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  1. Last week
  2. RiktheRed21

    An End to Summer

    Brinnea woke to a searing pain and a dull hunger. She lay in a simple cot with a scratchy blanket, but it may as well have been a cloud for how much she could feel of it. When she tried to move, her body rebelled and lay still. Her arm and leg itched furiously. She tried to scratch at her arm but found that her left hand was missing – as was her right arm. Memory flooded back along with another wave of pain. She didn’t bother trying to reach her itching phantom leg. “Brin, you’re awake,” a familiar voice said at her left side. Brin struggled just to turn her head and look. “Christa,” she rasped. Her sister. She stood by the bed looking haggard; her armor was dinted and dingy, her hair messy and overgrown, and her eyes were bloodshot and drooping. She was the most beautiful thing Brinnea had seen in months. Christa adjusted the covers on Brinnea’s body. “We don’t have a proper healer here for you,” she said, “But I plan on capturing some animals for you. It should help you get back to your feet.” She winced when she realized what she said. “Where are we?” Brinnea asked. “A small farmstead. The Silver Hand is helping the farmers get settled in safely. With the Forsaken distracted to the west and south, we finally have some breathing room to rebuild Lordaeron.” “The war still rages?” Brinnea wasn’t sure why she cared, but she asked anyway. “Yes, and it doesn’t show signs of stopping. Sylvanas escaped when Lordaeron fell to the Alliance. Forsaken resistance is still strong in places. Not strong enough to kick up fuss about us knights.” “You remained neutral?” Christa nodded. “And I intend to stay that way. If we play our cards right, Andorhal might be free for human settlement again soon. I thought I might open an inn there if that happened.” “That would suit you,” Brin said. “I wish I could be there to see it.” “You aren’t dead yet, sister. Not truly.” “It’s only a matter of time. Besides, Andorhal won’t be a home for me. Only another place full of enemies.” “You don’t know that for certain,” Christa said, but she didn’t sound like she believed herself. When Brinnea was silent for a long while, Christa stood to take her leave. “Thank you,” Brinnea said. “Christa, thank you.” She opened the door and replied without looking back, “It’s what sisters are for, aren’t they?”
  3. Earlier
  4. Heads up! Some of us have started a discord RP channel for World of Darkness. We're still getting everything set up but there will be vampire, werewolf, mage, changeling and possibly others. Here is the discord link. If for some reason it's expired, look for me on the TNG discord and send me an IM. (I'm terrible about checking TNG.) https://discord.gg/pw9vNqN
  5. RiktheRed21

    An End to Summer

    Brinnea drifted beneath the night sky, numb to pain and everything else the world had to offer. The stars looked so serene, way up high where no one could touch them. They were safe and bright, like little dots of life in a sea of darkness. Lines flew between the stars as if some cosmic being were tracing the constellations. They formed a complex pattern, more complex in fact than any constellation Brinnea could name. The lines spider-webbed together to form a face. Her face. “Look at you, hmm,” she said. Her starry smile shone on Brinnea’s battered body. “You’ve lost some weight. If you want my advice, you ought to have gone in the other direction. You are much too flat to turn any heads, child.” Brinnea blinked tiredly. “What do you want from me?” she asked. “Why do you always assume I am the one that needs something, hmm? You look like the corpse you should have been long ago. You are the one who needs me.” “I don’t need you. I never have.” “Who was it that showed you your true potential? Who was it that, when you were torn by indecision and fear, pointed you down the right path? I gave you the will to claim justice over the wrongdoers and the power to protect those you care for, hmm.” “You threatened everything I cared for. You killed people I loved. You broke me.” “Only in breaking can we be remade stronger. The gods made us with weakness as a cruel joke, but out of spite you made yourself strong. You used me for that. And you want to use me again.” “I won’t. There is nothing left to fight for. No one depends on me anymore. All I can do is bring pain to them now.” “Like that girl? What was her name, hmm?” “Stop.” “Jessaya, that was it. Bronto said he killed her, did he not? I could feel your quiet rage. You stopped to watch while he was torn apart because it gave you joy to do so. And you say you have no need of me, hmm.” Brinnea felt cold tears on her cheeks. Or perhaps it was water from the river. “I never wanted to hurt anyone. It wasn’t my fault. I never asked for this!” “If that was the case, you would have killed yourself years ago, hmm. But you resigned yourself to live on. You used this curse to reshape the world. You took my first lesson to heart. Do you remember it?” Brin closed her eyes. She remembered… She rode through the snow in the shadows of dragons. The deathcharger pressed through the snowdrift unflinchingly until it and its rider were swallowed by the cavernous maw of the Wyrmrest Temple. Brinnea dismounted and dusted snow off the twin lions of her tabard. Seeing the lions split by a line of white powder set a frown on her face. She brushed off an unwelcome thought and pressed on to her mission. Her contact was waiting in the bazaar by a stand selling glacial salmon. The death knight leaned against the stand as if considering the meat on display. A black-haired woman dressed in a spider-web pattern robe of green and gold sidled up to the stand with a casual grace that spoke of confidence. She took a steak of salmon meat and inspected it. The merchant smiled at her and spoke his price. “That price is nearing robbery, hmm. The red dragonflight doesn’t take kindly to thieves in their temple. I’ll take three pounds at half that price, or I’ll have a word with the draconids.” The kal’uak merchant smiled nervously and conceded to the price. Brinnea watched the whole transaction, befuddled. “I’ve never seen anyone strongarm a salesman like that,” she said. “Lesson one of living on Azeroth,” the woman said, tossing Brin the salmon steak. “Use what talents you have to the fullest. And never settle for a bad price.” Brinnea liked her immediately. She introduced herself with an outstretched hand. “Cynthia,” the robed roman replied proudly, “Cynthia Blackmane.”
  6. RiktheRed21

