In Honor of NaNo… Have some Fiction!

So, I have been gone for a long time, and I am so very sorry for that. My health got bad again, and it is, in truth, still bad. Because of this, I didn’t do NaNo this year.

However, I did stumble upon some short fiction I wrote a while ago for a contest. It is fanfiction, as the characters are based in WoW. It has had very little editing done, as I wrote it like, a day before the contest closed. I didn’t win, but I hope you enjoy. (Constructive criticism is always welcome.)

I don’t own the characters, but the writing is mine, so don’t be a jerk, ok?

The Rise of Scholomance

Beads of perspiration had broken out across Jandice’s forehead. The effort of keeping the spell active for so long was taking its toll on her. She reached up to sweep a stray strand of dark hair out of her eyes, and all around the room twenty-eight other young mages with dark hair did the same. It was the first time Jandice had moved since conjuring the images of herself, and the sharp intake of breath from Archmage Antonidas indicated that he was impressed.

“Will the images mirror everything you do?” Antonidas asked.

In answer, Jandice held up her hand and conjured a small orb of light into her palm. She smiled as twenty-eight orbs blossomed into being at the same time.

“How… pretty,” Modera infused as much disdain into the last word as she could muster. As the only female mage who directly served the Kirin Tor, she had no patience for cosmetic spells.

In response, Jandice flexed her hand and the orbs of light suddenly became very sharp daggers all pointed at the slight woman. Antonidas chuckled; a low, throaty sound with little mirth in it. Modera’s eyes flashed a quick look of approval at the leader of the Kirin Tor.

“We have had ample time to inspect the images and have determined that they are, in fact, exact replicas of yourself. Please join us to review your notes,” Antonidas had a warm voice with paternal inflections, though it was easy to detect the caution that had crept in over the years.

Hiding a sigh of relief, Jandice gently stopped the flow of magic to the images, and watched as they faded into nothingness. She stood alone in the middle of the large room, smiling at the two members of the Council of Six before her.

Strictly speaking, the identity of the Council of Six was held in the utmost secrecy. however one only had to pay attention to detect the undercurrents of power running through the city.

“Sit,” Modera said. It wasn’t a request.

Jandice stepped forward and sat in the straight backed chair Modera had conjured for her. It was extremely uncomfortable.

“I see from your notes that your spell is not without flaw,” Modera spoke as if she had just bitten into a sour snowplum.

“Yes, archmage. As I am sure you have read, there are but two flaws I have not yet overcome,” Jandice fought the urge to stare at the table. “One is that the images will not speak if I do, and the other is that any harm inflicted to the images will also be inflicted to me.”

“Goodness gracious child, how on earth did you discover that?” concern coloured Antonidas’ question.

Jandice smiled sheepishly. “I summoned an image too close to a candle flame.”

“And when you first began work on this spell, you were only able to summon three images, is that correct?” Modera’s tone had not lost its sour quality.

“Yes.”

 “Why do you think that is?”

“I believe it is something to do with discipline and magical aptitude, archmage.”

“Are you saying that should I attempt this spell, I would not be able to create more than three images as well?”

Jandice folded her hands in her lap to avoid fidgeting under Modera’s ruthless interrogation. A quick glance towards Antonidas showed him sitting back in his chair, perfectly serene while he took notes on the conversation between the two women.

“I don’t know, archmage.”

 Modera sat back in her chair, looking pleased with herself that she had flustered the young mage.

“And why is it that you have not been able to produce more than twenty-eight images, even after months of practice?”

Jandice was growing tired of the onslaught. She sat forward in her chair and forced herself to look Modera in the eye.

“It is basic numerology, archmage. I was sure you would have seen that right away.”

 Modera sat back as if Jandice had slapped her. Jandice felt the fight go out of her as a headache blossomed behind her temples. She rubbed a hand across her forehead.

“Archmage, I don’t understand why we must go over the minutiae of this spell. I have written a comprehensive report which I see on the table in front of you. Has the spell passed inspection?”

Modera looked to Antonidas, who nodded before speaking.

