Disclaimer: Not mine. Alas.

Whoo, did I ever get a case of Ican'tbebotheredtowritersblock. My demondim-muse decided to rescue me, and proceeded to bite me at three in the morning. Shouldn't be so long for the next chapter, I hopes :)

Also, I have a picture of the demondim itself up on my Devart account (link's in my profile). Keep checkin' for other stuff I've got coming!

Chapter IV – Culture Shock

It took them three days to find the Orb of Deception and it's owner, but find them Daiela and Thomas did. Although pretty quickly they wished they hadn't.

A series of clumsy pawprints surrounded the rather messy corpse, and the Orb itself appeared to have been used as a football briefly, judging by the muck covering it. Something had had great fun rolling in the filth made when blood mixed with mud, and the plagued plants nearby had been sprayed with a nasty-looking brown liquid.

"Um."

"Yeah, I know what you mean." Travel-stained and weary, Daiela slouched next to Thomas as they stared dejectedly into the gruesome playground. "Well, Thomas, you're the one that needs this thing, so you're the one going in after it."

"Aw Daiela, come on, it's gross down there and I've only just-"

"Take it like a man, Thomas, before I push you in."

Thomas knew now, after travelling with the awful woman for the past three days, that she would do exactly that, and enjoy it too. With a slight whimper he set off down the steep slope into the pit they found themselves standing on the edge of, slipping and eventually sliding to the bottom.

"Eww... hey Daiela, I think I just discovered the foulest substance on Azeroth – how much do you reckon the Enchanters would pay for it?"

Daiela snickered, watching the Forsaken wallow in ankle-deep yuck, slopping over towards the Orb. "Don't care, but I get fifty-per-cent of the profits either way!"

"Oh come on, I'm the one up to my armpits in this stuff... thirty, no more, no less."

"Forty."

"Thirty-five!"

"Done! Toss that thing up when you get it, there's no way you're gonna climb that wall if you're carrying it."

"Gotcha..." Reaching down, Thomas prized the Orb free of the muck, rubbed the worst of the clingy gunk free, and lobbed it at Daiela. She fumbled a little as the Orb landed with a gentle splat in her outstretched hands, before wrapping it in a rag she'd pulled from her pack.

"It was darkhounds did this. I'd recognise those pawprints anywhere. Look – they must of dragged him down over there. Ugh, give me a hand up..."

With barely a wince, Daiela knelt down and grasped Thomas' dead hand in her own.

At first, she had been so spurred on by a simple change of past-time that she hadn't spent a moment considering the implications of her decision to help the Undead. The joy of once more having a tail to swish and hooves that didn't spill her on her rump every five minutes had given her the sort of joy and willingness to help the world that only the holiest of Priests owned. She had pranced from the Chapel with her Undead companion hot on her heels, totally oblivious to the disbelieving and disapproving stares that followed in their wake. For two hours the sun had shone, the ground was soft, and the air was clear(ish. It was the Plaguelands, after all). Then, with an ominous swoosh, clouds had rushed over the horizon and rain followed soon after. With the patience of the Naaru Daiela had diligently retraced her steps, bravely (and very generously, she felt) ignoring Thomas' near-constant stream of weather related mutterings. As the rain got fouler travelling got harder, and it wasn't long before the inevitable happened.

The steady and torrential downpour had turned the already rotten ground into a festering quagmire, and Thomas and Daiela given up trying to stay mud-free. Hiking through knee-deep, sharp bladed grasses, the two pushed their way to the top of yet another hill, when it happened. Beneath them the ground seemed to groan, and then with an unholy lurch the entire sodden hillface let go of it's tenuous grasp to the more solid ground below. With a shriek Daiela plowed into Thomas, and in a tangle of limbs they had slid with the mud and the grass to the bottom of the hill. Adrenaline had spiked painfully through the Draenei's body at the fall, but she couldn't blame her sudden shaking fit on the subsequent low – as she disentangled herself from an equally miserable Thomas, she had caught a glimpse of raw bone and blackened flesh, and it finally hit home just what her new companion was.

