Episode 5: A Whale of a Tale (Pt. 1)

       The mood in Stormwind was jovial. The Legion was defeated. That was a victory, no matter the whispers of darkness or concern coming out of Silithus.

       Aebaloth didn’t care for any of it. He sat at a rundown bar in the dwarvan district and rubbed a piece of raw meat against a freshly acquired bruise on his left arm. He would have never expected those nasty little murlocs to have so much fel corruption, but he had foolishly assumed they would be no match for him.

       That was his second mistake this week. Just one of a series of unfortunate events that had taken him from feeling pretty good to wondering what his backup plan might be.

       The bartender slid another drink down to him and gave a gruff grunt as though acknowledging Aebaloth’s unspoken woes. Reluctantly, the demon hunter picked up the glass and gave it a whiff. It might as well have been oil mixed with turpentine. He thought about it for a moment, but then kicked the glass back and downed the liquid in one shot.

       It was as awful as he had expected.

       What he didn’t expect, was to see a large purple crystal come to rest on the bar next to his drink. A very familiar crystal… which made up part of a very powerful mace.

       He started to spin around, but his face hit the bar with a distinct thud.

       “Ah, hewwwwo Iliera,” he said, his face pressed against the old wood of the bar.

       “Where is Fÿnn?”

       Aebaloth pushed back and Iliera released her grip on him. He stood, shaking his head a bit, just to make sure nothing had been broken. He glanced at Iliera and immediately noticed that she looked a lot different than she had just a few short months ago.

       “What’s this about?” he asked. “New look?”

       “I am not here for pleasantries,” she said, her voice stern. “I’m looking for Fÿnn.”

       “Why would I know?”

       Iliera’s armor started to glow brilliant white and she stepped forward with fiery conviction in her eyes. Aebaloth hadn’t seen her behave like this, at least not to anyone from the old Academy days. He lifted his arms in surrender as she drew close. “Hey, calm down!”

       “I have witnesses, demon hunter,” she said, taking another step. “They saw you fighting in the Cathedral Square.”

       “Yeah, we fought,” Aebaloth admitted. “It lasted about fifteen seconds and your boy got himself lodged in a tree. After that…”

       “After that?” Iliera pressed.

       “Look, I dunno. I backed off. We got split up. End of story.”

       Iliera was on him in a flash. She lifted him by his throat and the next thing he knew he was pressed against the far wall of the bar. He was a demon hunter of great power, but Iliera was practically brimming with force. He hadn’t considered an end like this… both unexpected and at the hands of someone he thought incapable of such destruction.

       “Alright,” he mumbled through pained breathing. “Fine. There was… a group of whales.”

       Iliera’s eyes narrowed. “Do not test me, Aebaloth.”

       “No no, I’m serious. I… I can’t explain it.”

       The paladin must have felt his honesty, as she slowly released her grip.

       “Please try,” she said.

       “Look. So, it’s complicated. We had a scuffle, sure. So then he crashes his warframe and climbs out of the tree to confront me. Next thing I know… there’s this floating whale. It’s just in the air, floating there, and it starts making little whale sounds. Then, another one shows up! It starts making noises too. Fÿnn didn’t notice it at first. They were piling up behind him and I was like, concerned about it, so I started backing up. He must have noticed I was looking past him, because he suddenly spun around to face them. They were swimming all around him and I bolted. It was a distraction and I needed one.”

       “That’s the last time you saw him?” she pressed.

       “Cross my ingested demon heart,” Aebaloth replied.

       Iliera didn’t immediately step back. The demon hunter worried, just for a moment, if he’d pushed the woman too far. Thankfully, she did finally turn away from him and start toward the bar’s doorway.

       “Come on,” she said loudly. “You’re coming with me.”

       “What?”

       “You saw these whales. It sounds like they’re our next target.”

       “Why should I help you?” Aebaloth asked.

       The draenei stopped at the threshold and looked back at him. Her eyes burned with a brilliant yellow that might as well shot Holy energy beams right at him. He waited for her to hurl her mace right at him, but she didn’t.

       “You have sixty days,” she said. “I want that wand back.”

       “Look, Iliera, I told—”

       “Sixty days,” she repeated. “You give me the wand, or so help me, you won’t ever need to worry about using magic ever again.”

       He wanted to snark back, to say something clever, but she turned and stepped outside before he could mutter his response.

       More importantly, however, he believed what she had said.

       Iliera didn’t intend to let him off the hook as Fÿnn had been doing. He was going to need that wand back. Soon.

       Slowly, his eyes drifted back to the bar where he had been seated. His half-empty glass of awful drink still waited.

       He stepped that way and smiled at the bartender as he picked it up and kicked it back.

       “Just some old friends,” he added through the resulting grimace. “Good times.”

       In the Cathedral Square, Aremadiel was carefully working the controls of the Lightforged Warframe to break it free from the tree branches that had become tangled in the mechanics. Iliera’s palm rested on her forehead as she listened to another citizen recall the story of Fÿnn’s foolish antics.

       “I don’t mean to interrupt,” she finally said, cutting off the latest telling. “Did you happen to see… whales?”

       “Well of course,” the old man she had been talking to said cheerily. “The Pod of Allenia! What a group that is.”

       “The Pod of Allenia?”

       “Crazy bunch of people. Turned themselves into whales and fly around inducting others to follow them. They’re like a funny religious group. I don’t think anyone knows if they’re serious or not.”

       “Did you see the paladin in the glowing armor talk to the whales?”

       “Sure did,” the old man said proudly. “Right after he came out of the tree.”

       Iliera frowned. Aebaloth’s story had checked out. At least it was progress.

       “Can you tell me anything else about these whales?”

       “They usually hang around the canals,” the old man said, gesturing to the southern exit of the square. “There was a rumor not long ago that they might have been abducting children, but honestly no one really saw any evidence of that.”

       “So Allenia is the leader?”

       The old man shrugged. “Aren’t we talking about the missing paladin?”

       Iliera pursed her lips. These situations were not something she was used to dealing with. On Draenor she had lived a simple life. As a soldier during the Legion invasion she had to deal with towering monsters and impossible forces of evil. Trying to chase down Fÿnn and interviewing people about floating whales all seemed so… simple.

       “Thank you for your time,” she said, bowing to the elderly man. “I think I have what I need.”

       “Well I hope you’re able to find those whales,” he said with a smile. “And the paladin.”

       She stepped back to the half-broken tree and the warframe that now rested safely on the ground. Aremadiel had climbed out and was looking over a piece of parchment with a perplexed expression.

       “What is it?” she asked him.

       “Oh, nothing. Fÿnn just left a note in here in case anyone found the warframe. It literally just says, return to Fÿnn in Dalaran.”

       “Always thinking ahead,” she said through a suppressed smile. “You think you can get it back to the Vindicar?

       “Absolutely.”

       “Then that’s your task. Get the warframe home. I’ve got a few leads to follow up with here.”

       Aremadiel looked concerned. “He is okay, right?”

       She thought about lying, but decided against it. “Honestly, I’m not sure. That’s what I have to find out. If he is in danger, you’ll be the first to know.”

       The paladin brightened at her words and nodded. “I’ll see to my mission and return right away!”

       She gave him a quick salute and then he climbed inside the machine and initiated the launched sequence. As he thundered away, she turned her attention back to the southern exit, toward the Stormwind canals.

       “Alright,” she mumbled. “Time to go for a swim.”


TO BE CONTINUED!

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