(( Thanks to Mosur for writing part of this and the feedback! ))

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“What are these things again, Esreiella?” Gerald questioned pulling one of the iron caged vials full of red swirling anima.

“A convenient source of power.” She answered tight-lipped. His constant questions and compounded with all of her own questions into a stress was starting to grate on her nerves again.

He turned the vial over in his gloved hand, it didn’t really look like any kind of potion he had seen. “But how do you use it-” Gerald’s words stopped short as the container he was inspecting fell out of his hands. His hand shot out, snatching it from the air before it could shatter upon the stone.

Esreiella’s brow raised and her gaze slowly panned toward Gerald. Midway through forming the fel-laiden spell her splayed fingers instead stiffened and let the spell dissipate. A long stare fell on him as she shot her an apologetic grin. 

“Well, we can’t use it if it’s broken.” There was a sarcastic sweetness in her voice like she had been talking to a child. The grin immediately melted away Gerald’s grin. “But on that point, not yet. Have no fear, I intend to find out if we can collect enough of it. We might want to additionally check if this can cross into Azeroth without changing the composition. If we can successfully ferry it between the planes, I imagine we’ll have some room for innovation on our hands.”

Gerald stood stiff with the small vial in his hand, careful not to let it slip again. He took careful steps, one at a time, to reach Esreiella across the small space between them in the cemetery. She posed no inquiry and simply took the vial. Where his curiosity did not dare venture into the substances of magic, hers did and she did not hesitate to twist the silver skull cap away. 

The red substance seeped out of the top like setting some eldritch tendril loose before it darted away. Without knowing where exactly it had gone, Esreiella began making her assumptions on its properties while Gerald turned back to the sinstones. Their distractions were short lived and interrupted by one of the great winged beasts shooting forward at Gerald. Neither had a moment to react before he was pinned to ground under its stoney claw.

Lady Esreiella’s hands ignited in fel flame, quick to prepare herself to destroy whatever had made itself a threat. The creature was a great stone gargoyle. One that had moments ago been just a statue, or at least so the pair of them had thought. She realized at once the vials magic had animated this one, it also answered the unasked question she had about the statues and the creatures she had witnessed. They were one in the same. 

The gargoyle turned Gerald over in its hands inspecting him a moment more then paused to look to the severe woman searchingly.

“Gnasher! What have you there?” The voice was deep and came from somewhere unseen. The Venthyr she’d heard so much about, Esreiella surmised. She’d seen them in the town they had landed in, though the ones there hadn’t appear to be very important.

Walking into view it seemed as though she were mistaken. Instead of the wiry ashen people she understood to be the Venthyr another familiar form graced her vision. A red skinned creature with green cracks in his flesh.

“A mortal?” The eredar had questioned, then followed the gargoyles gaze to the warlock.

“I know. We live in interesting times, don’t we?” Esreiella quipped back, but did not extinguish the flames she conjured.

“Don’t get so hasty with your wrath and ruin.” A smirk rose on the Eredar’s lips with a soft chuckle following his words. Clearly he wasn’t that impressed with the magic she could conjure, and he did not register her as a threat. Especially her accompanying rogue had been so easily trapped and remained trying to push the gargoyle’s claw away from his chest. “I’m certain we can both walk away from this without anyone being injured.”

“Your pet is on my employee. I’d rather he be let up so I don’t have to payout on a physician for him.” Esreiella adjusted her posture, clearly trying to square up all the height she could manage and appear threatening. It was not so successful. 

“How about a trade?” The Eredar asked almost too nicely as he certainly wasn’t buying her posturing.

“How about I banish you?” She was not ready to relent either, and she wasn’t going to let someone just rob her of what she had rightfully claimed. Not now, not ever. It was a point she and Gerald both agreed upon in their talks, having lived through their homes taken away by the scourge and their successors. 

“Why don’t you?” The eredar dared, and it was the only reason Esreiella needed. The green fire died out from her hands in exchange for shadowy magic. The violet energy and darkness settled around his form, encased him, compelling him back to his own demonic planes, but there was no effect. He laughed and Esreiella glanced at her hands incredulously. “Don’t be so hard on yourself, we do live in interesting times and places.” The eredar snapped his fingers and the gargoyle retreated from Gerald, taking up a watchful position nearby. 

Esreiella glanced back to Gerald as he pulled himself off the ground, but she didn’t back down or move away from the eredar. Her jaw clenched tight as she tried to plot her way through fighting him.

“About that trade.” He mentioned once more.. “Keep in mind that while we could drag this out with a fight, I have decided to take the higher road and hope we can all keep an open mind. Now, I don’t do this for nefarious purposes, but rather I find our little encounter… amusing.”

“One’s own personal amusement hardly seems in good spirits.” Esreiella uttered and folded her arms. 

“Until you see what I have to offer.” He spoke easily, calmly, before he pulled three anima vials from behind his back. “I’m more than willing to part with these, seeing how you and your employee are dabbling with them. However, as trades work, I will get something in return, but it’s much simpler than these. All I ask is to know more, and I’m sure you can appreciate that. You spell casters are so curious about the inner workings of the worlds.”

Gerald joined Esreiella at her side, providing her some confidence in a united front against the eredar and silent counsel. It was Gerald, after all, that she looked to in silent inquiry on the proposition of trade. He glanced back at her with a grimace still etched into his face, but he gave her a short nod. 

All of it was for the cause. The ends would justify the means, and both were sure this wouldn’t be the shadiest person they would have dealings with.

“What are the terms?” Esreiella asked, but she remained guarded and skeptical. 

“Like you, I want to know more. All I need is just a little information, and the anima is all yours. Do we have a deal?” He held the vials out to tempt them into his exchange, but he did not have to try hard. Esreiella and Gerald were ready to agree happily.

“You have a deal.” Esreiella agreed and offered her hand out for the anima.

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