[For the purposes of sharing with the WFR, I've chosen to skip one of the story segments that I feel is ... weak and means little to anyone except the few who were there for the scene it "recollects". If your curiosity overwhelms you, feel free to find the true third installment of Sedrai's story at the Earthen Ning site. It's titled "Ugly Game".
As a few people have rightly pointed out, this post is a bit confusing without context. Please allow me to supplement with a bit of "the story up to this point":
Sedrai, having agreed to infiltrate the demon Xonath's organization on a mission to help Tharion Greyseer gather information on his plans, has passed the demon's first test with flying colors, impressing him with the harvest of innocent blood she gathered in Orgrimmar. (see "Onerous Task: Orgrimmar")
Consequently, in a brief meeting with Moontreader (Xonath's nightelven host), she was given her next assignment: distract Greyseer from his efforts to destroy Xonath's contacts in Northrend. To this end, he handed her a data crystal filled with memories copied from the Netherbane shan'do's mind when he was in the demon's clutches not-so-long ago, instructing her to read it and use it against Greyseer.
The "previous evening's debacle" refers to the fact that Tsunomi spied on her meeting with Xonath, angrily confronting her shortly after the demon had departed. The druid had apparently used a pair of gnomish goggles to record their interaction and promised to show it all to Tharion. With much angry. Much angry. >_>
In general, there are many among the Netherbane who doubt her allegiances, and the very real risk that she has chosen to truly serve the demon Xonath dogs everyone's perceptions. The question remains unanswered: whose side is Sedrai on?
And that leads to this post's events... ]
The floating city of Dalaran has precisely two quiet hours per day. Two hours, nestled carefully between the end of late-night revelries and shady midnight deals and the early morn of her many shopkeeps and craftsmen, in which the streets are shrouded with something resembling silence. Two hours in which the most fragile secrets are born in safety. Two hours in which to walk the streets with no eyes upon you.
They’d long been a restless death knight’s favorite haven – a time to forget plots and plans and just wander the shadowed city, enjoying the cool, night mists. Not quite a nightly ritual, it had become ritual enough that when she was away, she missed the time to clear her mind. She missed the time to appreciate the silence.
Sedrai sighed softly, leaning her head back against the shop door and closing her eyes. Blessed silence. After too many days spent haunting the trees of suffocating Darnassus and the previous evening’s debacle, it was all she wanted in the world: silence and stillness and a few moments of respite, short though they may be.
And short they were, broken moments later by the light click of hooves on pavement.
The death knight opened her eyes, straightening as a familiar figure emerged from the mists. He had apparently taken her request for caution to heart, shrouding himself from head to fetlock in a grey cloak with a deep cowl, a piece of clothing clearly stolen straight from an SI:7 intrigue novel. Draped over his hulking, draeneic frame, it only drew attention to the fact that he was suspicious. Secretive. Up to something.
Sedrai shook her head, silently amused. She’d been wise to take advantage of the quiet hours for this meeting. Adrilas, despite the fact that he was a certifiable genius, had not a single iota of the subtlety and presence of mind necessary for espionage.
“Va- …apologies. Sedrai.” He greeted her in fluid Draeneic with a theatrical whisper and a big smile, throwing his arms and his cloak wide to wrap her in a hug she did not return. She never returned it, a fact that he understood well, but studiously ignored at their every meeting. “It is good you are well. You have not contacted me in many weeks; I had begun to worry.”
Raising one brow at him, she extricated herself from his embrace with practiced ease, gesturing at the shop door. “Inside, Adrilas. And keep your voice down.”
“Oh,” he acknowledged, grinning sheepishly. “Yes. Allow me.” He pulled a key ring from a pocket in the ridiculous cloak, oblivious to the cacophony of clinking feliron and cobalt he made as he selected the correctly-runed key and inserted it into the door’s lock. Sedrai could only sigh and follow him, making sure the door was closed far more quietly than it was opened.
“You have the components I requested?” she asked, trailing him as he walked confidently through the dark shop and into the workroom at the back- a workroom with a sturdy door and a convenient lack of windows.
“But of course. None were difficult to acquire.” Reaching a sconce on the wall, he muttered an arcane keyphrase that sent its orb bursting into warm, magical brilliance, revealing the room’s sturdy workbench and carefully-arranged tools. The death knight regarded the place appreciatively, noting the cluttered shelves on the far wall, stacked high with uncut gems and fittings, metal antennae and tubes and relays, and at least a dozen types of biocrystalline oscillators of various sizes and colors. It was glorious. It was troubling.
Shoving away something Old that pounded against whatever remained of her heart, Sedrai forced her gaze back to the male, fixing it there. “You will do the work. I will direct you.”
Adrilas blinked, pausing in the process of pulling a set of small chisels from their hooks on the wall. “I will? But, you are- ”
“NOT interested in repeating myself, Adrilas. You will remember our agreement, will you not?” The frost in her voice was sharp enough to cut, and he winced at the sting of it, the reminder of what was lost.
