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  1. Today
  2. Some call my playstyle trolling, yes. But everything I said is true.
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  4. A familiar dwarf has made his way round the streets of Alliance held cities and to the door steps of various groups under the blue banner. The soldier bears the colors of the Dusk Watch and while his tabard may be patched and faded, he wears it proudly. The warrior speaks briefly, but surely. "Friends and comrades, I come to you seeking aid. We have two great enemies threatening our homes. It has been our ideal in the Watch to vanguard our lands and protect our people. While we are unwavering in our duty, the lads and I can do little else on our own. We're spread thin, as I know many of us are. So ae've come to you now seeking volunteers to build a force that can retaliate against our enemy as we must." "I seek noble souls who are willing to put themselves on the line to beat back the Legion. I ask for those who wish to fight the Horde where the Alliance calls for us to do so. What I do not ask, is for you to give up your allegiances. I believe that we must stand united, but we must do so proud of who we are. I ask for your volunteers and I ask they bear your standards and colors proudly." "We will fight our enemies where we must. Be hammer and shield as we are called to be. Victory for Azeroth, the Alliance, and her many Peoples!" A short moment passes before he adds. "I will also be supplying free ale for just showing up to the first gathering." He nods as if this was the biggest selling point before stepping back to signal he was done. Upon the end of his speech, the dwarf then leaves a few fliers. He pardons himself and begs forgiveness for any trespasses he gives as he makes his way in and out before finding himself on the road to the next settlement. ---- OoC So hi everybody. Now that I've gotten settled back in I'd like to welcome you all to a series of events I would like to host to promote more Roleplaying and activity, incorporating other parts of the game, on the Alliance side. Mostly it's an excuse to organize fun stuff for a larger group without asking to break up guilds and form new factions. The first few events will almost assuredly be Pure RP events with a potential for Duels. Later I would like to set up events for PVE Instances against the Legion and running classics for Transmog gear or just for fun and plot, as well as PVP Instances and World Raid events against the Horde. There will also still be pure RP events beyond the first few "Staging" events. Crafting and Cooking events, because that's important to a fighting force. Especially the latter half. First event sign ups will be held in Dun Morogh at 7 Server Time on July 13th, right where we have our Brewfest set up every year. Feel free to send me mail or whispers in game or on Discord if you have questions or suggestions. I hope to see you all here or there. Have a great day!
  5. Antagonist Types ===================================================== This one is kind of going to be a listicle and I kind of apologize for that. But I do want to stick up for the format a bit just from the perspective of the helpfulness of categorization. In fact, from my perspective, this whole exercise is one massive effort to help me compartmentalize my own thoughts and understanding when it comes to storytelling. Without it, a lot of these principles are kind of lost to the Aether and don't get condensed into any kind of tangible thought or meaning. My other disclaimer about this is that I don't think you should work hard to categorize the characters in your story. This is built to be helpful more than anything else, so if you have a villain that doesn't match up with the list that I'm about to write out, that's OK. These are a number of different types that I see and am sensitive to, but I'm sure there are plenty who deserve to be added that I haven't thought of. On top of that, be prepared for the list to best villains to live in a few different categories at once. The best of them will likely pull from a few different categories all at once, though I also think there's something to be said for a deep dive into the sole category one at a time as necessary. OK wait one more preamble: I just want to recap what I think the antagonist is in a story. So, obviously, the antagonist is the character that fights against the heroes, right? The one that directly competes against the protagonist and his goals. But that's the basic shit, the real meat of what defines an antagonist and what makes most antagonists great is that their character is a contrast for the hero. The protagonist's arc, which is loosely that they have a flaw and then must overcome it in order to achieve their goals, is a dark reflection of the antagonist's lack of an arc. The antagonist has a flaw too, but instead of overcoming it and changing for the better, they recommit to their flaw over and over again and that action contributes heavily to their defeat. All of that said, this doesn't mean that antagonists don't change. They just don't change in the same way that protagonists do, by fundamentally rewriting themselves for the better. Antagonists don't change as much as they adapt. They change up their battle plan, learn new skills, acquire new information, in fact, they're typically quite good at this. But to the story, all of that is surface stuff. The soul of the antagonist is wounded and bleeding and he can be clever, strong, influential, all of the things that our hero isn't and still come up short because he walks into the final fight with a gaping wound. All of this said, and I think this is super crucial to creating a really powerful, interesting villain, they do not lose because of their flaw. Villains that self destruct on their own are not interesting. In fact, they're lethal to good RP because people don't want to fight them. Villains are brittle. They are sturdy enough in a vacuum and in a world without the hero, they accomplish their goals with flying colors. But in a world with a hero, the disruption that hero causes and the sledgehammer he takes to the brittle antagonist cause the whole thing to come crumbling down. Ok, ok, ok, one more note: I've actually divided this list into two pieces. From my point of view, there are actually two types of antagonists. There are antagonists as characters, who are essentially designed as above and have all the other traits of characters in your story, but there are also what I call "Force of Nature" antagonists, who are less characters in their own right and more primal, fundamental forces that act contrary to the protagonist's interests. They're a bit more of a grab bag and in some rare cases you can have things straddle the line, but for the most part Force of Nature protagonists are allowed to break a lot of rules that I've otherwise set out before now. The trick with Force of Nature protagonists is to make up the difference with clever plotting, heavy use of surrogate characters, and stark contrast between the antagonist and the protagonist. The Joker is a fantastic example here: his plans are usually twisted and complex, he carries around famous flunkies that actually are true characters (here's looking at you, Harley Quinn,) and his cruel love of chaos and torturous death stand in marked contrast to everything Batman stands for. If you don't do these things, however, you're going to get hit hard, because even if you intend for a character to be a Force of Nature, the default of any audience or RPer is going to view this character as a character. And if your audience does this, they'll only see the antagonist as a flat, one dimensional character with no interest or investment. Anyway, here is the list upfront before I dig deeper: The Anti-Villain The Tyrant The Bully The Corrupted The Outlaw The Mirror The Liar The Mastermind The Henchman The Beast The Machine The Disturbed Mother Nature The Other The Anti-Villain I wanted to start here because these guys are frequently my favorite kinds of antagonists and it's my thread and I can do what I want. In the same way that an Anti-Hero is a hero that takes on some of the aspects of a villain (typically, compromising on their principles to accomplish their goals; heroes tend to sacrifice a lot to remain ideologically pure) an anti-villain is one that takes on aspects of the hero. This kind of comes in two flavors: a devil working on the side of the angels or a villain that acts and behaves like a protagonist. The first of these is typified when someone goes to work with the evil in order to accomplish the good, and almost always is a stepping stone to the bigger bad. A lot of the time, this is someone that's been thoroughly set up as evil beforehand, but the circumstances have changed and so these unlikely allies need to team up in order to accomplish what they want to accomplish. Hannibal Lector is the obvious example here, a thoroughly despicable person who Clarice needs in order to find and defeat Buffalo Bill. The second of these is when you change up those antagonist rules that I hit on before. If you have an antagonist that realizes their flaws and corrects on them, typically during the climax, typically when shown the devastation they cause by the protagonist, you've got an anti-villain. The operative trait to the Anti-Villain is empathy. Every character should at least be a little sympathetic, (definitions: Sympathy is when you understand how someone feels; Empathy is when you feel what someone feels.) but not all character is deserving of empathy. Most antagonists get a sympathetic reason for what they're doing because it displays motivation and textures why they're doing what they're doing. But Empathy gets used for the villain sparingly, only if you want to highlight the tragedy of a particular villain or offer them some form of redemption. (There's a third version, by the by, where you use empathy with the villain to drive changes to the hero, but that's not really in the purview of the Anti-Villain.) If you want to make a solid anti-villain, make them empathetic. Something that the viewer can invest and relate to like they do the protagonist, even just a bit. I know I quoted Hannibal Lector as one of these up there, but he's kind of the exception to this rule. Prince Zuko in Avatar, on the other hand, is a much better example, but you also see this among minor villains a lot, too. In the movie, Avatar, Tsu Tey is initially distrustful of the humans and Jake and displays that racism towards Jake commonly. By the end, though, Jake and Tsu Tey fight together against the oncoming humans. This kind of minor turn from early story antagonist to later story ally is a common version of the Anti-Villain. The Tyrant The Tyrant is a villain who is motivated by control. In most scenarios, the tyrant will weaponize things that people might otherwise be trained to trust in society, and he plays on the fear that the society you build your life on can be co opted against you. More directly, he will attack your freedom, trying to oppress you into submission to his agenda and, ultimately, his control. Undermining the foundation of a society to create a villain is powerful and many, many tyrants don't belong to any other category on this list because all they need is this aspect to function well. tyrants are the ultimate "Lawful Evil" enemy, typically willing to be stout and principled in order to accomplish their goals. They keep their word, are trustworthy, but their desires are almost always defined by fighting for control of something. The weakness to tyrants will always been their own oppressive ways. Freedom, in basically every story, is a good thing that we all value, and so a tyrant depriving the protagonist, the world, anyone really of their freedom typically dismantles the power structure that he's using to be so oppressive in the first place. While government is typically the weapon of choice, a tyrant can be a villain just by manipulating any existing power structure. John Wick fights against a tyrant villain in both of his movies, even though the power structure he's propped up on is the honor among thieves that comes in that world's criminals. Tyrants desire control and assault freedom. They weaponize rules and structure and systems, and can typically only be defeated by someone who defies those. The Bully The Bully is defined by cruelty and malice. Any character that sadistically gets joy out of inflicting pain and suffering (or really any kind of negativity) is a character that is a bully. Many villains have flavors of bully-ism, because bullies are easy pathos engendering tons of hate, but true bullies are just looking for the rush of power that comes with beating someone. Typically, a Bully will start by beating up the hero, only to be defeated in the end once our protagonist completes his journey and wins the rematch. Bullies tend to be more raw emotionally than other forms of antagonists, letting their anger, fear, contempt, disgust and other negative emotions dictate their behavior and they wear both those emotions and that behavior on their sleeves. Creating a bully villain may sound boring, but it's much more engaging than you think. Bullies, by their nature, engender far, far more tension and catharsis than other antagonists because they are so vile and hated by the players. Do not shy away from this. It is the point. You make a bully because you want the players to feel really good for stopping someone who is so fundamentally evil and awful. It's why they're flamboyant about their evil. It's why the things to emphasize are raw cruelty and malice. I also want to mention that bullies don't have to be stupid, and though they are fueled by their emotions, they shouldn't be ruled by them necessarily. Creating a big bully with no nuance might generate a lot of tension, but it's not the most engaging material on the planet. And just because bullies are fundamentally motivated by low level sadism in a lot of ways doesn't mean they can't have real, tangible goals. Giving the bully real goals, especially real goals that allow him to oppress a large variety of people, will also give your story weight and stakes so make sure you don't let that kind of thing slide because it's so easy to pump out pathos with a bully. The Corrupted One who was once good is now bad. That's the hook that draws people into the The Corrupted antagonist and it's a powerful drug. The corrupted naturally creates incredibly complex and compelling relationships with every protagonist in your story, though typically one more than others. Because the Corrupted experiences some fall from grace in one way or another, they are a reaction, a response, to some way of thinking. The Corrupted is defined by how he got to the position that he got to, and defining where he fell from allows you to loop in and around to your protagonist's throughline. A common (but not universal) version of the corrupted is a dark, twisted mirror of your protagonist and where he or she comes from. But the important part of that mirror isn't the reflection, it's the timeshifting nature of it, because when you use the Corrupted this way, you can't help but suggest: "This could be your future" to that character. I'm trying to steer clear of too many references because so many characters blur the lines between types, but when Luke sees his face in Vader's helmet in Episode 5, when Luke compares his robotic hand to his father's robotic pieces? That's the powerful empathetic payoff that you can get with a Corrupted character. While I love this specific usage of it because it adds so much contrast to the protagonist and their struggle and journey, you can also use it to comment on themes rather than character. A story where your villain tries a philosophy and fails and further embraces whatever ethos now drives him, you're now subjecting the whole story to some added layer of philosophical rigor. This villain didn't just stumble on his evil ways, he was taught them by his own mistakes and failures, and your ability to display that process, even as a piece of exposition and backstory, allows you to communicate in more nuances ways with your audience about the themes you're trying to get across. Why is whatever thought your story embodies so fundamental? How much has it been tested? What happens if alternates fail and what is appealing about other avenues to that outcome? If your story comes down to testing two warring ideologies against one another (think big about ideologies. Politics often get a lot of credit, but those are only a fraction of the ideologies out there that your story can or should comment on) then, your story will implicitly come down on the side of the protagonist's ideology rather than the antagonist's. What the corrupted allows you to do is add a third motivator to that whole process. Some ideology that has also failed, but in the past, and the protagonist gets to ricochet off that and define himself and his beliefs in a more complex web. The corrupted gets a lot of use, but the key to making it stick is understanding the value of exposition and backstory. You can't sink your whole story explaining your antagonist's corruption. Pick and choose your battles. Be deliberate and precise and don't let your exposition get in the way of the story you want to tell. The Outlaw In most ways, the Outlaw represents the opposite anxiety as the Tyrant. The Tyrant is the fear of what happens when the systems you rely on to protect you are instead weaponized to oppress you. The Outlaw is the fear of what happens when instead of those systems becoming too powerful and overbearing, they become too weak and apathetic. The Outlaw preys on our fear of chaos and the deep depravity that all people are capable of if only they choose it. The bully is also depraved, but what the Outlaw attacks more than the bully is the weak impotence of our society, the complete inability for us to truly keep that depravity from coming out when someone just refuses to obey our laws and social morays, instead choosing to transgress on all of our traditions and taboos. Because the Outlaw is so thoroughly defined by his relationship to lawlessness and chaos, the protagonist he fights typically ends up standing for law and order, even despite himself and his intentions. He is, by his very nature, a weapon of the status quo and normality fighting against the disruptive abnormality of the Outlaw's agenda, whatever it is. Typically, stories with an Outlaw as their villain double down on his chaos by incorporating that kind of reckless unpredictability into his character. Because an Outlaw doesn't follow our social constructs, his character doesn't necessarily follow our logic. He will shoot his henchmen to barely prove a point, make wildly irrational or erratic decisions which throw everyone else off-guard and give him an edge. Frequently, this is his power. On top of that, the Outlaw also has a particular talent for hiding from and inside of the communities and societies that he's going after. Because the society is so weak as to be unable to stop him, he can also choose to wear its trappings and appear to be one of its members as easily as he defies it and destroys it. In fact, this contrast typically helps him dodge and evade his captors just as well as hiding on the outskirts of society. The Outlaw is nimble, but he needs to play off of a community in order to be at his best. What the Outlaw is really fighting over, at the end of the day, is that society and what the protagonist needs to do in order to defeat him, is empower and protect that society. If you have an Outlaw as your antagonist, don't shy away from incorporating the society into your story and his character: you'll need it. The Mirror Ok, I basically love all of these archetypes. The Mirror is the kind of villain that is a reflection of the hero, but perverted in some sense. Honestly, there are so many examples out there, but typically the mirror comes in one of two varieties: the equal opposite or the polar opposite. The equal opposite is when a hero faces against someone that has the same set of skills and abilities as them. Superheroes are the easiest way to frame this, so: Sinestro is the mirror to Green Lantern (they both create constructs), Bizarro is the mirror to Superman (his name is also used as a euphamism for this archetype sometimes) and the Reverse Flash is, you guessed it, the mirror to the Flash. (For quick marvel versions: Spiderman::Venom, Wolverine::Sabertooth, Dr Strange::Baron Mordo) The Polar opposite is when the superhero and villain have fundamentally juxtaposed powersets. (Superman::Lex Luthor is the obvious one, but there are plenty of more subtle options. Captain Cold::The Flash, for instance, or Black Manta::Aquaman) In essence, the point of the mirror is comparing and contrasting the hero to the mirror in terms of ability. I mention "ability" because it's not about the high level thematic stuff. Look, if your villain isn't a comment on your hero and vice versa, if they don't spark off one another when you rub them together, then they are not suited for your story. But most narratives include the hero having a set of skills to get ahead or learning a set of skills that he uses to succeed in his tasks. The Mirror is either about giving the villain those exact same skills and watching the hero duke it out with someone on an equal footing OR about juxtaposing the heroes strengths and the villains' strengths. Loki is a threat to Thor not because he can punch Thor real good, but because he is a master of deception when Thor is upright and honest. The Green Goblin, on the other hand, is NOT a mirror to Peter Parker. Even though they contrast a lot thematically (there's a reason Peter looks up to Norman before his fall in plenty of cases) they're using pretty fundamentally different powersets to get where they're going. While many of these archetypes are very thematic, character driven ideas driven by those two things going hand in hand (Like, once you understand that an Outlaw villain is about the fear of the system not protecting you, the rest is pretty much cake) the Mirror is very plot driven (hence why it's so popular in plot focused comic books.) The Mirror is about making the struggle between protag and antag interesting from a plot perspective. How does Superman defeat General Zod when he's just as powerful and demonstrates all of the same abilities? That's an engaging question to ask, but it's a plot question. How Superman does defeat Zod is a plot answer, not a thematic one. So, quickly, the equal opposite typically demands a hero adopt and embrace his failures and shortcomings to attack his doppelganger. Kryptonite hurts Superman, but it also hurts Zod. Because the antagonist has the same powerset, the hero needs to be introspective, think about his own flaws and weaknesses and accept them, then use that introspection to defeat his enemy. The polar opposite typically demands the same thing, but it's only because that's the point that the polar opposite attacks. Thor is too trusting of his brother and his honor and integrity can be taken advantage of. He needs to recognize when he's being played in order to defeat Loki, otherwise, he'll keep exploiting his brother's good nature to foul ends. Many times in a story, this gets paired with the arc of the protagonist recognizing their crucial flaw and correcting upon it. The polar opposite attacks the flaw and defeats the hero. The hero realizes that he has a flaw, and this was what allowed him to fail. He corrects upon that flaw and confronts the villain, defeating them because he is no longer vulnerable. The Liar This one is interesting for a few reasons. One, because it's a more gender neutral version of the femme fatale, which is probably the better/more well known term for this if one doesn't dwell on the gender exclusivity of it. But The Liar is one of the few archetypes that hits on more than a few levels. Like, the Mirror is an archetype defined more by plot and character than by theme, whereas the Corrupted is defined by its relationship to other characters and their themes. In essence, The Mirror and the Corrupted are two sides of the same coin, one of them typically examining the the worldview and ethos of a character (its themes) and the other examining how that character moves through the world and the story (its plot.) The Liar, though, encompasses all of three and really carries a ton of baggage into any given scenario. Liars are so good at deception and deceit that they're actually straddling the line between protagonist and antagonist for most stories and frequently swap sides. After all, when the core of your character is treachery, it makes a frightening amount of sense that The Liar would betray one side for another. The Liar plays on three things. First, it defines the Liar's ability set as deceit and trickery. For very literal metaphors of this, Loki in the Avengers (but mostly the Thor movies) uses illusions as his primary skill to defeat an opponent. Moving through the plot doesn't require just action, of course, and in political dramas the Liar's ability to lie doesn't manifest in combat the same way, but it's illustrative of how Liars use lies to accomplish their goals. Secondly, their characters and relationships are defined by being closed off from others. They are not open or honest or direct, they are closed off and don't easily establish relationships onscreen. In fact, typically they establish close relationships off-screen only. Lastly, their themes are always revolving around the concept of honesty. In many instances, it's about how lying comes back to bite you and leads to your downfall, but it can also be about how refusing to open up with someone keeps you from gaining allies to defeat your foes, or how leading from a position of distrust fosters distrust and disloyalty in those who follow you. There's a lot to explore with liar characters, including breaking down how they lie to an audience, but it'll almost always revolve back to a comment on the truth and honesty. The Mastermind This one's got a bad title, and that's a bit on me, but the Mastermind is pulled dutifully from the City of Villains class of the same name. In the game, you got to carry around a bunch a little bros that wailed on kids for you and let me be the first to tell you that it is the most fantastic feeling to deploy your minions like a true evil mastermind. Whereas many of the above define themselves relatively to the state of the hero's affairs, like how The Mirror ends up being a direct comment on the Hero's ability set or The Corrupted can be a dark reflection of their ethos, the Mastermind defines himself more by his relationship to other villains than to any of the other characters. They tend to be manipulative and domineering, bending