(( This is a follow-up to At the asylum. Thanks to Jeh for the continued use of Skysinger, and his letter. ))
Having found nothing of any greater concern than Dislia's own anxiety, twin to her own, the sin'dorei continued into the Sunreavers' quarter, turning left and heading to the portals. Her aerial companions joined her, and the group transported to Silvermoon City. They made their way out of the Sunspire and into Murder Row, where the blood elf stopped by the inn to get her mail. She set the felguard to watching over her belongings as she dropped her packs in her rooms, and sent the imp off to check on her mining operations. Trying to control her anxiety, she sorted through the letters, determining which needed immediate attention, and what could keep. Only one in particular stood out, and she opened it hurriedly and began reading it. The succubus felt an unaccustomed pang of alarm through their bond, and moved to read over her mistress's shoulder.
Dear Lady Duskweaver:
For over a day I have dreaded writing you this letter, for I do not like to admit failure when it comes to caring for my charges. I fear your premonitions of Lady Malnuviel’s demise, if I can even call it that, were correct. Shortly after you left, I looked in on Malnuviel’s cell only to find something I can barely comprehend. She was gone: nothing but her robes soaking in a pile of seemly arcane infused slush. I had noticed her clammy skin and the strange pools of water that gathered at her feet. I knew she was a mage, so I assumed she was practicing some sort of conjuring when I was not there. If I were given to flights of fancy I would say the cause of death seems to be that she melted. Of course, that is impossible for a living being. Within the slush we extracted several small gemstones. As per our arrangement , I have saved them and a sample of the ice in a stasis bubble for you. I assume you will want to perform a burial. If there is no place for such a ceremony that you can find, the Asylum can provide a plot for her.
Again, please forgive my inability to help her. I could tell merely from expressions that you and she were very close. If there is any more I can do for you, please let me know. Thank your grace.
Dr. Renek Skysinger Ph.D.
The demon and the sorceress left together, hurrying off toward the asylum.
The pair paused outside the building. Jendria smoothed her skirts and schooled her manner and expression to show only a business-like neutrality. Dislia did her best to follow suit, albeit without so much success. Nodding in understanding, the blood elf led the way inside.
"May I help you?" A short pause as the receptionist finally looked up and recognised the visitors from two days before. She clumsily added, "Your grace."
Dree nodded with a slim, tight smile and a narrowing of her eyes. The receptionist sank a little under the noblewoman's gaze. "We would like to see Doctor Skysinger." She looked over her shoulder at the nervously-stamping succubus, who was struggling to control the flaring of her wings. "Despite how urgent our business is to us," she added wryly as she turned back to the seated woman, "I cannot claim that it is an emergency on his part. At his convenience, if you please."
With a sharp nod, the woman turned and practically fled to the back of the room. She stopped for a hurried whisper to another of the staff, then disappeared through the door into the asylum proper. The other staffer came forward, standing there to keep watch on the desk. His eyes widened a bit as his position allowed him a view of the agitated demon around the sorceress, but he quickly resumed an impassive expression. Dree gave him an almost imperceptible nod of approval, with a hint of a smile. He nodded back to her in the manner appropriate to acknowledging a noble's minor favour.
The rear door opened again, admitting the doctor and his employee. "Ah, your grace."
"Good day, Doctor. I didn't expect you to see us so soon." She gave a sidelong glance to the original receptionist. "I hope the 'at his convenience' part of my request wasn't forgotten."
Skysinger frowned in a moment of irritation at his employee, but shook his head. "The interruption is of no importance, your grace. Please, come to my office."
The sorceress nodded, and the male staffer held the curtain aside for her. She gave him a quick smile and nod of thanks as she waved the succubus through, then followed along. The pair followed the doctor up the stairs and into a small room, cluttered with papers and journals. There were chairs available, but the visitors stood while the doctor crossed to a cabinet and opened it. "I am sorry to have no better information to offer than what I wrote." He offered the bundle to the pair.
Dislia wrapped her arms about herself. Dree took the bundle with a grim smile, then shook her head. "Doctor, you have done all I could have hoped for under the circumstances. Gathering information, sir, is what I do - and I don't expect you to do that job for me." She kept going over his attempt at a polite interjection. "I respect what work you do, Doctor, but this is mine." She tilted her head. "Is her cell still available?"
