A Cure for Madness
The Scaled Orphan
A Cure for Madness
Itharian hummed a quiet tune as his feet ploughed into the muddy ground, twigs cracking under the weight of his plate armour; he took a sweeping glance across the path before him and the enormous stone gate before him. Moving forward, he mumbled vague polite greetings to the two sentinels at the entrance, rustling up his map from a backpack to examine where to go from here.
His gaze swept over to where there was a small circle labelled “Pools of Arlithrien”, tapping his finger on it; moonwells were known to have some rejuvenating properties after all, perhaps it would be apt to look for them all and document any given effect. He was sure, after all, that his travels would bring no avail – thus the decision he made was to record his efforts in a journal so that it could be of later use.
Sufficed to say, it was blank so far. Most of the elves in Darnassus had barely noticed him, let alone ask why he was circling the city in a trance-like state of thought; so the time had come to, temporarily at least, depart from the ‘forests of stone’ and venture into the woods. Sword and lantern in hand he started to move, in a not particularly subtle manner, through the undergrowth, startling more than a dozen animals before he reached a collection of shallow pools of water, with one of the glistening moonwells at the bottom on an elevated position.
As he drew closer, the light from the lantern seemed all but redundant, a peculiarly warm glow washing over him; it was nothing that he had really known before, not even when he held the light in his hands on a daily basis. It was strange; alien perhaps, highlighting the primary reason why Kalimdor had appealed to begin with – unfamiliar lands, unfamiliar traditions – unfamiliar treatments. Yet not much seemed to prepare him for the strange but comforting feeling of the presence of a moonwell.
Was this his cure for madness? No, for sure it was playing strange tricks on his mind, but nothing that cleared the kaleidoscopic haze from his thoughts entirely. It was a start, however, so he sat upon the stone by the moonwell and wrote, recording simplistically;
‘Extremely wierd; alien. Comforting, though. Checking all other locations of these for consistency.’
So his stay at the Pools of Arlithrien was short-lived, but notable. Checking off Shadowglen as a final destination, his next course was north – to the Oracle tree. Perhaps this was another thing to investigate, whilst sampling the bewildering auras of the moonwells.
Itharian’s Journal, Entry for the 7th of September
First notable encounter with (conscious) native elves, today. Granted, just the one at first. He seemed mystified when I explained what I was doing, and rather agreed with my assessment that I was unlikely to find any useful treatments for the ailments in question.
Not so, in fairness; The shiny-pools of mysticism seemed more than mind-clearing to me, but they aren’t exactly a full-blown treatment for the unnerved psychi. All that considered, the conversation derailed something into customs and perspectives – almost like nearly every talk I had with Riana.
Standing by and just listening was entertaining, proving that even those apparently serene elves disagree on many things too, to the point of quite heated debates. interesting conversation about attractions to other species managed to develop; there was this nice chap saying he thought all humans looked the same and were ugly. I agreed on the first part at least, although a passing elven lady disagreed with both; curious. I just thought they all looked kind of strange, rather than ugly. Must be the blue skin and enormous ears.
After a debate about applying my theoretical cure to the deranged or otherwise wayward elves of Stormwind (incidentally, I shan’t be using such valuable research on that useless rabble) I was interrupted by an unexpected homeland acquaintance.
Kind of a strange coincidence that Mary’s relative flees to Darnassus that soon after I get here, but I did emphasise that I had informed her I was leaving Stormwind when she seemed surprised to see me; I get the feeling she wasn’t listening.
With a last conversation with the slightly more millitant fellow ( I don’t think he was hugely fond of foreigners) that concluded my first day in Darnassus with any actual elf-contact.
In Summary; I learnt very little other than ‘elves have similiar social interactions’ and that I have a lot of searching to do – be it through conversation, questioning or just studying the range of herbs Kalimdor (and offshooting islands) has to offer.
Itharian’s gaze lingered on the weird bear shaped tree, staring at it strangely with moonlight licking off the red and silver of his armour. Striking a match, he lit his lantern and walked off down the path, the mist encircling him as he set off back towards Darnassus.
