Ironforge

Ironforge. Seaport, city-state, gamblers paradise. Like a bad dream it calls me back from across the ocean. Ironforge, like a fallen woman it both excites and repulses. Every cut-throat, gambler, thief and whore has passed through Ironforge and Ironforge has passed through them. It gets into your blood, into your bones and into your soul. It lingers on every stolen kiss and broken promise. It is a part of me and I am forever a part of it.

Polchemy’s Lair, Ironforge Harbour.

Polchemy eyes me quizzically from behind his horn-rimmed glasses. It is a look of disgust and curiosity. He knows what I am and he knows that in time I will pay for myself. There is always work for hired muscle in Ironforge.

“Soldier boy eh?” He spits “Fresh off the boat too by the looks of you! I could smell you half a street away!”

A month at sea can do that to a man.

“What’s your name soldier?”

I spit out the answer in staccato fashion.

“Arganthus. 45th Berserker legion. I fought at Monlish, sir”

He lets out a humourless laugh “Anybody, who can fight their way out of Monlish I have a use for”

He grunts, reaches beneath the table then tosses some coins in my direction.

“Get washed, get some new clothes and get that seen to,”

He points at my arm. There is a cut just below my left shoulder that is beginning to fester. It should be cleaned and stitched.

“If you know what’s good for you you’ll come back and see me when you’ve finished”

I spend a leisurely hour in a bathhouse off Ester Street, soaking my bruised and weary flesh. Delightful, giggling whores tending to my every need. Then it’s off to an apocathary, who treats the gash in my arm with a pungent, scented ointment before stitching it. I grind my teeth as he threads a needle through my arm. Finally, my afternoon is rounded off with a trip to the Tailor’s Guild. Fine robes the envy of any Ironforge socialite.

I return to Polchemy’s lair later that day. The sun hangs, heavy and low over Ironforge bay.

Polchemy gives me a look that I take for grudging approval.

He hands me a sack, sealed at the top with twine. I can feel the weight of it. Whatever it is it’s not money.

“Take this to Faddius on Lucra Street. Make sure he gets it”


Lucra Street

Faddius would get his bag. I might have considered doing it for free. In the 45th Berserker legion I’d heard stories of Ironforge, and lots of them took place on Lucra street.

In point of fact Lucra Street isn’t much of a street at all. Its little more than a muddy dirt path that trails along the old outer perimeter wall.

Before Ironforge became a city-state it had been the largest seaport in the Dominion. Occupied by a steadfast legion of Raven Troops Ironforge was secure, along with the dominions precious taxes, that traveled through it.

Repelling all possible threats of invasion along the ocean beaches and enforcing embargoes became less and less necessary as time passed. Once the Dominion began to shift its expansion east, the Raven Troops led the charge and Ironforge was left to protect it self.

The perimeter wall was of little importance as new laws were eliminated and old ways returned to Ironforge.

Today what was left did little to protect Ironforge’s borders, but crafty bar merchants, shadow district whores, cash only gamblers, and a few forgotten souls could set up shop in its crumbling sub structures and cubbyholes with minimal overhead nearly overnight.

This led to a sort of dark market of fools and hooligans. During the day, a few actual business could be found nestled along the path, but at night it was completely different and I was actually looking forward to it.

Taking the small walking bridge over the river I rounded Ironforge’s perimeter a bit, getting the lay of the land, and it didn’t take long to notice I was being followed.


Lifter

“Doing this could get me killed you know.” Slurred the portly ink slinger. Iana could feel spittle from his mouth splash warmly on her naked back

“So will spitting on me again Soji.” She winked at him as he rapidly stabbed the tiny needle into her back again and again.

Per his request she had taken a room in this inn on the west end of Ironforge overlooking the cliffs for maximum privacy. Arriving an hour late Soji unloaded his gear near the window for maximum light and set out covering up the dark crimson mark that had been nearly carved into her back weeks ago while she was strung up tight in the guild’s interrogation chamber.

