Harbinger of Despair

A howling wind tosses flakes of snow about wildly as the air imparts a shrill and persistent cry all about me. I stare down the object of my malice – unblemished by time, as I remember her in waking nightmares. Terror washes over me and I am chilled to the core in ways this blizzard may never accomplish. The sensation quickly passes in favor of a boiling and ever present rage – one fueled by collective memories of loss and revenge. “Surprised to see me again, puppet?” She calls alloud to me, in a tauntingly playful manner. I rest my left hand atop Orpheus’ hilt, the runic engravings blaze to life, excess mana pouring out from the scabbard. Fel energies wrap about me and reveal themselves as hellish green wings at my back.

 
“Ashamed, actually.” I reply, a crushing weight pushing against my chest making the effort more work than it should have been just to retort. “…You stole a righteous man’s life, twisted him into a malicious creature bereft of happiness or benevolent designs. You damned what was left to a life of servitude. Even as his memories began to emerge, the inklings of the soul would not be denied – a dark rebellious desire grew within me and I wished escape. I demanded release. Though for my desires you hexed me to suffer a slow and deserved death. It has come at a heavy price; For the both of us.” I can see her smiling as I speak what rests in my heart, that mocking expression that thrives on the suffering of others. “You ensured that Asleon De’Forte would never again see the light of day nor that of his chosen belief. In his place you established Anetho Dawnpride and inadvertently assured your order a bane that would not be so easily dispelled. Make no mistake, Sariane – you have killed me, oh you have killed me… but I’ve made damn sure to take the majority of your order with me…. And now, atop the roof of the world I have but energy enough for one last confrontation… Are you certain you wish it with all that has already transpired?”

 
Snow crunches beneath her feet as she approaches, wearing the same revealing attire that she’d adorned in the few encounters we’d the misfortune of sharing, as if it were as much a part of her as her hands and eyes. She showed no signs of suffering the fatigue of natural elements perhaps, I think to myself, due in part to the fact her heart is colder than the barren lands that comprise Northrend. “Fate demands it, puppet.” She explains simply, holding both hands aloft in a nonchalant manner. “…That’s how you’d justify it were you me, wouldn’t you? Always so fond of the dramatic and ostentatious.” My thumb pushes against the hilt of my sword as I formulate my attack. “I wouldn’t have sought this one out. I’d have let time enact what I could not because I have learned patience over the two years you and your ilk have rested amidst the silence of the grave.” She stands now, perhaps two or three feet away, staring me down without the slightest pause of fear or doubt. I know she has come to kill me herself just as I had intended to do to her.

 
“I left your soulstone at the bottom of the Molten Core. To my knowledge it remains therein; pray tell how it is you’ve the air of life in your lungs?” Her lips curl into a sickeningly twisted grin. “Did Arthas need a soul to strike down his people and enact the tragedy that played a hand in your own?” I feel it in the air now amongst my own magical presence – a darker aura, magicks twisted and tainted under the sway of darkness. “…I have no need of something so petty.” The snowstorm picks up it’s pace as if in tandem with the tension cutting into the air, trying to suppress it in vain. Golden blonde locks replace crimson hues, disfiguring scars reveal themselves along the back of my hands and I feel them now upon my face. Trickery on her part, or misgivings on my own for memory implies that I’ve seen to these superficial atrocities upon my being. That single moment of doubt is all she needs to see, and she willingly accepts the invitation to begin the onslaught.
She lashes out me, mana burning along the outstretched knife end of her hand – I kick off the ground with my heels narrowly averting a decapitation. Locks of my hair are lost to the breeze as I extend my left arm, slamming the hilt of the runeblade into her midsection, spinning about and transitioning it towards my right hand and holding aloof in the ready position as one would a rapier. My chest grows heavier in regard to my exertions, and the lump in my throat grows more discomforting by the moment as she stands upright, turning about to strike again. I adjust my palm to drive Orpheus cleanly through her wrist, only to find that concentration of mana parrying me – as if her arm were a weapon unto itself. She springs forth into my midsection, opposite hand now glowing in the same manner as her right – a second blade; one driving directly towards my abdomen. I phase out of existence and apparate behind her – though she’d anticipated the moment long before I’d even planned it.

I scarcely parry the jet black palms of destruction, before calling upon the reserves of mana so readily available and unleashes a violent torrent of hellish flames directly in front of me; The snow immediately surrounding us falls as if rain, the ground scorched and smoldering. She stands at the epicenter enshrouded in a barrier of darkest midnight; unscathed. Two shadow bolts spiral about each other as they whistle my way. Though I’ve raised a ward the kinetic force behind it sends me toppling along the ground.

 
I roll with the momentum, battered and bruised but still very much alive. The wings to my back fluctuate and flare brilliantly as I weave chaotic energies together in the palm of my left hand, concentrating the destructive magicks upon the plateau we’d found ourselves engaged upon. With a ferocious cry I release them from my person and watch this crackling bolt slam against the ground just at her feet, rocking the earth beneath us, showering me in pebbles and dirt. As I open my eyes to see the fruits of my labor, I am filled only with a growing dread – there she stands; still smiling at me. A tendril of viridian mana flies out at me like a whip and pierces my torso. She means to drain what little life I have left.

