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[Anatevka] Forbidden Knowledge

Rhianon's picture

I could barely stand the smell of roasting Draenei flesh, but I hardened myself and threw another torch on the pile of defiled corpses. Stepping back, I looked up at the fel-tainted Temple of Sha’naar. I remembered when this holy ground was a place of refuge and beauty. Now, green flames of fel-fire rose from its braziers and demons stalked its halls, servants to those who I had once considered kin. After so many years, so much fighting, how could our people have been reduced to this? I’d expect brutish savagery from orcs or even Azerothians with their penchant for in-fighting, yet I had always felt that, ultimately, our kind was above such things. We had disagreements, of course; what people doesn’t? I had believed, wrongly I suppose, that the years of running from the Legion had united us unshakably. 

Movement from behind drew me from my thoughts and I grabbed my staff, turning to face whoever – or whatever – dared cross my path. A Draenei – no, a Sargerei clad in rich purple robes – stood before me, brandishing no weapon, her eyes only glowing with fel magics. I raised my hand to summon a shield of protection, but stopped short. This woman was no stranger nor was she preparing to unleash the magic burning in her eyes. 

I was looking at myself. Younger, yes, but the same eyes, the same firm line of a mouth. Had I always looked so harsh? I had always imagined myself beautiful, but this woman’s draw was in her fierce bearing, not her looks. She smiled at me and the glow faded from her eyes.

“I knew you would be here.”

I laughed. “Really? How so? Did one of your demons announce my coming?”

She chuckled at that. “You sound so much like Nadja when you speak like that. When we speak like that, I suppose. Since that’s what it is, isn’t it? You are me; I am you.”

I snorted. “I’m not you, but you can tell yourself with that thought if you like it so much.”

This woman surveyed me, her eyes narrowed in something akin to either amusement or distrust. “We are not so different. Our daughter has left us. Our mate is long dead. There is little left for us in this world. And as we always predicted, the Prophet failed us. He was, as you may remember Nadja saying, just a man after all.”

I frowned. It was true. Nadja liked to remind me that Velen was little more than a jumped-up scholar, a leader who happened to be in the right place at the right time. She had faith in his wisdom, but she never called him Prophet or holy. I rarely did so in her presence, and I found, as the years passed and our journey seemed more and more endless, the name Prophet rarely crossed my lips when referring to the Draenei named Velen. This world, unlike ours, had seen him fail and I pitied them that in a certain way, despite my own misgivings. It was hard to be reminded that wisdom and visions can make no man holy – any more, perhaps, than a silver tongue turns a farmer into an Exarch. Belief in the Prophet had united our people, rallied them to a common cause. Here, that cause had shattered into pieces. 

“I never predicted that Velen would fail us,” I replied, levelly. “And I’m not so sure that he did. Sacrifice is not failure, no matter what your leaders tell you.”

“And yet, you would have us flail in the darkness, following the memory of a man who led us to this ill-begotten world?” She snickered. “That is beneath you. Nadja would be disappointed.”

“I never said we would flail – “

She cut me off. “Then we should seek power, no? Power to determine our own future. You feel it in your bones, just as I do: that ache for something more than exile.” She gestured to the temple around us. “It is here for us; here for the taking. You simply need to accept that Father was right all along.This is our glorious future.”

Several other Sargerei began to climb the steps near us and my other self glanced over her shoulder, hesitant. She drew a tome from her robes and handed it to me. “Here. Read this. And leave – I will distract the guards long enough.”

I took the offered book, my hands curling around its crumbling spine, my eyes never leaving her face. “I see.”

“We will meet again. Not here. I will find you.”

With that, she hurried off to greet her fellows, drawing them into a lengthy, inaudible conversation. I glanced down at the book in my hands and wondered what I should do. The wise thing would be to destroy it; carrying such literature back to camp would be risky enough, no matter my intentions. The thoughts of what lay within its pages, however, intrigued me. What wisdom did these Sargerei claim to possess? What path did they truly wish to follow? I took a deep breath and tucked the book into my robes. Knowledge was power, after all, whatever the source.