their more powerful or useful lieutenants to their will in one variety or another, which is almost always a weakness that gets attacked of theirs. Turning a powerful minion against the villain is a pretty fantastic way to defeat any given Mastermind. Typically, this is because the Hero displays some warmth or empathy when the Mastermind has been withholding and distant, but it can play in plenty of different ways. The Hero can compromise their morals and overthrow the Mastermind for the Minion because of a personal vendetta, even if the long lasting consequences are relatively similar, or The Hero can be the one tricking the henchmen into defeating the honest and forthright Mastermind. Those kinds of subversions are rare, but they do happen. You want to use the Mastermind to introduce factions outside the binary of the antagonist/protagonist, but still on the same spectrum as them. Sometimes, this gets used to create compromise. Neither the villain nor the hero are 100% right, here, and instead of trying to show one's dominance over the other, you use a third party (a villain that swaps sides) to embody some kind of compromise. This is honestly pretty complex, so there aren't a ton of places for it, but it's the perfect way to add some depth to the themes that drive your characters. All of a sudden, you get some new perspectives that are inherently tied to the plot of the story. What this also gets used for pretty commonly is having a dynamic character that goes through a change that ISN'T your protagonist. Sometimes, protagonists don't need to change. They're people who show up on the scene, are basically fine the way they are, but if you don't show change anywhere, your story is all of a sudden flat. Villains don't change. Heroes need to. That's why I said all that stuff about the protagonist and his flaws. But if you're choosing not to listen to me and want a protagonist that doesn't have an arc, you can use this archetype to create an intermediary character who does have one to give the audience something on the character side to show them the progression of the story from one state to another. Redeeming whomever from the bad side to the good side gets to be the mainline character arc of your story, it's just happening to a supporting character because the mainline characters shouldn't be changing. By the by, you can do this same thing from the protagonist's perspective if you want and it's just as engaging, though fairly challenging. The Henchman In some ways, the Henchman is the other half of the Mastermind archetype from above. Obviously, they go hand in hand and the Henchmen is the character that adopts the character arc, swaps sides, is the downfall of the mastermind, etc. But the Henchmen is not ONLY defined by being the other side of that coin. The henchmen also refers to any villain who has a boss. Most of the villain archetypes I've discussed so far don't have bosses. They're in it for themselves and are motivated to action by non-characters, typically items (McGuffins!) or goals that they are looking to attain and achieve. Henchmen are not. Henchmen, in most instances, are motivated by other characters, typically up the villain totem pole from them, but also their peers in a kind of "competition for approval" sense like Kylo Ren and General Hux in The Force Awakens. These characters are being driven by the pressure they're receiving from their superiors, and typically take out any frustration they're feeling on the protagonist and resort more and more to drastic measures to compensate for the weight of consequences on them if they fail. If you ever ask yourself "well, if Antagonists are the ones that reinvest themselves in their failure over and over again, why would they do that?" Because the threat of failure and the pressure they're receiving is so great that it's warping their priorities. They're so petrified of coming up short in front of their boss, that they HAVE to keep gunning down the strategy that they've been gunning down. Hell, in many circumstances, it's not even their strategy, it's their superior's, and they're dogmatically executing it even though it is flawed because even refusing to accept the boss' plan is failure. This is the tragedy and dimension that you get to easily adopt with a Henchman villain. By the way, there are absolutely henchman villains who are motivated more by concepts than anything else. A detective hunting down your fugitive characters is an antagonist, and maybe even a cruel, nasty, corrupt guy, but he's a "henchman" to the system that your hero has attacked. This sort of conceptually driven henchman is more rare, but it's possible when you want to see your character squeezed by the forces that rule over him. The Beast Alright, so here we're getting away from Character Villains and into Force of Nature villains. Like I said above, Force of Nature villains aren't really characters; they're almost walking plot generators in a lot of cases, moving and working the plot but devoid of humanizing things like personalities or character arcs. The Beast, to start them off, is one of the most straightforward character arcs. Typically, the Beast is an animal, but any creature mindlessly dedicated to the hunt of the protagonist counts easily. The Beast is driven by instinct, the most primal of the most primal. He has no other motivation than "whatever the protagonist is, it's something to be killed and consumed." Sometimes, the Beast is driven by its territory being invaded, but even that's too comfortably human for most of them. At the end of the day, most Beasts are looking to strip the meat off your bones and fill his belly. The Trick to the Beast is that the protagonist can't 1v1 them in almost any circumstance. Because the Beast lacks a true intelligence to maneuver and manipulate like a conscious being, the main juxtaposition between The Beast and the protagonist is one is capable of cognition and the other isn't. If your protagonist can defeat the Beast in a fist fight, there's no stakes. But if the only way your protagonist can win is by luring the Beast into some elaborate trap, or by trying to find some elaborate power up that allows them to face the Beast on equal footing (a journey that's got to take AT LEAST the first two acts to find) then you get a satisfying conclusion to this thing. The secret to the Beast in most instances is a wide cast of supporting characters (people for it to hunt) and interesting and clever plotting. What kinds of abilities does your Beast possess? How do those abilities influence its decisionmaking processes? How can you use the Beast's abilities to create interesting and unique situations for your characters to face down? These two are going to come up a lot, because when you've got something that doesn't function like a character in one of two key spots for characters, you need to fill that gap with something. And if you can't keep folks engaged with nuanced emotion or complex psyches, keep them on their toes with a nailbiter plot. The Machine The machine is also another Force of Nature, mostly because the set of character traits that make him up make him definitionally not a character. The machine has no emotions, often time, no ethos. It does what it is programmed to do, whether or not that's good or evil, right or wrong. It can't even be discontent with its slavery to its programming. Discontent is an emotion that it cannot feel. Neither is compassion. Neither is mercy. This emotionlessness, this soullessness is the heart of a machine antagonist. Anything that feels? Not a machine. It's that absense of emotion that defines the machine, because emotion gives way to pathos which allows both the player and the characters to empathize. When villains get their pathos speech where they talk about why they're doing what they're doing, what broken people they are because of whatever reason they're so broken, that allows both the audience and the other characters in the story to connect in some way with the antagonist. A lot of the time, that connection is crucial to showing your protagonist as a compassionate, empathetic person. But a machine can't get that. It does not have that option. It is coldly logical, hyper-rational, making whatever decisions it needs to to fulfill the programming aims that it's been given rather than making on its own. This is the threat that a machine poses. Often times, the Machine needs an explicit set of abilities that are superior to the protagonist by obvious default. In the same way that a protagonist might need to lure a Beast into a trap to get things on equal footing, they'll have to do the same with the Machine. But unlike the Beast, where its inability to perform higher cognition is made up with its overpowered ability set, the Machine needs that overpowered ability set for a thematic reason: it has to play on the audience's latent fear at being outmoded and replaced by something inherently superior to it. Stronger. Tougher. Faster. Smarter. This is the tension that gets created when a human character goes up against a Machine antagonist. It both creates stakes and feeds into the catharsis at the Machine's defeat at the end of the story. The Disturbed This archetype is the one that hits humans most often, whereas the machine, Beast, Mother Nature, they all tend to exist outside of humanity. The disturbed covers characters that aren't just like "psychopaths" or "sociopaths" in the interesting Hannibal Lector sense or Sherlock sense. These are truly, fundamentally deranged villains, the best I can think of being Michael Myer from the Halloween movies. The disturbed attacks our complacency with our own sanity, but instead of attacking that externally (such as with Lovecraftian horrors and the like) attacks it internally. It shows you a human who has cracked. Who is not human. Someone with soulless eyes ready to hunt you down for no reason whatsoever. Not someone whose motivations are even ultimately understandable or relatable. All of these Force of Nature antagonists exist in this space to one extent or another, but the point of them is that they fundamentally confront us with our own human-ness. An antagonist driven by trauma or greed or revenge is something that we can comprehend. The villains that are Force of Nature villains, though, defy those things. They aren't human. And for most of them, it's because they're not characters. See, in stories, we know something is human because it's a character and it gets to have character traits, even if it's not technically human. The act of being a person, as far as stories are concerned, is empathy, and so when the right kind of traits get put on Wall-E or Old Yeller, we empathize with these things and they approximate that human-ness. Forces of Nature, because they're not characters don't approximate that. And so some of them, the Beast, the Machine, they represent very deep seated, existential fears that bind all humans together. But the Disturbed? He is as inhuman as that robot or that shark, but inside the body of a person with eyes, ears, nose and a face, with a human brain and human hands and human skin. This contradiction defines him, he is the opposite of Wall-E. Something that looks on the surface like it's deserving of our empathy naturally that shows itself not to be. That shows us how inhuman we really can be. Mother Nature Unlike the massive, massive paragraphs I've written for some of these other ones, Mother Nature is pretty simple. We live on a planet that barely cares for us. As individuals, as characters, humans are insignificant fleas crawling across the skin of a god that ways 6 septillion kilograms. Earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, wildfires, sandstorms, even the most mundane abstract concepts such as "heat" or "cold" or "gravity" can all be bundled together to make: Mother Nature. Mother Nature is the most dehuman of the Forces of Nature, it is bound by nothing more than the laws of physics and chemistry, and focuses more on situations than events. The typical loops to using Mother Nature as a villain comes down to something happens that dramatically changes or threatens the environment around your protagonist and other characters and they need to problem solve in order to figure out a solution. In some cases, these threats can be mundane. "I am lost in the desert and it is hot." In some cases, it can be dramatic. "I'm in a boat the size of a minivan and there's a hurricane whipping all around me." But whatever forces the environment is throwing at you, it does not think or feel or care about you. It is just happening. That's all. The important thing to remember about Mother Nature antagonists are that, because they are so devoid of character, not even possessing a body in which to inhabit, is to lean into any antagonistic relationships that pop up between your characters themselves. You're going to need to create conflict and drama somewhere, and even though you can put your characters in complex and interesting situations when you use Mother Nature as an antagonist, you can't supply the entirety of a story's need for drama with them. You have to supplement it from somewhere else. The Other The last of these is basically a catch all for something that defies even reason. All forces of nature defy empathy, the Beast, the Machine, they cannot have empathy, they are not characters. But they are at least comprehensible. We understand that The Beast hunts for food. We understand that the machine needs to destroy its creators. We even typically understand the motivation of the Disturbed in many cases, such as Micheal Myer's singular attack on his sister or Freddie Krueger's need for revenge against Nancy Thompson. But the Outsider defies even that. Whatever they way, if you can even put a finger on it, is vague and general, almost metaphor. Typically, characters like this are ethereal, things greater than humanity can even attempt to comprehend in their most primal states. The best example here are concepts like Cthulu or even Sauron. Whereas the other Forces of nature you can at least reason out, these ones leave you with questions. The existential horror here is something that defies even reason, or at the very least represents such a totality that it's impossible to imagine the future almost at all. What is Sauron's endgame? Get the one ring... but then what? The Lord of the Rings doesn't flesh that out, obviously, it doesn't break this down and explain it, it just shows you Sauron as the ultimate evil and tells you that under no circumstances can he receive the Ring. The more you come to understand the eldritch horrors like Cthulu, the less you are able to understand anything because your sanity bleeds out your ears. This is what the other as an antagonist gets you. Honestly, I'm not even a huge fan of this archetype, but I think it's that massive sense of scale that really makes it all work. This thing is so much bigger than your characters. Sometimes, your story is small, which emphasizes the size of this thing by its contrast and how infinitesmally small you are by comparison. Sometimes, your story is big, because only with armies in the thousands can you hope to stand against something that all powerful. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------\ I know that it's been a long time since I posted, mostly because work is actually work right now and I don't have a ton of time to write this stuff out during the dead of night. Also, this one ended up being pretty long, all things considered, about 2.5 times as long as normal. But anyway, here are more options I was thinking of. -McGuffins -Protagonist Types -Antagonist Types -Tropes/Cliches -Lorebreaking/Lorebending/Lorepolicing -Creating character arcs for characters you don't control -Creating stakes -The Six Components of a Story -Pathos/Ethos/Logos -"RP is small" -Clever Plot Tricks -"And then/But then" -Harmon Story Circle -Harmon TV Circle -A Plots/B Plots/Subplots -Character Arcs -Elements of Style, but for RP -Plot Points/Story Beats -Dialogue vs Emotes -Storyline vs Tavern RP
  6. Haven't seen you chatting with the NPCs in the enchanting shop lately.
  7. Last week
  8. A blood elf dressed as a Kirin Tor guardian, complete with fancy mask and spiky shoulders, quietly made sure no one was home. He then quietly slipped the lock on a window. He also quietly went about searching the place for what he'd been sent to find, filling hidden bags strapped about his person with various items. However, part of his contract was to leave as much mess as possible, so when he was just about ready to leave, he started making noise, a lot of noise, smashing chairs, pushing all the dishes out of the cupboards onto the floor. No amount of stealth or trickery was a match for the resident busybody of the small apartment complex currently seeing one of its units looted. The plump, silver-haired human woman that served as landlady made a quiet little "oooo" of a growl under her breath from her position in the hallway when wood started cracking and ceramic started breaking. It had been some time since she'd had to sneak anywhere, but nonetheless Gracie McClintock found herself trying to nudge open the apartment door with a cast iron frying skillet in-hand. Admittedly, a true professional would have been paying more attention, but with his back to the door as he tore open cushions and scattered the stuffing, the burglar was oblivious to the sound of the door opening or anything else. He didn't turn around until it was too late, just in time to see the skillet before it collided with his head. "Hmph," Gracie huffed, thwacking the downed elf with the skillet one more time for good measure before searching out something to bind him with. "Break into one of my apartments, why don't you!" She returned with some rope, kneeling down to bind the elf's hands and feet with skill that simply did not match her appearance. "These poor kids. They'll be so upset. Hmph." Once he was secured, the woman scowled down at him and popped him with the skillet a final time. She stepped out into the hallway, just for a few minutes, and when she returned, it was to stand guard over the man's prone form with her skillet in hand. The thief groaned only once over the next hour or so, shifting against his bonds, but he didn't put any effort into fighting. Whether or not he fully regained consciousness or not was difficult to tell with his Kirin Tor mask in place. Once he did come to and realized the predicament he was in, he kept very still, listening and waiting to see if at any point he would be left on his own before even attempting escape. The landlady stayed on guard until two more people arrived. The woman, apparently a female sin'dorei of average height, was clothed head to toe in nondescript leather. Her face was hidden by a mask. The man who joined her was tall and slim, human by build, wearing dark clothing. He wasn't masked at first, and from behind his own mask, the thief recognized the man by description as Daerek Smythe, one of the tenants. Daerek took Gracie out into the hall. Their low voices could be heard but their words could not before he stepped back in, tugging a mask over his own face. He took up a place by the doorway while the woman stalked quietly around the room. She came to stand next to the thief's body at one point, staring down at him from behind his body. "You're not Kirin Tor," she commented lightly, speaking faintly-accented Thalassian. "What gives you that idea?" the thief responded sarcastically in the same language, his voice hoarse. His whole body flinched as if just trying to talk hurt. The woman laughed, the sound bright and delighted. "She got you good, didn't she? Cast iron is nothing to play around with." The thief groaned, rolling to face away from her. "Whatever. Ya caught me. I got it. Ya want the stuff back? Gonna lock me up? What?" The woman chuckled and allowed him to face away from her, but she crouched slightly and made to tug off his mask. "Not yet. I want to know who you work for, first." The removed mask revealed a scarred face, one side burned at some point years ago, but young. His hair was close-cropped and blond. A few red welts were threatening to turn into huge bruises on his forehead and cheek. "That's nice, but he didn' give a name. They rarely do." The woman made a sound like she was sucking her teeth, reaching out to grab his jaw. She turned his face this way and that. "Oof. That had to have hurt." The thief winced again, but otherwise let the woman manhandle his face. After a moment of inspection, she spoke again. "And no name? That's fine. I didn't expect one. What'd he look like?" "White hair. Blue eyes," he continued only after she lets him go. "One o' them traitor types. Gave me this get-up, but..." He shrugged, then regretted it. "Ow! By the sun," he muttered. "Don' think he was in charge." "What makes you say that?" She shifted to crouch in front of him, cocking her head to the side. So long as he kept talking, she seemed inclined to refrain from causing him further pain. The man, meanwhile, kept silent and stiff by the door. If not for the way his chest moved to indicate his breathing, one might think he was a statue. "Just not my first tournament, y'know. Something seemed off, stiff, seemed more scared than anything," he said by way of explanation, closing his eyes. "Anyway, doesn' matter. It's all over now. Least I got the advance half." "Sure it matters," she said cajolingly. "What's your name, kid? Maybe I'll get you some pain relief potion if you tell me all polite-like." "My name? Lady, whatever you think's going on here, I don' matter. This hurts, but I been through so much worse, sure you can tell." He smirked at her. "Y'can have my name, though. I don' care. It's Jun. I'd say look me up if you need my services, but I'm not selling myself so well today." He chuckled, then winced again. The woman moved to begin patting him down, making it obvious that this wasn't her first tournament, either. "You never know what you might need, Jun. You got family?" He let her do what she wanted. "Me? No. Jus' the usual story." She found various odds and ends in pockets of various depths sewn into his Kirin Tor uniform, mostly anything he thought he might be able to pawn off. "Everybody's dead. Got to steal to live. Nobody gets hurt. 'Cept with the occasional frying pan." The woman still seemed to be taking care to not hurt him unnecessarily. "I guess I don't have to see about making sure anyone's taken care of in the event that you don't return home then," she said lightly, seeming to peer at his face again. A single hand raised and she snapped her fingers expectantly; the man jerked somewhat and strode forward, handing her a vial of red liquid he fished out of a small bag. "So this traitor type. Elf? Human? Other? What'd he wear? What'd he hire you to do?" She uncorked the vial and gently dabbed little bits of the potion onto his skillet wounds. The thief frowned at the implication, but showed no signs of hesitating with giving information. "Eh? Elf-type traitor. Y'know, the ones who didn't take the fel help and got kicked out of Silvermoon. Dressed like a mage, same tabard." He glanced down at his own impostor's uniform. "Out of place in the Underbelly, but those types are always looking to hire. Said to look for any information on the people living in here. Mail, documents, journals, anything with names on it, awards, medals. And anything else I found, I could keep." "You think he was real Kirin Tor?" she asked, admiring her handiwork on his face before gently patting an uninjured spot and tossing the recorked vial over her shoulder. The man scrambled to catch it before returning to his place at the door. The woman made to roll the thief over, allowing him the opportunity to do it on his own steam with a gentle coaxing shove. He shifted willingly, but a twisted grin crossed his face, for the first time looking like he might actually be a bad guy and not just an unfortunate accomplice. She found his fist behind his back tightly closed around something. She cocked her head to the side. "Youuuu wanna tell me what this is, sugar?" He slowly opened his fingers revealing a small dark crystal with cracks running through it. As he opened his hand, the crystal crumbled into dust that ran through his fingers. "This is how he knows the whole thing went south and not to bother meeting up with me." "Huh. Neat." She didn't seem bothered. "I don't suppose I can trust anything that came out of those pretty lips of yours?" The thief's nasty grin shifted to a sheepish smile. "Eh, I haven't lied, but probably best not to trust anyone in my line of work, yeah? Not unless the pay is good, anyway." The woman laughed that delighted laugh again, shifting yet again to peer at his face. After a moment, she tapped his lips almost playfully. "Anything else you want to share with me, sweetheart?" He laid back and relaxed, seeming curiously reassured. "Nah. Whoever actually wanted this junk was either super careful or is running something bigger, cartel maybe. You find the guy who hired me, maybe he can tell you what you really want to know, but I won' be pointing him out. Good luck, lady." "Thanks, handsome. I think I've got just what I need." She patted his face one more time before extending her hand out behind her once again. "That scar is rather dashing," she confessed as she waited. "Maybe in another life." The man took a few jerky steps forward and put a different object in her hand, taking care to not poke her with what was soon revealed to be a syringe. She adjusted it deftly in her gloved hand then plunged the needle into Jun's exposed skin. The thief looked confused at the syringe, then looked alarmed as he was injected. He made a questioning sound but said no words before his eyes rolled back in his head and he slipped into unconsciousness, falling into a deep, long-lasting sleep. "Nighty-night, darling." The woman sighed and stood, handing the emptied syringe back to her companion as she did so. He remained silent as she nudged the unconscious elf with her foot, considering him for a few moments. Voices sounded from the hallway, Gracie's among them, and the woman turned her masked face to look at her companion. She jerked her head towards the window, and he started towards it while she tugged the mask back over Jun's face. When she rose to join the other man, he made a quick gesture with his hand; a faint light glowed around them for a moment before fading, and one after the other they jumped out of the window. Gracie hurried into the room followed by a handful of legitimate Kirin Tor guards. "He's the intruder!" she wailed. "I got him good with my skillet, but ooooh he made a mess!" The guards exchanged glances before assuring the landlady that they'd handle the situation and began dragging the unconscious blood elf off the premises.