 
I pry it from my body with my left hand, enacting a ward and pushing against it in hopes of dispelling her efforts to no avail. I release Orpheus, mirroring her spellcraft and binding the darker arts of afflictions to my heed. She too enacts a ward and holds my tendril at bay. We stand at a stalemate. Our prowess as spellweavers would be all that afforded one or the other a victory now. I cough and feel the warm splash of blood as it leaves my lips, the strain quickly growing to be more than I can bare. The felborne wings glow even brighter, blindingly so, as I push with every fiber of my being against her. I trudge through the snow and painfully advance upon her position. “You’ve overestimated yourself, Sariane. For all the smoke you’re billowing you’ve forgotten that there are no further trees to fuel your fire here – I have naught to lose. I’m already dead beyond hopes; And if I possess none, just what then do you have?!”

 
A pulse of mana ripples along the tendrils as she tries to stall me, I reply with several more in kind, slowing a little but I refuse to halt. There wasn’t much further to go, I was so close. I force even more arcana into my spell, and smile as it crackles with the growing instability. “I’ve touched wonders beyond imagining, cheated demons, escaped hells unimaginable and held the regard of a nation! I’ve gazed upon the Sunwell and have felt it’s power swelling in my veins! Power I carry even now!” She falls to a knee and I find myself towering over her, still entangled in our collective spells. Even from this position the slightest error could shift the tide in her favor. I continue to settle the seeds of doubt in her, any advantage I could maintain would be a boon.

 
The tendril breaks off into a plethora of ethereal green serpents, each bearing down upon her to the point she must cease her efforts and shift to the defensive as the five viridian leeches carry my righteous wrath down upon her. “I’ve killed you once already – why should it have been any different a second time!?” She holds me at bay as I stand mere inches from her, both hands pressed firmly against her arcane shield. “She sneers up at me, breaking the defensive and lurching into me. There is a twisting sensation within my guts and I scarcely register she’s impaled me with both hands through the center of my chest. The tendrils of vampiric magic fade into nothingness, as do my wings. Her breath is warm against my neck as she leans into me and whispers endearingly. “…Because I killed you once before as well and began this little contest puppet…now I’m best two of three.”

I attempt to speak, gagging upon my words; the blood now flowing from my mouth. I feel her fingers wiggling about wildly, further adding to my discomfort. I place my palms atop her forearms and cling to her tightly. She tenses and attempts to pull away in a panic; realizing it to be futile she gathers her thoughts and attempts to conjure a spell within my being only to discover I’m disrupting the immediate flows of ley as best I am able through periodic pulses of mana. I force myself agonizingly closer to her, now holding her tightly. I bite into the nape of her neck, piercing her flesh and producing a gratifying scream. She twists her arms about, trying to end me quickly or wring herself free – I cannot tell, but it is all for naught. I have her range of movement rather limited. I concentrate my diminishing reserves of magic in order to birth a spontaneous and violent combustion. Sweat pours from my forehead and I feel my blood boiling within me – even she can feel it as my skin blisters and cracks, spewing burning vitae everywhere. In but another moment there is a brilliant flash of light before a sweeping darkness takes hold.

“Who was she?” Nostricus asked him in that monotone manner of his. “She was the last, brief, flicker of light that gave birth to the notion of darkness.” Anetho replied as he opened his eyes slowly to the waking world. “I receive her in nightmares now and again, reminders that I’ll only ever be as great as she was… and that isn’t a reassuring future to my mind at all.” The Forsaken set his pen down along the desk and stroked at a long decayed chin. “…You find the idea of being a potent spellweaver distressing?” The Red Magister looked to Nostricus and frowned. “I find the idea of becoming a monster so horrendous and efficient, disturbing.”

My eyes flutter open, and I sit upright all at once. My head jerks from one direction to the next before my thoughts settle and I realize that I’ve been under magical suggestion for several hours now; the glowing yellow eyes resting within the remnants of the long dead hypnotist only further help draw me to reality. “That was quite the aggressive dream-state, Anetho… The heart of your fears, your aggression and your lust for vengeance all stem from the same individual – and to have carried them all for so long is rema-” I hold up my hand and interrupt him. “I care not for the over-analyzation of phobias I know to be put to rest, only for the mixed messages that might be pulled from them to further my aims.”Of course… Beyond the obvious all-consuming thoughts that this woman has brought about your demise – what did you see?” I lay back down along the leather couch and stifle a slight coughing fit before I answer quietly. “…Snow, a blindingly thick snow….” I hear him winding his clock, as he scribbles upon parchment. “That would be the fog of memory, a haze obstructing all that we know to exist within our lives… What was beyond it?” He inquires, as the room falls to the slightly annoying sound of ‘tick, tock, tick, tock.’

