Zelch Wheelgreaser walked slowly into his cave, nestled into the cliffs of Shadowmoon Valley overlooking the cold iron beams of The Deathforge. With a word of demonic, green runes hummed to life as the small carved out hovel was illuminated. Wizened beady eyes looked over his home. Various implements, trinkets, soul gems and artifacts cluttered the walls, the most prized placed with care on small crooked shelves jutting from the stone, the rest piled unceremoniously beneath them.
'Modest' was far too kind a description for the place. The warlock doubted it could hold more than three non-goblins comfortably. Any more and he might worry someone would back into the wrong loose stone and they would all be buried alive. Still, it suited his purposes enough for his rituals and experiments, and was a palace compared to his old room in the Undercity.
Cold stone bumped his head as he curled up on the molded blankets. How could anyone live like this? How could HE live like this? He was a master bargainer, he had a mansion for fel's sake! Why was he in a glorified rat's nest in this cursed place, surrounded by those who would inflict torture unending if they knew what he'd done? how could things have gone so WRONG? He had to fix this. He needed to find gold again, get his prestige back, get MORE of it, and make those responsible pay! But to do that, he would need help... he held the black tome in his arms tighter...
A ragged yell brought him back to reality. His guest was waking up.
“...Filth, unworthy scum....release me, and I may show you mercy.... only one hundred years in the pit!”
Zelch smiled congenially, chuckling.
“My, but the Sons of Corrupted Blood do make some willful pawns, don't they?”
He approached the center of the room, normally containing various demonic circles and formulae, currently taken up by one large circle of binding. Inside it was an orc with dark green skin, almost bluish in hue. Much of that skin was covered with eldritch markings proclaiming his loyalty to some demon pathetic enough to consider him worthy of their time. 'Was' being the key word. That same tattooed skin was now blackened and burnt from Zelch's interrogation techniques, but the cultist still locked his gaze with the goblin with his good eye.
The prisoner strained against his magical restraints, bobbing and swinging his head in vain as his legs, arms and wrists held fast.
“We will claim your world for our masters, TRAITOR! The legion will blot out the skies, and we will be rewarded for our service, while the weak will be sacrificed!”
“Oh, well we can't have that, can we?”
The goblin smirked, coming to a stop two feet in front of the orc.
“Masters. Pfft. They're merely tools. Tools that must be treated with respect to be sure, but tools nonetheless. Once you go and start worshiping them, that will only lead to a bad deal.” He sighed. “I suppose goblins learn the importance of such things quicker than others.”
He was floating in flames. It worked! After months of failures, the circles actually worked! He stood up, ignoring the protests from his starving stomach, his feet perched on emptiness as the voice came.
“YOU wish to make a bargain, goblin? What can your pathetic broken shell possibly offer US?”
“I have something for you.” Zelch said, remembering the words that came from his lips not so very long ago. He reached into his robes and pulled out a clear orb, flickers of color dancing along its surface.
“It was taken from a fool In Stranglethorn who thought some magic and wanting were all he needed to win.”
He held it up to the orc, who stared at with a mixture of rage and suspicion.
“Of course, such things are no substitute for real power. In the end, it's inner strength that forges the key to success.”
“It's a fair deal!” He yelled over the roaring flames. “You lend me your aid, teach me your knowledge. In return, you get the destruction and souls you're so fond of, get to play outside the nether. Just follow my orders, you and we all get what we want-
“YOU DARE TO PRESUME YOU CAN COMMAND US? COMMAND WE OF THE LEGION?! YOU ARE NOTHING, LITTLE SPECK. A MORSEL TO BE PICKED CLEAN. A WEAK SOUL MADE FROM WEAK WORDS, ONLY USEFUL AS FUEL FOR TRUE STRENGTH!”
Blinding pain as claws and teeth bit into his flesh. It was all going wrong again. His world was collapsing around him, and nothing he could do could stop it...nothing he could say, no one to help him...but himself. No. He couldn't die here. Not when there was still something he could do. Something he MUST do. His eyes became shadow...”
“I'm afraid my good will has run out, orc. For you and your band of wretches. So I will offer one last deal. Tell me where your leaders are hiding, and I will spare your worthless life. Do not... and I will have run out of words for you, and you will aid me as I see fit.”
The orc replied by spitting in Zelch's face. The warlock frowned, calmly wiped his face with a cloth, and grasped the orb with both hands, slowly feeding a sliver of magic into it. Almost immediately the orb began to shudder, small rays of chromatic light beaming from the orb. Everything the rays touched began to crystallize into statues of their former selves. With another burst of effort, the beams flickered and focused into one direction: the orc's. With a scream of pain and curses, the orc flailed and screeched in demonic, calling whatever servant he could to aid him. It was no use. Those that bothered to answer could not pervade the wards of the circle. With a final gasp, the orc stiffened and was no more, now replaced with a glittering, hardened corpse.
Zelch walked to one of the shelves, putting down the orb.
“Pity. At least you'll fetch a pretty gold piece at market... maybe I'll give you to Grazzug to fill the KMG's coffers.”
“You've lost. For all your boasting of strength, you were not stronger than me. Now your strength is mine. My deal is now whatever I desire, and know that I always honor my deals... one way, or the other.”