They hadn't spoken for the rest of the day, and Daiela had known Thomas had caught the flash of revulsion she hadn't been able to keep from her face.

The next day had brought back the sun, and Daiela was woken by the light trickling over her

eyelids as the smell of bacon wafted gently past. She'd cracked open her eyes and stretched muzzily

before following her nose to find breakfast. A few yards away, so the sleeping Draenei wouldn't get smoked out, Thomas had built a little fire. He was currently knelt over it, fastidiously watching as the contents of the one pan the pair had between them sizzled and spat cheerfully. Warily she had perched opposite him, and as she nervously met his eyes, he held out the pan – peace, the gesture said, and his eyes said please, please... Taking the pan from his cold hands and setting it next to her, she carefully split the little meal in two and offered him half.

He gave her a smile so full of gratefulness that she knew, no matter that she was a Paladin, no matter that he was Undead, she'd done the right thing.

After that, things had changed for the better.

--

With a final hazy swirl of colour, a new world solidified around the demondim. Slim legs trembling slightly, it waited for the focus to return to it's eyes.

What greeted it was horror.

Numb with shock, the demondim gazed around at the twisted and bloody mess surrounding it, and tried to reconcile the vile mess with the lush green pine forests that had blanketed this part of Azeroth last time it had visited. With growing rage it recognised the sweet, cloying scent of Fel.

What – what have – How dare-?! They Cannot-! I will not allow..!

Jaw slack and proud tail drooping, the demondim lowered it's head and closed it's eyes. Too late, it realised. Too late to reverse the damage, too late to restore the beloved forests, and far too late to save the small creatures it had once so loved the taste of.

It's eyes snapped open.

But not too late to punish.

--

Chanting a rite, the small group of initiates and acolytes wound their way along the worn path to the Ziggurat. Drifting out of the plagued forests, the fruits of their Master's labours shadowed their way, miserable shades of a world too weak to resist the might of the Scourge. Ghouls and zombies, gargoyles and darkhounds snapping at eachother's heels, even a torn and leaking Abomination that lumbered behind the rest, putrid flesh dribbling along under and behind it's misshapen legs. Soul shattering wails tore the air as a troupe of banshees announced their presence, beckoning seductive death at any who glanced their way. In the midst of the dark parade, six new Warlocks and shadow Mages stepped warily, travelling towards this first rung on the ladder of Necromancy.

Grimacing as another stinking puddle splashed around his foot, Darrul Winterfall, soon-to be initiate of the mighty and insidious Scourge, stole a glance at the Mage walking next to him. She walked with the sort of grace one expected from Aristocracy, flowing over the ground like mist on wet grass. Her robes draped smoothly over her full figure, subtle colours shimmering as the enchantments woven into them hit the light. She had caught his eye on the minute she had appeared in the group, and – he flattered himself – he was sure he'd caught hers.

A chittering to his left made him jump, and he looked up with growing unease at the ghouls milling at the party's side. For six days the small group had been trailed by this particular pack, and never before had they seemed so... jumpy. Oh,. Sure, if some lost and sickened adventurer had come close the pack had shrieked and howled as they tried to follow the instinct to kill, but the pull of the Necromancers had held them in place. Now, though, they were quiet... unnaturally quiet for such a noisy breed of Undead. Shooting a glance to the left, Darrul nearly tripped in shock. Whimpering and snarling, the darkhounds were slinking ever closer to the Necromancers leading the party, forcing themselves as close as they dared.

As the banshees swirled away in a panicked flap of ghostly gowns, even the most unobservant of the group noticed something was wrong. Drawing to a holt, a mutter trickled through the group as the Abomination groaned in obvious fear. Darrul and the beautiful Mage exchanged a worried glance – this wasn't in the script. With a final pained howl, the darkhounds broke the hold over them and dashed madly for the mist-drenched forest around them. Hungrily the miasma swallowed the pack, muffling their shrieks and moans of animal panic.