    An End to Summer

    Her joints stiffened, and she was forced to stop at the ruins of a village swallowed whole by weeds. Ransacked houses stood roofless, just barely tall enough to be substantial in the enormous field of ghostly grass. Brinnea managed to get herself inside the wreckage of a chapel with an intact door. She sealed the entrance with a fallen beam and collapsed on a pew. She rested but did not sleep. She focused and cleared her mind, but the memories clawed at her psyche like a ravenous horde. She sat up suddenly when she imagined the sound of banging against the giant door, and the snarls of ghouls. She calmed herself enough to remain seated. Her body ached like an open sore, and the hunger for killing blanketed her like a swarm of ants. She gazed at the altar and the bent and broken symbol of the Light’s Hand. As if by some reflex, she called out in a whisper, “Oh, Holy Light, watch over and guide me. Oh, Holy Light, reach out ahead and illuminate my path. Oh, Holy Light, cast my foes aside and take me into your embrace.” Long silence followed, accompanied only by tiredness and hunger. She sighed. Well, what did you expect, Brinnea? Your prayers were never answered before you were a killer. It was her own voice this time, though it was of little comfort in any case. Night fell. The uncertain sounds of life outside took up a limp chorus, a testament to the weak and weary land. Then a pained shriek cut through the quiet. Brinnea stood. The sound died quickly, and silence took over. The death knight took up a dot of wood tipped with splinters and waited. Something scraped along the ground outside. The sound approached the chapel and stopped, just outside the door. Brinnea thought she heard a sniffing sound. Then a mighty crash fell on the door. Brin ran to it and braced it with her shoulder. Another crash sent a shiver through her bones. A third blasted a hole inches from her face. A bright yellow pupil ringed with black spied her through the hole. The creature it belonged to hissed. “I found you, found you found you! It’s finally time! Finally time to taste your flesh!” Brinnea shoved the wooden stake through the hole, but the creature was quick to avoid it, and quicker to catch it in her jagged, oversized teeth. Brin pulled back the stick at half the size it had been. The creature screeched, and the door shuddered again. Brin channeled a rune, straining as the hunger grew greater. She flung a blast of cold wind against the door, fortifying it with a wall of solid ice. Frantically, she searched and found a broken window. Brinnea sprinted for it and dove through, ignoring the tear the broken glass made in her breeches. The creature roared, and the door blasted to cold splinters back in the chapel, but Brinnea ran out of sight in the weeds. This place is bound to have a forge. She moved carefully through the weeds until she found a wrecked forge. Some old rusted hammers and bits of metal lie strewn across the dusty floor. She took up a hammer that was in decent shape and slid it into a pocket, then a rusty dagger, and a sword broken in half, and went outside. No more running. The hunter scuttled in the grotesque manner it had in Arathi, advancing at the speed of a horse’s gallop. Its limbs were unnervingly elongated and seemed to bend as if made of rubber, but with every movement Brinnea heard a shriek of metal. The death knight took up the hammer and threw it, but it clanged off the creature’s body and fell in the weeds. The hunter’s limbs returned to a normal shape and it advanced at a sprint on two legs. Brin drew the broken sword. The creature lunged; an oversized set of claws flashed at Brinnea’s face. The death knight ducked under the attack and drove her blade at the bright yellow eyes. The monster dodged and bit at Brin’s hand, but she wedged the blade into the enormous maw and had her dagger out in a blink. In another blink, she slid it into the soft flesh of the beast’s throat and twisted its head around until the rusted blade cracked. The beast fell to the ground with a clunk. Brin took a step back and waited, still tensed. A stab of pain shot up her arm. Some of the creature’s green blood smeared on her forearm and hand, where it smoked and crackled at her skin. She knelt and wiped the spots in dirt until the searing pain ceased. Her skin was left pocked with sickly twisted skin. “Eh-hehehe!” Brinnea flinched and stood, only for her ankle to be snagged. She tumbled to her back and bit back a scream when blades sunk into her calf. The creature stood over her, a massive black tongue sliding across her jagged teeth and hungry yellow eyes eating at Brinnea ravenously. It drew the dagger blade from its throat and ate it in one bite. “Time to feast! Time to eat! Time to feeeeed!” It yanked the death knight’s leg until the tendons strained and bones crackled. Brinnea yelped and clawed at weeds, desperate to get free. The creature smiled widely, saliva trickling from its mouth. “Rip and tear!” A sickening crunch followed. Brinnea’s vision went white from the pain. Blood splattered across the weeds, painting the ghostly white canvas with dark red. The death knight became insensate. As her mind went blank, it took over. It moved her hand and channeled a rune to freeze the wound shut. The creature was busying itself feasting on Brin’s severed leg. The shadow of the death knight clenched its fist and limped at the hunter. The bright yellow eyes looked up from its feast just in time for the fist to smash it with a force like iron. The shadow punched again and again, until it dented the metal bones it its jaw and shattered its jagged teeth. The loose teeth turned the creature’s tongue into a pincushion leaking acidic blood. Brinnea’s hand smoked, but she felt only a dull echo. Black tendrils slithered from the broken skin in the creature’s cheek and writhed outwards, as if searching for something to grab onto. Brinnea’s hand grabbed them. They gripped at her fingers almost tenderly. Brinnea’s shadow released the tendrils and pressed the creature to the ground with a foot and gripped its head with a shadowy death grip. The creature grunted and grumbled. It spoke in awe, “You…you feel the same…the same as my lovely lady. My lady, my lady! Have you come back to me, my lady?” The tendrils in its cheek stretched and gripped Brinnea’s hand again. The shadow wavered and Brin felt clarity returning as if waking from a dream. “No,” Brinnea said, horrified, “You…so that’s who you are.” The creature frowned. “You aren’t her. Bring her back!” It thrashed under foot, sending Brin flying through the weeds. “Give her back! My ladyyyyyy!” The creature scuttled at Brinnea. The death knight’s eyes widened. Run. I have to run! She scrambled to her foot and reinforcing the frozen crutch on her stump-leg. She limped as fast as she could, but the creature caught up in seconds. It slashed her back, and the claws dug in like fish hooks. Brinnea gripped the weeds, the dirt, anything she could grab, but she was caught. The creature grabbed her shoulder and forced her to face it. “I’ll strip the flesh from your face! She must be hiding underneath!” Brin screamed. She froze a dagger on her fist and jabbed it at the beast’s neck, but it shattered on the second shot. The broken flesh stitched itself back together in seconds. The creature yanked at Brin’s arm. She watched helplessly as raw red tendrils stretched and snapped. Then the bones crackled and splintered. It was an odd thing. To Brinnea, it felt as if she were no longer in her body. She was watching this happen to someone else. It certainly wasn’t the first time. This couldn’t be happening to her. Her logical side took over. The creature was distracted chewing the meat off her arm. Using her stump of a left arm, she eased herself shakily to her foot and crutch and limped away into a pumpkin patch. Through the weeds, she saw a stream flowing away westward. Somehow, she managed to make it to the waterline and fell in. The monster’s angry screeches sent a last shiver through Brinnea. After that, she closed her eyes and let the bloody flow wash her away.
  7. RiktheRed21

