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This continual harassment grows tiresome.

I was in the midst of important studies, delicate magic that requires weeks of preparation and ritual. KelThuzad had been forced to wait for hours, fuming at the insult, before he was permitted the bare courtes of confronting his accusers. The groups apparent spokespersons, !renden and "odera, had long been two of his most #ocal critics. $onetheless, the would not ha#e launched this latest inquisition without support from %ntonidas, who had et to show himself. &hat was the old man up to' !renden snorted. Thats the first time I#e heard our sort of magic called (delicate. %n ignorant opinion from an ignorant man, said KelThuzad with cold precision. % distant #oice spoke to him then, the #oice of a friend. ) now its remarks had grown so familiar that the felt like his own thoughts. The fear and en# ou. %fter all, thanks to this new course of stud , ou are continuing to gain in knowledge and power. There was a sudden flash of light, and a scowling gra *haired archmage appeared in the hall. % small wooden chest was tucked under his arm. I would not ha#e belie#ed it if I had not seen it m self. +ou ha#e abused our patience for the last time, KelThuzad. The #enerable %ntonidas graces us with his presence at last. I began to think ou had fallen ill. %ge frightens ou, doesnt it' %ntonidas snapped. +ou realize theres onl one alternati#e. ,et him think so, if that comforts him. -alming somewhat, %ntonidas said, %s for m health, ou need not ha#e concerned ourself. I was merel bus elsewhere. .earching m chambers for e#idence of forbidden magic' +ou should know better. True, our chambers bore no such e#idence. The warehouses ou own in the northlands, on the other hand/0 %ntonidas ga#e him a disgusted look. !amn the man for being a self*righteous snoop. +ou had no right** %ntonidas tapped his staff to the floor, silencing him, and turned to the other magi. 1e has turned the buildings into laboratories for a series of foul e2periments. .ee for ourself, colleagues. )ehold the fruit of his labors. 1e opened the chest and tilted it so that all could see. The deca ing remains of se#eral rats. Two were still scrabbling clumsil at the sides of the chest in a #ain attempt to escape. .e#eral magi bolted to their feet, and there was a hubbub of disma . 3#en the golden*haired high elf who had been sitting in the back of

the room seemed startled, though 4rince Kaelthas was a man whose age made that feat nearl impossible. Turning back to the capti#e rats, KelThuzad saw that the had collapsed and stopped mo#ing. %nother set of failures, apparentl . $o matter. .omeda he would create a stable undead specimen. 1is hard work would be #indicated. It was onl a matter of time. There are loose threads in the spell that silences ou. .hall I show ou how to unra#el it' Time, and his unknown all , whose enigmatic #oice occasionall helped him to mo#e one step closer to his goal. .how me, he thought. % oung woman arri#ed in another flash of light. %s she went to stand b %ntonidas, the high elfs gaze followed her with troubled, brooding intensit . )ut 5aina 4roudmoore took no notice6 she was utterl focused on her duties. The handsome prince didnt stand a chance. 1er #i#id blue e es spared KelThuzad a curious glance. .he took the bo2 from %ntonidas, who e2plained, " apprentice will see to it that the chest and its contents are incinerated. The woman inclined her head and teleported from the room. %cross the room, the high elf frowned at the spot she had #acated. 7nder other circumstances, KelThuzad might ha#e found the silent drama amusing. 1owe#er, left unchallenged, %ntonidas was continuing his tirade. "utel seething, KelThuzad resumed his efforts to free himself. &e ha#e permitted this state of affairs long enough. 8apped his knuckles occasionall for his more questionable pursuits. Tried to guide him. $ow we find he has been practicing e#il magic. The name of the Kirin Tor is fast becoming a curse on the lips of the local #illagers. +ou lie9 KelThuzad burst out, and a few of the magi were his again, waiting for him to offer an e2planation. 4easants remember the .econd &ar :ust as well as we do. .a what ou like about the orcs6 their warlocks wielded great power. 4ower against which we had precious little defense. &e ha#e an obligation; we must learn to wield and counter these magics oursel#es. To form an arm of dead rats, their unnatural e2istence measured in hours' %ntonidas asked dr l . +es, m bo , I found our :ournals, too. +ou kept quite detailed records regarding this abominable enterprise. +ou cannot mean to use these pathetic creatures against orcs. %ssuming, of course, that the orcs should e#er emerge from their current letharg , escape the internment camps, and somehow manage to become a threat again. )eing ounger than ou hardl qualifies me for bo hood, retorted KelThuzad. %s for the rats, the are the gauge b which I measure m progress. It is a standard e2perimental technique.