“Jandice Barov, as ruler of Dalaran and head of its teachings, I find that your spell is a fine piece of work. It will be considered for induction into the standard teachings. You may continue to study in the art of illusion. As your spell crafting is complete, you are due to be readmitted to the care and tutelage of a more experienced mage. In light of recent events, I trust you have heard that you will be receiving a new mentor?”

Jandice felt the loss of her previous mentor like a dagger to the stomach. While it had been close to a year since Kel’thuzad had been banished from Dalaran for practising necromancy, the shock hadn’t worn off yet. Only Jandice’s spell crafting had kept her attentions elsewhere for this long.

 “Yes, archmage.” The words were almost a whisper as she fought the moisture in her eyes.

“Is there anything else we can do for you before we retire for the day?”

“I’d like to inquire about my request to return home to Caer Darrow for the Midsummer Fire Festival, if I may.” Jandice surreptitiously wiped a hand across her eyes before the tears had a chance to fall.

“I don’t think that is wise, child,” Modera’s tone was the closest to kindness it would ever be. “There are dark magics afoot.”

As the weight of the words bore down on her, Jandice slumped in her chair. She hadn’t seen her family since she had come to Dalaran three years prior. She looked at Antonidas with pure desperation in her gaze.

“We will send a guard with you, “ he acceded.

As Jandice stepped out of the Violet Citadel and into the cobbled streets, the euphoria hit. She had successfully created a new spell, and her future as an illusionist was secure. Not only that, but Antonidas had agreed to let her return home for the Midsummer Fire Festival. She smiled for the first time that day and started towards her study overlooking Runeweaver’s Square. She needed to pack a bag before nightfall, when she would return to the Violet Citadel to travel by teleportation to a small farm outside Andorhal.

Jandice rounded the corner into Runeweaver Square and stopped dead in her tracks. From beyond the fountain her former mentor glowered at her. She blinked once, but still the image did not change; Kel’thuzad’s grey eyes continued to pierce deep into her own. After a long moment, Jandice blinked again and finally registered the large block letters floating around Kel’thuzad’s head. The Kirin Tor had placed posters like this all over Dalaran, and they all said the same thing:

BANISHED

By decree of the Council of Six, the mage Kel’thuzad is hereby banished from the magical kingdom of Dalaran for practising the forbidden art of Necromancy. Kel’thuzad is considered extremely dangerous and as such should not be approached by anyone. Should you see him within the city, please report to the Violet Citadel immediately.

Archmage Antonidas

Ruler of Dalaran

Jandice bit back the fresh wave of tears that threatened to spill from her eyes. She turned quickly from the image of her former mentor and rushed to ascend the stairs to her study. Once the door was securely closed and locked, she allowed the sorrow to overcome her.

 —

 Night was beginning to fall, but the streets of Dalaran were well-lit as Jandice made the short journey back to the Violet Citadel. The crowds in the streets had not been subdued with the lack of daylight, and Jandice had to weave in and out of residents and visitors alike. She was extremely cautious to avoid further notice of the Kirin Tor’s warning posters, however she couldn’t help thinking about the man who had abandoned her.

 Letting her mind wander, Jandice thought back to the last time she had seen her mentor. He had been quizzing her on how to create an explosion of pure arcane energies when he suddenly shuddered and closed his eyes. Jandice had waited five minutes before tapping him on the shoulder to bring his mind back to the lesson. When he had opened his eyes, Jandice had seen a faint hint of something sinister behind the normally kind eyes. But the lesson had continued normally, so she had dismissed any ill feelings.

 That had been it. There was no hint that it may be the last time she would see him. When she arrived for her next lesson, two Kirin Tor thugs had been awaiting her. They had swept her up to the Chamber of Air where she had undergone intense questioning by masked mages she had assumed to be the Council of Six. Each of their voices had been magically distorted so in their relentless questioning their identities would not be made known. Jandice had begged for the interrogation to stop.

 “Please!” She had cried, tears streaming down her face, “I have told you, I know nothing!”

“Let the child rest,. I believe she has had no part in this,” the voice that commanded the others had been altered to sound like the others, however it seemed somehow more paternal.

 Jandice had reached the Violet Citadel, and returned her attention to her impending return home. As she climbed the steps into the main hall, her excitement grew. It was all she could do not to bound up the final few steps and open a portal herself.

