The portal led the heroes to a dusty room. Most of the furniture was destroyed and the walls were covered with thick cobwebs. It was only by miraculous surviving coats of arms on the wall that Bolingar realized that this building had once belonged to the Alliance. Turning around, he stared in horror at the destroyed stonework and the destroyed hall behind it. They were in the castle, which had once been seriously damaged in the battle. But the paladin could not say more about the place where they were.
— Welcome to my house, — said the phoenix. — You probably counted on rich mansions and palaces? But there is no longer any place for luxury in Outland. The priority goal here is survival.
Zverago started to nod in agreement, and started toward the miraculously intact door, but the phoenix immediately blocked his path.
— Carefully! — He shouted, blocking the passage with his wing. — I have set up a security system in this castle, you better not go to the surviving doors from the castle. Follow me.
The whole group blindly obeyed the arakkoa, for they simply had no choice. Almost everywhere they went, there was a mess. The castle was clearly uninhabited. Many of the passages were boarded up with oak planks, and Doricus tried to lead them where the doors had been knocked out. Soon, the group entered a spacious hall resembling a living room.
This is where there was not a trace of devastation, it seemed as if they had moved from one building to another, which was clearly being looked after. Silk tapestries covered the walls, all furniture literally shone with cleanliness. But as soon as Bolingar opened his mouth, the new owner of the castle began to fuss.
— I rarely receive guests. Therefore, this place is not in the best condition, — Doricus tried to justify himself.
— Do you live here? I imagined your house a little differently, — the huntress declared, exchanging a knowing look with the paladin.
— I understand, — Doriсus sighed. — But hard times dictate their terms. Our species is dying out. I would prefer security to luxury now.
— What are you doing here at all? — Zverago hastened to change the subject, until the debate began about the correct understanding of luxury.
— Patience. I’ll tell you everything.
Doricus walked around the room, lighting candles on the walls. Only after making sure that the room was fully lit, the phoenix settled down on a chair in front of the heroes and began his story:
— I’ve already spent a lot of time here. I was able to turn this abandoned fortress into my personal hideout, where I went about my business without fear of being caught off guard. Specifically, I can say about myself that I am a creator. I have created many powerful artifacts in my time. But they are all insignificant compared to what I have been doing for seventy years. Pendant. However, I did not complete the job. During the expansion of the Alliance into Outland, Samiris infiltrated my hideout and stole my pendant. Although the thief turned out to be very selective in powerful artifacts, he turned out to be just as ignorant that he simply destroyed the instructions. However, I was lucky. This idiot, instead of spending a couple of minutes translating the instructions, preferred to burn it, what was this act of vandalism, I still did not understand. However, in the end it took him several years to сreate the key to the lock, which I put on the pendant. I was very late with the portal to your world. I was very late … But I had good reasons for that.
— And what does this pendant at least do? — asked Zverago.
— That does not concern you, — Doricus replied sternly. — The only thing that you still need to know is that the pendant is not finalized and, upon activation, will instantly kill its wearer.
— That is, my sister is trying with all her might to bring her own death closer? — Irony sounded in the voice of Riverey.
— I doubt she knows about this defect. It was unknown what Samiris had said to her. And he hardly knew that the pendant was not finished yet, — Doricus shrugged.
— Well! So, if we get stuck here, we will deprive her of the opportunity to get to the key. Only now it is unlikely that we will be able to survive in this Outland. But what remains for us? We gave the blade away, — with these words, the huntress angrily glanced at the priestess, who with might and main tried not to attract attention to herself.
— We’ll find a way to get the blade back, — interposed Bolingar. — We still have nowhere to hurry. We lost the blade, not the medallion.
— And how? Riverey was literally seething with anger. — Do you believe that he will not be hidden in a securely protected place? And then what? We will storm every undead stronghold in Northrend?
The paladin wanted to object to her that this is quite possible, because he, along with Curly and Caitlin, were able to storm the Ziggurat. But he stopped short. The consequences of this raid were disastrous.
