When I first woke, I discovered that I was no longer in the cobblestone streets of Dalaran’s famous square. The hard surface had been replaced by a soft mattress, and I sat up to see that I was in a comfortable room with magical paintings around me.
I was still in Dalaran, but I had been moved, likely to the inn.
I started to stand, and the blood rush to my head was intense.
“Oh, you’re awake!”
I looked at the entryway of my room and saw a young woman standing with some fresh linen in her arms. She was dressed like a nurse, though she still had the Kirin Tor badge on her dress. She stepped inside, gently setting the linens on a chair, and then started to leave.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Can you tell me where I am?”
“You’re at the Hero’s Welcome Inn,” she said, smiling warmly.
“What happened to me? Where is Surfal?”
“I’m sorry?” she asked, looking somewhat confused by the question. “I would assume he’s in the stables with the other horses. We don’t allow horses inside the Inn.”
“No, you don’t understand. My horse was hurt. We fought the Lich King!”
“Your horse fought the fallen prince of Lordaeron? Look, I’m just a volunteer. I don’t know anything about your… history.”
I realized how absurd I sounded. I calmed myself down and apologized. She seemed to forgive me and went on with her chores, while I headed down the inn’s hallway and into the main bar. I stopped at a large mirror and saw that I had been dressed in a simple adept’s robe, something I hadn’t worn since I left the Kirin Tor.
That was when I realized the situation I was in.
I was here. I had made it to Dalaran.
Now, it might be too late. Surfal was the key to accomplishing my goal. If the horse had died, if I had lost the last shred of Keaira’s soul… it would all be for nothing.
The streets of Dalaran were crowded with hundreds of heroes. Many of them were cut off from the Kirin Tor facilities, but almost all of them looked like they were simply passing through anyways. All the while, the dangers of Northrend seemed almost nonexistent here. The shops were open, the magi were laughing and sharing stories, and the icy cold environment was replaced with a magical warmth, a controlled climate likely produced by the Kirin Tor. I caught sight of the tall spires in the distance, which I knew to be the spires of the Violet Citadel.
I knew time was short, so I started looking through the streets, trying to find any signs of the place where I had been teleported in the night before. There had been a lot of blood, so I thought that maybe I could find that and start from there.
Then, I heard Christine’s voice call out. “Sionis!?”
I looked up from my focus on the cobblestone and saw her rushing toward me, pushing anyone out of the way that wouldn’t move of their own accord. She practically tackled me, wrapping me up in a hug that was as comfortable as you might expect from someone wearing thick metal armor.
“I’m so glad you’re alive,” she said, releasing me and looking over me like a worried mother might inspect her child. “Honestly, I can’t believe you survived.”
I smiled briefly. “Me either.”
She looked more serious for a moment, then asked. “How about Surfal?”
“I don’t know,” I said, suddenly feeling anxious again. “I don’t know where to find him.”
“I think they have him at the Kirin Tor greenhouse.”
“I have to go,” I said. “Thank you, Christine. We’ll talk soon!”
I had been to the Dalaran greenhouse many times during my stay in the magical city. I knew the way without even thinking about it. I cut corners, rounded alleys, slipped through a few buildings, and eventually emerged just outside the glass enclosure of the greenhouse. I ran inside and immediately stepped in a thick pool of blood. Standing over my black stallion, an absolutely exhausted Lady Evanor was covered in red.
I looked at Surfal and saw that his eyes barely had any purple glow left. They looked clouded, like he was slipping into a dark mist. She looked at me, then shook her head, and I realized that there was nothing more she could do.
“I am so sorry,” she said. “I can’t… I can’t make it stop. I heal him, I give him more blood. The magic won’t release him.”
“That’s okay,” I said firmly. “The body is dying. Okay. Fine. So we bypass the physical.”
Evanor looked confused. “I’m not following.”
“I need a favor. It’s a doozy, and it’s the last time I’ll ask you for help, I promise.”
