It was about midday when there was a knock on her door. Autumn looked up from her book and smiled. Arcane Images, the business she started after returning from Draenor had been rather successful. She had gotten a wide range of people interested in photography, from couples, to weddings and events. It had even drawn the attention of a druid in D.E.T.H.A who had been looking for a visual way of making people seen the beauty of nature. With a little help from her father she had even been able to purchase an apartment in Ironforge to convert into a studio. However things had been slowing down. Sure she had the occasional client, she even had a few photoshoots set up but interest had unmistakably died down. She was hoping her new ad would draw some more attention.
Her uncle had gotten her a job with the Explorers League cataloging the multitude of rare and fragile artifacts they often found, it was during this that she discovered that there was something about the way a camera took a picture that allowed what was otherwise invisible lights or auras come through in development. Since she had recently started incorporating Apexis Crystals into a flash device to be used in dark environments and during the films development itself, she had gotten the idea to make a little white lie about cameras. Just so people come to me and not someone else who might want to start doing this. Like right now… I hope.
Autumn frowned as she opened the door, seeing no one but upon a polite “Ahem” she looked down to see a gnome. “Oh, I’m sorry. Welcome to Arcane Images, how can I help you?” She bows her head.
“Ah, yes. You are the photographer are you not?” The gnome asks, his voice reaching the typical high pitches of his kind. “Good, good. I have a job for you, my name is Krik Microspan. You see my brother and I were assigned to a series of halls in Gnomeregan that have been recently recovered. However, events have led us to believe that these halls might be… Haunted. ” He seemed to pause simply for the dramatic affect he might make.
Awesome, Autumn smiles. “Haunted? Well I can certainly help with that. I mean… what kind of activity are we talking about? Sounds? Or things flying around all possessed like?”
“Well my brother could fill you in better then I, he is the one who has seen the ghosts. To be honest, he does not believe you could help. Unfortunately what devices and measurements we have used have come up with inconclusive results and with this issue with magic right now, we feel it is best to resort to more… Mundane means of detection.”
Autumn nods and frowns slightly. The Silver Sickness had even taken a hold in her body, leaving her left arm covered in the blueish purple bruising that often comes with stage one of the infection. Pain in the ass is what this is, she thinks and she slips her bandaged hand and arm behind her, in an attempt to make a polite gesture but really hiding her infection from the gnome. Wouldn’t be any good to let clients know I have it. No one believes it’s not spreadable when they see it. After a few more minutes, Autumn and the gnome work out the details and he leaves to allow the young mage to gather up her things for the trip back to Gnomeregan. Through all that snow. Shit. I’m going to have to buy a coat aren’t I?
The section the Microspan brothers had been given charge of actually started outside of Gnomeregan proper. Autumn had been led by a gruff gnomish marine, out of the fall snow storm and past two other wings before coming to the small antechamber that the brothers worked out of. Krik had arrived ahead of her having been able to ride a mechanostrider through the snow. I was stuck with some smelly ass ram. I hate this sickness, can’t even use my runesaber. Her thoughts of the artifact, one that she had convinced the League had no magical powers, were broken by another polite “Ahem”.
“Yes so here we are.” Krik gestures around the small room filled with machines and devices whose purpose Autumn could not decipher and a few chairs and a table. On the table rested a map of the wing they were in. Krik points Autumn to the map. “We have eighteen separate halls and twelve rooms to repair. There are bulkheads sealing off the halls here, here and here. They lead to areas we have not yet secured or decontaminated.” He seems more affected by the word decontaminated then the idea of the areas of the gnomish city still infested with Troggs. Must be hard having to deal with all of that toxic air. He continues, “Ventilation also had to be closed here and here. Any questions?”
Autumn looks around the room, trying to sound professional, “Yes, where is your brother? You said he would know what I had to look for.” It’s not like this is the first time you’ve actually gone ghost hunting or anything.
Krik frowns and looks down the only hall that goes into their wing. “He must be already working. I apologize. You should be able to find him after some time.”
Autumn frowns. “You aren’t coming with me?”
“No, I have work here to do. I have to get these machines ready.”
“Alright then.” Autumn sighs. Shouldn’t be hard. “Oh, can I take this map, just so I don’t get lost?”
Krik tilts his head to the side then nods after a moment. “Yes, I suppose I won’t need it tonight.” He folds the map up and hands it to Autumn who accepts it with a thanks before turning and walking down the hall.
The corridors of metal are relatively short as they bend and turn under the earth. There is an odd humming or buzzing sound that each of the large lights above Autumn’s head seems to produce and it gives her goosebumps. Sounds like giant insects. Why is the ceiling so high for such short people?
