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To Break the Cycle

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His observatory is really high. He lives in there and doesn’t realize it most of time, but now, that he paused for a moment to pay proper attention to the view, vastness of empty space, dark-green weeds and vines almost as far as light-grey clouds, it really impresses him. He makes few more steps to peer over the edge at the bailey bellow, quite a dramatic drop too, making him feel lack of balance and drawing his gaze down, down, down... Cold wind with few stray raindrops is brushing his face, swirling around outstretched fingers and tugging at his cloak, its red cloth and black feathers on the mantle whispering. He closes his eyes and just takes in the sensation, standing on the ramparts from which he takes off on a gryphon or as a raven every now and then. What if he took off without that...

Don’t you dare!

A thought tasting of ash and brimstone. Dark power shots up from the depths of his very core like lashes of fire and thorn-vines, sends panic into his bloodstream and wraps around every vertebra and rib and then down into legs, jamming itself into every tendon, it yanks him back with deliberate cruelty. He bends over hissing through gritted teeth and instinctively wraps his arms around himself. Pain pulses away slowly. He blinks away tears and as he looks up again, he finds himself a two metre’s worth from the rim. Furious energy is gnawing at him still, rushing through his body like a herd of horses, but his next shaky exhale is a short snicker.

Look at this, I scared you, Sargeras.

Another surge and his knees give out beneath him. He drops on rain-soaked stone, feeling little grains and dust in the puddle stir under his palms.

Don’t flatter yourself. There was no chance. I’ll stop you every time before you so much as lean out. I’ll make you turn into a bird if you fall while unconscious. Is it worth my ire? Or perhaps you came to love my excruciations in a way, so lonely and lost. I could make use of that...

I had to try. If only to exhaust all options. Methodical approach, remember?

For someone feeling, that a significant part of their life was stolen from them, you contemplate strange things.

And I would prefer having more of it, but what counted as my life has ended when I was fourteen. I might as well end the existence too.

Just to spite me and break free?

I am tired...

Medivh, Medivh... This futile struggle tires you. Accept me and both the weariness and shackles will fall off.

He looks at his reflection on the surface of water. There he is, pale, haggard, prematurely aged and his eyes alight with fel magic and behind him a creature of robustness, burnished bronze and volcanic crust, clawed knotty hands heavy and clingy on his shoulders and suddenly he can feel the heat and the weight and the broad chest above his back. Sargeras leans closer, his head beside Medivh’s, massive black horns, glistening spikes, throbbing veins, poisonously yellow-green fire and malice, so much malice blazing from the shadows of his scowl. Sargeras smiles, hungry and unapologetic, all pointy teeth unsheathed from beneath cracked lips.

Medivh forgot his late father’s face, mother is more of an idea than a person, array of youths sent from all the corners of the world blend into one vague shade, members of Tirisfal to be fished out of recesses forever and sooner assigned learned description than actual memory, Llane’s and Anduin’s features are hazy in his mind and if Moroes and Cook didn’t flutter around him every day, they’d fade in his memory just as those denizens of Karazhan that are lost.

Only this face, it pushes into background all others. Carved into his brain with white-hot wire are every feature, crease and plane, textures, the way light and shadow play off them under any angle, all expressions and reactions to the point of predictability, remains of something else glimpsed now and then beneath shroud of this form, ghost of touches that exist in mind only and feel more real than rock beneath him. He knows them better than his own, always will. He hates Sargeras with whole of his being and it’s the closest and strongest he has felt about anyone. He dominates his life.

And then? Once I’ll serve my purpose, I’ll be of no more use to you and perish just as everything else.

You will be beyond capacity to care by that time.

Medivh frowns.

I care now.

And why? What ever did the world give you?

Things to admire…

Doomed either way.

… Friendships…

Skin-deep, self-interested and foolish, waning with every passing day. Convenience, that’s all. Nothing like my guidance, the intimate bond we share… And the rest? They demand and plot and trap in the meager design and nothing beyond. All the while sliding deeper into their own corruption and pettiness.

Calling Order of Tirisfal a nest of vipers and Kirin Tor a pack of hyenas would be insulting to serpents and canines. Aegwynn had a point, but the way she went about it… Part of him wants to, to Sargeras’ endless giddiness, hate her most of all, because others are just short-sighted foolish strangers and it makes disappointing, but perfectly normal sense. But she, she is his mother. His mother. And she did this to him. And then didn’t even bother to come by. Someone else did.