The harpies that were still awake around the oracle glade croaked loudly on his right, but the blurred silhouettes of the bird-like humanoid creatures were crowding around another shadow, where slithers of light were bouncing off what appeared to be a blade, piercing through the mist in the process. After a moment of consideration, Itharian uncharacteristically decided to divert from the path to assist the likely otherwise doomed fighter in the night, sliding his sword free. The embattled curses of a struggling night elf echoed through the forest as he approached, squinting through the mist to see the clear outlines of the harpies properly just as the elf fell to the ground. Having not particularly expected the plated swordsman, the harpies were separated from their lower halves before they could finish the battered elven girl lying defeated in the undergrowth.
Clad in a set of deep green scaled armour, the elf was in a bad way, with many harpy claw cuts into her arms and legs, and a few seem to have cleaved even through the armour itself. Not wholly unexpectedly to himself, Itharian was fairly convinced that he was too late. She was panting, a hand grasping the bark of the tree she had come to slump against, her eyes dipped to the floor as she was expecting to be finished off by squawking harpy; she hadn’t processed that they had been dealt with until Itharian cleared his throat. She looked up, surprised, blinking at him. He stood there, all but covered in blood from the dismembered harpies, but with the expression of a man with not a care in the world, causing the elf to look slightly uncomfortable as he offered her a hand. She shook her head, rapidly, sliding down the tree; at which point Itharian took note of the quickly growing pool of her blood in the grass. She grasped her sword, spluttering, and offered it to Itharian; “I’m… Finished.”
Naught but a twinge of emotion touched his expression, his storming haze of bizarre and otherwise incoherent thoughts preventing him from even staying focused; but he frowned. Taking the hilt of the blade, carefully, he raised an eyebrow; “What were you doing out here?” She looked up as the light started to fade rapidly from her eyes, smiling weakly, “Delivering… A message, to the Cenarion Enclave…” After saying this, she fell into the grass with a squelching sound; she had passed out. Itharian frowned; she must have been in horrific pain, and just as he considered leaving, he turned his head to look at the unconscious elf. He placed his foot on her neck; “What is it elves say?” he mumbled to himself. He shook his head, thrusting his foot down and twisting, snapping the elf’s neck; “Find peace in the embrace of the goddess.”
Grasping both the elf’s sword and her message, which had been inscribed into a sheet of bark, he set off back toward Darnassus with his conscience clear. It was merciful compared to the pain she would endure if she woke.
He would deliver the message, and then he would return the corpse to the elves for whatever ceremony they did to honour their dead. Perhaps he would attend it – or perhaps he will have forgotten all about it. He had a job to do, and he was struggling to keep his mind on anything else.
That was a while ago now; Itharian had drawn from the mailbox a letter from and old friend. Noriam had alerted him to a new development on the Eastern Kingdoms – he (and most of the rest of his species) was moving in on Gnomeregan, preparing to take it back from the troggs and lepers. Even in his state – Ayris had made a promise and he would keep that promise. So, with the first boat back overseas he went; to help how he could. He thought a lot on the route; pondering over his progress so far
How far had he even got? It was hard to tell; even he had noticed minute tweaks to his emotional responses, but whether he could say he was calmer or less unpredictable for it remained in question. It did occur to him that perhaps a reaction to a friendly face after this long would be a good benchmark – helpful, that the gnomes had generally chosen to take their home back now then, as his travels were drawing thin in purpose and direction.
Thankfully, even as he arrived on the shores of Stormwind, it became quickly apparent that Brewfest had started – and thus the hilarity ensuing as people pile into Dun Morogh to drink themselves into a stupour. Itharian included. He made straight for Ironforge, vaguely encountering a few old friends and doing little else than passive conversation before hurrying onto the tram. As the metal tunnels rushed by, he tapped his chin thoughtfully; ‘I wonder if this is what Gnomeregan was like.’ The tram came to an abrupt halt before he knew he’d gone, practically; although startled he moved toward the Commons.