  9. A few days earlier... Ironforge wasn’t anything like Dalaran, but Daerek kind of liked the coziness of the mountain stronghold. It was closed and warm, like a blanket or a hug, and if not for the dire circumstances he and Anee found themselves in, he might have particularly enjoyed staying there. As it was, their relocation here had been the idea of a mutual friend, one they knew they could trust. It wasn’t optimal, but it was something—and he planned to try and keep morale up as much as possible, if only for Anee’s sake. Keys jangled outside of the door to the small Ironforge apartment as Daerek tried to balance the bags in his arms and open the door. The reinforced wood lurched open under the force of the young man’s shoulder, and he kicked it shut with his foot. “Anee?” he called, setting his bags on the kitchen counters. “Hey, I found some peach fizzy wine too…I got us a couple of bottles to try.” The newly-brown-haired mage kept unpacking the bags, peering up at the unfamiliar cabinets as he went. There were already some basic foodstuffs and kitchen supplies stored there, but maybe they could rearrange things to make it a little more like home. Daerek pulled a small wrapped package out of the bag next, smiling down at its weighty presence in his palm. He’d found a few strings of magma crystals that he thought his roommate might like, hoping the surprise would be enough to bring a smile to her face. “Anee?” he called again, taking the small package with him to peer into the cozy sitting room. A frown cut across his face when no answer was forthcoming for a second time. He crossed to her bedroom, rapping his knuckles against the door. “Hey…are you sleeping?” There was nothing but silence to respond to him, and Daerek gently tried the doorknob. It gave easily, allowing the mage to poke his head inside with slowly mounting panic. “Anee?” he asked softly. His breath left him in a rush when he saw her room: bare of her belongings, only a few articles of clothing strewn across her bed and a couple of odds and ends elsewise. Daerek spun away from the door and bounded to the bathroom. The door was open, nobody inside to have closed it. He shouted an uncharacteristic curse and turned in place, body jerking this way and that as his mind seemingly short-circuited from the sudden fear crushing his chest. There wasn’t a sign of a break-in. Had she gone out on her own? Did somebody take her and cover their tracks? Was there another room he hadn’t discovered yet that she was occupying? “Anee?” he called again, almost shouting the dual syllables. It was on his third aborted attempt at moving one direction or another that he laid on the bare table and the folded parchment with his name scrawled on it. “No…oh, tell me you didn’t…” He rushed to the table with lead feet and set the small package down before picking up the parchment with trembling hands. He swore again at seeing her handwriting on the inside, emotion choking his voice. Daerek, I am so sorry that you are in danger because of me. I’m sorry you had to leave your home and your sister. And what about your work? Your sister needs you. You said yourself there’s a reason she came to Dalaran. She’s your sister, and she needs your help. It’s not fair for you or her for you to have to drop that because of my troubles. You have been kinder to me than anyone ever has. I want you to know that I appreciate it. And that’s why I must go. If anything happened to you because of me, I couldn’t stand it. Go help your sister, have a happy life. I’ll come back when this is over if I can. Please don’t try to find me. Be safe. Your friend, Anee The young mage stared blankly at the letter for several minutes, body still except for his ragged breathing and quaking muscles. Finally, after what felt like a small eternity, he pulled out a chair and sat heavily in it. He pitched forward and let his head rest in his hands, elbows on the table, letter still clutched in one fist. Daerek stayed like that for hours, and when he finally moved it was to plod blankly back to Anee’s room. He stood as near to the middle as he could, turning in a slow circle to take stock of what was missing and what remained. He hoped he could determine maybe where she went…if he’d been smart, if he’d been able to control himself, he would have gone after her as soon as he found the letter. She couldn’t have gotten that much of a head start on him at that point, but now it was impossible to say where she had gone. What if she got hurt? What if she got killed? What if…what if… Daerek paused to stare at a light blue hair ribbon left on the dresser. It was just a stupid ribbon, but sentimentality got the better of him and he picked it up to tuck away in his pocket. He left the room then, stopping by the table in the sitting room to retrieve the wrapped gift he’d bought for the missing woman. He dropped that into his pocket too, followed by the folded letter, before lifting his hands and channeling a portal to Stormwind—and to the only person he knew could help him now.
  10. .....#Trolling?
  11. They made a peculiar duo, Cat and Aetheril. Though both were death knights, and shared a biological father, that is where the similarities ended. Aetheril, tall and thin, draped in the shadow magic that disguised his form, glided gracefully beside Cat. She, short and awkward in black plate, trudged like a kodo. The original plan was to head to Northrend, in search of their fellow rogue death knights. With them as allies, they could protect themselves more efficiently against the paladins who sought their execution. It seemed simple enough until they arrived in Silvermoon, and while asking about a portal to Northrend, caught wind of a far closer destination. “Northrend? What would anyone want to go there for?” Asked the mage who’s portal could send them to the icy battleground. He didn’t give them a chance to answer. “Looking for other death knights?” Cat’s face gave away their carefully crafted plot, even if she stayed quiet. Aetheril was just about to work on clouding the mage’s memories of them when he continued to speak. “Look, I don’t want any trouble, but there are plenty of them in Windrunner Village. So I hear,” he said carelessly. “Got to the point where they got sick of everyone gawking at them in town, so they decided to take it over for themselves. A whole town of undead,” he added with a shudder, then quickly waved his hands. “N-not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Aetheril smiled at the nosy elf, his blue eyes flashing once. The mage blinked. “..sorry, was I saying something?” “No,” Aetheril said kindly, taking Cat by the arm and gently leading her to the city’s southern exit. “We were just leaving.” That was how they wound up walking the road through Quel’thalas, en route to Windrunner Village, staying as inconspicuous as Aetheril’s power would allow. “A whole town of death knights,” Cat said wistfully. The idea was somewhat comforting. “They definitely aren’t Ebon Blade if they’re just trying to live there, out of conflict. The Ebon Blade would have sent them all to the shore by now.” "Not as uncommon as you might think," replied Aetheril, distantly, half his attention focused on mental deflection, a mantra running through his skull. "Knightly orders fragment, whether by doctrinal squabbles or vast distance. I belonged to a similar enclave. They're still out there, I hope." "I hope they're safe.." Cat murmured quietly as they approached the village. A few faded memories of her time as a Blood Knight initiate came to her, as the view of the small settlement came into focus. It was a lot nicer than she remembered; repaired roofs, a few new fences, corpses no longer littering the ground. She remembered going there to exterminate the lingering Scourge, but there was no sign of them now. "I suppose we should thank them for keeping the village in order," Aetheril murmured, mouth tilting into a wry grin. "Famous name, Windrunner. But it'll be years before Silvermoon can get to reclaiming the place." He took a long draw at the air, clammy with ground mist. His psychic shields remained clamped in position, prying eyes likely to slide right past them. "Do you think they'll be friendly?" "I hope so. We're coming with good intentions," Cat thought out loud, looking around for some sort of movement. As they entered the village’s main thoroughfare, the telltale sound of carpentry could be heard. Someone was sawing wood, someone else hammering nails. The sound stopped sharply as Cat stepped on a twig and snapped it sharply underfoot. “Can I help you?” Came a voice from behind the two death knights, a deep masculine voice that seemed somehow familiar. Cat turned around quickly to regard him, and found an older Sin’dorei wearing the clothes of a peasant. Were it not for the blue glow of his eyes, she might have assumed he was a simple farmer. At his hip, however, the Sin’dorei carried a sword. It glowed brightly with the same color of his eyes. “Oh! Uh… sorry to intrude,” Cat said apologetically, bowing her head respectfully. “My name is Cat D’Aragon. This is Aetheril. We’re Death Knights,” she explained haphazardly. “Yes, I gathered,” the other knight chuckled. “I take it you heard about our little town in Silvermoon. Word travels fast. Well good,” he added with a friendly smile. “We were hoping that any other knights in search of a home might come to us. My name is Rhyden. Welcome to Windrunner Village.” Aetheril relaxed his wards just a little, but his curious eyes remained fixed on their visitor, and his mind on the locale. "Warmer welcome than I expected," he observed, haltingly, as he pushed back the brim of his tall hat. As a matter-of-course, his other hand hung close to the unmarked side-sword at his hip, but he made no move for it. "Do you keep no watch?" he asked, his brows furrowing. One ear twitched. "Not in some time," Rhyden admitted. "This is not a military base. This is a village. The death knights who live here are attempting to eke out some normalcy. Rarely do we get visitors, but.. on the chance that we encounter someone.. 'unfriendly', they are met swiftly. You will find that we all are quite protective of our little home." Rhyden led both death knights toward an area of the village that seemed a little more active. Though the majority of those they saw were Sin’dorei, there were a few other races sprinkled throughout; a tauren female, an orcish male, two goblin females. They, along with about half a dozen Sin’dorei seemed to be working together on building a new animal pen. A few yards away, some skinny goats bleated at one another behind a makeshift fence. “As you can see, we try to help each other here,” Rhyden explained, waving a hand. “After we rebuilt and refurbished the homes we needed, we started working on rebuilding the livestock once kept here. The milk and cheese we make here will be used for trade. Eventually, we will have enough income to create more jobs, but for now we all agreed that this would be the simplest way to start.” Cat cracked a smile at the harmony in which the death knights worked. She was so used to seeing death knights in armor that it was fairly bizarre sight to see them in peasant clothes, sawing wood and building. For a moment, she considered what it might be like to live there, among her own kind, away from the living and the fear of their rejection. But Kreyen was among the living, and with him all of her hopes and dreams for the future. There was no home without him. "I'm always kinda floundering for a place I feel like I belong. Nothing has really felt like 'home', yet," she remembered telling him a short while ago. His response then had lifted her spirits. "Home is where you are." “If you two intend on staying, we will need to find a home for you,” Rhyden said as he led both Cat and Aetheril to another end of the village. “There are still a few unclaimed homes that--” “Oh, oh no!” Cat said quickly, waving her hands. “We’re not here to stay. Sorry, I should have made that clear.. No, we’re here to warn you, sir. There are some paladins from the Silver Hand looking to exterminate rogue death knights. As in, knights that aren’t affiliated with the Ebon Blade,” she explained. “Has.. the Ebon Blade given you any trouble? When I left, they weren’t exactly thrilled.” “Luckily we were able to leave as a group,” Rhyden explained. “There were enough of us that we could defend one another. Though we have had visitors in the past, representatives from the Blade attempting to bring us back. It hasn’t worked, so far.” Cat bit her lip as she listened. “..do you still hear him?” “The Lich King?” Rhyden’s face darkened a bit. “...yes. I fear we always will. It is something we will have to ‘live’ with, but, we are in control of our actions. Just because we hear him doesn’t mean we need to listen.” Cat passed at glance at Aetheril before continuing. She seemed a little unsure about Rhyden’s answer, but didn’t argue. “Well.. we were going to go to Northrend and see if there were any other rogue Death Knights there, but, then we heard about your village. We wanted to make sure you knew about these Silver Hand guys, so you could protect yourself.” Rhyden’s expression changed from cordial to concerned. He looked around for a moment, taking stock of his would-be villagers, and led both Cat and Aetheril to another building that was reminiscent of the same inn that once watered Cat’s own hometown. Inside, it seemed as if someone had taken the time to tidy up. No one was drinking yet, but a kind looking orcess stood behind the bar, cleaning mugs with a rag. She nodded to Rhyden as he entered with his guests. “Tell me what you know,” he said to Cat and Aetheril, his expression suddenly grave. “We left the Ebon Blade to escape conflict, not get dragged back into it. I understand that there is a war on, but--” “We’re not here to make you go to war,” Cat sid quickly, waving both hands. “Just to warn you. From what I’ve heard, it seems like the Silver Hand has a few paladins who want to take out people like us. I tried laying low for a while, but, that didn’t work. Someone found me. I figured it would be better to find others like us, and let you know what I know.” Rhyden’s brow furrowed, long eyebrows knit in the middle as he considered the possibilities. Beside Cat, Aetheril’s attention was focused on the villagers outside. He seemed to be taking mental notes, as if in preparation. “They want us gone...” Rhyden muttered. “Why?” “They think we’re more likely to go rabid outside of the Ebon Blade,” Cat explained with a shrug. “And they have an agreement with the Ebon Blade. The rest of us--” “I think, unfortunately, that is the end of our conversation,” Aetheril said to his sister. A slender hand was placed on her shoulder, calm and gentle. “We should be going.” Cat frowned at the sudden shift. “Wait, what? Why? Aetheril, what’s going--” “Paladins!!” Came the shout from outside, the hollow voice of a death knight warning all those who might hear it. “Dozens of them, Rhyden!” The town’s makeshift leader cast Cat and Aetheril an incredulous look as he led them outside. “Where you followed??” “No!” Cat said quickly, nodding to Aetheril. “He made sure of it!” Aetheril shook his head and took in a deep calming breath. “It seems our chatty friend in Silvermoon found someone else to talk to.” In the main square, the death knights abandoned their carpentry. Most retreated to their homes to gather weapons, just in case. It seemed they were more prepared for such a confrontation than Cat imagined. Soon, the paladins they were warned of flooded into the square atop shimmering white horses, their leader a massive bull riding a monstrous animal with hooves wider than dinner plates. “Death knights,” the Sunwalker said with authority, his voice even and without emotion. “I am Commander Karhyo of the Silver Hand.” “Commander Karhyo,” Rhyden said with a polite bow of his head. “Welcome to Windrunner Village. I am Rhyden.” “Who is in charge here, Rhyden?” The Sunwalker asked, passing a glance over Cat and Aetheril. Rhyden did not blink. “I am. What can I do for you?” “I have come to compel you to rejoin the Ebon Blade,” Karhyo answered, not moving from his place atop the gargantuan white horse. “Join the fight against the Legion, and be under the Horde’s protection once again.” The death knight tried to smile. “While we appreciate the offer, we must decline. We came to Windrunner Village to start a new life away from conflict. As you can see, we mean no harm to anyone. The people of this village have no intention of returning to the employ of the same creature that killed us. I am sure you can appreciate that.” “That I can,” the Sunwalker said, then added gravely. “However. We have an arrangement with the Ebon Blade. They are responsible for their men not succumbing to their feral state. I can not say as much for you, or your people. So I will ask again. Rejoin the Ebon Blade. If you do not, I can not guarantee your safety.” Rhyden’s eyebrow twitched. “Are you threatening me, Commander?” Karhyo did not budge. “Yes.” Cat took a step forward, ignoring Aetheril’s hand on her shoulder. “You can’t do that! They’re not hurting anyone, and you have no right to come here and tell them what they have to do!” There was a pause as the Sunwalker appraised Cat, still in her full armor, yet wearing pigtails. “On the contrary. It is in fact my duty to tell them what they should do, in the effort to avoid violence. I don’t think anyone here wants that.” “Then I would suggest you leave,” Rhyden said with a strained smile. “You and your men. You are making my villagers very uncomfortable, sir. I would appreciate it if--” “Do you refuse?” Karhyo asked, interrupting the death knight. “Do all of you refuse?” There was a murmuring in the village as each of Rhyden’s fellow knights spoke among themselves. In the time since the paladins had arrived, they each managed to gather their runeblades and stood in peasant clothes with glowing weapons in hand. It didn’t take long for them to reach a consensus. “We’re not going back,” said the orcess from the bar, brandishing a broadsword in one hand. “And you will not force us.” Karhyo huffed once from his large nostrils. That he anticipated this turn of events was clear, given the two dozen paladins behind him. He didn’t seem inclined to speak on the matter further. “Very well.” The Sunwalker’s hand rose into the air, and a moment later a dozen paladins kicked their horses into action. Cat stumbled backwards, grabbing Aetheril to help pull him from the path of an oncoming charger, but he didn’t need her assistance. The slender weaver of shadows glided effortlessly to one side and immediately began defending them both, tendrils of shadow extending from his body to wrap around the paladin who nearly trampled him. There was no time to be impressed by his power, so Cat moved on the defensive. Mounted, the paladins had an advantage and easily used their horses to crush death knights underfoot before casting bolts of pure Light toward their prone bodies. The smell of burnt undead flesh and the sound of their screams began to fill Cat’s ears. The death knights were not prepared for battle with fully armored paladins, and they were woefully outnumbered. Only Cat wore armor, but the rest defended them as best they could. Thankfully, Windrunner Village was surrounded by death. Those who could summon the bodies of the fallen did so without remorse, sending a small shambling army of corpses toward the paladins to pull them from their horses and onto the ground. It was chaos, but with the help from the dead, the death knights at least had a ghost of a chance in defending their home. With Aetheril busy commanding his tendrils of shadow, Cat looked for ways to assist him. Stomping her foot into the ground, she created a rune that surrounded them both. Biting into the unarmored part of her own hand, Cat cut a wound just big enough to allow her to bleed. Then, extending her hand to one of the human paladins, she released a tendril of blood that wrapped around his neck and dragged him into the rune. Almost immediately, his flesh began to turn colors as necrosis set in. As the pain and panic began to set in, the paladin screamed, slashing at Cat with his Light blessed weapon. Using her axe to deflect him, she kept her hold on his neck with the blood and made him stay within the confines of the rune. Wearing him down slowly was the goal, and after a few loud hits of steel against steel, the paladin fell to the ground in exhaustion and let the rot take him. “An’she guide your blades!!” Karhyo shouted as he fought Rhyden on the ground, their swords hitting to create a shower of sparks. The massive bull towered over Rhyden, but the death knight would not relent. As their blades met once again, Karhyo’s sword pressed down on Rhyden’s to push the death knight to his knees. “I ask you again, death knight, to submit or we will burn this village to the ground!” Rhyden spat at the bull, all of his strength focused on keeping the Holy sword at bay. “We will not submit to you, or the Lich King. Never again.” “Very well,” Karhyo grunted, a white light erupting from his sword. The entire village could hear Rhyden’s voice, a high pitched wail of pain and despair. The Light cut through his body like fire through paper, burning his gray flesh until a charred corpse was all that remained. “An’she take you,” the bull said quietly, crushing Rhyden’s black skull with his hoof. Cat’s memories of Light’s Hope were at the forefront of her mind, then; the feel of her flesh as it was incinerated, the screams, the pleas for help. She remembered calling on Kreyen, speaking to him as if he were right beside her as she attempted to do whatever it took to stay on her feet. But Kreyen couldn’t hear her now, and Aetheril was fighting his own battle. Seeing Commander Karhyo execute Rhyden created a pain in her chest that felt like a combination of grief and remorse. He died for his people, defending their freedom. He died a hero. “You killed him,” she said in a hoarse voice, approaching Karhyo. Blood dripped from her hand. “You killed him, and he didn’t do anything wrong. How could you? Paladins are supposed to do what’s right. There’s nothing right about this!” Karhyo turned to Cat and again looked her over. He seemed exhausted, and perhaps sad. “You must have died very young..” he said quietly, raising his blade to meet her. “..if you think that right and wrong still has bearing on this world. I am sorry, but there is no future for your kind.” Cat’s lips pursed. This rage was new for the death knight, this seething anger that begged to be released. Here was a Sunwalker, who was supposed to represent everything that she believed in. Once, the Light blessed her. Would it never do so again? “The Light does not forget its champions,” she said under her breath, stomping the ground with her boot to create a rune that spread throughout the ground. Karhyo felt the immediate pain, the necrosis that spread beneath his fur, threatening to rot him from the inside. The bull needed only a few steps to close the gap between himself and Cat, a few thudding steps that would allow his sword to come down on her small frame with all the power of a Sunwalker. It crashed down hard against Cat’s runeblade axe, nearly shoving her to the ground. But as the blood poured from her hand, it snaked up her weapon and against Karhyo’s until it wrapped around his arm, infecting him with blood rot. The bull reeled as his flesh was compromised, infection discoloring his eyes and nostrils, blood slowly seeping from every orifice. Still, he attacked Cat, crashing his sword against her axe as if he were chopping wood, slamming harder and harder as the rot entered his brain and ate at the parts that granted him motor skills. Karhyo’s attacks, hard and heavy at first, grew weaker and weaker. His lumbering body became a shuffling mass of rotting meat, held together by cracking bones until finally, Cat swung her axe into his torso and crushed his heart beneath his ribs. “Cat, look out!” Aetheril’s voice rang out beyond the sounds of battle. She turned just in time for a younger bull to rush her, his axe aimed for her neck. Aetheril’s warning was all she needed to duck the attack and punch the ground, creating another flesh rotting rune that surrounded them both. The young bull stumbled as he felt the disease gnaw at him from the inside, confused and caught off guard. Turning to face him, Cat hesitated only when she saw that the rest of the village was actually holding their own against the invasion. The ghouls summoned from the earth admirably distracted their foes, allowing the knights time to execute those who attempted to destroy their way of life. The paladins still standing had been pushed into defending themselves and were slowly being backed out of the village. But there was no time to take stock of the survivors. The young bull came at Cat with his axe again, slower and less precise. She managed to dodge him with her own axe, sending his weapon spinning away and into the ground. The bull blinked at his empty hands. All he had left was the Light. “An’she--” Cat’s blood tendril wrapped around his throat, effectively silencing his prayer. Certainly he could still call upon the light, but he seemed to distracted by being choked and rotting to remember that. Pulling his body toward her, Cat was ready to decapitate him when she noticed that the other paladins were gone, along with the sounds of battle. The young bull struggled in her grasp, writhing on his knees as bits of flesh flaked away from his face and fell to the ground. Fully armored, though much younger than the other paladins, he looked almost pathetic in her hands. If he died there, he would have been another hero for the Light cut down before he reached his real potential. Just like her. The tendril unwrapped from around his throat. “Hey,” she said to the bull, grabbing his jaw with one hand and forcing him to look at her. “You have someone waiting for you, right?” The bull’s mouth opened to answer, but it was too painful. If she didn’t stop soon, the rot would take him. He nodded instead. Cat kicked him in the chest, pushing him out of the rune. “So do I. We’re not different, okay? We just want to be left alone. Got it?” Again the bull nodded, though he avoided her gaze. “We’re not monsters,” she continued, yanking the bull to his feet. “I want you to go back to Light’s Hope, and tell them what happened here. Tell them you and the others tried to kill a bunch of death knights just trying to live in peace. Tell them they defended their home. Tell them we let you go, because we don’t need to keep killing each other. Got it??” He nodded slowly, breathing in heavy pants as his body slowly recovered from the rune. Shame was clear on his face, still cracked and bloody. As Cat released him from her grip, he stumbled toward one of the chargers left behind. About a dozen or so horses still stood around, riderless, as the paladins who came to execute Windrunner Village lay dead in the ground beside many of the villagers themselves. Only a handful remained, including Cat and Aetheril. They watched as the young bull struggled to mount his horse, and eventually turned in retreat.