% sigh. I am aware that ou spend most of our time in the north these da s. +our increasingl length absences were what caught m attention in the first place. +et e#en ou must ha#e heard that the kings new ta2 has gi#en rise to ci#il unrest. +our selfish pursuit of power could incite the peasantr to re#olt. ,ordaeron would be engulfed in ci#il war. 1e hadnt known about the ta2. %ntonidas must be e2aggerating. )esides, true magi would focus on matters of greater substance. I will be more discreet, he offered, gritting his teeth. $o amount of discretion could possibl hide a secret of this magnitude, said !renden. "odera added, +ou know that we ha#e alwa s walked a fine line in order to protect our people without becoming a danger oursel#es. &e dare not sacrifice our humanit **not in appearance, and certainl not in truth. %t best, our methods would see us condemned as heretics. It was too much. &e#e been called heretics for centuries. The church has ne#er been fond of our methods. .uch sentiments notwithstanding, we are still here. .he nodded. )ecause we a#oid dark magic, which leads to corruption and catastrophe. )ecause we are necessar 9 3nough. %ntonidas sounded wear . To "odera and !renden, he added, If words alone could ha#e reached him, the would ha#e done so before now. I ha#e heard our words, KelThuzad said in e2asperation. "erciful gods, I ha#e heard them until I am sick of them9 It is ou who will not hear mine, and put aside our antiquated fea** +ou mistake our purpose here toda , interrupted %ntonidas. This is not a debate. %t this moment, our properties are being thoroughl searched. %ll items tainted b dark magic will be confiscated and, once identified to our satisfaction, destro ed. 1is nameless all had warned him this might happen, but KelThuzad had not blie#ed. .trange. 1e felt almost relie#ed that e#ents had come to this pass. The need for secrec had limited the scope of his work, hindered his ad#ancement. In light of the e#idence, %ntonidas said hea#il , King Terenas has agreed with our :udgment. If ou do not abandon this madness, ou will be stripped of our rank and holdings, and ou will be e2iled from !alaran**indeed, from all of ,ordaeron. 1is mind racing, KelThuzad bowed and left the hall. !oubtless the Kirin Tor were keeping his so*called disgrace quiet, fearing repercussions should his actions become

public knowledge. <or once, their cowardice would work in his fa#or. 1is wealth would ne#er line the kings coffers. ===== % pack of wol#es stalked KelThuzad for miles, :ust out of spell range, before the fell behind. >lancing waril o#er his shoulder, he saw them snarl and flatten their ears before darting awa . Thankfull the arctic winds were d ing out as well. In the distance he could make out the summit, a bleak mountaintop, the sight of which ga#e him a sense of triumph and foreboding. The #er peak of Icecrown. <ew e2plorers had #entured onto the glacier, and e#en fewer had sur#i#ed to tell the tale. )ut he, KelThuzad, would scale its heights alone and look down on the rest of the world. 7nfortunatel almost no maps e2isted of the frigid continent of $orthrend, and he found them woefull inadequate, like the supplies hed proudl packed for this :ourne . 7ncertain of the path ahead and his ultimate destination, he could not teleport. $ot sparing himself, he staggered onward. 1e had lost track of how long hed been walking. !espite his fur*lined cloak, he was shi#ering uncontrollabl . 1is legs felt like pillars of stone; awkward and numb. 1is bod was beginning to shut down. If he didnt find shelter soon, he was going to die out here. 3#entuall a glint of light drew his gaze; a stone obelisk car#ed with magical s mbols, with a citadel be ond it. %t last9 1e hurried past the obelisk and crossed a bridge of what looked like pure energ . The citadels doors opened at his approach, but he stopped short. The entr wa was guarded b two grotesque creatures that resembled giant spiders from the waist down. .i2 narrow legs supported each creatures weight6 the other two limbs were attached like arms to a #aguel humanoid torso. "ore fascinating than the creatures themsel#es, though, was their current state. Their bodies showed an assortment of open wounds, the worst of which had been roughl bandaged. ?ne guards arms were bent at improbable angles. Ichor oozed from the others fanged maw, but the guard made no effort to wipe it awa . !espite the familiar stink of undeath, the guards showed no sign of confusion, unlike KelThuzads rats. The spider*like creatures must also ha#e retained most of their original strength and coordination. ?therwise, the would ha#e made poor guards. Their creator was clearl a skilled necromancer. To his surprise, the mo#ed aside to let him pass. 7nwilling to question his good fortune, he gladl entered the citadel, which was significantl warmer. In the hallwa ahead was a battered statue of one of the half*spider creatures. The building itself was of recent construction, but the statue was quite old. -ome to think of it, hed seen similar statues in the ancient ruins hed passed through on his wa north. The cold was slowing his wits.