They cannot understand… I do, completely.

Another glimpse, something bright and refined like champion’s blade, but it is swallowed by viciousness and fel immediately. Sargeras’ tone becomes more insistent, tempo more rapid and hot breath tickles his ear.

And I offer you relief from that in the meantime. Refreshing indifference, heady abandon. And perhaps comeuppance. I know of each swelling ambition and calling, each dark thought and impulse you harbour.

Sargeras’ illusory hands slowly caress him, mapping the exact shape of his flesh, touch possessive and claws digging in, just short of drawing blood. He knows the sensation from when the entity does make him bleed, uses his own hands to make him bleed and... Well, Sargeras apparently likes how Medivh’s blood tastes.

Better if they stay just fantasies. More practical even.

You’ve given into some already and know how that felt.

He shudders and his fingers scrape the stone as they curl. Yes, from dismissive, careless and exploitative treatment, controversial and even forbidden magics and inhuman perspectives that nevertheless made him curious, he was a sorcerer after all, feats achieved through combined mights when Sargeras did feel generous and didn’t cancel each other out with guardianship to radical solutions and killing. And more…

Imagine all.

He presses his face next to Medivh’s, cheek touching cheek.

More than half of them brought by you.

He objects dryly. Demon’s face melts, seeps into his and though Medivh wants to lean away, it is no use. It is not outer invasion, but disease sprouting from the inside, pouring out his skin, twisting every cell and its elements and he can only watch as the two of them halfway merge and their appearance becomes weird mix of human and demonic.

I am part of you, your woes and bonds and quirks are mine, just as my aggression and objectives yours.

He cannot exactly argue otherwise. Just as with the reflection on the surface of the pool Medivh cannot tell where one soul ends and the other starts, only discerns distant poles and few solitary isles that can be more decisively classified as either Medivh’s or Sargeras’. Everything else is a growing mess. There is a reason to suspect the fragment of the entity in this limited form it depends on now is probably similarly submerged in the experience, if more detached. Influence between the form and substance goes both ways (what a learning opportunity). He cannot imagine life without Sargeras, his presence lurking deep down since ever and from the moment of awakening permeating everything like fungi and sweet-smelling decay. Though he desperately wants to and there is both exhilaration and terror to it (because there is something soothing about familiarity).

No matter the source it is all real.

He breaks the eye contact, pushes himself away from the water.

You conveniently failed to mention drives and knowledge that contradict it.

He doesn’t know, if there is enough of him himself for a semblance of a being, should Sargeras be extricated out of him. But if there is any gratification in indulgence or relief after ended denial, there is just as much haunting afterwards, remorse, fear and resentful awareness of Sargeras’ poison and triumph (even as things get easier).

A new torment for me.

I consider that value added.

Of course you do…

He scrambles to his feet and wipes his hands of dirty water.

And it is not just my own heart. Should I yield to you and you only, duty of Guardian forced upon me will scream just as loudly. It is a component of equal proportion, just as deep-rooted and inherent, wielding the same callous stubbornness you do.

Light and Dark, they are roaring furnaces taking too much space, clashing and consuming all around them. He knows which one is his enemy, but truth be told, they both feel same sort of hostile and unbearable, beating him into the ground. If he could only get them to make some concession… He turns his back on the skies and forests and mountain-ridge and stalks back into observatory. As if he could walk away. Gone are the days when he still was able to silence the demon. An empty gesture. Like everything…

But it is endless. A sort of insomnia.

And who steals Medivh’s sleep? Well, both occupations and sometimes he himself too…But that’s not the point. He picks up his golden astrolabe and skims the positions of tympans and rete from the last measurement, more in pretence of busying himself rather than real attempt at distraction. Moving along same paths over and over because of invisible forces, tugging back and forth, endless chase of equilibrium, wearing out…

You don’t bring respite of slumber, but death of everything.

Exactly, I break the flawed cycle. A superior ultimate solution.

Sargeras sounds self-satisfied and he knows he would be spreading his arms now in a showy gesture. Medivh would be too in his place. Dramatic flair is something they share rather than poached from the other.

Like this? It’s the opposite of repair.