And then oozed open again to reveal... something.

About the size of a big cat, it paced forward, whiplash body sliding with subtle power towards them. It's crest-like mane rose above it's narrow ears, face tapering down towards a pointed muzzle. Sharp fangs grew out of bare bone exposed by peeling and patchy fur, and gaping nostrils flared in anticipation. Stopping a little way away from the group, it gave them time to clearly read it's deathly purpose for them, gleaming hollowly in it's strange eyes. Deliberately, it drew in a deep, deep breath...

And sang.

--

Before they had set out on their little expedition, Thomas had had the forethought to request a pair of Hearthstones, already set to return them to the Chapel, from the ever-chipper Hilfy, and the Gnome had flapped off in a cloud of skirts and petticoats before returning with the two small stones.

Now, muddied and completely sick of the obnoxious Plaguelands weather, the pair clasped a stone each, and with a heartfelt incantation, were swallowed in a haze of green Magic.

Daiela was more-or-less addicted to Hearthstones. She had awoken in the Exodar after the crash and had immediately offered to help in any way possible. She had been led into what had once been an inn, given a basic 'survival pack', then promptly shoved out the door and into a small group of other volunteers. They had been given a crash-course in native magics by a small, pink creature she eventually learned was a 'Human', and were then told to go practice. She had fished around in her pack until her fingers had brushed against the Hearthstone, and she had pulled it out with no small amount of trepidation. Closing her eyes and concentrating, she had recited the short spell to activate the thing, and subsequently fallen head-over-hooves in love.

As the green haze carried her away in the blur of summer and home it always conjured up, she sighed and tried to remember what it felt like to be comfortable once again. Nothing reminded her more of the home she'd lost forever than the magic in those little, painted rocks. Playful green light wove around her and she giggled, watching leaf-shaped images tumble past.

With a jolt, she smacked into the floor of the Chapel's inn.

"Ooow. Ow, ow. Y'know, after all the long years folks've been using these things, you'd think they'd figure out some way to make the landings softer..."

"Shut up, Thomas. I was in the zone. Also, please give me back my tail."

Nervous sniggering. "Oh, that's what it was..."

Thwap.

"Ow..."

"Damn straight."

Thomas shook himself and glanced around. "Right, no-one's noticed us – on with the plan!"

The plan was theoretically very simple, and went thus: Sneak into Light's Hope Chapel, find somewhere to hide while they changed Thomas into whatever he was changing into, catch a Gryphon to Ironforge, and find their Dwarf. Of course, nothing was ever that easy, and both knew that quite a bit of improvising would be needed before they even left the Chapel.

A good half-hour after their arrival, they finally managed to find a dark little room to disappear into while they worked their magic. Daiela brought out the Orb, still wrapped in the rag dribbling slime. She gave it a quick wipe-over with another cleaner rag before holding it out to Thomas, who took it in one hand and glared at it.

"Okay. Now, how's this think supposed to work again?"

"Hmm..." Daiela sighed, wishing – not for the first time – that she'd been awake on the night she'd been accosted. "Sorry, I got nothing. Maybe we should try the Universal Opening Spell?"

"Ugh, alright... here goes nothing, I guess." Thomas sat up straight and squared his shoulders, as he shifted the Orb to sit in the palms of his clawed hands. Closing his eyes to concentrate, he uttered in a low, strangely powerful voice:

"Open Sesame."

Nothing happened.

Two pairs of glowing eyes focused on eachother, and Daiela had just opened her mouth to call Thomas out on his pronunciation,much to his horror, when the world exploded into purple swooshy lights.

"Ugh... okay, well that seemed to do the trick. Never knew my mouth had such amazing Magical prowess before, but they do say you learn something new every day!"

