Part 6: Everybody has jobs to do

Stetson reined in his elekk, and stared up. Far over his head, someone on a gryphon flew by. A brief pang of envy struck him. He’d never bothered with flying mounts. There weren’t any in Azeroth and Outland was just where he went occasionally to get supplies. No need. The flight masters were quite adequate to his needs. Still, now, with many more miles to go, he thought on how good it would be simply to fly in straight lines rather than up and down hills, along roads and through the mountains. At least, he had reached the snowy parts of the Borean Tundra. Just a half-day more, and he’d reach the Wailing Ziggurat, where hopefully, he’d find the death knight named Thassarian. Thassarian would lead him to his brother. Wailing ziggurat, Howling Fjord. This did not sound like a happy country, in spite of all its natural beauty. If it weren’t for all the fighting and threatening evil, Stetson would be quite happy to stay in this place indefinitely. He smiled. Mareva would probably hate it. She was more of a city girl, with her machines, engines and clever little devices. Still… Stetson’s eyes scanned the horizon. She did appreciate beauty, and whoever could look at these lands and not be awestruck by them, needed a quick check to see if their heads were still there.

As he rode on, Stetson thought about his brother. They looked exactly alike, to the last barbel on their faces. An advantage, so far, in the search. He had to admit that Garz’houn had always been the more virtuous of the two of them, and Father’s favourite by far. Stetson could see this now without grudging it. Father’d had a point. Garz’houn had become a Paladin, vowing to protect the weak and uphold the holy principles of chivalry, honour and virtue. Stetson had been content just to hunt up dinner. He would admit that several of his hunting friends would be no company for a Holy Paladin, but at least they had no pretenses. The attitude of some of Garz’houn’s fellow paladins frankly made his stomach turn. So convinced of their own virtue. Filled with disdain for lesser creatures, who merely, oh, kept them fed and clothed.

Neither of them had been there at the fall of Shattrath to the Orcs, Light be praised, though they had looked from afar at the smoke, standing side by side on a high hill. Garz’houn had bowed his head in shame, realising that a few miles away, his brethren were being slaughtered by the Orcs, and there wasn’t a thing he could do to prevent it. The fel magics had defeated them. Without the Light, what could they do? At least he had not turned into one of those miserable Broken wretches. Well, now he was a Death Knight. The Broken might be a degenerate life form, but at least they were living creatures, not walking corpses that should have been dead long ago.

How much of his soul would still be intact? Because, for all his pompous manners and holier-than-thou attitudes, he was good company on a long trek, as long as neither of their friends were present to spoil the mood. The tidings of his death had struck deep, and Stetson had taken to wandering about the lands, without his brother’s pious advice to ignore and rebel against. Stetson would give a lot to be able to ride out with his brother again, listening to his long monologues about the ways of the Light and how he, Stetson, fell short of them. He would always retort by pointing out that Garz’houn was about to fall into a hole or ride off a cliff, and for him to pull his head out of the clouds. They could quite easily have drunk each other’s blood at times, but still. They had been as two equal weights on either side of the scale. With his brother gone, Stetson had been in grave peril of falling off and becoming no more than a brigand, wandering the lands, falling deeper and deeper into the murk, until he would have appalled even himself.

One thing had prevented that from happening. One person only. From the day that silly little Elf had made him spill his drink, and introduced him to her beautiful friend, he had no longer feared for himself. And still, stupid zlotnik that he was, he was here, chasing ghosts. He kicked his elekk, and it broke into a trot. Better get this job over with, and maybe introduce Mareva to his brother.

The morning was drawing to an end, as Stetson saw a tower in the distance. He stood up in his stirrups and looked at it. It seemed to be one of those religious buildings that Humans delighted to put up all over the place. Oh well. Once more he spurred on his mount. When the ziggurat was a few hundred yards away, he dismounted. Stetson put Morgan on defensive, and carefully walked up to the entrance. There was a strange noise coming from the inside. Stetson pressed his tail to the wall, and peeked round the corner. In the middle of the room was a Human. The Human was using some kind of spell to control a creature. An undead skeleton sat nearby, looking at nothing. Stetson readied his crossbow, told Morgan to follow and walked in.

