Sniffing at the orc woman one last time, Antimony spun on her heel at Dhein's urging and slipped back inside just as she'd left. Once there, she frowned across the room, fingers tapping rapidly against her arms in annoyance. "I do not like this."
Dhein closed the door behind him, locking it, and immediately checking it for holes that someone could peak through. "That did have some unsettling implications, yes."
"Unsettling. Hmph." One foot joined the tapping. "What was she doing in Stormwind in the first place? And to spy on us... how could she know even half of what she spoke of? No, I do not like this. This supposed Arm of Kalimdor..."
"This could be trouble, even if she is making up the bit about arresting us. She's still an orc in a city that orcs don't want us in." He stood with his hands on the door, and looked over his shoulder at Antimony. "Should we ask someone?"
"Perhaps... but if they are real, would that not possibly stir greater suspicion?" Antimony inclined her head, eyes towards the ceiling, lips pursed into a heavy frown. "That orc... I suppose what you saw through the eye was real, then. But no arm of Hellscream's Horde would likely speak with a draenei."
"I think that's a policy debate wholly irrelevant to our current situation." Dhein finally turned from the door to Antimony. "You aren't supposed to be in Orgrimmar, remember? And I likely won't be allowed to hold property here. But we can't just move our work."
"It's relevant in that it is possible she isn't who she says she is." Antimony turned to look towards Dhein. "... But you are right. What are we to do if she does return, but with a force of guards? That door would not hold anyone for long."
"Hm." Dhein stepped back, pulling on his beard and looking at the door as if genuinely considering how it would stand up to a force of orcs. "Might be best to just cooperate in that case."
"Cooperate. I doubt they would let this, let alone us, remain even if we do cooperate." Narrowing her eyes in frustrated thought, Antimony squeezed the thin bridge of her nose between two fingers.
"There's such a thing as cutting our losses." Dhein crossed his arms.
Antimony have turned, looking around the room, spine ramrod straight. "We could send Aztal off with our research papers. Samples. What books he can manage... Then it would be safe at the very least."
"That's a good idea. I'd have to summon him back from the Undercity."
"For now, we will need to rearrange our priorities. Do so."
"Right." Dhein looked once more at the feeble door, and then walked to the shelves of reagents. He took simple chalk, with which to draw a summoning circle.
Antimony moved to their stacks of books and papers and began gathering up their numerous reams of notes, setting them off to one side with a grim expression. "Where should we send him? Corin's Crossing? I hope that woman cannot see that as well..."
"So what if she can? Is she willing to wade through the seas of undead to reach it?" Dhein drew a symbol on one of the only open spots of floor unbroken by roots and weeds.
"I suppose." There were a great many papers, far more than Antimony recalled. She pursed her lips at them and hoped the imp could take them all. Straightening, she left those things to move to the shelves, gathering a number of glass vials in her arms. "If she does return, with guards or without, we should agree on what precisely to speak of to her."
"You mean we need to get our story straight?" Replacing the chalk, Dhein paced back to the symbol he had drawn on the ground. "If we're being spied upon, this may not be the wisest time to cast Fel machinations."
"Perhaps not, but what else are we to do? I will not risk them taking away all of our work."
"I suppose I'm just pointing it out." Dhein extended his hands over the symbol and sent a shock of Fel through the symbol. The oily energy followed the lines, and the chalk darkened.
Vials in arm, Antimony stepped to the central growth of their plant. The shadows that clung to its crevices shivered close against it, and Antimony fancied the brief, illogical notion that it was aware of the current threat. She felt the power stick to her hands as she worked to free a portion of it from the floor into which it had embedded itself. It felt almost like it was seeking refuge in her body. "The simple act of summoning Aztal is rather tame compared to what they seem to suspect. I doubt very much it will affect that woman's feelings on the matter."
Dhein swept the chalk away with his foot, the summoning cast. It was a minor spell at any rate. It would not rip Aztal to his side, simply nudge the imp to return swiftly. "So, as to our story?"
"We will not be able to hide the plant from view." Moving along one twisted vine, she carefully pulled free some of the roots around a budding blossom. "But that woman did not seem at all knowledgeable of it. Perhaps we can take advantage of such and convince her of its innocuous nature."
"If she's any kind of mage she'll be able to discern that the plant has a magical nature. And she seemed to suspect we were working dark magic in here." Dhein kicked the last of the Fel-laced dust beneath the bookshelf. "Preposterous accusation!"
"Extremely. This is a place of study, not some... hub of evil." Antimony's expression soured into one of insult as she moved to another vine and carefully collected another sample.
"And that's our story." Dhein said, pacing back. "The best lies are truths, as they say."