    An End to Summer

    Brinnea’s stolen mount fell and did not rise at the border between the Hillsbrad Foothills and the Plaguelands. It had been a long, weary journey, and often the death knight had pressed the horse beyond its limits to evade the Forsaken and Alliance both. A brook choked with bones and gore nearby as Brinnea gutted the beast and prepared a rune of rebirth. The process was taxing with only one hand, but it gave her time to think. She regretted it instantly. A noble beast this was, a voice slithered from the shadows of her mind, I suspect it was looted from a fallen knight. A worthy steed. Not for the likes of you. “Shut up,” Brinnea said, “Go away.” It is only fitting that it should die in your service. Who is more noble than you? Brinnea the Butcher, scourge of the savage Horde! “Don’t call me that. Crawl back to the grave where you belong.” Brinnea fixed her thoughts on the rune she carved in a stone tucked between her knees. Oh, but you need me. Where would you be without me, hmm? “A better place. Home.” You mean dead. I have kept you alive all these years. My wisdom guides you, even now. Why, would you have abandoned that boy back in Arathi before you had met me? “Stop it.” You wouldn’t have escaped without him to distract that beast. Better he die than you do. What could a lowly sellsword do for this world that you cannot? “You are wrong. I am no better than he was.” You survived. He died. That makes you better, hmm. “No. You’re wrong.” Then why did you leave him? Why did you leave all of them, hmm? “They wanted me gone. Wanted me dead. I had no choice.” There is always a choice for those with the will to make it happen. Those ungrateful fools should have thanked you for all you did! You rid the world of dozens of their enemies. Hundreds, even! Who are they to cast you out, hmm? The stone shattered between her knees. Brinnea stood and ran. She left the dead beast behind, trailing its blood from her fist as she went.
  8. Tahzani