%t a guess, the necromancer had conquered a kingdom of these spider*like beings, successfull con#erted them into undeath, and taken their treasures as the spoils of war. 32ultation filled him. 1e would surel learn great things here. %t the end of the hall, a gigantic creature lumbered into #iew; a grotesque mi2ture of beetle and spider. It approached him at a deliberate pace, and KelThuzad obser#ed that its towering bod sported an e#en greater number of wounds and bandages. ,ike the guards, it was undead, but its sheer bulk made him feel more frightened than impressed. 1e doubted he had sufficient skill to #anquish such a monster, much less raise it from the dead. The creature greeted him in a deep bass #oice that re#erberated within its ponderous bod . %lthough it spoke perfectl understandable -ommon, the sound chilled him. .trange buzzing and clicking underlaid its words. The master has been e2pecting ou, archmage. I am %nubarak. It had both the intelligence and motor skills for speech**astonishing9 +es. I wish to become his apprentice. The huge creature simpl looked down at him. 4ossibl it was debating whether he would make a tast snack. 1e cleared his throat ner#ousl . "a I see him' In due time, %nubarak rumbled. Thus far, ou ha#e de#oted our life to the pursuit of knowledge. %n admirable goal. .till, our e2periences as a mage cannot ha#e prepared ou for ser#ing the master. &hat could ha#e inspired such a speech' !id the ma:ordomo consider KelThuzad a ri#al' That was a misconception to dispel as soon as possible. %s a former member of the Kirin Tor, I ha#e more magic at m command than ou could probabl imagine. I am more than prepared for whate#er tasks the master gi#es me.0 0&e shall see. %nubarak led him through a number of tunnels that took them far beneath the earth. %t last KelThuzad and his guide emerged into a #ast ziggurat whose name, so %nubarak said, was $a22ramas. <rom its architecture, the building was another product of the half* spider creatures. Indeed, the first chambers %nubarak showed him were populated b the undead things, which swiftl lost their no#elt . %ctual spiders also skittered here and there among the undead, busil spinning cobwebs and la ing eggs. KelThuzad hid his distaste. 1e wouldnt gi#e the enormous ma:ordomo the satisfaction. Indicating one of the undead spider*things, he said, +ou bear them some resemblance. %re ou all deri#ed from the same race'

