Chapter 1

THE PARCHMENT

All that was left for Brother Cassius to finish before departing for the night was to snuff the candles and lock the door. He paused and looked around the old Stormwind Cathedral and let out a sigh of relief. It was when the church was empty in its own quiet solitude that calmness often overtook him. The flicker of the pew row candles glinted along the white marble walls and their reflection danced in the ornate azure glass windows giving the vast room of the cathedral a soft ethereal glow. It was in those brief moments when he was about to close the church down that everything in the world seemed to be at peace. The clergyman paused to soak in the sight, smiled to himself with a nod then continued with his work.

Brother Cassius worked his way from the back of the church near the stage pulpit towards the front of the building that ended at the Grand Archway. He handled the 6-foot copper candle snuff with little effort having repeated this task nightly for over 10 years now. With each sizzle of extinguished flame he quickly moved to the next and soon the room began to fill with traces of smoke and a sweet clean aroma that at first, Cassius didn’t recognize. Sniffing at the air briefly again searching for a name Cassius mused, “Heartblossoms” he said aloud to himself. “The chandler scented them with Heartblossoms this time”.

“Yes, it does smell lovely” came a response from a female voice out of the darkness near the grand archway. Startled, Cassius almost knocked down an isle candelabra as he spun instantly to face from where the voice had originated. The lack of light and the distance across the huge room for worship made it difficult for him to see but when he squinted and his eyes became adjusted he could barely make out the shadowed silhouette of a lone figure standing with what appeared to be small child at her side.

“By the light” he thought to himself, “What now?” Having served the church for so many years he was used to members seeking help and guidance at odd hours. When patrons came to the church this late it usually meant something or someone needed urgent attention. The reasons could vary from prayer requests for loved ones who might be in harm’s way, offerings for those who were sick to even asking for forgiveness for those with deeply troubled souls. Whatever the reason for them to come to the church at this late hour, Cassius knew that it was important to them, so it would be important to him as well.

As he drew near the pair, the remaining dim candlelight revealed that he was quite mistaken in his first guess. It was definitely a woman judging by her smaller stature. The clothes she wore even accented the shape to her curvature. The room wasn’t bright enough to reveal her facial features that were hidden in the shadows beneath her cloak but it was enough to show that the creature by her side wasn’t a child at all. It was a demon. A small, furry grey imp that kept moving back and forth hiding behind the woman’s legs while peeking around her cape nervously to view Cassius.

Cassius was used to seeing warlock minions from time to time but, he never quite felt entirely safe around them. He regarded them like a newly domesticated wild animal. While they had the appearance of loyalty, one never really quite knew when or if the animal would turn feral. By the look of this creature it was either ready to pounce on him or possibly ready to flee. The clergyman, not being very familiar with demons wasn’t sure which of the two options the imp had in mind but he hoped for the later.

“A warlock?” he thought quickly to himself. “What would a warlock want this time of night?”

Brother Cassius

Gesturing slowly toward the imp Cassius stated, “He has no need to be afraid in here, I can assure you.” After contemplating his comment, the priest could see her left hand, a human hand, lower from underneath the cloak’s sleeve as she reach down to pet the tuft of fur on the imp’s head between it’s pair of small, curved horns. “Normally,” She said, “I would dismiss him in the city’s limits, but for now I keep him and his companions close. Trust me Sir, he is not afraid. I think he is just uncertain as to his surroundings for I do believe this is his first visit to a church.” Looking down at her imp she patted him again gently and said, “Thank you Jaktip. I think we are safe here so you may be dismissed if you like but, if you stay please do not interrupt.”

With some hesitation the imp frowned and nodded. Looking back to the clergyman the demon raised his small thin arms casting a quick spell without taking his eyes off of Cassius in either an affront of showmanship or as a warning. In the span of a few seconds his body sparkled like stars in the night sky and then went completely translucent leaving only his shadow-like form. The young warlock raised her hands and began to remove her hood, “I’m sorry, he’s a stubborn one. He doesn’t feel comfortable enough to leave me yet, but he will remain quiet.”

