The Unparalleled Adventure of One Thegan Usher
I tilted my head to the right, wincing as another wave of pain shot through me. “What do you think?” I asked Poe.
“Yeah, that’s probably infected.”
I swore under my breath, and took a healing potion from my belt. I gritted my teeth as I poured it into the cut on my cheek. Several tears escaped my eyes as the bitter sting of the potion made its way into my veins..
“Could you stop feeling pain? It’s annoying,” complained Poe.
“Could you have told me that that weird withered elf was there?”
“I thought you saw it!”
“Do pardon me, I was sort of in the middle of making sure the other weird elves didn’t kill me.” I applied a bandage to the wound after Poe decided not to respond. We began walking up the Thalassian Pass, towards the Ghostlands. Despite its decrepit state, I still felt a surge of excitement to finally enter Quel’thalas.
We walked down the path, and, once we reached it, down a hill. As the faint sun vanished completely, we reached a medium-sized elven house. There was no door, so I, with Poe’s help, psychically hid myself and walked in cautiously.
I was awakened shortly before sunrise by a nightmare which I immediately forgot. Poe either didn’t remember or didn’t care enough to tell me.
“Should we get going?”
“I haven’t been alive in a while, but don’t living people need to, you know, eat?”
I blinked. “You know, I’d thought I’d forgotten something.”
Poe cawed, giving the combined psychic impressions of “aw, that’s adorable” and “I’m disappointed in you.”
“Cut me some slack, you’re the only person I’ve talked to for more than, like, an hour since Fuselight. And you don’t eat.”
“Person? Excuse me?”
“Shush.” I took out a can of raisins and began eating them as Poe flew ahead.
About 15 minutes later, Poe returned. “Hey Thegan!”
“What’s pale, dead, and could pose a minor inconvenience to a human with a chronic disease and a bird when animate?”
I blinked. “Either a skeleton or… actually, I don’t know what else you could be implying.”
“Four, to be exact.”
“Damn. Is it ethical to… well, not kill exactly, but you know what I mean. Do we kill them?”
“We could try to avoid them, but they are blocking the path.”
“Could we, you know, go around the path?”
“Maybe, but the woods have scary things in them too.”
“Ok, you’ve a point.”
“I used to, then I became intangible.”
“Ugh, you know what I mean.”
We walked down the path, towards where the skeletons were. Once we happened upon them, my eyes widened.
“That’s, um… a bit more than four.”
“I remember there being four.”
“Well, seventeen is different than four.”
“Yes, you have a point there.”
“Ok, what are we gonna do about it? Four are manageable, seventeen are… not.”
“Speak for yourself.”
“Ok, yeah. With you, I may be able to do this. Puns?”
“Only if they’re good.”
“You’re not supposed to say that?”
“Don’t like it.”
Any further conversation was cut off by the arrival of the skeletons. Three of them stood behind, leading us to assume that they were spellcasters (probably arcane), and the rest charged forward with a variety of weapons drawn. I drew my torch, lit it, and set the nearest skeleton on fire. It ran away, making an approximation of speech as it ran. It only got several yards before collapsing.
Several more skeletons began attacking me, causing me to unintentionally transform into Thorgen, which is what I named my worgen form. I immediately kicked one where its neck would have been, knocking its skull off. The human part of me considered quoting a play that I had seen when I was young, but before I could, the skull tried to bite me. Almost instinctively, I threw it into one of the other skeletons, leaving fourteen left.
I dove to the ground and slid between two skeletons, grabbing each of them by the leg. I spun them around, collapsing the charging horde of warriors into a pile of semi-sentient, angry bones. I ignored them as they tried to creep towards me, and went to fight the casters with Poe.