  12. In my guild I am generally a crazy tyrant. I have no members. Yet I have tons of fun. Any people who even attempt to join I screen so thoroughly that they have zero chance of getting in. This makes for a very interesting play style. You end up creating alts and playing with them. Before you know it you have 12 alts and a darn good time! Course, it's VERY difficult to raid with 12 alts. I only have one monitor and one keyboard. Instead I sit with my alts in the same place and have friendly banter. What your guild chooses to do is up to you. My guild generally tries to overthrow tyranny and evil and promote health, peace, prosperity, and happiness to all those who deserve it. Good luck!
  13. The week after Mardi Gras is ideal. The mass of tourists is gone, most of the scammers are home counting their money, and the weather is good.
  14. June 22 As I get closer and closer to presenting a sermon to some members of the Alliance who will listen, I find myself torn. Our old order certainly can use redemption, and I still lament what the Legion did to it, and to the names of some of Lordearon's greatest heroes... While my goal is to make a pure fighting force, how pure can it be if I hold tight to the requirements that only Lordearon's former citizens and their kin can join our cause? If I am truly a messenger of the Light, should I not seek to bring all members of the Alliance who worship at the same altar... together? My stance on the Horde remains the same, unwavering, I find compromise with them, while they are led by the Banshee Queen... impossible. And so long as they occupy Alliance lands... and promote the existence of the Forsaken, their expansion even, there is no middle ground... but that shouldn't cause us to view our brothers and sisters of the Alliance with any less camaraderie. Perhaps it would be best to simply let the Scarlet Crusade die the death it should have after its corruption... I find giving up distasteful, but I cannot help but think that the symbol is too far gone, and we are not doing justice to the cause we wish to advance. I also can't help but feel that the symbol doesn't strike the same fear as I anticipated into the Legion or the Horde... I misread the effectiveness of it, even those we wish to protect and aid see us in a light that is unfavorable, and this is counter productive to our true goal, spreading the word of the Light, purifying Lordearon, ending the Undead threat, and protecting the innocents of the Alliance. However, it is not all for naught, I certainly do not feel any attachment to this new Silver Hand or what it stands for, when it stands arm and arm with the Horde. And while I understand there are certainly times we may need to work in conjuncture with the with the Horde to stop some threats, that does not make them any LESS of a threat, nor does it mean we should be required to stand with them in all aspects of our daily toils. I do not plan on simply forgetting the atrocities committed by my cursed, former kin, and will not stop until justice comes to them and our lands have been purified. So long as the Horde stands in our way, we will oppose them with every fiber of our beings, and by the will of the Light, we will triumph.
  15. Earlier
  16. Hosting of public events is a good start. Can be something like holiday parties onwards up to the introduction of a story plot that multiple people can get involved in if they choose to. Other than that, I'd say as a guild leader, you just need to have rules that make sense for everyone and enforce them accordingly and consistently. Don't be a tyrant and don't be manipulative, but don't let things slide because you're afraid of losing people. There may be divas who think that they can shove their weight around who might threaten to flounce if they face consequences for behaving badly, but ultimately the majority of people, especially roleplayers, respect and flock to places where they know leadership is understanding and patient, but also not afraid to put their foot down if need be. I also find that having a mix of activities is beneficial over just strictly being an RP guild. Guilds should be little mini-communities where members help each other out and aren't afraid to ask for help with things, be it a quest, dungeon group, pvp matters, or just needing to talk to someone if they're not feeling 100% good. Up to you on if you choose to go hardcore RP and demand that gchat and public channels are RP only, but if you're hoping to attract people, new and inexperienced people might find that a bit overwhelming to have to switch to an OOC chat channel to ask a question or ask for assistance, but that's entirely on a perosn-by-person basis, so I can't say definitely what you should do with that. But, in essence... create the foundation and a welcoming environment, and people will generally congregate to it. It may take some time, and you may hit some bumps along the way, but persistence and consistency ultimately pay off.
  17. Hello! I just wanted to reach out to anybody interested, we run with a guild on Duskwood that accepts PuGs into their Normal and Heroic raid runs! At this time, getting ready for Tomb, they are accepting people that have concordance and an on par for normal Tomb GS, IE 880/890 range! If you want to raid, let us know and I'd be more then happy to invite anybody on the Blue said that wants to go along! For PvP myself and Riemmi usually do a daily RBG win - that happens around 5-6 server time most days of the week / weekends - We strive to get our 40 win achievement / mount unlocks, as well as AP! We usually run at low / no MMR to keep the wins coming pretty easily, its not so much a ratings push as an AP / 40 win mount sort of thing, we finished at like 1720 or so last season, 28-12 together ( both got the 40 wins by the end ) Its yolo, and I'd rather pull people from TN/RH then the group finder! Let me know in game or on here if you're interested!
  18. Qabian stands leaning against the curved doorway just inside The Agronomical Apothecary when Daerek arrives. The blood elf had done business with a goblin there earlier, put in an order for some flasks and said he'd wait there, making it look like he wasn't just some loiterer. Qabian brushes non-existent dirt off his Grim tabard as Daerek walks past him, opening with the ever-so-friendly statement, "She does not care about you," in thickly accented Common. Daerek shifts his pack as he enters the Apothecary, almost passing the elf altogether until he speaks. "I--pardon?" the young mage asks, blinking at the man with confused green eyes. Qabian smirks, giving the human a lazy salute in lieu of explanation or greeting. "Your girl. The one in your room. She does not care for you." Daerek draws back a little, taken aback by the elf's words. He eyes the other man up and down before speaking again. "She's not my girl," he says calmly. "Qabian, I presume?" Qabian raises an eyebrow, curious. "Yes. But I never gave her my name." The mage shrugs. "You don't have to be explicit for others to put a few things together." Qabian looks uncertain. "But why?" He then mirrors Daerek's shrug. "No matter. She lives with you, but is not yours?" Daerek looks at the man with an odd expression. "Living together doesn't mean two people have to be involved," he says slowly, as if it's a rudimentary concept. He doesn't seem bothered that this elf knows he lives with the woman in question. Qabian seems both bemused and incredulous, folding his arms across his chest. "Maybe no, but not even friends? Strangers do not do such things." Daerek actually laughs. "You would not believe how many people have told me that," he says easily. "And I'm sure I'll hear it a lot more." Qabian shrugs. "You do not care then? Neither of you care. Same home, ships in the night." The elf then stares Daerek right in the eyes and grins wickedly. "You are a liar, too. You deserve each other." The mage seems amused. "You're awful quick to come to conclusions. Are you sure you're making the right ones?" Qabian shakes his head, chuckling. "No conclusions. Only testing. Seeing what you do, how you answer. Do you know who she is?" "Sounds like conclusions to me," Daerek says lightly, shifting so that he's leaning against the stone wall of the apothecary in a mirror of Qabian's pose. "And I know enough. But I've got a better question--what's all this about?" Qabian raises his hands, palms up, still grinning unpleasantly. "Wish I knew. She is nobody, no one. Mystery. But someone I know hates her very much. Curious, hm? What did she do? Where is she from?" If he's honest with himself, Daerek is edging towards unsettled by the encounter--but he does a good job of covering it up with easy grins and laughter. "So who hates her? She's a nice girl. Seems hard to hate someone like that." "Indeed." Qabian folds his arms again, open grin shifting back into a closed smirk. "And yet. You know my name. Do you know me?" "A question with a non-answer!" Daerek slaps his knee with a laugh. "So clever." He sighs a little and gestures vaguely to the counter. "Is there a point to this? If you're just here to chat, that's fine, but I've got work to do." Qabian gives a slow nod of his head, holding that smug smirk of his. "Just chat. For now. And a warning." "Yeah? What's your warning?" Daerek regards the other man with lifted eyebrows and an expectant gaze. "You are easy to find. Easy to follow." Qabian stands up straight, abandoning his leaning posture. He mimics someone else's voice, much higher, and speaks Common without an accent. "'Oh, yes. I remember those two. They bought cupcakes by the bank. They were such a cute couple and very sweet together.'" He shrugs then slips back into his thick accent and short sentences to say, "Not my conclusions. Someone hates you. Maybe time to hide, hm?" Daerek watches Qabian with an unamused expression while the other man delivers his 'threats.' When he's finished, the youth pushes off from the wall and pulls himself up to his full height--a bit taller than the Grim elf, but not by a great deal. He stares down into the other man's face with a flat look. "You tell that someone that as far as I'm concerned, they're nothing more than a bully," he says quietly. "Now is that all? I really should get to work." Qabian laughs out loud, essentially in the man's face, intensely amused by both Daerek's dropping of his carefully maintained lightheartedness and the attempt to stare him down. The elf takes one step back in order to give a short, shallow bow with an exaggerated flourish. "Of course. But the one who hates you? No bully. For now, the bully is me." He ends that statement with an absolutely horrible grin, then turns on his heel with another lazy salute. "See you soon." The young mage doesn't seem bothered whatsoever by the mocking laughter. He seems to almost have expected it, if the smirk on his lips is anything to go by. "Two bullies are hardly any different than one," he says with a snort. "Be well, Bully. I look forward to seeing you again." Daerek doesn't appear to watch Qabian leave, instead turning towards the back counter to begin his work. Qabian steps lightly back into the street, where he's immediately accosted by a goblin. Qabian nods to the goblin, says something inaudible, and points back into the alchemist's place. The goblin nods in return and hands the elf a package. Only after the goblin skips off, singing off-key as she goes, does Qabian sigh and roll his eyes before pulling a mask up over his face and making himself scarce. Nothing was going quite the way he wanted.
  19. After some co-ordination with Brightway, Qabian sent a note in the mail for the child to meet him by the Antonidas Memorial in Dalaran at a specified time. Qabian set two Kirin Tor agents at the entrance to the small park, one human, one high elf, both wearing tabards. They looked like they were there to be professional, but they were actually being paid to keep an eye out for certain other members of the Kirin Tor and the Alliance who might want to start shit. For his own tabard, Qabian wore Silvermoon City's. The mage rolled up his sleeves as he waited next to the statue, looking upward, amused by how the city managed to hide the roiling green sky behind an illusion of normalcy. It had taken Damian several hours worth of coaxing to get Ninorra to allow him a visit to Dalaran. In the end, his agreement with Vicailde proved to be the linchpin. She couldn't baby him forever, and he was willing to do whatever it took for her to allow him a trip to Dalaran, which in this case, meant her accompanying him. He'd only been to the city once, but was fascinated by everything that he saw. Dressed in his school iniform, he looked somewhat less foreboding than his mother, who dressed in the black and red robes of a warlock that only accentuated their red eyes. Spikes decorated with the skulls of demons protruded from her shoulders, gaudy and at least a little ridiculous. As they approached the agreed-upon spot where Damian suggested they meet Grimfire, Ninorra was going over her worries with the boy. "..and then there are the Alliance.. most are fine, but there are more than a few who would start trouble with a boy like you if only to get under our-- "There he is, mother," Damian said, relieved to interrupt her tirade as he pointed toward Qabian. "That's Mister Grimfire." A horrible grin spread across Qabian's face. The jig was finally up. Qabian gave Ninorra a lazy two-fingered salute when she noticed him. Their last conversation had been cordial enough, but he had more distance then. In truth, he was surprised the kid had managed to convince her at all. Despite the name change, Qabian had at no point intentionally hidden his identity since he mentioned it to Damian. That and Dalaran itself was clearly a step towards steering the child into danger, whoever's idea it may have been. He certainly hadn't expected her to show up herself. He'd assumed something else would have to happen for Damian to even make it to the city. "That's Magister," he directed at Damian. "Ninorra," Qabian said by way of greeting, bowing shallow toward her. "...oh, you're joking," Ninorra said in a low voice. If she was angry, the warlock was very good at hiding it. Then again, it may have been difficult to tell by the way she looked at Qabian, first curious and then, very interested. Holding on to Damian's hand, she kept her tone even. Her voice was still melodic, even when she spoke, but there was a definite protective quality to it that one would expect from a mother. "You recruited the only boy with red eyes in Silvermoon. What a coincidence," she said dramatically. The warlock returned his bow, a few strands of straightened black hair falling into her eyes. Damian followed suit, his white hair curlier than it was straight, resembling something close to lamb's wool. "Magister." Qabian nodded at the Kirin Tor stooges who were looking at him for confirmation. They turned their backs to the three of them, returning their attention to the street. "He's also the only boy at all that I saw out in the street destroying the decor." Qabian crouched, bringing himself down to the boy's level. "Weren't you, Master Bloodstone?" A tiny flame dancing in his palm, Qabian held his hand out to the boy as if he would know what to do with it. Damian's expression was fairly blank as he stared at the fire, plucking it from Qabian's hand with his fingertips. "Oh, and you just so happened to be on the lookout for young boys that day?" Ninorra asked innocently, as if the question had no moral connotations. Qabian grinned, slightly less horribly, at Damian's response to the magic. "See, he should be here." Qabian looked up at Ninorra without standing. "Gender is irrelevant. Potential is what matters. But if you must phrase it that way, then yes," he lied. "Is that a problem?" "Oh no, no problem," she replied casually, also lying. "I spend a lot of time in Dalaran myself. This may even be more convenient, since I will have both him and Sanctuary so close by to each other. He even mentioned that you would be personally teaching him a few things?" There was a pause as she smiled. "If that is the case, we will be seeing quite a bit of each other." The hesitation behind Qabian's grin was not well hidden. There was an instinct to groan and stalk away that took him some effort to suppress, but beyond a shadow over his face and a shift in his expression, he didn't react much. "I will, so it seems, both be teaching him and seeing you." He dropped his hand, watching to see what the boy would do with the small flame. Qabian turned that horrible grin back on Ninorra. "Unless you have a problem with that, of course." "Oh no," the warlock purred, a hand shifting to Damian's shoulder. It wasn't quite firm enough to be overprotective, but it was a reminder of her presence. "On the contrary. I think he can learn a lot from you." Qabian finally stood up, straightening his tabard. "Of course he can. But it's dangerous here, hm? That's why you kept him in Silvermoon in the first place, yes? He may even get himself killed, but that doesn't bother you, does it?" The glint in Qabian's eyes was absolutely cruel. "I suppose it is a little scary to see one's first born leave home for the first time," Ninorra admitted, acquiescing. Just enough. "But then again, the closer he is to our guild hall, the more eyes I can have on him. They say 'it takes a village to raise a child'. Well, luckily for me, I have an entire guild worth of passionate, principled, virtuous friends who will not hesitate to step in should they see him in any sort of trouble." It was then that Damian glanced up at his mother with a raised eyebrow. He knew better than to interrupt adults when they were talking, but he had an inkling about the subject matter. Slowly, the fire spread to cover his palm. Qabian's grin vanished thoroughly. He frowned, almost scowling at Ninorra's words. This conversation was not proceeding at all had how he expected it might. To be honest, he'd expected to be slapped. If what she said was true, and that Sanctuary was going to be up in his business all the time because he'd had a stupid idea that had long since gone off the rails and was now careening directionless into the twisting nether, he was going to be extremely unimpressed. The fire over the boy's hand did bring a touch of a smile back to Qabian's face, though. Qabian shrugged. "Fine. Then I won't even try to be careful. Spies everywhere. Let the kid learn as he will. He's perfectly safe without my help. Just point him at the demons and let him go. Understood." Ninorra raised a sculpted eyebrow. That he was trying to goad her was clear, but she had memories of him being a lot better at it than he was being now. "I think you will try to be careful," she said gently, attempting to make things less confrontational. Time would tell how much her efforts would pay off. "I think you will try to be careful, because while it's obvious that you're trying to gain something from this, I don't think you are the type to crave chaos so much that it leads you down the path of self destruction." A pause. Damian rolled his hand in the air, watching the flames lick his hand without harming him. "..unless things really have changed." "Perhaps they have. I have zero intention of being careful," he said, the small smile growing back into a terrible grin as he watched the boy play with the fire. "Being careful was the mistake Silvermoon made. Being careful is what sent him here. Being careful may as well have kept him locked in his crib. Insinuating that your oh-so-virtuous friends would be watching me was simply you giving me parental permission to do what I already intended." Qabian turned his eyes on Ninorra then. "I have no plans on self-destruction. I'm not afraid of Sanctuary, and I'm certainly not afraid of you. In theory, this is about your son, and no doubt he will benefit from being allowed to learn from his own mistakes. Give a child a sharp blade, and they'll either very quickly become skilled at avoiding the edge or very quickly die finding out how it works, hm?" "Luckily for Damian, his father has taught him how to use blades," Ninorra said with a cooling expression. The boy looked up as his name was mentioned, the fire going out almost immediately in his hand. Glancing from his mother to the Magister, his expression was difficult to read. "You are not the type of person to care for anyone outside of yourself," his mother continued, waving a hand dismissively. "That much I already know, so it is no insult when you insinuate that I care too much. Of course I do. I am his mother, and that will not change no matter how much older or more capable he becomes. The fact of the matter is, I trust my son to learn from mistakes. His own," she squeezed his shoulder once, smiling down at the boy before returning her gaze to Qabian's. "..and those around him." Qabian's unpleasant grin softened when Ninorra declared the type of person he was, setting him in opposition to herself. What she was saying had not always been true, but for the present, she was absolutely correct, and to Qabian, that in itself was the greatest quality about his return. For just a moment, he paused to revel in that knowledge, even if the recognition of it was coming from someone whose opinion he considered without value. "Good," Qabian said. "I'm sure Damian will agree." He looked down at the boy. "You will learn much faster than you ever did in Silvermoon, but it will also be much more difficult and much more painful. You're not afraid of getting hurt, are you?" Damian almost rolled his eyes. Almost. He suddenly saw the value of his father's lessons, those long days spent outside learning how to throw a real punch and use what little strength he had to wrestle an opponent three times his size. He wasn't a gifted fighter, which meant a lot of lessons in pain. "No." "Good. You'll have plenty of chances to prove it." There was a surprising lack of condescension in Qabian's tone, almost as if he was earnestly interested in seeing how the child would cope. He turned back to Ninorra. "Will he be staying with you or Sanctuary here? Or does he need a place?" "He will be staying in our guild hall," she answered easily, glancing in the hall's direction. "Will you be providing him with a schedule? Or should we look for word from the Kirin Tor?" "I will... set a schedule." Part of Qabian was rebelling against the entire idea of this. What the fel was he doing? But the part of him that was in charge was telling him to keep his mouth shut, because doing things against his very nature was going to get him what he needed. "I assume he has no other commitments and can work around mine? Unfortunately, there are places in the city he won't be able to access without me, but I'll make sure the libraries outside the tower are open to him at all times, day and night." Qabian crouched down in front of Damian again. "I expect you'll want to be exploring the books while I'm not around, and you should absolutely do that as often as you can. None of them should be forbidden to you, but before you go looking, there are two important things to know." Qabian held up one finger. "Only read one at a time. Some of the tomes the Kirin Tor keep around have strange interactions with each other that can't be seen on the surface. If you open several at a time, especially in certain places, you risk opening demon portals into the city." He held up a second finger. "It's best to treat them with respect. Silvermoon's books are better trained. Dalaran's books have a tendency to get annoyed by the smallest things and may react unpredictably. Understand?" "Yes," Damian said calmly, nodding once. Ninorra bowed her head gently in agreement. "He will be available when you are. The rest of his time will be spent studying. My one condition is that he not leave Dalaran unless it is with myself or his father. If you absolutely must go somewhere for any reason, I will accompany you." Qabian kept his attention on Damian. "Do you agree to that? Do you want mommy or daddy tagging along every time you want to go anywhere interesting? Do you want to be stuck in the city whenever your parents and I can't arrange our schedules?" Damian opened his mouth to argue, but paused. The boy studied Qabian's face, as if studying something. "...sir. i made a deal with my father. I'll keep my word and not leave the city without them." Qabian looked up at Ninorra. "Assuming I agreed to this ludicrous restriction that misses the entire point of coming this far at all, how exactly would you stop me from breaking it?" Ninorra cocked her head at the red haired elf. "You're asking how I would stop you from kidnapping my son?" She asked with an amused smirk. "Surely you are smart enough to know why I would keep that under my hat. Besides the fact that I trust my son not to simply disobey us." "In this city, there are times he would be alone with me and this city has an abnormally large amount of exits to absolutely anywhere. Kidnapping would be the simplest thing if I were to take it into mind to be something I wanted. As it is, you may have to decide whether you want him to be my apprentice or your baby. It seems both states are incompatible," Qabian elucidated. "That is where you and I must disagree, Qabian. You can not and will not take Damian from this city without me." Ninorra's red eyes flashed a little brighter, then almost immediately dimmed once more. "And, pleasantries and your lack of fear aside, I would not envy you if you tried." Qabian stood and straightened his tabard. "So be it. I'm sure the Kirin Tor will find some junior mage willing to mind your child while you're busy, but I have better things to do than babysit and take family picnics. I'll find an apprentice whose parents aren't so determined to crush his curiosity and willingness to learn." Ninorra folded her arms, smirking. "Perhaps. I am sure Silvermoon is full of talented young students who would be honored to be your apprentice. None of them a child of Sanctuary, of course. Or with Damian's particular background." She shrugged. "You are free to choose, of course. I know Damian will be disappointed, and that is a shame.." Damian scowled at the ground. "..but you can not always have what you want. That is an important lesson." Qabian mirrored the child's scowl, but he did so deliberately, intending to show a feeling that seemed appropriate yet didn't betray his actual thoughts. Ninorra had neatly called Qabian's bluff, but the part of him that didn't want any of this mess was rejoicing, trying convince him to simply take the ever so convenient exit provided, to throw his hands up and abandon this idiotic mission. In the end, Qabian let the scowl fade and spoke directly to Damian. "I could lie. It would be very easy to lie, to tell your parents what they want to hear, to say that I will do what they wish, and in the meanwhile put my efforts behind their backs into convincing you not to listen to them. But while I don't put much stock by your parents' opinions, given how they've tried so hard to stifle your learning at every turn, simply lying would be doing a disservice to you, young master. "I won't be taking any other apprentices. I will let you know when you can find me, and I will teach you what I can, limited though it will be without real situations and real targets. However, I will not be going anywhere with your parents present, outside the city or within it. You've managed to convince them to let you come this far. You can do that again. Convince them to let you go as far as you actually need to, then we'll see what we can do." Damian looked earnestly toward the magister. He had been through a lot in his few short years, and he had experience with adults attempting to manipulate him. There was a certain aura oozing from Qabian. Something sinister and uneasy. So much so that he wondered, briefly, why his typically overprotective mother would let him get so close. Surely he was dangerous? But her hand on his shoulder was symbolic. She was there, watching. Listening. "Yes, sir. I will," he said calmly. It was not a lie. Qabian took a deep breath in through his nose and faced Ninorra, folding his arms across his Silvermoon tabard. "Well, then. You have your demands. I have mine. I suppose that settles that for now?" "For now," the warlock agreed, bobbing her head once. "Until he hears from you, then. Safe travels, Qabian." "Mm. Something like that." Qabian frowned as he waved off the Kirin Tor guards who had been standing nearby, then cast a teleport spell, vanishing off to who knows where.
