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|Guild||Bloodforged, formerly of the Greymountain Magical Research Complex|
|Build||slim, but showing signs of formerly heavier musculature seeing less use than it once did|
|Eyes||Either blue or brown. Most of the people who’d be able to be sure which is fake are deceased, and the only one who’d know now besides her isn’t saying anything.|
|Current Residence||Dalaran, home again, albeit by a roundabout route|
- "I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I know which end of a staff is which. One end goes up that festering bitch’s ass until she chokes on it. Hold the other."
- —Bernita, on inter-warlock diplomacy.
A blond man in silver-trimmed purple robes, with the hood pulled up to conceal all features save his protruding facial topiary, made his way through the streets of Dalaran. His movements were measured, careful, sudden streaks of unfollowable motion between half-minute periods of nonchalant lounging. As he approached the wall surrounding the floating city, he faded from sight entirely, light passing through his very flesh without the slightest alteration of its course. So hidden, he reached his peculiar destination. Not all of the great city of Dalaran was successfully extracted from the foothills near Hillsbrad. The surviving buildings upon the floating island had been walled in for some additional protection, and of course, to reduce the risk of someone taking a habitual path from days of old and finding it now a long walk on a short path, made easy by an unprecedented downhill component. Those few scraps of city that were outside the wall, those for one reason or another not included in the new city, were usually ignored, like scabs at which one is terrified to pick. This man made his way to one such now, one of the great houses of Dalaran had all but died out well before the third war, and their manor had crumbled into the abyss. But one piece of their property remained, in the provenance of the last descendant, as did the building upon it. On a tiny corner of the island sat a neglected outhouse, and this was the target of the seeker’s pilgrimage.
He entered. He pushed back his hood to peer more carefully at the wooden seat. Some mischievous trap would be eminently expectable from his host. He sat. He remained sitting.
“Damn. Does this thing have a password?”
The floor unlatched, and he found himself now to be seated upon an elevator whisking him downwards. Logically he knew that the only feasible destination, unless he was about to be ejected into the upper atmospheres of Northrend, was somewhere in the Dalaran Sewers. As a result, when it came to a stop, he was surprised to find himself looking out into a significantly well-appointed workshop and domicile, in which a firey redheaded woman wearing a heavy grey robe with an upturned scarlet V on the back sat at a table with her back to him, poring zealously over some notes. Normally in such a situation his first response would be to criticize the lack of security in putting one’s back to the entrance, but for the looming presence of the felguard standing just to his left. He tried to ignore the fact that the felguard had saluted him. He didn’t really know what to make of it.
He got off the crapper, and strode forth, “Well,” he began, “when you said you’d secured facilities on your family’s old property, I can’t say I expected this...”
The woman put down her papers and turned towards him with a whimsical smirk and raised eyebrow, “What, Rohnin? You expected a distillery mounted in a closet and a pocket notebook again?”
He suppressed a sigh. There were a very small number of people who got away with addressing him so informally these days, and he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted this woman on that list. Still, there were... considerations. “No Bernita, I suppose not, though how did you manage to get all this set up?”
“Magic,” she grinned. Then before he could work himself into a fit interrogating her as to what sort of spells, she relented, “Specifically, the sort of magic performed by wandering into the engineers’ crafthall and speaking the incantation, ‘I have a large bag of gold of which the future owner is yet to be determined.’ “
Rohnin frowned briefly, then rallied, “That’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about. You’ve been spending gold quite freely of late. This,” he gestured expansively around them, “cannot have been cheap, and the battlemaster tells me you recently bought a set of Gladiator’s Plate? Are you considering a career change back away from magic?” He tried not to let the hope show through in his voice, she’d been an excellent fighter in her youth, and she was a better warlock now, but she’d come to that path by a dark route, and obsessed with vengeance was hardly the safest mindset in which to consort with demons.
“Nah, they’re for Otto once I figure out precisely what measurements they need to fit.”
Rohnin blinked in shock, “You put that much gold into getting armour for your felguard?”
“I take care of my team, and they take care of me. Why wouldn’t I want the one who’s going to be taking the pummelling for me to have the best armour I can get them?”
“Because they can’t actually be killed, just kicked into the twisting nether until you resummon them?”
“Most of my teachers at this stuff would agree with you. Which is why they have to deal with being constantly on the lookout for struggle against their control and betrayal, and I can give a fairly vague order and expect the intent, rather than the specific verbiage, to be understood and acted upon.” She paused, looking briefly thoughtful, “Most of the time, anyway. I like my way better.”
“Regardless, how are you funding all this? Though I reinstated your employment with one of the Kirin Tor’s research subsidiaries, we haven’t-“
She cut him off, “Given me any work?”
He blanched, “That... isn’t how I was going to put it, but yes.”
“Partially the fact that my family had a fair amount squirreled away in one of this city’s bank vaults before we got blown up, but also an independent grant. Attempting to increase the caramelization component of fire magics for some reason. The writ showed up in the mail with a sizeable amount of gold and the mild ultimatum of ‘the chezburgar is watching you.’ “
“Outside grants are a violation of your contract, you know.”