“Arquenon Porous,” said Stetson.

The Human’s eyes briefly flashed at Stetson, then they returned to the creature in front of him. When he spoke, Stetson heard immediately that this person was not alive today through healthy living.

“What do you want? I’m busy.”

“I see,” said Stetson. “Is your work proceeding satisfactorily?”

The Human scowled. “Just what we need. A bloody joker. What does it look like?”

“A lich,” said Stetson. “Is something keeping you from killing it?”

“You could say that. I need it to talk first.”

“My name is S’dezo’houn. I presume that you are the Death Knight Thassarian? I was told I might find you here.”

“That’s affirmative. I was ordered to take this Lightless piece of stone for the good of the Alliance. They do give us the nice jobs, they do. But now that I’ve got it, I want some answers.” The aura of light round the lich grew brighter. “But I can’t get a good grip on where it hurts this piece of dreg.”

Thassarian’s eyes briefly flashed at Stetson.

“I don’t suppose you could do something for me?”

“That depends,” said Stetson.

“You want gold? I’ve got gold.”

“Everybody needs gold,” said Stetson, “But like you, I value information above gold.”

“What information?” Thassarian frowned in concentration, and re-applied a spell that was in danger of falling off.

“Paxvobiscum,” said Stetson.

“The correct form is pax tecum, unless you’re including Lurid over there.”

“It is the name that one of your kind currently goes by,” said Stetson. “I wish to find him.”

Thassarian gave Stetson an acid look. “So what?”

“Do you know where he is?”

“I might, if he were with my troop. What of it?”

Stetson sighed. “What do you want me to do?”

“Sparky here. He’s a lich. Liches can’t be hurt, and I want to hurt him. I need his phylactery. Then I can hurt him plenty.”

“And I am the lucky Draenei who will get it for you?”

“Fair trade, isn’t it?”

“It would seem so. Where is this phylactery, and what does it look like?”

“It’s at the bottom of a pool about a mile to the North. If you go back to my camp, my horse can lead you to it. It may be defended, so bring a weapon.”

“I have not seen your camp. Where is it?”

Thassarian growled. “A half-mile to the West. Give those snivelling dogs there my best and tell them to keep out of sight, ’cause the snow rabbits are pretty fierce this time of year.”

“I will do that.”

With a new sense of urgency, Stetson mounted up and rode to the West. The camp was easy enough to find, and sure enough, a skeletal horse stood nearby. The Humans did not feel inclined to join Thassarian in the ziggurat, but generously allowed Stetson the use of their comrade’s horse. Stetson felt ridiculous with his massive frame on such a small horse, which nevertheless seemed strong enough to carry him across the frozen wastes. After a brisk ride, the horse stopped by the edge of a small pool. As soon as Stetson dismounted, the horse ran off to the South. Stetson stared after it, shaking his head. Then, he knelt by the pool and stared down into the crystal clear water. Something near the bottom was shimmering. It looked like an egg on top of a box.

“Right Morgan,” said Stetson. “How do you suggest we get that thing up here?”

Morgan looked at a fortress to the North, laid his ears in his neck, and said nothing.

“Well, one of us is getting wet. Maybe even both.”

Morgan yowled.

“Oh alright. Let’s see if we can engineer it somehow.”

Stetson rummaged in his pack, and got out a ball of string and a bigger rope. Then, he produced one of his cheaper arrows and tied a bit of string round it. One end of the string, he tied into a loop, through which he threaded the rest of the string. Then, he tied the rope into a slipknot and attached the string to it. He paused a second to admire his handiwork.

“There, Morgan. M’gyvra himself could not have done better.”