Before Soji began it had read “Lifter”, a slang term for thieves who decided to leave the guild behind them, part ink and part scar it had just recently stopped hurting.

Once he was finished…it would be different.

“Not just because of the guild either Iana.” Soji reset his ink. “You never said anything about marking you with the insignia of a Raven troop battalion.”

“You afraid Soji?”

“Should I be, I’ve never seen this image before?” Reaching for a rag he wiped away excess ink and a bit of blood before wrapping her mid section. “I’m done.”

Iana jumped down off the bed and finished the wrap her self, making sure it was tight around the middle and thick across her back. She knew he’d ask her to change the bandage tomorrow mid day in order to keep it from getting infected and she didn’t plan on following that order so she wanted to keep the mark as protected for as long as this first bandage would do.

After all, she was paying enough for it. “You wouldn’t have ever seen it, this troop was disbanded years ago.” She lied about the insignia as she pulled coins from her purse and finished their business dealings.

Just in time too,looking out the window down on Lucra street she could see the young ex berserker from Polchemy’s stepping out from the shadowy hole in the old perimeter wall that a certain middle man worked out of each evening.

That meant Faddius would probably have his bag by now and Iana intended to steal it before the man could hold a private auction for its contents which were probably worth more to her than any other person in Ironforge right now.

As Soji left the room Iana slipped on a black leather corset, strapped on her small pack, slid all four knives into their scabbards and climbed out the window instead of using the door and the inn’s stairs.

It was only twenty feet to the perimeter wall, so she jumped hoping not to surprise anyone inside.


The Gathering

Arganthus zigged port side as he came out of Faddius’s make shift office. Three men dismounted geldings and nearly trampled Arganthus where he stood.

“We’re late.” Stated the fair haired man who lunged into Faddius’s, leaving his steed to one of the other two.

“If we’ve missed it, it will be our heads.” Stated the dark haired man who caught his companion’s reigns.

“And what of my head?” Asked Arganthus.

“What of it boy.” Stated the dark haired man again. The third man, who was covered up, stayed quiet.

“You nearly ran me down as I came out!”

“Then you should watch where you’re going lad.” The dark haired man laughed.

Arganthus pulled his sword from its scabord with a shlink and heald it dead center in front of him and between the two men.

“We’re late boy, and you don’t want to fight us. Not us, not tonight.” Grinned the dark haired man. Arganthus could swear the man’s voice began to change, getting deeper, more primal.

“You’re right, I simply would like an apology.” Arganthus offered.

“Then you have it.” From the hooded man this time, who bowed dramatically and followed the fair hair inside Faddius’s.

The dark haired man said nothing as he secured the geldings by all three sets of reigns and disappeared into the shadows. Arganthus slipped away his sword and was sure Polchemy would have any more work for him very soon what with all the activity in Ironforge the last few days.


The Audience

Iana traversed to the end of the current section of the old perimeter wall that lined Lucra street. At the end she found a flight of inset stairs that lead down into the darkness. Crouching over the edge she could hear those who’d taken audience with the maven Faddius this evening and longed to get a look at them and the goods they were there to bid on or buy.

What had once been two side by side chambers inside the perimeter wall for regular, as well as secure travel, had now crumbled into one jagged tunnel that ran sectional lengths of the wall in more stable areas.

Years ago, this stairway had been secured by a thick iron gate sunk into the stone entry way. Recently someone had cut the gate down in its length and tried to secure it to the topside opening of the inset stairwell to form either a trap or private chamber.

The craftsmanship was lacking and by merely stepping on the ironwork, one end came loose, providing Iana a sort of ladder over the jagged stone piled up to try and block the entry way further down the chamber.

Propping her self against the wall, she pulled out a knife and closed her eyes while she waited for them to adjust to total darkness. Iana refocused her attention on eavesdropping in on the conversation at hand, hoping for a clue as to what she might expect inside.

