Rann turned a slow circle in place, a pen in one hand and two stacks of notes in the other — a small stack of blue papers and a small stack of red. A veritable tower of the red notes, with various scrawlings all over them, encased her within it as the tiny sheets hovered where she had placed them.


Claret was playing chess. And while Zen Fateshifter might well hold the key to her downfall, Rann knew they couldn't take chances. With or without the advantage Zen might provide, Claret's increasingly sickening operation had to stop. This chess game would end soon, one way or another, and Rann was determined to not only bring Claret down, but to outsmart her and beat her at her own game. Claret fancied herself a master manipulator. Rann was going to prove she could do it better.


Anti-magic field or no, you can't focus on spells if you're second-guessing your every move, thinking it might be playing into your enemy's hands, Rann thought as a dark smile tugged at her lips.


"She opened the school," Rann recalled quietly, her eyes fixed on one red note, marked FOUNDED. "We don't know how long ago. We also don't know how old she is, which makes pinpointing that… problematic. But at some point… Idella enrolled." Her eyes shifted to the next floating red note, which read simply, IDA JOINS.


"She said she was fifteen when she joined," Rann said, reaching up and adding a "15" above Ida's name. "I need to find out how she heard about it in the first place. Now, let's see… She was there for four years, and had been gone from the school for nearly a year when she was kidnapped not long ago. So…five years ago she joined. That was…fel, I think that was during the Outland campaigns.


"For four years, she and the other students progress through the summoning and binding of increasingly powerful demons. She talked like she had been bound to that dreadlord for some time before she left the school. I'll guess…a year. So around two years ago he was summoned." She continued looking across more red notes that summarized these, forming a timeline of events in the air before her.


"At some point, Idella gained access to one volume of her personal spellbook for this project, which she helped write as the experiments progressed. We know now that the Woman is trying to become a demon… Her exact reason for that is still unclear. Idella grows to hate the demon more and more, and the Woman's absences grow longer. Idella, in conversing with the demon one day, panics. She takes her things and runs, not realizing she had swiped the spellbook too. She goes into hiding, lays low for awhile, then opens her shop."


She turned toward the next red note, marked SHOP OPENED, and held up a single blue note to its left, leaving it to hover in the air. The blue slip was, for the moment, blank.


"I don't know yet how long the shop was in business before she came in. But one day, she did. Without her book, she was set back a great deal. Too much to immediately resort to rebuilding it. But, she could get back on track if she picked up speed. And to do that, she needed more people.


"And so she deceived Idella. She came in without the beautification spell so Idella wouldn't recognize her, her real self just once, and said she was looking for a potion that would duplicate a mage's mirror-image spell. When Idella was at a loss for how to craft something like that, the Woman gave her suggestions. Ingredients. They were difficult to find and obtain, Idella mentioned."


Rann held up another small blue note, blank like the last one, leaving it to hover just before Claret's shop visit in the timeline. Then, she looked to the next two red notes, marked SPLIT and TEMPLARS.


"When Idella tested the potion on herself to ensure it would work for her 'customer,' the split into Ida and Ella happened. She told her customer later that she couldn't sell her the potion, as it didn't work as intended. The Woman must have sensed the effects lingering on her then. And so Idella came to the Templars, posting a help-wanted ad, looking for a tutor in her magic. She had hoped for a way to reverse the potion's effects. Instead, she got…well, me. I had just resigned from the Kirin Tor when that happened."


Another blue note floated into the air.


"Nearly a year passed… During that time, the Woman used the potion repeatedly on her students, splitting them and then splitting the copies, not realizing that the magical power was reduced by each successive copy. Instead of picking up speed, her work slowed even more. The student-copies whose magical output was too weak, making them just another mouth to feed, were killed. Their bodies were thrown into the Raven Hill crypt with a bunch of felhounds, who would consume the bodies for arcane energy, removing the evidence. Still, her progress was slowing.


"And that's when she slipped up: she kidnapped Ida, showing a level of desperation and risk-taking not normally characteristic of her. Why? Is she running out of time? Is she dying? The Templars spirited Ella away to Shattrath to keep her safe, and we tracked Ida to the Raven Hill crypt after a confrontation with the Woman in a dream. We found the bodies and the doors, and a malnourished, tortured Ida. The Woman had tried to extract the spellbook's location from her, but she had hidden it and made that demon take away her memory. Very clever.


"We took her to Darnassus to be cared for by Sage, who had secured a place there for awhile. The Woman sends investigating spider-runes after Zen and Ida, but mostly Zen. It's theorized that she has no effective counter for Zen's technology. Kage received an invitation to the school. The Stormwind Guard got involved after Ida and Robin reported a potential missing-persons case due to the bodies in the crypt, and managed to get one of their team an invitation. Meanwhile, Zen and I tracked down Idella's demon, and I managed to get the book's location from him…in exchange for giving up some old memories of my own. I retrieved it from its hiding place in the Dalaran Crater.


"And then a few nights ago, Ida and Ella were re-combined, and as they say, here we are." She turned her attention back to the beginning, holding up a blue note already marked KIRIN TOR AGENT.


"Now, the truth of the matter is…I enter the picture…here."


She released it into the air just before Ida's enrollment at the school. Smirking to herself at what it meant, she moved on, scribbling more blue notes to intersperse throughout the sequence. She would have her checkmate.

Author Rann
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