Cracking a smile that stayed more in the left corner of his mouth the clergyman said, “It could have been worse, you could have been accompanied by a succubus.” Despite his best attempt at light humor followed by her short polite laugh Cassius could still sense that his surprise visitors were still nervous. The warlock’s posture appeared guarded and stiff as they remained keeping their distance from him. Cassius noticed her gaze resting on the antique candle snuff and he realized that she and the imp must have mistaken it as some kind of weapon like a defensive staff or even a polearm.

He laughed, “I’m sorry, I hope I didn’t frighten you…” he pointed at the tool, “It’s my candle snuff you see.” He raised the copper rod high above his head to reach the nearest candle hanging from an ornate chandelier just within reach. He dropped the tip down on the flame and the candle sizzled and went out. “The Bishop had this made for me several years ago. It sure beats going up and down on a ladder all night.” Both the warlock and Cassius gave a small nervous laugh to this comment which he felt seemed to lighten the mood especially since he figured out why they seemed so guarded. He leaned the tool against the nearest corner pew, moved forward a few steps extending his hand and gave her an earnest smile. “Hello,” he said in a soft low tone to match hers, “I’m Brother Cassius.”

“Nice to meet you,” the warlock said earnestly, “My little friend here is Jaktip and I‘m Morganella.” She confidently offered her hand and smiled back. Immediately, he noted that her touch was calloused and found that odd for several reasons.

First, she was wearing a Silver-Thread Cloak. While Silver-Thread was not the most expensive styles of clothing it definitely wasn‘t common. Even in the current low light conditions of the church and now that he stood closer he could clearly see the intricacies of the cloth’s patterns revealing that it had to have been made from a grand-master tailor. Cassius also noted her choice of darker color tones and shades of dye used for its creation and gathered that it was more for utility rather than for formality. If anything, it told him she was one who did not want to draw attention to herself.

Another reason he found the roughness of her touch odd was that he also picked up on her accent of speech. It was a Stormwind accent no doubt which revealed a higher level of education by the way she pronounced certain words. Not to mention the obvious fact that after all, she was a warlock. Any wielder of magic, even a demonic form as such in the Fel-arts took a great deal of education. Whereas her calloused hands revealed a life more focused on practical and manual labor.

“Brother Cassius, I’m sorry to interrupt your work,” she said earnestly, “especially at this time of night, but for reasons that may soon become apparent I am requesting a moment of your time.” Cassius nodded, “Of course my dear child, there is always time to help another who asks for it.” He was used to all forms of citizens asking for his advice or for his opinion on a whole range of subjects so her request did not seem odd but the timing of it did. It was also strange because in all of his years of service to the church this was the first time in his career that he had been approached for counsel by a warlock.

Cassius knew how a more precise term for a female warlock was a witch, but everyone knew that if you start calling women witches, particularly human women, they tend to get upset. So out of habit and status the female races of the craft preferred to keep the title Warlock instead. This particular warlock must have been in her late twenties the clergyman guessed. She already mentioned something about other “companions” and he could only assume she referred to other minions. Most students of the dark craft were barely able to contain and command a lone imp at her age let alone several. Whoever she was she had him curious and intrigued. “How can I serve you?” Cassius asked.

“Can we…” she said glancing around the darkened cathedral and then back to the door, “Can we speak somewhere more secluded?”

Minutes later after having finished closing down the Cathedral for the night, Cassius escorted Morganella and her imp into the basement meeting room making polite talk along the way. The meeting room was small room that could fit perhaps twenty or so people at a time and was where the clergy would meet once a week for conducting church business and planning for upcoming events. The furnishings of the meeting room were sparse and practical compared to the Cathedral room above. It contained only a large stone table with plain wooden benches surrounding it. The walls held no hanging decorations leaving only the roughened grey unfinished foundation blocks as the decor. The only noticeable detail to the room was the large Stormwind Crest carved into the slab marble table, highlighted with azure blue and melted gold glass like the upstairs Grand Cathedral‘s windows.

Brother Cassius closed the door and pulled two benches from the corner of the table closest to them and with a “Please”, motioned for the two visitors to sit. He waited politely for her to sit first before he seated himself across from her. Once Morganella sat down her imp, Jaktip, climbed up the bench legs next to her left side and nudged his head under her arm like a small puppy craving attention. She turned to regard the imp and with her right hand motioned her finger vertically over her mouth while the imp silently nodded back in return. The candelabra Cassius brought with them and had placed on the table nearby lit up the confines of the meeting room much brighter than when they were in the large vast vacant halls of the cathedral moments before and for the first time the clergyman was able to get a better look at the young woman who was requesting his help.