“Yes. Of course I will,” he conceded, some small amount of the joy in his eyes fading. “Tell me what you wish me to craft for you.”
“Thank you.” Sedrai leaned against the small workroom’s door, her arms crossed over her chest to tuck her traitorous, itching hands against her sides, and proceeded to spend the next hour doing just that.
“Truly, it is a thing of beauty.” The awe in the male’s deep voice was unmistakable, his luminous eyes bright as he regarded the device on the workbench before him. To anyone else, the statement might have seemed incredibly ironic as he stared at what appeared to be no more than a fist-sized truesilver disc, engraved with odd, angular symbols and inlaid with a handful of small crystals of varying colors, but Sedrai knew the tinkerer admired the design moreso than the appearance, his gaze seeing oscillation patterns, resonance amplifiers and biocrystal matrices.
She almost… almost allowed herself a moment of pride, but it felt too much like something Old that she chose not to remember. The death knight turned her mind to the next part of the task, allowing the immediacy of the passing time to erase the sensation.
“Activate it,” she ordered coolly, pulling a prismatic crystal from a hidden pocket in her right glove. As long as her index finger, it caught the room’s false light as she crossed to the workbench, throwing fleeting stains of brilliant red on the walls. “We must conclude this business within the hour.”
Adrilas did as he was asked, tapping a smooth, round dimple at the center of the disc. “A data crystal?” he inquired, half of his attention on the gleam in her hands and half on the first hum of the activated retrieval base, its handful of multicolored gems energizing slowly.
“Not entirely,” Sedrai answered, seeing no reason to offer him more. The craftsman could tell the purpose of most crystals at a glance, judging the minute ways the shards caught and distributed the light. It was his talent, the basis of his inestimable genius, and a large part of why she had contacted him.
“May I?” he asked, clearly intrigued.
Shrugging slightly, she placed her treasure in the palm he offered, tamping down on a surge of possessiveness as it disappeared into the draenei’s huge hand.
“Hmm… excellent quality,” he intoned, holding it between thumb and forefinger in front of his eye as he tilted it this way and that, “though I think you will find a few microstructure flaws in the third and seventh substrata. It’s very dense for-- ” He stopped on a shocked gasp, his brilliant mind finally assembling the puzzle pieces.
“By the Naaru! This is a memory crystal!”
Adrilas gaped, his touch against the smooth, cool prism gentling to something closer to a caress. “But… how is this possible? This capability has been lost to the draenei for eons.”
“Lost to the draenei, yes. But apparently, not to the eredar.”
“To the… Light’s Glory, Sedrai! What have you gotten yourself involved in? The eredar are d-- ”
“I know what the eredar are, Adrilas,” she interrupted, gently reclaiming the crystal from his hands, noting idly that they were significantly colder. “My activities are not your concern.”
He regarded her for a moment, torn between hurt for himself and hurt for her. “Va-- … Sedrai, whether you accept and remember or not, everything about you will always be my concern. In this, you must rest assured.” The big male waved a dismissive hand when she opened her mouth, drawing breath to argue. “No, I will not pry. Only… have a care for yourself if you will not let me do it for you.”
The death knight frowned, relenting with a careless shrug. “I do not intend to return to death, just yet. But right now, I must know what is recorded on the crystal. You may go.”
It was Adrilas’s turn to frown, folding his thick arms across his chest. “I will stay,” he said, his voice as resolute as a mountain.
Sedrai considered arguing, though it looked very much like it would get her nowhere if she did. In the end, she shrugged once again, deciding that she might at least take advantage of his presence in a small way.
“As you wish. If I have not emerged by the end of the half-hour, you will have to interrupt the transfer. I cannot be found in this shop when your Mistress comes to begin her day,” she instructed, carefully suspending the precious gem above the disc of their invention, entrusting it to the invisible bubble of energy the device generated a few inches above its surface.
The data source in place, the crystals in the engraved metal disc lifted free, floating into their slow orbits around the ruby prism. Energy ebbed and flowed in pulsing lines, visibly and colorfully completing the odd, draeneic “circuit” that would read and interpret the memories stored in any crystalline structure. A soft sphere of amber energy faded into being around the entire apparatus.
Indeed, she thought, he was right. It was a thing of beauty.
With one last glance at her companion, Sedrai pulled off her leather gauntlet and reached out with her bare right hand, extending it into the energy field. Exhaling slowly, she closed her eyes and opened her mind.
Unit activated. Status: nominal. Media analysis… … complete. Data recognized. The voice in her thoughts was Adrilas’s, if colder and more precise, a standard reflection of his role in the unit’s creation. It awaited her instructions, communicating the concept with a sense of wordless expectancy.
Data retrieval mode. Initiate memory grafting. Merge and tag entries as foreign. The commands were second-nature to the death knight, even if she could not say for certain why.
Acknowledged. Transfer initiated.