“Come in, sit, sit. The accommodation’s are adequate but private!” Faddius charmed. “May I offer you or your men anything to drink Tajor?” He finished.

“The geldings outside need water, we just need what we came for.” A dark voice responded.

Iana opened her eyes and could see better, or so she thought. The chamber was littered with empty broken crates and filthy wraps. This was some sort of dumping ground for those who use this area, probably Faddius and his crew.

Twirling her knife around she snapped it tight on to her right forearm guard, the snare capturing the blade for a quick release while sharpening it for a bonus.

With her hands free she hunched through the chamber slowly looking through crates or in crevices that caught her eye as she got closer to her quarry.

“I believe this is what you came for.” Faddius offered, a grin shining even through his voice.

Iana saw light flickering just up ahead and began to crawl on the floor as she continued to get closer. She would have preferred to be upright. Not being in a position to defend herself or flee was not how she’d been taught and it went against every bone in her being. Bbut this meeting (as well as its focus) was far too important.

“I wouldn’t do that..” Faddius’s voice trailed off.

“This mess tastes like dog shite!” The gruff dark haired man yelled.

Iana got to the opening of the chamber. Candles were lit all over and a small fire had been built in the rear center. All around were cushions and crates used for all manner of furniture and storage. In the middle sat three men across from Faddius. All were consumed by the leather pouch layed out before them all.

“You won’t discover anything by tasting it my friend.” Faddious giggled.

“Sit down Vren.” Tajor demanded of the darker haired man.

Iana would need to move to get a better view. The fire seemed the best location, without a chimney there was a thin gray plume of smoke that hazed over the deeper end of the room, she would scuttle over there.


The Manifestation

Iana managed to lay her body flush against the nearby wall without making a sound. Now it was just a matter of moving along this wall and across the room, continuing to make as little noise as possible.

She’d been taught by the guild elders, before she left, how to move through a crowd full of people without being seen. Of course, they stopped far too short. She wanted to delve into the forbidden teachings; the teachings of assassination.

She had been lured since childhood to the mysterious faction named the, “Obsidian Flame”. Many doubted its existence, which was testimony to how secretive and efficient they were as assassins. Iana was not only sure if the faction’s existence, she was determined to get into it fighting tooth and claw.

She felt she could use some of their training right about now. The room was well-lit, which greatly jeopardized the stealth of her mission. She was sure she could do it, it was just a matter of patience and perseverance. She attempted to lend an ear to the conversation, all the while devoting every other fiber of her being to getting closer to the fire at the back of the room.

Vren suddenly let out a piercing, animalistic shriek.

Tajor dropped the pouch and reached for his blade, “What sort of sorcery is this?!” he yelled at Faddius.

“Be calm,” Faddius said, gesturing toward Tajor, “give it a moment to manifest. It’s in his life-blood, now and will soon come to full expression,”

Vren fell to the floor with little resistance and began convulsing. Tajor watched him closely, never letting loose his grip on his sword.

Suddenly, Vren thrust his hand into the hardwood floor and nearly burst with an ear shattering roar. With a loud, “CRUNCH” shards of wood flew into the air and splintered the ceiling. Vren’s outburst obliterated the section of floor boards around his fist.

“What’s happening to him?!” Tajor yelled at Faddius, finally prying his eyes away from Vren. Faddius did not respond, but merely looked to Vren with a wide-eyed sort of fascination and glee.

All at once, Vren fell flat onto the floor. He did not move. He did not breathe. He did not seem alive.

Tajor walked over to Vren and kicked him gently on his shoulder. Nothing.

“That’s it, old man,” Tajor called to Faddius, “Vren was one of my best men, and your powder just killed him. Your life will pay for his!” he screamed as he unsheathed his sword.

“Do not hurt the mortal,” a deep voice said from behind Tajor.

