Preferable to Death?

Today is da day you gonna die, Shimzey, he thought, swallowing hard. Each of his feet seemed to weigh a hundred pounds as he forced one in front of the other, up a stair, up a stair, up a stair.

His daddy had died in a storm at sea when he was just a whelp. Mama had raised him up the best she could. but he was a troublemaker by nature. By nature, that is what the village shaman had said when he pulled Shimz aside and explained how he would either become the man’s assistant or he would become a pariah to the tribe. At first he simply had nodded and smiled and played his role fetching this or that, but as the shaman showed him more and more secrets, Shimz began to see things that made no sense. And then there were more, and then more, and soon Shimz began to accept that the elements had more power than he had ever credited them for.

And he wanted to learn that power for himself.

But the quest for power had led him to his end. For all the great perks he had enjoyed working for House Llyrandor, the greatest of all had been the forbidden fruit, the master’s apprentice, and he had eaten of that fruit. Now he had to decide whether to admit his sin or to turn and run away. Sadly, Shimz knew Lord Llyrandor too well. If the master wanted him dead, he would die. Best ta face it like a man, Shimzey.

He raised his hand to knock on the door, but it swung open before the blow could strike. He swallowed hard in fear as he saw the manifestation his lord took on, waiting like some high king in his throne-like chair, staring at him from across the room as he stood there, hand still raised in a fist to knock, dumbfounded.

The elf was easily a meter shorter than him, compact and strong but physically unimpressive compared to the tall, whipcord-muscled troll. He was clad in heavy robes, but it was the power emanating from him which made Shimz pause. An icy cold filled the room, steam gently rising from rents in his master’s robes where magical power glowed with strange pulses as if matching a slow, frosty heartbeat. Lord Llyrandor’s face was hidden under a heavy cloak, only the icy green of his fel-glowing eyes appearing from under the hood. Ioun stones rose above the hood, floating effortlessly around the archmage’s head. I’s gonna die, he thought, trembling with fear, more afraid to run than to just sit there, speechless. Finally he fell to a knee, genuflecting if only to escape the terrible gaze of his lord.

Shimz had never seen Lord Llyrandor like this. He had always thought the man weak, had laughed as he fucked his lover and took his gold. He knew the man was a mage, but now he realized in fear just how powerful the elf’s control over the elements was – even in the heat of a Durotar summer the room was like an icechest, a hateful, calculating coldness that seeped into Shimorpican’s bones until his joints ached. He thought he had come to confess to avoid murder – now he realized he came to be judged or face annihilation by a being he had severely underestimated.

“Rise, troll.” Shimz did so dutifully, slowly, keeping his gaze down. “Please, come inside.” His feet seemed to act of their own accord – his heart screamed for him to run, but he walked through the doorway, hearing it close with a sickening thump behind him.

He felt the mage look into him, through him. There was no confession to be made, only a verdict to be handed down. “Masta Sheigh, I . . . ”

“I already know, Shimz.”

Shimz swallowed hard. Not even a chance to plead mah case. Best just ask for mercy. “Masta, I know what I did was wrong, an’ I know ya mad at me, but please, if you can find it in yer heart ta forgive me, I promise I’ll swear mah life for yours.”

He felt compelled to look up, and in doing so he met the elf’s eyes for a brief moment. There was anger in them, but not a rage, a deeper-seated, wounded anger. The cold spoke to Shimz, it whispered elementally to him, speaking of aching and remorse. Part of Sheigh Llyrandor had died with the loss of Islimah, and the cold was as funerary as it was wrathful. “Please masta, I do anything for ya. Just don’ turn me into something . . . unnatural.”

“You are in luck, troll.” The words of the blood elf were otherworldly, projected from all around him. He shivered as he realized there was another copy of Lord Sheigh to his left, a third copy to his right. The fur on his back heckled as he felt the presence of a fourth copy behind him. The simulacrums spoke in unison, while the archmage did not. “Know your life is forfeit for your betrayal, yet I can find it in my soul to pardon you.”

Shimz fell to his knees, bowing deeply. “Thank you, masta. Thank you!”

“Silence.” Shimz jumped in fear. The apparitions spoke again. “You live because your life yet serves a purpose, Shimorpican. The war against the Lich King is almost at an end, but that does not bring this world peace. You must go to Draenor, to scout the activities of the Burning Legion there.”

Shimz swallowed hard. Draenor? The Outland? But what could possibly be there? He knew he had no choice but to accept, and only nodded his agreement. A new planet, with strange spirits, where the orcs and ogres came from – what?

The world around him had shifted violently. Instead of the cold of his master’s chamber, the air was warm, with a slight breeze. The sound of wind chimes rustled through the large chamber he found himself in, as if his appointment with his lord had been only an unpleasant nightmare. He turned to see the source of the noise, only to see two armored Draenei warriors marching toward him. Turning to look for an escape, he saw humans, blood elves, and a platform in the center of the room dominated by a being whose warm energy calmed his urge to flee. The na’aru spun and twirled in its mysteries, producing the calming sounds and warm glow that put Shimz at ease.

Shattrath, he thought, smiling calmly. Exile be preferable to death.

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