“Yes, but I wouldn’t have to if you’d even look at my proposals. I really think that they would prove to be formidable weapons against the Forsaken.”
“Them too.” When he sighed she moved to change the subject, “I’m going to have some tea, would you like some too?”
Rohnin grimaced briefly at the sudden shift and the gnashing gears in his mind trying to keep up. Tea would probably be a good thing. “Yes please, no sugar though.” And of course when Bernita got up, maybe once for old times’ sake...
She waved one hand in the felguard’s direction, a glowing circle of the mystical equivalent of fine print encircling it’s feet, “Otto, kick Lamaar in the face until he spills the beans on what he’s planning this time, then put a stop to it.”
Rohnin had been discomfited by the salute before. It was nothing in comparison to the felguard’s disappearance being preceded by a gaudy bow and a huge, ‘I’m going to love this’ grin. The circle, however, remained. “That doesn’t sound much like taking care of your team to me.”
“Lamaar isn’t part of the team, he’s barely useful enough to avoid a de-beaking.
The circle flared, ribbons of purple light dancing in the air briefly before opening and vanishing, leaving one of Bernita’s other familiars behind. “Companion, be a dear and get two cups of tea on, and fetch those biscuits as well.”
He stared. And stared. “That...” he trailed off, and then rallied, trying again, “That is...” he fumbled for words, eventually finishing ineptly, “That is not armour.”
Bernita practically purred, her eyes turned firmly towards the small kitchen, “No, it’s much more useful than that.”
“I’m worried about you, Bernita. You know how risky fel magic is ordinarily, and you’re getting far too deeply... involved with your familiars. Don’t forget what they are!”
“What they ARE is my team. They trust me, and I trust them, each with good reason.”
“Right until that succubus you’re so casual about rips your soul out!”
“No, she can’t do that. Or any number of... other things, without my express, and explicit instruction. Which reminds me...” Rohnin watched in fascination and horror as Bernita rummaged in one of the bags near her chair and withdrew a purple crystal which contained a sickly, pulsing glow and looked at it carefully. He closed his eyes when she drew back her arm and lobbed it across the room, “Eat the scarlet crusader, dear.”
He kept his eyes closed, though the soft sizzling sound was enough for him to visualize the crystal becoming naught but dust, as what was once a living soul, oh fine, a soul enthralled by Mal’Ganis, but still a human soul ceased to exist upon landing in the succubus’s gloved palm.
“You go too far, Bernita!” he shouted.
“How so? Even you, when you go into the field anymore these days, strip any valuables from those you kill to line your own pockets. He tried to stick an axe in me, I think that frees me of any obligations to the sanctity of his person.”
He forced himself to try to calm down, “Bernita, please, I know I’ve made... concessions in allowing you more free reign than I really should in the name of our friendship, but you really need to take serious consideration on what you’re doing, or you’re going to force me to do something I don’t want to do.”
He missed the hardening of her voice, “I don’t recall anyone ever being able to stop you from doing whatever you wanted, Rohnin, and our friendship mostly consisted of you trying to pinch my rear through platemail while I escorted you on inspection tours.”
He backpedalled, “There, there was more than that...”
“And the real reason for your ‘concessions’ is that you don’t want to explain to the rest of The Six the utter fiasco of the Greymountain complex, and don’t want me to have any incentive to talk about it.”
“Even if that were true, there’d be more than one way to silence you!” Though he shouted this, he quickly quailed, as the succubus was suddenly standing right beside him. Even though all she was holding a silver tea-tray, it was reminder enough that while he could certainly overpower Bernita in a straight up fight, his magery against her skills as a warlock, the last thing she would permit him was a straight-up fight in her own house.
“I’m not the only survivor, Rohnin.”
“Yes, but the former Janice Lichen doesn’t remember any of it.”
She laughed, spilling her tea, he noted idly that the succubus cleaned it up, then gave Bernita the second cup as well even though it was going to be his, “You’re slipping, Rohnnie. I’d never call THAT a survivor. I killed her myself, even if she did get back up later.”
“Do you remember Gor’Dahn Freewind? The shaman from the internment camps? Used to beat you consistently at Three-Card Alterac when you weren’t cheating?”
“Shama- you mean the orc?”
She rolled her eyes, “Yes, ‘the orc.’ Who you might recall was actually a senior researcher in his own right by the time things went critical.”
“What about him?” He was more than a little irritated with Bernita’s games by this point. “My sources haven’t found anything to indicate he’s around.”
“He’s known as Gor’Dahn Barfist now, he’s one of Thrall’s advisors, having won a great deal of respect from Oggrimar’s diplomatic community when he replaced his severed hand with a tool rather than the more traditional route of putting axes on his axes. We keep in touch regularly. One might almost go so far as to say... scrupulously.”
Rohnin was capable of taking a hint, “In short, if communication from one of you does not occur, the other will make... difficulties?”