He turned around to make eye contact with Vren, now standing upright. Vren pushed his hair to the side and then caught sight of his hands. He looked with a sense of wonder at his hands, then drew his gaze around the room, again, with an awed sense of wonder. His face suddenly went from awe to confusion. He began looking around the room.

Tajor finally spoke up, “Vren? What happened?”

Vren spun around to look at Tajor again, then over to Faddius, “This… sensation,” he began, “… the power. I’m looking at the world in a new light. It feels like I can see, hear, smell and … feel so much more.”

Faddius smiled wide and looked to his feet, “That would be the enhanced senses they are known for. That power you speak of? That’s what it feels like to be a higher being,”

“A higher what?” Tajor asked, still completely confused.

“A higher being. Greater than you or I and everyone you know.” Faddius said with a fiery look in his eyes.

“What could possibly be greater than man?” Tajor asked, hoping to find a grip on what was going on.

Faddius laughed a deep, hearty laugh. Then, suddenly, all of the light-heartedness melted from his face.

“Dragons.”


Dust Off

Iana stayed glued to the floor until the younger man dimmed a bit and sat back down in his seat.

If there was dragon essence in that bag between them, then it wasn’t what she came for. Where was the bag Polchemy’s boy had brought? Iana had to find it.

“Then I believe that there is only the price to consider at this point gentlemen?” Faddius slugged at his goblet of sweet wine, sitting back, very sure of himself.

Iana pulled a burst orb out of her ankle satchel and gently rolled it into the dimming fire before scurrying back into the outer chamber that circled this room.

Pulling a blade from its scabbard she waited knowing that it wouldn’t take long for the smoke to thicken and turn black as a starless night.

Iana stroked the ink that seethed into the skin on her back. She could feel the outline of the stalking raven that Soji had recently tattooed there. It reminded her of her brother Erri, Raven Trooper of the fifth regiment.

Erri followed their father into service and would often teach his younger sister Iana maneuvers when he was home to calm her curious and excitable nature that would lead her into trouble by asking too many questions about things she didn’t need to know at such a young age.

Most of the earlier teachings were of melee, and involved the very blade she twirled in her hand now. It was their fathers.

The familiar motion helped her stamp down the ever present fear of total darkness that we are all born afraid of. That same fear that the guild had worked so hard to tear from her very soul.

She stood up to enter the room so that she may quickly surveil its contents. Within the guild, and in each of the four instances shed used a burst orb on her own, any occupants fled the area seeking sanity in the light, but there had always been stories of those who where not effected. Stories of horrors waiting in the dark.

Iana pushed them from her mind as she rounded the corner, her eyes fully adjusted, and began studying everything she could about the room.


A Figure In The Shadows

On leaving Faddius Lair, Arganthus began retracing his steps down Lucra street replaying the peculiar episode with the strange men in his mind. He didn’t usually back down from a fight and something about the whole incident left him feeling distinctly uneasy. There was something about the dark haired man, something familiar, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on.

Still what was done, was done. Arganthus, would return to Polchemy in the morning and await further orders. Now it was time to get some sleep. Arganthus was about to continue on his journey when he noticed a movement out of the corner of his eye. A figure leapt out of a first floor window, crossed the street, then moving at some speed skirted the perimeter wall. The figure seemed to be taking particular care to avoid the lights from the street lamps and melt into the shadows. Arganthus watched with curiosity as the mysterious individual disappeared into a hole in the wall directly behind Faddius’ Lair.

A little voice in the back of Arganthus’ head told him he shouldn’t get involved that he had played his part and it was none of his business but his curiosity was getting the better of him.

“Oh, what the hell” thought Arganthus as he unsheathed his sword and began to walk towards the opening.


The Easy Way

Tajor had to admit, he didn’t think it would be this easy. Just go and seek the one known as Faddius he’d been told, Faddius will provide the edge you and your men seek. Being a commander of men, he had a hard time believing in someone who he’d never heard of much less met on the battlefield or anywhere else for that matter.