She gets through two rooms before coming to a stop in the middle of one very long hallway and unfolds the map to make sure that this isn’t a dead end. “Okay… I should be here, gees this is a long hall.” Her voice echoes slightly off the cold metal walls as she mumbles to herself. Autumn frowns at the sound as she takes a moment to gauging the distance. “That’s like fifty more feet before a hall to my left and I still haven’t found the other gnome.”
Autumn turns around to the direction the loud sound is coming from. With each consecutive “chachunk” one of the lights shuts off behind her. Pitch black quickly moving towards her as each light goes, the light above her head goes out and the next one, and the next one. It takes less than thirty seconds for the entire hall to go black. Autumn, who did not move as the wave of blackness spilled over her supresses the first bits of fear that tries to take hold. “Alright. Sooo the power went out. No problem. It’s fine.” She tells herself. The echo of her voice sounds slightly different but she tosses that observation away the moment she notices it. “It’s fine.” I’ll just head back and find Krik. She thinks she turns around enough but ends up crashing into a wall. Can’t even cast spells right now.
This is going to suck.
With a hand on the wall she became so suddenly intimate with, Autumn walks down the hall, hoping that she’s going in the right direction. With no way to figure out what time it is and after what she thinks is “a hell of a lot longer than it should have taken to get back”, the young mage starts to get worried. That damn clinking sounds isn’t helping things either. She frowns and stops, trying to determine where the sound that has been around her for some time is coming from. I’m not getting any closer to it…. But it also is getting further away.
The sound itself is low, almost hard to make out. It starts its patter of clinks for a few moments before stopping, then resumes almost right away. Am I …? “HEY!” She shouts down the halls, which ever direction she may be facing. “Is someone there?”
The clinking stops, breaking its rhythm.
“Hello?” Autumn shouts again.
She pouts, “Fine.” She says under her breath. “Be that way.”
The next sound would be Autumn jumping in surprise, but she will never say that she squeaked.
The screeching gets louder, louder and closer. The suddenness of it scared Autumn and her heart was now beating a mile a minute. Her first thought is to throw herself into a spell and in turn throw that spell into the things face but there is a twinge in her left hand, almost as if it anticipates a spell and reminds her that she can’t cast spells without spreading more of the Silver Sickness through her body. Stumbling as she bumps into the wall again Autumn manages to get her feet underneath her enough to start to run away from whatever it is that is making that sound. She bounces off one wall, then another. Left… or was it right? It doesn’t take long before she completely loses track of where she is in the maze of metal halls and rooms of this wing.
One thought does manage to pierce through her fear. Light. She starts to pant as the stumbling run she is doing is pushing her to the end of her limits. Getting soft. What can I do? No spells. No spells. Camera! And much like the flash of inspiration, the flash of her camera illuminates the area for a brief second. WALL! She manages to twist and slams into the upcoming wall with her back. She presses the button on her camera and the sound of it taking its photo is overwhelmed by the scream of surprise from her pursuer, the flash blinding it and driving it away. The screeching sound stops. The clinking sounds drifting away into the dark. Not human. Autumn slumps to the floor, taking the time to catch her breath and understand what it was that she saw.
It had been small, maybe four feet tall. Dark skin and what looked like a hunch back. The flash had reflected off of three eyes, one centered in what would be the forehead of anything normal. What the fuck was that?
Autumn had caught her breath some time ago and had opted to rest in the silence. In gathering her thoughts she noticed the slight shift in the blackness. Some kind of light, one incredibly dim was nearby. With a huff she stands up and places her hand on the wall, sliding along in whatever direction it took her. It was not far to go as the dim red light Like what I use in my black room at home could only illuminate a short distance before being consumed by what seemed like an endless darkness behind her. The light source itself turned out to be a red emergency light on the floor, its wires connected to an otherwise destroyed Alarm-o Bot. Its parts strewn across the floor, it managed to light up the room enough so that Autumn, used to this kind of light from the developing process of her photos, could make out other dark piles on the floor and dark splotches on the walls. Autumn reels back, there is a bad smell to this room. Not quite decay but not anything mechanical. Horrible. Did that thing do this? Was it pushing me here?!
Gingerly, Autumn proceeds through the room. Whatever was on the ground wasn’t metal. Is this blood? OH… Krik’s brother! Her hand goes to her mouth and she closes her eyes but she manages to remain composed. That she could makes her worry more.A year ago I’d probably ask if I hadn’t seen enough blood shed. Now I know that the universe doesn’t care what I see. She gulps and moves through the room. Whatever is in here is dangerous. I have to be careful.
