The Highborne Despot

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The Highborne Despot

Postby Darathir on Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:43 pm

(Figured I'd repost this, some background story for Dara with family. And I should have done a shorter version for the application, but oh well! Once again, this is my version of what could have happened in Eldre'thalas)


Master of secrets, archivers of lore and keepers of history. These are common occupations that the exiled Highborne of Dire Maul sport ever since the early days of civilisation.

Commissioned by the ruler of the now ruined palace, these venerable elves of wisdom would store scrolls and librams of text relating to the ancient history of the world, preserving memories and reminders of mistakes in the past and safekeeping their heritage for posterity. The Highborne are said to have once amicably parted with information to adventurers who would seek out their Athenaeum over the years, in exchange for the sharing of news and secrets pertaining to happenings in the outside world since the days of Azshara. One could walk out of the halls a much wiser man... if one avoided to upset the royalty.

---

Feralas nightfall, a true miracle of nature, its beholders once said.

Darathir stood upon the shattered balcony of an ancient, frail astronomy tower, gazing out over the ocean to the west. Hands folded behind his back, he indolently contemplated the sundown as the greyened hair on his head swayed along with a light southern breeze, his purple robes fluttering at his feet. Uttering a gentle sigh of longing, he squinted in the bright sunlight, dreaming off to another place.

Although the jewel of wilderness, Eldre'thalas, had fallen from the world's grace many millennia ago, the city yet retained great activity within its broken walls. The resident elves were no longer fair as in the olden days, the ogre and demon occupants were brutish and cruel, perfectly in accordance with their racial norm. But even their monstrous existence could not match the terrible secret that the Highborne of the west wing housed.

Darathir's eyelids opened in a flash, his pupils suspiciouly scanning every corner of his field of vision. The sorcerer did not move an inch from his position. He knew that he was being watched.

Two different monarchs currently resided within the entirety of the ruins, but Prince Tortheldrin was the name to be recognised and respected as supreme authority. As a loyal servant to the Queen in Her era and a passionate leader of the archivist group known as Shen'dralar, he hoarded many secrets of the Arcane, uncovered by the ancient caste of arcanists.

Thousands of years ago, as the end of the world was averted at the high cost of the Great Sundering, Tortheldrin's principality managed to survive and, although heavily reduced, live on in peace. But the destruction of the world was not enough a price paid.

The evening sky darkened as the sun had fully set. Rain began to pour down shortly after, but Darathir cared not about staying dry. It was all was a game in his head now, a chess of mind and endurance. Should the hidden watcher see his strength falter at something so trivial as heavenly tears, surely his days in the Service would be counted.

With the disappearence of the Well, the energy used to sustain their Arcane power began to wane and the majority of the accustomed Highborne population started to show growing symptoms of withdrawal. The Prince was forced to take swift action as to prevent the remainder of his people from crumbling under the shadow of the new world. As an act of desperation, he ordered the last of the energies to be used in the construction of magical pylons, specifically designed to imprison a new nightmarish host of immortality – Immol'thar...

Darathir turned his head ninety degrees to the left, listening to the sound of light footsteps coming up the wrecked spiral stone stairs leading from the Athenaeum to the balcony. His heart started to beat faster and faster as the sound approached. Ultimately, maintaining his composure, he calmly turned around to face his watcher.

The immensely powerful demon, which Darathir and most others were led to believe to have been summoned from the Nether for the purpose of rooting new life, would be held within its confines for centuries, its corruption slowly seeping out across Eldre'thalas, estimated to have affected the minds of all those who would siphon the creature's powers for themselves. Tortheldrin, naturally wishing to remain the iron fist ruler he was, consumed abundant portions of the demonic essence, obsessively clinging onto his image as the most powerful living Highborne. The corruptive presence took its toll on the demon's bindings and, although millennia passed before its effects became fully noticeable, it started to wear down on the force shield erected to keep the demon in place, compelling the Prince into taking more extreme measures.

Nothing. No watcher or anybody else in sight for that matter. Merely the sound of rain tapping against the stone surface of the tower. Paranoia played yet again its devious tricks on Darathir's senses. Scoffing, he dropped his gaze down onto the floor, curiously eyeing a pool of water the rain had formed in a chalice-shaped crack.

Darker were the memories from that day onward. At the time of the first disappearences Darathir held duty as a junior scribe at the Grand Librarium, answering directly to his superiours; the loremasters of Shen'dralar. By sudden principal decree, all citizens were expected to, in turns, receive a share of the Shen’dralar-distributed ”fiend's elixir”, as Darathir would aptly name it. Colleagues were more than often led by Tortheldrin's ever diligent guards into special chambers, but of those whom entered, surprisingly few came back out through the same doors. Suspicion lingered long in the air among the lesser ranks, but none would ever muster the courage to request an inquiry about the activities inside the lair.

The images in the water shifted from one phantom face to another. Darathir crouched down to touch the water's surface. The image of the last woman faded away as his hand made contact with the liquid. Grunting, he closed his eyes and clenched the wet hand, the small pool freezing solid upon removal of the fist. Rising back to his feet, Darathir saw nothing but the cold solitude of his own reflection in the icy artwork. Muttering her name, he shattered the frozen pool with one stomp.

Engaged to his lifemate Onessa, she and Darathir shared their humble quarters with their daughter Narissae during the centuries of uncertainty. More devoted to his work than the family, Darathir more than often distanced himself from the women, remaining a faithful but alienated husband and father. When the disappearences started to occur, Narissae, an agile bundle of curiosity from an early age, made it a habit to eavesdrop on the conversations of the higher-ups. Through her, Darathir kept himself informed on the happenings in the locked down area beyond the Court of the Highborne – the demon's prison.