  20. Anee was sorting through a bag of herbs on the kitchen counter, identifying each one for Teagan, Daerek’s sister who was visiting for a while, and telling her a few facts about each plant, such as where it could be found and a few uses for it. Wearing just sweat pants and a tank top, and her hair back in a ponytail to keep it out of her way, she seemed quite relaxed as she taught the impromptu herb lesson to her lone student. Buster was laying on the couch, chewing on a bone that he held propped up between his paws. Despite her exuberant nature, Teagan was a solemn student and a quick learner. She was dressed similarly to Anee in terms of comfort, but she had snagged one of her brother's button-downs, rolled up the sleeves, and tied the long shirt ends at her stomach. Every now and then she shared a bit of trivia with Anee about an herb that she’d come across in a history book or some such other place. Daerek had been gone for the morning on some errand or another, but the jangle of keys outside of the apartment door heralded his return. Buster, abandoning a bone he had been chewing, jumped off the couch and ran to the door, barking happily and jumping up at Daerek as the door opened. "Anee?" he called, shifting some packages around in his arms. "You've got a package here!" Anee came from the kitchen and took the package from her roommate with a distracted “Thanks” as she looked at the box, so he could deal with the excited puppy. Daerek laughed at the dog and put the rest of the packages on the desk before squatting down to pet Buster. “You being a good girl, Teagan?” he called out, assuming she was there somewhere. Teagan came out of the kitchen, hands on her tilted hips. "A good girl? What am I, your dog?" "That's my shirt! You're wearing my shirt!" "Hmph. The color brings out our eyes." She tossed her hair with a laugh and returned to the kitchen. Anee set the box down on the coffee table. Buster left Daerek and came to sniff the box, most interested. When Anee opened the box and looked inside, she gasped loudly and stepped backwards. She walked back right into the couch and fell on her butt into the cushions. She didn’t even seem to notice though, still staring at the box with wide eyes. Daerek looked up at the commotion and Teagan popped her head out of the kitchen, a frown on her face. Daerek sprinted to Anee. "Hey hey hey, what's wrong? You alright?" He peered first into her face, resting a hand on her shoulder, before leaning over to peer into the box. Inside the box was a head. It had obviously been dead for a very long time; by now it was mostly just a skull with a few bits of hair and desiccated flesh still clinging to it, with a light spattering of grave dirt. There was a folded piece of paper shoved in the skull’s jaws. Frowning, Anee pulled the paper out and unfolded it. "Not your father. You're a liar." With another gasp and her eyes widening even further, she flung the note back into the box and stared at it as if it might start shooting fire at her. Buster, a lover of bones, jumped up and put his front paws on the coffee table to get a closer look at what was in the box. Although it was mostly too dried out to stink out the humans, his sensitive nose just knew there was something interesting there. Daerek sucked in a breath at the sight, but to his credit he didn’t seem too outwardly phased. He grabbed for Buster to move him away from the box. "What is it? What's going on?" Teagan asked, making to come investigate for herself. Anee put the lid back on the box. Daerek shot her a single stern look. "Don't," he said sharply, uncommon command strengthening his voice. "Do not look. And do not listen." Teagan recoiled with wide eyes. "Okay," she said in a small voice, ducking back into the kitchen without further noise. The mage shifted again to crouch in front of Anee, both hands moving gently for her shoulders. "Anee," he murmured. "Why don't you tell me what's going on?" There was nothing but concern for her in his voice and gaze. Anee looked right at Daerek, not even trying to hide her fear. "He knows where I live......" she murmured, her voice filled with dread as she considered the implications of that. Fear for herself turned into an icy lump in her stomach as she remembered the Grim mage asking about family and friends. "Then we'll go somewhere else for a while," he said softly. "But you need to tell me what's going on so I know what we need to do." He squeezed her shoulders a little bit, hoping to share any kind of comfort and calm. "I should go....away from you.... You'll be safer...." then she frowned. "If it's not already too late for that. I can...go to Stormwind. It might be safer there. Harder for him to get in there....or them.... I don't know if he's working alone. I don't know what he wants with me...." Her voice started to take on a note of desperation at the end, but she managed to not panic, at least not yet. After a moment, she seemed to realize she hadn't offered any explanation. "A few nights ago.... A man asked me some questions. He said I could have his panther cub, who seemed very hungry, if I answered his questions. He asked for my father's name, and I didn't want to tell him, so instead I gave him the name of the man who owned the pub I worked at." Her brow furrows at the box with the head in it. "How could he know I lied about that?" Daerek kept a steady look on her, not relinquishing his grip. "What other kinds of questions did he ask?" "He asked about my family," she said, speaking slowly as she tried to remember everything. "I told him they were all dead. He said he was an orphan too, so we had a lot in common. He asked.... He asked who I live with, and who my friends are. I lied to him. I told him I live just with Buster and have no friends. He got suspicious and asked if I belonged to a guild, so I told him the truth on that one...." She frowned then, biting her bottom lip. "Anee." Daerek brought one of his hands up to cup her face, moreso to keep her focusing on him and keep her grounded than as any kind of an intimate gesture. She looked away from the box and back to him. "No hiding anything, okay? Not from me, not right now." There was still no reproach in his voice, just earnest concern and an intent to get to the bottom of the situation before they make a move. "If he knows where I live, he may know about you....." Her voice was barely a whisper. "Daerek, I'm so sorry... He's Grim." "Okay," he said calmly. "Who?" She hesitated, remembering his words the other night about her knowing so many Horde people. "I...I... He wore their tabard," she said, looking back at the box. "A blood elf. He cast fire spells..... He burned the panther cub." The news about the cub made Daerek wince a little. "I'm sorry," he murmured, before looking at her with a level gaze again. "Do you know this man's name?" He knew what he said the other night too—couldn’t get it out of his head--but he was expecting her to be honest with him. That expectation was evident in his eyes. Still staring at the box, she says quietly, "He didn't say his name..." "But do you know it?" She flinched slightly. "Qabian......I don't know his last name." "Okay. Why would Qabian be asking you these questions? And following up on them in such a way?" "I don't know!" she exclaimed, wondering the same thing. She looked at him earnestly. "He's Grim. Everyone knows they just kill all Alliance, not make conversation with them. I asked him what he wanted, and all he said was he wanted answers to his questions." Then she frowned suddenly. Daerek stayed silent and cocked his head to the side, waiting for Anee to voice whatever thought she suddenly had. She opened her mouth but closed it again on that particular thought, and switched to her main concern. "You're not safe," she whispered, then glanced in the direction of the kitchen. "She's not either. I'm so sorry," "I'm not leaving you," he said flatly. "It's not happening. I'll get Teague somewhere safe, but I'm not leaving you alone." "They'll kill you. Horribly." She said it calmly, but her voice was filled with absolute certainty that it would happen. "Doesn't matter. I'm not leaving you alone." He smiled. "If they wanted me dead, that mage would have set me on fire the other night. But you.... If they're playing with me, they'll hurt you, and kill you, just to hurt me. You're safer without me." Daerek was silent for several moments, green eyes never leaving hers. "Do you want me to leave you?" he asked quietly. "For your own sake? Not mine?" She knew she should tell him yes and insist he let her go away alone. But she was not that selfless, and she was very scared. Slowly, she shook her head no. She knew it was wrong, but she told herself she could run away from him later if it was needed to protect him. Daerek leaned forward and pulled Anee to him in a hug. "Okay," he murmured into her hair. "Okay. Then I'm not. You're stuck with me. We'll figure this out together." The hug surprised her, but she quickly melted into him, nearly clinging to him. She nodded her head against him at his words, but miserably felt like she had just condemned him to a horrible death "We'll be okay, alright? I promise. One way or another." He sounded pretty confident, but Anee couldn’t see his face. There was a flash of fear in his eyes--fear that he had no idea what to do or who to turn to--but if she shifted at all to look at him, that fear would be completely gone. She just nodded again. To her, it wouldn't matter how confident he looked or sounded; she didn't at all believe they would be okay. "Okay." "Okay," he echoed, mindlessly kissing the top of her head. It bought him time to think if nothing else. And then they started working on laying out a plan to keep them all safe.
  21. Damian returned home at the usual time. The sun was at its hottest point, and a short shadow was cast as he made his way to the stables to perform his afternoon chores. Vicailde was sat at a short stool seeing to Frank's shoes. The new hooves shimmered with a shimmering gold. Vicailde wore simply his linen pants and boots. His shirt hanging over the door to Frank's stable. "If it isn't the little Lord." Frank mused his tall ears twitched as he turned to see Damian approach. Vicailde turned in his seat, glancing over his shoulder. His hand resting in a loose fist on his leg. "Your school contacted me..." He trailed off as he turned fully in his chair to face his son. His face was stern, but seemed to be a bit conflicted. "...would you mind telling me your side of what happened?" Damian seemed hesitant to walk into the stable. He frowned at Frank, but didn't feel confident enough to cast the same expression to his father. Pursing his lips, he approached the older Bloodstone and lifted his chin to face him. "He wouldn't leave me alone. He never does," he argued. "I warned him before, and he didn't listen. He kept saying things, so I finally did something about it." Vicailde studied his son for a moment. "Tell me. What will you do if he returns looking to make you pay for what you've done? Returns with friends?" He waved Damian in closer to him. "There are other ways of making people shut up. I spent years perfecting that art. Fear is an easy weapon to weild.. but it's fleeting and it turns on you. Respect is a far better path." "I've tried that," Damian insisted, approaching his father cautiously. "I tried to ignore him. I tried asking nicely. He wouldn't listen, so I had to make him listen." Vicailde sighed and studied his son for a moment. "I never said you had to take the high road or that you should take it laying down. However, first why do his words mean anything to you? Are you worried others may agree with whatever he said? Tell me. If a Lord on the council had said something similar would you attempt to set him on fire?" Damian's eyes shot up toward Vicailde's, red and angry as the felsteed standing beside Frank. "They did say those things. About me, and mother. I didn't set them on fire because I had to be responsible for our home, but I don't need to take it from someone my own age. I had to make him see I'm not going to let him just get away with it." Vicailde's face remained unchanged and he stared back into his son's eyes. He stood up slowly, towering over his son. "Then let us go. Tell me which Lord said these things and you can burn them too." "...Vic..." Frank murmured quietly. Vicailde's hand opened quickly, causing the horse to fall silent. Damian shook his head, confused. "That won't do anything but hurt our family. I can't just set everyone on fire," he argued, his lip trembling. "I just wanted to teach him a lesson. That's all." Vicailde raised a brow looking down at his son. "So burning a defenseless child is fine but attacking someone who could fight back is out of the question?" Vicailde sighed and placed a hand on Damian's head comfortingly. "You are right. You can't set everyone on fire but, you can't teach idiots lessons; the world is full of them. They'll try to drag you down to the dirt because that's what they are. So you got a few options. Let them drag you down, ignore them and hide from their words, or you can reveal them for the idiots that they are. Knowing how to defend yourself if they attack you is helpful for any of them, but doing so in a way that embarrasses them is worth any physical pain you could inflict." Damian's left eyebrow twitched at the explanation. "..you don't think setting him on fire was embarrassing enough? After all the teasing? You don't know what it's like. You were gone. I had to take everyone's insults while you were away, and they think I can just go to school and be like all the other kids? While you and mother fight the Legion, I'm fighting off other kids who remind me how common my mother is, how you paid for her, and how all I am is a.. an agreement you had." Vicailde licked his lips slowly and sat back down. He placed a hand on Damian's shoulder. "No. There was nothing embarrassing about it. Everyone here remembers when the undead attacked and now the Legion is on their doorstep and they're too weak to fight them so they try to take their fear out on others. I didn't chose to leave you or your mother; I was taken." He took a slow breath and and shook his head. "As I said, they are dirt and their words are dirt. Do you doubt my love for your mother or you? They have these stupid rules about who should love who. I ignored those idiots. I rubbed their noses in it. I thought that I could protect you from it... that was my failing." "You can't protect me from everything," Damian said quietly, shame written across his young face. "I have to be able to protect myself. I know you and mother love me. I know you love eachother, but nobody cares about any of that. All they care about is that I look different, and she looks different, and you're important so they have to tolerate me but nobody really wants to. Nobody here." "I can't but I will try and I will try to teach you how to defend yourself." He took a slow breath and raised a hand to his own blue eyes. "They make fun of your eyes because they remind them what they lost. How the high elves look down on our people's green eyes. They want to drag those beneath them because they can't handle feeling 'tainted' but your eyes, your skin, your hair. These are all simply pieces. You can let them control you or you can own them and use them to your advantage." Vicailde ran a finger from the corner of his lip to his ear. "I used to have a scar that ran from my lip to my ear. At first people reeled at it. Imperfection was not tolerated back then as it isn't now. I would be lying if I didn't say it controlled me for awhile but, I learned to use it for apathy or fear as the situation called for it." Damian squinted at his father, as if attempting to imagine what he must have looked like with a scar that big. "Well.. if you could do that with your scar, couldn't I do that with my eyes? I'm not planning on setting anyone else on fire," he said quickly, as if to defend himself. "I figured once would be enough." Vicailde nodded slowly. "I would have traded my scar for eyes like thoses. However, no more burning. If you want to teach people a lesson you will have to do it with your tongue or your fists and if you want to learn to do that I can teach you." Damian looked down at his hands, frowning deeply at the prospect. "..someone from the Kirin Tor came to see me. He said I had potential. That I should be in Dalaran, training." There was a pause as he gathered his courage. "..may I go?" Vicailde paused and raised a brow. "We can go to Dalaran if you wish it. However, you will have to amend for what you did to this child first. If after that and a short visit you still wish to train there then you will have to prove it is something you wish to do. You will have to behave at school, do your chores, and... train with me." "..train? You mean learn to fight?" He asked, squinting. Damian seemed to consider the possibilities he was being offered, weighing them. "Corvallis taught me swordfighting. He practices with me, sometimes. Fighting like that?" Vicailde nodded and smiled softly. "Fighting, Survival, Politics, and other things. Forgive me. When I was taken you were just a baby and I couldn't handle how much you had grown on my return. I wanted you to be a child because I missed so much. I recognize now that I shouldn't treat you like a child. However, this means that it won't be easy. You could continue relaxing at school and home if you wish." "Relaxing? You think what I do is relaxing?" The boy said incredulously, more stressful in his motions than any child his age had the right to be. "There's nothing relaxing about being me," he said while looking toward Xanatos. "Not at school, not anywhere. " Vicailde frowned and took hold of Damian's shoulders. "Yes. In comparison this is relaxing. It will be hard work. However, if you would prefer we can find ways to help you relax." Vicailde glanced towards Ninorra's steed. "There are several wards we can look into that will help keep them from speaking to you... and if you wish to learn from home instead of school that can be arranged for a time." Vicailde cleared his throat. "However, if you wish to learn how to harness innate abilities you must also learn how to do things that do not com naturally to you as well." "..like fighting," Damian suggested quietly, looking down at his hands. "I'm not good at it like you are. I'm good at.. other things. Like studying, and casting spells, but.. that's why I do it. Because I know I'm not going to be a fighter like you were." There was a certin amount of shame in the boy's voice, as if he regretting this truth. "I was a terrible fighter. I kept my nose in a book and I absolutely loved watching plays. It is what I always wanted to do. My father made me learn. I hated it. However, I grew to enjoy it in my own way. As I said, it's important to learn to do things that don't come naturally... unless you want to end up like those spoiled people who try to take the easy way their entire lives and fear change and difficulty." "I don't want to be like them," Damian said defensively. He looked carefully at his father, as if confused. "..you hated fighting? Really? I thought you were always good at it.." he said thoughtfully, then shook his head. "But if you hated it, then why did grandfather make you do it?" Vicailde cleared his throat and avoided his son's eyes for a moment. "He... had an idea for what I should be. Much was expected of me." He turned towards his son and smiled softly. "I don't expect you to be good at it, but I did learn much from it and I think you can to." "I don't mind learning.." Damian relented. "I liked sword fighting with Corvallis. He's a really good fighter." Vicailde sighed and nodded. "Again, you may still continue learning from him." Vicailde scratched his cheek lightly. "I didn't think you would be so reluctant to spend more time together.." "..with you?" Damian asked, blinking. "I'm not.." he said carefully, looking for a way to explain his feelings. "..I didn't think you'd want to. With me." "Of course. I'll admit I have been preoccupied since my return with the Legion and explaining our return to the council... If you go off to Dalaran I'll see even less of you. I'm sure your mother will want to steal some of your time for herself. We simply have been focused on ending this war so that we can return home. I suppose we just hoped we would have a few more years." He scoffed lightly. "Maybe you'll find a way of forgiving me later but those are my terms." Damian lookes to his father thoughtfully, as if looking for something beyond his words. "I would have done it anyway," he said with a shrug, his own attempt at pride. "But if that's what I have to do for you to let me go to Dalaran, then I'll do whatever you say."(edited) Vicailde smirked thoughtfully. "One last thing before you go work on your school work, what do you wish to do in Dalaran? You have been asking to go for a while now. What do you intend to see or learn?" "I want to become a Magister," the smaller blonde explained, his eyes confident. "I want to learn from the best spellcasters in the world. I want to see Khadgar, and learn from the Kirin Tor. Archmage Grimfire was recruiting for them, he met me in Silvermoon." Vicailde raised a brow curiously. "Oh? Curious I hope your incident at school doesn't change his mind. They can be fairly rigid about discipline. It requires a steel resolve to be a Magister least you end up falling to tainted power like our Prince did." Vicailde cleared his throat. "What do you wish to do with your powers once you learn them?" "Defend our home," Damian answered easily, standing up a little straighter. "Take care of everyone." Vicailde leaned back in his seat. "Why do you want to do that and who do you want to take care of?" He smirked lightly. "Doesn't have anything to do with that girl you kissed does it?" "No!" Damian practically shouted, his face turning a shade of red. "No, it's just.. I don't know if something will happen to you and mother again. So if it does, I need to be ready. Just in case." Vicailde ticked his tongue lightly. "You can't prevent or predict what will happen, but I've learned you should pursue interests outside of self preservation. We have enough money to hire more guards for the homestead if you wished for protection. Either the armies will win or we won't but you pushing yourself for that goal probably won't resolve it." Vicailde shrugged lightly. "I'm not saying don't train for war but focus on something that makes you happy. Magisters do far more than fight. They studied our world to understand it for the sake of knowledge." "..I like studying," the boy admitted, shrugging. "I think.. maybe if I'm in a place where everyone else is studying, maybe I won't be so different." Vicailde nodded and gave his hair another ruffle. "Good. Now go see to your chores and don't forget to clean up for dinner." I'm sure your mother will have some words for you when she returns. Damian winced and turned to the door. "She's going to overreact.." Vicailde cleared his throat. "Go easy on your mother. She struggled with her powers when she was your age... and she had no one to help her. She simply does not want to lose you. To the fel or to Dalaran." The boy looked somewhat guilty with himself. "I'll be fine. She should be more worried about getting hurt on the Shore. I read about the demons there. They're huge, and they have ships firing beams from the sky at people below." "Well they're not just firing at the shore. They're firing at Dalaran and I have seen more than a few Demons on the pavilion from time to time. If you're worried about her then know the more she worries about you the less she'll be able to concentrate on her surroundings.... Besides there is nothing that will make her worry any less about you only more." Damian sighed heavily, as if the weight of the world were on his shoulders. "Even if she knows I can defend myself? If I were more powerful, I could fight back better than I can now." Vicailde chuckled. "You could become better than Khadgar and she would worry no less. I am not saying you shouldn't train. I am simply reminding you that your mother worries not because she doesn't trust you but because she loves you." Frowning in an all-too-familiar expression, Damian lowered his eyes back to the ground. "I love her too. I'll be good. I promise. Thank you, father." Vicailde nodded turning back to the task at hand. His steed looked down at him and Frank's lips parted in a toothy grin. "So sweet." "Shut it." Vicailde muttered in his breath as he lifted the hood back into his view.
