“Hey! Put that down! THIEF! THIIIEF!!”
The cry echoed through the wide antechamber, and pale faces swiveled around in one motion, locking their collective gazes upon the corner of the room.
The young griffon, now the size of an adult bloodhound, was standing frozen, fluffy ears perked, eyes wide as plates, a partially chewed antique Elonian gold scepter still in his beak.
Spectral guards jumped out of the ground like ghostly jack-in-the-boxes, pale phantoms of scimitars and shields at the ready.
Fiel jumped on his feet the moment he heard the shout, leaving the dead servant he was conversing with to recount his tale to the empty air. If the norn didn’t move fast, the very same place where he found the bird a year prior would also be the place he would bury him.
Gold coins and regal jewelry and torn antique scrolls flew about as Mer dodged between slashing blades and kicking legs, screeching and squawking in anguish.
At the signal the griffon fell flat on the ground, limbs splayed and wings tucked in tight, like they practiced. The norn flew over him with his dark sword in hand, his body wreathed in a cloud of shadowy feathers as he swirled among the assaillants, cleaving their ghostly forms apart. They would be back, of course; their minds stuck on one looping thought for the rest of their eternal un-life: protect the ancestral treasure.
Best not be there when that happened.
“Now you’ve done it…” the necromancer groaned as he grabbed the troublesome bird by the scruff of his neck and heaved him under his arm. He ran, with bird and blade and what little notes he made, towards the exit, towards the crystal-tainted desert above. “Because of you we’ll have to wait a few hours for them to forget about us before we can go back! Bad bird! Bad!”
Mer trilled at him from beneath his armpit, looking at Fiel with big, lovable amber eyes and a cheeky tongue poking out of his beak.
He huffed and looked away. That griffon had no business being this cute.
The norn sat on a fallen piece of the gate that led to the primeval resting place, wary of both spectral pursuers and crystal-warped minions still lurking not too far, pondering.
Was it worth it to go back under, anyway? He spent a whole day convincing the ghost servants he was not a thief, then another one coaxing the twin queens Nahlah and Dahlah to deign appear before him and talk to him, and then another morning to –politely– get them and their entourage to talk about the Scarab Plague.
According to queens, they were kept blissfully ignorant of the rampaging scourge, until it was much too late. For some reason, their counselors decided not to report the disease that were killing their subjects, leaving them to the kingly distractions of pleasure and luxury, and nothing was done about it. Their people reviled them, cursing their names, blaming them, even… until they too succumbed to it.
Now of those counselors, they were either not buried with their queens, or chose not to reveal themselves to the necromancer. Maybe out of guilt?
Either way, the plague was still a mystery. An enigma, a threat that came out of nowhere, nearly killed an entire kingdom, before vanishing for a few centuries. A secret evil that the lich king Joko was now willing to unleash anew on the people of Tyria.
“What did they do to piss him off this time?” he mumbled to himself as he scratched behind Mer’s ear.
He decided he spent enough time there. The Scarab Plague was a deadly phantom. A relic of some long-lost past. Whatever there was to learn there, Fiel felt he’d already learned it. He would go back the ogre’s kraal, send a message to the others back in Maguuma.
“And…. I suppose it’s as good a time as any to send my letter of resignation to the Priory.”
Mer trilled excitedly. He recognized the sound of the word “priory”, and remembered the fat, juicy rats that haunted the labyrinth of bookshelves.
Too bad he didn’t realize the other words that preceded it meant that he would not be going back there….