 Modera was waiting in the hall. When Jandice entered, she beckoned for her to follow before retreating down a dimly lit corridor. As Jandice moved to follow, two young men fell into step on either side of her. This must be the guard Antonidas had mentioned. A quick glance told Jandice that she was right in her assumption; swords hung at their sides. While the young men seemed to know their way around a blade, Jandice could sense no spark of the Arcane in them.

 Jandice and her guard reached the room that Modera had disappeared into a moment before. As they passed through the doorway, Jandice saw four mages awaiting them. Each of them held a rune of teleportation in their hand.

 “I trust you are ready to depart immediately, child?” Modera asked from across the small room.

Jandice bobbed a quick curtsey before answering. “Yes, archmage.”

“Good. You will teleport from here to Dalson`s Orchard near Andorhal. A welcoming party will await you there with horses for the rest of the journey. You will see your family within the hour, child.”

“You have no idea how happy that makes me, archmage.”

“Then you are a fool. These are dangerous times, and were it up to me this little excursion would not be happening.”

 Jandice lowered her face to stare at the floor. While she hoped it would come across as a gesture of humility, she was simply trying to hide a smile. Not even the sour archmage could dampen her mood.

 “I understand, archmage.”

Modera snorted. Jandice looked up to see her motion to the four mages in the room. Instantly, Jandice felt the magic forces they were channelling, though it took a few seconds before the portal shimmered into being before her. Jandice was now staring into her homeland. She stepped forward and extended her hand.

The sensation one feels when teleporting is not entirely unpleasant; it is like being doused with warm water while racing through a dark tunnel. It lasted the length of a blink and a breath, and Jandice and her guard were standing in Dalson’s Orchard, north of Andorhal.

“Well, well, well. If it isn’t the little witch, returned home from making feathers float,” a male voice mocked from somewhere behind Jandice. She turned to see that the jibe had come from none other than her older brother, Alexi, a smirk decorating his face.

“You’d think one would be happier to see their little sister, especially after two years!” she exclaimed before stepping forward to embrace her brother. The guards shifted slightly behind her, obviously uncomfortable with the family moment. Jandice kissed her brother on the cheek before stepping back to take a better look at him.

All three of the Barov children had the same straight black hair, and Alexi chose to wear his short. He stood a head taller than Jandice, and his dark eyes bore none of the warmth of his smile. He had aged considerably in the last two years, and deep lines scored his face. He had obviously been worried about something. Jandice looked around for her younger brother, but could not locate him among her brother’s retinue.

“But where is Weldon? Did he not wish to help escort his sister home?” Jandice frowned, worried about the youngest of the three.

“He and father just returned from a journey to Hearthglen. They wanted to wash before you arrived. Travelling by horse is far more strenuous than traveling by portal,” Alexi turned as he spoke and moved towards the waiting horses, motioning for Jandice to follow him. She had to jog to catch up with his long stride.

“Why were they in Hearthglen?” she asked.

“You know father, he is always looking for ways to expand his holdings. However I am in no position to complain. When the man passes on, all he has acquired will pass to me,” Alexi spoke oddly of their father, almost as if he couldn’t wait for him to pass on. Jandice mulled this over as she mounted her horse. She decided to try for another subject.

“How are the people of Caer Darrow?”

“Jandice, if we plan to make it home for dinner, we will need to make haste. I am sure everyone will be willing to discuss everything that has happened in the last few years once we are safe and warm.”

Jandice nodded and bit her lip. She looked at her brother who was smiling once again, and shivered. It wasn’t the evening air that had her chilled though, it was her brother’s eyes. His smile still did not touch them.

 —

 Jandice saw the fire burning in the town square of Andorhal before she could see the town itself. The ride had only taken half an hour from Dalson’s Orchard, though the silence had made it seem much longer. As they passed through the city, many revellers recognized the Barov family standard, and bade Alexi to stop and celebrate. Jandice kept her hood up as Alexi declined each invitation. He seemed to get more irritated with each person that approached him, even going so far as to kick a woman who got too close. Jandice kept silent and watched, resolved to ask her mother about it.

 Upon leaving the city, Jandice looked out across the lake and sighted Caer Darrow looming in the darkness. Elation filled her, and she turned to her brother.

