Featuring: Meridith

((I wrote this story when I was on vacation to explain Meridith's unheard-of several-day absence and to lead into an RP rescue when I returned, hence it's a bit of a cliffhanger. The story after this - Opposing Forces - was written before this storyline was completely resolved, but she was eventually completely freed, and in the process learned a great deal about friendship and love. Touching, isn't it? ;) ))

It had been much too long.

Meridith hummed a strangely cheery, aimless tune to herself as she outlined a circle in powdered amethyst on the warped wooden floor. Vaien had been out of contact for well over two weeks now. It wasn't entirely unlike him to be forgetful, to fail to realize how much others - well, Meridith in particular - might worry about him. But there were too many threats out there, too many things that might take her protector away from her, for the mage to be content waiting any longer for word of him. She had discovered a dusty old grimore in a shop in the Undercity with a spell that allowed one to project one's spirit, and it sat in the corner of the room on a chair propped open by her staff. The effect seemed to be similar to a potion she knew of, but it would allow her to retain the sense of power she'd need to find Vaien, to feel out his unique aura. Searching that way, by aura more than anything else, would be not only more efficient but leave her safe from physical harm. The undead woman checked the tome every so often as she worked, echoing the diagram on the page in pale ground gemstone in the middle of the room. Her face, or at least what remained of it, glowed with pride from under her red hood as she surveyed her work. If Vaien was in danger, she would save him. Her magic was finally strong enough to really help. And worried as she was about him, that brought a smile to her face.

Once she was satisfied the circle was complete, that every line and rune was in its place, she took up her staff and closed the book. She stepped lightly into the center of the circle, lifting the hem of her flowing red robe as she crossed into it. Meridith stood still for a moment and closed her glowing eyes. This haunted, decrepit house in the ruins of Darrowshire was not the most powerful place she could find, but the most ideal places were off limits to the young mage. The area around Dalaran was defended by the Alliance, and Karazhan... As she was leaving for the Plaguelands, preparing to remove herself from contact with her friends, Munio, certainly understanding her intent, had warned her against seeking out the power in Karazhan. His warnings were unnecessary, but it was somehow reassuring that she was not the only mage that tower had such an effect on. So she had chosen Darrowshire, because her life and death here had left her well attuned to what power the place held, and because it was near where Silkk said he thought he sensed Vaien.

With a nod Meridith decided the ley power here was enough for what she needed. Spreading the skirt of her robe tidily beneath her, she sat down in the middle of the circle and laid the crystal-tipped staff across her lap. Even in the room's dim light her eye fell upon the red cloth knotted toward one end. She sighed softly to herself as she untied it and held it bunched in her hand. It was a good luck token Silkk had loaned her when she explained what she intended to do, after she had given him her black rose in case she herself needed to be tracked. Please don't worry, she thought as she felt her friend's own aura suffusing the scarf, we'll both be home soon.

With the scarf clutched in her hand, Meridith closed her eyes and focused, beginning the incantation she had memorized even before creating the circle. As the arcane syllables flowed from her she felt the world around her shift. In the material plane her voice became a whisper, then as she breathed the last word of the chant her body fell sideways, leaving her lying unconscious in the middle of the circle. In the astral plane, on the edge of the Twisting Nether's embrace of reality, she finished her incantation and felt herself lifted free of her physical form.

Meridith paused for a moment to take in her new senses. She found her form recreated in white light, tinged purple with the shadow and arcane magics that animated her undead body, a permanent touch of the Scourge on her soul. The world around her was replaced by similar colorful whorls of power maintaining the rough shapes of their physical counterparts. The Plaguelands were hardly more pleasant in this form, with the corruption of the Scourge showing as purple and red energy covering the area. Individual Scourge minions dotted the landscapes as brighter dots, though they retained but traces of their original human auras. In the distance, near the horizon, the power of Naxxramas was nearly blinding in its intensity. Near that was another hotspot she realized must be Stratholme.

Before she had even had a chance to get her proper bearings she felt a tug upon her spectral essence, then realized she was being pulled toward the glow of the burning, tainted city of Stratholme. With all her force of will she fought against it, trying to tear her soul free of the cold ethereal hand that grasped at her, but whatever held her was much too strong. It pulled her into the city quickly, with no regard for physical distance or space, then drew her into a chamber near the city's heart.

As she struggled she heard a voice in her mind, ever so slightly familiar. "Little ghost, little ghost," it called, a cold smile apparent in the words even without view of the face that spoke them. "Have you come back to haunt this city with me? You escaped from me once, little Lady Meridith, but the Banshee Queen can't save you here. Not on this plane, so close to the seat of my power."

In the chamber before her was another spectral form, his projection overwhelming with the intensity of his power. Much of his face was covered, but still she recognized the death knight. "Baron Rivendare," she whispered. She nearly started to curtsey out of habit, but the dread his power filled her with froze her as surely as the grip he held on her ethereal form.

The baron chuckled, then began to pace as his blank eyes appraised her. She realized then that he was here physically, that he had pulled her spirit to him, but her perception of him was overlaid with her magnified sense of his power. "No curtsey, no 'Lovely to see you'?" he taunted. "Your manners are shocking, Lady Meridith. If your mother knew... In fact, I do believe she is here in Stratholme, besieging the Scarlet fools at my command as we speak. Maybe I should inform her!" The baron's dead, echoing laugh made the mage shudder. She tried to shut out his voice to concentrate on mustering some power of her own, but Rivendare's control penetrated to the core of her mind. "I thought it quite the coup to have the Darrow family in my thrall, especially their pretty, rebellious daughter. Then you got away from me." The death knight sneered beneath his mask. "But now you have stumbled back into my grasp, and what that cursed banshee stole has been returned to me. Your body may be out of my grasp, but you will serve me just as well as a ghost."

With those words Meridith felt the world go cold around her, and with a futile cry she fell into darkness.

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