“He offers me a shade more protection in that regard simply because Warchief Thrall would be... upset to lose one of his advisors.”
“That’s a very paranoid arrangement.”
“I spent the seven years working security for my great uncle at the complex, and most of the Third War guarding Southshore. I like things,” he’d have missed her brief, lingering glance over the succubus if he wasn’t watching for it, “secure.”
Rohnin sighed, he knew he wasn’t going to make any progress in this arguement today, “You’re absolutely sure of their loyalty then?”
“Overall? They get more of what they want. More chance to cause pain and death, more spirits to devour, and for the most part, I treat them better than the Legion ever did or ever would have. They’d always have to obey someone, why not me?”
“For the most part?”
“Lamaar. He fails to be pragmatic enough to cooperate willingly, so why should he have the privileges such would earn?”
“So that’s all it is? You think that you’re perpetually secure as ‘the high bidder’? Don’t you realize they’ll betray you as soon as they get a better offer?”
“I concede that’s a bit of a risk with Wrench, or possibly Sonic Bomber,” Bernita paused, noting Rohnin’s confusion, “my voidwalker, and felhound, you haven’t been introduced yet. But Otto absolutely adores me, apparently to them the function of armour is entirely a display of rank, and as far as he’s concerned I’ve appointed him grand highlord over my armies.”
“Your armies.” Rohnin said it flatly, in an almost unfriendly tone.
“Don’t give me that. Mostly it just means he bosses around Wrench and Sonic Bomber in my void pocket, and kicks Lamaar in the face. Which is exactly what I want him to do, so it all works out.”
He sighed, “And the succubus?”
“The name I chose for my Companion has proven... precise. I will never be in danger from her. Really, Rohnin, is this necessary? You used to trust me with your life, can’t you see to trusting me with mine?”
“Just be careful, Bernita. Fine, yes, part of it is about wanting Greymountain’s secrets to stay buried, but I do consider you a friend.”
General Information and BackgroundEdit
Born into the wealthy Greymountain family of Dalaran, Bernita led a comparatively sheltered childhood. Growing up with the foresight to simply chose more manual tasks upon failing to discovery any significant facility with magic, it never had the stigma or resentment of being forced upon her. As the only member of her family with any significant facility with a blade, when the Kirin Tor agreed to permit the construction of a specialized secret research facility some time after the end of the Second War, Bernita was the obvious choice to lead and form the security department when her great uncle Breen founded the Greymountain Complex in northern Alterac.
Admittedly, those warriors of Dalaran who used steel above spells were a small, and largely close-knit group, though not so much so that absolute trust could be maintained for those who worked, and lived, inside the complex, rather than the miniscule village built up to support it. It left the Dalaranian Army a little underpopulated in the fresh recruit department when some fourty-odd of their keenest young stabbers suddenly disappeared, but it was rare that Dalaran faced any sort of military threat.
Many of those who were involved in the construction of the complex would’ve objected to its purpose, had they known it. And with good reason, few in the Alliance would be keen to plumb the depths of that deep darkness, what wreaked havoc enough while forced to skulk beneath the shadows, to give unto it a place in which it would be sought in earnest, with all the resources that could be made available. To undertake a Renaissance of the Warlock.
While not quite so blunt as to include on the pre-employment questionnaire, “Do you think there could be beneficial uses of demon summoning? [Yes/No] (circle one)” anyone leaning to the right on that particular issue who was not otherwise replaceable would do most of their work in the outer complex, primarily focused on developing and maintaining the wards and shields meant to keep the secret work adhering to that adjective. Oh, and of course preventing leakage of the dangerous experimental magics into the surrounding environment. Don’t drink the water, really.
The iterations of secrecy continued, until only the most critical and trusted people were allowed into the deep recesses where the real heart of the work went on. Bernita and a childhood friend by the name of Otto were the only conventional security allowed that far, Bernita as chief, responsible for checking all the areas, and Otto, who stayed down there at Lambda level. Though Bernita patrolled everywhere, except when things were going wrong if was down at Lambda level where she lived and spent most of her time. Not out of any sense of egotism or rank, but actually from laziness, there being no need to guard one’s tongue in a situation where anyone, simply by being there without a sword at the back of their neck, automatically was cleared for anything they might be inclined to discuss. As such, it developed into a rather tight social group, as people who never see anyone else ever are often inclined to do, though the complex thankfully offered enough space for those individuals who did not cohabitate well to avoid each other.
Aside from Bernita herself and Otto, there was of course her great uncle, Breen Greymountain, a distinguished mage of some fifty years of age, driven by the horrors of the second war to seek whatever weapons his people could lay hold of in case the interned orc population were to rise and threaten the alliance again. Though well motivated, his zeal in his self-appointed quest was such that it would draw worried exclamations from those around him, if not for the fact that they knew it was not worth provoking his displeasure. Though he founded the complex, his contributions to the actual research were minimal, though his former expertise in advancing normal magery provided him the leverage to procure all but the most exotic of supplies legitimately, and the expertise to procure the most exotic ones anyway.