Darathir's fears proved justified albeit nothing compared to the murderous intent of the Shen'dralar lords.

The rain had stopped. The crystallised shards of ice were spread across the balcony, shining like diamonds in the light of the rising moon. The warm and damp weather soon returned them to drops of water flowing back into the slope pool again.

Disappearences became more frequent, in short time the majority of those deemed 'second rate citizens' had vanished into thin air. With the mysterious hauntings in the Court of the Highborne coinciding with the widely unspoken incidents, Darathir sensed that the hour of oblivion would soon come for the Drakesfire family. Narissae, with her knowledge of the elven sacrifices, urged him and Onessa to leave the principality with her before it was too late. Darathir, stubborn in his ways of work, insisted on going directly to the lords and bargain for the survival of the family. Opting for an audience with Myrthis, the supervising lord, he took the women to a secret tunnel far beneath the Eldre'thalas complex, serving as an old hiding place and an emergency escape route, instructing them to flee for their lives should the negotiations fail.

The fresh rainwater in the pool was diluted by salty tears falling from Darathir's cheeks. As he knelt down to once again look upon the images of the faces of the wronged, he bawled like a little child as feelings of enveloping guilt and self-loathing festered his spirit.

---

He was next.

Tortheldrin was never a truly reasonable man, but his desperation to maintain power went beyond all madness. Darathir had clearly not been the only one to figure out the imminent danger and sought protection from his lieges, but alike the masses, spoke only to deaf ears, speeding up the process of his demise.

Voices were heard from far below. Darathir wiped his eyes and curiously peeked down over the edge of the balcony. Humans massing at ground level outside the gates of Eldre'thalas. Progressive little beings. Their incursions into Feralas began not long ago. Some had even found their way into Dire Maul and received an audience with Tortheldrin himself in the librarium.

The holding cells were crowded with colleagues, friends and strangers. One by one, they were taken to the chambers of preparation, connected to the demon’s prison in the royal halls, their life force sucked out by menacing siphoners who proceeded to channel the torn energy into the fabled pylons. The murders were performed with grimness rivalling that of incineration. The number of living sacrifices quickly thinned out and soon only one remained from Darathir’s group.

The men and women of the young race below were arguing quite audiably. Distracted by the yammering, Darathir leaned down to listen in on the aggressive yelling, hoping to form a clue regarding their affairs in lands this secluded and distant. The visible majority wore black garments with masks of different style covering their faces, a few were armoured with golden plate, bearing unfamiliar coat of arms.

As Darathir finally stood his turn before the five siphoners, survival instinct kicked in, the will to live and the fear of death spoke instead of reason and courage. He pleaded his talents and usefulness to the executioner, ultimately even divulging the hiding place of his wife and daughter. In his desperation, a deal with the devilish overseer was reached - his life spared in exchange for two strong sacrifices for the Prince. A good gain for both sides, the execution was halted while the guard force sought the two women out.

Darathir picked up the name of at least one organisation mentioned amidst the verbal brawl, a 'Hand of Nightmares'. The great argument was connected to rare Feralas florae, an orchid known to the humans as the Black Drought. Darathir knew the plant and its qualities well. Evidently this Hand acquiring it did neither please nor calm the golden armoured knights. The situation became increasingly tense.

The overseer Lord Myrthis enjoyed a reputation of unprecedented cruelty. He took delight in his victims’ pain, and even pardoned men of Darathir's example were no exception.
”Let us see if you really are the rat that meets my eye. If you can watch these useless wretches you call family perish before your eyes, your cowardice shall be forgiven. If not, you shall join them in their fate either way.”

With those words he forced Darathir onto the overseers' platform, directing the gaze of both men to the apparatus designed to keep the victims in place for the duration of the slaughter. Onessa, alone, captured and bound, was led across the hall by burly guards. Before the straps were applied, she cast a glimpse to the platform, giving her husband one last look. A last look of pity and contempt.

The appalling details of Onessa's body twisting and face contorting, as the siphoners’ beams drilled into her soul, was enough to break any man who able to feel love. But the man who loved her suffered quietly and presented himself void of all emotion. As the suction was completed, the woman's greyened corpse fell at last to the ground, dry and broken free of the strappings. A sight forever etched into Darathir's memory.

Intriguingly enough, the opposing human groups never came to the point of matching strength, merely wits were tested. It would appear the darker men held the upper hand in that department. A valuable trait for those who sought prosperity in this lifetime. Prosperity and freedom. Freedom.

Even so many years later, in present day, the words of Myrthis still rung in the sorcerer's head, clear as the day they were uttered. A day when all morale failed and conscience died to pave way for insurmountable heights of indifference. Darathir was then spared from witnessing the demise of his daughter, granted his mercy and even generously offered a seat with the Shen'dralar, yet paid the cost by a constant fear of inadequacy endlessly plaguing his mind. The slightest failure in the eyes of the higher hierarchy could potentially subject him to the same treatment in the future. A plight lasting for another millennia.

Darathir grunted as he watched the human group disperse. The dark men won the day, without resorting to violence. Impressive. Flipping his cape, Darathir turned around to walk down the stairway, contemplating the events as he made his way back inside the Athenaeum. The end of Tortheldrin's rule was long overdue. The winds of change swirled... and the misery of Eldre'thalas would soon be but a memory to the remaining Highborne.
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Darathir
 
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