    Business Trip

    Eight pointy legs stabbed into raw nerves on his arm and Tahzani awoke with a wail of terror and pain. In a moment of pure, instinctual fear, he threw both arms up to hurl the invading creature clear of him and scrambled as far away from the clack as he could manage. He scooted along the ground until the back of his skull hit a wall and stars burst in his eyes. A light clacking sound told him that the creature had landed and that he had overstayed his welcome in its den. Seeing a hint of blue amidst the lights that still impeded his vision, Tahzani charged to the left towards what he hoped was an opening. He emerged into the chill of a late night and immediately lost his footing as his heel hit a steep incline. He curled up as he began to roll and earth and sky traded places again and again. His stomach threatened to trade places with his teeth. The motion was denied as his back hit solid stone and the wind was driven out of his lungs in a violent burst that left him unable to scream when fresh agony flared up his arm. Fearful or not, he refused to move until the stars in his eyes stopped flashing and spinning. Minutes later, it became obvious that his patience would only reward him in one way. A brilliant night sky came into focus as he drew in pained, ragged breaths. Befuddled by sleep, he wanted to scream out for answers but had yet to find his voice. Raising his head he saw the cracked, half-buried remains of an old stone road curving around a gulch and stretching towards worked stone further to the south. " Dock..." He rasped, trying to push himself off the ground to his feet and falling short on an arm that could no longer suppot his weight. When the cloth wrapped stump struck stone with his body weight behind it, he finally found the breath to scream. Alone in the desert, he screamed in pain, uncaring of who could hear him and ending with a series of shuddering gasps as he struggled to wrap his head around it. " Mah ahm. He took mah fuckin' AHM!" He wheezed in disbelief as he looked at the limb, wrapped in an old, dirty washcloth bound tightly with a strap of leather. The cut had been just above his elbow and with the return of his wits, made its pain known. " Dock..." He looked up, hoping to catch a glimpse of the pale troll. There was no way he slept through that racket. " Dock?" He called out, his guts squirmed as his doubt grew. A chilly breeze swept across the sands and a chill up his spine made him sick with realization. In his current state, he was nothing more than dead weight. He had been left behind. The road leading into the shadows beneath the bridge suddenly resembled an open grave. The pain did not fade with time. The constant sting only grew worse as the bound cloth rubbed it the wrong way with every movement subtle or otherwise. The fog he had been walking through was replaced with mounting frustration until he wanted to scream at his own nerves to stop. A waste of energy he could not afford. As it stood his teeth were chattering too much to form a sentence. Following the downhill slope he eventually reached the end and began stumbling. The road was half-buried by sand and the other half had been shattered or cracked at the very least. He staggered and fell, catching himself on a hand as he felt his way blindly through the increasing darkness as the bridge blocked out the moon. He came to a stop as his hand touched an object sticking ouf of the sand. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness he made out a circular edge and several bent spokes. It was a wagon wheel and the wagon it belonged to sat nearby in an uneven slump. Worn down by the elements and missing most of its siding it was a sorry sight. Sizable gaps had been opened up all along it, the larges of which being front end which was missing its corners and had been buried in the sand. It was filled with more holes than a goblin insurance claim but it still offered more protection than the open air. Shivering and unsteady, Tahzani slipped inside of the musty, noxious sanctuary and rubbed at the gooseflesh of his exposed skin vigorously. The shattered front end had flooded half of the wagon with several inches of sand. As the moon slowly shifted, a beam of moonlight filtered in through a hole in the wall and fell upon a pathetic excuse of a firepit. A small ring of stones around a single, black and brittle skull atop a pile of ash and sand. "Who did jah piss off mon? Don' mean no disrespect but jah do well ta balance out a good flame... Forgive me." He mumbled as he shivered again and looked around. The wagon had been stripped by many things but it had been sturdily built. He staggered back out into the cold and set to work. One more plank opened another hole in the wagon's side. The wood was brittle enough that it nearly crumbled in his hand and was sprinkled around the skull before the more resilient shards were leaned against the side of the skull. The wheel he had found was beaten against the stone until the wooden wheel was shattered and its pieces were pulled from the inner ring and spokes. Satisfied with the amount he had to burn, he realized he was missing a critical component. "Matches...Why didn't ah pack matches." He muttered, patting down his pockets. "Because ah nevah NEEDED matches befoah, jackass!" He hissed. "Ey! Don' take dat tone wit me! Dey gave jah plenty of options fah what ta take an' jah took-" "Ah know! Ah know! Shit dat made me a tahget, how could ah forget? But we don' got matches. Mebbe dere be sometin' ah can scavenge from de road." " Mebbe jah can bang two rocks togethah." He sneered. "If jah done bein' an ASSHOLE, ah be all ears fah actual suggestions!" He did not like the look he wore then. He wore a condescending smirk as if he was explaining simple math to a moron. "Ain' much life left in de bone. But enough..." "No..." "Why? Because wit de final piece gone jah FINALLY be free of it? One sunbeam de size a jah dick don' make jah a druid. Errybody would rathah jah come back fel tainted den not come back at all." "Ah told mahself-" "Jah promised ME dat jah wouldn't. But jah also promised HER dat jah would stick around! Face it, jah nevah been much fah promises. De Centipedes, de Mossflayah, Lilly, Pai, Nauka... Name one person jah made a deal wit an' kept it straight!" He snapped before sucking in a shaky, weary breath and continuing. "Ah don' wanna die out heah... If it means we take a leap backwards aftah finally havin' our breakthrough, den so be it." When he mustered the nerve to look at himself again, he was alone. The burned skull stared at him imploringly but what it wanted eluded him. To use it to save himself? To resist the temptation? "Jah prolly wanna be reattached to jah spine." He muttered as he held out a hand towards the pit. He had used the fel to start fires so many times that he could cast the spell without conscious thought, even after so many months. But lighting it another way was painfully difficult. Enough to warrant a mantra as he plead for warmth. "Life comes from death...Life comes from death.... Life comes from death." He chanted again and again. The dead man in the firepit would help keep him alive so long as he had the will. There was a single moment of illumination as a golden, sunny flame licked out from his palm to strike the dried wood. In that moment he felt the thrill of success quickly followed by exhaustion. The bones of a dead man huddled in a corner, grinned proudly at him as they held onto the rusted blade in what had once been its guts. His vision blurred and his side hit the sand near the small, crackling flame. He looked into the hellish glow of the skull's eye sockets and promptly passed out.
  9. RiktheRed21