“Doc! Ayris!” called a voice from his right as he was about to leave Tinker Town; he turned abruptly to see Radzi approaching in her battlemage regalia, her staff tapping against the ground noisily as she went, “Good to have you! Pick up one of Gelbin’s weird motivator-things and head down to Steelgrill’s. Everyone’s there.” By everyone, he assumed she meant any gnome worth their salt. “I need to finish off a spell with Snowy here. Take care!” She left as quickly as she had arrived, and remarkably unpeturbed by Itharian’s complete absence of response. Putting it down to being accustomed to him; and then it struck him. Snowy? He had barely noticed the blue whelpling flapping around her shoulders. Wasn’t it an illusion she was working on?
This was mostly irrelevant to Itharian as he bypassed the bizarre Gelbin regardless of Radzi’s suggestion, and quickly the heavy scent of alcohol coursed through the air. Ironforge was never exactly a clean zone for alcohol, dwarves were overly fond of it all year anyway, but Brewfest was something else. You could probably get tipsy from breathing the air just outside the gates.’Wonderful’, thought Itharian; Darnassus was pretty dry as far as drink went. Barkers on racing rams streamed past, babbling adverts for their respective breweries and cracking snarky comments about the competitors. Ayris grinned and walked on, into the open air of the Dun Morogh foothills. The scent of ale was intoxicating now, as he headed down, adjusting his hat as the wind blew (without effect on aforementioned scent) past him.
With a smirk and a crack of his knuckles, Itharian stepped forth into the grounds. Duty to his promises would have to wait – Noriam would understand anyway, wouldn’t he? – the lure of Brewfest had always been a festival to forget. Who knows, maybe it would add to his search for a cure for madness.
Some time later
He trudged along the pier, his boots thudding against the wood as he approached the docked ship, leading his horse by the reins. “Itharian! Wait!” He looked over his shoulder at the sound of the voice, his gaze resting on the lightly flustered Riana, who smiled wearily, “I know you’d rather eat your own hat than stay here any longer, Ith. And I understand. But we need you here. Please; if only for my sake, we don’t have any trained doctors, as much as people would love to believe to the contrary. And the Light only goes so far.” Itharian knelt slowly before, resting a hand on the plated gnome’s shoulder, heaving a sigh, “If anyone gets in my way, I will have to go. For their sake. For my own.” She nodded, slowly, “I understand. Thank you, Ith.” He tugged the reins about, nodding down towards her, “Go on, Ria. You need the rest. Ande’thoras-ethil.” She raised an eyebrow at this, but nodded firmly. “Light bless and protect.”
‘So that’s how it is. Cultists roaming the streets preaching the end of the world. Sporadic elementals exploding out of floating devices left right and centre. And despite being gone for so long, still the only qualified physician in the place. Fine, although I give this city mere days before the inherent brigade of people who think they know better get in my way and I have to go. I didn’t abandon this shit-hole just to come back and have my brain melted a second time.
He trudged slowly and reluctantly up the Cathedral steps, ignoring all who he passed as he entered the eastern wing, sighing as the varied memories of a crammed infirmary and matching moronic carers fought for his attention; he was barely listening as the dwarf who appeared to be in charge explained where he would be working. A loud thud sounded as he dumped his enormous crate in the corner, rather representative of the contents; a mobile pharmacy as far as anyone was concerned, with some of the most advanced medicines known to science prepared. ‘Shame I have to waste them on this city.’ Procuring a mop and bucket, he cleaned off the filthy floor with a mutter; it was as if the concept of gangrene was foreign to this apparent infirmary.
‘Some things never change. Wonder if they still prescribe herbal tea for burns pain. Wonder if they still think the almighty holy light can do shit-all about chemical imbalances. Wonder if they’re still stumped when the Light can’t do it. Hells, wonder if they have yet realised that weak pulses and breathing aren’t something you can heal without a good shot of adrenaline… Augh! Stop thinking about it, Itharian, or you’ll never stay a day, let alone for an extended period of cultist and elemental attacks.