The head researchers were a pair of gnomes, Arnold Magnetron and Elijah Vents. Elijah was on the affectionate side, taking on a paternal role with anyone who’ll tolerate it. He was mercurial in temperament, happy to laugh off others’ mistakes more readily than his own. However, it only took a few days before everyone on Lambda level was tired of his story explaining his swarthy tones as having been caused by a workshop mishap when he was three and attempting to design an automated tattoo engine to sell to the trolls. It was never revealed that it was the only one of his lengthy, rambling comedic stories which was in truth unembellished fact.
Arnold was a study in contrast with Elijah, being a n unhealthily large gnome, possessed of no sense of humour which could be perceived by eye or scry (both were tried), possessed of a viciously sadistic temperament, delighting in the small barb slung repeatedly, horrendously possessive of his time and even the most minor of belongings, prone to instigate attacks over the most miniscule of slights, real or imagined. Bernita shared something of an antagonistic relationship with him, as he did not share her conviction that the fastest way to stop most altercations in Lambda level was to smack him across the top of the head with the flat of her sword, an action which eventually she began to undertake PRIOR to ascertaining whether or not he was involved, just to save time.
The last member of the intended staff of Lambda level was a human mage by the name of Janice Lichen, who, unbeknownst to anyone but herself, Breen, and Bernita, had in fact been the one to propose the project to Breen Graymountain in the first place. Her eagerness in the research was utterly unmatched, and she treated the experimentation possessively, as though believing she herself would be the preeminent wielder of whatever power they discovered.
The complex got into the habit of requisitioning orcish prisoners from the nearest internment camp for use as test subjects, as the welfare of invaders from another world was hardly their concern, and they were therefore a readily expendable resource. The fifteenth such subject was a shaman by the name of Gor’Dahn Freewinds. Initially slated to simply be placed in a chamber which would be flooded with fel energies until he died, and then he would be autopsied and dissected, when the experiment was undertaken, he simply clasped his hands together, conjuring by way of some few sticks no one had bothered to confiscate, a barrier which appeared to protect him near totally from the ill effects of the radiation. His decision to follow this by opening his robes and aiming the sort of pelvic thrust that only an orc can achieve at the observation window earned him Janice’s undying hatred, especially as she was then overruled in her order to have him executed, as Breen agreed with Elijah’s supposition that clearly he knew a number of things about demons which they did not.
Briefly transitioning simply to oft-interrogated prisoner, Gor’Dahn soon joined the team as a researcher himself, believing simply that it would be most assuredly in line with the will of the elements to try to keep the humans from making “Really Big Zug Zug” out of their forays into the usage of demonic entities. However, his initial status as a prisoner and subject, not to mention Janice and Arnold preferring if he died, rather limited his choices in who he could relax around. Bernita eventually suggested their card games would be more interesting with a fourth, and it turned out that Gor’Dahn was so scrupulously honest that his presence managed to curb some of Elijah’s sleight of hand while they were playing cards, if not his drinking.
A Very Bad DayEdit
Their regular rambles with Elijah and Gor’Dahn led to Bernita and Otto to know a fair amount more about the details of the research than they technically ought, and as such, when one otherwise fine morning Bernita found herself trapped in the airlock between Eta and Theta levels as alarms began to sound, the doors refusing to recognize her as possessing sufficient authority to command them to open, she knew exactly what had occurred.
“Fel cascade. By the makers, Gor’Dahn’s totems were supposed to be able to prevent that!” She forced herself to calm down even as the alarms blared. She had a job to do. Normally, that job consisted of keeping a handful of academics from choking each other to death. But that was secondary. The real reason she was here was that if they ended up tearing a hole in existence, it was her job to go kill anything trying to climb out. But the job came in steps. Step one, getting onto the other side of three and a half tons of enchanted door.
That hadn’t been too hard, the airlocks had maintenance access in case the doors broke down, and while she didn’t have the key on her, she knew which bits didn’t have explosives bolted to them. Step two was a bit more interesting. Not being killed by Unnameable Things with bladed tentacles that bite peoples’ heads off is an activity that few would be particularly blasé about. At least since she was outside them, she could trigger the emergency overrides on the deeper airlocks.
A grisly sight, however, greeted her on the threshold of Lambda level, when the elevator came up, Otto was in it. A glance was all that was needed to make it clear he wasn’t ever getting out. “What took you so long, Bern?” he croaked.
She stepped in, though careful not to step on the parts of the elevator’s floor Otto was occupying, which was most of it. The door closed, and the descent began, “You know how it is,” she sighed, “even when the midden’s hit the windmill and bodies are dropping like flies, a girl’s got to get her hair just-so.” It was a joke she could get away with, since having known each other since shortly after birth, Otto could have vouched for the fact that, saving special occasions, Bernita’s only concession to her hair had been to hack off any that got into her eyes or wouldn’t fit under her helmet, and he’d usually been the one to try to make her ‘presentable’ afterwards.