    An End to Summer

    Meditating was the closest Brinnea ever came to sleep, and it often proved a poor substitute. She had no need for sleep to restore her physical strength, but her mind was troubled by wakefulness. Unconsciousness, however opened her to reliving her darkest moments, so she avoided sleeping. In Pandaria, the monks had taught her to clear her mind of the past and future, allowing her mind to focus on the present. With enough focus, she could ease the storm in her mind, and pen those dark thoughts where they could hurt no one. Brinnea was never very good at focusing on the present, though. In battle, she predicted her enemies’ moves by how their bodies shifted from stance to stance, but that sort of focus was a fixation on what is to come. The future was where her thoughts drifted. This road is treacherous, and Bronto keeps a large party to ensure I am secured, she thought, breaking into the peace of her meditation, We are bound to meet some unsavory types on the way north, the way he and his Raiders charge everywhere, and me in this cell on wheels. She opened her eyes, giving up on her focus altogether. She looked at the wrought-iron bars on the cramped cell in the oxcart ploughing along the Arathi road as though going to market with a harvest. Someone will think to pick the harvest before too long. Only, who will it be? If the Forsaken attacked, they would kill Brin on sight. With one hand, no armor or weapons, and no mount to aid in an escape, Brinnea wouldn’t make it far even if she could escape the cage. As for the Alliance… Two days prior, an Alliance mounted scout force had halted Bronto and demanded to know his business. The sellsword had proved shrewd and managed to bribe the scouts to forget they were there. Whatever he expected to get from the Ebon Blade at journey’s end must have been worth quite a bit. The Alliance likely would not prove useful in earning Brinnea’s freedom, which left only bandits and the tribal folk of Arathi, neither of which would stand against a charge from Bronto’s heavy horse. Things will be different in the Plaguelands, Brinnea assured herself, Even with the paladins fighting the Scourge constantly, the mindless undead are prolific. One major attack is all I would need. Which meant that for now, she had to wait. Brinnea shut her eyes and forced herself to ignore the odds of her survival and focused on the present moment. She breathed in and out to center herself, each breath an exercise in and of itself. “What’s she doin’ in there?” one of the riders said, cracking the fragile shell of Brin’s mind. “She’s just sitting, forget about her,” another rider answered. The first rider said, “She’s breathing an awful lot for a dead girl. We sure this is the right broad?” “Boss says so. I don’t doubt it. Hey, get back from those bars, squirt!” Brinnea opened her eyes and turned her head to see a boy no older than thirteen shying away from the cell. He was one of the unmounted followers that carried whatever didn’t fit in saddlebags. They also made camp and cooked every night, like squires with no prestige. The second rider was scowling at the boy. He said, “Do you have any idea who that is, kid?” The boy answered wistfully, “She’s the Butcher of Kaur-he, isn’t she? She’s like a living legend!” “Half-living,” the first rider corrected. “Unless she’s pulling the wool over Boss’s eyes.” “Her eyes glow blue like one of them dead knights,” the second rider said. “I once saw a wizard make a rabbit appear out of thin air,” the first rider replied, “Glowing eyes ain’t shite compared with that.” Brinnea looked at the boy, who was watching her like she was some work of art or exotic animal. He’s young and gullible. If I could speak to him alone, I might be able to trick him into giving me something I can use. Yet when he looked at her, for a moment she saw the same fascination her children would look at her with. He couldn’t have been much older than August, either… Cast those thoughts away, or you will never escape here. It doesn’t matter how many atrocities you must commit to reach your goal at this point, the world will hate you regardless. But what is my goal? Her intention was to reach Andorhal. Whenever she pictured her goal, she envisioned the Andorhal of the past: her home. The real Andorhal looks nothing like that anymore. A shout grabbed her attention. It sounded like a warning at first, but suddenly changed pitch into fear and pain. Brin looked in the direction of the scream, but it was at the head of the column, her view of which was blocked by the oxen pulling her cart. The column came to a stop. “What the fel?” the first rider said. “What is that?” said the second. The boy’s face was a mask of horror. “By all that is