“What in seven hells are you wearing? Some kind of silken noose of sorts?”
Nazgo’rak turned away from the cracked mirror and towards the mini mindslayer Prophet Scarabyss. “It’s a tie-thing! I found it on a clothesline on the way home last night. I think I am supposed to wear something nice.”
The Qiraji raised his brow at the Mantid in puzzlement. “For what?”
“Some kind of joining ritual between soulmates,” the Blasphemer attempted to explain, unsure if his roommate would understand.
“You mean a wedding?”
“...Yes, that. But I think they call it “handfasting”. This one they do, anyway. You’re coming with.”
“What!? The hell I am!”
Overhearing the commotion, Nazgo’rak’s apprentice Pepi peered over the top of the privacy screen that sectioned off her portion of the room. “Can I come with?”
The Mantid pointed at the young female Qiraji sternly. “Not while N’Zoth is still active. No.”
Her wings slumped in disappointment. “Aw...” She hovered back down behind the screen, returning to taking notes on her most recent ambersmithing project.
The Qiraji prophet held up a pincer. “You cannot shelter her from the word of the Old Gods forever, you know.”
“I am in no mood for having this argument again right now,” Nazgo’rak hissed, looking back to the mirror to adjust the tie that hung awkwardly around his neck. Why did humans like to wear these things? He could have sworn he’d seen members of a few other races wear such decorative items, too, and wondered why so many were so masochistic, considering how uncomfortable these silk “necklaces” were.
Scarabyss continued to watch the ancient Mantid preen in the mirror with mild amusement. “Why do you want me to attend such a proceeding?” He paused. “...You’re not considering having me learn the ways of the lesser races, so that I may betroth you to that Nerubian you keep writing letters to out in Northrend, are you? Because I will let you know now: I refuse to play a part in such a mockery. Just because I am a priest does not mean-”
Nazgo’rak’s jaw practically hit the ground when the suggestion caught him off guard. “Wait, what!?” he gasped. “That wasn’t what I was thinking at all!” He was admittedly blushing now, though, and could not help but mull over the idea as it was placed into his head unwittingly. “B-Besides, Ixshi’suten and I are still just getting to know one another! And I do not think that Nerubian society would acknowledge such a union. I think.”
“Rightfully so!” the prophet retorted, climbing up onto the nearby desk to be closer to the bulky Mantid’s height. Reaching over, he used his pincers to snip the tie off of his neck. “And take this silly thing off. Just wear your armor. As much as I am loathe to admit it, it looks ceremonial enough.”
“Hey!” Nazgo’rak protested, feeling his now bare neck with disappointment at first. But then he noted that he was a lot more comfortable without the tie. He probably wouldn’t have made it the entire night wearing it, in hindsight. “… I suppose you may be slightly correct.” He was reluctant to admit that the male Qiraji was right on anything. Even if he could not entirely see the smirk underneath Scarabyss’ collar, he knew it was there.
With a loud sigh, Pepi called out from behind her privacy screen, “Yes, I will polish your armor for you before you go.” She already knew that the question was coming, since part of her apprenticeship entailed squire-like work, such as maintaining the armor of her mentor for him to prove her growing knowledge in caring for such items.
Following her words, Scarabyss took note of something that he’d only now noticed, since he was standing so close to Nazgo’rak. “Did you actually bathe for this occasion?”
Much to his disappointment, Nazgo’rak shook his head no. And here the prophet and wondered if perhaps the old Mantid had finally been learning some decorum. “No,” Nazgo’rak began. “I just jumped into a lake a few times after the conclave.”
“But you hate water.”
Nazgo’rak nodded. “Yes, but I was being chased by ghosts.”
Prophet Scarabyss stared him down unflinchingly, desperately wishing that he could read the Mantid’s impossible to penetrate mind. “I see…”
Without ceasing in her writings, Pepi suggested, “I really do think you should take Emmy’s advice and get your eye checked…”
The Mantid stubbornly pretended not to hear the request. “Anyway,” he said, looking back to Scarabyss. “I thought you might be interested in seeing a Night Elven wedding. I noticed you’ve been reading a lot of books about the Night Elves.” He grinned slightly. “I’m not even going to ask how you’ve been sneaking books that are clearly from this library, considering that the three of us had an agreement that you would not leave this room unattended, much less snoop around the campus, but I’ll just pretend that I did not know that part.”
