--by Ahriman

Lying in the brazier off of the entryway of the Westbrook Garrison, amidst the dying embers from the night's watch, a figurine lies partly buried in the ashes.

One month ago ...[edit | edit source]

"Barthalomew holds the last piece that they will likely be able to trace me with, my dear. If for no other reason, he's the one Argent Dawnsman who shall be easiest to pick out when it comes time to retrieve my other effects, and that shall serve the purpose well enough." A snort breaks the tedium of his steps as the mare that walks beside him voices her opinion with a snort. "Yes, and the easiest to scent." The thin man chuckles, smoke escaping the corner of his mouth as a result of the pipe clenched in his teeth while his right hand feels out the stalks of a shrub. With a short motion from the hand-scythe in the other hand, the frond is free, with about a third left behind for the plant's recovery. A few sniffs at the frond, and the free hand goes to groping the air. "Come now, dear. We must away now, this should suit just fine."

A strange silhouette for any setting sun, a painted mare and a sightless rider make haste along the hills by Loch Modan. Hours seem to last longer as they reach a distant corner of the valley's now abandoned abodes. Razed to the foundations lies what must have once been a mix of architectural styles, but far fresher and not of the typical subterranean dwellings of the dwarves. It is in the absence of moonlight that the dismounted rider approaches the wreck of the great hall, cane darting about as the horse flanks the building.

"Come now, old girl ... we return to the abandoned post." A clicking and clacking sounds off into the night as the staff begins to move along a sunken relief bearing the arms of the Alliance of Stormwind, the successor to the broken Alliance of Lordaeron and the military opposition to the Horde after the end of the Third Great War. Bending down to a kneel, the cloaked figure pulls a miniature pin of the crest from his hat, only his holds a dragon encircling the arms. "There is no going back, no ... none whatsoever. Here it begins, and to think I was innocent of it at the time of the irons." The pin is set onto the hammer, at which point it begins to lose its solidity and begins to run along as a quicksilver drop that enlarges and runs along to the sides of the crest. A shudder is felt within the earth, as the path carved by the silvered liquid marks a dragon that now encircles the Alliance coat of arms, and the relief begins to lower into the stonework.

Deeper, deeper, deeper still goes the dais, stories below the surface where even in the day the light could not pierce far enough to illuminate its midpoint, and there it stops with a second shudder. Feeling around, it is a moment before the tunnel is located and entered by the prodigal keeper of the ruins. A shrill whistle echoes from the man called Dark Spirit's lips as his steps remind of a portcullis which begins to glow on its own as the sound goes over various marks carved into the enchanted thorium that forms its stalwart shell. As the whistle fades, a voice unaccustomed to singing and such follows from the same lips that formed the whistle. Let me pass, oh guardians of this place, vanguard of the Draco Argenteus that stood as guardian over the village that would be settled in the fall of Arathor by the the Pure of Strom their new city. Up lifts the grate, the voice and formula recognized. Following a pattern through the maze of tunnels borne of repetition and counted steps alone, he passes under crystals to refract reflected light from the surface that stand dark above him. At last, the bas reliefs flank him to mark his intended destination. To the right, a landscape covering from sea to mountain, sand and field with gemmed carvings of the great alchemical herbal reagents. On the left, a phoenix guards her nest at the center of the scene, with the upper corners holding a Golem on the left and a Sylph on the right, matched in counterpoint to the curvaceous Undine beneath the Golemn and opposed to the fiery salamander. The door beyond sticks, but with some pressing from the shoulder gives way for Ahriman.

What a strange song echoes now from the man's mouth, a sung poem that knows no words or language that can be understood by the conscious mind. How strange that at its singing, his staff forms sprouts and blooms from its long dead surface, and that the refracting crystals that line the ceiling illuminate the room in a pale twilight as in a salamander mosaic of a fire-pit does a small pool of water forms amidst a pile of salt and stack of wood. As the echo dies down and a strange peacefulness settles, the wood smokes on its own. "A shame to betray this so ... but there is no time, is there? No way to cleanse what follows me and lurks beyond the veil aside from dealing with them?" Sighing, he feels his way along underneath murals used once as lessons in both anatomy and alchemies of the body, until he finds a small door that marks the storage rooms and his former abode.

The damp of the air hints at the vaulted ceiling being underneath the rain water cistern, but more importantly, the dust chokes and cakes everything. The rotting rushes of the mattress, the mold on pelts, the smell of decay. Through the small pair of rooms, one with a few chairs and a small writing desk ... and the other housing bed, pitcher, basin, several swords and staves, as well as books and hanging herbs. In the corner, however, lies one piece covered in a linen sheet, the only thing with any such attention.

A pull, and the armoire stands free of the squalor that encompasses the rest of the room. Feeling around, its prodigal master slides over a chest to act as a pointless step to bypass the drawers. "It is time ..." With a bark and a gesture of mimicking a pair of doors opening with his palms, the armoire's handles glow with marks that run like a river about and through the metal. It opens, and beyond the clothing that lies within, boots step onto a hewn stone floor.

