"There was really no need for you to come here." said Argelmach, looking down at his beer with intense concentration, "There's nothing here worth your trouble. A weak tribe. Ought to be thrown in the furnace, if you ask me. Who kited you here anyway?"
"I ought to ask you the same question."
"Oh, I live here."
"So its true." the voice rumbled in his head like a dormant volcano about to awaken any second now, "You are not under my power."
The Dwarf looked decidedly more interested in his beer than in the mighty elemental lord, as if by dissecting it with the power of his mind he could somehow improve the flavour.
"I've been serving your interests, have I not?" he said.
"But you are not under my power." repeated Ragnaros, "And now I have you. Your real body."
"Oh, I wouldn't go that far."
"And what will you do to stop me? You have a powerful mind, I give you that, but you are mortal. You are weak."
"And you are here during Maintenance." said the Dwarf, "In the heart of Old Ironforge. Welcome to my world, Ragnaros."
Then, downing the pint, he looked up at the Firelord. His eyes were burning. Not with fire. They were seething with white noise, a maelstrom of monochrome.
"And here's where I first noticed the glitch in the water supply."
I followed her gaze. She knelt down next to a river in the middle of Stormwind. Except that the water wasn't there. Instead, there was a... gap in it. A big square gap, like a floorboard prized loose, revealing a gaping nothingness. A hole in space. I shivered. I wanted to go back. I wasn't used to this kind of thing. Many, many things were odd about my life - I realised that the life I led now was nothing like the life an ordinary person of my age should be living - but not like this weirdness. Was this a punishment? Something else orchestrated by him? An excuse to get me to stand like an idiot in the middle of Stormwind? And this Doan Lagbringer had seemed so nice...
A look of concern on her face, she stepped into the blackness. It was acting like ordinary water, lapping around her legs, maybe some thick black oil. I watched her, horrified. She merely smiled at me and offered me a hand. I shrugged and took it. It was usually better with these things not to try and resist.
With a sickening jolt, the world gave way under my feet. I plummeted down - through the soil, through the rock, down and out the other side until suddenly I was falling into a sky, an ocean of stars, watching the rocky underside of the world recede away from me.
And here was me thinking the world was round...
"Where is this?" I demanded. We had landed in a place unlike any other I had seen. The sky was all wrong. It was black, white and a few shades of grey inbetween. Even though the air was thick with a brewing storm, so close that I could feel the crackling in my hair, it just hung there, never quite reaching its potential. A little like me, I mused. I had never really trusted the sky. I didn't see it very often and that meant I didn't know what it was up to behind my back.
"I don't know." she admitted, looking around her, "I've never seen this place before."
"You jumped into a hole without knowing where you were going?"
"It doesn't usually lead here."
She sat down and crossed her legs, her eyes going blank. I was used to this by now - it was what shamans did when they meditated, contacted the elemental planes. Personally, from what I knew of elementals, they were best left well alone but I can't profess to being the world's premier elementalist. She was probably summoning the little cursor to send off on a scouting mission, I supposed, or her latency elementals to protect us. Latency was a kind of corrupted technology element, I had learned, not to be used frivolously.
Then she screamed, a feral, primal scream. I looked around for something to hide behind, on top of or inside, but there was only an endless misty plane. The monochrome mist rose to become the monochrome sky. That sky... it was crackling more furiously now... the storm coming closer...
Until, with one swift, jerky movement...
I looked around at the Humans, frozen in time like the enormous, ugly statues of famous genodical maniacs that they erected in their town square. Frozen in the act of whatever they were doing - eating, plying their wares, fixing the roof, prophesising the Apocalypse, falling over in a drunken stupor. Fascinated, I reached out a hand to touch one of them but Doan slapped it away.
"You'll make it worse for them and for yourself."
"What happened to them?"
"Isn't there anything we can do for them?"
"Not without using my powers, and this would be a very, very bad time to call upon a technology elemental." she said.
"Why is that?"
"One might answer."
"What do you..."
She indicated for me to be quiet and pointed to the sky. My face went slightly whiter than it normally does. The sky was the same colour as it had been in that other realm. Either we were still there and this wasn't Stormwind at all, or... I prayed to Ragnaros that we were still there.
Then, slowly, jerkily, inexorably, the old bell of the Cathedral tolled - once, twice, three times, eleven times in total.
Maintenance was over.
The eyes of Argelmach Mk. 29 flickered open.
He spluttered. He appeared to be covered in splinters and rock dust. Not only had his apprentice not wiped him down, he had tried to reactivate him against his will. Punishments played through his mind, considerably brightening his mood after the shock of awakening in such poor condition.
Picking himself up, he walked down the corridor in the opposite direction to the Manufactory. There were a few startled yells - Argelmach very rarely ventured outside his territory and wasn't really welcome, with his unkempt facial hair and disrespectful attitude towards his elemental lord. He also stole beer, but he wasn't sure if anyone actually realised this yet. After all, the bouncer was on his side.
Still, he did love the City. It was proud. It was vast. It was elegant yet functional. It was dark and brought fear to his enemies. Mr. Darkvire had done well to design such beautiful architecture. The man was almost as brilliant as Argelmach himself.
He made his way through Shadowforge City, waving at a few people to make them paranoid. After a while, he left the City and walked out of the Mountain altogether.
He looked up at the sky.
It was beginning.
A cruel smile played over his lips as he watched the figure descend from the mad maelstrom in the sky. It looked like any other elemental, except ten times the size and 256 shades of grey, shifting chaotically from black to white. Chains of crimson light hung around its gargantuan frame. That red light... it pulsed through the elemental like poison running through veins.
"Atropos." he said. With a roar like that of several sacks of rusty nails being flushed down a toilet, the elemental lord looked straight at him. He simply smiled.
"I see that young Lagbringer was successful." said Argelmach, "Welcome to the world, Atropos, Elemental Lord of Latency."