The nerubian race, es. Then the master came. %s his influence spread, we made war upon him, foolishl belie#ing we stood a chance. "an of us were slain and raised into undeath. In life I was a king. Toda I am a cr pt lord. In return for immortalit , ou agreed to ser#e him, KelThuzad mused aloud. 8emarkable. (%greed implies choice. &hich meant that the necromancer could compel obedience from the undead. KelThuzad might be the first li#ing being to come here of his own free will. <aintl disquieted, he changed the sub:ect. This place is full of our people. I take it ou rule here' %fter m death, I led m brethren in conquering this ziggurat for our new master. I also o#ersaw the process of altering it to ser#e his design. 1owe#er, $a22ramas does not fall under m authorit . $or are m people its onl occupants. This is but one wing out of four. In that case, lead on, cr pt lord. .how me the rest. ===== The second wing was e#er thing KelThuzad could ha#e hoped. "agical artifacts, laborator equipment, and other supplies that put his old laboratories to shame. 1uge rooms that could hold a #eritable arm of assistants. 7ndead beasts that had been cle#erl sewn together from a hodgepodge of animals and reanimated. 3#en a few undead humanoids composed of bod parts from assorted humans. The human bod parts bore no wounds; unlike the nerubians, the humans had not fought their fate. The necromancer must ha#e acquired the bodies from a local gra#e ard. &ise to a#oid drawing notice. The Kirin Tor would ha#e taken immediate action. 7nfortunatel the third wing pro#ed less interesting. %nubarak showed him an armor and an area for combat training. $e2t the cr pt lord led him through chambers filled with hundreds**no, thousands**of sealed barrels and shipping crates. &h would $a22ramas need so much in the wa of supplies' &ell, the p ramid was well stocked in the unlikel e#ent that it was besieged. %t last he and %nubarak reached the last wing. >iant mushrooms grew in a garden area and ga#e off no2ious fumes that made KelThuzad feel ill. The soil beneath each mushroom seemed unhealth , possibl diseased. >oing closer to inspect it, he stepped on something that squished; a fist*sized creature that resembled a maggot. 1e shuddered and hastil mo#ed on. The ne2t room had a number of small cauldrons filled with a bubbling greenish liquid. -urious despite the substances re#olting odor, KelThuzad took a step forward, but a massi#e claw abruptl blocked his wa .

The master wishes ou to remain among the li#ing. +our time has not et come. 1is breath caught in his throat. It would ha#e killed me' There are man who will not ser#e the master in life. The fluid resol#es that difficult . %t KelThuzads blank look, the cr pt lord said, -ome. I will show ou. %nubarak took him to a cell that held two prisoners. @illagers, b their homespun clothing. The man was cradling the woman in his arms6 she was ghastl pale and soaked in sweat. %li#e, both of them, though the woman was clearl ill. KelThuzad glanced at the cr pt lord uneasil . 1er desperate glass e es found KelThuzad and brightened. "erc , m lord9 " bod fails. I ha#e seen what will happen ne2t. ?ne bolt of flame, I beg of ou. ,et me rest in peace. .he was afraid of becoming the necromancers thrall. %ccording to %nubarak, she would ha#e no choice. KelThuzad looked awa queasil . %fter all, she couldnt li#e much longer an wa . .he struggled out of the mans arms and clung to the cell bars. <or pit s sake9 If ou will not aid me, at least take m husband to safet 9 %nd she wept hopelessl . 1ush, sweetheart, the man murmured behind her. I will not lea#e ou. "ake her be quiet9 KelThuzad whispered fiercel at %nubarak. The noise distresses ou' &ith one lightning*quick motion, %nubarak shot one claw through the bars and speared the woman through the heart. Then the cr pt lord casuall shook the corpse off onto the floor. 1er husband howled with anguish. >uiltil relie#ed, KelThuzad began to turn awa , but froze when the corpse started thrashing and arching against the stone floor. The male #illager gaped in shock and fell silent. The dead womans skin was changing color; shifting to a faintl greenish gra . >raduall the spasms died off, and she scrambled unsteadil to her feet. .he rolled her head to one side, then shi#ered as she spotted her husband. >uards, get this man out of here. she rasped. The guards didnt mo#e. &ith a groan, she raked her fingers through her tangled brown hair, and KelThuzad got a good look at her face. )lood #essels were darkening under the skin, and her e es seemed feral, crazed. 1er husband asked doubtfull , " lo#e' %re ou all right'

