Part 12: That which does not heal me, makes me weaker

“Look at what they did.”

Ariciel looked at Mareva standing next to her. Her head was bowed down, her shoulders drawn, and her tail hung down limply between her legs. Large tears were on her cheeks.

“Just look at what they did.”

Ariciel pulled Mareva to her, pulled her blue cheek to her shoulder, and gently stroked her hair. She looked. They were standing on an island, floating in a sea of… of nothing. Far in the distance, Ariciel could see pieces of rock floating in mid-air, slowly drifting, spiralling round each other on their way to nowhere. It was light, but still the sky was dark, and immense ribbons of coloured lights shimmered, from one end of the sky to the other. Large moons floated so close that Ariciel could see mountains and deep trenches on them.

“The road before us. The Orcs call it the Path of Glory. Do you know what it is paved with?” Mareva’s breath shivered. “Us. The bones of my grand-parents are probably there. Nobody knows. There is so much death in this place. So much suffering.”

Ariciel’s hand gently stroked Mareva’s back.

“I should not let this affect me like this,” said Mareva. “I have been here before with Stetson.”

Ariciel closed her eyes and held Mareva a little tighter.

“This is not our home. It was merely a place to hide for a while. A place to pitch some tents, prior to moving on.”

Mareva looked up, her pale blue eyes reflecting huge distances.

“But it was a beautiful place. When I was young, I could simply sit, listen to the voice of a stream, for hours. I did not know about the Spirit of Water then. And still, I could feel it as it flowed, changed to fill every space.”

Ariciel wanted to say something, but what, really, was there to say? With her fingers, she brushed Mareva’s cheeks. Mareva sniffed in a most indelicate way.

“Can we get out of this place quickly? I promise, I will be better once we reach Terokkar Forest.”

“Sure we can,” said Ariciel.

Mareva hugged Ariciel one more time, then looked at her and frowned, remembering something.

“Did Trainer Bearwalker not teach you a spell that you should try once you got here?”

“So he did. Felt like another animal shape. Let me try. Just stand back in case it’s something big.”

Ariciel turned back to her Elf shape, looking at her fingers. Oh my. Oh my! Mareva gave her a look.

“This goes against our policy to avoid riding. We agreed on that to avoid making the journey too easy.”

“But we didn’t say we wouldn’t use our travel forms, did we? We’ve been using cheetah form and ghost wolf form. Just to get through the boring bits.”

“This is different. It is much faster, for one thing.”

“Well, can’t help that, and it’s useful. I can scout ahead and warn you of any Orcs that are waiting for us. I can be your eyes. If we’re lost, I can just change and find our way back.”

“I can use my Far Sight, much to the same effect.”

“Oh Mareva!” Ariciel grabbed Mareva’s hands and looked into her eyes, overflowing with excitement. “Bearwalker taught me this just for when we got to Outland! I can’t use it anywhere else! You can’t ask me not to use it!”

Mareva looked at Ariciel, trying to maintain her look of stern disapproval. From the start, she knew it was futile. When Ariciel was happy with something, it was impossible not to be happy for her. Mareva grinned at her friend.

“Very well then. But when we get to Honour Hold, I am getting a gryphon.”

“I love you forever! I’ll find you the best paths in the whole world!”

Ariciel pulled Mareva to her in a fierce bear hug, then turned round, took a good run-up and leapt into the air. There was a small noise of displaced air, as Ariciel’s body changed shape, instantly turning into a large, black-feathered bird. Mareva watched her friend flap her wings, quickly gaining altitude, then loop round with a very loud screech that plainly said: ‘Look at me!’

The wind was in her face. The whole blasted landscape of the Hellfire Peninsula lay beneath her, and she could go wherever she wanted. Higher and higher Ariciel flew, wings beating tirelessly. How high could she go? Above the mountain peaks? Above the clouds? She looked at the strange skies, and felt she could fly to the moon if she wanted. For a moment, she held her wings steady, and with a tiny flick of her tail turned back to where she could see Mareva riding along on her elekk. Higher. Higher! Higher!