 “Race you home!” she cried before kicking her horse into a full gallop. She laughed as the wind blew her hood away from her face, and her hair streamed out behind her like a dark banner. She turned to look behind her and realized that Alexi had not altered his pace. She reined her horse in and waited for the group to catch up to her.

 Alexi pulled up alongside Jandice and stopped his horse. In one fluid movement he reached over and slapped his sister across the face, hard.

 “Never behave in such an undignified manner again. That was a foolish thing to do,” his eyes were hard as he scolded her, “Do I make myself clear?”

 Jandice raised a hand to her cheek and fought the tears that had welled in her eyes. Her brother was strong and her cheek was throbbing where he had hit her. She simply nodded. Satisfied, he turned his horse back to the trail and continued on. Jandice eased her horse into a slow walk behind him.

 The journey from Andorhal to Caer Darrow was shorter than the journey from Dalson‘s Orchard to Andorhal. With each step that brought the siblings closer to home, Jandice could sense her brother’s mood deteriorate until finally it was as if a great black cloud had descended upon him. Still moving at a leisurely pace, the group made their way through the streets of Caer Darrow to the keep atop the hill. Jandice looked around for some sign of life, but aside from the occasional twitch of a curtain as someone retreated from their window, there was none.

 Alexi dismounted in front of the keep and handed his reins off to one of this guard. Jandice followed suit. One of her guards placed a hand on her shoulder.

 “We were ordered to escort you everywhere, miss.”

“Thank you, Tobias. I will relieve you of that order for tonight. If I am not safe with my own family, then the world is in more trouble than we know. Please make yourself comfortable.”

 The young guard nodded and followed the others around the back of the keep. Alexi turned to his sister.

 “Welcome home,” he said simply. There was no joy in the sentiment. Jandice nodded and made her way up the front steps. The great iron bound doors swung open, doing a better job of welcoming her home than her brother had.

Stepping into the front hall, Jandice immediately lost all sense of coming home. The keep couldn’t have been farther from the memories of her childhood home. The once colourful tapestries had been replaced by darker ones, depicting scenes of depravity. Her mother’s servants had always kept the place clean, but now cobwebs covered almost every surface. Jandice battled the urge to run from the keep and never look back.

The urge was not calmed when she spied her mother waiting near the bottom of the stairs. The woman who had never been without a smile now gazed coldly at her daughter. Her dark hair matched her children’s however she wore it pulled back in a severe style that accentuated the hard lines of her face. All desire to embrace her had vanished in an instant, and thankfully Illucia Barov seemed to echo the sentiment.

“Dinner is waiting, we should not tarry,” Illucia said before turning to climb the stairs. “We are dining in the great room.”

Jandice climbed the stairs after her mother and followed her down the long corridor at the top. She could sense Alexi’s brooding presence close behind her. When the door to the great room opened, Jandice saw five people seated inside. At the head of the table was her father, Alexei Barov. He was an old man, and he seemed to have undergone a lot of the same changes that his wife had. He no longer seemed the paternal figure he once had been, but rather a cold shell of his former self.

Seated to his left was Jandice’s younger brother, Weldon. Of all the family members he seemed the least changed by time, though there was still a bitter air about him. The man to the right of Jandice’s father held no familiarity, and the same was true of the man two seats down from her brother. However the man sitting the closest to the door…

“Father Montgomery!” Jandice cried. She stepped around her mother hurriedly and moved toward the priest from Andorhal. Caution slowed her step, though, as she wasn’t sure the man had not changed the same way as her family. Her fears were proven false when his face broke out into a true and infectious smile. He stood and held out his arms to her.

“Young Jandice Barov. It is a pleasure to see you again, my dear!”

“The feeling is mutual,” Jandice giggled as she spoke.

“Please my dear, sit next to me.”

 Jandice glanced around to see her mother and Alexi settling into their seats. She half shrugged and sat down next to the first friendly face she had seen since returning home.

 “Now, tell me all about Dalaran. How are your studies?” Father Montgomery asked as the servants brought out the meal.

“Oh it is quite wonderful, thank you. I found spell crafting agreeable, and my spell is under consideration for introduction into standard teachings.”

“That is wonderful! Congratulations!”