But the highwayman had been correct, too bad Tajor had ordered him killed with the other prisoners that day the man may have proven useful with what was still to come.

“Vren, fetch Beil and the Gold.” Tajor gulped down the last of his sweet whine (Why should it go to waste?) and slid his sword in his scabbard.

“Faddius, we’ll take all of that powder you have. Simply name your price.”

“Excellent.” Faddius gleamed.


Rolling Out

Arganthus witnessed the dark haired man clamber out of Faddius’ place. He needed to duck to keep from smashing his head on the overhead support stones. The dark haired man, called Tajor Arganthus believed, pulled the hood from his cloak and drew it up over his head as he rounded to the far side of Faddius’ chamber. Tajor moved like a man on a mission.

Arganthus decided to follow him since getting information, particularly the type that is meant to be kept secret, is easier when someone is alone.

That all changed as a thick black smog began to roll out of Faddius’ chambers…


Glinting Black

From inside Faddius’ chamber the inky black smog from Iana’s sizzle core orb began to smolder in thick dank clouds that billowed first out across the floor and then, once they reached a stone wall, rose filling the air all the way to the concrete ceiling.

*****

Iana moved slowly and cautiously as she watched the inhabitants do exactly what they were supposed to do…leave the area for bright light so they could see and clean air so they could breathe. She set about making one last pass of the chamber for the Wulvers Main.

*****

Tajor pulled Faddius out of the chamber as the large man coughed and weezed weakly at the acrid smoldering black. Outside, Tajor dumped Faddius onto the dirt road, him self breathing deeply of the clean air that was little lighter as the sun had finished setting making way for the starry night.

“You and your men are nothing but trouble Tajor. Where is my payment?” Faddius climbed up out of the dirt, brushing off his tunic and other garbs. He spared a quick glance into his chambers but the view was less than desirable now that everything was engulfed in the inky black smog.

“In you’re haste you’ve seemed to forget your place old man, why its my men who..” Tajor stopped in his tracks and pulled his sword upon the return of the young boy from their street side confrontation earlier.

“Arganthus my boy.” Faddius chorted, moving closer to the young berserker. “You’ve returned just in time. This is a partner of mine, Arganthus.”


Xian Berros

Xian Berros climbed out of the circular bed that nearly filled the center of his personal rest chamber [he refused to call it his bedroom as he did not sleep much — if ever] and slipped on a crimson robe that was long enough to drag on the marble tiled floor. All three women still in the bed stirred, and cuttled closer together, a sight Berros had been in the middle of for hours just before.

Through the entry way Berros found him self in the outer parlor filled with groups of furniture that made up a sitting area, bar, eating area and office. Berros made a direct line to the office. There were two desks, a few chairs and a topographical map of his city set under glass. On the glass top were different pieces, like what you might find in a game, but this was no game table. Wars were fought here, as were destiny’s plotted.

The current destiny of the city had fallen off course a bit, for sure, but that was just a set back. It mattered little in the middle of a man’s life. Berros still had time, lots of time to win back his life and begin to enjoy it.

Stepping back Berros lit up the candle chandelier and pulled the dark covering off of his raven’s cage. The dark bird chirped and cooed a bit.

“Wake up Vritra.” Berros opened the cage’s large top and fed the bird a treat.

“Reports.” He spoke softly in the birds direction.

Berros poured him self a drink of amber liquid from a tall glass decanter on his sitting desk. Turning around he saw that Vritra was still in her cage.

“Well, what are you waiting for. REPORTS!” He boomed.

The bird cackled and flew out of the cage whipping up a storm of feathers and cage stuffing. Vritra circled the parlor twice before finding the window and flying out into the night. Berros had time to finish his entire first drink before his assistant Rima came into his parlor with a stack of folders in her arms.

Berros took note of the fact that Rima was wearing little more than a light sleeping gown and a heavy jacket hastily thrown over her self for warmth as she entered the parlor.

