The Pick-up Artist Edit
from the Journal of Carasel Childermass
It had been a mistake to stay with the group. In retrospect, I should have bowed of graciously; made some excuse about a prior engagement. All the signs had been there, after all.
At this time in my life, Ragefire Chasm was not a place to be taken lightly. The creatures there were said to be a tougher, hardier stock than their bretheren found elsewhere. "Elite" was how some had referred to them. A certain level of training was required before you could safely venture inside, and then only in numbers. And "safely" was always such a pejorative term.
A fellow I had met once along the road to the Sepulchur in the Silverpine Forest came to me this day. He had tracked me down in the Herbalist shop of the Undercity. I had recently completed training with the Priests of the Undercity, and was proud to have reached my 15th qualification. In any case, he was a Warlock and was aksing for my help. I realize now that I knew very little about this man, other than his name and his chosen path.
"Hey, wanna come to Ragefire?" he whispered.
I spun around, surprised that I didn't hear him approach. He was tall, with a bald pate and shabby robes. An imp danced madly around his legs. It stopped the Saint Vitus Dance for a moment to eye my cat. She yawned.
"We have a full group, just need a healer." he continued.
I hesitated. I had completed a mission there before, and really did not need to return. And yet, others stonger than me had helped to complete my tasks when I was in need. It gets lonley on the road, and I don't seem to make friends easily.
"Of course, friend. I would be glad to accompany you and your companions." I whispered back, joining him the conspiritorial spirit of the conversation. The cat gave me a look. I hopped the first Zepplin to Orgrimaar and looked forward to meeting the rest of the party.
The group was immediately troubling. The young Warrior was impatient, and complained loudly when I informed them I needed to drop off some of my extra gear. The Rogue was opinionated, and offered suggestions and advice to the rest of the group on tactics and stategy. The Mage said nothing. Our leader, the Warlock, seemed a bit out of his element. After a brief discussion I found that none of others had yet passed their 13th qualifications, save for the Warlock who had just earned his 14th.
"Hmm." I pondered aloud. "We seem to be a bit inexperienced for this undertaking".
"We'll be fine as long as you do your job" the Warrior replied. I began to dislike him.
"But the denizens of this place are quite fierce" I offered.
"Are we going or not?" piped the Rogue.
The Mage had already walked into the shimmering portal, and the others follwed suit. What could I do?
"Perhaps it will be alright, hey Arabella?" I murmered to the cat. She coughed, something stuck in her throat. I picked her up and put her in my bag. I stepped into the vortex.
We stood at the top of a stone ramp and stared at a rather wicked looking snake. The largest snake I had yet seen. It seemed to be made of living stone. I focused my will and then began to stare at each of my companions in turn. The auras exploded around them, one after the next, until I had given all of them a piece of my strength. I was exhausted, my throat dry and my hands shaking. I sat down to rest and regain some of my strength. I needed a drink.
"I just need a moment" I said to my friends, "to drink a bit."
The Warrior sprinted past me, charging towards the snake. His large sword clanging off it's hide, he seemed to be in trouble almost instantly. Damn
"Heal the Warrior!" the Rogue yelled.
I tested my legs; they were still pretty weak. I rose unsteadily and drank one of my potions in one gulp. It burned as I swallowed, and I sputtered as I fought to keep it down. I felt my body tingle as spirit was forced to return. I looked to the Warrior and raised my hand. The Renewal prayer instantly began to work my will, knitting cuts back together. It was not enough, not nearly enough, but it would stem the tide while I began to chant.
The seconds semed to last an eternity as I recited my spell of healing. Finally the armor and exposed skin of the beleaguered fighter shined with golden light. He looked better, but the snake was unrelenting. The Rogue blinked into sight behind the snake just then and stabbed deftly with his dagger. The Mage and the Warlock added their curses and spells to the mix. Shadow magic began to burn it's hide, and a sizzling ball of fire exploded in the snake's face. Finally it showed some signs of weakening. Our Warrior was taking a hell of a beating, so I immediatly began to chant again.
Too close I thought. Too damn close. I completed the recitation and the golden flash appeared again. It was then the snake locked it's red eyes upon me. It began to approach, ignoring the others. I held my ground and summoned my remaining will. Don't panic I resisted the instinct to raise a shield; my will was ebbing and I would need that strength. Instead, I grabbed my wand and waited for the beast to reach me. I hoped the Warior would get to it first.
The Rogue struck a cruel blow to the back of the snake, and it wheeled on him. The Warrior kept hacking and slashing, but it paid him no mind. His blows, when they did land, seemed a trivial thing just now. Things were not going well at all. The Rogue would be dead in moments. I began to recite again. I never made it. The Rogue fell in a pile.