holy…” “TO ARMS, MEN!” Bronto’s command sent the whole column abuzz like a swarm of bees protecting their hive. The second rider growled, “Boy! Stay by the cart, and for the love of the Light, keep your distance!” The youngster replied nervously, taking up a shaky guard with his spear. Brinnea craned her neck to see the front of the column, but with so many bodies and horses moving about, she saw little. Then a horse flew up into the air and fell back down twenty feet off the road. “Light, deliver us…Tyr protect us…Red Mother save us!” the boy prayed desperately. “Boy,” Brin said just loud enough for him to hear her over the chaos, “Boy, look at me! I know you have no reason to trust me, but whatever is out there clearly has your friends soiling themselves. I can help.” “You’re lying! If I let you out, you’ll just run away!” “Where would I go? Bronto’s horses would run me down before I got fifty paces.” Unless I took one of his horses. “Let me out, and I’ll watch your back. When whatever is out there is dealt with, you put me back in my cage. I swear on my parents’ graves. I swear it on the Holy Light.” The boy looked tempted for a moment, but before he could do anything, another shout drew his attention. A horse and its rider flew straight for him. He dove out of the way and the armored horse crashed into the side of the cage, sending the whole cart heaving off the side of the road. Brin felt her teeth gnash together, heard the crash of wood on dirt, and the screams of men dying all around her. When she finally stopped moving and her head stopped spinning, she found herself still in the cage, which had fallen sideways. Not ideal, but this might be my only chance. The Bruisers are being annihilated by something big. Brin stood shakily and grabbed one of the bars at her chest level and activated a rune. Frost soaked the iron, turning it white. It grew colder until the metal began to crack, and then she tugged with all her strength. The bar gave on one side, so she bent until a section snapped off completely, just wide enough to fit through. Two, no, three more bars and I can crawl through. She set to work quickly. The screams were drawing closer. “She’s coming right for us! Light, what is she doing with…LOOK OUT!” The side of the cage thudded wetly, and a man choked on blood on the other side. Brinnea had heard the sound often enough to recognize it. The fourth bar gave way, and the gap was finally wide enough. Brin forced herself through, taking one of the iron bars with her. Her shirt tore on a jagged piece of metal and dark blood splattered the grass, but she paid it no mind. A horse whinnied and rolled its eyes nearby, the hand of a corpse still holding tight to the reins. She sprinted for it, glancing at the carnage behind her only to see if anyone gave chase. Her foot snagged on something and she nearly fell on her face. Looking back, she saw a man clutching her ankle desperately. “Help…us…” he said. Then he vomited blood and fell over limply. Only when Brin stood again did she see the man had lost the lower half of his body. She continued toward the horse, but someone else had reached it first. She slowed her pace and took aim with her length of metal and threw it. With a clang, it ricocheted off the rider’s head and disappeared into the grass. The rider fell from the saddle and struggled to rise. Brin leapt onto the horse’s back and chanced a look back at the column. Little moved among the long pile of corpses on the road, but she recognized Bronto by his Tauren-horn helmet. He carried a tower shield and a hand axe and stood before a figure that appeared to be no more than a woman in tattered rags. Rags soaked in blood. “COME ON, YOU CREEPY BITCH!” Bronto roared. She came. He raised his shield, but her hands crashed through the wood as though made of steel. She hissed and tugged at the shield, forcing Bronto off-balance. He swung with the axe, but it clanged against her collarbone and snapped in half. The mercenary stared at it, baffled. The woman’s mouth unhinged like a snake, displaying inhumanly large teeth all sharpened to jagged, metallic points. They dug into Bronto’s neck and when she tugged back, half of his throat came with her. Bronto fell with a thud. While Brin was watching the battle, the rider had stood and grabbed the horse’s bridle. Brinnea kicked at him, and he fell back. Then she saw his face; it was the boy from before. The woman was drawing closer, down on all fours like some beast. She’s no worgen, though. She scuttles like some spider. Brin wheeled the horse around and gave the boy one last look. “You’d better start running,” she said. He did. She took off at a gallop. By the sounds she heard behind her, the boy didn’t make it far.
  10. Julilee