“Are the bells not working Chancellor?” Rima tugged on the string of bells as she walked by, they rang out in succession from smallest at the top of the string to largest at the bottom. The sound would have awoken her for sure.

“What news do you have for me?” Berros sat down in a soft back chair near his desk with a second drink. He offered Rima not a single luxury or courtesy.


Confrontation

Acrid black smoke billowed from the doorway. In the street the five men circled each other swords drawn whilst a lone figure high above watched the drama unfold….

Tajor to Arganthus: “You have no business here soldier, step aside and you will not be harmed”

Arganthus turned to Faddius; The old man was hovering beside him.

“Why should I help you,” hissed Arganthus under his breath. “This is not my quarrel?”

“I’ll make it worth your while. I am a wealthy man and I know you can handle yourself. Deal with these troublemakers and you will be well rewarded”

Arganthus had no reason to trust Faddius but if the old man was telling the truth there was no reason he could not make use of his natural talents and make a profit it out of it as well. In truth, he’d been spoiling for a fight since he set foot in Ironforge.

“Then I’ll make it my business.” Retorted Arganthus “My sword is battle-hungry and you and your men will make good sport.”

Tajor ignored the taunt and turned his attention back to Faddius.

“Where’s the Orb old man?” Scowled Tajor

“So, that is what you seek? I might have known. You’re not the first cut-throat to come looking for the Orb of Horos. It is not for sale.”

“Then I’ll take it by force” said Tajor with ice in his voice

Arganthus pushed Faddius behind him

“You’d better make yourself scarce old man. I can handle this. Now go!”

Faddius didn’t question the order; with a half-nod of acknowledgment he disappeared down an alleyway as fast as his aging legs could carry him. With luck Arganthus would keep Tajor and the boys busy long enough for him to make good his escape.

****

Back in the street, Arganthus now faced the prospect of three armed opponents.

Tajor motioned to his two companions.

“Deal with him, while I go after the old man,” he said before making off after Faddius.

What happened next took Arganthus by surprise he had braced himself for a double attack but instead only one of the two men attacked him. The other held back, his sword at the ready.

His opponent was not the most gifted swordsman but he was fast and he had squat strength that gave every crushing blow the resonant quality of a blacksmiths hammer against an anvil. He was no artisan just a crude skirmisher who used his strength and ferocity to bludgeon his opponents into submission. Arganthus had faced this type of fighter before and new how to outwit him. His attacker made a clumsy lunge and Arganthus sidestepped him causing his opponent to lose balance and topple forward. Then with a swift downward stroke of his sword Arganthus liberated his opponent’s head from his shoulders. A jet of hot read blood erupted from the severed stump spraying the chalky white earth.

Arganthus took a brief moment to admire his handiwork before he turned to face the second man. He was younger and more finely dressed than the others. It was clear that he was no warrior, the colour had drained from his face and he was shaking like a leaf. He could barely keep his sword arm straight. Arganthus new that the fight was as good as won.

“Please Sir, I am of noble blood, I can pay you,” he begged.

How odd, thought Arganthus This was the second offer of payment he’d had today. His opponent was not worthy of a death by his hand. Arganthus hit him with the flat of his sword knocking him unconcious.

“Now I’m going after Faddius,” he thought. “Before it’s too late.”

***
Faddius caught his breath in a doorway. His lungs burned and his heart pounded through his chest. He had given Tajor the slip earlier but the soldier would soon realise his mistake and retrace his steps. Faddius needed to get to safety before Tajor caught up with him.

Unfortunately for Faddius, Tajor was not his only pursuer. Standing on a rooftop high above, Iana waited. She watched Faddius like a cat watches an insect, choosing its moment to pounce.

She had affixed a thin rope with grappling hook to a lead gutter. The rope was attached to a pulley arrangement on her belt that would allow her to make a rapid but controlled descent to the floor below. She gave it an experimental tug. It held firm. Then, with the grace of a ballerina she stepped out into the void.

