Same cliff, different campfire

Looking down to the campfire on top of a cliff, Shalkis' eyes flared up when she saw the halfblood. After all he's done.. All that he is.. And even the Berserker somehow sedated.. I ought to kill them all right here, right now!

"Failing sso eassily in de purging? Dissappointing. The purging of Vengeance with the dwarvessss went so well. And you are sstill getting caught in your own web. Are you a fly or a sssspider?"

Shalkis crawled away from the ledge and turned to face Slayrith, whose mandibles were just inches away from her face. He has a habit of barging into her thoughts at the most inconvinient moments.

"A spider! I can leave my past behind."

"All of it?"

Slayrith gently nudged the Mageroyal flower in Shalkis' hair, peeking from her cowl.


"Female sspiderss have no troubless with thingss like thesse."


"It isss not sso bad. You would make him happy for the resst of hisss life. That iss more than mosst mortalss can ever hope for. It would be an act kindnesss, not of cruelty."

"I know what they do. Would the Spider Queen be as kind after she heard what happened to Hir'eek's Aspect and who is to blame for it?"


"I think she.."

"Have it your way then, ssneaky troll!"

Slayrith skittered a few feet away from Shalkis. She was smiling behind her mask. This was the first time when Slayrith could not find the words.

"I'll let the halfbreed live. He is irrelevant. So, what now?"


"Is the little spider all tangled up in his own web?"


"Fine. I'll do the purging of Fear myself."

Shalkis stood up and patted the dirt off her robes. From her backpack, she removed a small whistle with elaborate engravements. She blew the whistle. It would not matter now whether they heard her or not.

"You do know all about corruption, don't you?"

Shalkis slowly faded back into view behind Rhashan. A small device on her belt hummed for a second, and then turned silent. She was clad in blue and gold from head to toe. The twin snakes were nowhere to be seen in her attire. Her hair was covered by a hood, and her face was covered by a mask, leaving only her eyes visible. Her eyes were calm, serene, unfocused. She did not look into anyone in general. Her voice also seemed different, as if there was no emotion in her.

"Was it not you who was captured by the elves?"

"Was it not you who attacked a fellow troll?"

"Was it not you who was cast out by the Emperor?"

"Was it not you who returned with Meezil Kree?"

Shalkis started to slowly circle around the trolls gathered around the campfire.

"The rumours are true. There was someone trying to corrupt the Empire. The Emperor knew this. But someone was whispering into his ear, filling him with doubts, fears, paranoia."

"This is not the first time this has happened. Or the second. Or the third. There was once a being that fought evil wherever it was. Faced by the enormity of his task, his mind was filled with doubts. And when victory was already near, he could not take it any longer. He released his enemies and joined them."

"There was also a mortal that had sworn to fight the evil that was tormenting his people. But the evil was strong, and the futility of his task was too much for him. He too, joined the darkness at his hour of victory."

"Outraged by this mortal's defection, his comrades swore to fight the evil with all they got. Furious were their blows, and relentless were they in their pursuit of evil. In their vigilance, they attacked even the smallest hints of evil."

"But their paranoia was justified. Evil was already within them. To this day, they think to fight the evil when nobody else seems to care. When everybody else seems to be corrupt, ignorant, or both. But they do not see who is whispering to their ears. The evil they were sworn to fight."

"So let's end the history lesson and return to present day. The champion of our people has left at the hour of victory, when Hakkar himself was almost at striking distance. Disgusted by the corruption he sees, he has formed a new force to fight the Qiraji. But who is whispering to his ear now?"

Shalkis stopped, once again behind Rhashan.

"Perhaps it is the trolls' time to gaze into the Abyss. Perhaps the history needs to repeat itself once more. Perhaps the next crushing defeat at the eve of victory will be the last one required."

With those words, Shalkis turned around, and started walking towards Windclaw, who was waiting on the cliff.

The Spider and the Serpent

Despite having planned this for months, Shalkis still felt uneasy. The swamp looked darker than usual, and even the moon looked paler. In the dim light, the Pool of Tears seemed to have a faint crimson hue. How much blood was actually spilled here? Shalkis looked around, her companions were supposed to be somewhere around here. She tugged on Windclaw's harness, and he sprang into action. With almost playful grace, he hopped from one patch of ground to the other, and then into another. He was happy, not knowing that he could not follow the mistress on this hunt.