    Death of a Phoenix

    In that moment, the world was irreversibly changed for her. You can’t unsee the abyss. You can’t unknow the truth. No matter how hard you tried to repress it, no matter how much you tried to deny it, it would haunt you forever. Juli saw it and knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that nothing would ever be the same. Kex’ti’s fear, his unwillingness to slide so much as an inch closer to that edge, was so much clearer to her now. She had understood it, but she hadn’t known it. Every pretension she had, every self-delusion, no matter how innocuous, every coping mechanism she relied on, all were stripped away. She saw herself and indeed the whole world and uncaring universe laid bare, reduced to an absurd meaninglessness. Of course the world was uncaring; she had never labored under the belief that anyone would necessarily get what they deserved, be it good or bad. She knew evil could triumph anytime, any place, and that it would be forever and thankless a struggle for anyone trying to hold it back. But she had never realized it was also a pointless struggle. No matter how much suffering you tried to alleviate, more would take its place, because evil was endlessly inventive and adaptive. And in the end you died and whatever difference you had made would end up being less than negligible. But worse, somehow, was how all the things she had tried to accomplish, everything she had ever tried to be, was all shown to be utterly foolish, self-centered, and inadequate. Her own uncharitable thoughts, even what she had believed were her deepest fears, were nothing compared to the truth. She had never loved Kex’ti. She had only used him to placate her need for control, and he had allowed it until he couldn’t anymore. She had never treated Shokkra like a person. She had tried to turn Shokkra into what she had thought Shokkra should be, sacrificing everything Shokkra was along the way, until Shokkra broke. She had done more than simply been too cautious with Sanctuary. She had ruined a legacy, dragged it backward and done significant harm it would take long to recover from, if it ever fully did. She had been too hard on Cerryan; she had revoked her trust simply because he was imperfect. Cobrak, meanwhile, she had also expected too much of. She had expected him to place her needs above his own. The list went on and on. Even with Miwanza, she hadn’t come down here for the girl’s benefit, or any of the others’. She had come down here to selfishly prove herself. That was all there was to it. And with her father, for whom she’d never been good enough, the truth was she was just… Oh, fuck you. The reflex was so deeply ingrained, it was inseparable from who she was as a person. Her entire body jerked. No one was allowed to touch that nerve. It didn’t matter who. It didn’t matter why. It didn’t matter even if they were right. Nobody got to diminutize what she had gone through growing up. Nobody got to break her down like her father had always tried to. She was entitled to defend herself. And fuck anyone who suggested otherwise. Just fuck them right in the eye with a jagged sword. She reached out, and her hand closed around the wickedly curved hilt of Mercy. Golden light surged down the blade, purging the tentacles which shrieked as they were dispelled. It filled up the weapon and all of the eyes hovering around shrank back as she pulled it free. Maybe it was all pointless. Maybe she could never make a difference. Maybe she would never do more help than harm in the world. But fuck anyone and anything who tried to convince her to give up. She would die fighting, with her soul intact, because no one would ever convince her to hand it over. The righteousness, the strength, the self-belief, she seized it. ******* When Miwanza awakened, she had no idea where she was. It seemed to be the bottom of some caved-in ruin, stonework on one side and a huge mountain of rubble on the other. There was a torch lying nearby, barely an ember left on it, but she was able to coax it to life with the shreds of some purple fabric that was discarded next to it for some reason. She started climbing, trying to find an exit, guided by the faintest whisper of a breeze. If there were other whispers, she didn’t hear them. It took hours of squeezing through narrow gaps and crevices, but Miwanza eventually broke through to a ravine that was open to the sky. From there she was able to follow it until it became shallow enough that she was able to climb out, and from there she wandered until she came across a Horde camp. “Whoa, what happened to you?” the guard said in alarm, ushering her to a bench. “Alliance hit?” “No… I don’t think so…” Miwanza looked down at herself. She was covered in a layer of dirt and had a bandage wrapped around her leg, though she felt no pain. Later, she would discover there was no injury beneath. “...But I don’t remember what happened.” The guard took a closer look at her and frowned. “Are you glowing? You didn’t try that Azerite brew, did you?” “I don’t think so…” She looked down at herself again. She had thought the torch had been her only source of illumination, but she did seem to be giving off a faint golden glow. As she watched, it faded away, leaving just her dark blue complexion. “Some sort of blessing,” said another guard who had shown up to see what was happening. “You don’t remember anything?” the first guard asked. She shook her head. “The last thing I remember is arriving here in Silithus with my platoon.” No one was ever able to puzzle out what happened. The Alliance were named likely suspects when her squadmates were discovered missing. The incident was soon forgotten.
  11. Julilee

    Death of a Phoenix

    Juli didn’t have much of a choice. She raised Mercy and delivered a solid thwack with the side of the blade to the girl’s head. Miwanza crumpled and Juli scooped her up, throwing her over her shoulder and running for the far side of the dais. Probably should have done that in the first place. Except now she couldn’t hold up her shield, or fight effectively. And the fallen torch’s light didn’t reach far. No, this plan had far too many problems, but it was the only one she had now. You – can’t – flee – from – what – you – believe – She stumbled down the other side of the dais and fetched up against the wall, which she could barely make out. Ancient tapestries crumbled to dust under her touch. She started following the wall, feeling frantically for any exit. Slithering sounds surrounded her and she unintentionally stepped on another tentacle, quickly grinding it to pulpy sludge with her boot. A swipe around her with Mercy had several more barely-visible tentacles dodging back. Luckily, the golden light the blade gave off wasn’t bright enough to illuminate them. She wasn’t sure what they would do if they reached her even if they couldn’t hypnotize her, though. Her hand on the wall suddenly plunged into nothing. An exit! She threw herself toward it, only to bounce ringingly off a wall just inside. It wasn’t an exit. It was just an alcove. Juli stumbled back, and that was when a tentacle wrapped around one ankle. She was just starting to react when it gave a heave and pulled her feet out from under her entirely. She lost her grip on Miwanza as she fell, the girl’s limp body slamming Juli’s head into the stone floor and stunning her. When she regained her senses a few moments later, she had lost her shield but somehow retained her grip on Mercy, and was dangling upside-down in the air, being drawn away from the flickering torch and toward the corner of the room where the mass was. With a grunt she pulled herself up and sliced at the tentacle around her ankle by feel alone. It loosed her, and she braced herself for a rough landing, but instead landed in what felt like a nest of writhing, slimy tentacles. Light help me. As she struggled to right herself, throwing off tentacles and slashing out with her bright blade, it occurred to her in a wry corner of her mind not currently occupied with fighting for survival that this would undoubtedly make a retroactively hilarious story, someday down the line, to share over a cup of strong liquor with Kex’ti – no, Shokkra – no, Cobrak – no, who? Who would she laugh about this with someday, if she made it out of this? Who would care? Nobody would care. “Get out of my head!” she shouted as she struggled, infuriated her thoughts had once again been pushed in this unwanted direction. We – need – do – naught – your – own – battles – are – fought – In the very faint outlines provided by Mercy’s glow, a great stalk rose up in front of her, twice as wide as she was, thought admittedly she was rather small. At the end, a great orb turned towards her. Juli didn’t wait to see any more. She lunged forward and plunged her blade into the center of it. You – bring – us – power – it – we – will – devour – From the edges of the wound sprung more tentacles. No – they sprung from her sword. Juli jerked her hand back in horror as Mercy’s golden glow was replaced by a vivid purple that grew brighter and brighter as more and more tentacles swarmed out of the sides of the blade. Very clearly released. Her mind leapt to the battles against Karthok and his minions, where Mercy had seemed to harmlessly absorb several void attacks. It hadn’t been harmless at all. All this time, she had been carrying around a void-infused weapon. What have I done? How had she not known? Had it been manipulating her? Let – us – show – you – what – mercy – is – true – Too late, she realized that the illumination was too great. She should have closed her eyes immediately. But, still shocked, she didn’t. And she met the gaze of a hundred black eyes.
  12. Julilee