He put the arrow on his crossbow and aimed straight for the phylactery, then pulled the trigger. With a smile, he saw the arrow stick into the ice a half-yard ahead of the phylactery. Spearfishing was an art in itself. So many idiots did not take into account the optical refraction of the water and wondered why they could never hit the fish they were looking at. Stetson gently pulled the string, and fed out the rope, down, down into the water. With some judicious jiggling of the rope, he managed to get the loop over the egg. With a little pull, it tightened round the object.

“Got you,” said Stetson, and pulled on the rope. The object came loose from the bottom and Stetson could pull it up. The grin disappeared from his face. Near the bottom a dark shape stirred, and a strange sea-creature snatched the phylactery off his line. Stetson’s mouth fell open.

“Grish’striv! You bastard! That’s mine!”

The creature in the pond did not seem to agree. As it came to the surface, Stetson grabbed another arrow, fit it to his crossbow, aimed and fired. Black blood coloured the water, and it started to bubble as the guardian came up. Stetson jumped back, grabbing another arrow while Morgan attacked, tooth and claw. The guardian was joined by three skeletal figures, all of which jumped Morgan. Stetson fired again, imbuing the arrows with magic to make them hit harder. The skeletons had eyes only for Morgan, who was clawing at them, and cracking bones between his large teeth.

“You bastards stay away from my cat,” growled Stetson. He grabbed a bundle of arrows, put them on his crossbow and fired them straight up into the sky, as fast as he could. The terrorshaft arrows reached the top of their arc and came down again, just as Stetson pointed a hand at them. Magic flowed again, and a rain of arrows came down on the skeletons. That seemed to do it. Morgan took a hard swipe at the last of them. As it died, it dropped the phylactery onto the snow. Stetson hurriedly cast a few spells of healing on Morgan, who had sustained a few hits. Then, he bent down and picked up the object. The box was not too heavy, and the egg on top was made of some kind of dark glass. A dark, syrupy liquid ran slowly in it. Stetson looked down on the corpse of the guardian.

“Well, thank you for giving me this. Let’s hope it’s what that Human wants.”

“Oh perfect!” Thassarian grinned. “Gimme! Let’s show this thing what pain feels like.”

“Not that I do not trust you,” said Stetson. “Oh wait. I really do not trust you. Where is my brother?”

“Brother? This Paxvobiscum is your brother?”

“Is, or was.”

“Go to Zul’drak. Go to the Ebon Blade camp, Ebon Watch. All Death Knights pass through there eventually. They even keep records. Ask for your brother there. Now gimme.”

“Where is this Ebon Watch?”

“North west of Drak’tharon Keep. Know where that is?”

“I can find out,” said Stetson. He handed the object to Thassarian.

“Good man,” said Thassarian. He put the phylactery on the floor in front of him, and pulled out a dagger. “Want to watch this? Not for the squeamish, mind. They make an awful lot of noise.”

Stetson shook his head. He had better things to do. As he left the building, he heard the first anguished wail of the lich. He mounted up, and rode in the direction of Unu’pe Village.


After sand, mud. Sticking to her robes, drenching them with water, making them feel cold against her legs. Mud squelching in her boots. After they had crossed the Shimmering Flats, made their way up the side of the mountains (“Where are these Keldorei Priestesses with their Levitate spells when you need them, Thero’shan? That’s what I want to know.”), they had struck a path into the Dustwallow Marshes. Either the seasons did not work in this place the way they did anywhere else, or there was something magical about the leafless, purple trees. Teacher, for some reason, was not willing to discuss the matter, and grew sullen when Ellandriel asked about it.

