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Seething Shadows
Yay, a new thread.

Been trying to come up with something to write for Zalthiel for a while now but never quite gotten the right idea, something that who be an interesting story, to both read and write. Because, no matter how interesting it is to read, if it's not fun to write, it's not going to last long. The opposite is a bit less true, though, but still valid.

So, I chatted with a few people, tossed some ideas around, came up with this. It's something that makes sense IC, will be able to tie in to in game happenings, and just be fun to write. So here's the narcissistic b***h's quest for
[video=youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpAcanUJX7s&feature=related [/video]

Also, for those who care (Anyone out there?), I'm not abandoning Reflections of a Weary Soul. Just spending some time elsewhere. I'm honestly not terribly pleased with this right now either, but I need to get this posted and switch my focus for a bit or I'm going to go nuts and never post anything again.

Without further ado, let the powertripping begin.

Seething Shadows

The crypt had been abandoned for quite some time.

They were dank and lightless; all the torches had long since burnt out. Several of the coffins had begun to rot, the wood crumbling against the weight of time. Cobwebs and dust covered everything, even several of the motionless undead that lined the halls. They did not respond as she descended the steps, as they once might have to an intruder. The image of them attacking her, upon her first entry, was still laughably absurd.

She had corrected that behavior quickly.

The sound of her boots on the stone floor was muffled by the layers of dust that choked the ground. Should anyone else enter, it would be easy to see that someone had passed through recently. Her ghoulish retainers, silent and still as they were, would not remain so if a living soul approached. This place was hers and hers alone, for now. If it was discovered, it would be...


She descended the steps slowly, Eyestealer scuttling ahead of her to pull open the door at the base of the decline. She patted the ghoul's head absently as she brushed past, and he whimpered before dragging the door closed behind her, shrouding her in darkness. Only her witchlight eyes gleamed eerily in the shadows.

She moved to the center of the room, sliding the chair back and sitting down. She lifted her arms, placed her elbows on the table, and steepled her fingers as she always did, thumbs supporting her chin.

Planning required solitude. No interruptions.

So she sealed herself away, and she planned.

She had hit a small snag in her operations. The nest she had agitated was larger than she had originally anticipated. Riling Astia and her friend had provoked a threatening response; the trap they had set for her in the Barrens, while not terribly inventive, had forced her into retreat and given her a new understanding of what she faced.

There was an interesting duality to those women; the balance between shadow and light that, in another organization, may have been worth examining.

As it stood now...

Her shadow would swallow their darkness and light alike. But in order for that to happen, she had work to do. Once those gnats had been swatted, she could move on to the larger game.

As it stood now, they outmatched her. One on one, there was no doubt in her mind she could take care of any of them. Their magic paled in comparison to hers. Together, though...

Her gauntlets creaked slightly as her fingers tightened.

Together they were a nuisance she could not contain.

Not yet. But that would change.

She had a plan.

Her dear cousin Sagi had planted the notion, however unintentionally. Relinquishing the staff to him had been a blow; it was powerful, though she had only scratched the surface of its secrets in the short time she had possessed it. But in giving it up, she had gained the potential for so much more.

In exchange for his staff, Sagi had given her the location of a cache of magical artifacts. Ti had belonged to an 'old organization' she was sure he knew more about than he was letting on, no doubt about that. No matter, though; she would discover the secrets he hid from her, sooner or later.

She had little doubt such a cache would fail to live up to her expectations (little did), but it was a start, and it had planted the seeds of an idea within her.

It was foolish, really, that she hadn't thought of it before. But it was of little consequence; it was on the table now.

She had sent Zira out to locate an enchanter for her, a spellweaver who could bestow her with the eldritch energies she would need to swing the balance of power in her favor.

She would need materials. Resources. Tools. Equipment. Nobody did anything for free. The enchanter was certain to ask something in return, and merely sparing his life would probably not be enough, the ungrateful whelp. The magic he imbued upon her armor would undoubtedly be costly. Again, threatening his life may work for the first enchantment, but she intended to have far more than just one.