It is cold, dreadfully so, with no avenue for natural light, this cavern. The doors of the gate shut with the solemn nature of a sepulcher's sealing. The gurgling of an underground brook echoes over inscriptions made on both shelf and floor of gold sealing salt to the stone. Unlike the former room, no decay can be scented here. So it is such that he picks up a pitcher, and begins to probe his way along the Thelassian, the Gnomish, the Dwarvish, the Old Arathorian execrations until the rush of water cautions further slowing. The boots squish and are slick upon the rough stone, as the moisture seeps through his trousers and jerkin ... In his mind, the plans are already forming, in preparation for the new moon's arrival. These hands cannot work what will be needed alone. No, not at all ... Upon a dais lies a bowl of clay, to which the water is added.

Begin now, the forming at the potter's wheel, for of the earth do you come. The breath will need to be added, of your own in part for it shall be borne of yours. The water shall carry as our own blood carry your own vitality, as a river does flow. The passion, the flame, the vigor must be sparked and then kindled. Only when all is in alignment, can the way be opened and the final stages become manifest.

Had one of the tapers been burning, long would it have expired as the first piece of clay is finished, a mock up of a human heart. This shall be the foundation upon which they shall be built. Outside, far beyond the dark moon creeps above the horizon, the day turning to night. From a barrel of honey a dragon's head is withdrawn to the dais, and the heart placed within. On a small brazier, myrrh burns and slowly stretches out throughout the cave, masking the scent of the blood from the man's hand.

The fire that began before his entry into the cave, upon the salamander's perch, no longer smolders but begins to burn rapidly, as the man blows out onto the heart. Then, suddenly ... darkness.


Thump, thump.

Thump, thump. Thump, thump.

Thump, thump. Thump, thump. Thump, thump, continued the echoing beat in the cavern, as white flames consume the dragon's head in the cave, and from the mound in the laboratory, figures appear in the ashes.

Thump, thump. The heart beats. The shabti move.

We live.

We Live[edit | edit source]

For the uninitiated, the alchemist's kit is perhaps no more than bubbling beakers and flasks of unspeakable reagents that would otherwise defy recognition. However, its true nature is that of the empirical mind, that of one who must learn the truest self of all things. The first steps are often that of learning the substrates, the fuel that their reactions rely upon for their potency, and the enzymes by which their nearly blasphemous syntheses are made manifest. These are the primary forms of the alchemist, the dawdling and tinkering apothecaries that have always made their livings as village wisdoms, hedge healers, field medics, hospitaliers, doctors, and war researchers.

Beyond this nearly exhaustive corpus of information lies the mark of the art's intermediary practitioners, the ones which are a complete mystery, by which the miracles of transmutation may occur, often by the first philosopher's stone that is made by the wielder. The transmutation of metals, the hallmark description is our domain, for now the adept has begun to understand the very elements that make up the matter they work with, as well as begin to manipulate it. In the state of complete balance, the spark of the hidden elements become observable and the feats of the art's many dark ages become possible once more: the manifestations of golemns, sylphs, undines, and sulfurous salamanders become the tutrices and emissaries of their dire knowledge. Unaligned with the likes of Ragnaros or the Hydroxians, these beings are young and new, and not bound to their orders, nor any orders. It is in this time of learning that the greatest have been lost, consumed by the flame of knowledge they wished to make their own.

Take to heart, for you too are just as vulnerable. In dark places does the idle mind wander, and in our path more than elemental fury is at risk at these highest levels. Know thyself, know thy work, for in the lies the ruin and boon of your fortunes on the edge of each abyss.

Veritas lux mea. Veritas vos liberabit. Veritas numquam perit.

-Compendium Alchemicae Arathor

We live? I live? No, for once there was one, now there are many ... many ... too great was this in its results, no ... it could not have possibly succeeded. Not all of them.

However, in the consciousness of the instigator, the builder of the catalyst, it was clear, they had been successfully transformed from mere shabti, the effigies of servants uses as funarary goods by generations past, into new hands. They would be dormant until the consciousness they shared with their creator was touched to theirs, and thus be held in check by their partial life, but not entirely inanimate either. Ears and eyes would they be in the dark places they would be sent to, emissaries sent by paths of fire.

So then from the enchanted flames prepared upon its master's return, the laboratory's dais became the stepping stone into the world at large. Light's Hope, Chillwind Point, Westbrook, Astranaar, Cenarion Hold, Tirisfal Monastary, Stromgarde, Pyrewood, Starfall, Southshore, Stonard, Raven Hill, Moonbrook, Lakeshire, all of them would find in the days following pieces of clay in the shape of a man. A gaunt faced man, wreathed by shaggy hair and a haphazardly kept beard, a man whose hands kept covered some impression on his shoulder and was marked as though by tendrils of fire up to the start of his ribs in a form of macabre gown. Hidden in the ashes, waiting for their time.

The Weekly Feature Award

This story has been highlighted as a Weekly Feature.

--Eupheria 11:38, 23 September 2008 (UTC)
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