Iliera stood beside the unconscious Fÿnn while, slowly, Syanna waved her hands around an arcane spell floating in the air. Over the years, Syanna had proven to be an invaluable ally to Iliera, not just as a member of the Remnants, but as a trusted personal friend. Syanna had dealt with eons of magical energy and worked her own tapestries of the arcane arts. If anyone could get Fÿnn fixed, it would be her.
So when she stood and shook her head in disappointment, Iliera’s heart sank.
“It’s too strong,” Syanna said with a frown. “I can see the spell. I can almost figure it out, but I can’t break through it. This magic is powerful.”
“So it’s hopeless.”
“No,” Syanna replied. “Not by a long shot. The skill required to make this spell is immense. We’re talking maybe a handful of people that could pull this off. We just need to figure out if any of our most powerful magi have gone rogue. Not to mention it has to be maintained. Whoever is doing this is putting a lot of energy into keeping him this way.”
One of the stockade guards shifted uneasily at her words. Syanna locked onto the movement. “Something to say?”
The guard was silent for a moment, but then nodded. “The enchantress.”
“SI:7 is on the case,” the guard said. “I can only point you to them.”
Syanna looked to Iliera. “There’s our lead. Shall we?”
The SI:7 headquarters was housed in the “old town” district. This area of Stormwind had been built right after the ruins of the old Stormwind were reclaimed by the humans of the Alliance. As the city expanded, this area became a district and was quickly rendered outdated by the mastery of the newer areas. Still, this place had charm… and dirt.
Iliera walked through the small streets until she found the location of the SI:7 building. It wasn’t fancy, by any means, but it looked much more polished than much of the surrounding structures. When she stepped inside, a gnome in a formal uniform was already waiting.
“Are you Iliera?” the man asked.
“I am,” she replied.
“Name is Chip. Chip Stone. You’re here to talk about the enchantress,” he said knowingly.
“You seem to know a lot, Chip.”
“It’s my business to know,” the gnome replied. “The truth is, we need each other right now. The cult of the pod wasn’t something we’d tied to the enchantress until we heard about your paladin in the stockades. Now it’s starting to make sense.”
“What’s starting to make sense?”
“The missing children, husbands, and wives. We were starting to think it was a serial killer on the loose, but now we can probably assume they’re out in the canals swimming around without a care in the world.”
“This enchantress. What do you know about her?”
“Not much,” Chip answered, his hand moving to the thick mustache on his face. “We’ve been chasing her around the city for weeks now. She’s got followers that hide her away somewhere new whenever we get close. We just can’t get her pinned down.”
“So we won’t be able to find her.”
“Well, we can’t, but maybe your friend can help us.”
“The paladin. I hear he’s still under her spell.”
“He is,” Syanna said. “He wants to return to the pod. So we could let him go back and then—”
“Hang on a second,” Iliera snapped. “I just got him away from those things. I’m not going to send him back into that mess.”
“We can’t help him without the enchantress,” Syanna pressed. “If we let him go back, we can find her and then we can make this right.”
Iliera hesitated. She looked to Chip and then back to Syanna before she came to the same conclusion that they had already made. “Fine. We can let him go.”
“Good,” Chip said happily. “Can you whip up another whale illusion for him?”
Syanna nodded. “Nothing to it.”
“Alright then. We’ll slap a gnomish tracking device on him and get him back in the water.”
“Are you sure?” Iliera asked. “Will he be safe?”
“Safe is relative,” Chip replied. “Is he safe in that cell, crazy as can be?”
Iliera wanted to argue, but she knew what had to be done.
The SI:7 team arranged for Fÿnn to be released that night. Syanna did her job and put an impressive whale disguise back on the paladin before he jumped into the canals and began swimming around like a madman. His voice was disguised as whale calls and soon enough he was jetting off, hopefully to rejoin with the pod.
“Now we just keep watch,” Chip said. “He joins the pod and the pod should eventually go… somewhere. That’s when we’ll jump in and seize the whole group.”
The evening stretched on for ages. From Chip’s tracker, it looked like the pod was simply swimming in circles, never leaving the canal, never straying from a set pattern that took them around and around again.
Iliera finally fell asleep, but her dreams were filled with angry whale calls, and she soon woke to the sound of Chip’s excited voice. “This is it!”
