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.
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...
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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