After Teacher’s admonition about the scorpid in the Shimmering Flats, Ellandriel had developed a keen eye for anything red in tooth and claw, that looked like it wanted to make lunch of two passing High-borne Night-elves. With practice, the paths of magic in her mind became more and more familiar, and as a result, her fireballs became both more accurate and more deadly. She felt a strange satisfaction in watching them strike home. Must be her forest-dwelling hunter instinct awakening in her scholarly, timid, book-wormish bosom. Teacher was urging her to use a more diverse range of spells. Some of these she could cast instantly, though strangely, it was almost like she forgot the spell just after, until, much like the slow return of night vision after seeing a bright flash in the dark, it returned to her mind. Teacher had tried to explain the phenomenon, lost Ellandriel after a few sentences, sighed, and recommended further reading, leaving Ellandriel with an uncomfortable image of certain parts of her brain over-heating and needing to cool down before she could use them again.

Ellandriel leaned on her staff, one foot in the air, and held her boot upside down. A slight error of judgement in the amount of squelch in the bottom of a stream had caused it to fill up with water. She gave Teacher a sad look.

“I blame the Keldorei,” she said. “This is not what a High-borne would call ‘solid ground’.”

Teacher laughed. “Oh Thero’shan. Back in the Flats, what wouldn’t you have given for a nice boot full of water?”

“Drinking out of ladies’ boots is decadence and debauchery.”

“And hugely over-rated,” said Teacher.

Ellandriel raised an eyebrow. “There are things in your past, Shan’do, that the Moon would be afraid to shine upon.”

“Naturally. I have a very long past.”

Ellandriel wrung out her sock, put it back on and pulled on her boot. She looked up at Teacher, who was looking in her direction, but clearly not at her.

“How old are you, Shan’do?”

“A thousand years? Ten thousand? Probably closer to ten than one.” Teacher sighed. I remember when there was just one continent of Kalimdor. I remember when there were no Orcs, and when the High-borne were held in high regard by all that beheld them. You would think that there is nothing more to do. But there is. Places to go, sights to see. Every dawn is new and fresh.”

“Where are we going, Shan’do?”

Teacher pointed. “First, Mudsprocket. You should see the Goblins at least once in your life. If you can leave there with as much money as you arrive, I will be most surprised. Then, Theramore. Then…”

“Then where?”

“I don’t know!” Teacher laughed. “I don’t know, my girl. Anywhere. Everywhere. There is nowhere I have to be. There is nothing to the war effort that I can mar or mend. Even if all the Orcs would line up before me to be slaughtered, I could not kill them faster than they breed. My skills, prodigious though they are, are shared by a thousand others. Nobody listened to my counsel even when I was at Court, much less now.”

“Not so, Shan’do. I listen to you,” said Ellandriel.

“Yes, you do. And I thank you for it. There comes a time, when you can learn more about the world only by explaining it to a willing student. Why did I take you, you ask? Purely for selfish reasons.” Teacher put a hand on Ellandriel’s shoulder. “The whole of Azeroth lies before us. Let’s go.”


“Do you know where we are?”

“Sure I do. We’ve been following this path for a little over an hour now.”

“I know. I was there with you. I am not so much interested in the path that lies behind us, as I am in the path that still lies ahead.”

“Seems to be going mostly East, but it may turn somewhere. Look! Dreamfoil! That’s pretty rare here.” Ariciel bent down to look at the small flower. “You know, I think a herbalist must have dropped some seeds here. That’s what you get with all these people travelling about the place.”

“Very interesting,” said Mareva.

“Sometimes alien species do very well in a new environment,” said Ariciel. “Even overwhelming the native species. You think flora is all peace and quiet, don’t you? Well, I can tell you, plants fight wars every bit as vicious as ours. This one doesn’t look like it’s going to overwhelm anything, though.” Ariciel picked the flower, brushed back Mareva’s hair, and stuck it behind her ear. “They say it brings pleasant dreams.”

“Does it bring us closer to Theramore?”

“Don’t think so.”

Mareva gave Ariciel a weary look, and pointed. “I believe we are running round in circles. I am sure I have seen that tree three times already.”

“How can you say that? We haven’t seen this tree before. Look, it’s got two different kinds of lichen on it, and a split at the top of the trunk.”