After circling the pool, Shalkis found what she was looking for. Bumptious, Eire, Skanda and an unknown troll were next to a fresh carcass of a green dragonkin. Skanda and the other troll were arguing about scales and hides. Killing mere dragonkin did not interest Shalkis. She was after bigger prey, Hakkar. Yeh'kinya had told about a way to capture the Blood God and had instructed her to find a special egg in Jintha'Alor. Shalkis had retrieved the egg, but Yeh'kinya's lies were transparent. All trolls in Tanaris that did not serve Hakkar were either driven to exile or slain if caught. She had held on to the egg for months, not knowing what to do with it. The Dreamer's brood was watching over the Temple, so there was no immediate danger. But then the Emerald Menace appeared, as a sign that Ysera was losing, and Hakkar's prison was starting to buckle. She could not delay any longer. Hakkar had to be brought back and slain for good, before he could infect the Dream for good.

Skanda and the other troll, who had introduced himself as Blackjin had finished their "negotiation". Shalkis did not trust Blackjin, but she had no choice. Shalkis climbed down from Windclaw's back and shooed him to the dark swamp. He would manage. He always has. The five trolls dived into the black pool and swam towards the temple. Hakkar had been brought here by the trolls, and it was about time that mistake was corrected.

At the temple, Shalkis let Slayrith, her pet spider and conduit to Shadra crawl off her back and to the ground. Slayrith cared little about the Atai, trolls or even Hakkar, but he cared about releasing the Spider Queen from Hakkar's grasp. Carefully, he skittered along the moss-covered corridors with the trolls following close behind him. After countless corridors and winding passages, fighting beasts, the dead and the living Atai, the five trolls and the spider finally stood in a large chamber, lit by four great braziers. In the center of the chamber lies Hakkar, or what's left of his physical form. A pile of dried bones, surrounded by a ring of candles. The others had been chatting, joking and bragging about mundane things during their fights in the temple, while Shalkis had stayed silent. Noticing her silence, Blackjin asked:

"Does the Empire know what you are about to do here?"

"It matters not.", Shalkis spoke, more to herself than to him. "I have to see the face of my enemy. There is no time." She stood up and walked into the ring, knocking over a few of the candles in the process. The binding was failing, what does a few candles matter now? To catch the biggest of preys, Shalkis needed a good bait. Offering freedom to the greedy Blood God would do. She lifted the egg into the air, and it slowly floated up from her hand. The ritual had began, and there was no turning back. Slayrith quietly moved towards the closest wall and started to climb it, looking for a safe vantage point.

The lines of the great summoning circle, as well as six smaller ones were quickly drawn with sickly green light. The whole chamber was glowing, and it would not take long for the dragonkins to notice what was happening. The clanking of their heavy armors already echoed in the corridors. The Circles began pulsing slowly, then quickening the pace, almost like a heart starting to beat again.

Threads of the green light began to spiral up in the small summoning circles, forming into snakes. As expected, the Blood God sent his minions to the slaughter. The weak reptiles were no match for the well-trained trolls. Snake blood stained the floor, but instantly vaporized whenever it hit the lines of the summoning circle. It didn't take long for the Blood God to become impatient and send one of his sky serpents. With a furious cleave, Bumptious decapitated the serpent and turned it into a short-lived fountain of blood. Some of the blood fell into one of the braziers, extinguishing it.


"The flames! Extinguish the flames with their blood!", somebody shouted. Six more snakes appeared, but the group was prepared. Protected by Blackjin's shields, Bumptious and Skanda rounded the snakes up while Eire was busy with a new flying serpent, dodging it's clumsy attempts to decapitate her. As soon as the snakes were all together, Shalkis lifted her arms and summoned a hailstorm of ice. The cold-blooded reptiles could do nothing but die in the storm.

"No! You must not awaken the master!"

Shalkis turned around. The strong voice belonged to a dragonkin, one of Ysera's brood. But did he just call Hakkar "master"? This was enough proof that Hakkar was too strong for Ysera's brood to handle. Hakkar was spreading the corruption from within the Emerald Dream. The nightmares of Naralex the druid should have been a good enough clue that the Dream was in danger. But the elves did nothing. After all, it was just orcs and tauren who were dying from the nightmares made flesh. Naralex's mission of mercy to the Barrens had been twisted into an attempt to spread the corruption. If Hakkar was what the elves dreamt of, no wonder that the elves allow the corruption to spread. In the Wailing Caverns, and in the festering boil known as Maraudon. The elves could not be trusted to clean up this mess. Our mess. We had called Hakkar here, and we had trusted his venomous words in our hour of need. There was no hesitation in Shalkis' voice. The Soulflayer must be torn from the Dream before it was too late.