When repair is a fool’s errand, decisive strike is the best choice. Before matters get worse. What is beyond help must perish.

Medivh puts the device down back on the desk. Something warm blooms inside his ribcage with demon’s words. 

You are too eager. Your judgment untrustworthy. Twisted.

He counters crossing his arms on his chest. The demon laughs harshly.

Oh please… You have just wanted to leap from your tower. All I ask of you is to do it on my terms.

Your reasoning is ridiculous! They are what I wanted to avoid by it.

I know. But those are the only conditions under which you can gain anything.

Concession…

I could get prideful gratification from resisting you with my every breath, not giving you anything for free.

The assault catches him by surprise. Scorching pain in his bowels and feeling of head sawed apart.

You might complicate things for me a bit, but I assure you, I have much less to lose than you.

He wants to scream, but constriction around his throat leaves him breathless. Illusion, it is illusion…

I’ll sour your defiance for you. The games I’ve played with you so far are tender compared to things I can put you through.

Room darkens and disappears, his body lost to dissipating pained tingling and he is falling, falling through fuming chasm, he shields himself with ice, but it melts too quickly and he chokes and burns. Through frosty emptiness, his bubble shatters, increasing speed is flaying him alive layer by layer. He is left slowly rotting in filth and darkness of some forsaken pit no matter the restorative spells, ward-breaking, anything… He is tiny and frail and crushed by heavy boiling mass around him, or by own collapsing flesh. He disintegrates in a hail of brightness.

What remains is scooped by monstrous cloud of molten metal, searing dust and debris, blinding plasma crowned with massive horns and framed by lightning shaped like bat wings.

I’ll drag you through agony! This was but a single drop from the ocean that I have prepared for you. Your every heartbeat, one after another will be filled with suffering that will be melt your faculties and eat you alive!

The thought, he wants to put together, takes forever to build and falls apart few times, but eventually it shines nicely.

Alright. That will take slightly longer than hitting courtyard, but the result’s pretty much the same. Be my guest.

Sargeras glowers, then he leans closer.

Fine, you are not too keen on protecting yourself, Guardian, but what about others?

Everything blinks out.

I’ll tire you with nightmares and exhaustion and demands and then I’ll take over your body. You resist, sure. But there are only so many posts you can defend at once and their numbers keep dropping.

Visions float all around him, strange vividness, incessant and dizzying. His every attempt to dispel them is failing.

And while you refuse to go along with the plan, I’ll force you to personally, by your own hands and with full awareness lure and capture and abuse and feed to my pets random people at random times and random amounts, maybe even families.

He sees it, hears it, smells terror and corruption and is flooded by demon’s violent enjoyment, desire to play and change and scare and ruin so strong, the part of him that is nauseated drowns.

And I’ll have you turn even on those that matter to you the most. I have power to ensure they’d be spared suffering and you seeing it, or get to say goodbye should you wish so, but if you force my hand, I’ll do the opposite.

Llane incredulous and Anduin dismayed but not that shocked and then both struggling and loosing and he spits on trust and affection and memories of the last time when he was happy. Denizens of Karazhan, snatched one by one, attempts to calm him turning to begging and he laughs and stomps on all their years-long loyalty and care in perversion of hierarchy. And Aegwynn. He might be angry and might want to throw his accusations in her face and win over her, to make her drop her haughty reserve, to admit and to… Not this sacrilage!

Torture them, use for experiments, you know which ones. Break them completely and then instead of letting them die, turn them into my thralls, my tools.

That promised ocean... Faces, squirming limbs, howls, traps, dark cells bellow, rituals and devices, draining, magic lashing out until they are reduced into sick husks, shattered into near mindlessness, warped into abominable distortions of their former selves… It is too much.

I’ll keep their spirits and yours too so that you will watch them forever languish in their misery and belief you did this to them on your own whim.

He realizes he weeps when Sargeras closes on him and slowly licks his tears, that fleshy rough tongue leaving tiny scratches behind. Demon makes an appreciative sound, then turns to Medivh fully, mirrorlike, on their knees, face to face, so close their noses almost touch, eyes locked. Sargeras brushes a stray lock of Medivh’s hair behind his ear almost lovingly.

And the best part? In a way it will be true.

You cannot…

He whimpers. And then louder, more demanding.