The warlock’s hair was an obsidian black with faint highlights of grey that faded to almost a full white in their appearance when they reached their ends. It flowed down to her shoulders, caressing her face and disappeared amidst the black pattern of her cloak. Her emerald-green eyes seemed to glow from their own inner light and not from the mirrored reflection he could see in them of the candelabra’s light. Upon looking at her face Cassius thought about the old saying “The eyes are the window to the soul” and to him, she appeared at a glance much more mature than her age would allow. She used very little, if any make-up and for a human, she had a natural beauty as that of the Kaldorei or the Sin’Dorei women. Her physical features were plain and yet there was an unmistakable grace of elegance that accentuated all that was feminine in the way she carried her movements. “A warlock with her presence,” thought Cassius to himself, “would have little need for the seduction spells of a succubus.”

Before Cassius could even begin Morganella spoke up first, “Brother Cassius I can only assume that by being a follower of the light and a sworn man of the church you will honor my request not to speak of our meeting to anyone.” She said this as a statement and not a question. “Of course” Cassius said calmly sitting up in his chair and preparing for whatever might be next. “I have been told by those who would know,” Morganella continued, “that you are an expert at verifying documentation?”

“To be honest,” Cassius said turning slightly red-faced at the compliment, “I’m really more experienced in artifacts and religious relics and such. I am familiar to some degree with scrolls and parchments but I wouldn’t exactly say I’m an expert in such matters. Bishop Farthing is much more…” the warlock cut him off in mid-sentence, “No, I do not wish to involve Bishop Farthing. That is why I am seeking your counsel and not his” she paused and let her words linger. “This matter…” she hesitated, “This matter may implicate a member of the Bishop’s family, though not his immediate one. That is why at this time he cannot be involved.” She looked down to her imp who nodded at her knowingly and she nodded back. The small demon’s hands tightened around her arm almost as if tempering her emotions.

Morganella sat there a moment observing Cassius’s reaction as she patted Jaktip’s small dark hands now locked around her left arm. The old clergyman’s brow furrowed as he leaned his elbows on the table, clasped his hands together and rested his chin between his knuckles as he contemplated what was just said. “Brother Cassius,” she pleaded, “I need someone who can be objective. I know Bishop Farthing is a great man, and I’ve heard great things, but even a righteous man can be biased.” Her words became more of a plea, “All I am asking is for you to view a few documents and give me your opinion as to the whether or not they are genuine. That is all.”

Reaching into an inside pocket of her cloak she produced a small leather-bound satchel, leafed through several of the first parchments and passed him one of the many single sheet of paper that seemed to fill the case to it’s capacity. The first thing he looked at when the paper was in his hand was the type of paper itself. It was Haygrain paper, very worn and beginning to deteriorate judging by the brown patches on its edges and in spots along where the paper had once been folded. The dye used to pen the writings was unremarkable, it was just a simple Earthroot ink.

Scanning quickly he read over the words and figures written on and the faded paper and could easily see that it was nothing more than a purchasing order. The page contained a selling list of various items from standard farm tools to things such as linens and food supplies. There was no distinguishable date on the document anywhere that he could see. Flipping the sheet of paper over Cassius noted it still had the original hardened wax signature seal. He pulled the sheet closer to his face to give the paper and the seal a better look. “Excuse me a moment,” he said getting up from his bench, “but at my age I find that my eyes often deceive me, let me get something to aid me in seeing this better.” The clergyman left the door open and disappeared down the hall.

The imp rose from his comfortable spot next to his master, jumped up on top of the table and leaned over the corner to peer through the doorway. Seeing that the old man was out of sight and out of ear shot the creature gestured with a shrug and hushed tone, “Well?” Morgan tapped her finger on the table nervously, “Well I don’t know yet.” Jaktip grew a concerned look, “What do you mean you don’t know yet?” She gave her imp a flat look emphasizing her response, “I mean I don’t know yet.”