Scarabyss narrowed his heavily-bagged eyes. “I do not want you to get the wrong idea here – my interest is not one of admiration. The Qiraji and the Night Elves have an unsavory history together, and I merely wish to know my centuries-long antagonists.”
“…And if you come with me to this wedding, you’ll behave, right?”
The prophet exhaled sharply. “I am not a barbarian like you are. I know how to display self-control, and I don’t just go about mindlessly beating things with sticks. I am fully capable of observing a ceremony without losing my marbles. You may find that hard to comprehend, with that pea-sized cranium of yours.”
Nazgo’rak gave him a spiteful glance. “I did not realize that someone like you had any “marbles” left to lose, considering how often you talk to the walls.”
“For the last time, I’m not communing with the architecture! I am speaking to forces unseen whom are greater than ourselves, not that you would know anything about that!”
With a roll of his eye, Nazgo’rak changed the subject back to tonight’s upcoming event. “Just promise that you will do that Gnome thing that you allegedly do.”
Often times, Scarabyss forgot that the Mantid could not actually see his brand of illusory magic. He could only take his word for it, and try to believe in it on his own.
The prophet had taken to disguising himself as an inconspicuous Gnomish male in the minds of others, since he himself was relatively the same height as the average Gnome. It helped with going about his business in the city undetected, although sometimes he got the sneaking feeling that exceptionally gifted citizens with keen senses picked up on some of the oddities that made the illusion seem a little… off.
Luckily, putting on a friendly and wizened smile and uttering a simple, “I am but a humble Gnome. Go away.” seemed to placate the particularly curious ones. So far…
Now he began to see why his Mantid captor was so nervous about going on strolls around the city by himself. Outsiders were so obnoxiously nosy, and could not keep to their own business, it seemed.
“Of course I intend to do the “Gnome thing”, as you so eloquently put it. I’m not a fool,” the prophet snapped. “But don’t believe for even a moment that I have any interest in being introduced to your “friends”. I will only be there to observe. Nothing more.”
“Yes, I’m sure no one will mind having a creepy Gnome staring at them silently the entire night,” Nazgo’rak quipped sarcastically.
“Those are my terms, and you will just have to deal with it,” Scarabyss demanded.
“Very well. It’s probably for the best, honestly. Even someone as patient as myself cannot stand the sound of your voice!” Nazgo’rak retorted.
Scarabyss sighed. “I despise you.”
The Mantid ambersmith grinned. “Likewise. Now get ready, because I won’t have you embarrassing me in front of my friends.”
Late into the morning, the two Qiraji living with Nazgo’rak were still in the process of going through their individual morning routines. When they first began living together, the battleguard Pepi avoided trying to speak to the mindslayer Scarabyss, opting to leave him to his own devices since he didn’t seem particularly happy to technically be a captive.
Lately, however, Pepi was a little more bold about striking up idle conversations, especially since she and Scarabyss wound up spending a lot of time in the same room together, since she could also not leave for fear of her falling back under the spell of the active Old God N’Zoth, should she leave range of the school’s wards.
When Nazgo’rak was away, or in this case still asleep, she’d ask a non-invasive question or make an observation on Prophet Scarabyss’ work, and surprisingly he came across as more patient with her than she expected. Admittedly, she was beginning to enjoy his company, even if her Mantid mentor did not feel the same way.
“So what was it like? The wedding, I mean,” she whispered curiously while knelt behind the privacy screen that served as a makeshift “wall” between Scarabyss’ “room” and the rest of the living space.
He closed his book with a mild groan. Not because of her question, but because of the terrible headache had from drinking too much at the engagement while he’d disguised himself as a Gnome using illusory magic. He prayed that he wouldn’t take his current discomfort out on her when he answered. “It was...”