Autumn slinks through the halls as quietly as she can, the only sound she really makes is the occasional click of her camera as she takes another photo. The camera’s small Apexis crystal, briefly being uncovered by the shutter system Autumn had constructed, flashes its bright light and gives her rare moments of sight in her otherwise black journey. Every so often she hears the dreaded clinking sound of the creature and she tries her best to hide in a corner or alcove. The sound never seems to get too close to her and after a time, passes down some other hall way. I think I know how to get back. Just a bit more.
Sounds, new ones, eventually filter to her ears. Voices coming from up ahead, ones that give her immediate relief. Gnomes Autumn holds back her urge to run forward and painstakingly gets sneaks forward towards the voices, they grow more distinguishable as she gets closer even if they are echoing off the metal walls. They are arguing. Light flicks around from around a corner.
“-ever believe me even when I say I have proof. The tests and readings are sound.” The voice is not one Autumn has heard before and as she rounds the corner she sees two gnomes in a black room. One is holding a stick that shines light from the top end in a cone and the other is stopping the first from reaching something on the wall.
“I highly doubt the veracity of your results for many reasons brother,” Says the one with the light rod, “and did your test absolutely require you to turn off the power to this wing without telling me!?” He tries his best to push past the second gnome. Autumn straightens out as she enters the room. The lights?
“Of course it did, have you ever seen a ghost in the day? With the lights off my Spectoton Viewgoggles worked perfectly and I was able to not only find the ghost but herd it towards my trap.”
“You captured the ghost?” The first gnome who by now Autumn realizes is Krik points the light rod at the one he called brother. Oh, he is alive! His brother gasps, turning around and covering his eyes.
“I am fairly positive I have but it emitted some kind of energy that blinded me and I had to take a moment to recalibrate my goggles. It had no other way to … Oh dear…”
The brother of Krik, in his attempt to block the light from shining in his face and goggles had turned and was now looking at Autumn, who had been standing in the room, silently listening to the argument. Autumn, who was trying her best to not give into her anger and shout at him after realizing that the entire scare in the halls had been perpetrated by this gnome. By the look on his face, she realized that she probably wasn’t going a good job of it.
“Brother… I do believe I have not succeeded in capturing the ghost. It seems to have followed me here.”
Feeling the time was finally right Autumn smiles and announces her presence to Krik and his brother with a polite “Ahem.”
Krik frowns instantly and shoves his brother to the ground with a great clatter as he steps forward. He reaches past him and presses a button. With a sharp pop the machines in the room grumble to life and the lights above their head flicker once before the entire wing regains power.
Autumn bows her head politely, taking the second to truly supress her anger. They are clients. You can’t shout at clients. She takes a long breath You can’t shout at clients. “Good evening, I’m glad I found you. I must apologize; I was unable to fulfill my part of our agreement, what with the lights out.”
Kirk glares at his brother as he stands up. His brother, outfitted in black leathers, has a large box on his back that rattles as he moves and the goggles that he takes off as the lights come back on, have three lenses. “Spin, damn it. You were harassing this girl all night weren’t you? This is the photographer I told you I was going to hire.”
“What? You told me no such thing. Hmm, would explain why the ghost had taken a human form, I suppose. That did confuse me.”
“Let me see those goggles.” Krik rips the goggles from Spins hand then sighs, “These are just dark vision goggles. Your “test” was doomed from the beginning with these.” He tosses them back at his brother who clumsily catches them and inspects them. “Oh.” Was all he said. Krik turns to Autumn. “I deeply apologize to you Miss Delenay. Hopefully we can get something worked out in the future but right now I have a larger amount of machinery to inspect then before and many tasks that required electricity that have sat unfinished for the last five hours. I’ll have a marine escort you back to Ironforge now that the snow storm has abated. I don’t think you want to spend much more time here at present.”
“That would be… greatly appreciated.”
Autumn hangs the last of the photos that she had taken in the gnomish halls onto the string with a close pin. “Not like I got anything useful but I guess they could be fun to look at.” She sits down and waits, the developing process for each photo took around twenty minutes and this last one was one she wanted to see. She had seen part of it while she was converting the negative; it was the one where she had blinded Spin with her cameras flash. “Should I send it to them? Might be funny to see his reaction.”
Autumn tilts her head as she watches the photo dry, something else was on the photo. She stands up and walks over to it. “Didn’t think I did this one wrong.” She says as she lifts the bottom of the photo to angle it up so she can see it better. “It’s like… Auras usually it comes in while I’m doing light treatment.” Autumn blinks and jumps back a few steps. With a hand to her mount she finds that she has to exit her dark room.
As the image had defined itself, beside the reeling Spin were three blueish spectres. Gnomes, long dead standing around him, one looking at Autumn. Its eyes were black voids.