The heavy wooden door to Cail's office swung open and the old gnome drifted into the room. A casual gesture and the door closed itself behind him. Cail drifted around his desk and dropped the satchel of scrolls he'd carried from Stormwind by his chair. A slight manipulation of his levitation spell allowed him to lower himself into his chair. He released that levitation spell at just the right moment so he could comfortably (gently) settle into the padded seat.
As the light of the spell left him his features lost their subtle celestial glow. The boundless life that had filled his eyes left him. His limbs once again felt heavy and his head dropped forward slightly. The full weight of his venerable years fell heavily upon his face, drawing his features downward. Cail heaved a long heavy sigh and went to work slowly, laboriously, shifting small stacks of papers back and forth.
A slight hand gesture lifted his pen into his hand. Another gesture brought to him his spectacles from a shelf across the room. He began his work by reading over and appropriately signing assorted student requests, faculty transfers, and relic releases. He approved a number of renovations within Conclave's archival vaults and triple checked accounting ledgers and security checklists.
The small blue dragon whelp Kahlanagosa rolled off her bed atop one of Cail's tall file cabinets and perched at the cabinet's edge. She'd been around long enough to know when not to disturb the old gnome. He was much more agreeable when he'd been left in his solitude for a time.
When that work was complete Cail turned to the number of essays submitted to him by the various acolytes under his tutelage. The hours ticked steadily by as he edited each page of each essay, complete with personalized commentary. He was nothing if not thorough.
Sensing the approaching end, Kahlanagosa slipped from her high perch, popped open her wings and glided to the heavy wooden door. With practiced patience the little blue whelping managed to pull open the door just enough to leave. Moments later she returned with a mug clasped in one hind claw and a pot in the other.
Finishing his last paper Cail sat back heavily in his padded chair and tossed his pen onto his desk. He sighed deeply. As he pulled the spectacles from his face and messaged the bridge of his nose Kahlanagosa set the pot atop his desk. With expertly practiced balance she dropped the mug upright then lifted the pot with both claws, her wings flapping furiously under the effort. She filled the mug with mildly hot coffee, managing to only spill a little on the desk around the mug.
Cail glanced up. "What is all that fluttering racket about Kahl?" Seeing the mug of coffee his features lightened. "Ah! Thank you Kahl. Very thoughtful of you, my dear." He gestured with both hands. The mug gently levitated from it's place on his desk into his hands.
He inhaled the aroma. "Ah, such a delight. Just what I needed." He took a sip and grinned. "Not too hot either. Just how I like it. You must be a mind reader Kahlana. You always seem to anticipate my needs."
His features drew sullen. "Reminds me of Sims." Kahlanagosa crooned a long inquisitive swauk. "Sims. Oh surely I've spoken of him before? He was my long time companion. A mechanical squirrel, but not just any mechanical squirrel. Sims was special. I'm not entirely certain how it happened really. Perhaps it was just a fluke in his programming. I like to believe though that over the years with me he'd developed his own unique personality."
"We're old friends, he and I. I miss him."
Kahlanagosa tweaked her head at a curious angle and groaned. Cail took another sip and eyed the curious little whelpling. "I sent him away on important business. Gave him complete autonomy. I have no idea where he is, only that he's out there scouting. Gathering much needed information for me. I have so many players on the board that I need an extra pair of eyes and ears to be where I can not, and see what I can not."
Cail held his coffee mug out with one hand and with the other made a flurry of hand gestures. All around his desk the mess of papers, ledgers, files, and reports flapped and fluttered. They came together into a series of roughly-neat piles along the edges of his desk, leaving the center bare.
"You see, my dear Kahlana, I am a gnome of many hats. At least I think that's how the saying goes." Cail drew a finger over the desks surface, drawing upon the slightest but precise bit of void magic. When the rune was complete a thick wicked looking book appeared floating above. He brought his hand down onto the book. It opened and fluttered to a specific page.
With his other hand he sipped coffee from his mug.
As he drew his fingers down the page black lettering appeared. They formed a kind of script that few could hope to understand. It was a ledger of his own making. A personal ledger known only to he.
"You see..." He took another sip from his mug. "Kahl, there are a number of mystical items of great importance. Some have yet to be located, but others are in the care of capable stewards. Dangerous as these relics are, they're doing more good out there against the Burning Legion than locked away in our reliquary here, or in Conclave's more secure vault."
The little dragon whelp craned her neck upward to peer at the mysterious book. Her curious gaze betrayed her profound intelligence. Within his full grey beard Cail hid his smirk, knowing the gesture was hidden from view.
Why do you keep at this senseless game? You know as well as I that this little dragons ruse isn't fooling anyone. Cail settled a hand on the hilt of the wicked dagger sheathed at his belt.
For some time now he'd suspected that the little dragon whelp was hiding her true nature from him. He couldn't yet guess as to why, but knowing she wasn't a threat (but a friend) he'd left the matter alone. Sooner or later the truth would come to light and then finally they could both drop this little ruse. Until then it was a mild source of entertainment.
He gestured and the page of the shadow book turned. "And here I'm keeping tabs on particular individuals of interests. There is where Sims' intelligence comes into play. Of course, he's not my only agent in the field."
Another gesture fluttered several pages. "Here, for instance, we have..." Cail jolted, splashing his coffee on the floor. "Blast." His gaze drifted over the page again just to be certain of what he'd just read.
"Not good." Cail shook his head. Worry flooded his old eyes. A flick of a gesture brought his pen to his hand. He dropped his mug hard onto his desktop and reached for a loose blank page, muttering all the while he scribbled out a message.