Thinking about it, he knew deep down that Pepi would have loved such a thing. It had everything that she loved. Well, nearly everything. Romance, pretty dresses, awe-inspiring ceremony, the works. But he did not want her to get the same fascination with the cultures of outsiders, much less that of the dreaded night elves, that Nazgo’rak had.
She was one of few remaining Qiraji. And quite young and impressionable, at that. What hope would their people yet have if there were no remaining Qiraji, other than himself, with his sense of pride for the heritage of their own kind? Should it all just be cast aside to “play nice” with the very races that chased them from their homes thousands upon thousands of years ago?
It was true that the Qiraji were conquerors in their own right, but such was the nature of nearly all races that he knew of. It was about survival. Us against them. Living in harmony was a fool’s errand. And besides, why should they share this world with others? The Aqir were here long before any of these Titan-descended races that so boldly claimed the land that was rightfully theirs when forged by the usurper gods themselves.
At least, that was how he saw it.
“It was a dreadful affair, I’m sorry to say,” the prophet lied in a woeful tone. “The Kaldorei are indeed exactly the sort of beasts I’ve been telling you about. Awful, really.”
Pepi blinked, her excitement faltering. “O-Oh…?” She sounded disappointed. “What happened, exactly?”
Scarabyss stammered. He wished he could think straight. He really needed to lay off the bottle, but it called to him nearly as much as the Ancient Ones did. “W-Well, I will spare you the details. Such things are not fitting to reach a young lady’s delicate antennae…”
Pepi scoffed. “I’m not so fragile, you know…”
“Ah, but of course! Regardless, I cannot bring myself to tell you of the horrors I saw the night before. Surely you must understand.” The prophet continued to over-dramatize as he spoke, which was not unusual for him, in fairness.
The female Qiraji rolled her eyes. “Fine. Keep your secrets, then.” She fluttered back to her end of the room, behind her own privacy screen.
It was hard to say if the prophet really felt all that bad about lying to her. As one of the mindslayer caste, he was used to such things. Gladiators were living shields and weapons, battleguards were nimble warriors and law keepers, and mindslayers…
The male Qiraji shook the thought from his mind after dwelling on it to the point of it disturbing him, once he made an ironic association between the caste being known for both deception and being religious leaders. But his prophecies weren’t lies. They were real as anything else, just something that one could not touch. It was not a choice to serve the Old Gods, but the only viable option. They were the beginning and the end, for all things. Most of all the Aqir races! Those who pretended otherwise were fools.
At least… That was how he saw it.
He stroked the cover of the book in his hands with a pincer – a compilation of prophecies foretold by even greater prophets before him. It was his life’s work, trying to re-assemble all of their lost teachings, and expand upon them in his own little way…
Lowering his head, Scarabyss exhaled sadly. He peered out from behind the Mantid-style privacy screen at the sleeping Nazgo’rak. Was he really so happy to live among outsiders? Appeasing them by adopting their ways, groveling for their approval, and apologizing for every social misstep? He found that hard to believe.
He recalled meeting some of Nazgo’rak’s “friends”, and winced at the recollection that the Mantid had completely ruined the secrecy of his residence at the university, as unwilling as such residency may be. The prophet dreaded to think what would come of it all. He wasn’t sure which was worse – being forced to “play nice” with outsiders, or being tortured to death. Eventually he’d soon find out which he was getting, he wagered.
...In retrospect, the wine served at the wedding was quite good, for something of night elven make.
Without allowing himself to become too distracted from his meditations, he resumed skimming through his progress so far within the tome he held. He would not fall prey to the same kind of madness that plagued the Mantid and began to infect the battleguard, he told himself.
All he could do was to continue his works, and hopefully one day finish them before he died – from one cause or another. He prayed that his gods would hear him, and permit him the strength to live at least long enough to achieve that. He knew not what else he could contribute to his dying people.
If his prophecies were true, and his prayers were answered, his writings would serve to aid the repopulated Qiraji people in the times to come as the reborn Black Empire rose to power. But if they were not… Well, perhaps at least then, proof of their existence and a testament of their empire would live on in their place. It would be a hollow victory, but it was more than they had now.