~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Several days of Light-blessed silence had greeted Maeyv. Despite the cold, persistent autumn rain that soaked her and chilled her to the bone, in some way those days seemed brighter than any that had come before. She dared not assume They had grown bored of her, those Ancients possessed of infinite patience after centuries upon centuries of waiting and lurking and plotting.
Instead, she tried to enjoy the respite as best she could.
She patted Cat absently, her black-furred friend also soaked to the bone and miserable looking. The tree they sought shelter beneath shielded them from the falling rain, but not what was driven nearly sideways by the biting wind.
She could not recall when she had left Stormwind or how long she had been keeping herself near the village of Goldshire. It was a busy little village of friendly shop keepers and a steady flow of budding adventurers looking to make a name for themselves in the wide world. But Maeyv kept her distance from them all, at first because of the voices, but now that They were quiet, because she feared when They might return.
She was not crazy, but could not deny the fact that someone else in her very situation would definitely seem crazy.
The young Mage sighed. She was tired, so tired.
Maeyv violently shook off the fatigue, knowing she could not fall asleep in the cold rain. To fall asleep here would surely mean her not waking again, and though the thought was tempting, Maeyv Ambrosius could not let herself lay down and give up. She feared she was the only one with the knowledge she possessed, and that knowledge could mean the difference between the Old Gods destruction of Azeroth and the means to fight them back and keep them in their deep, dark prisons.
Though, she could not deny that the past few months had already been so draining and disheartening.
Maeyv had been an apprentice to the esteemed High Elf Morzaire for almost a year before the Voices had started coming to her. They had started while she was doing field research and gathering components in Grizzly Hills.
It was that tree… that tree the furbolgs still cling to. Grizzlemaw, as it was called by the furbolg.
The evil that emanated from that place was palpable and hit one not unlike a stale wind from deep underground, one that reeks of death and rot. And the magical aura that permeated the air – it was like a Warlock’s fel magic, only somehow larger and darker and more dangerous. That aura was so thick, she could remember it feeling like creeping fingers all over her skin.
Maeyv shuddered, as much from the memory as the cold dampness.
At first, the Voices were benign enough, seeming as though her own thoughts. They whispered of possessing power and charisma to move up in the world – unimaginable power.
Maeyv was a young, budding Mage and intrigued with the idea of becoming a more powerful magic user.
Then, the voices began to whisper more malevolent thoughts – ways to usurp Morzaire, take his powers, become even more powerful then he was. Whispers of conspiracy – trying to convince her that Morzaire and other wizards were plotting against her, telling her she should strike first in the name of self-preservation and self-defense.
As soon as Maeyv had returned to Dalaran, she began to pour over old books in the Kirin Tor libraries – researching the origin of Grizzlemaw and why it seemed so evil. Everything she found was small bits of information scattered amongst large amounts of chaff.
Every step of her research was complicated by the Voices. They grew angry in her head, and tormented her with words and pain until she could barely concentrate. But Maeyv stubbornly forged ahead.
It was not until weeks into her studies, studies she awkwardly hid from Morzaire, that she came across a musty tome detailing the very information she sought.
Vordrassil, that was the great tree’s elven name. Planted to be a World Tree, the Night Elves desperate to regain their immortality, it was discovered the that tree was deeply tainted. Vordrassil’s deep roots had sunk far into the core of Azeroth and had touched the long secured prison of one of the Old Gods – the beast of a thousand maws, Yogg-Saron. Imprisoned along with the other Old Gods by the Titans centuries before, the tree’s intrusion had awoke Yogg-Saron. He infested the tree and many of the guardian elves, as he now infested the twisted furbolg.
Maeyv had secreted the book back to its semi-hidden home, and fled the library in horror. It was that presence that had touched her while she studied and collected in Grizzly Hills. And it was that presence, she was sure, that was the source of the Voices in her head.
It was not long afterward that Yogg-Saron mirthfully confirmed her thoughts and admitted He was not alone but joined inside her head with the other Old Gods. Sometimes They conversed with one another inside her head, sometimes they argued inside her head, and they often spoke over each other, and Maeyv never had anyway to tell which Voice was which Old God. She was not even sure of how many of Them rode around in her brain, like unwelcome house-guests.