She sat up and saw Syanna hunched over the tracker’s screen with the SI:7 agent. They were watching as the pod had diverted from their normal pattern and were making their way toward the harbor. Once they reached the harbor walls they turned around, cutting back into the canal a short distance and then slowing to a near halt.
“What are they doing out there?”
“It’s a drainage pipe,” Chip said. “They’re going into that… must be one at a time.”
Fÿnn’s tracker started to move again and quickly slipped under the harbor and started moving back into the city through the drains.
Chip was smiling from ear to ear. “Three weeks we’ve been trying to figure this out and thanks to your guy we’ve finally got our intelligence.”
“We don’t have anything yet,” Iliera said. “We have to finish this.”
When Fynn’s tracker finally stopped, it was clear that he was directly under a large building within the dwarven district. Chip Stone and the other SI:7 agents went to work, preparing their quarantine tools and deploying to all the city drains that they had mapped out.
As the sun was peeking over the horizon, Chip turned to face Syanna and Iliera. “Alright you two, you’ve done good work. Now, you head on over and get some sleep while we clean house and get the enchantress in our custody.”
“You can’t be serious,” Iliera started. “I’m coming with you.”
“No, you’re not,” Chip replied. “You’re done here. I promise you we’ll get your boy and you’ll be happy as a clam this time tomorrow. For now, you gotta leave us to do our job.”
“I don’t think—”
Syanna’s hand came to rest on Iliera’s shoulder and she fell silent. “Come on Iliera,” the mage said. “It’s time to go.”
Iliera resisted. “If he gets hurt, I swear to the Light—”
“You don’t have to make any swears,” Chip replied with a casual smile. “He’ll be fine.”
On the road back to the inn, Iliera’s ears were burning. She felt like she had been used twice now. Once by Aebaloth to imprison Fÿnn, and now again by Chip Stone, using Fÿnn as bait to trap the enchantress. No one had her interests at heart and no one cared what happened to Fÿnn.
It was infuriating.
“You know,” Syanna said, clearly sensing her anger. “If we had gone charging into a building full of innocents and an extremely powerful mage, the chances of everyone getting out okay would have been slim to none.”
Iliera frowned. “I know.”
“He’ll be okay. Fÿnn has been through tougher situations than this.”
There was a brief flash of memories from Fÿnn’s close calls in the fight against the Legion. It was true. This wasn’t the most dire situation that the human had been in, but that didn’t make the danger any less real. “I hope you’re right,” she said. “I worry.”
They reached the inn and headed inside. Many of the other guests were finishing breakfast and heading out for the day, but they were exhausted. They headed straight to their rooms without another word.
On the second floor, Iliera went right and Syanna went left.
“Sleep,” Syanna added before disappearing into her room at the end of the hall.
“I will,” Iliera replied, stepping into her own room.
The room was pitch black, which was unexpected. Usually the heavy black curtains to block out the sun had to be requested by a guest before they were put over the windows. Iliera saw that there was a small sliver of light coming from one covered window so she made her way over to lift the dark curtain and let some light in.
When she turned around to look at her newly lit room, she gasped. Someone was lying on her bed… no… they were tied up on her bed.
Then she realized who it was.
“Fÿnn!” she said, rushing over to him. She made it only two steps before she was frozen in place by some kind of unseen force.
“It really is all too easy,” a woman’s voice sliced through the air. Iliera’s eyes moved from Fÿnn to a nearby chair, where another figure was sitting. She was a night elf, or at least, she almost looked like a night elf. Iliera, however, had seen her kind enough to know the difference.
This woman was Nightbourne.
“Who are you?” Iliera asked.
“I am the reckoning,” the woman said. “You probably know me as the Enchantress.”
“What do you want?”
“You’ll know soon enough,” she replied. “Have a look.”
Iliera started to turn, magically moved by the woman, until she was looking out the open window. A low rumble shook the ground and then smoke and fire rose in the distance, over by the dwarven district. The large building where Fÿnn had been tracked began to crumble to the ground as dust and debris shot out into the streets.
“No!” Iliera shouted.
“Oh yes,” the enchantress said, mock sadness in her tone. “The SI:7 agents walked right into a trap. At least a dozen innocents dead at the hands of a deadly plan. A plan,” she paused, gesturing to Fÿnn, “that was organized by this paladin right here.”
“Fÿnn didn’t have anything to do with this!”
“That’s not what they’ll think,” the woman said. “Not when I adjust my spell to make him confess and claim it was all his plan.”
