This short story requires a DISCLAIMER for sensitive adult themes!
Additionally, please be aware that our storyline will at certain times - though not very often - explore a number of darker, mature themes and undertones overall! Please understand that these matters are not included merely for the sake of shock value but instead utilized in order to give a more effective and true-to-form narrative involving certain characters who make appearances throughout the story we've prepared to tell. We endeavor to treat every instance of such content tastefully and with the utmost respect, and most often allusions will be made in favor of elaborate descriptions in the portrayal of said material. After all, the ultimate goal is to entertain and ensure that every participant is OOCly enjoying themselves!
tl;dr - If you can handle Game of Thrones, you should be able to handle this storyline!
Sev & Maureen's Players
The Master's Return, Part I
It was a day like any other at the former site of the Stormwind University Archaeological Studies Base Camp in this wild sector of Korladun, Suramar on the Broken Isles. But the banners of Blue and Gold, emblazoned with the wise and mighty Golden Gryphon, no longer proudly waved; most of them torn away and carelessly left dropped to the ground when the site's new inhabitants had first arrived.
But soon enough, this typical day would turn out to be quite significant and extraordinary...
The rhythmic clang of metal against hard soil and stone, combined with the collective grunts of those figures making them, soon gave way to scattered utterances of confusion followed by an abrupt hush of anticipation. The hush was drowned out into total silence by a harsh, domineering voice first speaking in Eredun then repeating the command in Common. "Stand by, you curs!" the taskmaster bellowed. "Nobody raises their tools or moves another muscle bereft of my command! You! You, raise your pick and pry that outcropping loose!" A few more dull clanks from a single mattock later and a chorus of uncertain murmurs sounded from the depths of Quadrant #B01, followed by sudden exclamations of wonder and fascination.
A trio of robed figures stood silently at the top of the spoil, their faces hidden by the cowls of their cloaks. Yet, their postures displayed an almost impatient level of expectancy once their notice had been attracted to that particular digsite. The sole acolyte who had just moments earlier been commanded to strike the point of interest came scurrying up the scaffolding of the dig. He immediately fell to his knees, raising his find up reverently toward the robed figure in the center. A hand reached out for the object, accentuated by fingernails finely manicured to talon-like points and painted onyx black. Pale slender fingers curled around the curious relic, tightening then beginning to tremble. A feminine voice issued from beneath the obscurity of the figure's hood, commanding the acolyte in a calm, even but authoritative tone to return to his work down below.
The trio of robed humanoids appeared minutes later and rather urgently within the largest tent erected at the center of the dig's campsite. As they passed through the entry flap of the tent, the three were greeted by the sight of another seemingly of their ilk; a similarly robed humanoid male to all casual observations. His hood was down, revealing a deceptively youthful and exotically handsome face, framed by a goatee and long black hair like raven's down which cascaded neatly over ears that came to smaller, rounded points. Turning to meet his three associates as they entered, the man's eyes shimmered with a haunting fel-green tinge to his darkened green eyes.
"I've got to hand it those University berks," the Half-elf mused aloud. He'd been idly rummaging through an abundance of empty foot lockers and storage containers when the trio had entered his tent. "I don't know why they just up and abandoned this digsite and camp years ago, but they sure as Fel made sure to pack up everything and anything they brought with them. And as for what they discovered here, obviously we know they took that too." He tugged open the drawer of the desk he'd been standing behind then abruptly slammed it closed in seething irritation. "Not a fucking thing! Not a single journal, not a single reading, print-out or scrap of parchment to specifically detail their process upon landing here. Site selection, how they determined where to make camp, where to coordinate the quadrants. Did they have any direct assistance, be it paranormal or mundane in nature? Were their methods magical, scientific...both?! It's well documented by now what they did find here, but our interests lie squarely upon what they did not!" He snarled, slamming his fist down as if to emphasize his point. "A dead-end! I refuse to allow our sacred task to culminate in such failure. We've come too far for this venture to end this way..." His voice darkened. "Inform the taskmasters. Our thralls' and servants' toil shall be doubled henceforth and the excavations carried out round the clock."
Finally, his eyes averted upward from the surface of the empty desk to the three figures. They stood silently in place and waited for their apparent superior's tirade to finish. "Well? What is it, then? Are your cowls bundled so tightly around your ears as to deafen you to my command?" He peered impatiently at the trio until finally the central figure withdrew her hood to reveal her face. She was also Half-elven and looked as youthful and exotically attractive as the man standing across from her. Her features were almost completely identical, save for even longer hair than his; her green eyes even possessed the same fel-green tint. She advanced toward her apparent twin, a sly yet sultry grin spread across her blackened lips while brandishing something in her right hand. It resembled a simple circlet or coronet, shaped and forged into a perfect circle with little embellishment or decoration. It looked worse for the wear from the soil it had been lodged and buried within, yet there was still something so... unnaturally exquisite about it. Inexplicably entrancing to the Half-elf male the very moment he laid eyes upon it.