Sedrai sucked in a breath at the odd sensation of another person’s thoughts trickling slowly into her mind. Memories. To be precise, Tharion Greyseer’s memories of the people and places of great importance to him, conversations and plans that should never have fallen into the hands of his enemies. She knew his Sites. She knew his strategies. She knew his boltholes and hiding places. She knew how he thought to use Fethas’ warped powers and Taldarion’s fel-empowered blades to destroy the demon Xonath. She knew his hunts and his haunts and his fears.
Sedrai stiffened, suddenly assaulted by a wave of confusion and disorientation, a memory of Kil’Jaeden’s Throne, of battle joined and lost that flashed through her thoughts, leaving a trail of felfire in its wake. Agony dragged behind the half-processed conflict, muddled and blinding, as time warped and twisted around her, lost to bouts of senselessness and the horrifying touch of dark magic and foreign rituals. Movement. Northrend. Moontreader. An eredar with steely skin and a mind that crawled like a spider through her being.
The death knight felt her knees give out, helpless to do anything about the impossibly distant sensation of her cheek hitting the workbench as she dropped. Only external support kept her from complete collapse, allowing her to maintain the connection to the memory reader.
“Vasedra!” She heard Adrilas cry the foreign name as if from the far end of a very long tunnel, barely felt his strong grip on her wrist, trying to pull her hand out of the energy field.
No. Confusion between the truth and the memories of torture still wrapping around her made it hard to find her voice. No… ”No!” she managed to cough the word, forcing it out between gritted teeth. “D-do not… ”
The rest of what she might’ve said was interrupted by a renewed burst of suffering, a new fel ritual that scattered Greyseer’s mind… that scattered her mind to the four corners of Azeroth. Scattered and flung so far that there was nothing. Nothing but darkness and silence.
Sedrai woke suddenly, jerking away from the arms that held her with such speed that she smacked her forehead on Adrilas’s chin. Cringing back, she blinked up at him, watching him spit Draeneish curse words and rub the offended feature.
“I see you are still as hard-headed as ever,” he groused lightheartedly, nevertheless watching her with serious eyes as she shifted until she could place her back against the workbench. “It seems not all of the memories were pleasant.”
“No. Decidedly not.” She rested her head against the cool stone, regathering her wits until the stunning headache left behind from the transfer’s violent end could be tucked into that numb place where all her pain was stored. “Did it complete? Did I see it all?”
Barely willing to take his gaze from her, the male sat up on his knees to consult their invention, still waiting innocently on the work surface, its crystals dancing. “Yes. It reports that the data transfer completed before the connection was terminated.”
Taking a deep breath, Sedrai nodded and slid gingerly to her feet, half expecting a return of the disorientation she’d fought in the memories. All she felt, though, was a bruised tailbone and an ache where her cheek had hit the table top, two sensations that were easily tucked away.
She plucked the memory crystal from where it floated and deactivated the crystal reader, watching its gems settle back into their housings as the unit powered down. Time was growing short.
“I must modify the apparatus. The crystal cannot be duplicated as it is; the pain is a distraction from the data. I am disinterested in sharing that experience with R-… others.” She frowned thoughtfully while she slid her glove back on and tucked the crystal away in its secure pocket, running over technical specifications and biocrystal circuits in her mind. When Adrilas handed her the inert disc of the reader, wrapped already in a soft rag, she barely noticed. “I must take a few more components… and the resonance tuner… the elvilax chisel…”
Muttering to herself while she pulled items down from the shelf, she did not notice her companion’s grin until she turned to gather the tools from their pegs on the wall. “Is something amusing?”
“Exceedingly,” he admitted with a laugh, crowding past her to open a low cupboard, pulling out protective covers for his delicate tools. He changed the subject, curious. “You will do the work yourself?”
“I must. I cannot afford to remain here any longer.” A few more items slid into her pack, nestled carefully with one another to avoid any damage.
“When will I see you again?” He asked the question baldly, holding the tuner against his chest as a ransom for her answer.
Holding out her hand, Sedrai raised a brow. “Not for quite some time, I think. I do not like you.”
The death knight was as unprepared for his laughter as she was for the warm grin that split his face once the paroxyms had passed. He relinquished the last tool, apparently satisfied.
“Something is amusing, again?”
Adrilas shook his head, his gaze tender enough to make her uncomfortable. “No. I am merely happy. I see what you hide, whether you acknowledge it or not, and it makes my heart light.”
Sedrai frowned, her brows drawing together in confusion, but whatever she might have said was lost to his dismissive wave.
“It grows late. If you wish to avoid my Master’s arrival, you must leave now.”
Nodding, the death knight hefted her pack, settling it carefully across her shoulders. “I will send you instructions, Adrilas, and the finished apparatus. Follow them to the letter. Your safety depends upon it.”
She turned for the door without waiting for his answer, crossing the darkened shop to the exit. But there she paused with a hand on the worn wood, glancing back over her shoulder.
“And get rid of that ridiculous cloak,” she tossed back, shoving her way out into the early morning mist where Adrilas’s chuckle chased her down the empty street.