But, the armor she had now would simply not do. It served her well enough, but it was tainted, impure. It had been given to her by the Ebon Blade upon their defection from the Lich King. It was a symbol, one that was unacceptable.

She needed something different. Something better.

The magic she intended to imbue it with was suitable for a lord, a commander, not some grunt; she would need armor to match, and simply purchasing it was inadequate. It was lazy, pathetic, unacceptable.

Such a thing needed meaning. Each piece of it had to be worthy, even before the magic touched it.
It would be a masterpiece.

So many thoughts rushed through her mind, images of success and power, of victory, of defeated enemies begging for mercy that would not come.

The images were pleasing, but she could not allow arrogance to cloud her keen mind. Her great intellect must be kept clear and focused.

This project would be a resounding success, and sound the death knell of her foes.

But in the meantime, there were more...snags, that needed to be worked out. Destroying and reanimating the mindless undead who haunted these ruins was inconvenient, a terrible waste of her energy and time, not to mention a continuous strain to keep them functioning. It was inefficient, and she did not like it.

Maintaining the flow of power to them was not acceptable, as it stood. Perhaps, if she could tie off the flows, yet keep them functioning, the numbers she had would be viable. Or, perhaps, if she could substitute her own power for an alternative source...

There were a number of possible solutions that raced through her mind, but they all stemmed from one problem, and it made her bare her teeth in anger.

She simply did not have the power to do what she wanted to.

And that was absolutely unacceptable.

The armor's power would help a great deal, but such might was not yet hers. She could not rely on 'what ifs' yet, even if it was essentially a guarantee. She could not afford to base anything off of them.


Soon, all of that would change.

In the utter blackness of her lair, Zalthiel's flayed lips pulled back in a cruel smile.
(( Something I want to make clear here, that I should have in the previous post. Zalthiel is a mean, mean lady, who does some pretty horrible things. Neither she nor I have any issues talking/musing/writing about them, so it will get graphic at some points.

Consider this the "This program contains scenes of graphic violence and gore not suitable for all audiences. Viewer discretion is advised."

I'm not saying I'm going to be describing the guts hanging out and all the viscera in super detail or anything, but I will definitely be referencing some gory stuff if it's relevant. For instance, in this post, Zalthiel makes a casual, offhand description of the pregnant woman she butchered, and what she does with the baby after cutting it out.

I'm not aiming to write a horror novel, far from it, but I don't want anyone to say you weren't warned.
You can probably tell this has happened before.

Without further ado, happy reading. ))


Everything was going according to plan.

Zalthiel replaced the book in its place on the shelf, thumb lingering thoughtfully on the cover.

The new plan, of course. Plans changed; they had to, in order o stay ahead of the game. If one did not improvise, did not improve their methods, they would fall behind.

And Zalthiel was always a step ahead of the game.

The assembling of her armor...would have to wait. That plan had changed. Those Knights she had found...powerful, motivated, vengeful.

And utter fools.

Duktagarg, their leader, had been reckless, wasteful, incompetent. Blindly charging his foes, showing off in Gadgetzan, without a care in the world for who was watching.

Zalthiel had been watching, and she was displeased.

He was a fool, and reason was lost on him. She would be better off without him. His followers, however, had use. In order to access those resources, though, Zalthiel had needed Duktagarg out of the way.

It had been almost too easy; the fool had trusted his 'Whisper' implicitly, despite how short a time they had spent together. And, somehow, they ran across that pathetic group of do-gooder Forsaken, and for some reason, Duktagarg's minions had been curiously absent; it was just the orc and his faithful Whisper.

And so she had faded into the shadows, and she watched him die.

And just like that, the pieces were hers for the taking. She had even managed to recover his runeblades and several sections of his armor as an added bonus. How fortuitous.

Zalthiel turned away from the book shelf and walked down the hall.

Of course, it would not do to expose herself so readily to her enemies, and the leaders of such...organizations, were always prime targets. She was no fool, and her plan reflected this.