"Oh no..." He droned. Cail frantically folded the page and sealed it hastily with a traditional stamp of red wax.
"Take this Kahlana." He urgently thrusted the message at the little blue dragon whelp. "Find a guild courier. Quickly now! There's no time to waste!"
While the little blue dragon whelp, Kahlanagosa, fluttered her way through the halls in search of a guild courier, Cail closed his hidden ledger. Placing his hand flat on the book he focused his mind to a point. The book vanished back into its hidden shadows.
Cail drew his finger over his desktop again, retracing the sigil he'd drawn before. This time he altered the pattern, and instead of reaching into the void he pulled from the light. From a desk drawer he pulled a particularly formulated stick of alchemical design. From another drawer he pulled a vial of special ink and a small bag of crushed herbs.
He used the stick to finish the sigil with the special ink. Then encircled the sigil with the crushed herbs. Again he placed his hand in the center of the sigil and focused, drawing upon the light. Gently the sigil flared to life. The bits of crushed herb began to playfully dance within the circle.
Nanaai. Cail's mind called out. Nanaai. We have a grave problem. Lilith's soul has been stolen.
Even as he focused the other voice crept in between his thoughts. His other hand worriedly clutched the hilt of the wicked dagger relic sheathed at his hip.
Nanaai knelt. She ran her finger across the cold stone flagstone. A strange sensation tingled the tips of her fingers and she rubbed the faint residue against her thumb. She grunted to herself, a grunt that resounded more animal than Night Elf. Almost bear-like.
It was a sensation she'd encountered before, but just to be certain of her suspicions she smelt the residue. Faintly acrid. She touched the tip of her tongue to her fingers and immediately her nose crinkled. She looked up into the patient eyes of the old gnome standing across from her.
"Yes?" He asked. His eyes expectant. "You know what this is?" Nanaai nodded, but remained silent for a long breath. "Confound it, Druid. I've had about enough of you and your dramatic pauses. Whatever you may know, out with it!" Cail demanded.
Nanaai considered him with an ancient patience. "It's unnatural. A corruption." She stood slowly, dusting the residue from her hands. "A thing with which I have become well accustomed of late."
Cail narrowed his eyes as he gazed up at the tall Night Elf. "You mean, where you've been for the past month."
Nanaai nodded. Her long silver mane glistened in the warm torch light. "The Emerald Nightmare. A denizen of that foul realm stood in this very spot." She gazed at her surroundings. "My anchors." She pointed at the floor, wall, and ceiling. "They were strong. Strong enough to resist demon's fire. Even withstand most magician tampering."
"Well, clearly," Cail gestured at the withered vegetation where her anchors had been. "Your anchors weren't impregnable."
Nanaai folded her arms while lightly holding her chin in one hand. "Nothing is impregnable. Everything has a weakness. Even a demon, a warlock, or a magician skilled enough could have broken them; but that's not what this is. Neither were they severed by any physical implement."
"A weapon. You mean they weren't cut down by an enchanted sword or some such." Cail stated his question, growing just a little irritated.
He was generally a gnome of few words. In matters of importance he wanted to know only the pertinent information the moment it was discovered. The sooner the better. Nanaai on the other hand could be very ponderous and deliberate in her methods. Cail guessed it may have something to do with her obscene age, that perhaps one looses their sense of urgency when they cross that ancient threshold. Whatever it was, it irritated him to no end.
Nanaai nodded. "Correct, Doctor." She inhaled deeply. Slowly. "My anchors were undone by none other than a Druid. One tainted by the touch of the Nightmare." The Night Elf groaned as she exhaled.
"Why?" Cail grumbled the question. "Why would they come this far for Raven's soul gem?"
Nanaai leveled her gaze on the old gnome. "They?" She asked curiously. Cail averted her gaze. He silently offered a stern shrug. Nanaai knew better. She squared herself with him. "What aren't you telling me? You know more than you've let on here, Cail." She demanded.
Cail felt her presence become overbearing. She stood some feet from him an yet he felt as though he were under her thumb. "Alright!" He exploded a breath, flinging a hand into the air. "Alright." Cail ran his fingers back through his wild gray mane, and scratched his neck. "I suspected that this matter may have been related to Odin's death, so I'd been conducting an extensive investigation."
Nanaai relaxed at the mention of Odin. She propped her hands on her hips. "You've been researching a possible connection with the Old One's death, and you kept this from me?"
Ashamed, Cail averted his eyes. He combed his fingers self consciously through his beard. "I didn't want to expose the matter until I had more concrete information. Something solid that I could present and not sound crazy."
The Night Elf considered him gravely for a moment. She finally arched a brow and relaxed further. "Well then, tell me everything." She turned to head back down the long stone corridor. Darkly illuminated by torch light. She clasped her hands casually behind her. "Start at the very beginning. Leave nothing out."
Cail turned in relief and began to follow. Thoughtlessly he rested one hand on the hilt of the dagger relic sheathed at his hip. Her familiar voice uttered dark and disturbing whispers into his mind. Cail reflexively removed his hand. He deeply rubbed at the imprint the dagger hilt left in his palm as though he were trying hard to erase terrible images from his memory. They would diminish, in time.
The old doctor cleared his throat and began, as Nanaai insisted, at the beginning. "Well now. Let's briefly revisit the events of that day, when the Burning Legion invaded Kharanos."
The pair meandered slowly through the vacant stone corridors of the ancient dwarven keep, Ald-Baraz Dun. Cail related all that he knew and had learned on the matter, and Nanaai patiently listening all the while.