“We’re in a bad way. Janice attacked me while I was escorting Gor’Dahn to the test chamber, screamed something about some sort of master, and let fly with spells like I’ve never seen. We managed to hide, but then a little while later, all this started happening and Gor’Dahn charged off saying he had ‘debts to pay.’ Was tryin’ to come get you, got spiked before the door closed. In a bad way.”
“It’ll be alright. Got a job to do.”
Otto attempted to chuckle, having it spatter some of the little blood he had left ruined the joke, “Figure you’re gonna just walk in and fix things?”
She tightened her grip on her sword, “Figure I will.”
“Glad to hear it.” He paused, “I-... Nah. S’not the time. If there ever was one, by now I’ve missed it. Do the job, Bernita.” With that said, whatever manic willpower had kept him alive this long exhausted, and life left him.
Bernita closed her eyes and thought. The elevator still had a ways to go. She unbuckled her shield, letting it drop and moving her sword over to that hand, the other reaching to lift Otto’s much larger blade. “You rest well. I’ll finish up for us both.”
The beasts were thicker down here, in individual density, as well as numbers. The walls were marred by strange growths, making the freakish things seem more there, as though existence itself was what they preyed upon, devouring the reality around them to make themselves more real. Bernita moved like a whirlwind, launching herself at her foes, hacking them apart with wild abandon, as though she were simply too outraged for them to be able to touch her. In such a frenzy, she made her way the the observation rooms outside the test chamber, wherein she found a colossal mess of smashed equipment, and Gor’Dahn flailing madly at the door to the chamber, howling in the grips of the sort of blood rage for which the orcs were famed and feared. He was actually hitting it hard enough that he was leaving dents in the thorium, despite hitting it with nothing more than one fist and one stump, from which little flakes of blackened flesh still fell with each blow.
“If you keep that up much longer, my key won’t work.”
He turned, as though about to lunge for her, when he suddenly stopped and calmed, “Bernita? Thank the spirits! I thought I was the only one left! Lichen has taken the bodies of the others in with her!”
“What is she doing?”
“I know not what she has contacted, the foul entity she has sole her soul to, only that the world itself cries out against it. Even if there exists somewhere where this entity is meant to exist, that place is not here!”
“Why didn’t she kill you, then? She hates you more than anyone else.”
Gor’Dahn smiled wanly, “I don’t blame you, in your position, I’d suspect me, too. It’s simple though. She believes that when she brings her master into this world, he will grant her new and greater powers, and wants to save me for that, in case she gains the capacity to suspend a soul in an infinite eternity of pain, or other such options.”
“How do we stop her?”
“I do not know if we can, the energies have grown too strong! It’s foolhardy, but we may have to try to get reinforcements from elsewhere and attack the creature after it has formed.”
She shook him off, and headed for the door. “You do that. I’m going in.”
“That’s foolish! You’re just going to get killed!”
“No. I won’t.”
He stopped, regarding her strangely for a few moments, then grinned, “No, perhaps you will not.” He extended his good hand to place his palm over her collarbone, glowing faintly, “Take what protections an old orc can give you.”
She nodded briefly before opening the door, and then closing it again behind her. She could feel the pressure of something against her, mind, body, and soul, something horrible trying to force its way into her. She ignored it, much to the frustration of an ancient extra-dimensional personification of pure malevolence.
Most of the test chamber was unchanged. The raised walkway on which she now stood was intact, as was most of the monitoring equipment. The centre of the room however had been somehow melted, and twisted into a grotesque altar, on top of which Janice Lichen stood laughing madly as she nurtured a coruscating mass of chaos, spears of energy tethering her to the bodies of Arnold, Elijah, and Breen, each of whom were quite dead, staked firmly to the walls of the chamber.
“You ca~ame,” hissed a voice that was no longer human. “You are too late!”
“I could well be,” Bernita conceded, “but I’m good at making up for lost time.”
“Your pitiful japes will not save you nor this world from my Master’s dominion! In but a few minutes, the Time will be upon us, and I will give my life to bring Him into this plane and be reborn in the Master’s service!”
“But a few minutes? Plenty of time.”
“Hah! Even were you as fast on your feet as that filthy orc you could not make it down here in time!”
Bernita weighted a few numbers in her head, then sighed, why not? She stepped to the edge of the walkway, and raised one leg to step onto the handrail. “You’re not giving your life to anyone, Lichen.”
“Oh? And how do you intend to stop me?” She sneered.
Bernita leapt, raising both weapons high above her head, and screamed, “By taking it myself!” She felt something stroke her stomach, but it didn’t matter, the pain was unimportant next to purpose, or at this point, gravity. At the last moment she swung, strong steel shearing through cloth and flesh and bone, one edge gouging deep into each of Janice’s shoulders, crushing her against the floor.
Janice howled in pain, the voice no longer her own but that of the thing she had sought, it’s cry of agony and loss tearing at Bernita’s sanity as though trying to rip it away. And then it ended. Janice was still, the pressure was gone, as were the spears of light and the nascent portal. Bernita toppled over, the price of a hundred-metre leap making itself felt in her limbs, or more to the point, the limp sacs of bone shards attatched to her shoulders and hips. She was dying. But at least the job was done.