Poe had destroyed two of the casters, leaving one (who, conveniently, was the most powerful). It cast a spell, causing ice to spontaneously appear around my legs. I growled like a wolf, drew my recently-purchased firearm (which I named Chekhov; Poe said it would be funny) and tried to shoot the skeleton. The bullet hit the air around the skeleton and fell on the ground. My eyes met Poe’s, and together, we used a psychic blast to overwhelm the skeleton’s shield. I then threw my torch at the skeleton, setting it on fire and shattering its skull. After we were certain that they were no longer dangerous, I returned to human form, bandaged my not inconsiderable wounds, and cremated all the twice-dead skeleton parts.
We continued walking and decided to camp just outside of the sparsely populated town of Tranquilien.
The next morning saw a lack of undead, at least at first. Poe directed me to the east, off of the path and into the woods, despite his earlier statement about scary things in said woods. I was cautious, of course. As few times as possible, I shifted to Thorgen, trying to scent any undead or other enemies. The entire place smelled of undead, and, surprisingly, there was a faint smell of fungi. I ignored the latter odor, and found it impossible to ignore the former. Having to rely on just my other senses (mostly sight, hearing, and Bird Sense), I forced myself to return to human form.
As we approached the location to which Poe was guiding me, I began to hear the sounds of a pitched battle. We sped up and saw, in the distance, several Scourge abominations, possibly awakened along with a majority of the former Scourge a few weeks ago. They were joined by a small army of ghouls, three of what looked like earth elementals, and two things that looked like robed worgen with jackal characteristics instead of those of wolves. Against them were seven elves, five sin’dorei and two shal’dorei. One of the sin’dorei was lying on the ground, clearly injured. Poe made both of us invisible, and I decided to take out one of the jackal-magi first.
From the shadows, I struck, attacking it with my rapier, and interrupting a spell that it was casting. A few more strikes, and it teleported away, shouting in a tongue I didn’t understand.
Poe dispatched several ghouls which had been drawn by my arrival. I was forced into being Thorgen, and I struck out at one of the earth elementals. One of the shal’dorei, wielding a rapier like mine, but made from magic, was fighting it, and together we dispatched it. Another one of the earth elementals fell without our interference, as did more of the ghouls.
The other jackal-mage vanished, and, after a few moments, cast a spell from behind me. I spun, taking another identical spell to the face. The shal’dorei with the rapier teleported behind the mage, and together, we attacked it. It cast another, more powerful version of the same spell, knocking us to the ground. I drew Chekhov and fired, injuring the mage, who, like its fellow, teleported away. I stood.
A few more ghouls charged me, and Poe destroyed them. “I’m here! Sorry!”
“It’s fine, let’s get the last elemental.” The two of us, as well as the shal’dorei who had aided me previously, moved towards said elemental, which was fighting the other shal’dorei. Together, we managed to dissolve it. At this point, only one abomination remained, and all of us felled it.
There was a pause. Then, one of the sin’dorei, wearing red armour, spoke in Common. “Thank you for your help, but why are you here?”
I returned to human form, and responded. “I’m here to help my sister.”
One of the other sin’dorei, with a bow, spoke, with surprise. “Sister? You wouldn’t mean Sarah Usher, would you?”
I was also surprised. “I would. How did you know?”
“We’re engaged. I imagine you’re Thegan, then?”
As was quickly becoming a theme, I was surprised again. “I am.”
“I thought so. We’re going there as well, if you’d like to join us.”
“I’d love to.”
The first speaker said something in Thalassian, which Poe translated as “are you all ready to travel?” and all of the elves (besides the one who had been on the ground but had since stood up) responded positively. She then, according to Poe, told one of the other sin’dorei to teleport the injured one back to Tranquilien, then return. They did so, and returned within five minutes.
“Now,” asked the leader, “shall we?”
I nodded, as did the elves (and Poe) and we continued walking forward with urgency. After about an hour, we reached an area of thick wood, which almost screamed “this is not the right way, turn back.” We looked at each other, and the leader, who I had learned was named Keeriah Moonspell, spoke to one of the other sin’dorei, a warlock named Dar’lestis, and to the shal’dorei mage named Kinys. Poe translated that Keeriah had asked whether there was a spell there, and they confirmed that it was. Then Varlastor, my sister’s fiancé, informed us that we were, in fact, in the right place.