"The dragons have been corrupted by Hakkar! Kill them! Kill them all! Don't let them stop the ritual!"

The five trolls swarmed the surprised dragonkin before he even could lift his hand. Meanwhile, Eire was finished with the serpent, and poured it's blood over the next brazier.


"Good! Two more!" But Skanda was already way ahead of her, forcing one of the serpents to retreat towards the brazier. With a thundering blow, he knocked the serpent into the flames. The foul beast screamed and tried to desperately fly away from the flames, but was stopped by a wave of shadow energy, coming from Blackjin's hands.


"Come further, said the spider to the fly." The ground was littered by the corpses of snakes. Hakkar would not see the trap until it was too late. Shalkis heard a hiss behind her, and before she could turn around, a pair of fangs dived deep into her shoulder. Poison! Her strength was dwindling fast.

"Not.. yet!"

She felt the poison numbing her upper body, racing towards her heart. Her vision began to fade. She though of her beloved Dun Morogh, and she felt the gentle embrace of the frost. Flowing through her veins, covering her skin, draping her in a protective blanket. For a few seconds, she dreamt of home. Her parents.




The booming voice of the Soulflayer awakened her. The prey has arrived. The false god who caused the downfall of the first Empire. The tyrant who saw us as food. The one who turned trolls agains their own kin, against their own families, against themselves.

The avatar of Hakkar towered above them, yet there was no fear. The curse that has plagued the trolls must end right here, right now. The empty cavity in Hakkar's chest reminded what would happen to the fallen. Their spirits would serve the Soulflayer forever, helping to harvest more and more souls. Hakkar would not just defeat his foes, he would use their strength to feed himself. To spread his curse to others.

"For the Empire!"

"Kill the Soulflayer!"

"The curse of blood ends now!"

"Blood, fire, death!"

Before Shalkis could do anything, Skanda, Bumptious and Eire were already fighting for their lives. No, souls. She and Blackjin stayed behind, firing their spells whenever they saw an opening. But the Soulflayer showed no signs of being injured, or wounded. Shalkis kept throwing her frostbolts, but she could feel her powers dwindling. Five mortals, against a God. What was she thinking? No! She had called the Soulflayer. She had insisted on going here. She held the Egg. Suddenly, she heard a familiar voice in her head. The voice of the Emperor.

"Pinkskins are marching north. The Empire will meet them in battle. I order everyone to rally to Undercity."

"Emperor, but.."

"That is an order, Atai."

Disobeying the Emperor is treason. As an Atai, she was supposed to be absolutely loyal to Him. But the Soulflayer cannot be allowed to live. Returning him to the Dream was impossible now. She cennot disobey the Emperor, but she cannot allow the Soulflayer to remain here. Shalkis looked at the others. They were still fighting, with no doubt in their faces. The Emperor had not contacted them, expecting that Shalkis would bring them with her. There was no need to tell them yet. The Emperor was just a man. Destroying the Soulflayer is more important than Him, or the war. Or the Empire itself. And with those thoughts, she had already betrayed her wows.

Shalkis lifted her arms up and tapped into the Nether. This was always risky, but there was no time. Her comrades were beginning to tire. Soon one of them would fall and the Soulflayer would be strengthened. Pure tendrils of pure power from the Nether swirled around her, focusing on her hands. Just a bit more.. There!

"The Soulflayer falls today! The day of redemption is here! Hold your ground!"

Shalkis continued her barrage against the Soulflayer's exposed back, hitting him with frostbolts. Again. And again. And again. He won't notice what is happening until it was too late. The fight had finally turned to the trolls' favor, and Hakkar was getting worn down by the trolls' fury. Blow by blow, spell by spell, the Soulflayer was pushed back toward the ring of candles, towards the Egg.


Eire, Bumptious and Skanda ran out of the ring. Shalkis began chanting, and the circle pulsed again one more time, and faded into darkness. Sudden gusts of wind blew out the ring of candles. The chamber was completely dark, except for the Egg, glowing in the middle of the room. Hakkar finally realized what was going on, and tried to escape the ring. But the pull of the Egg was too strong. His spirit was sucked out from his bony avatar, and into the Egg. The egg pulsed one more time. The Avatar's bones dropped to the floor, clattering harmlessly. The Egg fell too, but Shalkis was there to catch it.

