Shadows and Fragments

And done.

Judis smiled as she dotted the period at the end of the final sentence and reached out to set her quill down in the ink pot. Her old teachers would be appalled (they liked to call it an insult) but she had no one to scold her about it working for Archmage Arugal. Even the three other scholars who worked alongside her to help the Archmage and other wizards with their research weren’t the type to be hard up on protocol.

They all had their noses buried too deep in books most of the time.

Snorting a little at herself, she rose from her chair and reached out to pick up the book she’d been working on. Why exactly Rodyn wanted two extra copies of Blinking Rules & Regulations about escaped her but she wasn’t inclined to question the wizards. She knew her way around herbology and the best ways to scribe down a text but she didn’t know anything about how magic worked. At least not anything that she wasn’t physically able to see.

Closing the book, Judis hefted the weighty tome into her arms and started to turn to return it when she heard the sudden pounding of feet. Moving forward quickly, she looked down the hall that led out of the library towards the main bulk of the keep they were working from and saw Berton bolting towards her.

“Jude!” he cried as he saw her, the younger man’s eyes alight. He wasn’t that much younger than her – perhaps five years at the most – but he hadn’t been a scribe for long. And she judged age a lot of time by what people had done, thanks to her having been trained in the scholarly arts since she was eleven. “Jude, he’s got it!”

Arching her eyebrows, she asked, “Who has what?”

“Archmage Arugal!” Berton skidded to a stop in front of her, bouncing with all the energy of a child. “He says he’s figured out how to summon what we need to fight the undead! I overheard it while passing the labs!”

Judis’ eyes flew wide at that and she abruptly sat the heavy book down on the closest table. “Then what are we waiting for?” she asked excitedly. Berton just grinned at her before he jerked his head back behind him and took off at a run. She tucked up her skirts and followed him, laughing with him as she caught up and they bumped shoulders together playfully along the path through the keep.

When they reached the labs, they slowed and Berton gestured her for silence. They crept around to one of the doorways, peering around into the room, where they could see the Archmage and two of the other mages inside. Arugal had his back to the door, looking over some tome, and the two mages were completing a circle upon the floor that Judis recognized. She had transcribed it across enough books now in various fashions to do so.

“A summoning circle,” she whispered to Berton. “It’s…almost like a circle that’s to supposed to summon from the Nether itself but…different.”

“Different how ?” breathed Berton. He then turned his head to look up at her. “And how do you know this?”

Snorting softly, Judis replied, “I actually read what I’m transcribing. Enough magic books and you start to get a grasp of at least what things do. Oh, look, they’re done.”

They fell into silence as one of the two mages said, “Archmage, the circle is complete.” Arugal turned, smiling at that, his eyes looked down at the circle and then back up to the other two.

“Excellent. You remember what we must do?”

“Yes, Archmage.”

“Good,” stated Arugal, stepping to one edge of the circle and holding out his hands. “Let us begin then.”

As the three mages joined hands around the circle, Berton hissed, “They’re actually summoning it , Jude! We get to see what’ll combat the undead!” Judis just hummed softly in acknowledgement, her eyes still darting over the now glowing circle on the floor.

Why did she have a bad feeling suddenly crawling up her spine? Like the spiders that used to creep into her loft as a child.

“What do you think it will be?” he whispered.

“Something fearsome,” she replied.

The two mages abruptly cried out and collapsed to their knees as an eerie thunderclap rattled the whole keep – and this despite it being a clear, fine day outside. And a thing , dark and fearsome and full of menace rose up in the circle. It towered over Argual, who was grinning up at the thing like he had just won the top prize in a child’s contest, and the two mage’s were shuffling backwards away from the circle. And then the thing turned.

Judis saw its head – lupine and savage with eyes that burned red like fire – before it lashed out at the two mages on the ground. One had her throat torn open and fell back, choking on her own blood as it spilled down over her robes. The other managed to only have the thing’s claws tear open ribbons on his chest but he seemed to have a reaction himself, his eyes suddenly bulging and his breath coming in loud, frantic pants.

Then he screamed and arched back against the floor of the lab his entire body suddenly writhed and changed .

“Light preserve us,” breathed Berton, taking up a steady litany of the words between others. “What did he summon? Light preserve us, Jude, what did he call?”

She started to open her mouth and then realized that the thing was looking right at them . And Arugal was gone .

“Run,” hissed Judis, shoving at Berton. The thing growled, taking a step forward, and she bodily hauled him to his feet and shoved him ahead of her back down the hall. “ Run!

An otherworldly howl rent the air and she heard the thing hit the wall behind them in the corridor as they darted around a corner. She felt Berton’s hand fumble for hers and she gripped it tight with her skirts in the other hand as they bolted together back towards the entrance that led to the wing they were in.

Only to find the entrance blocked by a magical barrier and the Archmage behind it.