With the Rogue dead, the snake turned to me again and charged. Running would do me no good. Where could I go? My only chance was to keep the Warrior alive in the vain hopes he could kill the beast. I chanted my spell even as the snake tore into my body. The poison burned and the fangs shredded my robes and flayed my skin to the bone. It was then I noticed the Mage and Warlock were gone.
The snake struck me a fatal blow just as my spell completed. As my life drained from me, I had an instant of self congratulation. You may have killed me, but my fierce friend is strong and will strike you down you basta... Where in the Hell is he going? The Warrior ran towards the vortex as snake turned to follow him. He passed easily though, the snake staring after him. I was a ghost, and was all alone.
The angel was beautiful. She shepherded me back from the abyss, and bade me return to my body. You have been granted another chance, Forsaken. Do not squander it. I ran - it seemed more like flying - back to my body.
I saw the rest of my party standing outside the vortex. They must have sensed my ghost, as I heard them trying to communicate with me. "Get your body!" they cried.
It must be safe, if they want me to go back in. I entered the vortex, and felt my life return.
I was dead again. The snake was still there, standing at the Vortex. It was still very upset with me. The angel was not amused. I raced back to the vortex, cursing all the way.
"Dammit, get your body!" they cried as I returned once again. I danced in and back out, and by some miracle I made it alive. I collapsed to the ground, weak and near death.
"You need to heal better dude!" the Warrior said. Heal better? Dude? I contained my rage and began to eat and drink.
"Don't waste your time with that Renew crap" the Rogue put it. "It doesn't do enough. Use your heal spell."
I swallowed my drink and waited for the Warlock to interject, to come to my defense. To say something. Anything.
He said nothing.
I spoke for myself. "That was a pretty tough for the first fight in there. I seemed to get the attention of that snake pretty quickly, too."
"You just heal more and we'll be fine" the Warrior responded.
We went back in, and faced the demon snake again. We marshalled our strength and defeated our first foe. It was a close fight, but we prevailed. The Warrior rushed the next snake, and it too fell to our combined powers of might and magic. The Mage and Warlock were hitting their stride, combining curses, fire and shadow to destroy our foes. Then we faced an abomination of living stone. It seemed to be much stronger than the two snakes we had just killed. I was weak, and asked my companions to give me a moment to regain my spirit. I began to drink, and that's when everything went straight to Hell.
The Rogue vanished and tried to sneak behind the rock monster. Suddenly the stone man whirled and began pummeling him. The Warrior dashed in, but could not get the creature to fight him. I began chanting, and managed to complete my spell in time to save the Rogue. Or so I thought. The creature continued it's onslught, and must have landed devastating blows. The Rogue was dashed to the ground in the blink of an eye. My second attempt at the Healing had been in vain - I had not even gotten halfway through the lengthy recitation. The Warlcok and Mage countered with their magics, and I concentrated on our fighter. I will not let him die.
The Mage got the stone man's attention then, and it abandoned the Warrior and charged straight for her. She ran. The wrong way. She blundered straight into another snake before realizing where she was going. The Warrior ran after her, but he was too late. We were all too late. The simlutaneous attacks of the stone and the snake tore her to pieces. They turned on the Warrior, and he was dead in moments as well. I had been trying to heal the Warrior, to keep him alive so he could fight of the enemies. This earned me a quick and painful death as well. The Warlock tried to run for the vortex, but he could not escape. Wiped off the face of the Azeroth.
The angel did not seem surprised to see me. She did not speak to me, but merely pointed the way back to my still warm corpse. When I returned to life, my companions were waiting for me. They were not happy.
"We need a better priest." the Warrior fumed.
"Yeah, you need to heal faster. I don't want to die again." the Rogue added.
"But he killed you in two hits..." I responded, my ire rising.
"You have to start before he attacks, you can't wait around doing nothing" the Rogue continued to scold.
"...and it takes me a couple seconds to cast my spell and by then you..." I continued.
"Christ, don't bitch about it just do what I tell you!" the Rogue interrupted again.
The Mage spoke then, saying, "I need to go learn a new spell, I'll be right back". I waited for the others to rebuke her for leaving right in the middle of all this.
"That's fine. In the mean time the priest can practice healing" the Warrior replied.
"What? You're leaving? But I need this quest!" whispered the Warlock.
"I'm sorry, but I can't deal with that." I responded, moving off towards the exit.
"Deal with what? The Mage will be back, she was just leaving for a minute." was his reply.
As I tramped up the ramp out of the Cleft of Shadows, my former companions hurling insults at my back, I began to feel sick inside. Dammit I felt choked, and sensed mist in my eyes. Why do I let them get to me. Fool. Arabella poked her head out of my bag then, and gave me a soft, reassuring meow. "Maybe they are right, Belle. Maybe I need to work harder?" I rasped.
I dropped down in the middle of the street and hugged her close. "At least I have you. You won't abandon me." She looked up gave me a long, throaty purr.