% bitter laugh escaped her and twisted into a snarl when he took a hesitant step toward her. !ont come an closer. The man ignored her protest and went toward her, but she sho#ed him awa with enough force to send him fl ing. 1e hit the cell bars and slid down, stunned. .ta back. 1er speech was becoming more guttural. 1urt ou. .he wrapped her arms around herself, backed up until she bumped against the opposite side of the cell. 1urt ou, hurt ou, she whined, and something began to be wrong with the wa she said it. 7ncomprehending, KelThuzad watched her slowl , :erkil lift a hand to the hole in her chest. .he hissed, grimaced, and brought her fingers to her mouth. ,icked them. .ucked at them. Then in a blur of mo#ement, she was leaping at her husband, lashing out, baring her teeth** The man screamed, and blood spurted onto the cell floor. KelThuzad flinched awa . -losing his e es didnt help6 he could still hear unspeakable sounds. 8ipping, shredding. -hewing. % soft, wretched mewling that he #er much feared meant the undead woman was aware of her actions on some le#el, but unable to stop herself. .ickened and horrified, he teleported out of $a22ramas altogether, staggered a little distance awa , and threw up. <inding a patch of unsullied snow, he scooped up handfuls and scrubbed #iciousl at his mouth and face. It felt as if he would ne#er be clean again. &hat had he gotten himself in#ol#ed in' ?ne b one, his scattered thoughts fell into place. The necromancer was no simple academic, interested in stud ing a widel condemned field of magic. $or did he plan to stop at fortif ing his home against attack. 1e was mass*producing a fluid that con#erted people into zombies. $a22ramas also had an enormous stockpile of supplies, weapons, armor, training grounds/. These werent defensi#e measures. The were preparations for war. % sudden wind buffeted him with an unearthl shriek, and a group of cold wraiths coalesced in front of his e es. 1e had read of them ears ago in the @iolet -itadel. The #ague description of their cloud , translucent forms had mentioned nothing of the frigid malice in their glowing e es. ?ne of the wraiths drifted closer and asked, .econd thoughts' %s ou see, our little trick will not a#ail ou. +ou cannot escape the master. %t an rate, what could ou hope to accomplish' &here would ou go' "ore to the point, who would belie#e ou' <ight or flight; those would ha#e been the heroic choices. 1eroic, but pointless. 1is death would ser#e nothing. ) agreeing to become the necromancers apprentice, KelThuzad

bought himself time in which to bolster his own skills. &ith enough training, he could surpass the necromancer or catch the man off guard. 1e nodded to the wraith. @er well. Take me to him. The wraiths teleported him back to the citadel and escorted him downward through a series of halls and rooms that KelThuzad knew he wouldnt be able to remember later. %t last, deep beneath the earth, he and the wraiths entered a huge ca#ern whose dank chill sank into his bones. In the center of the ca#ern was a dizz ingl tall spire of rock. )lanketed in snow, a set of stairs spiraled up the sides of the spire. 1e and the wraiths began the ascent. 1is heart pounded with e2citement and dread. &hen he realized that his steps were slowing, he sped up again. 1is resolution didnt last long, howe#er. It felt as if a weight was pulling at him. 3#identl the long :ourne across $orthrend had tired him more than hed thought. <ar abo#e him, at the top of the spire, he could barel make out a large chunk of cr stal. 7ntouched b snow, it had a faint bluish gleam. There was no sign of the necromancer. ?ne of the wraiths used a frigid gust of wind to gi#e him a push. 1is pace had been lagging again. Irritabl he tugged his cloak closer and forced himself to keep climbing, though he was breathing hard. Time passed, and a blast of sleet brought him back to full awareness. 1e had stopped in the middle of the stairs to lean on his staff. The air was foul and suffocating6 he was panting b now. >i#e me a moment, he managed. % wraith behind him said, &e cannot rest. &h should ou' >riml KelThuzad resumed the climb and hunched his shoulders against the growing e2haustion. 1e raised his head with an effort and saw that the glimmering cr stal was drawing close. %t this distance, it looked like a :agged throne with haz dark shapes inside it. There was a palpable aura of menace about the thing. The wraiths brushed against him and startled him into cr ing out. 3choes of the sound re#erberated throughout the ca#ern. 1e clutched at his fur cloak with clamm , trembling hands. 1is breath rattled in the back of his throat, and he had the sudden terrible urge to turn around and start running. &here is the master' he asked, and his #oice was high and qua#ering. $o answer, :ust a storm of hail that lashed at him cruell . 1e stumbled and reco#ered his footing. &ith each step, the throne looming abo#e him felt more oppressi#e, pushing his head down, bending his spine. 1e could barel walk upright. )efore long, he fell to his hands and knees.