“Thank you, Father. How have things been while I have been away?”

Father Montgomery’s face became troubled, and he seemed to lose some of his jovial attitude.

“Oh, things have been… fine.”

Jandice frowned. “You seem to be omitting something, Father. Please, I am not a fool. I have seen the changes in my family.”

“The situation is quite… delicate, Jandice. But I will do my best to explain,” the priest’s voice was almost a whisper, though they were sitting far from any party who might eavesdrop.

“Please do. Who is the man to my father’s right?”

“That is Duke Zahlt from near Hearthglen. Your father met him a few months ago. They seem to have similar goals when it comes to extending their grasp.”

 Jandice nodded and studied the man. He had close-cropped brown hair and bright blue eyes. The eyes were what held her attention, however. They seemed familiar.

 “And the man to his left?”

“That is Master Gandling. I can’t speak to why he is here, but he is around a lot as of late.”

 The second unknown man had his face hidden by a deep hood. Jandice could sense some aptitude for magic in him, but it seemed odd, almost as if it were tainted. As she tried to probe further, his head snapped up and he looked straight at her. Jandice shivered and hastily turned her attention to her plate.

 “What has happened here?” Jandice asked hopelessly.

“All I know is speculation, but I fear your family is mixed up in dark magics.”

“No! My parents wouldn’t do that!” Jandice cried softly. Even in her denial, she could sense it was true.

“I am sorry, my dear. Perhaps we should go for a walk,” Father Montgomery suggested. Jandice nodded and the pair pushed away from the table.

“Where are you going?” Alexei demanded from the head of the table.

“For a walk, father. I wish to catch up on matters with Father Montgomery.”

Alexei’s eyes narrowed, but he waved a hand at the two. As Jandice left the great room, she could feel eyes on her. She was unsure how the knowledge had come to her, but she knew they belonged to Duke Zahlt.

As soon as the door closed behind them, Father Montgomery grasped Jandice’s elbow and drew her down the stairs. Once they were in the front hall, he slowed his pace.

“We will likely have an hour before anyone else is finished with dinner. We must move fast, my dear.”

 He gently steered Jandice through the first floor until they stood before the door leading to the cellar.

 “Normally I would say ‘Ladies first’. However, I fear for your safety and I hope you will permit me to lead you,” concern coloured Father Montgomery’s tone.

“Of course.”

 The priest unhooked a brightly burning lamp from the wall and began to descend the stairs. Jandice followed. The air grew musty and damp the farther they went. After a few moments they stood in a dark, cavernous room filled with wine barrels.

 “This way, and mind your step. The rats protest to being trod on,” Father Montgomery flashed a smile in the lamplight. Jandice found it infectious, and smiled as well. They stopped before the far wall, which like the others was adorned with a wine rack. Father Montgomery moved the lantern so the light was blocked. In the darkness, Jandice could make out a very faint line of light shining in the shape of a door. She knew this place.

“What lies beyond there, Jandice?”

“The crypts, we used to play there as children,” she whispered. “Why have you brought me here?”

“I sense great evil coming from beyond that wall, but I can’t determine why. Nor can I figure a way to get inside.”

Jandice nodded, “I feel it too,” she said. “What does it mean?”

“I’m not sure, child. However, it frightens me.”

“We should go.”

 Father Montgomery nodded before leading Jandice back up the stairs. In the main hall, he turned to her.

 “I will not be returning to Andorhal tonight. I do not wish to leave you in the hands of your family. I have loved this place all my life, and it pains me to say it, but Caer Darrow is no longer safe,” the priest leaned over and brushed a light kiss on Jandice’s cheek. “Sleep well.”

 —

 Jandice awoke in a cold sweat. The room around her was dark as pitch, and for a moment she thought she was back in Dalaran. She rubbed her eyes and chased some of the sleep from her mind before she realized she was still in Caer Darrow. And then she heard the sound that had awoken her in the first place. It was a bloodcurdling scream.

 Jandice dashed from bed and dressed quickly in a dark tunic and trouser set. To find the source of the scream, she would have no time to deal with a robe. Silently, she stepped to the door and eased it open. She stifled a scream of her own when she realized there was someone in the hall. The figure turned at the sound and Jandice could barely make out Father Montgomery’s features in the darkness.