“Poe,” I asked, “can you make us all invisible?”
“Maybe. Um… Kinys, would you be willing to help me with this?”
“I suppose I can.” Together, they cast their spells, and we all walked directly through the thick trees, into a clearing that didn’t make sense.
Clearly, the attackers had already arrived. Several more of the jackal-magi were locked in combat with a damaged arcane golem, in the blood elf style. A vaguely humanoid figure, obscured by mist, fought against a tiny water elemental that I vaguely recognized as Chan’k’áak’náabo, Poe’s partner. In an area of purified soil, what looked like animate potato plants fought against imps. Clockwork parts littered the ground, some of them still sparking. A few cannons were similarly destroyed. Most importantly, a slightly pale night elf stood in front of a small house painted to look like the surrounding trees, wielding two three-bladed moonglaives and channeling arcane magic around herself. She shouted, “You cannot hide forever, Usher!” The use of my surname startled me.
A voice, one that I recognized even though I’d not heard it in nearly 20 years, responded from everywhere at once. “Are you sure? I’ve done a pretty good job of it so far!”
Poe, I thought, can you link us up? Add Sarah, your partner, hell, even that golem if it can think.
On it. I felt the buzzing of multiple minds being connected to my own.
Dar’lestis thought, Commander Moonspell, the thing in the mist is a demon. I’m going to try to ensorcell it.
Understood. Lady Usher? Are you here?
Wonderful. And you, Thegan?
I believe I am.
Good. You, and Varlastor, and Quanluc, – the shal’dorei fencer – go attack that kaldorei.
Sarah interjected, Quel’dorei, technically. Arina Windblade, Zgom of the Infernal Archive. My former superior. That reminds me: “Hey! Arina! What happened to your pet warlock?”
“Bah! I do not need that traitor to defeat you! Once I find you, that is.”
Keeriah spoke, rather, thought, again. Interesting. Kinys and Eralia – a sin’dorei monk – we’ll deal with the dog-things.
They all responded affirmatively.
As we reached the Zgom, sickly roots drew from the ground and surrounded her feet. “Ah. Yes. I should have expected this. But if you think some plants can stop me from carrying out the Mizgom’s commands, you’re a fool.”
I sent a message through Poe to Quanluc and Varlastor, asking if they were prepared to engage. They were.
“Well, Windblade,” I said, disengaging my invisibility, “I think you’ll find your problem stems from more than just that.”
“Wha-?” Quanluc struck first with their magic rapier, becoming visible and Varlastor almost immediately followed with a shot from his bow, deactivating his own invisibility. Not wanting to let them have all the fun, I attacked the Zgom as well, aiming to cause non-permanent damage.
As we fought, the mist-shrouded demon’s mind fell to Poe and Dar’lestis, which brought with it implications that I disliked. They, along with Chan’k’áak’náabo, ran to aid Commander Moonspell, Kinys, and Eralia in fighting the magi.
Meanwhile, Windblade cut herself loose with her moonglaive. “I do not know who you are, but I do know that you will never leave!” She tried to cast a rain of fire, but was interrupted by a counterspell cast by Sarah, who’d suddenly appeared. They began to fire spells at each other, while the three of us attempted to hit Windblade.
The jackal-magi all vanished, as did the imps, and so the other elves were able to join our fight. The Zgom, perhaps seeing that her current tactics weren’t working, cast a spell on her weapon and threw it. As it flew, it somehow increased in size, spinning at roughly neck level. Luckily, all of us managed to duck, assisted by a telepathic message sent by Poe.
The weapon spun again, attempting to return to its owner, but Poe, sacrificing the telepathic link between us and the elves, put up a shield. Windblade’s eyes widened. “It seems you’ve made a glaive mistake,” I joked. Somehow, I was in worgen form. When had that happened?