“There’s a man named Xevozz. I brought him down years ago during the Outland campaign. He’s being held in the Violet Hold. I need you to teleport me inside.”
“Xevozz? Sionis, no.”
“I cant just blast you into a prisoner’s cell,” Evanor said.
“I don’t have time,” Sionis urged. “Evanor. I need Keaira’s soul shard. This isn’t just for me, this is for her too. Teleport me and Surfal into the hold. Please.”
She sighed, then took my hand into her own. The dried blood pressed against my skin as she tightened her grip. She was silent for a moment, moving her other hand as she clearly worked to undo various magical spells that protected the hold. Then, she pulled on me, hard, and the two of us slipped through the twisting nether, moving instantly from the greenhouse to the the very cell where Xevozz was detained.
He was standing near the cell door when we appeared, and he stepped over, clearly interested. He looked like a humanoid mummy, but more glowing, and no decay. In fact, Xevozz was nothing more than energy now, having shed off his physical body when it became too damaged to carry on.
“Sionis Sepher,” he said with a hiss, sounding disgruntled. He paused, looking down at the wounded Surfal. “Oh, that looks unfortunate.”
“You were human once,” I said, ignoring his greeting. “You drove yourself into the twisted nether energies and became immortal. I need your help.”
“You want me to perform one of the most powerful spells that I’ve ever accomplished, on your horse, after you imprisoned me?”
“That’s about right.”
“What? You’re joking right?” Xevozz asked. “Why would I do that?”
“My horse is dying. I need your help. In exchange… I’ll help you escape.”
“Seriously?” Xevozz asked. “You’re being serious right now?”
I glanced at Evanor, who looked as shocked by my proposition as Xevozz. I didn’t say anything else to her, as I needed her to be clear of this crime.
“I’m serious,” I said. “Save the horse and you go free.”
“I can’t save the horse,” Xevozz replied. “This process will destroy the horse, at least physically.”
“What about the soul?” I asked.
“Yeah, the lifeforces, soul, whatever you want to call it. Sure, that lives on. I mean, I’m still Xevozz, or at least the part of me that identifies as that. I hold this form because I want to, though, so the horse… who knows what it’ll do.”
“That’s fine,” I said, feeling desperate. “Please.”
“You know, honestly, I’m more interested in how you plan on getting me out of here than the whole backstory of why you’d bother saving a single horse, so sure, I’ll do it.”
I looked to Evanor and frowned. “I’m sorry. Teleport back to the greenhouse. I know this is crazy, but I have to do this. If Surfal dies, I’ll lose everything. I can’t do it.”
Evanor nodded. “I’ll wait to tell them,” she said.
With a pop and fizzle, she was gone.
Xevozz got as close as he could to the horse form his cell. His arm reached out and touched Surfal’s hide. “What’s so important about this horse?”
“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “Hurry.”
Xevozz started to glow brighter and energy began to spread from his hand over Surfal’s body. As this happened, the horse shuddered, and with a final puff of breath, the horse went still. I felt my heart breaking.
“No,” I shouted. “Not yet!”
“Not to worry,” Xevozz said confidently. “I can get him back. The thing you need to do is strip the magical dampening field on my cell. I can’t finish this without my full power.”
I nodded. Without hesitation I did as he asked, reaching out and disarming his cell with a simple cancellation spell. As soon as it dropped, an audible alarm sounded and I knew the Kirin Tor had been alerted.
“Okay,” I said. “What else do you need?”
Xevozz laughed. “I have all I need, Sepher. Thanks for the pardon.”
His physical form suddenly exploded outward, and I was thrown backward from the energy that was suddenly released. I crashed against the ground, and from the center of the blast I was fairly confident that I saw the outline of a man sitting atop a horse.
Then, the light faded, and I was alone, with an empty cell and a dead horse.
Several bright flashes went off around me, and I was surrounded by ten mages. They had their wands at the ready and pointed right at me. I help up my hands to show that I was unarmed and waited there. “I surrender.”