“Tight enough dear?” Sariane laughed, jerking at the chain bindings holding the priest in place. He pulled against them in vain, struggling in futile hopes of escaping. “…Now now, you’ll just die tired if you do that – worse yet you might hurt yourself more than you already have.” She ran her hands along his face, shaking her head. “…We really don’t want that sweetie – I’d rather have you looking just as ravishing as you do now.” Asleon cringed, turning his head from her. “Whatever your desires, woman, I will not yield to you or your heretical order.” She laughed in response, wandering to the glowing ritual circle that surrounded the slab of stone he was bound to. “Perhaps you won’t, but whatever’s left behind shall suit our desires perfectly.” Asleon glanced about as best he could, taking in a few foreign objects laying at intervals around the complex circle. He sighed, closing his eyes as they began their incantations. “…My faith… is my shield… My faith… is my shield.” He recited to himself as the unholiest of magicks sparked to life – bringing his to a rather abrupt end and in it’s place something darker was instilled.

“…Flowers… Furs… sacrilegious scripture…  A life lost to could have been’s and what if’s… This face, this beautiful wondrous face that embodied my first sin against the clergy since I’d taken my vows… And screaming. Everything clouds my mind at once and I am lost to the moment, agony becoming my only companion…” My ears twitch as Nostricus delves the depths of this dream with me, seeing just as I do. “…Death takes me slowly, and while my spirit departs painfully… while all that I was ever meant to be dissipates into the ether… I am not afforded the luxury… I see… small trinkets burnt up in the aftermath… There is a triumphant chanting of sorts… I feel hollow, empty, and devoid of so much as thought. Darkness holds me now, and there is nothingness for the longest time… And then I witness all that was, all that is… All that ever could have been…”

“In the embrace of the Light, all things become possible, peace amongst man and all alongside him – and peace unto yourselves.” Asleon lit each candle upon the altar as he spoke, turning only to address the congregation when he’d finished. “The Light knows us to be creatures of imperfections, that we shall falter and lose our way – but it does not know hatred or indifference. It shines it’s warmth and love all the same upon us simple, undeserving creatures and in turn we strive to seek it’s truth and understanding. We gather to show our respect and gratitude for this presence in our lives – and indeed the lives of all those we share the very air itself.” The priest moved to the altar and opened the lofty tome with a clean cloth. “…There is a passage from this very scripture I would quote to you, it says ‘He whom lives in fear and malice shall know only darkness and a shallow emptiness of the soul. But know ye that they who live in love and faith shall be graced to be as whole and know a bounty within thyself.’ This speaks to me of the truth in our beliefs. That he who should believe, seek, and spread the Light shall in turn find, reap and rest amongst that bounty – within an eternal reward. That… That is what salvation is.”

“T’is as if I exist in more than one instance in time and space – that I fill every moment, every void… And all at once we each flicker out of existence entirely… As if it were always fated that I must despair over it – agonize over myself a thousand times; For not once in any scenario may Asleon De’Forte exist beyond Anetho Dawnpride…” My fingers dance across my bow tie as I pull it from around my neck. Nostricus grunts to acknowledge he’s still listening . “…It’s as if every possibility must lead to this one moment in time…” I sigh, releasing a weight from upon my chest. “It is plausible that these images and thoughts are but representations of your own desire to justify your existence, much as your actions throughout time could be interpreted. You wish to be acknowledged – both by the world and in the mirror as it were. Perhaps you feel this is the dream and that even now Asleon De’Forte is still in his death throes, or perhaps that your life’s meaning is still determined by what you were, rather than who you’ve become.”

“It doesn’t matter now, does it?” Anetho whispered as he turned his head to peer at the corpse. For a moment there was a flicker of shame in the cadaver’s expression. “No. It does not.” He replied frankly, pushing a peice of parchment towards the Magister’s side of the desk. “…I do want you to know however… Your dreams will long chase the tails of destiny, regardless of whom they inhabit. I am only disappointed that I could not be more helpful than hearing your words and inscribing them to paper. ” The Red Magister sat upright slowly and looked over the eight lines of ink curling together by an intricate hand. “…I never said what they were…” He replied, looking to Nostricus. “Not in the waking world.” Was all he said in a very coy demeanor before sauntering into that basement of his. “You are the Harbinger of Despair – is it not beyond you to conjure your own nightmares amongst simple desires?”

My eyes take it all in, every beautifully scrawled word spelling hopes for a salvation born amongst shadows. I laugh, I laugh so uncontrollably it hurts. It’s all here! It’s all right here in my hands! Nothing stands before me now, there are no final affairs! No last minute details! Just the passing of time and all will exist in the state of affairs it should. This world, this cruel destitute world… For all the storm clouds gathering it sleeps so soundly and within mere days… So too shall I amongst the chaos rippling all around us.

“…I win…” The Red Magister chortled, gleefully dancing before the collection of soul orbs within the glass case.

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~ by anethodawnpride on March 4, 2014.

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