The glass vials clinked in Antimony's hands as she straightened. "I suppose it is the best we can do." Her gaze drifted towards the door for a moment, and then to the vials. She carried them over to the papers she'd set aside and there took up her staff to lean her weight against it.
"We've taken all necessary precautions for our research and it isn't harming anything. We even have the room magically sealed." Dhein gestured out the outskirts of the room where, supposedly, his wards were still fully effective. "That might save us from being arrested, but given the tone of the city, we may still be asked to leave."
"All the more reason for Aztal to take our... what is taking him so long? We've no idea when that woman could be back."
Dhein shrugged. "He does have to travel here from the Eastern Kingdoms. A gracious master grants at least a few minutes travel-time."
Antimony hummed impatiently at that but didn't further protest. She turned to face the room and crossed her arms. A moment later, she uncrossed them to comb worriedly through her still-damp hair. It probably looked like a rat's nest...
"Did you manage to finish your bath?" Dhein perused the books they'd brought, to choose out the most incriminating.
"Enough of it," Antimony muttered. "I'm want to dump the dirty water over her head should that orc return."
"I'm not sure that will earn us any lenience."
"No, but I can imagine it at the very least."
With a shrug, Dhein paced away from the bookshelves arms laden with books. "Imagination is a ladies right. We need to establish a priority on what to be moved first in case the woman returns before we've had a chance to move everything."
Eyes narrowing in thought, Antimony glanced over her shoulder. "Many of your books would likely do more harm than good to their assumptions regarding our actions. But I am loathe to risk losing the plant..."
"We can't move the plant. And I'm sure the odds of our maintaining it are slim if the woman is everything she claims to be. And knows everything she claims to know. Regardless of what books we have in our possession." Dhein began to order the worst of his books from worst to least worst.
"The samples first, then your books." She pursed her lips. "Our notes last. They may even prove useful in demonstrating our academic rigor were they shown."
"Demonstrating that we've been casting Fel enchantments for the purpose of scholarship? Augh." Dhein stopped what he was doing and spun on the room. "Are those weeds still harboring their curses? Just our luck if they were."
Aztal burst into the room in a puff of green and brown flame. He held ancient-looking pages in his hands, their edges curling with dark residue. As soon as he was present, he shook the pages in frustration. "What!"
"Aztal, manners!" Antimony snapped in a harried tone. She gestured towards the vials she'd collected, each containing as much whole plant material as she had been able to salvage. "We may have run into a complication. Take these to Corin's Crossing and then return immediately for more."
Aztal groaned in frustration, shaking the papers and chattering in annoyed Eredun.
"Yes, yes. That's nice, Aztal." Dhein grabbed the imp by one ear and lifted him off the ground. As the imp writhed, throwing pages everywhere, Dhein carried the imp to the vials and deposited him before them. "Expedience is prerequisite. Don't bother with organization. You'll see to that once you've moved everything."
Antimony knelt to gather up the pages Aztal had dropped. They were chill to the touch, and felt so delicate between her fingers that Antimony worried they may crumble to dust at the slightest disturbance. "These should leave with your books as well," she said to Dhein. "Aztal, what are you doing still here? Away."
Dhein gave the imp a kick before pacing to Antimony to take the pages from her. "I'm not even sure what they are. Here, let me see."
Aztal gathered as many vials as he could without dropping any, and then disappeared with a particularly rude chitter.
Antimony stood as she passed the papers to Dhein, glowing eyes glancing over them and frowning at the indiscernible text.
Looking at the pages, Dhein just shook his head. "We'll have to ask Aztal what he was doing later. For now, I'll put these aside."
"Yes, now about those enchantments..." Antimony huffed in annoyance. "What a disruption to our research... We'll need to dispel them, though. At the least, yours."
"Best case scenario, it's an experiment we can do again." Dhein gestured to the plants. "You may do the honors, however. Practitioners of Fel often lack the necessary skills to dispel their own curses."
Inclining her head, Antimony stifled the hesitation in her voice to speak, "Of course." She took up her staff again, sparing a moment to look over the knotted wood, dark fibers braided into it and sprouting tiny flowers. Her eyes settled on the obscured crystal at its terminus, and her lips pressed together in unhappy anticipation.
For more than one reason, it was best to get this done quickly. She stepped towards the outgrowth Dhein had cast his curse of tongues upon and lifted her staff slightly in front of her. Dispelling magic required little prayer but high potency of concentration of will. Her muscles tensed as she called for the Light that would charge the fleeting spell, and she nearly staggered at the unexpected intensity of the fire that touched inside her. Her eyes widened, the light in them flaring briefly, and then the empty chill rolled over the Light she had sought to summon to her, engulfing it as a fog. The spell had already formed in her mind, though, and so it continued into the focus, only born not by Light but by the thick shadow. It melted over the curse, engulfing it and then blending back into the aura of the room.