A cloud of dust and a spray of gravel announced her arrival. She landed just in front of Faddius blocking his escape route. The old man let out a surprised gasp. Then his surprise turned to bewilderment.

“Iana? But I thought- ”

“Hello Faddius,” said Iana “someone walk over your grave? I’ll take the orb now if you don’t mind?”

Faddius was suddenly aware that Iana was in possession of two lethal looking knife blades. One was pressed firmly into his neck, the other she used to cut through ribbons the bound the front of his tunic.

And there it was. Hanging on a chain around his neck was the Orb of Horos. It was one of the most beautiful things she had ever seen. Its outer surface was polished jet black like obsidian but its core glowed with the radiance of a miniature sun. The light waxed and waned echoing the metronomic beat of the wearer’s heart. The Orb of Horos was an ancient and magical thing. It could bestow its wearer with incredible power and good fortune but it was also sentient, the Orb possessed of a will of its own and now it spotted an opportunity.

Gripping the orb in her hand Iana felt its warm comforting energy pulse through her fingers.

“Please…” begged Faddius “You don’t understand about the orb”

She gave a sharp tug snapping the chain around Faddius’ neck and held the Orb aloft, victorious. The light pulsed brighter and faster as it bonded with its new possessor, matching the sinus rhythm of her heart.

Iana was two beholden of her prize to really notice the old man. Faddius, slumped to his knees, looking older than he ever had. Then a curious thing happened. He began to age, seconds became years, his beard grew longer and his eyes sunk back into his skull. His skin began to tighten and contract pulling his features back into a rictus smile. Then his flesh turned to parchment and his whole body crumbled into dust. All that was left of Faddius Creel were his clothes, his sandals and a broken gold chain.

Iana paid little, if any, attention to the crumbling man before her. The black orb that occupied her hand also enthralled her far too much to notice much of anything else. Her instincts were consumed by one thing, keeping her new possession by any means necessary.

*** 
Tajor rounded the corner expecting to see Faddius. He was surprised to be confronted by a girl dressed in a long grey cape, she had a knife in one hand and in the other she held the Orb of Horos. When, she saw him she shot up into the air at incredible speed. He watched her disappear heavenwards seemingly levitated by an invisible force. It was then that he noticed the traction pulley on her belt. Before he could cry out, Tajor was knocked sprawling. It felt like a bull had charged into him from behind. Instinctively, his hands splayed out in front of him in an attempt to break his fall. He landed face down in a pile of old rags.

Arganthus had arrived.


Iana and the Orb of Horos

Iana found that she didn’t even need her wire rig. Allowing the tension line to slack and then auto-repel she ran across the first and second level roofs of Ironforge’s skyline with little effort. Hopping roof walls, vaulting ally ways below and slipping invisibly by windows she headed to her pre-planned destination.

Iana knew she needed to get the orb off of her self and contained as soon as possible, or she’d soon end up sharing Faddius’s fate.

***

At the heart of Ironforge, at the street of the Chancellor’s towering estate, a horse drawn carriage pulled to a near silent stop. Two cloaked figures stepped out onto the wet cobblestones without the aid of the driver as an onlooker might expect.
“You don’t need to come up Eidios.” His young apprentice mentions gallantly.
“And where would you have an elder member of the Order of the Obsidian Flame be this night girl?” Eidios pulled the cloak from his balding head of thinning gray hair and reached for the wrought iron gate before them.
“At the temple elder, preparing for what is surely to follow now that the Orb of Horos is un-bonded.” Pym closed the gate and followed Eidios up the walkway surrounded by well manicured shrubs, bushes, and flowers all wet with the early evenings do.
“Little is sure in life apprentice, the order often makes a living on that fact.” Eidios walked though the now open door and one of the Chancellors attendants stood at attention, not really paying attention to them.
Pym followed her teacher and master assassin up the estates primary staircase to Berros’s private chamber. Along the walls were painted portraits of former Chancellors and citizens of note who supported them. No member of the order of the obsidian flame was on the wall, and none would be.
“Master Eidios.” Berros greeted them, leaving Pym [who still had her cloak up to signal meditation] un greeted as he observed protocol.
“I’m scheduled to receive your council tomorrow eve. What has happened?” Berros waved at his assistant Rima who caged up the raven and quickly exited the room.
“The Orb Chancellor, its become un-bonded and very recently.” Eidios sat in a parlor chair while Pym stands behind him. Eidios refuses the drink offered to him, as always.
“Forgive me Elder Eidios, but the Order of the Obsidian Flame has never been able to prove the orb ever really existed.” Berros pours him self a drink before sitting down across from his compatriot.
“It exists old friend, and your faith in its existence is not necessary this evening fore a member of the order is in possession of it.” Eidios smiles, just a little, as Berros chokes on his drink and Pym hides a gasp from her master.