“Archmage, let us out!” Berton cried out, slamming a hand against the barrier.

“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” replied the older man. Judis met his gaze then and she saw the critical decision in them, recognized it from years of observing from shadows and over the pages of books and a quill.

He was abandoning them.

To that thing .

To watch them.

She sneered, teeth bared, and tugged at Berton’s hand. “Come on. To the roof. Maybe we can climb down from there.”

“Yeah,” he breathed, his voice trembling as he stared at the impassive face of the Archmage. Then he turned and they ran, hearing growls and snarls coming seemingly ever closer and closer behind them. It was stalking them.

And, Judis realized too late, herding them .

When they bolted back into the lab on a mad sprint to get away from it with no clear line of where they were going, the realization hit like the odd thunderclap that had rocked the building. There was the body of the female mage, already long bled out from her wound. And crouched over her was the savagely lupine form of what had once been the other mage, remnants of his robes clinging vainly to his massive form and his muzzle stained red from where he had torn open his once fellow’s belly to get at the soft meat there.

Berton sobbed and Judis whirled, putting him behind her and backing up towards the wall as the thing appeared in the doorway. His hand shook in hers like he was fit to fly apart and even though fear made her tremble as well, she squeezed his hand with as much surety as she could muster.

“I…I’m sorry , Jude,” he stammered, tears turning his voice broken and childish. “We’re gonna die. O-o-or be th-that .”

All she could do was turn to look at him as the thing growled and lifted a fearsome clawed arm as it stalked forward and breathed, “ Not your fault, Bertie .” The next thing she knew was being dashed to the stone floor, her shoulder burning from where claws had scored it to nearly bone.

Then there was pain .

And then…fragments.

Shadows of memory.

Lubrici jerked herself upright suddenly, growling in her throat and snapping her fangs together as she reached for the sheathed swords sitting at her side. Memory jolted back as soon as her clawed hands wrapped around the hilt of one of her swords, as the constant sensation of pain and frost resettled into her bones. She was not in Shadowfang.

She was in a cave on the Broken Shore, waiting for other reinforcements from Archerus before they took a holding point that the demons had. Across from her, cold blue eyes in an impassively beautiful face stared at her, one long eyebrow slightly slightly.

“Are you well, sister?” asked the high elf death knight, Taelthea Redhawk. “You seemed to be actually…sleeping.”

Shaking her head, Lubrici forced herself to uncurl her hand from around her sword because there was no enemy here. Taelthea may have fallen on the side of the Horde thanks to her kin being there but there were no sides in Archerus. Not amongst their own.

“Memorrry,” she growled, frowning slightly. “One I…rrr…did not rrrecall.” Few knew of her issues with her memory, that she recalled the fragments of her time as a worgen clearest. Her life before…was less than fragments. She remembered her teachings, could still scribe with all of the skill she had garnered before, and she could recall little snippets like her mother’s berry pie and the song her father had used to sing while he worked but more…escaped her. Taelthea was one of the few who knew.

The high elf sat up alert, her long ears twitching from within her blonde hair long against turned ice blue, and asked, “From before?”

Lubrici just nodded and brought a hand up to her left shoulder. There were faint scars there – barely shadows now – already long healed before she had been taken by the Scourge. But now it was obvious to her that they had once been claw marks.

“Frrrom the day in…rrr…the keep,” she replied. “When the Arrrchmage summoned the…rrr…worgen the firrrst time.”

Taelthea’s eyes went wide and she hissed a curse in Thalassian before saying, “I am sorry, sister.”

Huffing out a little bark of a laugh, Lubrici moved her hand from her shoulder and waved it slightly at the other death knight. “No, sisterrr,” she rumbled, “no need to…rrr…apologize. It is not…rrr…the turrrning that botherrrs me.”

“Then what?”

“Therrre was a…rrr…young man,” replied Lubrici, closing her eyes as she remembered his face – as she forced herself to remember the last glimpse she’d had of it. “A scrrribe, like me.”

For a moment Taelthea just frowned at her and then realization washed over her face as she breathed, “You don’t recall if he was turned or if he was killed.”

“No.”

“I’m sorry, sister.”

At that, Lubrici just nodded because what else was Taelthea to say besides she was sorry. If Berton had died to the thing that had cursed her the first time, his corpse was long gone. And if he had been cursed himself and remained after her escape? He was probably also dead by now.

It rankled, the not knowing. Just as much as not knowing still whether her father lived, if he had escaped from Gilneas in all of the fighting there between their own and the worgen. Berton had been her friend and she had so few of those left.

Maybe, now that she remembered, she would go looking for him.

She then huffed out a breath and leaned forward as she smelled a demon drifting too close to their cave, watching it to make sure it didn’t come near enough to start a fight.

If they survived the Legion and all of its minions attempting to take Azeroth, anyway.

And if he lived, she would tell him that what she had become was not his fault either.

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