Riverey glared at the paladin.
— Nothing to say?
— Well, there are at least five of us. We already, at least, look like a small detachment, — Zverago tried to defuse the situation.
— Stop. I didn’t sign up for this adventure! — Drimurr interjected.
All eyes were immediately fixed on the priestess.
— of course, I am grateful for your salvation, — she backed away immediately. — But, guys, your family drama does not concern me in any way. Yes, and you clearly have some suicidal tendencies, River, — the hunter grimaced at such a shortening of the name from the lips of Drimurr. But she continued to speak all the same, perfectly noticing the displeasure of the hunter.
— Do you really want to go up against this monster? — Me up with enough of what she turned Darkshire into. It is now a city of ghosts: not a single living soul, only blood, as if I were back again in Gilneas.
For a moment, Riverey froze in surprise, but immediately broke into a scream:
— Couldn’t you have said that before? Preferably before I gave up the blade for your life?!
— By the way, you couldn’t have done it without my help. And we would all have died there. Consider that you have exchanged not only for only my life, but the lives of all of them, including your own, — with these words, Drimurr pointed to the assembled heroes with her hand.
— You can be sure we could have done it without you, even with a discharged blade. — Riveray was furious. — You’re the one who put us all at such risk! Admit it! You were the one who put them on our trail.
— What else could I do ?! I wasn’t going to die for you!
— Have you tried to fight? You at least die with honour!
— Worthy — it’s like the chief of the guards, Julis?! Or maybe as a city guard?! All who dared to resist them are dead! You haven’t seen this massacre! You have no idea what this monster is capable of. She would kill anyone without hesitation. Without any reasons. She just likes to kill.
— We saw her doing at Tranquillien. And we, unlike you, still accepted the battle. And, mind you, we won.
The paladin wanted to put his word into the dispute, given that in fact the outcome of the battle was not at all in their favor, but the feral stopped him in time. It is better for them not to get involved in this dispute.
— Something I did not notice that you won the upper hand in that fight. We kind of ran away from her. Or is this what the winners do today?
— I hate you! — Riverey roared.
— I don’t owe you anything! — Drimurr shouted in response.
This finally angered the hunter.
— It’s a shame I didn’t let her kill you. But I can fix this oversight! — With that cry, Riverey drew her blade and held it over the head of the Drimurr.
Fortunately, the priestess managed to repulse this blow with a magic shield. Riverey did not have time to make the second blow: she was instantly seized and disarmed by Zverago and Bolingar.
— Die, scum! — Riverey growled, being nailed to the floor under the weight of the paladin’s armor. She would have thrown it off if not for the feral, who grabbed her hands with his paws.
— How dare you! — in the hand of the priestess began to sparkle a clot of dark energy, which she was already preparing to throw in the hunter.
— Enough! — the phoenix flapped its wings, and magic chains appeared on the muzzles of the huntress and priestess, and ghostly bracelets on the wrists of Riverey, under the weight of which she could not even lift her hands.
— It will calm them down for a while. Make sure they don’t break anything here. — With these words, Doricus handed the paladin a small device that he seemed to have created right out of thin air. It was quite small and fit freely in the hand; the body was made of some kind of expensive metal; it had a lot of buttons made of some kind of crystals.
— Remember: you only need two buttons. Green — when your friends calm down. And red — when they start hysterical again.
— You сan bring us back to Azeroth? — The paladin asked.
— I Can. Rather, I could, if not for one thing: I do not have reagents to create another portal. And if for traveling around your world I can easily create portals, then moving between worlds requires much more powerful magic. Preferably backed up with some reagents or artifact.
— What do you need for the portal? — the paladin understood that it looked like they would be stuck here for a long time.
— Specifically from you … so that you stay here and look after these two, — with these words Doricus pointed to the two offended she-wolves. — And let Zverago stay with you. And generally speaking. Not a step out of the castle! Outland is home to creatures you can’t handle. For me in this world, you are more likely to be a burden than a help.