***

Iana can feel, not only the orb, but also the obsidian flame she’d lit earlier in the evening before her jaunt out. It called out to her…well much like a moth to a flame.

That meant that nothing mattered. No obstacle would truly get in her way, no opponent would stop her from her mission as she could not loose “sight” of the flame, nor loose her drive of completion with the orb on her person.

She entered the small and basic flat kept by her brother Erri before he and his unit had gone missing. Since the entire building was occupied by the Raven Troops, Erri’s flat [and most of his things — what little he had] had remained unmolested. Since the Raven Troops had pulled out of Ironforge as of late, Iana wasn’t sure how long that would last, which was why she’d “left” the order and stepped up her search.

As she enters, the room is a bask with a deep dark shadow-glow from the obsidian flame that flickers atop its idle. Iana kneels before it, presenting the orb [which legends states had been crafted to store the flame during a dark time for the order] to the flickering flame, held above her head, Iana can feel the flame and the orb pulse rhythmically.

Iana her self no longer a possible vessel, the flame and the orb become one in maneuver so intense that all of Ironforge goes dark for but a minute, not a sliver of light anywhere to be found….


Tajor

Hauling himself to his feet Tajor turned to face his assailant. Arganthus’ sizable frame blocked the only escape route.

Rather than feeling fearful or angry, Tajor’s overriding emotion was one of irritation. The girl was gone, the Orb was gone and now this oaf was delaying him further. He didn’t have time to deal with such trivialities. Tajor turned and drew his short-sword from its scabbard.

“What have you done with Faddius?” Commanded Arganthus. He was breathing hard, his face distorted in a mask of fury. His sword and face were spattered with fresh blood. Blood that no doubt belonging to Tajor’s companions.

“You’re standing in him,” said Tajor flatly

Bewildered, Arganthus looked down. The tunic and sandals that Faddius had been wearing were lying on the floor between them. Arganthus noted how part of the earth was discoloured by a blue-grey ash. Could this really be the last remnant of Faddius Creel?

“What dark magic is this?” asked Arganthus Incredulously.

“This is not my doing!” protested Tajor “Someone else was here. A girl.”

Arganthus could not help but feel that the events of the day had been manipulated by an unseen hand. He recalled the hooded figure from earlier, weaving in an out of the shadows trying to stay undetected. Could the mercenary be telling the truth? He was not sure.

“My companions, do they still live?” asked Tajor changing the subject. There seemed to be genuine concern in his voice.

“One died like a man the younger one wept like a child and begged me to spare his life. He is unharmed.”

On hearing the news Tajor’s demeanour brightened. He was pleased.

“So, my cousin is alive. For that I am grateful. Thank you.”

Arganthus grunted his acknowledgment. “There is no pleasure in taking the life of one who is not worthy” he said.

Aganthus picked up one of Faddius’ rags and wiped his sword blade before returning it to its scabbard, then he turned and walked away.


Story by SeeArc, caine1 (Caine Dorr), sammysunset (James Jackson) · November 2007–February 2009 · Originally published on novlet.com