The thought struck her as she flew, drunk with the excitement of flying, flying as a bird. Freedom! She looked down. The ground was far, far away. She knew already that she could cast this spell on the move. She concentrated, and a moment later, a Night-elf woman hung in the air, supported by absolutely nothing. Slowly at first, then faster and faster, the ground rushed towards her. How fast could she go? She held her hands forward, turning her fall into a dive. With a wild grin on her face, down she sped. The wind rushed in her ears. Her hair flapped madly in her face. She took a deep breath, plunging down faster and faster.

Ariciel screamed!

Ariciel flew towards Mareva. She dived down, soared past Mareva and climbed again. She flew to a large boulder, perched on it until Mareva came riding up on her elekk, then hopped down onto the ground. She changed back to her Elf form and waved. Mareva waved back, and rode on. Ariciel took out the reins and summoned her riding cat. She caught up a few moments later.

“So,” said Mareva, “This bird form. You are enjoying it, no?”

“Better than sex,” said Ariciel, face shining.

“I beg your pardon?”

Ariciel laughed. “Except with you, of course. Or Bannog.”

“Good. I was worried for a moment.”


“No,” said Mareva.

“I thought so.” Ariciel sighed. “Really, Mareva, I wish you could fly like this. It’s… it’s… incredible.”

“Is there anything ahead that I should be aware of?”

Ariciel shook her head. “Clear all the way to the crossroads. We go left there, yes?”

“Correct,” said Mareva. “We do not go right.”

“Right,” said Ariciel. “When we get to the crossroads, I’ll…”

“Fly out and scout ahead,” said Mareva, with a straight face. “I am sorry that you have to do all the scouting.”

“I’ll try to bear it without complaining,” said Ariciel.

They were on foot again. The ground was sandy, with rocks. They had left the boat high and dry between some large boulders, covers on, mast down. Ellandriel had insisted. It had taken only an hour or so, and it would have been a waste simply to abandon it to the elements. In the distance, they could see the walls of Nethergarde Keep. From there, a road led to the Dark Portal. Nethergarde Keep was built after the end of the Second War, to keep watch over the Portal. Ellandriel had read that one of the most notorious criminals of Stormwind, Edwin van Cleef, had been responsible for its design and construction, which tells you a lot about Humans. As they entered the gates, Ellandriel looked round, and felt a lack of welcome here. The mages and fighters of Nethergarde Keep did not like visitors. They stayed only a short while, to eat a quick meal and buy some trail rations. Then, they left the keep by the West entrance, and walked along the road. Teacher’s eyes were gleaming.

“Will you look at the state of this place? I daresay before all this portal business, it used to be a jungle here like Stranglethorn. Imagine the sheer power you’d need to do that. And it’s only a side effect, Apprentice. The main force of the spells went into opening this portal. Amazing! Where did they find all that power?”

“The Portal was created by the wizard Medivh,” said Ellandriel. “His mind was possessed by the fallen Titan-lord Sargeras, and he was aided by the warlocks of the Shadow Council, most notably one named Gul’dan.” She looked at Teacher. “That amounts to quite a number of powerful sorcerors.”

“True, but even a thousand sorcerors would not have enough mana between them for such a feat. The distance between the Orcs’ home world and Azeroth is beyond imagination. Even finding Azeroth between the myriad worlds in the Universe is nigh impossible.”

“And yet, they did,” said Ellandriel. “We must be the unluckiest world of all.”

“Perhaps not,” said Teacher. “There could be worse out there than Orcs.”

The road ended between two hills. Before them lay the camp where soldiers, wizards and paladins stood guard over the entrance to Azeroth. Two Night-elves hardly even drew their attention. Ellandriel and teacher walked forward, climbed the few steps up, and stood in front of the swirling hole into nothing.


Ellandriel said nothing. The portal magic made the tiniest of sounds, like the grinding of air, tiny grains of sand being carried on the wind. She had expected simply to see the other side, to look on the strange world of the Orcs. Instead, she saw swirls of colours, stars? Who knew? Teacher reached out, pushed a hand through.

“My hand is now further away from my body than all the miles we have travelled together, Thero’shan. Further away than everybody has travelled, all their paths laid end to end.” Teacher looked at Ellandriel. “Are you ready?”

