The Scroll

Erice looked despondently around the workshop. As had happened often of late, she was overwhelmed with the feeling that her time in these rooms was drawing to a close. She looked down at the ink-stained felhide scroll she held, and wondered again if she had made the right decision.

Not that she had any real ties to this place. What drew her was the room just a few feet west, but far below - down in the depths of Gnomeregan, where a few minutes' visit would mean certain death. Where her mother had appeared to her, on that fateful night when the world changed.

When she had recovered these rooms, sealing them against the troggs, venting them to the clean Dun Morogh air, her reasoning had been to keep her engineering experiments out of dwarvish beards, and her demonology away from the zealots of the Light.

Now, she wondered whether she had succumbed in part to that same homesickness that had taken so many other gnomes; betrayed by their need to return, they ran endlessly through the steel caves below her, mindless as any undead. Perhaps that longing was bringing the dreams...

More likely, it was the Nether itself, extruding tendrils of hate and despair, sending illusions to mock her and distract her from her purpose. She'd always known that this was a possibility; so many warlocks, believing themselves masters of demonkind, had become their slaves. She'd taken every precaution she could, but the Nether's temptations were insidious.

When she had taken this place, she'd had visions of its becoming a rallying point for the vast Alliance armies which would one day retake Gnomeregan - but that day seemed even more remote now than it ever had, as new threats bore down on the Alliance, stretching their forces ever more thin. The one great hope of her short life, fading now like a signpost in a blizzard, leaving only impending darkness. Erice blinked at the sudden stinging of her eyes.

Dreams clouded her future. They felt so real. As though there really were worlds beyond this one, even beyond the Nether and the Creators. Worlds that called to her, leaving her confused upon awakening.

Her past still held moments of clarity. Recollections of her time in the city, of course, and her mother's constant presence. Treasured memories even of times after the fall of Gnomeregan:

The wind nipping her ears in the mountains of Dun Morogh, crystal vistas of snow and ice, shimmering smoke of Ironforge in the far distance. The glorious terror of her first gryphon ride. The heat and humidity of the jungles of Stranglethorn. Drinking to the memory of the valiant Pirates in Booty Bay.

Those memories sustained her, and helped her believe that life outside the city had been worth living. And that she owed to her comrades and other beings of Azeroth the chance to create their own memories, not to suffer the ravages of the demons she had brought into the world. Without her hand to restrain them, they would have free rein to devastate and despoil - and perhaps to open pathways for others of their kind.

She looked again at the scroll in her hand. After months of research, she had put her soul - and, as a warlock, not in a figurative sense - into the creation of the runes of binding and demonic words that she held. The symbols so repulsed her gaze that it made her ill to focus on them.

But it was too late for second thoughts. Since the dreams began, she had known what she had to do. She had a duty...

She summoned her imp, her first companion, unwilling partner though it was.

"I should kill you," she said, impassively, as the demon glared at her. "You know I could. Not just to return you to the Nether. I know the words of final ending."

Juk'doom's visage contorted with hate, but it cowered.

Erice shook her head. "I should, but I won't. I've relied on you to slay your own kind." The demon muttered a curse. "You had no choice, but you served well. I will not end you for the misfortune of being the demon I mastered. Instead, I will grant your freedom. With conditions." She allowed her loathing for the imp's kind to show in her voice. "You will never again come to this world. You will never turn your hand against any being of Azeroth."

The demon sneered - until the gnome began reading from the scroll in her hand. Then its expression changed as it recoiled in horror.

"My mark of binding is on you," she said eventually, masking her weakness. The spell had been harder to cast than she'd expected. "If you break these conditions, it will bring me back, even from death. And then - extinction."

Juk'doom screamed as she dismissed it for the final time.

Giving herself time to recover, Erice laid the same admonition on each of her bound demons. Even with rest, though, she felt drained when she was done. More than physically exhausted - lost, as though she no longer had a connection with her spirit. As though light and heat were seeping out of her world.

She staggered over to her small cot, and slumped down. Sleep tempted her. She felt its danger. She was no druid, to have a dragon guard her spirit in sleep. Yet she knew that she was unable to hold out against its allure. A small nap would suffice...

To sleep.

To dream.

Erice's Travels