"The Soulflayer is contained, for now. He is not dead. We are done here. The Emperor awaits us."

Shalkis moved away from the ring, and took out a rune from her pocket. She began chanting, holding the rune in her hand. The reality around her seemed to twist inwards, pulling the dim light from her hands towards one point. Shalkis uttered the final words of the incantation, and the point expanded, showing one of the ziggurats of the Undercity. After everyone else had stepped through, Shalkis looked one more time a the skeleton of the Avatar.

"I hope he did not cause too much damage."

With that thought, she stepped through the portal.

Deeper in the temple, a dragon dreamt of terrible things..

Surpassing the Master

Scholomance, the home of the Lich.

She had read so much about him. On how the brilliant alchemist and sorceror from Stromgarde heard the call. On how he tirelessly worked for years to complete the incantations and preservation fluids. How nobody paid heed to exactly what the mage was doing in his tower. On how he was carefully tying up loose ends, erasing any record of himself. Living, written or otherwise.

She had heard how he had walked to the ruined city of Stratholme to meet his king. She had heard of the blessed ground. She had heard on how he had stepped inside the circle and knelt down. On how he had cut his own throat and.. smiled. On how his spirit had shrugged off his flesh like an unneeded coat. On how he attained power unimaginable.

And now she was about to meet him. Ras Frostwhisper the lich. Ras Frostwhisper, the master alchemist. Ras Frostwhisper, who had unknowingly been her mentor for some time now. Shalkis had learned all there was to know of this careful plotter. She had uncovered things about his past. Things that would come crashing down on the lich. It was time the apprentice surpassed the master. She pulled the great doors open.

Frostwhisper's laboratory was indeed a sight. Half-finished .. things in jars. Assistants monitoring various experiments. The room reeked strongly of embalming fluids. The smell was everpresent in the School of the Dead, but in here it was almost intoxicating. And there, at the back of the chamber, was the alchemist himself, deep in thought in yet another experiment. His legs were nowhere to be seen. His skull and bones of his hands were still intact, but were licked by unnatural blue flames. He still wore his robe. The colors were faded, but the intricate wards and incantations were still barely visible. Around his chest and lower body, if he had one, were two interwoven sets of chains. They rotated slowly around him. Shalkis had heard of chains like these before. Warlocks used chains like these with enchants to enslave demons. But.. these were different. She could detect no magic on them. And Ras had chosen lichhood willingly. There was no need to bind him. Then she understood.

Ras Frostwhisper's body, if that it could be called, was held together by the power of his will alone. But that was not enough. The lich wanted also to show that this was no feat to him. The chains were a mental exercise to him. He could manipulate every link of the chain as he wanted. He had to maintain the concentration at all times. It was time to give the lich something to think about.

The assistants were eliminated quickly and quietly by her comrades. The lich continued to work. She stepped closer to him.

"I had been expecting you. His Highness has always use for apt pupils.", the lich said without turning. "But you have much to learn. Shed that flesh and sit. I will start the lesson soon."

"I dinna come here to learn, deadie. I've learnt much about ya, Ras Frostwhisper. Tings dat ya have forgotten. It is time for de pupil to surpass de teacher."

"And what I have forgotten?"

"A ting from yer past."

She held up a tattered and a singed book. The lich turned around.

"What is that?"

"Someting ya forgot to dispose of properly. Yer journal. Now let me give ya a lesson on de folly of forgettin' de past."

She opened the book. The chains clattered to the cold stone floor.

The lich wailed in agony. He lunged at Shalkis, who was keeping the open book open towards him. Just before his sharp fingers reached the book, they were deflected. The lich continued hacking away at the glowing shield. The shield grew dimmer and dimmer, until a sickly green beam shot from the opened book. Ras Frostwhisper looked at himself.


It was a human voice. Ras Frostwhisper the lich was no more. Grins spread on her comrades' faces. Except for one. Rhaeven Blackwood stood still in amazement.

To his credit, Ras Frostwhisper was no less deadly as a human. He held his ground for several minutes against the five. But fall he did. His battered and partially frozen body lied on the stone floor.

"I need his head."

The orc nodded and lifted his battleaxe. It fell effortlessly through the flesh and bone. Shalkis grabbed the head from it's hair and started walking towards the door.

"Thiss was quite.. interessting. There iss ssome loossse threadss I need to tie up ass well.", Rhaeven spoke, more to himself than to the others.

"Dere are many odder masters in here dat need lessons. Let's continue."