“We’re going through?”

“How can we not? Two steps away from another world? Have you any sense of adventure at all?”

Ellandriel looked again at the Portal. Of course, it went two ways. She could always take a step back. But she knew that once she walked into that whirlpool, there would be no going back until she knew all there was to know about what lay beyond. She turned her head round to Teacher, nodded and took the two steps forward.

As Ellandriel and her teacher emerged from the portal, a bleak land lay before them. As far as the eye could see, nothing grew. There was only fine sand and rocks. The portal here was surrounded by a few stone buildings in the style of the Humans, and a large stairway led down to the lands ahead. Ellandriel looked up at the sky, and like everybody before her, was struck by the eerie beauty of the celestial fireworks in green and purple, stretched out across the sky. Impossibly large moons were in it. It was hard to say whether it was day or night, or whether this place even knew such a thing.

“This is not a normal world,” said Teacher.

“Would it be?”

“What I mean, is that this world is broken. Azeroth floats in space, near her Sun. This place almost looks like it floats in a lake. The moons are too close. If this were a normal world, they would fall down to it. This is a place of magic, Thero’shan. It is a place of magic gone terribly wrong. Someone once told me he was incredibly intelligent and as a consequence, his mistakes were bigger than anyone else’s. I see his point now.”

“Is it safe here?”

“Apart from the unreal physics, there are probably Daemons. Local wildlife is likely to be deadly. Orcs who did not cross the Portal must still be at large in the area, looking for blood. This place has fissures leading to the very Twisting Nethers, and if you were to fall into one, you would die of hunger and thirst, or lack of air, before you would hit the bottom, if indeed there is any bottom.” Teacher smirked. “Other than that, it’s perfectly safe.”

“Can we go back to the Athenaeum now, Teacher? I remember I have an assignment due in tomorrow.”

“I’ll write you an excuse note,” said Teacher. “Look. There’s a Human guard. Let’s see if he knows an inn here.”

The inn, as the guard said, was about fifty miles away, in a place called Honor Hold. There was a road leading there from the Portal, and the only important direction was to turn left, not right or straight on, at the next crossroads. Running in this place felt strange. They were definitely lighter on their feet than on Azeroth. They could jump higher. On the other hand, they would fall down slightly quicker than they did back home, which was against all physics that Ellandriel, and even Teacher, had ever learnt.

“This, Thero’shan, is what happens when the High and the Mighty don’t know what they are doing. The worst thing you can do at the moment is set something on fire that you shouldn’t have. Look at what they did.”

“I don’t want to use magics like this, Shan’do. I only want…”

Ellandriel fell silent. What did she want? She looked at Teacher. Teacher looked back at her with an annoyingly wise little smile. The question kept nagging at her. What, little girl, in all of these worlds, do you want? The answer was there, hidden deep. Ellandriel looked ahead of her, at the barren road, the dry and fouled wasteland. Her voice was less than a whisper. Too quiet for anyone, even herself, to hear. But now that she had said it, she knew. She wanted to go home, and she had no home to go to. She looked ahead, and the road in front of her became clear again. Her steps quickened. Wherever home was, it wasn’t here. Best get moving.

They had been running at a brisk pace for an hour or so when Teacher suddenly stopped, pushed a shoulder into Ellandriel and bumped her into a dry ditch next to the road. Ellandriel grunted as she landed on her shoulder.

“Shan’do? Wh-”

“Quiet.” Teacher glared at her, then pointed, first ahead, then behind them.

Ellandriel looked. Ah. Several very large individuals were walking across the road. Her breath stuck in her throat. There were both male and female, definitely female figures. The women had six arms, two holding large swords. The men were armed with swords, or axes. Some of them had creatures following them that Ellandriel classed as ‘dogs’, but only by the fact that they were, in fact, following them.

Teacher whispered in Ellandriel’s ear. “The males are called Fel Guards. The females are called… many things. They are of Shivarra kind. Congratulations, Thero’shan. You have just met your first Daemons.”

“What do we do, Shan’do?”

