It was during this long ride that I realised that I had become agoraphobic.
In the shelter of the mountains, I had barely noticed it except for a mild sensation of dread which I had attributed to the presence of Ragnaros. The sky was really not the best place for a man who had spent a month in a stone coffin and the rest of his life after that in a small underground factory. I felt nauseous. The whole world was spinning around me. I shut my eyes so that i didn't have to look at the endless open space around me, of the instability of the ground beneath my feet, until I was deposited at the gates of Ironforge.
I walked in, my travelling cloak pulled up over my head, and tried to look inconspicuous. The guard waved me through, muttering something about rogues. I breathed a sigh of relief and collapsed against a familiar, solid stone wall...
And fell straight through it.
Swearing rather eloquently in Dark Dwarven, I picked myself up and dusted myself down. And dusty this place was. It was old, so old that the stone paths were eroding, the wood rotting and everywhere the colours faded. Nobody lived here any more. It was eerie. Not just eerie like a ghost town, but eerie as though he shouldn't be here. It was the same forbidden air as the place he had gone to when he fell through the wall before, but worse. This place was truly not meant to be looked on by mortal eyes.
I turned and tried to run, but as soon as I put my hand to the wall, I heard a rumbling sound. Turning my head again, I saw a Dwarf pushing a lone cart down the deserted street. The rattle of the cart's wheels sounded like an earthquake in the dead silence. On the back of the cart were several crates. Keeping my back to the wall, I silently sneaked up to him.
Eventually he stopped to give his beast of burden - a large ram - a rest, and to check his goods. As he lifted the lid of the crate, I gasped. Shivers went down my spine. It was a head - a head made of iron that looked just like my master's. Its eyes were still glaring at me, as if blaming me even in death for his failure to defend himself against the brutal savagery of the adventurers.
I followed him further. He continued down the road before turning into what was once a bustling merchant's square. I was led through the center of the abandoned town until eventually the Dwarf stopped outside a building that looked like a blacksmith's forge and knocked on the door. After a few minutes, a voice said "Come in." The merchant nodded and pushed the door open.
That was when I struck.
Darting out of the shadows, I jumped onto the cart and drove it away from the house as fast as I could persuade the ram to move. Trying desperately to remember the way, I sped through the square and back down the road.
The ram reared up and stopped before I reached the wall through which I had entered, sending me flying to smack into the wall. I could hear the merchant's angry shouts coming closer. Picking up my bruised body, I tried leaning against the wall, concentrating with all my will. It refused to yield, solid stone once more. I swore and banged my fists on the wall, demanding that it move.
Then a familiar voice echoed down the street.
"Where do you think you're going with my heads, boy?"
I just stood and stared at him. This version of him had smartened itself up - he wore a black suit and hiss beard was neatly combed, braided and fastened with a clasp of dark iron. He rested on a walking stick, although his other hand still hovered over his spanner.
"S... sir, what are you doing here?"
"I like it in here. Just offload them near the door, my apprentice will sort them out." he waved his cane at the merchant, who scurried off, "Old Ironforge. An entire unfinished city. Part of the old, pre-released world. Did you know, boy, that the word 'golem' means an unfinished form, or an incomplete man? This is our world, boy."
"B... but..." I looked around nervously, "I was sent on a quest to retrieve the heads... and take them back to Blackrock Depths..."
"Why would I want you to take them back there? I told you to take them to where I was, boy... here."
"B... but I assumed..."
"You assumed that just because you fell through a wall in one place that you would end up in the same place on the other side?" he tutted, "You really don't understand this world, do you, boy?"
"I'm sorry." I bowed low. It was difficult to bow low enough to supplicate a Dwarf, but Argelmach tended to help me by hitting me on the head until I was the right height. Fortunately, he didn't seem that angry.
"Do you know, boy, what a priest is?"
"It heals you." I shrug.
"That's just a minor class feature. A priest is one whom the Gods gave a limited amount of their own authority." said Argelmach, resting on his walking stick, "Gods created this world. We were given authority to create golems, imperfect soulless creations, to do our bidding. And there's more. Security privelages, boy, access to restricted areas, like this place."
"Sir, you're not a priest." I reminded him. Was he still drunk? He didn't look it.
"Ragnaros is no God." he continued, "Why, I'm sure if I thought about it for long enough, I'd think of a way to bind and control him. No, the real Gods have authority beyond your darkest imagination. When you begin to understand what lies behind this world, boy, then you'll be ready to become a fully fledged partner of mine."
I looked around nervously.
"D... does this mean I failed my quest?"
"No, boy, the quest isn't over yet. That was just one step in the chain."
I sighed. "What've I got to do now?"
"I'll handle the rest of our business here." he said, "You go home now. And while you're there, read this. Your quest ends when you've read it from cover to cover."
He reached into the inside pockets of his jacket and took out a small brown leatherbound book. It looked old. Its pages were yellowing and smelled musty. Argelmach had been writing in the margins.
The title said: 'Latency 6000: The Adventures of Doan Lagbringer'.