“Come.”

 The pair set off down the hallway, careful to stick to the shadows and make no noise. When they reached the stair, Jandice put out a hand to stop her friend.

 “Allow me to levitate us. These stairs squeak quite terribly,” she whispered. Her hand weaved through the air and Jandice suddenly felt lighter on her feet. She did the same for Father Montgomery and motioned for them to continue their descent.

 The pair encountered no guards as they traversed the first floor of the keep, which was a strange occurrence. When they reached the door to the cellar, they found it open wide, and the room beyond it was ablaze with light. After Jandice checked to ensure their levitation spell was still in effect, they slowly descended into the cellar.

 When they reached the wall they had visited earlier in the evening, they found it no longer barred by shelves of wine. Rather, a wide arch opened into another brightly lit room. Jandice could hear a voice speaking as if to multitudes.

 “Can you hear what they are saying?” she whispered.

“No. If we intend to find out, we must get closer,” Father Montgomery replied. “I would rather leave this place.”

“Please, do not put yourself in jeopardy for me. Save yourself and tell others of what you have seen here.”

“It is not enough to do any good. I must continue with you, my dear.”

 Jandice sighed and nodded. She knew her friend was right. She motioned for him to follow.

 A short flight of stone steps led down from the archway, and an iron gate stood at the end. Jandice muttered a few words to keep the hinges from squealing before she opened them. When she stepped into the room before her, she gasped softly.

 The crypts, like the rest of the castle, had changed drastically since the last time Jandice had seen them. They had been cared for and renovated, but they were by no means pleasant. Crouching behind a low wall on a small platform, Jandice surveyed the room.

 The same dark tapestries that now adorned the walls upstairs were in abundance here. Piles of skulls burning with an eerie green flame dotted the floor, and a thick river of something green and caustic in appearance ran through the room. Bookshelves covered in cobwebs lined the walls. The room was filled with people, all in the same purple uniform, all looking towards the far end of the room. The feel of tainted magic was so strong that Jandice felt as if she would be sick.

 She followed everyone’s gaze to see Master Gandling standing on a dais on the far side of the room.

“Students of Necromancy, hail Scholomance!” he cried.

“Hail Scholomance!” everyone in the room cried in response.

“Well, well, well. What have we here? If it isn’t the little witch, meddling where she doesn’t belong.”

Jandice turned around to see Alexi’s fist rushing towards her face. As it connected, the world went dark.

 —

 She came to in a small cell, her hands and feet bound. Crumpled on the floor beside her lay Father Montgomery. Jandice wriggled over to him and pressed an ear to his chest. His heart was still beating. Tears streamed down Jandice’s cheeks as she tried to figure out what to do. She knew screaming would do her no good, so instead she tried to revive her friend.

“Father Montgomery! Please wake up!”

 Still the old man did not stir. Jandice sat back and closed her eyes. It would be difficult to do without use of her hands, but she needed to try.

 She envisioned the goblet of water in her mind and willed it into existence. Conjuring had never been her strong point, yet the goblet shimmered into being before her. Delicately she tipped it over onto Father Montgomery’s face. His eyes fluttered open.

“God almighty, child! That’s cold!” he cried.

 Jandice laughed, ecstatic that her friend was ok. A few moments was all it took for the despair of the situation settled around her again, culling her laughter.

 “What are we going to do?” she whispered.

“You said you used to play here as a child. Is this room familiar?”

 Jandice looked around. Now that Father Montgomery mentioned it, the room did seem familiar. Suddenly something slid into place.

 “This was my favourite room to hide in when Alexi and Weldon and I would play hide and seek!”

 Father Montgomery looked at her questioningly. Jandice giggled.

 “It was my favourite room because there is a secret passage in the corner! But why would Alexi put us in here? He knew about the passage.”

“Maybe he wanted you to get away,” Father Montgomery suggested.

“Or maybe it has been sealed up. One moment will tell us which it is.”

 Jandice fumbled around behind her until her hand closed around a sharp stone. She grasped it tightly and began cutting away at the ropes that bound her. A few moments later, she was doing the same for Father Montgomery. Once he was free, she crawled into the corner of the room and tapped on the stones. One produced a hollow sound. She spoke a soft guide word and the stone was gone, exposing a small tunnel. Jandice glanced behind her at the cell door. Something had moved beyond it.