Bernita was not so much surprised to be waking up leaning against one of the pieces of equipment some ways away from the altar as to be waking up at all. As well as waking up staring into a worried, but familiar, orcish face.
“If by that you mean, ‘How come I’m not dead, or at least an entry in the noodle-girl championships?’ Well, sometimes the spirits let we shamans take steps in that regard that are a bit healthier than the necromancy my people are known for in these parts.” He held one finger to his lips and winked, “Shh. Big secret. Besides, did not the Great Sage Ma’ar Phaiy say, ‘Bring you always more bandages than you think you will need, someone will always stick their face in the zugzug’?”
She laughed. It felt good to laugh. “You win. So what do we do now? I’m sure I didn’t kill everything on my way here.”
“Then let’s get out of here before they come for us.”
“Not yet, there’s something I have to do first.” Bernita got unsteadily to her feet, lurching her way back up the altar to where Janice’s broken corpse lay untouched. She crouched briefly, then stood, pocketing something, and coming back down. “Okay, now I’m ready. Here.” She offered him Otto’s axe.
He hesitated, “Are you sure about this?”
“Do you really think that now, if ever, I’d be worried about giving you a weapon just because you’re an orc?”
“No. I was wondering if perhaps you might not want to give that particular weapon to an orc.”
“I’m sure. Besides, I honestly think Otto’d be happy for you to have it. I’m no good with an axe, anyway.”
“I don’t know, you seemed to have the fundamentals down a few minutes ago.”
They made their way slowly up through the catacombs, though the beasts were still present, and vicious, but a lot of the speed and power had gone out of them with the closure of the link to whence they came. Eventually Gor’Dahn asked, “What did you do back there, by the way? To Lichen’s remains, I mean.”
“Gouged out her eyes, and broke the edges of the bone at the back of the sockets.” She said it calmly, as though it were a perfectly normal conversation.
Gor’Dahn blinked in surprise, “Why would you do that?” he asked quietly.
“So that her spirit will be blind.”
He threw back his head, laughing raucously, “So your people DO have some real curses! How long have humans practiced that one?”
Bernita smirked, “About four hours. So I doubt it’ll work.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Gor’Dahn confided, “One of those ancient tidbits of wisdom passed down by the ancestral spirits tells us that, sooner or later, every curse was made up by somebody. That one sounds like a keeper to me.”
“Heh, if you like. I don’t really plan to advertise it.”
“That’s the best way,” he agreed, “if people went around accurately describing their own actions, why, what would historians do tomorrow? Hmm. That looks like natural light. Do you think we’re near the surface?”
“Should be. Can you do that trick you pulled on Delta level when we got swarmed again? The one that made everything feel so easy?”
He gave it some thought, “Probably. You think it’ll be necessary?”
“Have it ready.”
They moved cautiously forward, moving out into the sun. The sight that greeted them was far from pleasant, the village was utterly decimated, though luckily as they moved from house to house dispatching whatever they found, there was no sign the creatures had gone beyond its borders, whether because they could only go so far from their creator, or perhaps they simply felt that the village’s inhabitants were sufficient food for the time being.
After the grisly work was done, Bernita stood, reaching into one pocket and withdrawing a small piece of glass which sparkled unnaturally. She threw it to the ground, shattering it. From the shards a mighty surge burst forth, ribbons of light streaking upwards to dance for some few moments in the sky far above them.
“Pretty,” Gor’Dahn commented, “but I’m not sure I see the point.”
“That’s high enough up for them to see it from Dalaran.”
“You remember Rohnin? From the inspections?”
“Thin, slightly weedy mage with a big ego and no poker face to speak of?”
“Yeah. When he sees that, he’s going to teleport here as soon as he can get ahold of some of the most powerful mages he knows who don’t ask questions, and make this place Not Exist.”
“We should probably be elsewhere then. Will you be going back home, then?”
“To Dalaran? No. I don’t think I’d be terribly welcome there. Maybe I’ll go to Lordaeron. They could always use a few more swords what with their syndicate troubles. And you? The Eastern Kingdoms are hardly a good place to be an orc these days.”
“I’ve no doubt the spirits will guide me somewhere I’ll be kept busy. Here,” he handed her a small, smooth, seemingly unmarked oval stone. “Any message you seal with that stone will be sure to reach me. Keep in touch.”
Bernita accepted the stone carefully, tucking it safely away, “Thankyou, I will. I’m afraid I’ve nothing of the sort to give you in that regard, though.”
He winked, “Somehow I doubt that anyone will ever have difficulty in finding YOU. Fare well!”
And so they went their separate ways.
The Third WarEdit
“Maybe I’ll go to Lordaeron,” began the whinge of a significantly inebriated voice, “They could alwaysh use a few more swordsh.” There was a brief pause. “Gimme ‘nother beer.”
