“Thank you for coming so swiftly, Magister Runefire. The master understands how little you like being disrupted from your work–“
“Be quiet,” Croatius said sourly. “I want to see him now.”
The squire bowed and led Croatius deeper into the Blood Knight Enclave. They passed through several gauzy curtains, and Croatius felt by the shiver that passed over his skin that they were enchanted against intrusion. As they fell behind him, he knew that, while he could see out through the thin fabric, back towards the public quarters, no one could see in.
The squire’s pace quickened as they went down some stairs and turned a sharp corner. Containment cells lined this hall, many now occupied. Croatius didn’t even jump as one of the Wretched bounced off the invisible wall separating it from its visitors. Croatius couldn’t even tell its sex, its state of magical decay was so advanced. He scowled at the mindless monster, his own thoughts wandering…
“This cell, sir,” said the squire.
Croatius shook himself irritably and came to stand next to the squire, peering through the distortion of the ward. Evelos was inside, his wrists held tight together by a silver chain that dampened his magic and kept him tranquil. Still, the quel’dorei’s eyes opened as Croatius drew nearer, and the two once-friends stared at each other.
Evelos eyes were still golden, flush with Holy energy. Croatius’ mouth went dry. How? Evelos clearly hadn’t been lying that his connection to the Light was still intact.
“Croat…” Evelos groaned, struggling to speak past the chains’ enchantment.
“Let him speak normally,” Croatius ordered the squire.
“Sir, he’s bespelled in case he gets up to any shenanigans. Even without draining the Naaru with the rest of us, his command of the Light–“
Croatius cut him off. “I will take responsibility, including cleaning up any mess he leaves.”
The squire nodded reluctantly, grimacing at the gruesome reference that Evelos might not survive the encounter. He paced back towards the stairs, taking down a wand from its hooks on the wall. He came back and jammed it into the ward. The chain around Evelos’ wrists flared with white arcane energy, crackled, and then disappeared. Evelos looked down, rubbing his wrists.
“Thank you, Croatius. I knew I could always depend on you, my friend.”
Croatius just eyed him. The ever-present hunger, left from the Sunwell’s destruction, gnawed deep in his core, and absently he twisted one of his rings. The poisonous-green stone faded in color somewhat, and Croatius shivered and closed his eyes with delight as fel energy coursed through him, relieving the ache.
“Shut up and listen. You have two choices by law now,” he said, talking over Evelos. “You can serve the Blood Knights and put your command of the Light to use, or you can take the name of traitor and be exiled from the lands of Silvermoon.”
“Why are you talking this way?” Evelos faltered at Croatius’ tone.
Croatius said nothing. He opened his eyes to slits, watching the dismay in Evelos’ expression. He recognized the look; he had seen it on the face of his father when the old man had died–
Evelos seemed to come to some internal conclusion and stood straighter. That had not been like Croatius’ father. Croatius scowled.
“I have ever been a loyal servant of Quel’thalas,” said Evelos, “but now I see our kingdom turned into something it was never meant to be. I still serve our people, Croatius. I would see them delivered from this betrayal of Kael’thas’ that has you bowing to demons and draining a holy Naaru!”
“Arrogant fool!” snapped the squire. Croatius glared at him, and he fell silent.
“Please,” said Evelos. “I know this isn’t easy for you, my old friend, especially after losing your magic, and your family, and everything else, but you must believe me that this is the appropriate course! We can talk about it. I can show you… show you the old ways, how the Light is still within me and, I believe, within you–“
“If it didn’t work before, why would you think it would work now?” Croatius asked. He felt the stir of old jealousy and loss like he was seeing it through several feet of crystal: distorted, faint, unable to bother him anymore. He looked at Evelos, and he realized his fondness for the quel’dorei was now the same as the jealousy: far away, insignificant.
Evelos hesitated, seeing it in his face. “Croatius. Don’t go down this path. There only lies damnation–“
That stung, lashing out from a corner of his old conscience that Croatius clearly hadn’t silenced well enough. The warlock snarled, ripping the fel ring from his finger and pressing it into the ward. The ward flared, red-hot, and Croatius felt on the other side of the slim band of metal a plunging and roiling of the arcane magic, threatening to overwhelm him for his trespass.
The ring — the energy within it — was stronger. Somewhere, a mile away in his inherited manor, a demon stirred, reaching across the astral gap with hungry claws. Croatius fed the arcane into it, sucking the ward dry until it cracked and fell to the ground like so many pieces of paper-thin glass, disappearing as the demon wholly consumed it. He heard a cry of alarm from the squire, but he ignored the man as the squire dashed back up the hall to check the other cell wards.
Evelos stared at him for a split second, then his face erupted into relief and welcome. The quel’dorei reached for Croatius, palm up. “Thank you–“
Croatius turned the ring on him. The chain appeared again around Evelos’ wrists, but it was green this time, and Evelos hissed in pain. His expression turned from shock to anger to fear in three respective seconds, and Croatius found it… delicious.
The demon on the other end of the ring’s connection thrummed with agreement.
“I do this for your own good,” Croatius said softly. “I love you, loved you as well as any friend might. So I will spare you. You must submit to me, Evelos Sunwalker. You will learn to prefer this path. You will learn… The Light… wills it.”
Evelos struggled against the bonds. Croatius looked deep into his memory for a spell, one once taught to priests of the Light, though it wasn’t a spell the Light often condoned. Like a javelin, he pierced Evelos’ mind with Shadow magic, trying to make it quick and clean, painless — he honestly did still care for his friend’s wellbeing, though he saw the necessity of using pain now.
Evelos fought against it, but down here, so far from the light of day and after a long containment, his reserves were low. Slowly the quel’dorei sunk to the floor, and Croatius stepped forward to loom above him. He grasped the quel’dorei’s blonde hair and pulled his head back so he could look into his friend’s eyes. The golden glow of the Light was flaring strong as the elf spent every last bit of energy trying to fight the mind control.
Croatius shuddered. There were shards in those eyes, shards of a being far greater than him. It reminded him of the Naaru, chained in the Enclave nearby, not struggling against its bonds but only… watching… if a creature without eyes could be termed to watch…
Its soft, chiming song had turned slow and dull as the blood elves took its magic, but the melody had always felt sad to Croatius, rather than angry. Croatius hated it. Sadness was never an excuse to do nothing, to give in to your enemy like that.
Yet submission is delicious, said the demon in his mind. Make him submit to you!
Croatius wavered. He had been on the other side of such torture, once. Once, Evelos had seen through to that terrible memory, with those shard-like eyes of his, cutting through Croatius’ mental defenses like a knife.
When he made the final decision, Croatius knew it to be his own. Like Guaerelyn, Evelos knew too much, and that had to be rectified.
As Croatius twisted the magic harder into the quel’dorei, melting Evelos’ defenses, writing his thoughts and motives anew, Croatius felt a similar twist of fel-euphoria inside him. Submission was delicious, provided only it was inflicted by him upon another…