Night fell as the road brought him close to the Eastvale Logging Camp. Hoping for a warm meal, Seryth turned off the road to investigate.
The loggers agreed to put Seryth up for the night if he’d stick around to defend them the next day while they went about their work. Gritting his teeth, Seryth agreed, and moved out with the loggers at dawn, when the coming sun just barely lit the eastern sky in blue and indigo.
“The morning was mostly uneventful, until a scrawny gray wolf was found prowling around the outsides of the logger camp. Seryth was just surprised as the loggers were when, unbidden, his fire bolt morphed into something massive, twisting with green energies. The chaos bolt hurtled across the field and killed the wolf in one hit.
The loggers told Seryth they were grateful for his protection, but they’d be even more grateful if he moved along. By afternoon, Seryth was back on the road, conjuring fire in his hands over and over again. Not once could he make a flame that didn’t have at least a little of the fel licking coursing through it.
“What have you done to me?” Seryth demanded of the imp. They were a few miles out from Goldshire, and Seryth decided to camp in the woods rather than risk another encounter with skittish villagers.
“Nothing,” said the imp, “or, nothing that you didn’t start yourself.”
“I never asked for this,” Seryth replied tersely. Once again he tried to conjure a flame, only for it to come out tainted by fel. He threw it in the campfire, which made a sound like a belch as it billowed large and sickly green for a few seconds.
“Oh, come on, you ruined our food!” protested the imp.
“The only fel I ever used was in dealing with you,” Seryth snapped, heedless. “It has to come from you. This is all your fault!”
“Is it?” The imp was unimpressed. It fished the stick Seryth had been toasting wolf meat on out of the fire and hopped up on a stump, gnawing at the edges. “Look, buddy, I only told you to reach inside. If it was all as spic and span in there as you think, you’d never have been able to summon that voidwalker.”
“The voidwalker…” Seryth gave his head a violent shake. The memory was like a dream. Seryth had gone for so long without summoning it that he had forgotten the creature, but now that he was remembering, he could still feel the voidwalker curled tight inside him, trapped close to his heart. “You told me how to chain it. How to keep it with me, by putting it inside me!”
“It was already chained,” said the imp boredly. It ripped off the wolf meat and swallowed it whole, then jumped down from the stump and scrabbled along the ground towards Seryth like a crab. Seryth recoiled, but it only jumped up and jabbed Seryth’s chest again with its claw, reopening the claw-mark with a shock of pain. “I’m doing you a favor, pal. You’ve got something rotten in you, have for ages. I can help bleed it from you, you know, but it means you have to use the magic, as often as you can. And you have to trust me.”
“Trust you? Using it more would only make it worse!” cried Seryth.
“Oh, so the wet-eared farmboy thinks he knows about curses than the demon?” The imp evaded Seryth’s angry swipe and took up its spot crouched on the stump again. “Face it, you don’t know the first thing about the shadow. You try to hold that thing inside you, you’ll only pop like a kodo’s bladder. I’m doing you a favor. Not only will you grow strong — stronger than that Farstrider of a daddy you got saddled with could ever imagine — you’ll save your own life. Isn’t that a bargain?”
“You said it’s been in me for ages,” Seryth broke in, “but I only remember summoning it last week. So where did it come from, if not then?”
“I have some ideas,” said the imp slyly, “but you’ve been so mean to me, I don’t know if I want to tell you.”
“Oh, come on!”
“Yes, I will,” said the imp brightly. “We’ll go to Stormwind tomorrow.”
“Like fel are you going to walk around in the open in Stormwind just so a guard can lock me up for witchcraft–“
“Are you dense? Who do you think you’re talking to?” The imp shrunk down into it was a calico cat again. “Summon the voidwalker,” it meowed at Seryth, voice barely lower than a squeak. “Summon it, and it’ll follow you like a shadow. No one will ever know the difference. And more importantly, it’ll no longer feel the need to eat you from the inside out.”
“Eat me…?” Seryth suddenly felt sick.
“Well, duh, what do you think voidwalkers do? Come on, now.”
Reluctantly, Seryth did as the imp said. As soon as the voidwalker manifested, he felt relief and strength pooling inside him in the space it had left…
“Great!” said the imp, clapping its paws. “The plus side is? No one has to keep watch while the blueberry is doing it for us. Isn’t that wonderful?”
“Wonderful,” Seryth muttered, eyeing the voidwalker as it took up a position just outside the light cast by the campfire. “Wonderful,” he muttered again, as he fluffed his bedroll and turned away from imp and voidwalker both.
His chest throbbed throughout the night, and Seryth’s sleep was fitful.