This presaged a period of silence that evening in the Southshore tavern, as those inclined to be their nursed their drinks and their bitterness alone together. Save one.
“FffffuuuUUUAAagh! ...I hate th’ fuggin undead.” The end of the maudlin woman’s tankard brought the beginning of another outcry, which the barman moved to head off without being asked even if this sounded like one the town’s populace was inclined to agree with.
The only person at a seat without a drink rose, shaking with outrage under his cowled robes. “I have heard enough!” he bellowed, striding over to the bar. He reached firmly for the woman’s shoulder, turning her from her drink, “Bernita! Look at yourself!”
“Hoover YOU are you sheem to be lookin’ ‘nuff for ush both!” She yelled blearily, leaping to her feet with an unsteady wobble, “You menfolksh keep finkin’ that jusht because a woman’sh too fuck to drunk that she’ll take ANYBO-“ She was cut off by her absent equilibrium, as she doubled over to vomit mightily all over the man at whom she was yelling. She straightened up a bit more stably. “Shorry, I needed that.” She blinked several times, then squinted, “Oh shit. Shorry Rohnnie.”
Rohnin sighed, looking down at himself. Well, he’d needed some new robes anyway. “It’ll wash out. Mostly.”
“Sho what bringsh you here?”
“You know why.”
Bernita sat back down, cocking her head to one side, “Maybe I’d ‘member if I wash shober, but I’m not.”
“Look at yourself, Bernita, this isn’t you. You’re destroying yourself here, come with me.”
“Come wif you where? Dalaran? It’sh GONE Rohnnie. It’sh a big fuggin HOLE. I let my family die, then went to protect a new place an’ the whole KINGDOM up an’ diesh. Mebbe ‘stroyin myshelf isn’t shuch a bad idea. But DON’ WORRY,” she added, seeing the panic in his eyes, “I’mma do it th’ shmart way, an’ shend a lotta them scourgies on down that path firsht.”
“There’s no point trying to reason with you when you’re like this,” Rohnin mumbled, “I doubt if you’ll even remember in the morning that I was here. Barkeep,” he handed the man several gold pieces, “take care of her, please.”
The bartender looked back and forth between Rohnin and Bernita, saying confusedly, “If you say so...”
Rohnin grabbed his wrist, “No, I meant that the other way. Look, I know there’s not much you can do, just... just... at least make sure she eats as well as drinks, okay?”
He shrugged, “It’s your coin.”
“And now it’s your coin. I’m glad we understand each other.”
Save for Rohnin’s involvement, that night was much like hundreds that had come before, and save that they began to include food even when she didn’t care enough to remember to ask for it, like dozens that would come after. Until something did what no magic had been able, and sobered her up completely. It was a voice.
“Attention, citizens, chattel, and other residents of Southshore, HappyShell Magics Required Testing Procedure requires that at this time you be informed that you have been selected for this test of the Hyper-Cranial Conjural Mutilation Array. Please continue to go about your business normally, as it will not interfere with your imminent deaths.”
“No!” she screamed at the top of her lungs, sprinting from the tavern with a grace and agility that no one present could remember ever having seen from her. “It can’t be!” She stared towards where the voice had come from, where a small attack force was in the process of being soundly routed, but too far off to see any details. She ran towards the town hall.
“Captain! I need to borrow your spyglass!”
“What? What for?”
“There’s no time to explain! Let me have it!”
“Are you mad? It’s irreplaceable!”
“Lend it to me or I’ll kill you, Sir!”
“What? Calm, calm down, it’s not that irreplaceable...” The officer was well aware that while rank had its privileges, surviving a frenzied sword thrust to the face wasn’t one of them.
Bernita ran from the building, holding up the device to peer at the retreating Horde fighters, her whole body trembling with fear and rage, the captain following close behind, worried, to his credit, for one of his soldiers as well as his spyglass. She was thinner, and much to pale to truly be among the living, but having heard that voice, there was no doubt that among those now retreating from a failed attack on Southshore was none other than Janice Lichen, nowhere near as dead as she was supposed to be.
Bernita wailed in frustration and torment, hurling the spyglass from her, which the captain gratefully saw another person catch, screaming at the heavens and clawing at the ground. He recoiled as he saw her suddenly stiffen, and look up with a manic grin, saying only, “If steel could not do the job, then steel is not enough,” before stealing a griffon from the flightmaster, and flying unsteadily off.
Renaissance of the WarlockEdit
The Slaughtered Lamb tavern in the Mages’ Quarter of Stormwind needed a new front door.
It also needed a new cellar door.
A man by the name of Sandahl, however, was aware of neither of these.
He was, however, aware that he needed new pants, and keenly aware of the ragged, manic woman holding him against the wall with a broadsword to his throat. “What do you know?” she screamed at him.
“I don’t know anything about missing pets! Nobody’s sacrificing any household animals!” He stammered in reply.
“What?” her eyes narrowed, clearly this was not the answer she sought, and he suspected that giving this woman answers other than the ones she sought was on the verge of being a terminal sickness.
“You’re not here about the cats?”