The necromancer spoke directl to KelThuzad then in a #oice that was no longer e#en remotel kind. ,et this be our first lesson. I ha#e no lo#e for ou or our people. ?n the contrar , I intend to scour humanit from this planet, and make no mistake; I ha#e the power to do it. 8elentless, the wraiths did not permit him to stop. )e ond humiliation, he abandoned his staff and began to crawl. The necromancers male#olence beat down upon him and pressed him deeper into the snow. KelThuzad was shaking and whimpering, and o gods, hed been wrong**stupidl , colossall wrong. This wasnt fatigue. It was stark terror. +ou will ne#er catch me unaware, for I do not sleep, and as ou should ha#e alread guessed, I can read our thoughts as easil as ou might read a book. $or can ou hope to defeat me. +our pun mind is incapable of handling the energies I manipulate on a whim. KelThuzad had long since torn his robes, and his leggings were useless against the ic rock of the rough*hewn stairs. 1is hands and knees left blood tracks behind him as he struggled up the last spiral. The throne radiated bone*chilling cold, and mist surrounded it. % throne not of cr stal, but of ice. Immortalit can be a great boon. It can also be agon the likes of which ou ha#e not et begun to fathom. !ef me, and I will teach ou what I ha#e learned of pain. +ou will beg for death. 1e came within a few feet of the throne and could go no farther, pinned helplessl beneath the things o#erwhelming aura of inhuman might and hatred. %n unseen force bore down on him and ground the side of his face into the un ielding stone. 4lease, he found himself sobbing. 4lease9 <urther words escaped him. <inall the pressure eased. The wraiths flitted awa , but he knew better than to rise. !oubted, in an case, that he could. 1is e es, howe#er, unwillingl sought out his tormentor. % set of plate armor was seated within the throne, rather than upon it. KelThuzad might ha#e thought the armor merel black, but, blinking hard, he saw that no light at all was reflected from its surface. In fact, the longer he looked, the more it seemed to de#our all light, hope, and sanit . The ornate spiked helm ob#iousl doubled as a crown. It was set with a single blue gem and, like the rest of the armor, appeared empt . In one gauntlet, the figure clasped a massi#e sword whose blade had been etched with runes. 1ere was power. 1ere was despair. %s m lieutenant, ou will gain knowledge and magic to surpass our most ambitious dreams. )ut in return, li#ing or dead, ou will ser#e me for the rest of our da s. If ou betra me, I shall make ou into one of m mindless ones, and ou will ser#e me still.

.er#ing this spectral being**this ,ich King, as KelThuzad was beginning to think of him**would assuredl bring KelThuzad great power/ and damn him for all eternit . )ut that knowledge came far too late. )esides, damnation had little meaning without the prospect of true death. I am ours. I swear it, he said hoarsel . In response, the ,ich King sent him a #ision of $a22ramas. .mall black*robed figures stood in a broad circle outside on the glacier. Their arms, #isibl wreathed in dark magic, rose and fell in time with a droning chant that eluded KelThuzads understanding. Tremors shook the earth beneath their feet, but the kept casting. +ou will go forth and bear witness to m power. +ou will be m ambassador to the li#ing, and assemble a group of like*minded people to further m plans. Through illusion, persuasion, sickness, and force of arms, ou will establish m hold upon %zeroth. To KelThuzads astonishment, the ice shifted and cracked, and the top of a ziggurat pierced the frozen ground. % building was being pulled up out of the soil. &hile the robed figures redoubled their efforts, the #ast p ramid continued its impossible emergence. -hunks of dirt and ice flew outward with e2plosi#e force. .oon the entire structure had broken free of the earths embrace. .lowl but surel , $a22ramas rose into the air. %nd this will be our #essel.