“We wait for them to pass, and pray to Elune that they do not see us. There are too many of them for comfort.”

Ellandriel gave Teacher a look. “I take it, Shan’do, that this is one of those situations where my firepower is more than ornamental?”

“You are correct. If it comes to blows, I will do my best to stall and freeze them. You provide the killing blows. Also, running away may be shameful, my Student, but has the distinct advantage of being alive to feel the shame.”

The group of Daemons, herded by the six-armed women, walked into the distance without a word, without a noise. Teacher grinned.

“I am thinking about six-fold hugs. I am a very bad person.”

Ellandriel put a hand on Teacher’s shoulder, then pointed behind them. Stragglers. One male, one female. Headed unfailingly into the direction of their hiding place. Ellandriel made to crawl away, but Teacher stopped her.

“Useless. They are attracted to motion. And they are not blind either. If they keep going like that, they’ll spot us.” Teacher tapped a finger on the rocky ground a few times, then looked round. “We fight, Thero’shan. I will slow them down with frost bolts. You find your best firebolts. Shield yourself against shadow damage, and target the Fel Guard first. The Shivarra can heal itself, and will need both of us focusing. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” said Ellandriel. Her stomach tightened.

“Good. Shield up. Here we go.”

Without another word, Teacher stood up, reached out, and fired. A tight cloud of ice appeared above the Daemons and started to rain down on them.

“Fire! Hit the Felguard!”

Ellandriel concentrated. Bolts of fire started to fly, and smashed into the enormous sword fighter. Behind him, the Daemon-woman screamed, and stopped moving, frozen in place for now.

“Excellent,” said Teacher. “Hit the Felguard. Everything you have.”

Though both Teacher and Ellandriel now poured their fire into the Felguard, it kept advancing. Teacher’s frost spells were slowing it down, but it was clear they would need every shot they could fire. It bellowed as it came closer and closer, body burnt by frost and ice, but still advancing.

“Shan’do!” Ellandriel was giving it her all, but the Daemon would reach her. Already, it lifted its sword to cut her in two.

Teacher screamed, and ran. Ellandriel’s eyes opened wide. The Felguard paused mid-swing, then turned towards Teacher’s back and pursued.

Hit it!”

The big sword came round. Just before it would hit Teacher, it hit an invisible barrier, and small forks of lightning flared up. Ellandriel concentrated, pushed her mind to where it needed to go, and let fly her deadly missiles, hitting the Felguard in the back. The Daemon seemed to crumple up, and fell to the ground.

In the distance, the Daemon-woman had broken free of her ice bonds, and was advancing towards them, two of her hands glowing with dark magic. A bolt shot towards Ellandriel, and hit her in the middle of her chest. The pain hit her immediately, and took her breath so that she could not even scream. Then, Teacher’s fire hit the Daemon. She screamed, and raised swords.

“Fire, fire, fire!”

Ellandriel bit down, raised her staff and fired. She and Teacher both concentrated their fire on the Daemon’s midsection. She briefly glanced at her face, which showed an expression of pure anger, hatred, and… fear. Wounds showed up on her body, burns from Ellandriel’s firebolts and arrows, black patches where Teacher’s frost and arcane spells hit her. Then, her legs gave, and she went down to hands and knees. Ellandriel saw that her back was scorched. Her firebolts had burnt the Daemon through and through. She looked up at them one final time, tried to raise an arm to shoot at them, then collapsed face first into the sand.

They walked up to the Daemon, slowly, carefully, ten yards apart. As they approached, they could hear the sound of laboured breathing. Small clouds of sand were blowing away from her face.

Teacher’s voice was strained. “Finish it off. I’m out of mana.”

Ellandriel breathed in, slowly, gathering up her powers. She stepped over to where she could not see the demon’s face. She wound up her biggest fire spell, then smashed it into the Daemon-woman’s back. All the arms and legs tensed up, then relaxed. Ellandriel closed her eyes.

“Well done, Thero’shan. Have some of this.”

Teacher handed her a bottle filled with a clear liquid. Ellandriel drank, and felt her magical reserves refill themselves. Teacher’s hand was on her shoulder.