His gaze fixated on the ceiling, much to his dismay; he had grown so used to seeing the sky overheard, and his ears rotated slightly as he listened to the still rustling and bustling sounds of the city; another sound he had long since stopped missing. The lack of silence and the enclosed space slightly discomforted him as he tried to settle down upon his crate, a hand rested on his forehead. His gaze settled upon the coachgun strapped to the side, causing his fist to tighten.
‘Let’s hope you won’t feel it necessary, Ayris. You’re a doctor, not a killer.’
The Scaled Orphan
The peculiar device hummed, the dials swinging to and fro as the gnome held the aerial against the ruined column, tiny cogs whirring in the background. She sighed, lightly scribbling a trio of incomprehensible runic markings into her notepad. ‘Just write them down’ they said. Radzi set off again with a weary sigh, her eyes sweeping over the ancient Night Elven ruins; ‘trust them to build on ley lines; also trust the blue flight to be making my job a nightmare’, she thought. Although suddenly in the corner of her eye there was a flash of cyan crystal; it looked to be jutting out of some sort of shell.
Approaching cautious, nudging her lever-pistol free, Radzi crept upon it, slackening as it quickly became clear that it was an egg; an egg of the blue dragonflight. She frowned. “Is this a trap? They wouldn’t keep it here…” Then it clicked and she smiled. Suppose it was infertile? The would make it redundant to protect. Clumsily acquiring the last recording on a random wall, well in the knowledge that it was going to make no difference, Radzi quickly heaved the egg onto her back, shuffling awkwardly toward the deactivated mechanostrider. Her ears rotated this way and that, picking up some irritated yells just as she was tying the egg to the ‘strider;
“Where is that bloody egg!?” screeched a female voice – sounding decidedly goblin – “I told you to put it here! How hard can it be?!” After this, it was only muffled complaints as her lackeys denied everything and split up to look for it. Radzi frowned, now reconsidering the infertility of the egg momentarily before being reassured by the fact a goblin was handling it. Most sentient creatures struggle to survive being transported by goblins.
Taking a brief glance over the hill, she saw that they were scouting the same few square metres of terrain around the column where the egg used to be; and lo and behold among them was a tiny, raging pea-green goblin, surrounded by completely disinterested trolls. Radzi eyed her palm as flames crept over the skin, an arcane mist forming around it and igniting; and the goblin found the patch of ground besides her erupting in a seemingly spontaneous flame. “What in the nethers was that?! Is that another dragon? We can take down another one! Where do you think we got the egg?!”
The gnome on the verge raised her eyebrows, then narrowing her eyes with a sharp growl. Taking a careful aim, tendrils of magic formed between her fingers and the air shimmered, and naught but a few seconds later, the goblin squawked; or should we say bleated? Radzi couldn’t help but giggle as the angry goblin ran around as a sheep for the best part of a minute, much to the amusement of the spectating trolls. Much to the delight of their seemingly disembodied attacker, they bunched up into a circle with the goblin in the centre. The time for playing with them was done.
A grim silence overtook the basin as the group waited, their breath held as they prepared for the next spell. The temperature in Azshara was already relatively cold, but as a blue glow came about the ground the air seemed dry as the vapour in the air froze to their faces; and in a flurry of condensing mists, large shards of ice froze in mid-air above them, and thundered down towards them. Just as they were scattering, all of the goblin’s trollish minions took a shard to the spine – or the face, and the goblin clawed helplessly at the ground as one pinned her by her legs to the floor.
As the goblin looked up with blurry eyes, blackness moving in and out of her vision as she blinked, she glared at Radzi who turned up with the egg under one arm. “Thieving gnome! You haven’t won! I’ll be back!” The gnome stared back in silence, levelling her pistol with the goblin’s face, “Nothing you say will bring the egg’s mother back. For that…”
A gunshot echoed across the basin, echoing off the ridges as birds scattered from the trees, “For that you won’t be back.”