Kraine, one of Duktagarg's underlings, had taken the position recently vacated by his master, and called the previous members back to his control. He called them the Purge. Kraine was huge, strong, intimidating; every eye on the field would be drawn to him. He was a fool, like the greenskin before him, but he was easily swayed, easily convinced by sound advice.

He was exactly what she needed.

She had to thank Vaeth, though; without his betrayal, securing her position in the Purge would have been far more difficult. Due to his interference, it had gone more smoothly than she had ever hoped for.

Perhaps she would even grant him a swift death for his trouble.

Zalthiel chuckled mirthlessly.


In the few short weeks since she had joined the Purge, not only was she Kraine's most trusted adviser, but the rest of the organization was in her pocket. Kraine still believed himself in command, and that was acceptable. Pawns, all of them, with Kraine as a knight, perhaps, but Zalthiel herself was the queen. The most powerful, yet unassuming, piece.

And that suited her just fine.

She descended the steps to her study, the purple torches flickering dimly in the gloom. It was a risk allowing the Purge into her sanctuary, but a calculated one. She had no doubt this place would eventually be uncovered (such was the way of things), but while it remained secure, not utilizing it to the fullest would be folly.

Besides. There were other fallback points she had not made the others aware of; it would not do to show her hand so early. They had already been compromised once; perhaps it would happen again, perhaps not.

But Zalthiel intended to always have a card to play. She had not survived her unlife so long by being reckless.

She settled herself in the only chair in the room, interlacing her fingers. Her witchlights flickered, trailing slowly across the array of Scourge weaponry on the table before her and lingering on the tarnished gold rod that lay directly in front of her.

Plans changed. This one was for the better. Provided, of course, that it worked. She was good, terrific, even, but not infallible. And this undertaking, even with the (now indispensable) tome she was learning from, was far from guaranteed. Even if it did not work, however, the things she had learned from Sagi's book on necromancy were very intriguing. She would have to find him again, and see what other secrets that old organization of his held.

There had, of course, been...mishaps. No plan was flawless. Boan in particular was an annoyance, a potential irritant she would be better off without. He was a weasel, even by the standards of his fel-addled race, and a slippery one at that. He always managed to escape, and it annoyed her.

The look on his face, though, when she impaled his wife...

Zalthiel smiled cruelly, jagged teeth glinting in the faint light.

Very satisfying.

She had vented some pent up frustrations on Alendrel, or Alandral, or whatever her name had been. It mattered little. The woman herself had begged, begged for her life and that of her unborn child. She had done the night elf no wrong, she said. Zalthiel had laughed at her.

What did that matter?

Zalthiel had felt the pangs, the hunger, rising, and did not resist the temptation.

The woman had even lived long enough to see Zalthiel lift her child, freshly cut from her mother's womb by Zalthiel's dripping runeblade, up to the knight's glistening fangs.

Her anguish, her utter terror and helplessness, had been delicious.

Zalthiel frowned now, fingers drumming slowly on the table top. She disliked losing her fine edge, her logic, to the Thirst, but it was something she had grown accustomed to, adapted to. A target had presented itself; the deed was done, and it was of no consequence now.

Her newest ghoul stood silently behind her, a gaping, ragged wound in her stomach. That one would be useful when Zalthiel finally caught Boan. She would enjoy that particular experience immensely, even though she knew there would be a cool, logical voice in the back of her vast mind telling her to be done with it, stop testing luck and just end him. And maybe she would, if she had sated the Thirst recently.

And then again, maybe she wouldn't.

Plans changed, after all.

The only other distractions of note, at the moment, were those pesky inquisitors. Several times they had crossed paths with Kraine (blundering oaf that he was) and nearly eliminated him.

That was a privilege no one would get until his usefulness had run its course.

Those two, Cassius and Riel...

They had to die.

And it would happen; of that she had no doubt. It was not a matter of if, but a matter of how and when.

Perhaps she would arrange for it, given enough time or annoyance. For now, though...

Zalthiel stared down at the golden rod on her desk, faintly irritated.