"We found something."
She held the relic aloft, instantly drawing the man's attention. His expression suddenly filled with equal parts fascination and revulsion. It was as though he felt a natural instinct to reject and flee from it, yet some greater desire was overtaking his mind and body. The woman smirked, her hand beginning to tremble again, as it had done earlier, when she tentatively offered the crown to him. "Yes," she thought to herself. "A crown. A crown befitting one so dominant and powerful. One so unequivocally fit to rule, once his throne has been prepared!" Suddenly, she was unsure for a split-second whether these thoughts were derived from her own knowledge of the relic, or if it something... someone, else! Her dazzled expression matched that of her twin when she proffered it forth, the near-euphoric sensation within her only intensifying further the longer her offer lingered within the space between them.
"Lauriel! Is... Is that what I- What I think it is?! It looks like just more of that Highborne refuse our acolytes and demons have been unearthing, yet... That energy. The residual energy inside this- this crown, it's so incredibly familiar, is it not? It feels exactly the same as the emanations from those other pieces turning up elsewhere that we've collected! Yet..."
"...It's him, Malakhai, yes. It has to be. And this, the final piece we've been searching for! I can feel it! I can already feel him pulsing through my veins. I can hear his whispers, not only in my ears but reaching deep within my soul! The sensation grows, more and more the longer I keep this crown in my possession. This crown. His crown, brother dear. And now it's ours!"
Lauriel finally managed to release the crown from her uncontrollably reluctant and shaky grasp, allowing her brother to take it into both of his hands and inspect it more closely. Malakhai turned it full circle, stopping as he examined the front of the crown. He pensively traced a finger over what appeared to be an empty hexagonal socket then snapped his gaze upward at his sister. "Lauriel. Did they find a large jewel along with this?"
Lauriel shook her head. "No, just this crown. Quadrant #B01. It was embedded in the solid rock and soil, partly protruding from a series of previously dug rectangular-shaped sections. Specifically, on the outskirts of the site's northern border. Excavation was halted immediately and one of the acolytes was ordered to extract it. It was brought to me without delay, and I have delivered it into your hands, likewise."
Malakhai pondered a moment, still unable to tear his fel-tinged gaze from the crown until a considerable amount of deep inner will finally afforded him the power to do so. He reached for an ebony scrollcase hanging from his belt then spilled its contents unceremoniously onto the desk; a rolled parchment, which he then unfurled to reveal a finely illustrated map bearing complete resemblance to the "Stormwind University Archaeological Studies Base Camp - Korladun, Suramar". His eyes fell upon Quadrant #B01, placing a fingertip to it.
Lauriel grinned, watching her brother closely. "So, we do have some sort of resource to guide us, then? Brother dear, this is hardly 'nothing'. It's quite literally a detailed map of the base camp. It illustrates precisely what was found here three years ago by the University's Archaeology program. Where and even when each discovery was made! This information has to be of some use to us." Her grin widened as she fluttered her eyes coquettishly at her brother, her voice taking on a more breathy and lilting tone. "Mmmm. Did you send one of our agents to... 'procure' this for you? How delightfully sinister!" Malakhai barely shook his head, not even looking up. He traced a finger from where the quadrant was on the map to a key off to the side of the diagram. "No. This is merely a map creatively designed by one of the professors as a takeaway handbill, easily acquired and free of charge. A visual aid from some campus tour they recently hosted. The fools have many such exhibits strewn all about their University grounds actually, and they're quite liberal in whom they allow to visit them."
Lauriel wrinked her nose, scoffing with mild disappointment. "Sometimes truth is indeed stranger than fiction, Malakhai. But that was just plain boring! Ugh!" She let forth an amused chortle, tapping one of her onyx-hued talons over the map while she also scanned the key. "Oooh. Quadrant #B01 is where several of the Ancient Suramari Tablets were found. Those tablets, and... a whole bunch of other junk from 'the Age of Decadent Splendor'. Way back when Queen Azshara still reigned over Kalimdor." Lauriel clicked her tongue irreverently then smirked, glancing up and over to the crown again before meeting her brother's gaze. "Thera'sin'serrar!", she exclaimed with an ecstatic fervor. "Mmmm..." Lauriel cooed then wantonly licked her lips, leaning in even closer to Malakhai across the desk.