“I genuinely could not have done this without you, Ellandriel. You did very well.”

Ellandriel looked at the corpse of the Daemon-woman.

“She’s beautiful. And we killed her.”

“No, Ellandriel. This creature would have torn us both limb from limb, slowly and alive, if it could have. They are Daemons of the Burning Legion. They enjoy nothing except the suffering of lesser creatures. And we have just proven that we do not fall into that category.” Teacher looked round. “Let’s keep moving before any more show up.”

Stetson sat up in bed, and grabbed another slice of the flat bread that they served here. These last few days, he had been eating like an elekk. His strength had not yet returned, but the curse had gone. Matron Olisarra had had a long technical discussion with Anchorite Yazmina, then held her hands over him and let her magic flow. Stetson had felt like a fountain of water had run over him, through him. He ran a hand down his stomach, down his legs, and could feel everything. Soon, he would be able to leave this hospital and go to find Mareva. She would probably be somewhere in Shattrath by now.

Next to him, the Blood-elf was not doing so well. As had been expected, the infection had spread. She still received the daily treatments with antiseptics. They were giving her medicine for the pain now, which was not a good sign. The more pain, the more medicine, but too much medicine would kill you, and there was a point where you cared more about ending the pain, than you did for continuing to breathe. On her way out then. Stetson didn’t know why it made him sad, but it did. He glanced over. Nurse Birch and Miss Butler were spunging her down with the medicine that hurt like fire, and didn’t work well enough. The Blood-elf lay back in a medicine-induced stupor, only making small noises. The ugly red stain now covered her whole leg and half of her body. What this Elf needed was either a miracle, or a short, sharp blow to the back of the neck. Stetson looked away. Neither of those were his to give.

“Why do you keep tormenting her? It is clearly not working. She is dying, and not enjoying the ride.”

Nurse Birch gave Stetson a look. “Would you have liked us to apply the same logic to you? You were dying.”

“I was not in much pain. I was simply fading away. She is being burnt alive. Why not save her the agony?”

“Would you kill her, then?”

“You should ask that question of someone with a desire for living Blood-elves.”

Nurse Birch looked over to her. She was asleep, on the verge of waking up.

“She has something we haven’t seen before. We know it’s Scourge-related. We’ve sent samples as far as Shattrath, Stormwind Cathedral, even to the apothecaries in Under-city. They are all working to find out what this is and destroy it. Like with the curse you had. We’re not clinging to idle hope. Any moment, Matron Olisarra or one of her colleagues can come up with something. When they do, we need her alive to test if it works. And if it does… she gets to go home.”

The Blood-elf woman was awake, and in pain. With Stetson lying next to her, she tried her best not to show it, but her face was pale. Stetson found himself grudgingly admiring her grit. They hadn’t spoken again, but then again, what would have been the point? Miss Angelique Butler looked at her watch, walked to the cupboard and poured a careful measure of potion into a glass. She brought it to the Blood-elf, put the glass to her lips, and watched her drink it. Miss Butler put a hand on her forehead, smiled and walked away. Stetson sighed, turned over. The intervals between the glasses of potion were growing shorter and shorter, and he could see that it was starting to affect the woman. Her expression had turned more and more vacant. She had stopped reading books. She simply lay back, crying softly when she thought Stetson couldn’t hear her. Stetson took a deep breath, tried to go to sleep, when behind him, he heard the noise of liquid dripping to the ground. He looked round in the dark. There was the sound of movement. The Elf woman was sitting up, quietly whimpering with the pain. Then, she got to her feet, breathing fast. Leaning on the raised foot end of the bed, she gathered her strength, then walked to the door, slowly, painfully.

Stetson raised his head, watched the door close behind her. Where was she going? Stupid question. All of her needs were taken care of here, except one. Stetson sat up.

“Oh damn.”

Calling out to Morgan, Stetson got up on his hooves, and ran to the door. His legs nearly gave way, indicating just how bad an idea this was. Stetson didn’t care. Taking it a little more carefully, he moved to where he’d last seen the Elf. He closed his eyes, and cast his tracking spell. Luckily, it was night. The specks of Light that were the inhabitants of Dalaran were all dim, fast asleep. Only one near him burnt, flickered brightly.