As much as it galled, she did not believe she had the finesse or skill required to enchant the artifact properly. She would not allow anyone else to do it for her, however. Neither her pride nor her ambition would allow it. No one else could know the full extent of her abilities.

An ace in the hole, so to speak.

So she needed to learn. And she had the perfect teacher in mind, however unwilling he may initially be. This plan would be twofold; Kraine and his idiotic lackeys could satisfy their bloodlust and 'send a message' to the living, and Zalthiel would achieve her own goal, much more subtly. One human would hardly be missed in the inevitable sea of blood to follow.

Zalthiel smiled.

Hillsbrad Fields was going to burn.
I smell a fore-shadowing, which is the case that I am deeply enjoying the plot so far. You also got your wish with Cassius and Riel dying.

Knowledge is Power

Overall, Zalthiel was pleased.

There had been a few...unforeseen events, but everything had proceeded more or less how she had planned.

She looked down at the bound human, and her lips curled faintly. His terror was palpable; she could hear his feeble heart pounding, she the sweat on his face and the dryness of his lips. He was absolutely terrified of her, and she reveled in it.

She paced around him silently, enjoying the way his breath caught when she passed out of his field of vision. He wanted to cry out, she knew he did, but he also knew it would do no good.

No one knew he was alive. No one was coming for him. She would drain him of all usefulness, and then end him.

Zalthiel paused on her third pass directly behind him.

Cassius and Riel were dead. Riel had attempted to join them, the fool, or pretended to, anyway, and Kraine's lapdog Shinro had convinced the oaf that the paladin was harmless. Over her objections. The red fury that had consumed Zalthiel at that moment had almost been beyond her control. She had wanted to lash out, butcher the deceitful paladin and tear Shinro limb from limb. The utter disrespect he had shown her was absolutely unacceptable. The arrogant whelp believed he knew better than she, that his reasons for compromising their security were enough to disobey her explicit instructions.

A menacing hiss escaped from between her bared teeth, and the human whimpered.

It had taken every ounce of her self-control to not slaughter Kraine, the paladin, and Shinro right then and there. Quite luckily, she had butchered some nameless crusader just hours previously, lost and alone in the Plaguelands. If the Thirst had not been sated so recently...

Well. Suffice it to say that she would have needed a new figurehead for the Purge. Shinro she could do without, and the fool would learn that soon enough. She didn't care about the differences between orc and human eyes. It made not a whit of difference. The self-proclaimed 'researcher' annoyed her. His methods bothered her, and that it did bother her annoyed her more than anything else. The way he dug around in the orc's eye...

-writhing, but unable to escape, as ever, molten agony blasting all rational thought from her mind as the blade pierced her wildly rolling eye, WHERE ARE YOU ELU-

Zalthiel's lips curled in an unconscious snarl, and she banished the unwanted memory.

She was distracting herself. Shinro would be dealt with sooner or later. She ran a finger teasingly across the human's cheek, wiping away a thick drop of sweat.

Filthy creature.

Someone else had saved her the trouble of dealing with Riel, however. Robbed her of the pleasure as well, but she was feeling magnanimous enough at the moment to forgive them.

Her hands settled on the human's shoulders, and she could feel him trembling.

And then they had burned Hillsbrad. It had, overall, gone well; they 'purged' many, and escaped mostly unscathed. She was displeased with her own performance; the extraction of the Scourge magic from the weaponry Maulin collected had left her weakened, impotent. She had been cornered on the field by some fel-sucking light wielder (the irony of that!) and a filthy eredar, and barely fended them off without needing to draw on her reserves. She needed that damned shade. Maulin's incompetence was grating. It had, however, worked to her advantage in the long run; Kraine had, again, been the center of attention, Zalthiel had done nothing to stand out, and no one was the wiser.

Still, the paladin and eredar shaman would have to be slain, despite their participation in her little charade.

Cassius had been slain in the fighting, to her pleasure. This 'Calin', who slew him...an interesting puzzle. She would, of course, have to die eventually, they all did, but she had proven herself useful for the time being. It seemed though, she mused, that Cassius's Inquisition was barely clinging to life, with their two main members deceased. At least, the only two of any significance. The rest were just clinging sycophants.