Antimony stood still for a moment - the whole thing lasted only tens of seconds - and then shook herself. "It is done. Our spy will get no evidence of Fel activities from this." She frowned then. "What of your runes?"
"Those are a bit more difficult to erase." Dhein said, looking over his tomes once more. "Even if I erased the marks, the Fel leaves permanent scars in the surface on which a spell is cast."
"And from how she spoke of it, she already knows where to look," Antimony muttered. "There is nothing for it. We will simply need to explain them as they apply to our studies."
"Which they do." Dhein turned round, looking the room over. "Though, she sounded as though she was likely to take the business with the Eye personally."
"It is through no transgression of ours that she was lurking in Stormwind at the time. And it is not as though we harmed anyone." Antimony huffed.
"Possible we saw something we shouldn't have, though?"
"We hardly saw anything but those shadows you spoke of, and... that human thief." Antimony's lips twitched downward. "If reassurance of that sort is what that spy is looking for, I am certain we can offer it."
Dhein lifted an eyebrow. "Have you ever known an orc to be satisfied with reassurance?"
Antimony threw up one hand. "If you have an effective way of deflecting that woman, then by all means please, share it with me."
"None that are morally acceptable." The Sin'Dorei shrugged.
"Do not tempt me," Antimony muttered, but shook her head. "... I suppose we must simply... see what the future holds for that particular detail."
"Such passivity has never served the Sin'Dorei well."
"There is no denying that we sent an Eye out. We can, however, question her perceptions of it. What else is there for us to do, Dhein?"
The man shook his head and shrugged. "I'm simply trying to leave myself open to out-of-the-box thinking. Some clever use of spell that we can use, or a mundane ruse."
"I refuse to become a criminal while attempting to avoid arrest." Antimony shook her head, but then paused. "Though... I suppose we could simply tell her we saw nothing. That we simply thought the spell had failed."
"Do you think we can pull something like that over on an orc who somehow know we were held captive in Northwatch?"
"Surely she can't know every detail."
Dhein straightened an eyebrow. "If it's what you want to try, then I'll-"
He was interrupted by a violent puff of green flame, Aztal appearing empty-handed to gather more vials.
Watching the imp and ignoring his chattering, Dhein continued. "Then I'll go along with it. Things can't get much worse for being caught lying, I suppose."
"Ah, Aztal, manage a few of those books if you can," Antimony called out to the imp, brow furrowing. "Here, you can use my bag..." Stepping forward, she swept up the leather satchel she used for just about everything, checked its contents, and then to Dhein, "Which ones should we be rid of first?"
"The topmost books. I've put the most terrible among them at the top." He picked up a few of the books and dumped them in Antimony's satchel.
Aztal grumped in alternating language, tossed vials in, and grabbed at the bag.
"Aztal, be careful with those! Making haste does not allow for damage to our possessions," Antimony warned, but she didn't try and slow the imp further, letting him take the bag from her. She straightened and set her hands upon her hips. "... I do not like this waiting game," she muttered.
The imp vanished with the bag.
"That's why they say things like that. So that we feel the pressure of waiting." Dhein, in contrast to Antimony, appeared annoyingly relaxed. "But more waiting means more items moved."
Humming lowly to herself, Antimony turned one way and then the other, before finally stilling and folding her arms across her chest. Her brow pulled down into a worried frown.
Dhein paced to the perimeter of the room, pulling on its beard. "I have to wonder at the method of spying. The wards I placed should have prevented most magical seeing."
"There were no wards in the Barrens," Antimony muttered. "But then... how would she have known to look there in the first place."
"Scrying must be precise." Dhein walked the length of the room multiple times. "One can scry a person, a place, an object. A name in the vaguest of spells. But one cannot search blindly. Except with an Eye, and that's nothing but vision."
Antimony frowned. "Do you think she knew of us - our names - since... over a year ago? That seems rather unlikely..."
"I doubt it." Dhein looked towards Antimony. "As long as we're concealing our research and planning our lies, are we sure we don't know anyone we can ask consul about this? We've been isolated for a long time. That may not be wise of us."
Antimony was quiet for a moment, empty eye sockets flickering with thought. "I cannot think of... perhaps one of the Outriders? They treated us well in the past, despite our only tangential connection. But... ah, they are quite far from here, and I'm not sure what help they could lend."
"They could tell us if this 'Arm of Kalimdor' -- silly, vague name -- is an actual entity. If they know. Perhaps they could do more!" Dhein tugged on his beard. "Perhaps my daughter, upon hearing that I am threatened, will have a rush of familial inspiration and come to our aide."
"I am not sure how likely the latter is," Antimony muttered, but then louder, "How would we reach them? A letter would take time we likely do not have, even if we could manage to get it out safely."
