at resistance, he then continued “—send out a message, tonight you shall take your revenge on the archmage.”
“No! he will kill me, t…the guards will hunt me down!” – protested Arcadius, his voice trembling with fear.
“Good that we agree that there is nothing wrong with revenge in itself” – the cultist then laughed. “I will make sure nobody will prosecute you. The archmage is a coward, a pathetic weakling. You will defeat him. With ease.” Arcadius peered at the hooded man, he knew not what to fear most…wrath of this dark cultist, or wrath of the law and the archmage. The prospect of revenge in itself didn’t seem that awful, not bad at all!
“Besides, -Arcadius- , it will be Justice. Do you think that the puny law and weak lightdogs shall prosecute and punish the archmage? If you don’t do anything, justice shall never be done!”. The fact that the dark figure knows his name spooked Arcadius, cold torrent of sweat running down his spine, he leaned so far back on his chair that it moved backwards, the old wooden floor cracking. “Do you really think you can win –her- heart now, being a failure-made-flesh!?”. It was the final straw, Arcadius rose swiftly, now boiling with anger and slamming his fist on the table – mug of ale pushed aside, slowly losing balance and falling from the table – foamed drink spread on the floor. “How dare you ….dare you look…into…my…..mind, fiend!”
The cultist smiled underneath his mask, he knew that he has already won - “Tonight, the Lord shall head from the park to the mage tower, he shall cross the bridge at twelve minutes past ten at the evening. With a guard, you shall polymorph the guard and kill the lord. Fear not the prosecution”. Arcadius’ outburst of anger, first made the chill of death herself crawl into his sandals as he realized that he spoke in such a way against a cultist, but the dark man ignoring his outburst, though insulting, was a great relief. He dared speak no more, and simply nodded – heading for the exit of the lamb. As the mage, crunched and wet from sweat has reached the exit, he turned around , asking “w...what is your name?”
“Zaraj Blackblade”,- answered the cultist – dispersing into shadows and vanishing in nothingness, as if he has never been there.

That fateful morning, at quarter to six, Arcadius returned to his house. The short walk was perceived as an endless gauntlet of thoughts and worries. He could not understand how could he have ever agreed to such a devious act? Was it some monster sleeping in the cellars of his soul, or was it fear of Zaraj? Was it a compulsion to at last do something that matters, or a fool’s attempt to win Ehlik? Whatever the case, when he at last returned home – he was crying again, this time at his own state of doubt, and the evil act he has signed up for. He laid down on his bed, and cried himself to sleep – blocking any thought, any reason, with self-pity and sorrow.

Arcadius woke up at early midday hour, when sun was penetrating the thin cloth covering his window and illuminated his room which aside for the kitchen was the only room in his house. He slowly rose from his dreamless sleep, but his robes and sheets were waterlogged. He pulled off his clothes, and headed to the kitchen – dumping his head in the bucket of water, then lifting it and pouring it over himself. He could feel slumber cast aside, and then slowly watched the water drain through holes in the floor’s planks. Arcadius then took up a simple bronze mirror, and inspected his blonde hair and beard, nodded at himself once and headed back into the room – leaving wet footsteps on the old planks.

He pulled on his best robes, a combination of red and scarlet, with golden thread around the maws, and a lavish sash. He pulled on his fire-red mantle around his shoulders, and let his hair fall freely on it – leaving wet traces. He sat on the bed, stepping in his heavy boots with sharp nose, and at last putting on a diadem with Dalaran’s Eye sitting proudly on his forehead. Arcadius inhaled deeply, grabbed coins from his cache and headed out. He looked at the midday sun, basking in it’s rays as if this was his last day on this world. The young wizard then headed over to the barber, insisting on his hair and beard to be brought into perfect order. Forty minutes later, he walked to the blue recluse, sitting outdoors and ordering the very best the waiter offered. He has enjoyed his best meal in a lifetime. Afterwards he took a walk along the Stormwind canals, carefully studying each and every wave – inspecting every stone in the pavement, but refusing to think of what has happened before – and what will happen in the evening. After his walk was done, he has returned home.

Waiting for the midday heat to settle, Arcadius brought his dwelling in perfect order, cleaned every plank and ordered every book. He brought the clothes to the laundry at the canals’ edge. Every time the process took him outdoors, he looked at the city clock – and each time he done it, his breath froze and heart struck faster. Every passing moment brought him closer to eight o’clock. At six he once again headed out, his work at home done – and once again headed to the recluse for a very early, yet royally decadent diner. In one day he has spent more than in a whole month.