Nonplussed, Skysinger nodded. "Well, yes, though I'm afraid we've already cleaned it."
The sorceress nodded. "I had expected that. It shouldn't make enough difference to matter." She turned and gave a tender look at the agitated demon. "I'm sorry, my dear Dis. I do need your help for just a bit, after which, if you need to, it will be fine if you leave."
The succubus nodded and steeled herself, squaring her shoulders. Her voice came in a surprisingly gentle, soft near-hiss. "I understand, Jendria - and thank you."
Skysinger wondered yet again at the relationship between his visitors, but his contemplation was cut short when the noblewoman turned to him. "If you please, then, Doctor?" He nodded to her request and led the way back down the flights of stairs and along the dank hallway. He noted idly that his visitors had remembered their beeswax ear-plugs.
The three made their way past the gauntlet of howling, catcalling, wailing, and pleading Wretched, stopping before the final cell. It was open to the hall, and much drier now that the old mage was no longer dripping away inside it. Dree set the bundle on the ground and gave an apologetic smile. "I hope you'll understand the necessity of my methods, Doctor. Many people are uncomfortable with my summonings and, conjurings, and transformations, but I assure that you are even safer than I am - and I make quite sure of my own safety."
The physician nodded, arching a brow despite himself. The response he got to it surprised him yet more, as the woman gave him an almost conspiratorial smile before her visage became grim again.
The sorceress and her succubus stepped into the cell together, touching the fingertips of the demon's left hand to those of her mistress's right, their arms stretched so that the pair occupied most of the room. The summoner started hissing in demonic, and bits of shadow started curling up around the two. Flickers of fel-green started flashing in the bits of shadow, reminding Skysinger of lightning flashes in storm clouds. He watched in mixed fascination and distaste as the shadows continued to thicken, starting to cling to the summoner. Was it his imagination, or was it adding to her bulk? Then, in the space of an eyeblink, he realised it was not just his fancy, and that she had meant it when she mentioned transformations. She was suddenly a winged and horned demon, looking like a shock-troop version of the succubus, and she was encased in armour of shadow.
He took an involuntary step backward as shadow and fel fire travelled down Jendria's right arm and flashed down onto the ground under the place where the two demons' fingers met. An archway formed, twisting in ways that mortal eyes were not meant to try to follow. Disla gave a shrill whistle that seemed to fade directly into the dimensional portal they had created. Her mistress called out a name in a voice surprisingly deep, bringing Skysinger the realisation that the transformation was not just cosmetic.
"Kreephom!" was the call, and the disturbingly warped figure of a felhoud came bounding out in answer, quivering with what looked like, in a real hound, happy excitement. The portal burst silently apart, bits of fel-infused shadow darting about the room. Jendria gave some gutteral-sounding instructions to the beast in what the doctor assumed was demonic. The creature turned about, its antennae swivelling alertly, following the flying bits of shadow. In what sounded like a different dialect of the same tongue, Dislia added comments in much more sibilant tones, and the felhound nodded its understanding. It bounded about the cell, sniffing at the places the onjuring was pointing out to be of interest. After a few moments of this, the physician noticed that the flying bits of shadow were being consumed in the beast's snufflings.
Kreephom emitted various growls, barks, hisses, and whingings as he bounded about, tasting the magics the conjuring pair were pointing out to him. After a short time, Dislia started hissing along in what seemed like a running commentary. Skysinger realised that she must be translating for the creature. As the flying bits of shadow were nearly gone, the succubus's voice began to crack and falter. After a brief pause, focussing intently on her, the felhound resumed its search, snuffling up the last few traces. He then approached the sayaad, his tendrils quivering, and he licked her tenderly.
Jendria pivoted about and stepped forward, taking Dislia in her arms for a moment, and planted a soft kiss on her cheek. "I am so very sorry, my dear friend." Even that demonic gutteral voice seemed subdued to the doctor's ears. The sorceress stepped back again and snapped her wings, jolting rigid for a momeont, and shadow started seeping away from her armour into a new portal. The succubus fled through it as soon as it was formed, with a keening wail of broken-hearted grief that Skysinger knew would haunt him the rest of his days. Even the calls of the Wretched were stilled, with some of them gibbering in fear now, rather than clamouring in hunger. He sighed inwardly as he realised that he'd be dealing with that for quite some time to come. Even so, he knew that the new perspective he had on such sounds in comparison with that wail would make that part of his job easier in the long run.