"We could divert Aztal?"
"It's important that we get more of these books to safety, though..." Antimony's mouth twisted. "I suppose we could send them along with him."
Dhein shrugged calmly, but continued his frustrated pacing. "Are they still based in Thunder Bluff?"
"As... far as I know. I suppose we haven't put as much effort as we could have in keeping up with acquaintances..."
Exhaling a sigh, Dhein circled back. "Professional and personal connections are a resource that must be cultivated. Without such, we have little sway in events such as this."
"It's useless to dwell on should haves," Antimony huffed and tapped her fingers against her staff. Then she was hastening to the table to take up parchment and pen. "We'll send Aztal along with a note as soon as he returns. And fill the bag, for efficiency's sake."
Dhein turned to face the room. "I wonder if we can hide things behind the shelves. That would probably be too obvious."
"And with that woman's magic senses? Even moreso." Bending over the table, Antimony began to pen a very brief and direct note to whichever Outrider received it first.
"What an annoyance." Dhein groaned at the roof. "There must be some way to evade this woman's baseless aggression."
"Evade, perhaps not. Defuse? We shall see." Signing the note, Antimony took a moment to fold it into a precise square.
Aztal burst back into the room far from empty handed. He carried three satchels now, all empty. How the imp intended to carry three full satchels, Dhein could not imagine. That would be several times the imp's weight.
"Ah, Aztal, how enterprising of you." Antimony's mouth quirked, appreciative where Dhein was dubious. "We've another errand for you to perform before you deliver the next batch. It's very urgent that," she held the folded parchment towards the imp, "this make it to the hands and eyes of an Outrider. Perhaps Miss, ah... Kiraleen? Or any of the others, really. Someone should be in Thunder Bluff. And please, wait for their reply and bring it to us."
Aztal threw the bags down in disgust. "Never good enough!" Then he snatched the letter and vanished.
Dhein chuckled at that.
"Ah Aztal, wait! You were to take--" Antimony lifted one hand, but the imp was already gone. "... oh bother. Well, I hope he is quick."
Smirking despite the situation, Dhein offered, "He was quick leaving here. Perhaps he'll be quick leaving there as well."
"Perhaps.... Ah, I can hardly stand this waiting!" Antimony paced away from the table to stand in the middle of the room. One foot tapped.
"Should we do something to pass the time?" Dhein paced a circle around the plant at the center of the room.
"If we don't, I may go mad," Antimony muttered, tapping her fingers against her staff in a precise rhythm, counting the beats between them.
The man pondered. "My thoughts are disorganized. Do we have measurements that we should be taking?"
"There remains the enchantment I put upon our test subject," Antimony mused.
"It would be a shame if we missed important data because of this distraction." Dhein paced to the table where the papers and books had been stacked. "Did we send those notes with Aztal yet?"
Antimony's lips pursed. "No. He must return first."
Dhein sought it among the papers Antmony had stacked. "We might as well fill out as completely as possible."
Glancing over her shoulder towards Dhein, Antimony watched him in terse silence for a few seconds before nodding to herself. Wrapped feet shuffled quietly across the floor to where she had placed the enchantment upon an outgrowth of plant matter. A small flower had blossomed there and had begun to spread its own viney tendrils outward. "The more data we collect now, the easier it will be to rebuild, should we need to," Antimony agreed.
Taking out what looked like the appropriate notes, Dhein then sought a writing instrument. "I think we're starting to sound kind of pessimistic. We should try to sound cheerful and nothing-to-hide when the woman returns."
"Somehow I do not think that will sway her," Antimony replied mildly, and then shook her head. "Alright, alright. Bright and sunny. Hm." Not checking to see if Dhein was ready, she lifted her staff in front of her and extended her will out over the enchantment, feeling out its status carefully.
Dhein placed the notes on the table in front of him, taking up a pen in his hand and glancing over at Antimony. "I'm ready. I will try to imitate your note-taking form as closely as I can. Assuming you can... communicate your findings verbally?" He returned his gaze to the page, suddenly unsure what was even being measured and how.
"Initial observations first. The enchantment is still present, but I detect very little of the original magic in place. The ratio could be calculated if..." She trailed off and pursed her lips in thought. "... 30:70, original to... I suppose this is the plant's magic."
"Alright." Dhein wrote that down where he thought most appropriate.
Nodding to herself, Antimony maintained her focus on the enchantment and the part of the plant it lay over. Very carefully she sought to tease out where it began and the ambient energies of the plant ended. This required a lengthy period of silent concentration.
"Song dogs barking at the break of dawn, lightning pushes the edges of a thunder storm. And these streets, quiet as a sleeping army, send their battered dreams to heaven."