You cannot!

It must be bluff, empty threat, manipulation.

Wanna bet? Let’s try it.

Medivh bares his teeth and growls.

I won’t let you!

Bold words. You are fairly zonked right now. How about we start immediately?

No…

Regardless of protests he jerks Medivh up and moving out of the underground vault – Sargeras’ copy of Medivh’s upper space.

Five levels of main stairway, then green door, left on second crossing, then right, password for orchid arc is “maelstrom”. That’s the current shortcut to kitchen, right?

Spacial properties flash one after another, all correct all the while he desperately brakes.

Stop it!

Cook is there. What a darling… Good start.

But he is weak and small and incomplete when the one pulling him is larger than life.

Don’t touch her!

I think I’ll jam those rose quartz lenses into her eyes. And then add salt.

That’s the last drop. And just as he can be pulled into this nightmare, he can bring in his station that too is larger than life. And he backs it with rigidity and echo of generations, tradition of bearing weight and repelling what is not righteous, of crystalizing into something beyond human soul. It’s not without price, but at this point…

NEVER!

Cold white ray, purer than snow, purer than sunlight, it obliterates sweltering vision, shots high and higher and then Medivh finds himself back in his observatory crackling with static energy, in his real body, panting and bristling and on some other level of existance pinning Sargeras beneath him. He feels his momentary shock and displeasure, but there is no fear or uncertainty in his nemesis.

Not now! But in two years? Or one? Your control is slipping and you know it. Until everything crashes down and you with it. The sooner you comply, the better you cooperate, the less collateral and the more say you get to have in how it happens. Don’t you want something for yourself? It is the last thing.

He hears the soft footsteps just a moment before castellan emerges from the door. Fear drenches him as fel eyes glint with mischief and his body tenses, ferocious energies in the air ripple differently, images from few moments ago flash before his sight and gleeful chitter of catchhimhurthimwoundhimcursehimkillhimkill... rebounds in his ears.

“Is everything alright, Magus?”

He feels tug of Sargeras’ smirk even as he mentally chokes him. Nothing is. It hasn’t been for a long time. It won’t be…

“Yyes… Of course! Just a little accident. I swear, those…”

There is snarl to his voice. He glances at one of the open tomes littering the floor.

“…elementals are impossible.”

Sargeras cackles in the background.

Really? Elementals?

“You’d think you finally got few forces in line and just when you are halfway through the process, they decide to have a spat.”

Reedy man nods thoughtfully.

“It might be Karazhan. Making them so cranky.”

“Maybe, maybe…”

He mutters distractedly. Contain it, just for a moment longer, till he leaves… Contain it!

“Dinner is ready. Will you come down, sir?”

“No! I have no thought of food now. I need to finish this.”

“Master, you should rest before continuing.”

He nearly tears up at the soft concern in otherwise placid voice and impossibility of the suggestion. Rest? There is no rest from Him. Not even in sleep. He shakes his head and gets up trying to ignore blackening vision and fool loss of balance that accompanies it with stillness.

“Nonsense. I can do this.”

The things you can do…

Shut up!

“Medivh…”

He doesn’t look at him, cannot look at him, as his waves his hand.

“Off with you, Moroes. You have a dinner cooling down, down there. You shouldn’t miss it.”

Castelan bows his head and disappears down the stairs. Medivh slumps against the desk and he is trembling.

Narrow. By the skin of teeth, one could say.

He glares into empty space.

You almost sound like you care. When I am just a pesky ill-fitting garment to you and all life something to torment and purge.

Sargeras ignores the jab with unperturbed self-assuredness.

What will you answer, Medivh?

My family... You will not hurt and mutilate them like this, will not bind us in eternity, new pawns in new atrocious clockwork, if I help you, right? The deal is to stop the gears from turning and distmantle, isn't it? A release from the prison.

Yes, it is in fact preferable.

He takes a deep breath. What indeed remains? Guardian is guarded even from himself by a demon that is more than he seems and his victory is only a question of time. Alright. It cannot go on like that anymore or it will come to what he’s just seen. So deplorable, this cycle, these all cycles and machinations. Concession… Before matters get worse… And if he senses his hope to undermine him, so what, he has his own, so let’s see whose wishes will pay off, who can cheat better.

We have things to break. Show me how.