The demon crossed his arms and bit on his lower lip for a moment, “Do you think he’ll believe you? What if he tells the Bishop?” “What if…” The warlock stopped his next response by raising her right-hand pointing her index finger up. “One, Aunt Jalane has spoken highly of him” she shot back raising her middle finger, “Two, he is an icon here at the church and holds meetings with the King. Three,” she said raising her ring finger,” he’s a man who has sworn his life to the light. For all those reasons I have to trust him.” The imp listened un-crossing his arms, scratched his back and shook his head.

Down the hall Brother Cassius’s footsteps could be heard drawing closer as he was returning to the meeting room. The imp began to climb back to his spot on the bench next to Morganella but in doing so leaned over to whisper in her ear. “You may trust him but I won’t because he is still a man”. Morganella leaned her head down to the demon as he repositioned himself back under her left arm and whispered back, “Enough.”

Upon entering the doorway Cassius said, “Well from what I can tell,” he said turning to close the door behind him, “it appears you didn’t need my help at all. Any high level scribe here in Stormwind could tell you what I’ll be able to tell you about your document.” He took his seat across from Morganella and laid the parchment on the table in front of them. There really are no misgivings or secrets about it.” The warlock straightened and asked, “What do you mean?”

“Look here at the paper itself.” He said pointing. “This is Haygrain paper that was used primarily in the Northwest regions of the Eastern Kingdom a few years back. It was produced from the sawdust of their local trees and from the wasted chaff of their crops.” Cassius continued, “Now do you see these small dark fibers? Look hard because the aging process is taking its toll.” Morganella strained her eyes. Jaktip curiously raised himself up and stood tip-toed on her lap in order to see the paper as well. “Those are the hairs from the farm animals and wild game slaughtered in that region as well. The hairs were added with a mixture of the animals cooked bone marrow to help set the paper to give it its durability.”

The clergyman rose up from his chair again as almost as if he was thinking a loud to himself, “So, one could easily assume at first that this paper originated from either Silverpine Forrest, Tirisfal Glades or The Western Plaguelands.” The warlock nodded in understanding as Cassius stopped and rested his hands on the table. “Would you like to know more?” He asked. Again she nodded. He looked down at the imp who was nodding as well.

Brother Cassius reached down deep in his robe pocket and presented a small viewing glass, “The next thing to notice is the ink that was used to pen this list.” He moved around behind the warlock so that he was peering down over her shoulder like an instructor to a student as he held the viewing glass for her to see. As he steadied the glass circle over the paper the lettering magnified and enlarged so that it was plain to see. “This is Earthroot ink. Most inks are made from common herbs found in a local area because its plentiful and cheap. Out of the three areas just mentioned, Earthroot can only be found in one. Tirisfal Glades.”

The warlock and her imp remained motionless as he kept on. Brother Cassius steadied himself on the table and kneeled next to her as he turned the paper over and pointed to the seal, “This wax seal here is made from the same animal glue used to hold the paper together accept the ingredients in it were slightly different.” Morganella interrupted, “Was that important?” Cassius smiled and glad in knowing that she was paying attention and in realizing that he wasn’t boring her, “Well it’s significant in that this type of wax was used in business transactions,” he said. “It creates a reaction when it comes into contact with certain metals. For example, once a signet ring was pressed to it,” he motioned as if he was doing the act himself, “it would activate the material in the glue to harden in seconds, making it tamper proof.”

Morgan sat for a moment clearly thinking about what Cassius said. Before she could catch a moment to ask another question the clergyman broke the silence. “It was silver wasn’t it?” he said searching her face as she looked at him somewhat shocked. As he raised himself up to stand he continued on, ”The man who sealed this purchase order wore was a silver ring. I can even safely say with all certainty that he was also right-handed.” Brother Cassius moved back to his bench, sat and faced her and the imp again, “I know he was right-handed because the human fingers when clenched into fist form has a slight curvature. If you examine the impression of the seal you can see that it’s deeper into the wax on the left side. If he had been a left-handed man it would have been the opposite.” Directly looking into her eyes he said “But,” and he gave a well drawn out sigh, “I’m sure you already knew that.”

Cassius could see Morganella’s body stiffen as he heard the imp blurted out, “He’s good!” Addressing the imp directly as it sat in her lap Brother Cassius stated calmly, “Yes, I know who signed this paper my little friend, but the real question is does your master want me to tell her and remove all doubt that I know?” He looked back at the warlock and reassured her, “As to the document’s significance other than what it shows itself to be which is a standard purchase order,” he added “that I cannot say or have no way of knowing.” With her eyes focused on the document and without breaking her gaze the Morganella said nothing.