“How long will it be until we reach the Barrens?”

“I don’t know! Navigation isn’t an exact science, you know?”

“You know, if you ask a cartographer, I think you will find that actually, it is.” Mareva sneered. “If only we had the time to seed a few navigation satellites before we crashed.”

“Pff! You city people. You are always dividing the world up into little squares, and counting them. It’s not like that! A forest is a creature. You have to listen to it. Let it talk to you.”

Mareva gave a small nod, then closed her eyes. She opened them again and looked at Ariciel.

“This creature is saying, maybe, if I show this stupid blue nactba every benighted blade of grass in the forest three times, she will learn to appreciate me.”

Ariciel grinned. “And? Is it working?”

Lok’tar Ogar!”

Ariciel didn’t think, but simply reacted, turning to her bear form in a flash of green magic, then charging at their enemies, who turned out to be three Orcs. Ariciel saw that one of them was a magic user, and ran straight at her, swiping at the two warriors as she went. The ground shook as she roared, and none of the Orcs dared look away from her.

Mareva cried out, and round her, her four totems appeared. They looked like small cylinders, glowing in red, green, blue, and pale, reflecting the Elements of fire, Earth, Water and Air. They were focus devices for her elemental magics. Next, she cast a shield spell on herself, that would bite back at anyone hitting her. While Ariciel had the Orcs distracted, she looked at each of them. Two hitters, one spellcaster. Either an attacker or a healer. She concentrated on the spellcaster, and lashed out with a fire spell. The Orc woman cried out, and one of the axe fighters turned round to Mareva and charged.

“Sod off,” said Mareva, through clenched teeth. With a quick gesture, she called down lightning and thunder, and aimed it straight at the axe fighter. A sudden gust of wind picked up not only the axe fighter, but also the other Orc and the caster woman, throwing them back.

Ariciel dived for the floor, the wind flattening her fur, then turned round like a furry tornado and charged at the Orcs again.

Mareva raised her arm and lightning sprang from her outstretched fingers, hitting first the caster woman, then the two other Orcs. Seeing that the fire spell she cast earlier was about to fall off, Mareva raised a fist into the air. The caster woman was instantly lit up with bright yellow flames, that engulfed her, and her two companions. The orc woman’s charred body stiffened, fell dead to the ground.

Ariciel raised herself on her hind legs, and bore down, claws out, on one of the axe fighters. Just as Mareva focused on the other one, there were shouts behind her, and several figures came running past her, swords out. They started hacking away at the last Orc.

Mareva raised her eyebrows, and fired the lightning bolt she had been preparing at Ariciel’s Orc. A great hush fell. Then, the strange fighters raised their weapons in the air and yelled in victory.

Ariciel turned back to her Elf form with a wild grin on her face, looking at her hands as she opened and closed them.

“Oh, I like this dire bear form.” She looked up at Mareva. “That blow-away thing you did was a bit of a surprise. And just when I had them where I wanted them, too.”

“You missed one,” said Mareva. She raised an arm, and all her totems sunk back into the earth.

“Good day, Ladies!” One of the strange swordfighters had just put away a two-handed sword. He walked towards them with a big grin on his face. “It is a rare pleasure, to be able to save two such beautiful ladies from certain death.” He bowed. “You owe your lives to Grimm Skullcrusher, Warrior of great renown. Save your words of thanks, it was my job.” He wiggled his eyebrows at them. “Unless you want to thank me, of course.”

“I’m Ripface,” said the other. He pointed behind Mareva. “He’s Heals.”

As Mareva looked over her shoulder, she saw a tall Night-elf man standing next to her. He bowed.

“Greetings. My name is Hirudo. Did anyone get hurt in the fight?”

Ariciel checked her arms and legs, but found nothing untoward.

Skullcrusher laughed. “Get hurt? Us? What kind of noobs do you think we are? We don’t get hurt, we dish out the hurt!”