  22. My debacle in Stormwind is far from over, but I regret none of it. I got what I wanted, suffered some, but that was a small price paid after the fact. Dalaran is not a city built on morality. It will forget sooner than later, especially once those who think they have power have their assumptions forcefully corrected. The best way to do that is still in question. There are delightful but improbable possibilities, and there have been brilliant but risky missed opportunities. We will see. Syreena's little project did not unfold as I expected. People are usually predictable. I interviewed more than enough in the past to see that. My absence should not have changed that. No one whose notable qualities are being afraid of the dark and finding appeal in cute animals is also a sensible person. Either the victim had the good sense and skill to lie thoroughly and consistently, or she's severely abnormal. I suspect she may be a combination of the two. If there were lies beyond the one I uncovered, they were set well in advance of our conversation. If those were not lies, then she seems nevertheless to be not at all what she implies. Stole something, did she? I said I wouldn't ask. Did I? I at least implied I wouldn't ask. But something about the target is... off. Not quite right. Still, I am confident I will be able to make her life miserable. Now it is simply a question of time and degree. Then there's the boy. That's definitely getting out of hand, will get far more out of hand, no doubt, but may yet be useful, perhaps even hilarious, especially if I can bring it around to the Kirin Tor. That seems tenuous at best, but I'll see it out. All of this feels oddly familiar. Fingers in too many pies seems like a phrase I recall. The Grim eye the Tomb along with everyone else. The future invokes strange and wondrous things. When was the future last anything but cyclical? When was time last anything but fragments? I am strangely intrigued to see what the days to come will hold.
  23. It was the first time she'd ever chased after a thief, and Cat didn't know how to start. Fortunately, she could smell him. She could smell the life blood pumping through his veins as he ran, and with her death-granted strength, she managed to catch up to the rogue after a few strides through the forest. By the time she saw him, he'd already sprinted a quarter mile away, and was beginning to lose speed. Cat used the opportunity to grab him by the first thing she could get her hand on , his hair. "Give me back my axe!!" She yelled, tugging his head back as he attempted to keep running. There was a sick tearing sound, and a pop. The force of her grip, combined with the speed of his running made his body go forward as his head was yanked from its perch. His skull dangled from Cat's hand as his body fell into the ground, her axe glowing maliciously. She stood there, wide-eyed, her naked body splashed with blood that dripped slowly down her frame, and stared at the skull hanging from the hair in her hand. It seemed to stare back at her. Soleren dashed after, pulling his runeedge from the pile as quickly as he could and continued to follow. His pace slowed as he neared them, Cat holding a head in her grasp and the thief clearly separated from his own. "Cat..." He whispered as he approached her, slowly taking the head from her hand and dropping it to the floor beside them. His own axe followed soon after as he pulled her towards himself. What blood had spilled over her would smear onto him as he held her. It was the only thing he could think of doing, in an attempt to bring her back to their reality. "Cat, are you okay?" He grew defensive of her, eyes moving from place to place in high alert. He wouldn't let his guard down again. It almost cost them. "You're okay..." He repeated softly. By the time Soleren had caught up with her, Cat and the head had been together for a few long minutes. In those moments alone, she felt drawn to the head. Or at least, the blood freely flowing from it's throat. Without thinking, or knowing exactly why, she raised the head into the air and let the blood stream into her mouth like juice from a ripe fruit. She couldn't taste it at first, but the more she drank, the more she could taste and smell the gradually cooling blood as it rolled down her throat and face, somehow warming her from the inside. Though mostly hidden behind the blood spray, her skin became slightly more saturated, the bloom of artificial life creating a temporary pulse that her dead heart struggled to pump through black veins. As she lowered the head back down, Soleren was running toward her. She could smell the death on him, though it wasn't quite decay. His arms around her were like cold slabs of meat. "..I'm warm," she murmured, looking down at herself, then up at his face. "I can smell you." Soleren leaned back to listen, arms parting to let her go. She didn't need any comforting. She had found the strength that came from delving into her powers and the warmth it brought her. She would want to indulge in the urge that came with the return of her feeling. "That is the power you wield, Cat. You have the strength to get back what was taken from you, even if it is temporary. What you must do now is control that urge. Do not let it control you." He placed the axe's handle over his shouder and stood infront of her, waiting for her to grow accustom to the magic she wielded. "After all, it isn't often that you can discover what will bring you back what was taken from you." "It's.. not exactly the same," she said quietly, looking down at her still bloodied hands. A few yards away, the thief's body bled into the grass. Cat sniffed the air, goosebumps appearing on her limbs at the now familiar scent. "I still don't feel.. you know. Alive. I just feel less dead. I can feel things, again. Smell, and taste." Her eyes suddenly adjusted to the situation; two death knights standing naked in the middle of a forest. One covered in blood. Realization hit her like a ton of bricks. She approached the dead body and went through his things; a handful of coins, a leather satchel, a few useful odds and ends. Cat shoved them into the bag and grabbed her axe, hoisting it over one shoulder before turning to look at Soleren with the hint of a smile. "..okay, now I really need to clean up or nobody is going to believe a word we say," she said with a strange amount of calmness. "Thanks for coming for me." Grabbing what she could not, dead body included, he nods at her and hefts the decapitated corpse over his shoulder. "This can't be here. If we leave a trail then we will certainly be followed. I will dispose of it myself and we will continue back towards the waters to finish our bath." He looked down at her, blood coated body shimmering under the light of the sun. There was a moment of solidarity between them, shared in their predicament. "Perhaps it’s best not to be standing here naked on the road with a dead man and his 'belongings' in hand." Cat started to giggle into her hand, emotionally exhausted. "Perhaps not.. though when I think of the kind of stories my girlfriends told me, I really wish they were still alive to hear this one." She began to walk back toward the stream, her footfalls slow and deliberate as she could actually feel the ground beneath her bare feet. "Naked in the woods with a guy I just met. Nobody would believe me." Soleren's face twitched into a half smile. The manipulation of her phrasing was enough to bring him out of his brooding nature once again. "All the same, I ended up naked in the woods with a girl I just met...had I an opportunity to talk with anyone, I'd likely get asked for grittier details. 'Who was she?' 'What was she like?' 'Did you--!' No, never mind that one." He shook his head, looking down at the small death knight as he adjusted the corpse over his shoulder. "I'm a soldier, Sol," Cat said with a smirk over her shoulder. The blood seemed to have an effect on her, and it gave the other death knight a glimpse of what she might have been like alive. Energetic, cheerful, someone with no right to smile as much as she was while the sun dried blood on her skin and her hair was still matted with it. "You don't need to be shy around me. My friends would as if we screwed, and I'd tell them no, and they'd laugh at me." Soleren blinked at Cat, brow raising in surprise. "I have not doubted you being a soldier, though from what I recall, you were a soldier yet tested on the field of battle. Regardless of your expertise..." He shifts, looking ahead towards the nearing waters. "I do not shy away from the subject because of any doubt. It’s a lingering remnant of my persona. A large part of me has given up on retaining these pieces that made me a living being...but that comes from isolation on a grand scale. So yes, I would also have been asked if we had 'screwed' and would have lied most likely. Or perhaps attempted to make truth of it." Cat laughed into her hand again, grinning back at Soleren with bright blue eyes that seemed to ignore the sunshine pouring in through the trees. "Lied about it? What a jerk," she teased, looking around for a good place to dump the body. "I wonder if we can even do that, anymore. I'm not sure how much of me actually works, even with the blood magic." Eventually, they came upon a small thicket near the same stream the thief caught them in. Cat pointed out the mound of foliage. "Maybe we can bury him under there? All the bushes will hide the ground being disturbed, yeah?" "Bury him?" He let out a laugh of his own, dropping the corpse’s remains on the ground and letting it hit the floor with a thud. "As far as things working or not...I haven't had sufficient time to test that. Has sort of been the last thing on my mind since I broke free. Most I ever thought about it was...well...now." He held out his hand and from the ground sprout more of the beetle like creatures. They swarmed over the corpse, burying it with the mass of their numbers before consuming it completely. In moments they scattered and returned into the ground, covering their tracks as they disappeared. All that remained was the organic matter that could not be broken down. He lowered his hand and turned back to Cat. "I don’t imagine it was on anyone’s mind when they came to." Cat's focus was drawn to the beetles as they ate their way through her kill, leaving behind only bones and the remnants of his clothes. The sight was fascinating and terrifying at the same time, though by now Cat had grown almost accustomed to the strangeness that accompanied Soleren's abilities. His voice drew her back to the present, though the subject matter was strange, even for two dead people. "..uh.. well you're probably right about that," she murmured, shaking her head to erase the image of Soleren's bugs eating their way through a corpse. "But I mean, it's hard to forget old habits, right? Not like I was particularly 'habitual' in that regard before I died.." she chuckled awkwardly, moving her axe from one shoulder to the other. "..but I mean, being a death knight isn't supposed to be a good time. Maybe we can't. Maybe it would be too much of a distraction from killing. Maybe.. we're not even supposed to like each other." "Do you like me?" Soleren asked nonchalantly, letting the power of the beetles fill him with renewed strength. The other death knight blinked slowly, her demeanor shifting from the confidence inspired by her bloodlust back to the timid undead Soleren found only days ago. Despite having seen him naked from nearly every angle, she somehow felt awkward looking him in the eye. "..yeah. Sure I do," she admitted, her stomach in suddenly twisted. Soleren's lip curved slightly to her words, changing his tone ever so slightly towards a warmer one. Like her blood magic, his conjuration brought a hint of warmth to his own skin. "Then consider that theory disproven. The only thing that is certain is that we weren't meant to break free and yet here we are. Naked, soaking wet, talking about sex instead of rampaging through a village in the name of some false king. Tell me that we weren't meant to at least be able to enjoy some things." Cat's ears turned pink at the mention of their chosen subject matter, a relieved smile creating dimples in her cheeks as she laughed into her hand. "I guess you're right," she admitted, comfortable once again despite their situation. As if to pick at the same wound he had, Cat lifted her axe from her shoulder and used the flat side to bump Soleren's shoulder. "What about you? Do you like me?" "I...I mean..." Soleren’s usual stoic and piercing look crumbled as if he was not expecting the same question, yet he knew it to be inevitable. His features softened slightly and with a smile he turns to Cat. "Yes. Yes I do." Though typically aloof in situations that called for discretion, Cat wasn't quite stupid enough to miss Soleren's inflection. They may have been dead, but all of their emotions and memories seemed to follow them, which seemed to include a capacity for attachment. Letting the head of her axe touch the ground and drop with a thud, Cat took the long step to close the gap between herself and the other walking corpse. She breathed in deep the smell of death that permeated through them both, only to be amplified as their pale and desaturated skin came in direct contact. Her thin arms wrapped around his waist, unflinching in their contact with flesh that had grown slightly warm from his use of the beetles, but still retained the texture of old meat. It was a surprise that she didn't find any of it repulsive, one that she didn't take for granted as she set the smell of his particular corpse to memory. "Thank you." His own rune edge fell into the dirt, carving itself a place to stand as his arms reached down to wrap around her. Memories and emotions had followed but it took another to dig them out and pull them from the depths in which they had been buried. He held her as he had when he had found her in the middle of the road, only this time he felt no need to chase away any pain. A hand reached to press on her back as she clung to him. "Cat...I...you're welcome...and....Thank you." "What'r you thanking me for?" The smaller death knight asked quietly, the side of her face against Soleren's chest. Had he been living, she would have felt his heartbeat there. The silent stillness of his nonexistent pulse was oddly comforting. "You saved me," she continued, following the trail of events that led them to this place. "If it wasn't for you I probably would have been destroyed at Light's Hope. You were there to show me what I was, even though you weren't sure either. You chased me when I tracked down that thief, and took care of the body for me. It seems like you keep saving me," she noted with a sad sort of smile. "I hope I can return the favor, someday." "I hope a day where you have to rescue me never comes, but if it does...I want you to run. Don't chase after me, don’t stay behind to be a hero. Don't look back after you are miles gone. Just run. And if I am who you want to save me from then keep away from me." His eyes closed as he relived the moments she recounted, following the trail of reasons he had to be thankful for. "When we found one another I had not anticipated our journey to lead us here. But finding you has been reason plenty to give me purpose. Perhaps that’s over simplified but...I've no other way of saying any of this. So thank you." As Cat listened to Soleren's explanation, her smile faded to a look of concern. She waited until he once again thanked her before leaning back slightly to look up at his face. "If you think I'm ever gonna just run away, you don't know me very well yet. I'd never do that. I wanted to be a hero, before I died. I don't see why that needs to change, now. I'd rather go down fighting than run." Her smile returned a little as she craned her neck to look him in the eye. "We look out for each other. It goes both ways." For a moment there was a silence between them, broken by the soft echo of his voice and digits that pressed her head lightly back onto his chest. "Both ways then... we protect one another and when we can't, we keep trying anyways. Because that's what heroes do, right?" Soleren looks on over her into their reflection by the water, icy blue eyes staring back in question. He agreed to her, but dwelled on his own lingering thought. "That's what heroes do," Cat agreed, closing her eyes. The ability to feel again was enough to remind her of how good it felt to be heard and understood. For the time being, the impact of her losses, her own death and the death of her first love, were easier to deal with. "Just because we're dead on the outside," she began, her voice muffled against his clammy chest. "..doesn't mean we're dead on the inside, right?" "Right..." Soleren replied, slow and breathy.
  24. Cat didn't run far from the village. Crouching beside a muddy stream, she watched as the water tried to make its way through rocks, struggling like the rest of this place to survive. She had pulled her cloak over her head again, covering most of herself, appearing almost like a lumpy gray stone with the exception of her bright blue boots. At the sound of Soleren's footstops, a hand went for her axe. It stayed there as she heard the lack of breathing, the familiar gait, and lowered back to the ground. Soleren carefully approached Cat, but made no effort in hiding his steps. "Cat..." he called out softly as he neared the bank, squatting down next to the pig tailed death knight. A hesitant hand reached out to pull at her hood, giving her the chance to bat him away should she need it. "Everything will be fine. I promise you that. We will look somewhere else, aid others that are not so fearful." "I melted a dog," Cat reaponded in a shaky voice. She seemed dustand, not bothering to push his hand away but not really feeling it either. Glowing blue eyes focused on the water before her, muddy and fetid. "Dogs usually like me. This one wanted to rip my face off." "The dog was an unexpected occurrence and we have learned that we need to watch out for more in the future. The can sense our undeath where the girl could not. But we've escaped and we need to keep moving. We want to avoid any more people for a bit, keep to the road as if we are wandering sellswords." He removed the hood fully and nodded at her, hand falling to her back in an attempt to comfort her. "It was a mistake and we can not undo it. We were met with hostility. If it had not been you then it would have been me to do it." "But if animals can see what we are, it's just going to keep happening, right??" Cat's knees were shaking in the ground, creating little ripples where the toes of her boots touched the stream. "She's going to tell the village about us, anyway.. I'm sorry. I ruined this for us." He paused for a moment, hand resting on her back like a permanent fixture. She was deserving of the truth but it would set them back. "Cat..." His hesitancy was evident and would likely speak to his actions anyways. " No one will be looking for us... I told you that our situation would require us to do horrendous things to keep us alive. The girl... She could not be reasoned with. She would give us away and our hope of normality would end all because of an unrestrained act of aggression from her part. I... did what needed to be done. I understand if you think I'm a monster... But I want us to survive this." His hand slipped away from her back slowly, uncertain of what her reaction would be. There was a long pause as Cat digested the information. Still staring at the muddy water, Soleren's voice didn't seem real. Their situation didn't seem real. The little girl's death didn't seem real. The only thing that seemed real was the hollow numbness she felt as she knelt in the dirt. Eventually, she turned to regard her new partner in crime. Had she the ability, she probably would have been crying. But she was undead, and the tears didn't exist anymore. "We're both monsters," she said sullenly. "But if you did something that horrible, it was my fault. So.. I'm sorry. And thank you." He was afraid of her hate, scared of the way she perceived him. Until their first encounter, all he had ever been was his armor. The nerubian effigy who's only forward thought was survival. Self preservation embodied and reinforced, tempered by the murders he had been forced to commit. Until that encounter, nothing and no one else mattered. He stood and reached down to offer her a hand, stoic in expression. "I can not blame you for the atrocities I commit. Had I a choice you know I wouldn't have..." Soleren paused, unable to repeat his crime. "We need to keep moving." Cat took his hand and stood. His grasp was just as cold as hers, something that wasn't lost on her, despite the numbness. There was comfort in the similarity, a reminder that she was not alone in undeath, and she was hesitant to let go. "Okay. Where to?" "We continue west. Towards Horde territory. If we come across any more farmers we can try approaching them with caution, make sure they don't have any animals with them. If they ask, we are a wandering couple in search of work and have been hardpressed to find it." He looked out into the flowing stream and composed himself as he planned out their next move. "We need to keep our story straight and not rouse any suspicion. If they ask where we are from we simply claim to be from Elwynn Forest. Traveled this way because we heard there was work as mercenaries available. We can try to head south towards Westfall and hope we can help people along the way." "Westfall sees a lot of crime and there are sure to be postings for heroes there." "Elwynd Forest.. Mercenaries.. got it," she repeated, looking westward. The sun was already beginning to set. "My Common isn't so great. I hope we can get to Horde territory soon.." she passed Soleren an awkward smile and squeezed his hand before moving in that direction, as if she needed some semblance of normalcy. "I'm definitely better with Orcish. It's a lot easier, even if the sounds are funny." He returned the squeeze before they headed westward, awknowledging her smile with a nod."We will practice your common along the way. You dont need to be fluent in it, but at the very least passibly speak it should we find ourselves needing more convincing 'disguises'. Orcish would be easier to speak but we can not pass as Sin'dorei without the green glow of fel taint in our eyes." "Right.. uh.." Cat blinked a few times as they walked, considering the implication that came with their blue eyes. "I guess I didn't even have the fel taint for very long..I remember when we were magic starved, and my brother sent back money so we could buy magic items from the black market to feed on. Our eyes were doing all kinds of weird things, then. Seems like they're always changing.." She scratched her nose with a free hand. "..the.. Forsaken sometimes had a smell.. do you think we do? Maybe we should.. I dunno, maybe we should chew on mint leaves or something. My mother always made my brothers do that because they were gross." "Our bodies are preserved by the magic that courses through us. We aren't subject to suffer the same fate as the forsaken unless you were turned as a forsaken. However we have been on the move for days and perhaps a bath and some mint would do us good." "Might be hard to find another abandoned house with a decent place to bathe.." Cat muttered, frowning a little. "We might have to settle for a cold stream or something. Not that how cold it is will matter, I guess.. My brothers used to swim in the river all the time, but I thought it was too cold. Sometimes they threw me in," she said with a little smile. "I almost wish they could see me, now." "A cold stream is likely the best we would find out here. The hot springs of Winterspring we most certainly will not find. We can follow the stream