Doricus flapped his wing sharply and teleported.
The heroes were left alone. They had a whole castle at their disposal, equipped with strange mechanisms. Energy flowed through wonderful thin pipes that the gnomes called wires. Moreover, it was so bright that every wire shone with it, and there were plenty of them here. Several dozen units were connected to each device. And all this was suspended above the ceiling so as not to block the passage.
However, instead of looking around and marveling at the wonders of engineering, the two Worgens simply sat and growled angrily at each other.
Even though Riverey was not as arrogant as her sister, she was still obstinate and proud. Apologize? Neither Hassara nor Riveray seem capable of this feat, so for an hour the younger sister was simply silent, every now and then exchanging malicious glances with the priestess.
Bolingar quickly got bored with this, for he had always had a passion for engineering, and he could not resist the temptation to inspect all these mechanisms.
— I think I’ll take a look around. Can you keep an eye on them? — Paladin asked, setting the device down beside Zverago.
— Yes Go. I’ll look after them, — the feral replied, and instantly grabbed the new toy with his paws.
Both worgens glanced at them angrily, but said nothing.
Bolingar emerged from the spacious living room. A wire was laid along the ceiling of the corridor in the corner, which branched out into different rooms. Walking down the corridor, the paladin looked around carefully. Most of the rooms were locked, but at last he was lucky: one of the ramifications led into a room without a door, and the paladin hurried to take advantage of this opportunity. The entire space of the small room was occupied by a reservoir of some kind of purple substance. Several pipes were connected to this tank. Yes, it is pipes and not wires. The device seemed to work, but unlike gnome technology, it made no sound.
Walking further along the corridor, the paladin went into another spacious hall. It was much larger than the living room where they talked, and looked more like a throne room. But the paladin was most intrigued by the statue that stood right in the center of this room. It was a dragon statue, an exact model of it, one to one. He stood on his hind legs, his wings folded over his back. All parts have been crafted with enviable elegance. Its paws were polished to a high shine and covered with silver lacquer. However, there was not enough cladding everywhere. On the folds of the hind legs was a strange beam, entwined with a spring. There were wires sticking out in the places not covered by the casing. In the open mouth of the dragon, gears and a groove for some kind of additional module were visible.
Bolingar approached him and ventured nevertheless to open the folded wing of the mechanical beast. Fortunately, the wing opened and the man didn’t seem to break anything.
The mechanized dragon’s wings were top notch. They easily opened and folded back. The mechanism responsible for the bending and flapping of the wings worked perfectly. No squeaks. No noise.
The paladin was curious. Walking around the dragon, he saw a thick cable wrapped around the tail of the statue. One end of it was stuck in the head, apparently connecting the mechanism to glowing wires. A strange rig was attached to the dragon’s back. Something very similar to what the dwarves used to attach to their mech tanks. Bolingar frowned, remembering that the dwarves had this launcher firing a volley of multiple missiles at aerial targets. But this specimen was strikingly different from those that the paladin had seen before. Only the foundation remained of the gnomish invention.
Having finished examining the statue, the paladin looked around the hall itself and found four ajar doors. Hoping that they did not have the magical protection of the phoenix, the man pushed the first door closest to him.
There was a workshop heaped up with tons of scrap metal. Moreover, most of them were demonic material. There was also an ore warehouse. A lot of shining stones were simply lying in a box that was made by people, like this castle. The paladin could not recognize any of the ores, except … But even now the paladin was not sure that the blue piece of stone he was holding was cobalt. He had occasionally encountered this ore in Northrend. Exploring the room further, the paladin came across a small table. Judging by the luminous crumbs and the remains of the metal alloy, it was there that all the work on the smelting and cutting of ore and stones took place. Next to the table was a metal claw the size of Doricus’s own claw. A small opal was attached to it. And from him already went several thin lines straight to the sharp end of the claw.
