"Where did you find this young woman?" 


Rann was snapped out of her reverie by Shadowsage's sudden question as she continued to nurse the unconscious Idella back to health. The concern in her voice was clear. 


"In a crypt under Raven Hill Cemetery," Rann answered after having to think for a moment. The whole thing felt foggy now, no doubt due to the reality-bending dream and the fel shock Rann had taken breaking down the door leading to Idella's cell.


"I might have guessed," Sage mused. "You both smell of death." 


The image of that corpse crashing down on top of Kage rushed through Rann's mind. She shuddered, daring not to mention that to Sage. What had been the point in chaining those bodies to the ceiling anyway? Had they been tortured to death up there? Or were they already… And who would have done it, and why? Could Claret and her Coven have been behind this, or were they just the latest in a long line of cultists to desecrate the dead? 


And then there was the door leading to Idella's cell. The door had been protected by a magic she had never seen before. That bothered Rann almost as much as the whole situation itself. In Dalaran, mages who reached her advanced stage of skill and study were taught how to counter various fel magics, and that meant studying them in certain respects. It was never talked about, highly restricted, and well contained so as not to pose risks to the rest of the city and the world. 


Rann tapped her forehead in deep thought. Could she really say she'd never seen it before? Over a hundred and fifty years old, most of them spent in that city, including six years rebuilding it after Archimonde the Defiler had destroyed almost everything. As they combed the city, they had discovered that some, in a panic, had gone to startling measures to protect their little homes within the buildings. Some small apartments and homes at the ground level, protected by fel magic, had withstood the damage of the debris raining down on them. But this? Those runes on the door, the eyes? 


The runes had seemed to be alive. When Rann had struck the door, the fel energy had surged violently through her…even hatefully. But it was just energy… It couldn't be hateful, could it? But it had shaken her, jolted her with what felt like a malice, as though it was trying to kill her within the split-second that it had, packing all of its spite into that brief flash. 


And then the door itself. When the runes dissipated, the door was dislodged, but not destroyed. While the room had become cold due to Rann's ice magic, the vast majority of the temperature change was directed at the door and its protective shield. But the cold directed at it was so intense, even the Lich King would have shivered. The door should have utterly shattered. 


She kept tapping her forehead. If the door didn't shatter, and wasn't as brittle or cold as she had hoped, the runic shield must have not only protected but insulated it. It had felt like liquid or slime… The runes had felt like eyes… Could they have actually been eyes? Was the shield actually a demon? Could demons even contort into a liquid-slime-like form like they'd seen? Maybe not of their own will… Maybe Claret had to torture the demon into that state… 




Pulled out of her deep thought again, Rann met Mallory's gaze as the young human approached on the earthen walkway below Shadowsage's apartment. "I heard you were seen," the priestess explained, reluctantly adding, "and the smell of death was following you."


Rann nodded. "It wasn't a body. It's the smell of where we rescued Idella from."


Mallory's eyebrows contorted with recognition and confusion. "Idella? But…"


"It turns out her old teacher leads a cult," Rann told her, sitting down on the balcony, letting her feet dangle over the side. "One Idella was taken, and the other was in danger of being taken. She's being kept somewhere safe. The other…" Rann nodded toward Sage's chambers.


"One Idella? There's two?" Mallory asked. 


"Long story involving a potion incorrectly mimicking an advanced mage spell," Rann said a little too quickly, wanting to get past this part of the discussion. She had thought long enough already on how Ida had had no business conducting such an advanced experiment on her own, though secretly some part of her admired the ingenuity of it. "Anyway," she concluded, "we don't think the cult leader knows where we brought her, but if you know of any way to make it safer for her, it'd be appreciated." 


Mallory nodded. "I can call in a couple of favors. One of the Wardens owes me too. Besides having Sage caring for her, Darnassus was a good choice. Here, that cult leader's magic would probably raise the alarms faster than a Horde invasion."


Rann allowed herself a small smile. "I'm counting on it. Thanks, Mallory."


Mallory bowed. "Don't mention it. Now, I'd better be off. The problem with a Warden being indebted to you…they're too good at avoiding you." She smirked, spun on her heel, and started off. 


Rann watched Mallory go, sinking once more into her thoughts. Robin had mentioned checking around Duskwood to see if any local citizens had gone missing, which might account for the bodies on that awful ceiling. Rann, for her part, wondered if they had something in common. She remembered, for some reason, noticing the clothes on the body that had fallen on Kage, but they had been in such a rush, and her head was swimming with so many thoughts that she had forgotten to examine the clothes more closely. Could they all be members of that cult? Cultists' robes would certainly be distinctive, especially if they adorned all of them. 


And then there was the matter of the door and its fel- or demon-infused barrier. Dalaran might afford her the sort of privileged information she'd need to dig into that mystery, but she would have to mend some bridges first… 


"Sage, I think I'm going to head out," she announced, standing and turning to her friend. 


Sage looked up from Idella and twisted her canine features into a smile, somehow without baring her teeth. "Don't be gone too long, Rann," she answered. "I still want to look you over too. Besides, it won't be long now before Idella comes to." 


Rann nodded. "Then I'd better hurry. There's an awful lot to do."

Author Rann
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