Windblade cast a few more spells, but she appeared to have realised that she was fighting a losing battle. She fell to her knees. “I should have expected this. No matter what happens, you somehow manage to win. Unbelievable.” She shook her head. “Fine. I am defeated. Just know that debts to the Mizgom must always be paid…” With that ominous proclamation, she teleported away.
About half an hour later, all of the elves except for Varlastor had returned to Silvermoon. Sarah had said she would return me to Stormwind, but she wanted to talk to me first, as I had, considering we hadn’t spoken in years. We talked about nothing for a long time, me telling her everything she had missed, and she telling me everything I had. She gave me a secure radio, enchanted so as to be nigh-impossible to access, by which I could communicate with her and several of her allies. After a few hours, we agreed that I should return home.
“Do you need an apartment, by the way?” she asked.
“Well, I don’t need it, per se, but it would be nice.”
“Well, I own a few, including one in the Mage Quarter. Here’s the key, if you’d like.”
“I would. Thank you so much. I’m not even sure how to repay you.”
She smiled. “You did just help save me, so there is that.”
“True, I suppose. If you ever need me, you know where to find me.”
“I was going to say the same to you.”
I laughed. “Until next time, then.” We hugged, and she cast a portal. I stepped through it, finding myself in the aforementioned apartment. It was a nice place, not too big, but not lacking anything needed. Being tired, I went to sleep.
Arina Windblade, High Zgom of the Infernal Archive, had been having a bad few weeks. First, the Undead Scourge had returned, in numbers not seen in years. Along with them, the group of afterlives known as the Shadowlands had opened, connecting themselves to Azeroth. Next, she and her protegé, Aðalsteinn Ölvirsson, had been sent to Ulduar, a facility of the Titans, to protect it from the aforementioned Scourge. Though they were successful, it had been closer than she had liked, and much closer than she had liked to admit. Next, and even worse, she had detected an intrusion in the Redridge Containment Plane, which had been holding an important unwilling information source for the Archive. The signature matched that of Ölvirsson, and he had left before she could confront him for his betrayal. And finally, the worst of all, Sarah Usher, another traitor to the Archive, and to Arina herself, had apparently vanished from her newly-discovered home in the Ghostlands. She was clearly there, or had been recently, as could be determined by the numerous animate plants, arcane cannons, and automatons, as well as a tiny water elemental and an arcane golem, defending the otherwise empty building from Windblade’s hired army of fiends, which was advancing as she surveyed the area.
Well, perhaps she was, in fact, still there. An Arcane Missile hit the Zgom directly in the back of the head, and she spun, returning a fireball to the place from where she assumed the fireball had come.
“You’ll need to be faster than that, Arina,” came a familiar voice – her voice! The traitor’s voice!
“You cannot hide forever, Usher!” she retorted, unwittily, though she did not much care for wits at the moment.
“Are you sure? I’ve done a pretty good job of it so far!”
She launched another fireball, to her right this time. “Hey! Arina! What happened to your pet warlock?” taunted Sarah.
Though this angered her, Winblade said, through clenched teeth, “Bah! I do not need that traitor to defeat you! Once I find you, that is.”
Suddenly, four more elves appeared. Where had they been hiding? she wondered. She decided to ignore them, and hope that the others would be able to deal with them. Then, the very earth around her split open. From it came several roots, which, despite carrying the taint of the rest of this land, still managed to grasp her ankles, holding her in place. “Ah. Yes. I should have expected this,” and indeed, she had, but she had counted on the powerful necromantic energies of the Ghostlands to negate any druidic magic. “But if you think some plants can stop me from carrying out the Mizgom’s commands, you’re a fool.”
Another voice, one she vaguely recognized, spoke. “Well, Windblade, I think you’ll find your problem stems from more than just that.” As it spoke, a thin, tall (but shorter than her) human man, who, like his voice, was vaguely familiar, appeared, an enchanted rapier in hand.