While he mused, the sorceress spun more bits of shadow out of her form into the partal. It grew and became even darker, and the amorphous billowing of a voidwalker emerged. The summoner's clawed hand clasped the new demon's shoulder. "Zhar'gore, my friend, I'm afraid I've a storage task for you."
The undulating blob nodded as its mistress moved her hand down to its bracer. Her form wavered in billowing shadow, and the doctor realised that she had reverted to her sin'dorei self, though the darkness surrounding her had obscured that fact at first. Then he saw that the demon was devouring the magic she was shedding.
"Dislia is going to be lost to us for a while. Until she is ready, I need to you keep these things safe, and preserved against any decay." She led the demon over to the bundle she'd left on the floor. It bent over, its front seemingly coming open in a deeper blackness. It placed the bundle inside its form, and closed up around it again as it straightened. It moved back to the waiting portal, still consuming the darkness emanating from the blood elf.
Zhar'gore turned to face its summoner, then, and spoke. "I go to watch over her. Take care of yoursself, misstresss, lesst I never hear the end of it."
Jendria nodded to him, blinking rapidly. Skysinger realised with a start that she was fighting tears. "Yes, my friend, do watch over her. You know that Kreephom and Chinilkorill will insist that I take care of myself." Her voice cracked and the felhound whimpered as she added, "Thank you."
With a last billowing nod, the voidwalker turned and flowed into the portal, which collapsed into its departure. The sorceress knelt before the remaining demon, which wriggled up to her. As she went to her knees, a light-absorbing blob dropped from her cheek, where shadows were still flowing, crowding around her eyes. As the shadow-infused tear hit the stone floor, it popped and sizzled, spreading a small puddle of void. The felhunter started licking his mistress's face, consuming the remaining bits of shadow. "Yes, Kreephom, it will be all right - eventually." She swallowed, and managed a smile for the beast. "Dis still loves you, and you've been a good boy. A very good boy, my dear." She planted a kiss on his scaly snout and gave him a tight hug before standing again.
She squared her shoulders, and the demon took up a possessive position close by her side. She turned to Skysinger and nodded to him stiffly, her composure clearly fragile. "I'm sorry, Doctor, but I cannot stay to discuss my findings, even you should wish me to. I have to notify her other friends and such kin as she has left. If you do wish to discuss anything later, you know where to write to me."
He nodded to her, understanding her grief, and at least some of her burden. "Of course, Lady Duskweaver." He started leading the way back out, going slowly at first to be sure she was capable of the pace. "If you should find yourself needing help with the grieving, you know in turn where to find me." She nodded after only a brief pause. He smiled, finding this a positive sign in how she was coping. "I don't meant to rush you on anything, but have you any sense of whether you'll need the asylum to find a suitable place for interment?" He glanced behind them, and saw that the void-tear on the floor had finally faded, but it had left a small pit in the stone floor, about the size of his fist.
She gave him a weak smile, and shook her head. "My problem with that will be too many possibilities, Doctor, but I do thank you. I expect the burial site will either be at our manor or in Dalaran, but I must consult with others before the decision is final." She reached down to pat the felhound on his shoulder. "When we do know, I will be sure you are invited - though whether you attend is strictly up to you. I will respect your decision either way on that matter."
He stopped at the head of the stairs and gave her a bow. "Thank you, your grace; and thank you for your support."
She gave him a grim smile before continuing out into the foyer, and from there into the city and back to her rooms. "Thank you for your understanding, Doctor, and your help. If find yourself in need of further assistance, please feel free to apply to me."
He nodded, giving her a deeper bow as she swept out. "Thank you again, your grace." He shook his head as he watched her wear her dignity as a brittle armour against her grief, knowing full well how much she was hurting. Once she was gone, he sighed and went back to check on his patients, murmuring to himself. "As much as I now owe you, Lady Duskweaver, you are very disturbing. On the whole, I'm not at all sure that I want to have to see you again."