you found and wash off if need be or we can wait til we get to a cleaner source of water." He had a calculated look about him, piecing their plan together as they hobbled along. "There are plenty of wild herbs we can use to better our scent as well. Clean and polish this armor and make ourselves look a bit more presentable." "Never thought I'd have to worry about looking presentable," Cat said as she followed the stream, moving in the direction it flowed from in an effort to find a clean source. "Not fir a while, anyway. Most of the blood knight trainees were pretty grimy, especially the guys. Almost makes me miss showering with the girls, like we used to. Even the teasing." "Teasing? How presentable we are, as an aspect of our reasoning, is so that we can pass ourselves off as civilized individuals. Though...a semblance of cleanliness wouldn't hurt us all the same." He lowered a smirk down to her, as they approached a portion of the stream that could pass as clean water. "Here." As they approached the stream, Cat's attention was drawn toward its flaws; the banks were shallow, and the water moved slowly. There didn't seem to be any fish nearby, but there was an abundance of greenery surrounding the stream to indicate that it was at least clean enough to sustain them. She seemed a little disappointed, at first. This wasn't the river her brothers would dive into on cold mornings, daring each other to get in before the other. It wasn't the pond where her first would go skinny dipping after a long day of training. It was just a stream, but it would do. "Seems about right," she said with a sad sort if smile, shrugging off her cloak before going for her boots. Soleren watched as Cat moved towards what little respite they had found, calculated mind suddenly coming to a halt in realization. He turned away as he spoke, "I... You likely require privacy. I can go and fetch the herbs while you bathe. I don't want to leave you alone but there isn't much in the way of privacy. Not like the cottage anyways." "Don't worry about it," Cat said offhandedly, peeling off her armored shirt. "My friends and I in basic used to go skinny dipping after a long day. I was shy, at first. Then.." she smiled to herself before unbuckling her belt. "..I met someone. And he kinda helped me out of my shell, I guess. Showed me how stuff like this is no big deal, you know? Once I got over being so shy, I enjoyed going out into the water with them. So don't worry about me. Might as well rinse off, yourself." "Myself...yes..." He did not shy from his own appearance, but retained his gentleman nature even through death. Once again the killing machine of an elf seemed to show more of whom he was before death then he had when they had met. "Very well then." Piece by piece armor was placed on the floor, methodically. First the gauntlets then the braces. It was a process that revealed more and more of him with every piece that followed suit. Broad and muscular for an elf, he still held a slight finesse the accentuated the definition of his build. He was built for his armor but the grace of his former stride still remained. He did not grow in front of her, but simply walked towards the other knight and sat beside her near the bank of the stream. "I suppose our situation will demand we do a number of things that will call for our discomfort or lack there of." His face remained stoic as he waited for her to finish, looking contemplatively into the water. Black hair, still braided, touched the middle of his back where small marks etched his body. "Of course in this moment here, it really isn't all that uncomfortable." He'd bared himself to her before, first time shedding the effigy that protected him and nothing else. This time he was as he was born, and it was easier than before. Cat didn't let her eyes linger on him for too long as he undressed. That was the first lesson she learned in training when stripping down near your peers - don't stare. She instead focused on removing her mismatched armor and the remnants of her training linens, now stained past forgiveness at the cuffs and joints. As she stripped, it became more and more clear just how young she was in death. Cat was a young woman, but there was still a little developing that could have been done in her less than ample chest and wide hips, and for the most part she was without a blemish; except for the enormous gash in the middle of her stirnum. The open wound was a grizzly mark on her otherwise smooth frame. As she exposed it to the air, Cat felt a twinge of embarassment. In their time together, she'd almost forgotten it was there. "..it's only uncomfortable if you make it uncomfortable," she said quietly, maybe more to herself than to him. Without warning, the gray skinned elf let herself sink into the water and rise back up again, her hair drenched. Soleren reached for the make shift band thay bound his hair, pulling at it to let the raven of his hair come unwound. He sat a moment long before slipping into the stream unaffected by the cold waters. He submerged himself, reflexively holding his breath. When he emerged back to the surface he smirked, slightly tickled by the reflex. Cat undid her pigtails and watched as Soleren dunked himself into the water. When she saw him come back, one of her ears flicked. He looked a lot less intimidating when completely wet, and it made the soggy death knight giggle. "Hey," she said with a grin, swirling her hands around the icy water. "I guess we can't drown, can we?" Soleren nodded, brought to a half smile by the cheerful deposition that seemed to seep from her like a plague, infectious and destructive. His guard was shattered by the giggle, and he raised his brow at its effect. "No, I suppose we can not. We are beyond suffering most death." He took a handful of water into his hand and splashed it over his face, feeling only the texture of the water over his skin and nothing else. "Is...is this what you needed?" "I guess so," she answered a little less mirthfully, running her hands through the water, as if looking for something. "..now I kmow I can't feel much of anything. Not the cold, anyway. It's weird. I feel the water, the rocks on my feet, and I know I'm wet and my hair is dripping but.. without the cold it's like I'm feeling it through a haze. Even if we did smell bad before, now I'm not so sure I would notice." "Then pretend you do. I may not feel sensation like hot or cold but I can still remember what they felt like. Sensations like hot and cold will likely not return to us, but at the very least we can pretend..." He took another handful of water and looked into, pale icy blue eyes stared back at him. With a smirk he flings the palmed water at Cat and it splashes her in the face. "You missed a spot." Cat sputtered as the water dripped down her face, shock eventually melting into mirth. "You jerk," she said with a grin, cupping her hands to splash him right back. He raised a hand to shield himself from the assault, water easily passing his meek defense. With the other hand he returned the favor, moving closer as he continued to send small wave after wave her way. Through the chuckle that left him, he called out to her. "I was just trying to help you get clean!" The wave hit her directly in the face, blinding her for a moment as she returned another splash his way. "That is almost insulting! I am clean," She argued, giggling as the water rolled down her back. She was beginning to get used to the strange sensation of water without temperature, and the memory of what it may have felt like began to fill in the blanks. Wiping a hand across her eyes, she brought up her hand and made a pretend pair of scissors with her fingers. "Though I can't say the same for you and that hair.. I think maybe it needs a trim!" "This coming from the girl with pigtails!" He grinned as his demeanor became more playful. "I let you tie it into a tail, but you will take no sheers to it!" The water rippled and splashed back and forth now as they moved around in it. There had been nothing to disturb and no one to see them in all their splendor. He stopped as he neared her sank himself down to her height, smirking at her. "Im supposed to look like a mercenary, not a lord!" "You look like a hobo," Cat giggled, reaching for a long chunk of his hair. Taking the time to wring some water from the chunk, she drew it close to her eyes and squinted. "Could at least trim the dead ends.." she suggested before bursting into laughter. "I guess they're all dead ends, huh?" Meanwhile, unbeknownst to both death knights, a stranger crept nearby. He was silent in his creeping, and unseen through the magic of stealth, choosing to hide himself in the foliage a few yards from their clothes and weapons. Soleren looked down at the clump of hair in her hand and let out a brief laugh. "Your jokes are unamusing. This is simply my unamused laugh." His attention was on Cat, drawn to her giggling and smiles. She had cried for most of their venture and hated herself through a large part of it. The mirth of her spirit was worth making a fool of himself and if it meant getting to smile himself, he would continue. "Warn me before you make any more so that I may pretend to listen!" As if in protest of his suggestion, Cat got close enough to him that she could bring his hair to her face and placed it under her nose. It resembled a very drippy mustache. "What do you think? Good disguise?" Their guest was closer, now. Cloaked with stealth, he wore the tight fitting leathers of a thief. Thin and wirey, he kept close to the ground, inching patiently toward the pile of armor and weapons in the hope that they might contain something of value. "The pigtails give you away! Though you might be able to convince some fool. At the very least the color matches." He took some of his own hair and placed it underneath his own nose. "I could make it work." Cat giggled at the sight, her expression fading slowly as she noticed some sort of movement behind Soleren's back. "..wait..." At her change in attitude, the rogue knew the jig was up. In a mad rush to make use of his situation, he hastily grabbed the first thing he could - her axe. "Wait!!" Cat shouted, grabbing Soleren's shoulder and shoving him out of the way to splash out of the stream and run after the rogue who disappeared into the woods.
  25. It had been a few days since Cat and Soleren found eachother at Light's Hope Chapel. Since then, the two attempted to make themselves scarce among the living. They found clothes, weapons, and some scant armor that could, for the most part, disguise them as living elves. At least until someone came too close, and noticed the chill that surrounded them, or the telltale smell of death. Still learning to understand her newfound abilities, Cat was having difficulty with how her body craved blood. She found it easier to simply eat flesh rather than drink the temporarily life-granting essence that granted her a living pallor, at least for a while. Yet even in the dying forest where they hid themselves for the time being, there were questions of life and death. As she knelt beside the corpse of a human farmer, long since dead, Cat ran her fingers over the rotting flesh of his face as maggots crawled in and out of his eye sockets. "..do you think we'll ever rot, Soleren?" "I can't say... each one of us has gone through different stages of death. We can still be wounded but the magic that keeps us animate has provided us with the means of staving off the worst of death's curses. Since we can not help our own situation we can only look for and embrace what ever silver lining we can find. In this case, you will not rot so long as you consume the life force that keeps the living from experiencing those very curses." They appeared as hobbled high elves, junked armor and clothing unfit for the very appearance they hid behind. What little life they did encounter kept its distance enough to avoid unnecessary confrontation and to their fortune most that ever greeted them were corpses. "But we won’t let that happen. We will use the guise of justice bringers to feed that hungering magic. In turn helping whatever town we land in and ourselves in the process." "What do you mean the 'guise'? Like it's a disguise?" Standing up, she dusted off her hands. Cat wore bracers, but hadn't yet found gloves that fit. Her small hands appeared gray, as if covered in dust, but it was only her own discolored skin. As if cold, she wrapped her ill-fitting cloak around herself and held it shut while approaching Soleren. "It's not a disguise if it's true, yeah? We really can help people with this power, even if we're kinda gross." "Guise may have been the wrong word. The intention is noble and certainly well thought out but should we mangle even the wicked in front of those that seek retribution, we will still be seen as monsters. So guise is what I want to call it, as we will still need to be careful of how and when we complete our tasks. Helping people is fine, but even those we help might find our methods unappealing." Soleren moved them along, back onto the path they had chosen to walk. "The difficult part of this will be approaching people in our...current attire." Cat looked down at her mismatched armor, most of it hidden behind a dark cloak she'd picked off of a dead traveler. Her chest piece was cinched in tight at the sides, though clearly built for a man. Beneath it, she still wore her old cotton trainee clothes, stained in several places. Her pants, rather than armored with metal as she would have preferred, were leather and also built for a man. A human man, specifically, making them rather loose and tightened only by a belt who's fitted holes she had to create herself. Her boots were, at least, built to size. Unfortunately, they were also bright blue. "I mean.. it's not that bad, is it?" He thought for a moment as he looked over her. A smiled cracked on his face as he turned back to look at the road. "It may actually come as an advantage to look like makeshift adventurers. Novices on their first campaign to stop bandits and murderers. I am more hopeful then I am doubting the idea, at the very least. Else I would have suggested something else." She was more adorable then she was frightening and that would help them. "You know, I always figured this is what I'd do," Cat said optimistically as they approached what looked like a small farm village. A few skinny goats bleated in the distance. "I knew I'd go out and do good deeds and stuff. I just figured it'd be after my training. I thought it'd take me a long time, like, I wouldn't actually go do anything heroic until I was in my hundreds. Hard to believe I'm doing it now, before I even hit twenty.." "Twenty..." His features twitched slightly as his statement became more of a question. "Oh yeah, I joined the military as soon as I was allowed. Eighteen, like humans do. Was supposed to be training as a squire for years, you know? Human squires train around five or ten years but we're supposed to go a lot longer. I figured I wouldn't be out adventuring until I was at least a hundred, but.." she shrugged as they walked. "You know. War." "I was young when I joined the Spellbreakers, and still just as young when I took over training my unit. We were charged with defense of the city and often saw no action. The occasional troll while on patrol, but never anything to make it into the history books. You may have advanced faster then you thought possible. You've the heart for it and you certainly aren't lacking in drive. You are simply missing experience and technique." "Well.. I guess I have all the time in the world to learn now," she added sadly, a hand absentmindedly reaching down to the handle of her axe. It bounced gently against her hip as she walked, mostly covered by the cloak. "Though I guess I'll be learning something totally different.. blood seems to answer me the way the Light used to. Kinda weird how similar it feels. Except when the Light came to me, it made me feel good. When blood does what I tell it to do, I don't really feel anything. I guess that's a death knight thing though, right? We're not supposed to feel anything." Cat kicked a rock in her path. "Being dead blows." "Being dead...blows..." He repeated under his breath, giving a moment more of thought to it before brushing the notion away. "To guard us from our own atrocities perhaps. Our memories, our sentience, even the quirks of our former selves followed along. Yet certain feelings did not. I wish I could answer that question for you, Cat. I really do, but there are things even I have not figured out about death." "Like what?" her ears suddenly perked, as if she were very interested in the answer. Soleren always seemed to have answers to her questions, in regards to death, undeath, and everything in between. To see him lost about something made him seem a little less wondrous, and a little more like an actual peer. "What is it you wanna know?" "Will the world ever really accept what we are, regardless of what we do for them? Will this freedom be everlasting or are we temporarily allowed to be who we were only to be broken later? Mostly questions that may have no answers." Soleren shifted the weight of his weapon, the bundle that held it hid it's appearance from passersby. He turned back to her, eyeing her interest with a raised brow. "I suppose one of my questions may be answered sooner rather than later. The real question then becomes will we like the answer." Cat looked at Soleren's serious face and tried to smile. It wasn't easy. "Now you're scaring me," she said with a nervous giggle. "People aren't all monsters. If we're good to them, they'll be good to us. We just have to be really really good. The other thing.." she chewed on her tongue thoughtfully, now avoiding his eyes. "..I don't wanna be a slave, again. I'd rather kill myself before it happens. If I get the chance, anyway. If not.. will you do it?" Soleren lingered on the thought for a moment, eyes narrowed to the idea of having to kill one of his own. He kept his pace, walking through the akward silence for a moment before responding. "If we ever become slaves to anyone again, for whatever reason...I will make every effort to break free long enough to kill them before I ever point my axe at you, Cat." Cat's smile came a little easier, though she kept her eyes on the forest floor. "Okay. That's good enough for me." As they drew closer to the village, it was clear the farmers were facing hard times. The few farm animals they had were skinny and malnourished, so much so that one could count the ribs on their goats. There didn't seem to be a lot of activity either, with the exception of a skinny human female hauling water from a nearby well. She seemed to be having a tough time of it. "This village has seen better days. We may not be of much help to them with their livestock but at the very least we can investigate. Perhaps their despiration will be our ally today." He hesitated to approach, a fear of the worst keeping him at a distance. Everything could go wrong and the moments of peace they had found would end. Cat shrugged and waved toward the little human girl. "Maybe. Wonder what's up with all the animals?" Approaching the little girl carefully, Cat removed the hood from her cloak to reveal a gray toned elf with bright blue eyes. Her black hair in pigtails, she didn't look particularly threatening, but for the living there was a strange sense of dread about her. The human looked toward them both as if she'd seen two ghosts, clutching her empty bucket. "Hello," Cat said in her best Common, pointing toward the bucket. "Help?" The human blinked, then looked at the bucket. Her hands, which seemed unusually thin, trembled as she held it close to her. "My name is Cat," the death knight tried again, smiling brightly in spite of the underlying stench of death. "From Quel'thalas. May I help?" Another long pause. The human slowly handed Cat her bucket, but as soon as the death knight took hold of it, the child bolted for one of the nearby houses. Soleren grew nervous, eyes shifting from building to building ready for what may emerge. An angry mob perhaps, another purging party that had been tracking them down? All possibilities, without his armor and a formerly inexperienced initiate their chances of escape were smaller. "Cat, we should leave." The resounding paranoia rang from his voice like a warning bell. "I do not want to stay and find out what will happen after her alarm." "But.. maybe she needs help," Cat reasoned, looking aeound the village for another sign of life. "I don't see any adults here, do you? She might be all alone. She's probably just never seen an elf before. Maybe we should --" As if on command, the doors to the house where the little girl ran burst open to reveal a skinny dog. It barked wildly at both death knights, jaws foaming. Cat regarded the animal sadly. "..I thought dogs liked me." Soleren instinctively reached for a weapon, keeping himself from drawing the axe and unwanted attention. He called out to Cat in Thalassian, reaching for her arm instead. "We need to leave." "But--" Before she could argue, the dog ran for them both. It was skinny, and likely didn't have the capacity to injure either of the knights, but it ran at full speed with open jaws ready to tear one of them apart. Cat was in too much shock to immediately respond, but as the dog drew closer, what looked like a rune spread throughout the ground around both her and Soleren. As the dog's paws hit the rune, it began to smoke, as if it were on fire. The reality was far more gruesome, as flesh began falling from the dog's bones as it decayed before their eyes. The dogs lunge triggered a reflexive twitch that called for more then a simple reach of a weapon. Just as the rune had appeared, Soleren stepped infront of Cat and raised a gauntled hand towards the decaying animal. He pulled back and turned to his protectorate, looking for the source of the magic. "Cat..." The melting hound began to howl in its pain as it died where it stood. It took a few seconds for Cat to realize that the rune erupted from her own feet. She stumbled backwards, looking down at the symbol as it burned through the ground, a symbol she didn't understand but could feel emanating from her need to protect them both. The death knight's mouth trembled, as if she were more terrified of herself than the flesh melting dog that whimpered until it crumpled to the ground in a pile of decaying goo. She took a few timid steps back, staring at the animal with a growing realization of her ability, then turn and ran back into the woods. Soleren took a few steps back, looking around for any others that may have seen them. With little in the way of witnesses and Cat running off into the woods, all that had remained was the girl. He gritted his teeth and snarled at the thought of the frightened child. Should her parents return she would surely tell them what she saw. What was he to do? Survive. The little girl remained inside of her house. With the exception of the dog, it seemed as if she were all alone. The house was too small for her to have much of a hiding place, and she crouched with her hands over her head underneath a table who's decorative tablecloth was only long enough to cover her forehead. Legs trembling, she cried as the dog's barks finally fizzled out. She understood what that meant. The ground around Soleren became riddled with small cracks as tiny scarab like critters poked out of the dirt and began their march towards the house. What started as a few became hundreds, the clicking of femurs became loud enough to drown out thought. The death knight waited for a moment before following Cat into the woods. The bugs pushed through every crevice they could fit through until they all made their way inside. Trapped and with nowhere to run, the girl was left to her fate.
