The imp made a face at him as he held it upside down. Seryth then reached into himself, for the magic of the shard, and, drawing from it, wrapped tendrils of shadow around the imp like chains. Instead of drawing the creature into himself, like he had the voidwalker, he only bound it to him, heart to heart, mind to mind. In some ways — a lot of ways — it was like wrapping his tongue around a raw pepper and wincing through the burn, but Seryth held on, until he felt the imp’s will begin to sway to his own.
“Now you will tell me what I want to know,” said Seryth.
For such a small creature, the length and breadth of the imp’s memories impressed Seryth. The demon could remember a time when it hadn’t been corrupted, running through a forest much like Val’sharah with others of its kin.
It couldn’t remember much of its fall to the fel, and Seryth avoided it anyway out of lack of interest. Instead he focused on its memories as — Seryth believed — a grell.
The grell were spirits of wild nature, loving chaos much as the imps did, and so had naturally been drawn to the fel when it had first manifested on Azeroth, thousands of years ago.
Seryth had been expecting destruction and cruelty to be the guiding principles of the imp now that it was a demon, but instead he was surprised that what still guided it was life: life’s chaos, the endless possibilities, the thousands of species living in places like Val’sharah, propagating and changing and propagating again.
Nathssysn saw the use of the imp, even while the more mortal part of Seryth was reeling from the enormity what he saw. Endless nature spirits was synonymous to endless minions for an army, after all.
Seryth could suddenly see why the demons had targeted Val’sharah for this invasion. The plethora of creatures calling it home was a near endless supply of demons for their war machine, a chance to rebuild the Burning Legion. This pleased the Nathssysn, and so the Nathssysn strode forward, letting the imp go, and proceeding up to the apartment.
Seryth was somewhat surprised to find Jalinde still there, but the stubborn druid initiate was sitting at the window by her bed, looking down at Dalaran thoughtfully. Seryth approached her quietly. He could tell she knew he was there from the start, as her breath didn’t quicken and her shoulders didn’t jump when he drew close enough to touch her.
“You’re probably wondering why I stayed,” said Jalinde.
“Somewhat, yes,” Seryth replied.
“There was a stand of willows outside Quel’Danil once. They encroached on the banks of the lake and made boating and fishing difficult, so the elders had them removed.”
Seryth sat down quietly beside her.
“No matter what they did, the willows came back every year, even when they tried paving one section of them over with stones. I pulled one up by the roots to study it. It only had one root stalk, and it had burrowed in every direction, like a snake or a worm, until it found the little bit of light between the cracks in the stone, and it had forced its way up from there.” Jalinde looked down, taking his hand. “The part of the tree that grew above ground was only a few inches tall. The root, laid out straight, was several feet long. It would have been a tall tree if it had been allowed to grow properly. You remind me of that tree, Seryth.”
Seryth didn’t answer. She looked up, staring him in the eyes. “Last night…I saw you by the roots. You are a tall tree, Seryth; I really do believe that. Always have, from that first day I spied on you…but like that willow, most of you is underground, held under by stones. …I’d like to remove the stones, if I can.”
Some part of Seryth warned him away from the talk. He saw only darkness and dashed hopes for Jalinde; the presence of the Nathssysn in him — the stones, as she put it — was too strong. It’d suffocate her, like whatever magic her elders must have eventually employed to weed out the willows of her home.
He also saw the willows in his mind’s eye, pushing up anyway no matter the wishes of Jalinde’s elders. Changing and propagating, like the forest in the imp’s memory. How did elves regrow after being cut off at the top, like those willows? Seryth touched Jalinde’s cheek.
Inside him, the Nathssysn rebelled at the thought. How could the blade rebel if it was the master? Though the moment was soft and tender, it was also a battle. Jalinde didn’t ask, though she seemed to know; the knowing filled Seryth with dread as much as it did with hope.
“I saw into the imp’s mind,” he told her later. “It had been a nature spirit once.” He wasn’t sure if he meant it as a warning or a threat.
“The Farstriders always suspected that’s what they were,” replied Jalinde.
“Yes, well. I never bound it like I did the other demons.”
“It came to you first?”
The Nathssysn wriggled around in his mind, poking at each crevice. Another thought occurred to him.
“Part of what makes nature strong is that it is ever-changing,” Seryth remarked.
“Some parts of it, yes,” Jalinde agreed hesitantly.
“It grows, constantly. Its children are infinite. When I met the Mother Sprite–” He stopped the thought abruptly. The Mother Sprite had hinted at the connection between the grell and the imps, as well as many other things. Seryth fell to eyeing Jalinde. “Well. Suffice to say, she showed me another way to fight the corruption. It is similar to what you suggest.”
The lie stung him, even as the Nathssysn approved, and Seryth saw he had lost his battle with the blade’s sentience once again. The sword, with all its knowledge of tactics and destruction, had found its way into his mind. Despair found him, and he closed his eyes.
Jalinde didn’t notice. Not that lie, not then. Seryth wondered if she would have given herself so freely to him if she had.