In the warm spring evening around quarter to eight in the evening a lone figure clad in lavish red and scarlet robe and an ornate diadem walked underneath the Trade District arch of Stormwind City, passed the bridge stopping for a brief moment to cast it’s gaze upon the canals and exhaled soundly before at last heading towards the Old Town. The man of average height strode along the canals edge with pride and determination, the massive towers of the white-stoned keep appearing before him as he followed the turn, the thoughts of the upcoming reunion and the magnificent, decadent day started floating up in his overjoyed mind. As he walked on, he whispered to himself “This is how the Justice is done”.

As he walked across the bridge towards the Dwarven District, he saw two Draenei females sitting in each other’s lap, staring at the reflection of the moonlit keep. The mage increased his pace, speaking out loud as he passed the two -“Times change indeed”, and darted underneath the arch. He arrived at the gate at exactly eight bells, and stopped at the bouncer.
“My hat, sir” – he ask with determination which has even surprised him. The bouncer stared at the wizard with suspicion and detest – they did not like richly dressed people in this place.
“aye aye lad, go grab a pint an’ ah bring ‘t right ‘way”. Arcadius smiled at the reply, and headed inside.

He looked at the large table in the middle, which was now occupied by a group of disciples and lightbringers, discussing the shocking and spontaneous collapse of the malefic Netherdawn Empire a couple of weeks ago. A large crack in the table from crusader’s hammer was still there, not yet tended to. Arcadius headed to his usual table underneath the stairs, and luckily found it empty. Instead of taking a seat, he headed over to the counter. Old grey-haired bartender addressed the mage as he approached.
“want somethin’ lad?”, that weird thuggish accent made Arcadius shiver in detest – he could not stand it.
“Wine”, and saying that he turned around and headed to his table.
“oi! Ye supp’sed to take it yerself!” exclaimed the aged bartender, to which Arcadius answered , turning his head only a bit -“Ask Ehlik to bring it”.

It did not take long, till Eklik once again sat down in the chair in front of him, bringing a jar of wine, two glasses, and Arcadius’ ridiculous sky-blue hat. This time she opened her eyes in amazement when she saw Arcadius’ garment.
“Woah, are you some kind of king?”,- she asked with, this time genuine, amazement.
The sight of her deep green eyes, and copper red hair has upset Arcadius deeply, as he could feel his determination drain rapidly, and be replaced by doubt once again. His breath’s pace increased, and red spots returned to his neck.
“Not yet”- he answered, barely managing to keep his voice from trembling. He studied Ehlik a bit more: dark skin, large lips, wide nose, long copper raid hair, green eyes, wide hips – herself being shorter than average. Did he think her beautiful? Most defiantly…well…perhaps the skin is a bit too dark, and the hips too wide. His thoughts, thought described in several lines, only lasted a fraction of a second, and were then interrupted by Ehlik’s voice.
“what’s the occasion? And….you still live?”
The mage was lost for a while, how so ‘still live’, but then correctly assumed it was about the Archmage.
“Indeed, I still live, and the occasion is Justice, Eh. He won yesterday, today I will be a victor” – proudly stated Arcadius, saying this one line to her has restored his confidence entirely. Ehlik’s right brow slowly rose in surprise, and she studied Arcadius carefully, perhaps her judgment of him last night was wrong, she thought.
“Better call me Ely for short, Eh can be confusing, eh?”- she said, buying herself some more time to study her conversation partner closer, then continued. “How so, Justice? I didn’t know Stormwind trials were that fast? Ever heard of that famous cultist, what his name again? Spent three weeks in jail waiting trial.” This reminder of ‘stormwind justice’ was a serious assault on Arcadius’ confidence, he knew he was not smart enough to outrun the, all he had was faith that Zaraj will indeed ‘handle’ it, but why would he? Mage lowered his voice to a whisper, aware of the disciples sitting at next table
“I am taking matters into my own hands” , that phrase, and sudden touch of Ehlik’s hand on his knee saved his confidence from crumbling. Thought Arcadius’ confidence might seem as a change of heart, it in fact is not – it is merely an act of good self-deception, though Ehlik doesn’t have to know that.
“I hope you know what you are doing. People who take matters in own hands end up heroes, villains or a dead man” – commented Ehlik, letting seeds of doubt fall on Arcadius’ mind again, he wondered, which one of the three will he become? Most likely the last, certainly not the first.
“Do you know anything about Zaraj Blackblade?”,- asked Arcadius in low voice, pouring wine for himself and the woman, and raising his cup for a toast, waiting for Ehlik to respond in kind, and taking a sip.
“Why ask me? Ok...ok…fine. He was some kind of a bodyguard for that Soulblighter persona. He used to come here a few times, creepy person. Now, why would you be asking?” – spoke Ehlik, she sounded a bit annoyed , as if not very fond of such questions. Especially now, that her answer called for attention of nearby disciples; Arcadius decided to change topic.
“Right, thank ya. Ely, what are you doing in Stormwind? Isn’t it horribly cold for you here?” – asked Arcadius to get the conversation going, sipping his wine, and shivering each time he saw Ehlik sip hers.
“ Cold? No way. Not in this season at least. Right you are, can be a bit chilly in mornings and in the winter. Ye know, I was serving in Booty Bay. But then that horrible cartel moved in, and got me removed. I swear, when I find the %*%!# who runs it, she is so dead! When my fortunes vanished down south, decided to move up North. Looking for people this tavern. Got a place here.” Ehlik emptied her cup in one draught, motioning for a new jar as Arcadius’ has emptied the first one filling the cups anew.
“That is horrible, sounds like my problem with the archmage, just twice as bad. Are you managing o.k?”- asked Arcadius, and he did sound concerned.
“Aye, am. Been working for two months. Many people from the Bay here too, felt like I never left. Haha.”,- She answered, cheering up a little.
“Two months? Your common is damned good. If I was blind, I wouldn’t say you came from down south! What’s your trick, natural talent?”,- Asked Arcadius, with genuine amazement. To which Ehlik smiled warmly, not used to be hearing flattery about her innermost, and simply nodded in acknowledgement. Using his moment of her good disposition, Arcadius laid his hand on hers as she was about to take up her cup, and caressed it for awhile. She smiled even wider.