She should strike while the pathetic light wielders floundered, headless. It was only a matter of time before they restored the paladin to life; such was the way of things now.

Her gauntlets creaked as her fists clenched.

How things had changed.

Perhaps it was time to give her newest hound a blood trail, the hunt he so pined for. It would, at least, give her the measure of him.

The true prize of the raid, however, sat before her, sweating, crying, dreading what was to come.

Zalthiel brought her face down to his ear, parting her flayed lips and brushing his flesh with her filed, stained teeth.

“You are going to show me,” she whispered to him, barely audible over his sobs, “everything you know about creating and enchanting artifacts, or I am going to make you scream.”

He nodded profusely, still racked by sobs, and she smiled. “Very good,” she purred, toying with the golden rod in her hand, “let's begin, shall we?”


Finally, her plans had borne fruit.

Zalthiel flipped the cover of her book shut, running a finger over the plain cover. She felt a detached sense of accomplishment; her enchanting notes, both what she had discovered on her own and what this...David, had shown her, filled an entire tome. With a few revisions it would make a fine guide, if she ever deigned to share it. It would need a title, one suitably grand, eventually, but for now...

Now, it was time.

She had had the room cleared already; all that remained was the runed altar, and the ghoulish green torches, which flickered and sputtered weakly in the gloom. The altar was an, ostensibly, unnecessary affectation; any table would have done just as well, but Zalthiel had never denied her flare for the dramatic. This was an important, a momentous, event, and should be appropriately prepared for.

She set the crystal on the altar before her, examining it carefully yet again. The purple shard, a fragment of the great nexus crystals in Naxxanar, positively seethed with negative energy, writhing with the trapped essence of dozens of unlucky souls. Zalthiel could feel the thrum of unholy power from where she stood, and would have been able to sense it from fifty paces or more, likely.

She liked to imagine she could hear the souls of the damned screaming in torment.

Next was the golden rod, polished to a brilliant gleam by an enthusiastic Eyestealer. Zalthiel set it down beside the crystal centerpiece, letting her finger trail across the dark runes inscribed upon its surface. The sense of necromantic energy was far fainter in the rod than it was in the crystal shard, but it was a potent item nonetheless. She had extracted the essence of the Scourge enchantments from the weaponry and armor Maulin had retrieved and imbued the collective power into the rod, making it the perfect item to bear the Naxxanar shard.

The only other materials she would need would be power and skill, both of which she had in spades. There was just one loose end to tie up.

Zalthiel turned around, staring flatly down at the pathetic, bedraggled human kneeling before her. David, as he was called, was extremely thin, quaking, his eyes wild with fear, as they had been since his arrival here. Dried blood caked his face, and the patches of skin that shone beneath his torn shirt.

“You have served me well,” Zalthiel told him, and it was true. Without him, this endeavor would still be ongoing as she searched for the necessary means to fulfill her goal. He had been far more useful than many of her minions in the Purge, ironically.

But it would not save him.

David looked up at her, a faint twinge of hope sneaking across his face. “That's....good,” he stammered, rubbing his arms and staring fearfully at Eyestealer, who stood motionlessly at his shoulder. “I'm, uh, glad. Very glad.”

“Of that I have no doubt,” she murmured silkily. He had been punished quite thoroughly whenever progress was slow. If she was happy, he was happy.

“So,” the human began, the hope creeping into his voice now, “...am I free to go?”
How silly.

“Of course not,” Zalthiel said, affecting surprise, “whatever made you believe that?”

Hope was the first step on the road to disappointment, after all, and David had most certainly reached his destination.

The human's face crumpled, almost comically, and he lunged forward, seizing her skirt with his filthy hands. “Please,” he whimpered, “I'm begging you, just-”

Zalthiel flicked her wrist and sent him hurtling half way across the room on a tendril of black energy. That the cretin dared to lay a hand on her was almost enough to raise her fury, but she kept her anger in check. It would not do to fly into a rage and lose control at this vital juncture. “Eyestealer,” she said instead, quite calmly, “take your fill and bring him here.”