“Is that necessary?”
Suddenly light dawned, “Er, sometimes. He tried to cough some dignity back into his voice, “You seek the power condemned by the light, the power to bend darkness to your will?”
“I certainly don’t seek you for your company.” She put him down, and took a step back, “Let’s cut to the chase. You are going to tell me everything you know.”
“You have yet to prove your worthiness even to be the lowliest of students!”
Her eyes flashed dangerously, “You are going to tell me everything you know, because if you don’t, or I even have the slightest suspicions that you’re trying to mislead or betray me, I’m going to take your wand, shove it into one of your orifices at random, and hold it there until I figure out how to work it myself.”
“Oh, er, right. Well, lesson one. Go buy new clothes.”
“Right, hand over your wand and I won’t have to break your fingers, too.”
“No! No! It’s important, really! The pressure of heavy clothing obstructs energy flowing through your body and hinders using magic of any sort, let alone learning it.”
“...Fine. But you’d better believe that I’m going to cut pieces off of you if you try anything.” With that she turned and left, no doubt to return shortly.
Sandahl’s imp, which had done nothing whatsoever to protect his master, rolled his eyes, “Well, at least unlike your -last- student there’s no danger of this one needing a month and a half to work out the fundamentals of ‘tapping the latent dark energies of the human soul.’ “
Bernita was, and remains, particularly brutal to her first demonic thrall, an imp who she has named Lamaar. Lamaar is, in return, utterly shameless in his attempts to subvert her orders at every turn, fighting desperately against her control, to a point. He is over four thousand years old, with all the dignity that entails, but also the knowledge that he has no desire to find out what bernita means by a “de-beaking,” and the fact that a woman who keeps the Explorer’s League Do-It-Yourself Field Surgery Kit With Enchanted Talking Manual (For Beginners) clearly labelled on her person at all times can only be safely pushed so far.
More used to her new path in life, Bernita had substantially less difficulty with Wrench, as she dubbed her voidwalker. He liked twisting nuts off, and so their only real point of contention was his overzealousness in his new duties, and being prone to not just twist nuts off, but to then throw them at the prior owner’s friends in order to attract their attention.
Bernita did not summon her own succubus, but instead undertook a substantially more dangerous ritual to steal The Weighted Compainion Succubus from HappyShell, of whom she, Gor’Dahn, and Rohnin are the only ones confirmed to know she used to be the mage Janice Lichen. She was successful in this, and brought somewhat out of her all-consuming vendetta by the reassurance that she could defeat her nemesis, even if she lacked a method to destroy her. Initially utilizing a mixture of “tough love” and actually feeding her to persuade the badly deranged succubus to accept the shortened moniker of just “Companion” initially solely from convenience, over time both have been good for each other, and taken to it in truth. Much as many near her would like to convince themselves otherwise, it is largely due to Companion’s affects that Bernita has recalled that there exist emotions other than rage, hate, and vengeance. Companion’s opinion on the fact that she is responsible for having helped a warlock a hair’s breadth from demonhood to regain their humanity is not explicitly known, but specific circumstantial evidence suggests that she is not particularly upset.
Bernita’s teachers believe she may have done something wrong in the summoning and binding of her felhound, as it behaves in a fashion utterly inexplicable. When summoned, it will without fail charge the nearest entity hostile to Bernita, regardless of how far away that nearest entity actually is, and begin to emit an agonizingly loud keening wail, which will increase in both pitch and volume until either the target, or the felhound, violently explodes. No one else is precisely sure why when summoning him, she includes the incantation, “Come forth, Sonic Bomber, your mighty legs need no cataplut!” Mostly they chalk it up to their secret certainty that she’s a few breadrolls short of a meal.
Many of those closest to her were more than a little worried to hear her calling her felguard Otto. Thinking her finally unhinged, believing her felguard to be her childhood friend reborn or somesuch, an intervention was staged, only to falter upon her explanation that she simply couldn’t be bothered saying ‘junior,’ constantly, and since her felguard seemed to be at least as protective of her as Otto had been, she felt it to be honouring his memory. Whether this was true or not remains open to speculation, but she certainly was at least aware of how to tactically use the phrase “honouring his memory,” for maximum damage.
Bernita is known to refer to her infernals as Hostile Exothermic Visophile (HEV) units, and generally likes to simply drop them as escape mechanisms, because they make a very big mess, and by the time it wants to come charging after her, there’s plenty of others who want a piece of it first.
Few doomguards are prone to obey anyone, much less someone who calls them “Cliffy.”
However, this doesn’t change the fact that whenever Bernita has felt the need to call for one, she doesn’t hesitate to push him over a precipice -just- before he breaks loose from her control. Sometimes the solution is inherently available within the problem.
Bernita currently lives in Dalaran, taking independent research contracts while waiting in hope for the chance to get funding to prototype any of the theoretical anti-undead systems she has conceived of, hoping that the war against Arthas will allow her to continue, and eventually finish her private war against HappyShell.
(The Weighted) Companion (Succubus)
Others to come