The two looked at each other in silence for half a minute, not moving, frozen in their poses.

That joyous moment was sadly interrupted by the knight, in simple mail shirt and chipped old sword, but with an ornate expensive belt, approaching the table. Arcadius sighed, and looked at the intruder with great annoyance, his gaze slipped for a moment to see Ehlik’s face…and she was equally annoyed. That fact alone has made the smile return to mage’s face. Before Arcadius could fully enjoy the situation, Ehlik spoke out with an irritated tone- “Why don’t you go aside for a while, I am busy here. Be right with you!” , and the Knight nodded and walked away – but the moment was spoilt.
“Ely, when you end working tomorrow?” casually asked Arcadius, trying to not imply on anything at all. He knew the woman had work to do, besides he needed to do some preparations.
“Eleven. as usual”, that answer brought smile to them both.
“Until then” ,- said Arcadius, sounding as the happiest man on the world. Ehlik simply smiled in response. Arcadius slowly rose, once again forgetting his pointy sky-blue hat and heading for the exit. The woman even forgot to ask him to pay for the wine, that was a good sign. He will naturally pay for everything next time they meet.

Just before ten Arcadius was near the bridge between the park and the mage district, before that, he has taken his channeling staff and covered face with a red mask. As tenth bell struck, the mage checked the runes on his staff – everything seemed to be in order for the spellcasting. He checked his belt, all potions are in order. As time was so close, he took a blood-red vial and carefully drank it – he could feel something changing within him, and skin tingling with power as it was now resilient to Fire – specialty of the Archmage. He looked around, the night was dark and only few torches set along on the wall illuminated the area, the mage withdrew deeper into darkness, awaiting his moment.

At exactly eleven past ten Arcadius could see a torch nearing from the distance, coming from the park. It was coming closer, and indeed, as Stormwind clock pointed at twelve minutes the group of two was crossing the bridge. Dalaran guard with a sword in one hand, and torch in another. Near him the Archmage in dark purple robes, glowing reddish where the bright light fell on them. Arcadius grabbed his staff with both hands, and focused – time seemed to slow down for him, as his mind was weaving a silent spell. By the time spell was complete, he could swear that whole ten seconds passed, in reality it was far less – the mage was now surrounded by dim glow of arcane energy, empowering his next spell. Seeing the glowing threat, the Archmage and the Guard got alarmed, older wizard yelled out the counterspell incantation, but it was too late – the guard which before late stood next to him was now turned into a fluffy sheep.