“Indeed,” said Hirudo, fingering a row of small glass bottles on his belt. Mareva couldn’t help noticing that half of them were empty.

“Do you run out of mana much?”

“Yes, Lady,” said Hirudo. “Pool the size of an egg-cup, I’m afraid.”

“Oi. Don’t diss Heals,” said Ripface. “He may be a noob, but he’s ours.”

“Yeah,” said Skullcrusher. “We’re letting him train on us, because it’s a nice easy job.”

Mareva noticed a slight twitch in Hirudo’s eye, and kindly let the matter rest.

“Well,” said Skullcrusher, “I suppose you can tag along with us, Ladies. We don’t normally let anyone, because we’re a finely tuned team, but for you, we’ll make an exception.”

Ariciel’s eyes shone, and she bounced up and down. “Oo! Mareva! They’re letting us join them! Can we? Can we?”

“Only if you behave,” said Mareva.


“Paxvobiscum?”

Stefan Vadu ran his fingers through his thin beard. His eyes shone at Stetson with the cold light that was in all Death Knights’ eyes. He shook his head.

“I can’t say I recall someone going by that name.”

Stetson nodded.

“And if you did remember?”

Vadu shook his head, a little grin on his pale cheeks.

“I wouldn’t tell you. Twelve times in a dozen, when someone wants to find one of our lot, it’s to chop his head off for something he did when Arthas was still calling the shots.”

“This is the thirteenth time. Paxvobiscum is my brother. Thassarian said I should come here to find him.”

“Did he, now? Doesn’t mean I trust you.”

Stetson simply nodded.

“In all honesty,” he said, “It doesn’t even mean that I won’t try to knock his head off. But I have to speak to him. Do you mind if I wait here for him? I hear that all Death Knights eventually pass through this place.”

“Well, this is not a holiday camp. I’d mind a lot less if you made yourself useful.” Vadu paused a second, looking Stetson up and down, assessing his worth in a fight. “There’s this bunch of Trolls that have sided with the Scourge. Could you explain to them why they shouldn’t have?”

Stetson looked down by his side, at Morgan, out to where Stefan Vadu indicated, then back at the Death Knight.

“Certainly.”

They were tall, but they slouched. In their long, gangling arms were axes and swords. They had long noses like beaks and fangs protruded from their mouths. In short, they were Trolls and they had spotted Stetson. There were five of them.

“Morgan, attack!”

Stetson’s polar tiger growled, and charged in, weaving and dodging his way through the weapons of the Trolls as he fought. Stetson focused his magic, and let fly his arrows. One by one, the enemies fell to arrow, tooth and claw. The fight ended as quickly as it began, and Stetson cast spells of healing on Morgan, little though they were needed. The spells complete, Stetson’s big hand scratched Morgan between the ears.

“Well done, boy. Now let’s see what they are carrying.”

With a healthy dose of distaste, Stetson turned over the bodies of the Trolls. Their weapons were not well made, even to Troll standards, as far as Stetson was any judge. They had very little in the way of armour, either. Leather jerkins. Useless against terrorshaft arrows. Only one thing interested him. The leader of the group was wearing a necklace. It was quite intricately made, and almost certainly not of Troll origin. As Stetson took it, he could feel the slight tingle in his fingers that told him this necklace was enchanted in some way. He was almost tempted to try it on, but the effect of the gems on it made it look like the thing was dripping with blood. It was unlikely to be nice and wholesome, so he put it in his pack. Maybe his new Death Knight friend would be able to tell him what it was.

Morgan was sitting next to him. The Boss’ backpack was open. Obviously, that was so the Boss could get out something nice and feed it to him. Stetson laughed, and did as he was told. Morgan couldn’t talk, of course, but who needs to talk if you can project images of starving kittens straight into your master’s mind?

“Come on, boy. More Trolls to catch. Play it right, and there may be some boar in it for you.”

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