“Well,” Cassius began breaking the tension, “since you are seeking my opinion about this piece of paper I shall give it to you.” He looked from Morganella to the imp and back to Morganella again. “If however, after I give my opinion you should like to discuss why this matter is important I will listen, if not, you two may go on your way knowing that my opinion and what we have discussed shall remain between the three of us.”

Brother Cassius tapped the paper as it lay stretched between them breaking Morgan from her trance. “This letter was sealed by Devlin Argamand, the traitor of Tirisfal Glades. It appears to be the last page to a large purchase order he approved probably either in the township of Brill or even in the Kingdom of Lordaeron itself. Since we know exactly when that area fell to the plague I can estimate the letter to be at least ten years old if not a year or two more.”

“How,” Morganella began, “are you so sure it was him?” Cassius stopped and pondered her question. “Well I can only assume it was him.” He struggled for a moment thinking of the possible options. He took a breath and began, “Signet rings were formerly used by many of the Alliance Kingdoms to verify all official documents. They were issued to landowners by the residing precincts as their mark, their legal promissory note for payments and tax purposes.” If a landowner entrusted another person to legally do business on his behalf then another ring would be issued but, each seal is engraved with slight changes so that the documents could be discerned.” Morganella followed what he was telling her spoke up, “Discernable as in traceable to a certain person you mean?” “Yes,” Cassius agreed. “Traceable in case there were any legal disputes or falsifications.”

“Being the youngest son, Devlin would have had held minor responsibilities until he could prove his worth. The main operations of the farms and mills would probably have been shared between the father and his eldest son. Devlin would have been relied upon more as an errand boy filling purchase orders for supplies and such until his age and experience could be trusted by his father.”

“Why then,” she asked, “do you assume it was Devlin, why him?” Father Cassius chuckled to himself and then patted her hand as she rested it on the document. “My dear child, without more research on my part all I can do is offer my best guess based on what I know and from what you have shown me. Everyone in all the provinces of the Alliance has heard the rumors and stories about the tragedy that occurred there.”

“Look at the wax seal, you can clearly see for yourself that it carried the Argamand Family Seal.” Morganella retorted back, “Are you sure?” Cassius picked up the looking-glass and the paper and again quickly examined the seal. He handed both to Morganella, “I’m not one hundred percent sure without more information but sadly I truly doubt such documents to aid in that type of research could be found. After the blight of the plague and with the Forsaken having gained control of that region most of it is in ruin, destroyed.” Cassius sat up and reached around the paper, “If you look at the bottom of the engraving will see the tiny lettering at the bottom. The age of the paper is working against us and at first it is difficult to see them.” Morganella fixated on the view the looking-glass offered to her moving the round object back and forth away from the paper then closer until the image came into focus. She held it so that Jaktip could see as well.

“It would appear that the lettering are the initials D and A and I do believe they stood for Devlin Argamand. The type of paper, the ink, the seal and what is written on it all point roughly to when it was created, who the author was and that it appears to be authentic.” “You are sure of this? You are certain?” she questioned in a pleading way. “Yes, yes I am quite certain but keep in mind my certainty is only an educated guess. Based on what I know.”

Jaktip seemed to grow uneasy, stirring in his seat. Morganella looked down at the document again and then back to the Clergyman with some agitation, “Brother Cassius, what do you know about the fall of Tirisfal Glades?” Cassius was certain the warlock probably had heard the stories as well but he decided to grant her request and indulge her.

“Well,” he said in a more sullen tone, “It was common knowledge that the Argamand family was one of the wealthiest families in Tirisfal Glades. They owned most of the farms and the mills in the area and supplied the Kingdom of Lodaeron. Devlin was the youngest son and was the most notorius of the children. I believe he also had an older brother who was named Thurman. When the disease began to strike and blight the area it was Devlin who betrayed his family and aided the Lich King’s Forces, spreading the plague and the scourge, dooming them all.” Cassius swallowed hard and turned his head to look away, “It was quite horrific.” He composed himself and turned back, “It was horrific not only due to the loss of innocent life but also because a man willingly sold his soul at the expense of those he loved.”

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Comments
  1. Gearshaft says:

    More please, this is awesome!

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