Having finished his inspection of the room, the paladin moved on.
There were no high-tech appliances in the second room. The entire space was filled with cabinets filled with hand-made notebooks and books. In the midst of this papery kingdom, there was a table on which lay an enormous diagram the size of a map of Azeroth. All the inscriptions there were in a language unfamiliar to the paladin. The drawing showed a strange module integrating directly into the dragon’s mouth. He looked a little whimsical, but beautiful. In addition to the diagrams and notes themselves, in the upper left corner of the drawing there was another image of a dragon’s head, from which many wires went, like a luxurious mane.
Looking closer, Bolingar noticed a bizarre rune inscribed on the weapon module. He was sure he had seen this symbol somewhere before.
He took the next drawing. The drawing was completely erased, but the paladin was able to make out the diagram, to his surprise to discover that the plug-in was a mini dragon head that was inserted into the mouth of the large head. And it was all fastened with wires that were shown in the previous drawing. The paladin imagined this sight for a second: how the dragon statue comes to life and opens its mouth in front of it. And inside there is another head … It’s terrible, you won’t say anything.
Nearby lay another drawing, this time of the tail. The most interesting thing is that there was no cable there. It looks like it was used for temporary insurance. Basically, the drawing was the amplitude of the tail swing and the details needed to achieve a similar effect.
The next drawing was all crumpled. There was already an image of the dragon’s paws. Judging by the gray spots and a thin layer of paper, the fold of the hind legs was very often erased and rewritten.
Looking around, the paladin realized that all the sheets here were blueprints. He decided that he would come back here to inspect other projects. It seemed to him that if it were his will, he would not leave here. But he needs to explore the rest of the rooms as well.
In the third room, the first thing the paladin saw was a huge box on the table that was as big as it was. There was another sheet of paper on it. The man took it and frowned: it was a drawing apparently of a rocket launcher that was attached to the dragon’s back. In addition to the mechanism itself, the composition of the missiles was painted there. Many words were unfamiliar to the paladin, and he realized that this was clearly not the usual composition of missiles used by dwarves and gnomes. He was bursting with curiosity. The box clearly contained a new, previously unknown weapon, but the paladin knew what the mess with missiles was leading to. And given the absolutely unknown filling of the rocket, it is better not to risk it. If an ordinary rocket was enough to blow up a small house, then these could demolish the entire castle. Bolingar was well aware that technology was stored here, to which Azeroth was still far away. The paladin looked around again. Metal parts were scattered everywhere: either for the dragon statue, or for another creation. Or maybe it was just a marriage. Bolingar no knew.
And now he was left with the fourth last room. But there was real horror. He had never seen such a pogrom. But this is not the worst thing. In the center stood an altar, illuminated by a bluish, mystical light. On the pedestal was a thin mount for some small device. Empty. The paladin looked around. Unfortunately, only the altar was lit in the room, everything else was hidden in the twilight. Moving mostly at random, the paladin realized that there was no other furniture here. The walls were covered in soot. Apparently, there were pictures or maps or other drawings hanging there, but someone burned them. Bolingar involuntarily recalled the story of the phoenix. Apparently, the instruction was kept here, which Samiris burned out of ignorance. Only small pieces, miraculously survived, could give at least a clue what exactly the archmage invented there.
But just as he was about to leave, he stumbled over the wire. With gentle and slow movements of his feet, the paladin realized that there were wires on the floor, which he had not noticed at first. Stumbling, he fell to the floor, pulling the cause of the fall with him. The lights immediately went out in the main hall with the statue and in the room. The quiet hum of the mechanisms that so caressed the ear died down, leaving the paladin in complete silence and darkness. Only now the paladin realized that with one awkward movement he had deprived the light of almost the entire castle.
The paladin rushed to the others. Although it was difficult to navigate in the dark, he still remembered the way back. He met his friendly company in one of the spacious halls through which he had passed earlier. Drimurr held a faint gleam of light in her hand. Riverey gave him a disapproving look as soon as she saw the paladin.