“Got you. Now where are you going, you stupid woman?”

He followed as quick as she could. With her wounded leg, she could not move fast, and he gained on her, until he found himself on a small lawn. Stetson looked round, then saw the entrance to the sewers.

“So that is where you are going. Do you not realise? Sewers are most unhygienic places. The last thing you need is more bacteria.”

Stetson plunged down into the pipe, on the trail of his fellow patient. She was somewhere to his right. As he went along, he noticed a light in front of him. He blinked. Who in all the worlds would set up an inn in a sewer? Shaking his head, he looked round where the Elf might have gone. A little way off, he saw another tunnel leading down. He sneered at the people in the bar. Surely, a Blood-elf limping round wearing nothing but a hospital gown that exposed most of her bottom, might have turned a few faces? He shook his head, and followed the Elf into the tunnel.

He found her at the very end of the tunnel. The wind was blowing, and her gown flapped round her legs. He stepped forward, splashing in the little trickle of water that ran down the pipe.

“Hey you!”

The Elf turned round, saw him. She bared her teeth in a growl.

Abi sis, belua!

“Yes, yes. What are you doing here?”

The Elf turned to face him, crouched down.

Lascia me!

Stetson wrinkled his nose. “It’s filthy down here. You might catch something.”

Nihil spurcius est te!

Stetson calmly stepped towards the Elf, making no sudden moves. Clearly the creature expected him to push her over the edge. Why? She was going to jump anyway. And that was where it pinched. She’d been happy, relieved, to end it all. But she would be damned if she’d let some blue-skinned bastard kill her. She stepped backwards as he advanced, until her bare foot was on the very edge. As though a switch had been thrown, her face became placid. She stood up straight, raised her arms, then let herself fall backwards.

Stetson leapt forward, grabbed the stupid hospital gown she was wearing, and pulled her back. She fell to her knees with a cry of pain. She screamed at Stetson.

Lascia me!

She stood up, hit Stetson with a good hard blow to the stomach. Stetson tensed up just in time, grabbed her wrist.

“You are not lost yet, Elf. Matron Olisarra will be most disappointed if you kill yourself just before she can find a cure. Miss Birch and Miss Butler will have kept your sorry arse alive for nothing.”

The Elf recognised the names. She leaned on Stetson, looked up at him with her alien green eyes.

Volo mori compos mentis,” she whispered.

Stetson picked her up, with some difficulty.

“You’re heavy for such a thin woman.”

The woman glared at him, as he turned round, heading back for the hospital.

Claudius es.

Nurse Josie Birch sat in a comfortable chair at the foot of the Elf’s bed, reading a book about curses and their cures. An expression of mild annoyance was on her face. She was sitting there to keep the Blood-elf woman from trying to off herself again. The telling phrase “Tentamen Suicidii” had been added to her file. Miss Birch turned another page, then looked up at the door, which was slowly opening. Nurse Birch put her bookmark in the book and got to her feet.

Outside the door, a rattling breath could be heard. In the door opening stood a corpse-like creature. At some point, it must have been Human, but those days were long gone. She wore robes and a cloak, which she had pulled round her. Leather bands were crossed over her face. Giving Nurse Birch only a casual look, she slowly made her way to the Blood-elf’s bed. She pulled away the blankets, and pulled away the gown as well, leaving the Blood-elf woman staring at her, wide eyed, naked. The woman extended a bony hand, held it over the injured flesh. Her staff started to glow, then her hand, then the whole of the Blood-elf’s body. The green glow drew itself to the inflamed parts of her skin, glowed brighter. Then, the green light shrunk, shrunk down till nothing was left. The Undead woman hissed, nodded. With a long fingernail, she poked at the Blood-elf’s skin a few times, then chuckled to herself. She turned to Nurse Birch, and her voice made one think of dust.


Nurse Birch swallowed. “I’ll take you to her.”

Latin insults for this chapter by Laura Gibbs of the University of Oklahoma. Gratias maximas tibi ago.


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