"Daiela, for once, shut up," Drawled a deep accented voice in front of her. The purple spangles flashed in her eyes a few more times before finally dying out, giving her a clear view of where Thomas sat.

Tilting his head to the side, Thomas glowered at Daiela as she sat, eyebrows at her hairline, trying oh so very hard not to laugh. "Marvellous, yes, I'm an Elf. Can we please get over the irony of the situation and leave?" Stretching out his long legs, The purple skinned Night Elf-cum-Undead tried to stand up, tripped, tried again, wobbled on the spot, then shook himself down. "Well this is nice. I suppose I shouldn't complain after all, you had it worse!" With a wicked snicker, Thomas dodged a halfhearted swat.

"Eh, whatever. Excuse me while I go and laugh myself into a coma."

What Daiela actually did was raise herself gracefully to her hooves and clop purposefully around Thomas, taking in the new look from all angles. "Hmm, it's a good thing the clothes you were wearing were loose, seeing as you've gained about a foot in height, and your cloak ought to cover up most of the patchier stuff. Actually, we could really make this work for us. Night Elves and Draenei often travel together, we can even pretend you're some sort of recluse or hermit or somesuch that doesn't talk much – so you don't give us away, yeah?"

Nodding thoughtfully, Thomas tugged his suddenly slightly tight shirt into better shape. "Yeah... let's just hope we don't meet a real Night Elf though."

"Unlikely, they're not terribly fond of Ironforge. Anyway, it should be easy enough to avoid them – it's a big city, after all."

Shouldering packs, they slunk out of their hidey-hole towards the paddocks the Gryphons were held in. No-one looked twice at the pair, and they reached their destination without a problem. The Flightmaster stood a little way off, unsaddling a tired looking Gryphon while giving instructions to a flight-sick Human Rogue, who hurriedly excused herself and ran for the nearest patch of bushes.

"Oh great, I just remembered I don't like flying..."

"Come on Thomas! What's not to like? Miles above the ground, strapped into a beast with very little padding on the saddle, no way off until the next little Flightmaster's cottage tucked away in some unnamed wood somewhere, it's just brilliant!"

Thomas just smiled tightly.

"Alright then, be like that. Let's get this show on the road! Excuse me, Sir?" The Flightmaster turned and plastered a grin all over his face at the sight of customers. "Flights for Ironforge, please. Got anything good to go right away?"

"Yor in look, Missey, " the 'master oozed at her. Joos' got this 'ere birdie and that'un over thur ready for a flap... yoo payin oop front?"

"Err, yes?"

"Roighty-ho! That'll be ten silver for th'pair of yoo. This way, if yoo please!"

Following the Flightmaster as he trotted off towards the Gryphons indicated, Daiela and Thomas shared a look before shrugging. Oh well, if it got them to Ironforge...

The Gryphons were clearly ready to fly. They pranced as the 'master came over to them calling their names and jangling harnesses. They were already saddled and bridled, and all Daiela and Thomas needed to do was strap themselves into the harnesses and onto the saddles, then they were on their way. Perched on top of the restless beasts, the 'master lead them onto the grassy runway. With a sharp slap on the rumps, he called to the Gryphons 'Hey oop my lassies!', and the Gryphons tore off at a full gallop.

Daiela watched, spellbound, as two huge white wings rose on either side of her, and then started beating in time with the pounding legs. Soon enough the Gryphon was only skipping on the ground every other step, then with a mighty crashing wingbeat they lifted off. Trees slipped past under her hooves, And the Chapel itself soon too as the Gryphon circled for altitude. Up here the air was clearer and so was the view – for miles and miles underneath her the wreck of the Plaguelands stretched on, red and rotten. To her left and behind she heard the other Gryphon screech, and hers answered with a cry closer to a roar, overjoyed to be leaving the evil place their passengers took them to.

She felt like roaring, too.

Thanks all for reading! Much love to my wunnerful reviewers :)