  26. A little black panther cub ambled aimlessly through Dalaran. In an ordinary city, that might seem a sad or concerning thing, but given that every time the cub moved something underneath its fur shimmered arcane purple, it seemed likely in this city of mages that it's someone's familiar out on a task, should an observer be in-tune enough with the nature of the city to recognize it. The cub stopped in front of each doorway it passed as though waiting for something, pausing extra long for the moment in front of One More Glass. As Anee walked down the street, seemingly led by a pug puppy on a gem-studded blue leash, she caught sight of the cub. The pup also noticed it, pulling at his leash a bit, and wagging his butt with his tail as he panted excitedly. Anee was not in tune enough with the city to recognize a familiar when she saw one. She saw only a panther cub. At first, she simply followed it without trying to draw its attention, in case it seemed to know where to go, but as it stopped in front of all the doors, she decided he was lost. "Hey, kitty...." she called softly, holding her pup on a shorter leash as she approached the cub. "Are you lost?" The cat looked at her upside down, then walked up to the vendor's table right in front of a plate of cheese and waited. After a few moments, it looked at Anee then back at the cheese, somehow apparently oblivious to the dog's presence. "Oh, hungry, are you?" Little thief that she was, Anee sidled up next to the cheese table and swiped a small piece, and in the same motion, dropped it to the ground right next to the cat. Throughout her swiping, she looked over other cheeses on display, as if considering them. The pup strained to reach the cheese she dropped, but she held him firmly on the side of her opposite the cat. The cub snaps up the cheese in one quick gulp, then trots down the street back the way it came. At a short distance it stops, turns, and sits down, staring at Anee. Anee watched it before moving away from the table. She swiped a few more pieces of cheese, then walked toward the cub. When she got close, she held the pup at her back and squated down, holding her hand out in front of her with the cheese. "Hey, little guy," she crooned, not certain of the animal's gender, but figured it wouldn't matter as much as the sound of her voice as with most animals. "Do you want some more?" The cub got an odd expression on its face, almost a flicker of a cheshire grin. It trotted up to her hand, placed a paw on it, then ate the offered cheese. Again, it trotted away a short distance, then stopped, sat, and waited, staring at her. With her head tilted curiously, she repeated the movements, squatting again with another cube of cheese held in front of her. This time though, when the cub came for the cheese, she reached out to pet it on the head. It graciously allowed the petting to take place, seeming generally unperturbed, content to let her do what she liked, but once it had swallowed the cheese, it dashed off. It ran to the top of the ramp leading down into the Underbelly and sat, waiting, staring pointedly at Anee. "Oh, no, kitty, don't go down there. It's dangerous down there," she objected, stopping again and kneeling down with another bit of cheese. This time, however, she was ready to try to grab the cub to keep him from going any further into the bowels of the city. The cub’s eyes narrowed. It glanced back and forth between the cheese and her face, hesitating, before finally seeming to make a decision and trotting away from her down the ramp. As Anee sighed, watching after the cub as she stood up again, her pup jumped up and down at the end of his leash in that direction. He barked a few times until Anee gave his leash a little jerk and shushed him. She sighed again. "Fine, let's see if we can catch him before he gets hurt." With the pup still on a very short leash, she descended the ramp into the dimly lit tunnel. As her eyes adjusted to the light, she could see the cub not far down the ramp waiting for her to come into view. It turned to move away again when a rat the same size as the cub dashed past and the cub hissed and leapt after it. Hoping to take advantage of the rat as a distraction, Anee tried to sneak up on the cub, still intent on picking it up to take it back above to safety. At first, the cub seemed unaware of Anee’s presence as it furiously chased the rodent. The rat leapt into a portal, not unlike the ones that could be accessed throughout the Underbelly by those in the know. This portal was in an odd place though, not one of the usual. The cub leapt in after the rat, then just a few moments later, emerged again and sat down just outside the portal. It stared around briefly before settling back to lick at one of its haunches. Anee blinked at the cub. "You're a feisty little thing, aren't you?" she murmured as she slowly moved closer to it. "Let's get you out of here, okay? I'll get you some food? Warm milk?" As she started to get closer, she bent down, reaching her free hand towards it, her other hand--the one with the missing pinky--was still behind her back holding the pup's leash. The cub seemed not to notice as she moved, then just as her hand touched its fur, it leapt backward with a yowl, its body twisting in apparent panic as it fell back into the portal. This time, it didn’t re-emerge. The girl gasped and drew her hand back, then stared with wide eyes at the portal. "Kitty?" she called toward the portal. "Kitty come back!" She frowned at the portal, having no idea where it went. It showed no indication where it may lead, only swirling around darkness at its center. She looked down at her pet, as if the pup had any answers. "Maybe he lives in there?" Anee bit gently at her bottom lip, looking indecisively between the portal and her pup for several minutes. "Do you think he went home? Or maybe that goes down to the demons...." She tilted her head from side to side, her curiosity growing as well as concern for the cute little cub. It hadn’t seemed happy about going in the portal that last time. Finally, after several minutes, she picked up the pup, and, holding him close against her, she stepped through the portal, stopping immediately on the other side to look at her new surroundings. As Anee stepped inside the portal, the floor shifted slightly beneath her feet. Wherever she ended up, it was pitch black. There was nothing to see. Just as she considered stepping back the way she came, the cub's violet shimmer appeared in the darkness in front of her, though it was difficult to tell how far away. The portal behind her swirled to a point and disappeared with a sound of sucking air. She turned, blindly reaching out with her free hand as she clutched her pup close to her with the other. “No, wait!” A whimper escaped her as she waved her hand a few more times in search of the portal. She looked back toward where she had seen the panther cub and now saw a pair of glowing green eyes floating in the darkness just above the cub’s shifting violet movements. “Welcome, Anee,” a man’s voice said. Anee clutched the pup tighter against her, ignoring his squirms of protest. “Who….who are you?” she asked in shaky voice. She heard a snapping sound, as of someone’s fingers, and an ornate lamp on a small table suddenly illuminated the entire room. The room looked much like the one that housed the Underbelly’s black market—slats of wood resting on top of water—but there were no crates or barrels or obvious exits, just solid stone walls on every side. Across from Anee, sitting on an out-of-place plush but ragged high backed chair beside the lamp’s small table, was a blood elf with long copper hair dressed in plain robes and a Grim tabard. On his lap, the panther cub was curled up. Qabian absently stroked the cub’s head with one hand, the other raised but relaxed. “Do you recognize me now?” he asked. After looking around and failing to find an exit, Anee turned her frightened gaze to the elf. Her gaze paused on his tabard, and then she slowly looked up at his face, looking at him blankly for a moment before frowning and looking away again. “What do you want with me?” she asked quietly in a shaky voice, ignoring his question. Qabian smiled slightly. It wasn’t quite a smirk, but something about it was off, unpleasant. “Answers to a few questions. You don’t mind, do you?” His Common had an accent, light, lilting, but he showed no discomfort with the words. He glanced down at the floor. “Can you swim?” Anee didn’t bother answering the first question, quite certain he would ask his question whether she minded or not, but at his second question, she looked back at him in alarm then looked at the floor. “Yes…” “Then you’ll be fine,” he said, but somehow the statement didn’t come across as particularly reassuring. The fingers of his free hand moved as though he were flipping a coin over his knuckles, but there was no coin there, only a small flicker of flame, like that of a candle. “Tell me, do you consider yourself an honest person?” Anee watched the flame with growing concern. Was it meant to hypnotize her? Was it a display of power meant to frighten her? She looked away before answering his question. Of course, she was not an honest person, what kind of question was that? “Yes,” she said quietly and caught her bottom lip between her teeth again. The pup was growing heavy in her arms and she shifted him around a bit. Qabian narrowed his eyes, as though suddenly noticing her pet. The panther cub in his lap lifted its head. “You brought a friend. How awkward.” The blood elf’s arm shifted, palm facing outward. The flickering across his fingers encompassed his whole hand in fire, but he lowered his arm and the flame dissipated before anything untoward happened. “Nevermind. Assume I know nothing about you. Tell me about your family.” She blinked and tilted her head at him, surprised by the question. “My family?” she started hesitantly. “I…I don’t have a family. They were killed. By Forsaken.” She stuck to the same story she had so recently told another mage. It was mostly true. “An orphan, hm?” The mage settled back in his chair, flicking fire across the back of his hand again. “Then we have something in common. How long ago? Do you remember them?” “Umm….many years ago… I remember a little about them,” she said in a distracted manner before repeating her earlier question. “Please sir, what do you want with me?” “I already told you. Answers. Are you afraid?” “Yes,” she whispered. “Why?” He steepled his fingers, and one of his elbows ended up on the cub’s head. It didn’t seem to notice or care. She glanced at his tabard, thinking that should be obvious, then looked away quickly again. “Because…I don’t see any way out of here, and I don’t know why you want me here. I mean, I don’t know what answers I could possibly have that would interest someone like you.” “And you don’t trust me when I say you’ll be fine.” He smirked and stroked the cub’s head again. “Why did you come here?” A fleeting glimpse of hope crossed her expression when he said she’ll be fine, but it was gone just as quickly. Hope, she knew, was dangerous. She nodded toward the cub in his lap. “I saw him wandering around the streets. He seemed hungry, and I was worried he was lost. So I followed him.” “Do you want him?” “I….the cub?” She blinked, surprised again as she looked at the cub. “But I thought.. Isn’t he yours? I mean….when I saw him in your lap, I assumed…” “He thinks he’s mine.” Qabian shrugged. “Answer my questions, and he’s yours.” “Okay….” She agreed, but he voice was still heavy with uncertainty. He put a hand back on the cub’s head. The cub kept staring at Anee. “Where were we? Ah, yes. What do you remember about your family?” "Well, umm....". She fidgeted at the topic, but she squinted her eyes a bit as she thought back. "My pa was....a drunk, and my ma was nice and very quiet, and my little sister was....always under foot." She chewed on her bottom lip yet again, watching the cub the whole time. "Lordaeron?" She gave him a startled look, wondering how he knew that, but after a brief consideration, she decided it doesn't matter, and she nodded. "Orphans, we make our own families, hm? Who are your family now?" Anee seemed to stiffen at the question, and tilted her head down, looking at the pup in her arms. Everything inside her warned her not to tell him about her roommate. "I...I....I just have ....Buster now, sir," she stammered, her gaze fixed on the little pug. Qabian raised an eyebrow. "A dog? I don't think so. You live alone?" Without lifting her gaze from the pup’s tawny head, she nodded. "Do you have friends? A guild, perhaps?" "Twilight Empire," she said shakily. "That's the guild I'm in." "Ah. That's better. And I suppose some of them treat you like family, yes?" "I...I don't go to the meetings... I signed up to be an Ambassador, but.....I never got any assignments...." "You have no friends among them? They're all strangers to you?" "I know....some of them....faces and names, but....no friends, no..." Qabian's expression turned to disappointment. "That seems highly unlikely. You have no one you confide in? No one you share secrets with?" "Umm....I talk to....the Cardman.... I mean, Tuuroto sometimes. He's very nice." "Hmm." Qabian tapped his fingers on the panther cub's head as he thinks. The cub finally turned its stare from Anee to the blood elf. "How old are you?" "Twenty." She fidgeted some more at all the questions, her gaze slowly beginning to roam around the room again. Qabian's tone turned suspicious. "And your family died years ago, but you have no friends. What have you been doing all this time? Do you want a family?" "No...." she said in response to the last question, cringing a bit at his tone. "I didn't much care for the family I had. I have no wish for another one." "Well." He continued tapping the panther cub's head. It continued to glare at him. It finally nipped at his fingers and Qabian stopped, though he didn't otherwise acknowledge the creature. "That makes everything much more difficult. It's unusual, don't you think?" Her brow furrowed at his words, strengthening her suspicion that he was asking about her friends and family to look for targets to hurt. She glanced at him briefly before looking away again. "What is unusual?" "Not wanting a family." He gestured as he spoke, talking with his hands. "Most people are obsessed with family, either finding one, or starting one, or protecting one, or avenging one. But not you. You're all alone and planning to stay that way." She said nothing at first, just stood there, nibbling on her lip and expecting fire to come shooting at her any second from those moving hands. Then, somehow, she seemed to find enough courage to look him in the face and ask a question of her own. "Do you have a family, sir?" He grinned wickedly. "No. You and I unfortunately have even more in common than I thought at the start. One more question. Then I'll show you the way out. For now." She felt hope again, still tentative, but harder to push back down this time, even as she caught the hint that they might meet again after this. She nodded slowly to him, as if bracing herself for the final question. Qabian stood up from his ragged old chair, hefting the panther cub under one arm. "Your father's name. In full. If you would." Again, the hope vanished as quickly as it came. Her breath quickened as she took a moment before answering, looking around the area again. "It....his name....is Jonas. Jonas Hughes." So much for being an honest person. Jonas Hughes was not her father, he was her boss at the pub where she worked in Andorhal a long time ago. There was only the slightest of chances that Qabian would have recognized her real last name if she had told the truth, but she wasn’t willing to take even that small chance of him realizing who she was, not unless she thought it could be used to her advantage. Qabian nodded. "All right then." With his free arm, he conjured a portal behind him. A vague city is visible within it, but he stood between her and the portal. "This portal leads back to Dalaran. If you don't trust it, which is understandable, there's a pipe in the water below us that leads back into the Underbelly. Easy enough to swim, but far more dangerous." He held out the panther cub towards her. The creature seemed perfectly calm about its situation now that it was no longer being continually tapped on the head. "You'll need to be careful with him." With uncertainty still clear upon her face, she set the puppy down at her feet, looping the leash over her wrist. As she moved closer to Qabian, she reached tentatively for the cub, glancing between the portal and the elf. Qabian grinned horribly as he dropped the panther cub into her arms. "He's a bit of a fire hazard," he said. With that, he ran his hand over the cub's back and the animal burst into flames. The cub appeared completely unfazed by this, but Anee screamed and jumped back, dropping the burning cat. Qabian himself stepped back through the portal behind him and vanished. Anee looked from the burning cub to the portal, bending down to scoop up the pup again before hurrying through the portal into the image of the city beyond. The cub just sat there. On fire. And watched her leave. The portal went back to Dalaran, just as Qabian said it would, but on the other side, the mage was nowhere to be found.
  27. As it turns out, when Daerek is drunk and trying to be quiet, he isn’t very quiet. He thinks he is, but a few hours later, the jangle of his keys, the this-side-of-not-gentle shutting of the door, and the inevitable drunken swear when he runs into the corner formed by the kitchen all prove otherwise. He sat on the couch and stared blankly at the wall, illuminated by the soft glow of the table lamp on the coffee table. Now, he was actually quiet. The bedroom door opened a few minutes later, and Anee peeked out into the living room. When she saw her roommate just sitting there staring, she came in and perched on the arm of the couch. Her eyes looked sleepy, her hair was tousled, and she was only wearing an oversized shirt as a nightgown. “Are you okay?” It took him a moment to register her presence and her question. If she was a mugger, he’d be well and thoroughly mugged. He was well past the point of stupid drunk, but now he was contemplative drunk. “I’m sorry,” he said thickly, looking up at her finally. “For tonight. I don’t know what happened.” In addition to her mind being foggy from having just been woken from sleep, it had been a long night, from the cooking class to the Legion camp, then dessert and the walk home. What was he sorry for? She replayed the night in her mind. “What…? Oh, the portal?” “Yeah. I don’t know what happened,” he said, looking sad through his glassy eyes. “It’s okay. Magic can be weird like that,” she said, trying to be comforting, even if she didn’t know the first thing about magic and casting spells. Her nose twitched as she caught the scent of wine clinging to him, and she looked at him. “I like your new sweater. Do you want some coffee?” “o-oh… It’s Rhork’s,” he said, blinking down at his sweater. He didn’t think to clarify why he was wearing it. “And no….no, I’ll be okay. Thanks.” He peered a little closer at her, taking in her sleepy face and pajamas for the first time, and smiled again, a little sadder than before. “I’m sorry I woke you. You can go back to bed.” She shrugged dismissively and slid off the couch, heading for the kitchen. “I couldn’t sleep anyway. Black, or cream and sugar?” “Cream and—wait, no, I—“ He broke off and sighed. Some part of him realized that, even sleepy, she’s not the sort to be unintentionally obtuse. He recognized the subtle (or not so subtle) form of manipulation for what it was, or what he thought it might be, and continued. “…cream and sugar, please. Thank you.” The words were quiet and meek and defeated. Buster jumped up on the couch and tried to wiggle his way into Daerek’s lap, little pink tongue lapping towards the young man’s chin. Daerek welcomed the pup’s presence, petting him vigorously and trying to avoid the tongue. He wasn’t as deft as he might normally be though, so he got thoroughly slobberized. He glances up towards the kitchen and frowned a little. “Couldn’t sleep? Are you okay?” he called, leaning his head back on the couch to try to catch a glimpse of her. She came back into the living room, carrying a tray with two mugs of sweetened coffee with milk in them, and a few cherry pastries. “I’m fine,” she said, then with a sheepish smile, she added, “just a bit sore.” The back of one thigh, where the shirt didn’t quite cover, was a dark purple. “Yeah, I bet. Hard fall. You took it well.” He caught a glimpse of the bruise but quickly looked away. Even drunk, he knows it’s impolite to stare—especially at a lady’s legs. “I hope that helps,” he said, motioning to the salve that she had left on the end table earlier. The two spent the next hour or so petting Buster until he fell asleep while they talked about Rhork and their families over pastries and a few cups of coffee. After one particular refill, Anee warned he would burn his throat when he drank immediately. “With as much wine as went down it tonight, I’m pretty sure I won’t feel it anyways.” He meant it as a joke, but it was actually the truth. Anee didn’t laugh. Instead, she looked worried. “Sounds like you drank an awful lot…. Are you sure you’re okay?” She had asked him that several times throughout the evening, and each time he assured her he was fine. Maybe she shouldn’t have asked again, but she still had the feeling something was troubling him. He didn’t look away from her this time, nor did he give an immediate affirmation. Instead, he looked right at her—almost through her—with troubled green eyes. A flashed image of her driving her daggers into the back of the felhunter’s neck made him close them. “No,” he said finally, after she had begun fidgeting under the intense look. “No, I’m not, but…” When he opened his eyes again, there was fear and uncertainty simmering just beneath them. It was hard to say whether it was a result of their demonic encounter or directed at her, and Daerek was struggling to get the words out. “What?” she asked softly. “What is it?” He couldn’t seem to look at her and talk at the same time, so he looked down at his mug instead. “I know—I know that you…hide a lot of who you are. Were. Whatever.” He swallowed, trying to force the halting words out through an inexplicably dry mouth. “And tonight, I just—you’re not an amateur, Anee. You were trained. I know it when I see it, and tonight, I saw it, and it…it makes everything else about you make so much more sense.” He opened his mouth to continue, but the words wouldn’t come just yet. He still couldn’t bring himself to look at her. She looked away from him as well, her face paling. She folded her hands in her lap and just sat there, staring straight ahead. “I….I didn’t think. I just…I saw it going after you, and I just reacted. I’m sorry if I scared you. But..it’s okay now though,” she tried to reassure him, tentatively turning to look at him. “We’re safe now, and nobody got hurt.” Daerek’s jaw worked furiously as he listened to her, gaze still focused down on his coffee. His fingers tightened around the mug before he spoke again, and they didn’t lose their grip. “All the little oddities,” he muttered. “The hesitations. The slip-ups. Blank looks. Ber? And Zanas? Syreena? Miss Lilliana? You know more Horde than you do Alliance, it feels like. And this—tonight—Light, you remind me of her.” That last bit was uttered under his breath, probably not meant for her Anee’s ears. “You’re running. I don’t know from who, or from what, or from when, but what happens when you get hurt again?” Anee's expression went from utterly confused to absolutely horrified as he ran through the list of names. She looked away from him, staring straight ahead and sitting stiffly still. “I…what… You know Horde too… Remind you of who? What are you…I don’t understand….” She barely heard his final question, too overwhelmed by what had already been said. "You know her as the General," he managed, his words thick with shame at the memory of his fear. "That's how I--how I know you're not an amateur. Amateurs don't...she wasn't..." He shook his head hard and turned to look at her finally. "And yeah, Anee, I know some Horde, but not like you do. Not like that. I'm not stupid. Even now, there's something. You understand, I know you do. And--" His jaw worked again, eyes bright, and his words picked up some speed like he was trying to get it all out at once. "You know what? I don't...it doesn't matter. I've wondered for months if maybe Kat was right about you, but that doesn't matter either. None of it does. I don't know if I'm just convenient or if I'm actually your friend, but I hope like Hell it's the latter and you haven't ever given me a reason to doubt that you're a good person. So I don't care, Anee, I don't--" His words abruptly stopped, and a different kind of horror fills his face. "And I haven't even thanked you for saving my life. Light, I'm an asshole." She didn’t say anything at first. She just sat there, pale and stiff, with tears pooling in her eyes. Of all the people to be suspicious of her for her secrets, she never wanted it to be him. She could almost see her happy life here unraveling with each of Daerek's doubts. She shook her head at his thanks, as if it were no big deal what she did. She glanced at him and opened her mouth, only to close it and look away again. Her gaze darted around the room for a moment, like a trapped animal. Finally, she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, and looked him again, briefly, unable to maintain any kind of eye contact with him right now. "I don't.... I'm not sure what you're accusing me of," she stammered in a harsh whisper. "In the beginning, you were convenient.... I... had nowhere safe to stay, and you let me stay here, but....now, I don't......" She blinked hard a few times, and looks back at the coffee table. "I'm sorry." "I--I wasn't accusing you of..." He looked more than a little broken that Katrynne was right about Anee all along. But maybe it wasn't all along, because she made it sound like that wasn't the case anymore. Or maybe it was just his wishful thinking. Either way, it worked for him. "Please don't cry," he whispered, reaching a hand out to try and touch her arm. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything." He looked completely out of his depth now and incredibly regretful. "I meant it. I don't care." He was still whispering. "You're my friend. I care about you. I just want you to be okay." At the touch on her arm, she seemed to melt, turning into him, and he held her, laying his head on top of hers. "I didn't know you at first," she blubbered. "You were just someone I met who let me live in his house, and I thought you'd make me pay for it somehow eventually, but then.... after a while.....I realized that you're just really nice.” She sniffled, then whispered even more quietly, her words coming very hesitantly. "I used to be... I used to have to fight, but I don't want to anymore. I want to be the good wolf now. He said I could be......" “Who said that?" he asked, trying to filter through the meaning in her words. "The Professor," she said between sniffles. "And he thought you were bad? Or you did?" Daerek rubbed her back a little bit. She ignored the tenderness of the bruises on her back as he rubbed it. Her breathing evened out a bit, and her sniffling slowed down, as she realized he didn't seem to hate her and probably wasn't going to kick her out. She shook her head at his question. "I....was with bad people. He saved me from them." Daerek stilled briefly, and then squeezed her a little tighter. His eyes focused blankly on the window across from him. The surface parallels to his own life were uncanny. The little voice in his head that told him for months he was being taken advantage of--the little voice that oddly enough sounded like Katrynne--was practically screaming now at how convenient those words were, but he tuned it out. He said he didn't care, and he meant it. "He was right," Daerek said after a moment. "You aren't bad. What we were or what we were forced to do doesn't define us unless we let it." He kept rubbing her back gently, trying to keep calming her while attempting to be mindful of the bruises, but he didn't know where they were and so hoped for the best. "I'm not that person anymore," she said quietly. She bit her lip, suddenly embarrassed for her little meltdown. She fidgeted, before pulling away from him to sit up. As she tried to compose herself, he got her a wet washcloth and assured her everything was okay. "I know it's really awkward right now, but it'll be okay. You could tell me you used to be a serial killer and I'd forgive you if you made me believe you weren't that person anymore." His voice was an uncharacteristic mix of gentleness and supportive steel. He believed every word he was saying right then. "And I already believe that you aren't who you were." She gave him a skeptical look, since serial killer wasn't all too far off from what she actually was, if not even worse. Something in his voice though comforted her a bit, and she smiled at him. "Really?" He didn't see the skeptical look, eyes slowly drifting shut as they were, but he could hear the smile in her voice. "Really." She looked at him, seeing his eyes falling closed so she spoke softly and simply. "Okay." "Hey. Anee?" His voice sleepily lilted up at the end of her name, and he smiled a little bit. "Yes?" "Thanks. For bein' you. Really." It was so mumbled that it was entirely possible it was unintelligible, but it sounds sincere. Anee smiled softly, but she didn't say anything in response. She'd had at least a few hours of sleep during the night, and she knew he was awake all that time. She just watched him as he fell asleep. She debated on trying to stretch his legs out on the couch to make him more comfortable, but decided not to risk waking him. Instead, she covered him with a throw blanket. Buster jumped up on the couch and curled up next to the sleeping mage, and Anee returned to the bedroom.
  28. Please do! If you'd like a calendar invite and set as moderator, let me know!
  29. I'll make sure I let my wee guild know! And spread the word when I can!
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The Twisting Nether Gazette is a role play forum for characters on the RP-PVP servers Twisting Nether and Ravenholdt.  We have been active since November of 2005, a few months after the Twisting Nether server originally went live.  Our purpose is to provide a safe and inclusive environment where role players can meet and interact with each other, and, of course, post their amazing role play stories, art, bios, and journals.

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