— So what have you done? — the hunter did not even ask who was guilty. She was sure that the culprit of the breakdown of almost the entire castle was standing right in front of her. And she was right.
The paladin guiltily began to drill the floor with his eyes. He so wanted to at least touch such powerful technologies, but instead, he, of course, broke them. Bolingar wanted to justify himself that even the gnomes do not lay all the wires in such a way that, having touched only one wire, the whole structure collapses before our eyes. Although … gnomes constructions explode, don’t work, don’t work like that. In general, a bad example.
— Do you think Doricus will be very upset? — With a mockery in his voice asked Zverago.
The paladin wanted to sink into the ground. For he could not even imagine how he would justify himself before the archmage.
— Well — Riveray breathed. — I’ll save your useless hide. Let’s go to. I’m trying to fix the breakage.
— You can? — The feral stared at her in surprise.
— I have a little knowledge in engineering. I once gave my sister a mechanical clockwork dragon for her birthday. Its quality, of course, left much to be desired. But it still worked.
The paladin led them down the dark corridors back to the hall with the statue. Now the castle looked many times gloomier and terrifying.
Bolingar was ready to burn with shame. Riverey was able to assemble a clockwork dragon. And he didn’t even master the assembly of a simple musket. But he tried not to pretend that all these mechanisms were not interesting to him.
When he finally led them into the hall, everyone froze at the sight of the mechanical titan
— Don’t tell me you broke it! — Riverey whispered in horror.
— Thanks to the light! Nothing seems to have happened to him, — the paladin wiped away the already protruding sweat. He had completely forgotten that a thick cable was running along the dragon’s tail to its head, supporting the energy in it.
Leaning over and carefully examining the floor, the paladin pointed to the torn cable. Riverey pushed the man aside and examined the breakdown. Having looked closely at the place of the gap and studied it, she finally delivered a verdict.
— Purely in theory, I can fix it. If, of course, these wires have the same properties as ours. But I need a source of fire. Something small.
Suddenly it dawned on paladin, what kind of claw lying in the first room. It was a damn soldering iron! Although this is too rough a name for such a magnificent instrument. But otherwise the paladin did not know how else to describe him.
Grabbing the claw and the opal lying next to it, he ran back into the hall and handed all this to the hunter.
It was evident that Riverey was twisting this claw in her hand with admiration, all hesitating to insert the opal into the nest.
— Well, of course. A precious stone serves as energy supply, apparently the claw draws energy from precious stones of different powers. And these lines that lead from the nest to the end of the claw transfer energy to the tip of the claw.
After finishing a short lecture, she inserted a stone into the nest and put on a claw.
— Simple and elegant!
Folding the torn ends of the wires together, Riveray held a hot claw to the bare wires.
— Probably need to turn off first… — Drimurr began.
— AAAAAAaaaa! — A sharp cry of the huntress interrupted her. Lightning struck her with might and main, shocking her over and over again. The paladin was about to push the hunter away from the wires, but as soon as he lightly touched her, the current passed through his metal armor instantly to him. And now he sparkled with her like a Christmas tree.
— Two idiots! — The feral shouted, pulling them both away from the sparkling wires.
— River! Damn you! How stupid do you have to be not to turn off the power source first?! Even I know that! Any cretin knows that! Even the damn priestess! — shouted the feral curses in the direction of the huntress, putting his paw where lightning had recently struck the River.
— Well. At least it’s definitely worse …
There was a deafening crash. Dust fell from the ceiling in an abundant stream. The hall was filled with a strange smell. As if something had burnt out or exploded.
— Now he’s going to kill us both, — Riveray breathed sadly.
— Guys … We have problems! — Drimurr said cautiously.
Eerie sounds echoed in the hallways. Before the heroes could be heard howling mixed with klekotaniem and grinding.
— One second, — said Drummur. — What’s that?
— I have a bad feeling, — the feral said warily.