Richard A. Knaak

The Demon Soul

For Thomas «Sonny» Garrett, Accomplished Writer and Friend


The voices whispered in his head as he moved through the huge cavern. Where once they were but an occasional occurrence, now they never ceased. Even in his sleep, he could not escape their presence…not that he wanted to do so anymore. The huge black dragon had heard them for so long that they were now a part of him, indistinguishable from his own twisted thoughts.

The night elves will destroy the world…

The Well is out of control…

No one can be trusted…they want your secrets, your power…

Malygos would take what is yours…

Alexstrasza seeks dominion over you…

They are no better than the demons…

They must be dealt with like the demons…

Over and over, the voices repeated such dire things, warning him of duplicity, betrayal. He could trust no one but himself. The others were tainted by the lesser races. They would see his decision as a danger, not the only hope for the world.

The dragon unleashed a puff of noxious smoke as he snorted at such treachery from those who had once been his comrades. Though he had the power to save everything, he had to be careful; if they discovered the truth too soon, it would mean calamity.

They must not know its secret until it is beyond their altering, he decided. It cannot be presented until the spell must be cast. I will not let them destroy my work!

Huge claws scraped fresh the rock floor of the cavern as the scaly behemoth entered his sanctum. As massive as the dragon was, the rounded cavern dwarfed him. A molten river flowed through the center. Massive crystal formations glittered in the walls. Huge stalactites hung like swords of doom from above, while stalagmites grew from the ground so sharp that they looked as if they waited for someone to be impaled upon them.

And, in fact, such was the case with one.

Teeth bared, the great black dragon peered down at the puny figure struggling to free himself despite the stony spike thrusting up through his heaving chest. The remains of a tattered, black and bloodred robe and fragments of ornate, golden armor hung around his oddly-shaped torso. High, goatlike horns thrust from his skull and the crimson visage resembled most to the dragon a long skull with a wide, fanged maw. The eyes were pits of darkness that immediately tried to suck the behemoth in, but they were no match for the will of the creature's captor.

In addition to being impaled, the horned figure was bound by thick, iron chains to the cavern floor. The chains had been set especially tight, pinning the demon to the stalagmite and keeping his limbs spread downward.

Constantly the captive's mouth moved as if he furiously shouted something, yet no sound emerged. That did not keep him from trying, however, especially when he saw the dark leviathan approach.

The dragon mulled over his prisoner for a moment, then blinked.

Immediately the cavern chamber filled with the venom-laced, rasping voice of the creature. '-is Sargeras! Your blood will flow! Your skin he will wear for a cloak! Your flesh will feed his hounds! Your soul he will keep in a vial, ever to torment at his pleasure! He-'

Blinking again, the dragon silenced once more his captive. Even still, the demonic figure continued mouthing threats and obscenities until, finally, the dark behemoth opened his huge jaws and exhaled, enveloping the prisoner in a searing plume of steam that left the latter shaking in renewed agony.

'You will learn respect. You are in the presence of my glorious self, I, Neltharion,' the dragon rumbled. 'I am the Earth Warder. You will treat me with the reverence which I deserve.'

The demon's long, reptilian tail slapped at the rocks below. The mouth opened in what was obviously more silent blasphemies.

Neltharion shook his crested head. He had expected better from the Eredar. The warlocks were supposed to be among the commanders of the Burning Legion, demons not only skilled at casting spells but well-versed in battle tactics. The dragon had assumed that he would hear far more intelligent conversation from such a creature, but the Eredar might as well have been one of the brutish Infernals, the flaming, skull-headed behemoths who acted like fearsome battering rams or airborne missiles. The one he had tested before capturing the Eredar had only the wit of a rock, if even that much.

But then, Neltharion had not sent his flight out to pluck the demons from their rampaging horde for conversation. No, the captives had another purpose, a grand one that they, unfortunately, could never come to appreciate.

And the Eredar was the last, the most significant. His innate magical abilities made him the key to fulfilling the first part of the Earth Warder's quest.

It is time…the voices whispered. It is time…

'Yes…' Neltharion answered absently. 'Time…'

The dragon raised one huge paw palm up and concentrated. Immediately a golden aura flared to life in his palm, growing so brilliant that even the captive demon paused in his tirades to stare at what Neltharion had summoned to him.

The tiny disk was as golden as the aura that had presaged its coming, but otherwise it was an astoundingly simple-looking piece. It would not have even quite filled the hand of a much smaller creature-say a Night Elf, for instance. The disk resembled a large, featureless gold coin with rounded edges and a gleaming, untarnished shell. Its very unassuming appearance was all by Neltharion's design. If the talisman was to perform its task properly, it had to seem entirely innocent, harmless.

He held it toward the warlock, letting the Eredar see what awaited him. The demon, however, appeared quite unim-pressed. He stared from the disk to the dragon, mockery filling his eyes.

Neltharion noted the reaction. It pleased him that the Eredar did not recognize the strength of the disk. That meant that others would also fail to realize the truth…until it was too late.

At the Earth Warder's silent command, the object rose gently from his palm. It floated above the paw for a moment, then drifted over to the captive.

For the first time, a hint of uncertainty colored the warlock's monstrous visage. As the disk descended, he renewed his futile struggles.

The golden talisman alighted on the demon's forehead. A brief flash of crimson light bathed the Eredar's face-and then the disk sealed itself to his flesh.

Speak them…urged the voices as one. Say the words…seal the act…

From the savage, lipless maw of the dragon erupted words from a language whose origins lay not in the mortal world. Each one was tinged with an evil that made even the demon quiver. To the Earth Warder, though, they were the most wondrous sounds he had ever heard, perfect musical notes…the language of gods.

As Neltharion spoke them, the disk began to glow again. Its radiance filled the vast chamber, growing brighter and brighter with each syllable.

The light suddenly flared.

The Eredar warlock stretched his mouth as wide as it would go in a noiseless cry. His horrific eyes rained tears of blood and his tail slashed madly against the rocks. He tore at his bonds with such fervor that he scraped away the flesh from his wrists and ankles. But still the demon could not escape.

Then the Eredar's skin started to decay. It crumbled from his still-twisting body, his still-shrieking

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