“Why are you doing this?” Iliera asked.
“Fÿnn and his little band of heroes did something in Silithus. It really set us back on our mission and my master was not pleased. Consider this a little payback.”
“You won’t get away with this, you monster!”
“Oh, I’m the monster?” the woman asked. “You, standing there with the Light’s poison coursing through your veins? You have no room to talk.”
“Release me,” Iliera growled. “I’ll show you what the Light can do.”
“You’ve got a lot of spunk, draenei.”
The enchantress paused now, then stepped over to where Iliera was locked down and reached out to touch her necklace. The Remnants of Hope symbol that Iliera wore prominently and proudly.
“Oh, I think I’m understanding,” the woman said. “You’re with his little band.”
“We are the Remnants of Hope,” Iliera said. “We will stop you.”
“Fÿnn, darling,” the enchantress said. “Who is this?”
“Iliera,” Fÿnn replied, his voice flat and distant. “Leader of the Remnants of Hope.”
“Oh my,” the enchantress said, a wicked grin spreading on her face. “Too wonderful. I’ll take out the head of the organization and bring down the reputation of the others through Fÿnn’s dark deeds. One simple bomb and you’re all ruined.”
Iliera struggled against her bonds, but the spell was too strong.
The enchantress stepped away from her and moved to Fÿnn. She placed her hand on his forehead and muttered some words as another arcane spell whipped around his head. Fÿnn looked like he was in pain, but he made no sound, and then the spell vanished and the paladin started to stir. He looked around for a moment and when he saw Iliera he gave a confused expression.
“What’s going on here?” he asked
“Hello Fÿnn,” the enchantress said. “Do you remember what you did?”
“Who are you?” he asked. “What are you on about?”
“I’ll tell you. It’s very important that we get your story straight.”
“Untie me,” he said, struggling to break free.
“I will. Momentarily,” she replied. “First. I need to get rid of something.”
The enchantress turned back to Iliera and gave a smirk.
“You played your part so well, leader of the Remnants of Hope. Honestly, I’m glad we had a chance to meet before I undid your whole organization. Now, however, it’s time for you to go.”
“I will find you,” Iliera started. “I will hunt you down.”
“No,” the enchantress replied. “Not if I banish you to the void.”
Iliera’s heart stopped.
The enchantress locked onto her fear. “I’m sure the Light will protect you there. For a few brief moments, anyway, before the chaotic energy between the Light and Void rip you to shreds.”
Iliera struggled against her magical restraint, but she couldn’t get it to break.
As the enchantress built up her energy, Iliera grew desperate. She called out for Syanna, but the mage was in another room all the way down the hall. The odds of her hearing Iliera’s calls were not great. She saw Fÿnn struggling against his ropes. He was desperately trying to summon some Holy energy that would smite the enchantress, but she didn’t seem the slightest bothered by his attempts.
Behind Iliera, a portal snapped open and the dark whispers of the Void started to echo in her ear. The dark energy felt like a flame against her back and she began to tense from the pain.
There was nothing she could do. This was how she would die. “Don’t worry, Fÿnn,” she said. “Everything is going to be okay.”
“Oh no,” the enchantress replied. “Not in the least bit. Fÿnn will likely be hanged for orchestrating a terrorist attack on the city. You’re about to boil alive in the Void, and I’m going to walk away from this without so much as a scratch. Nothing will be okay for you.”
Something reached through the Void portal and touched Iliera’s armor. It sent a painful surge through her entire body and she was forced to cry out in agony.
“Iliera!” Fÿnn called.
“It’s okay,” she replied through clenched teeth. “It’s going… to be…”
Then, something happened. All in the matter of seconds.
The temperature in the room skyrocketed. Embers of fire started to form in the very air around her. A figure magically appeared between Iliera and the enchantress with the familiar pop sizzle sound of an arcane teleportation spell. The portal to the Void, which threatened to consume Iliera, retreated and snapped shut. Then, Iliera was released from her magical restraints. As she stood, she saw the ornate robes of the mage that had come to her defense.
She saw his black hair.
When he looked back at her, she felt a renewed sense of pride and courage.
“What is this?” the enchantress asked, taking a step back from the new arrival.
Iliera stepped forward to stand at the mage’s side. She wasn’t scared anymore. She wasn’t even concerned.
Sionis Sepher had arrived.