 “You must hurry, Father Montgomery. Follow this tunnel and it will bring you out near the kitchen,” Jandice whispered hurriedly.

“But what about you, child? I cannot just leave you here! They will kill you!”

“Maybe so, but they are my family. I must do what I can to try and save them.”

“I understand.”

“Once outside, return to Andorhal. Tell the people of this place. Warn them to run,” Jandice instructed.

“I will, my dear.”

“The back way will be easiest,” Jandice whispered, glancing again at the door.

Father Montgomery chuckled. “You know, I once knew a bar wench who said the same thing.”

Jandice didn’t have time to contemplate the meaning behind her friend’s words, for now a lock was being turned in the door to their cell.

“Go!” she cried, jumping up to fight whatever came through the door. She glanced down in time to see Father Montgomery’s foot disappear inside the tunnel. Jandice whispered the guide word to make the stone reappear just as the door swung open. Standing in the doorway was her father.

“Duke Zahlt is not pleased with you, young lady. Nor am I,” Alexei Barov’s voice had taken on an odd quality almost like a dual-timbre. Jandice spat at his feet. Quick as lightning, he was beside her.

“You will wish you hadn’t done that, brat,” he glanced around the cell.” Where is your friend?”

 Jandice stared at him, refusing to answer.

 “No matter. He will be found soon enough. No one escapes the power of the Lich King!”

Alexei’s hand wound through his daughter’s hair and he gave a sharp tug, pulling her out of the cell behind him. Jandice tripped and lost her footing, but Alexei made no notice. The rough stone floor bit into her flesh as she was dragged through the crypt, and soon her blood was flowing freely from many cuts.

Finally, Alexei stopped, dropping his daughter to the floor. The stench of the room reached Jandice’s nostrils, and she emptied her stomach onto the stone. Looking up, she saw the cause of the smell.

 The stuff of nightmares stood before her; skeletons with bits of flesh still hanging on to their bones, animated by an unnatural force. Beyond the skeletons rotting corpses stood upright, innards exposed, their sightless eyes looking directly at her, drool pooling on the floor before them. Jandice screamed. Her father laughed.

 “Oh yes, do scream some more. It will only make them more… ravenous. Leave us Alexei.”

The voice that had spoken was not her father’s but Jandice would have recognized it anywhere. She raised her eyes and saw Duke Zahlt standing before her. A moment later the magic illusion surrounding him dissipated, and Jandice was face to face with her former mentor. Kel’thuzad.

“It’s true,” she whispered, still sobbing. ”It’s all true.”

“Yes. After the pathetic Kirin Tor banished me from Dalaran, I traveled to Northrend. I was drawn by power, unimaginable power.”

“Why? Why are you doing this?” Jandice wailed.

“The Lich King commands it. He wants an army, and I will provide it to him,” Kel’thuzad’s voice was low and dangerous. Jandice looked at him to see his eyes were closed. He inhaled deeply and smiled.

“Ah, it seems your friend did not make it out of Caer Darrow,” Kel’thuzad sneered. “I believe his pathetic human heart gave out while he ran.”

“No!” Jandice moaned. The thought of Father Montgomery dead was too much to bear. She stood and hurled a bolt of frost at her former mentor. He batted it aside effortlessly.

“Really, you wish to fight me? You are pathetic,” he spat. He flicked a finger and Jandice found herself forced back to the floor.

“You… will not… tarnish… his… name!” she gasped. “Father Mont… gomery was… a… great man!”

“Yes, pity I did not get to him first. He would have done a great service to the Scourge. What a waste,” Kel’thuzad sighed. “You, however…”

The ghouls and skeletons in the room emitted low, guttural sounds that could almost pass for cheers as Kel’thuzad moved towards Jandice’s prostrated form.

“Don’t worry, pretties. You’ll get the pieces.”

Author’s note: This story was written in memory of Wayne Montgomery, aka Crimsonlight of Thunderhorn US. He loved Scholomance. Be at peace, friend. Love ya like a big dog.

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