Lord Antron focused hard, gaining a presence of mind, and not losing a single moment throwing a mighty pyroblast towards Arcadius. Younger mage closed his eyes in fear, this is the end, he thought , but the potion has done it’s job. He could feel the heat, he was thrown towards the wall behind him, weaves on his robes smoldering a bit – but he was alive. Arcadius managed to regain his focus just in time to counterspell a fireball and ,while the lord was silenced, blinking right behind him. Arcadius took out his dagger and turned around for a quick stab, but was a bit too late – the Lord has started running! Not hesitating much longer, holding dagger in one hand and staff in another, young wizard has unleashed a volley of mystic bolts at the back of his running enemy, as the scourging magic touched the flesh, it exploded brightly, sending the old man face down on the stone pavement. Arcadius darted after his adversary, and stood by wizard’s side in no time, he turned the lord around on his back – just as the Lord has done it to Arcadius this very morning.
“Any last words, plunderer?” spoke Arcadius with shaking voice, his body stiff from adrenaline and his mind focused on objective , an impenetrable fortress for doubt.
“You…can’t kill me! Don’t! I will give you your shop back…whatever, everything you ask for!” Arcadius looked closer on Lord’s face, using the head of his staff to illuminate it – it was covered in blood as he smashed his nose when falling down, but blood was mixed with tears. In old man’s eyes he could read true terror, and lord’s mouth was half open in anticipation. That sight has broken the barriers, once again the young mage felt doubt and lack of determination. He could feel he was about to vomit due to the horrible deed he has committed. His hand is shaking, the dagger he is holding falls to the ground, it seemed an eternity between him losing the grip, and the sound of metal falling on the stone.
“I…forgive me...I..I didn’t mean to! Please!...don’t die!”- yelled out Arcadius, as he started to panic.

“You are under arrest wizard, drop your staff and raise your hands where I can see them!”- shouted the commanding voice from behind, accompanied by the sound of hooves.
“Help! He is trying to kill me! Help me!” -cried out the lord. Arcadius stood shocked, he knew he could not get away with this, he looked around to see three mounted disciple knights starting to surround him. For the moment, the time has stopped for Arcadius…he realized, that this indeed was the end, the archmage would never let him go unpunished, he shall spend the rest of his years in prison, or even worse, be executed. All hopes of achievement, all hopes of glory…all hopes of love…all lost in an instant. Life bargained away in one risky gambit, with everything at stake and nothing to gain. Did he have such a bad life before? No… he had some money, more than enough to live well for some time or even start somewhere else, why did he throw it away? What did he hope to gain? Ah…yes….Justice!
“This is no murder, this is Justice!”- yelled out Arcadius, as he has gained presence of mind, unleashing sharp icicle right at Lord’s heart, piercing it through and hearing the muffled sound of it’s tip breaking on the pavement. Not hesitating for a moment longer, he blinked forwards and started to run.

The mounted knights gave a chase, their commander ordering to captured the wizard dead or alive – now Arcadius could lose Everything. Struggling in his long robes he ran across the corner, along the canals edge to see the towering Stockade in front of him – he knew that he crossed too far to end in there. He could not outrun the horses, so he stopped immediately, raising his staff in the air and watching the mana shield swiftly descend from staff’s head and cover his body in a protective cocoon. Two horseman moved at his right, one at his left, all three slashing out with their swords at the wizard, but the shield held. Arcadius struck the ground with his staff, blast of frost emanating in all sides as chains of ice gripped the horses. The wizard started to run again. Not giving him a chance to escape into the darkness of the night disciples leaped from their horses, giving a chase on foot.

Reaching the edge of the canal near the stockades, young wizard realized what he had to do…he jumped into the canals, dragged down by his heavy robes and mantle, unable to stay afloat. Plate-clad disciples ran for their horses, yelling out orders to block all ramps leading down to the water. Wizard could hear muffled sounds, now coming from all the districts, as guards were alerted and moving to their positions. Arcadius took out his rune of teleportation, clutching his fist around it for it was his final hope. Mumbling the spell, his mouth full of water, trying to cast it submerged , he was struggling for his very life, but to no avail. As he was ready to part with it, he suddenly got a rush of muffed, hot air streaming down his lungs, he opened his eyes to see the Mystic Ward of Ironforge. Before clerics and paladins could properly see what the torrents of magic brought to them this time, the wizard fled as fast as he could and darted into the cavern to the left. There, he stopped for a while, catching his breath. Before he could fully recover, he heard familiar voice behind him – Zaraj Blackblade
“Has justice been done, Arcadius?”
“Yes…Yes…it has been done…”- proclaimed Arcadius with a shaking voice, fell to his knees and broke out in tears.

Melnerag

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