Before she could react, beyond shouting, “Wha-”, she was struck twice, once with some sort of weapon composed of pure arcane, and once with what felt like an arrow. The first man joined their attack, piercing her sleeve with his weapon. As they attacked her, she used one of the Windblades for which her family was named to slice the roots which held her in place. “I do not know who you are, but I do know that you will never leave!” She began the incantation to bring down a rain of flame upon the heads of her foes, but it was stopped.
It was a Counterspell, one whose signature she recognized. Directly in front of her was the traitor herself. Though she knew that Sarah would be here, she still found herself feeling disappointed. She decided to ignore that feeling as she launched a fireball at Sarah herself. Sarah’s retort was succinct: a shard of ice, aimed directly at the Zgom’s forehead. As she replied with a blast of fire in the shape of a cone, she barely noticed that the others were attacking her as well. One such attack made her duck, ironically making Sarah’s attack miss. Sarah herself fired acid at Arina’s torso, which hit, but was mostly absorbed by the protective enchantments on her clothing. Zgom Windblade fired a ray of fire, which was blocked by a ray of frost from Sarah.
Then, Windblade felt several spells being cast. She looked around, and saw that all of her reinforcements had been returned to their home planes. Knowing her chances of victory were greatly diminished, she threw one of her namesake Windblades into the air, casting a spell to make it the size of one of the glaives thrown by the aptly-named glaive throwers. It flew, somehow avoiding all nine of her attackers – more elves had joined the battle – and landing on the ground.
The first human, whom she had recognized from his own stolen memories as Thegan Usher, Sarah’s brother, but had since shifted into his worgen form, spoke through a distorted maw, “It seems you’ve made a glaive mistake.” In fury, both at her attack’s failures and at the horrible pun, Arina cast all of her remaining spells at any of the attackers she could reach. Once she was out of arcane energy, she collapsed to her knees.
“I should have expected this. No matter what happens, you somehow manage to win. Unbelievable.” She shook her head. “Fine. I am defeated. Just know that debts to the Mizgom must always be paid…” She pressed a button on her pendant, seething.
For a moment, Zgom Arina Windblade felt as if she were attached to a rubber band that had been pulled tight and then released. She felt the Astral Plane swirling around her, or perhaps it was she who was spinning, and then she hit the wet earth forcefully.
Once the world stopped spinning, Arina opened her eyes. The sky was a deep blue, and several objects – moons? Other planets? – were visible within it. Streams of arcane power ran through the sky, and some of it was blocked off by… clouds? No, she realized, these were giant mushrooms. Zangarmarsh. Not the place she was expecting to be teleported to, but the purpose of the amulet was to escape somewhere far away, not somewhere pleasant.
She stood up from the pool of water in which she’d found herself, and walked over to the nearest mushroom. With the tip of her remaining moonglaive, named Nor’thera, she traced on the flesh the Mizgom’s sigil: a cross, or a plus sign, with a single vertical line in the upper left, two vertical lines each in the upper right and the bottom left, and one vertical line and one horizontal line in the bottom right. Muttering an incantation, Windblade prepared for the Mizgom’s response.
The sigil glowed crimson, and it made several vibrating noises, until it finally distorted into a shaky X with a smoky oval in its center. Through the oval, Arina saw two dots, below which was a horizontal line, and above which were two triangles, warped into the shape of horns. She immediately recognized it as a stylized depiction of the Mizgom’s face, and she bowed.
“Zgom Windblade. I take it you failed?”
“I did, Mizgom. Please, do forgive me.”
“Remind me, Zgom Windblade. Whose idea was this mission?”
“Who planned for it?”
“I did, Mizgom.”
“And who will have to explain to the Mercenary Lords why twenty of their arcanists were destroyed, and why that’s part of the Infernal Archive’s plan?”
“Well, I’ll send you to explain for me, but yes. And, you know, maybe your failure-” she bristled slightly at that – “might not entirely be a bad thing. Return to the Archive. We can discuss our next course of action. Perhaps you’ll be able to make Jolgom Usher pay her debt to you after all…”