The ghoul cawed in delight and leaped after the prone human, falling on him in a flash of filthy talons. David screamed shrilly as she heard the ghoul's claws dig into his eye sockets with wet squishing noises as the human's heels drummed madly against the stone floor. Zalthiel waited impatiently, finger tapping, as Eyestealer took his due. David's mewling peaked once before falling into the disgustingly familiar sobs, and a scraping sound as her ghoul dragged him to the altar, leaning him prone at Zalthiel's feet.

She looked down at the blind human, his mouth working, wet, inarticulate croaking noises emerging, and the corner of her flayed lips pulled back in a cruel smile. “Don't worry, David,” she said softly, “you'll have much more to worry about soon than just your eyes.”

And then she killed him, in a blinding flash of eldritch energy. Zalthiel drew her fingers slowly into a fist as the energy swirled through the fresh corpse, seeming to grow brighter as the human's life essence ebbed.

Unfortunately for David, however, the only place it ebbed to...was the Naxxanar crystal.

Zalthiel directed the enchanter's essence like a conductor, ferrying it soundlessly up to and around the purple shard. The crystal pulsed once, and the green energy vanished, sucked into the depths of the unholy artifact just like countless others before it.

Zalthiel smiled, and then everything was ready.

With slow, precise movements, she reached down and lifted the crystal carefully. Touching it, she could feel the energy thrumming through her, the raw power of undeath singing such a sweet melody. With her other hand she lifted the runed rod, the light from the green torches playing oddly off its golden surface. If Zalthiel could have taken a deep breath, she would have.

Then she placed the crystal in its setting atop the rod, and wove the magic.

She poured everything she had into the spell, filaments of runic power weaving around the two objects and binding them together. The spells formed exactly as she had practiced, working exactly as she had practiced, merging the crystal and the rod...but still her energy reserves continued to drain. The crystal flared brighter as it began to suck hungrily on the fresh source of power, attempting to drain her dry and reduce her to a withered husk, bereft of any unholy animation. And, try as she might, Zalthiel could not break the connection.

The spell was killing her.

Zalthiel snarled, trying to rip her hands away from the rod, but the runic filaments had expanded, trapping her in the magical loop. She had made some kind of mistake, had miscalculated the amount of power it would require to forge the scepter, or maybe David had even sabotaged her, but it mattered not at all at the moment. If her creation did not stop draining her power, it was going to destroy her.

Eyestealer caught her with a squawk of alarm, bracing his mistress as she staggered and slipped backward as her legs trembled and she lost control of them.

She was going to die here, ignobly, unfulfilled. The Purge would carry on, leaderless, and be annihilated. The Inquisition would triumph, the Hand of Sylvanas would triumph, and all her plans, all her goals, all her ambitions, would be for nought. She could see Cassius's smug smile, see Jared's grin, see Kraine's snort, see Sagi shaking his head, even see her the scowl her mother had worn the last day she had seen her daughter alive, and Zalthiel embraced the fury that rose.

“I have not endured all these years,” Zalthiel snarled, “only to be brought low now!”

Her runeblade trembled. The black pendant around her neck shattered. Eyestealer collapsed bonelessly.

And her power flared.

With a wordless, snarling roar, Zalthiel slammed another weave of magic on top of the first, hammering the final reserves of required energy into it. The crystal flared even more brightly, nearly blinding her, before it died down. The runic filaments around her hands dissipated, and she fell.

Zalthiel's body trembled, the unholy magic animating her long-dead corpse flickering fitfully. But her candle yet burned. She rose, slowly, and stared down at the altar.

The rod gleamed darkly, glittering in the green torchlight. The purple crystal sparked with energy, even now, radiating negative energy in rippling waves.

The Malediction, her Rod of Undead Mastery, was complete.

Alone in her darkened crypt beneath the earth, Zalthiel began to laugh.

All according to plan.

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