With a start, Maeyv realized she had started to nod off. She blinked her sore eyes several times and tried to wipe away their tiredness. Not satisfied, Maeyv stood, and immediately began to shiver violently once her legs and arms were not folded up together.
Cat followed, despite his equal misery. He sinuously wound around her legs a few times, rubbing his face against the hem of her robe, until Maeyv began to walk, at which time he easily fell in step behind her.
Maeyv leaned heavily on her staff, her exhaustion making it an effort to stand, let alone walk.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Her legs moving almost automatically, her head down to keep the driving rain out of her eyes, Maeyv found herself in the village square of Goldshire. She glanced around, regaining her bearings, and stepped toward the Lion’s Pride. She had a tiny amount of coin remaining, perhaps the innkeeper would take pity on her and take it for a piece or two of bread.
So distracted was Maeyv, she did not even notice the sign and balloons signifying the Darkmoon Faire, all decorating the inn’s mailbox.
Innkeeper Farley was far kinder to her than she even deserved – he steadied her with a firm but gentle grip, led her to a table and got a hot meal into her. The smell of the roasted beef and vegetables as they were brought to the table almost made her faint it was so wonderful, and eating it all upset her stomach, but she did not care because at least it was full.
After she had her fill, the innkeeper gave her a room. He waved her off every time she protested about not have the gold to cover such things. He merely smiled and told her he would never forgive himself for turning her away, then wished her a good night and pleasant dreams before heading back down to the inn’s greatroom.
Maeyv slept like the dead, Cat curled peacefully at her feet.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Maeyv sat stright up, a panicked gasp escaping her lips.
She looked around the room, taking a moment to recall where she was and trying to grasp what could have woke her.
I said: You have not forgotten us, have you, little one?
Maeyv could not find her breath. She had known They would return to torment her, but it still dropped a lead weight into her stomach and made her mind race with anxious thoughts – thoughts she knew the Voices were privy to.
Ahh, yes. You still wonder what it is we could want with you. All in due time. You have proved far stronger in will then we expected, but even that can be put to use. You will serve out of fear and pain if not from obedience.
“No!” Maeyv gasped, her breath coming faster the more They told her.
Oh, yes. There is no escape from us. We see and hear all through you.
Maeyv grasped her head as a shooting spike of pain ripped through her brain. A soft sob escaped her lips. She took no notice of Cat rubbing against her, eager to comfort her.
Up, little one!
Almost without direction from her, her legs sprang her to the floor and she ran – ran down the inn’s stairs, ran through the greatroom, ran out into the village square, ran away as fast as she could into the wooded cover of Elwynn Forest.
Innkeeper Farley tried to call after her, but she was already gone.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
When the Voices ceased their mental prodding, like whipping a defiant horse into a trot, Maeyv panted as much from the pain and its sudden absence as from the exertion. She looked up and started when a Draenei standing before her, dressed in colorful carnival clothing, took a deep breath and released a torrent of scorching green flames from his mouth.
The flames came so close, she felt their warmth on her face and she stumbled back a few steps.
Step through the portal.
Despite the gravity of the Voices’ tone, Maeyv tried to resist Them. She stubbornly planted her feet and jammed the butt of her staff into the damp, softened earth to further steady herself.
You cannot resist.
The Voices were soft but without compromise, and as the pain returned, Maeyv’s feet began to move.
Clutching her head and holding back a scream, the Mage stepped through the portal.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Maeyv came out into a dark and foreboding wood. A crooked path wound through it, in the direction of carnival music and screams that could have just as easily come from deathly fear as good, scary fun. Glowing signs in the shapes of giant arrows swung and bobbed and thrust in the same direction, obnoxiously urging her forward.
Find Silas Darkmoon. Seek him, and when you are there, he will know who you are and where to direct you.
The Mage swallowed the growing lump in her throat and followed the path towards the Darkmoon Faire.
TO BE CONTINUED…
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Awaiting the Muse by Jamie Roman AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.