"Sister dear, now is not the time," he sighed, standing up to full posture and once again taking the crown into his hands. "But you're right. There must be something useful to be gleaned from this literature. Hmmm. So undoubtedly, he must have come here looking for the tablets, before..." Malakhai chose not to finish his words. He bowed his head in silent reverence for several moments and clutched the crown tightly, sighing before capturing his sister's gaze once more. "Quadrant #B01 was unique in that regard, you know. Do you fully comprehend what that means? Several of the tablets were discovered there all at once. Meaning that the residual signature of their extraordinary and ancient magicks, once unearthed, would've been easily the most prominent beacon of their power in that location alone."
Lauriel nodded her understanding, eyes fixated on the crown while Malakhai resumed his curious inspection of the socket he'd noticed earlier. She reached for the crown, uncertain at first, then boldly urged herself to run her fingertips along one of its outer curves. "What's our next move then, brother dear," Lauriel asked with a mild quaver in her voice. Malakhai smiled in earnest into his sister's eyes until moments later his gaze panned behind her. His smile faded. Malakhai adopted a more stoic expression once he regarded the two robed and hooded figures, who until then had been silently standing by since their arrival.
"You," Malakhai commanded the guard on the right. "Return directly to Quadrant #B01. Find out if a large gemstone cut with six sides has been excavated in or around the same location as this crown. I presume it may resemble a peridot or emerald, but you will instruct the taskmasters to keep us especially apprised of any and all discoveries of a gemological nature. Once you've completed this task, your next is to gather all necessary material components for a ritualistic cross-plane summoning. And, of course, make absolutely certain to enlist aid in transferring the sacred implements to our location for the ritual. Save for this crown. I'll hold onto this for safekeeping and bring it to the ceremonial grounds personally." Malakhai nodded and the hooded servant mimicked the gesture, turning to depart immediately.
"And you," Malakhai curtly addressed the lone remaining servant. Malakhai hesitated for a moment, eyes downcast as he spied a fallen Stormwind University banner haphazardly tossed into the far corner of the tent. A clever smirk spread slowly across his face as he reasserted eye contact and command over the cowled figure. "You will return to the Eastern Kingdoms. Investigate this... Stormwind University. Find out if they may somehow be in possession of the gem matching the socket built into this crown. It's entirely possible their experts may have unwittingly misappraised it, catalogued then placed it among the other miscellaneous Highborne antiquities they discovered before they left. You must carry out this task as inobtrusively as possible! We can ill afford to arouse suspicion so early in the plan. We're close, so close! Yet, we're not entirely protected. Not yet. Especially if we were to provoke the ire of this particular collection of scholars and academicians prematurely! There's far more to many of them than what they seem. In fact..."
Malakhai paused to ponder something that had just occurred to him. "...Avoid conflict with them at all costs. It remains to be seen whether any among their number can be turned... seduced, to join our crusade. Everybody has a price, after all. Some deepest, darkest desire one would go to any length to see made into reality! Even just one of them would make a formidable ally to our cause, I'm certain." Malakhai smirked at Lauriel, his thumb brushing fondly over her fingers still curled around the crown as he continued. "Some certainly far more than others, based upon what I've seen and observed. And we still have some old loyalties to rekindle and exploit once the time is right! Especially now that certain pieces have moved around the board and into unexpected but far more favorable positions. There's even some new ones just now entering play!"
Malakhai cleared his throat abruptly. Finally, he gave a consenting nod to the hooded servant, who immediately turned and exited the tent to set about the given task. Lauriel sighed longingly as she leaned forward and inclined her cheek to press gently against the cold, hard metal of the crown contrasted against the warm, soft flesh of Malakhai's hand. "We're almost there, brother dear," Lauriel lightly remarked. "Soon, we'll have seen our quest through and our labors finally done at long last. We'll be richly rewarded for our loyalty to him and our diligence in carrying out his will. Maybe we can finally be truly..." Lauriel lurched across the desk, grabbing Malakhai by the back of his head to pull him into a kiss. "...Happy."
Their lips met in quite a familiar manner, airy breaths and soft moans galing between them for several moments before parting the illicit expression of their mutual passion. Lauriel gazed dreamily into Malakhai's eyes, fingertips sweeping softly as they remained at the back of his neck. "And what of us, brother dear? What is our task at hand?"
Malakhai slowly opened his eyes to peer at Lauriel. He raised the crown and looked upon it with a silent, intensely determined expression before once more regarding his twin sister. "The final leg of our quest is nigh, sister dear. A destination so far away yet at once so close at hand. A location of the utmost significance to our hallowed benefactor, which has seen as many grisly beginnings as it has bloody ends. A place where the one true Order is Chaos..."
"...Soon, we make for Outland."