    Death of a Phoenix

    Miwanza described it as, of course, an unfathomably hideous tentacle beast with far too many eyes. Juli didn’t know what she expected. All Miwanza could really offer other than that was that meeting the gaze of one of the eyes had spelled doom for her companions. Miwanza had only barely avoided doing so, since to gaze upon the mass was to almost assuredly ended up catching the gaze of one of the eyes; only her companions’ reactions, in front of her, had saved her, as they had commanded her attention and at the same time clued her in to what was happening. “All right, here’s what we’ll do.” Juli looked toward the shadows ahead in the antechamber. Apparently the thing lurked in the next room; they speculated it was immobile, relying on its prey to come to it. “You’ll hold the torch, and I’ll guide you – you’ll be blindfolded.” “Blindfolded? But wait, you won’t be?” Both options seemed dismaying in their own way to the girl. “Yes. I’m going to use my shield to block my vision where needed, and find us an exit. If I stop talking and guiding you at any point… try to smack me in the face, with the torch.” Juli inhaled slowly. “I’ll take being blind over insane.” Miwanza hesitated, then nodded, firming her grip on the torch. “All right. Let’s do this.” Juli had used up most of the roll of bandage, and wasn’t sure the gauze would be thick enough if not layered adequately, so had already decided what she was going to do for a blindfold. She sheathed her weapons and took hold of the hem of her purple and gold tabard. Tearing upward, she pulled off a long strip. One of the wings of the phoenix emblem came off with it. Now how is it supposed to fly? She ignored the nonsensical thought as she had Miwanza bend down so she could securely tie the improvised blindfold around the girl’s head. The whispers were getting louder; more eager. She redrew her weapons, and felt better with Mercy in her hand. They set off toward the end of the antechamber. A wall with a wide archway appeared, separating it from the next room. The stonework was still absent of the black chitinlike corruption, but the whispers were growing louder and louder, no longer in small degrees, but in leaps and bounds as they drew closer. Below it, Juli thought she might be hearing disturbing slurping sounds. There was no point in hesitating. Juli took the girl’s arm with her sword hand, lifted her shield and darted into the room. The torchlight danced madly, illuminating a space smaller than the antechamber – a throne room? There was a dais at the end with some objects atop it, but that wasn’t where the creature was. To their left, the light gleamed on hundreds of orbs and Juli threw her shield up between herself and it before she was sure what she was seeing. Backing away from that direction, she looked around, trying to see if there was another exit. Miwanza, making small sounds of fear, gripped Juli’s arm tightly and almost trod on her feet as she followed Juli’s lead. What – do – we – spy – with – our – countless – eyes – The voice was both inside and outside of her head. “Nothing to see here,” Juli said through gritted teeth. There was no exit on the right side of the room, but maybe there was behind the dais. Juli tugged Miwanza that way, angling her shield. She heard sickening slick noises and strained to determine if they meant the thing was moving. The acoustics of the chamber if not the echoing whispers made that impossible. As they reached the dais, something slid up to her foot, under her guard. She didn’t think; she stomped it to bits. The texture was wretched. “Up!” she urged Miwanza. “Five steps!” Miwanza stumbled as she went up, breaking from Juli’s grip but catching herself. Juli swept Mercy under her shield preventatively, and thought she felt the tip of the blade slide through something that gave almost no resistance. Like, maybe, an eyeball. “Juli?” Miwanza cried. You – saw – all – before – remember – so – much – more – “Keep going!” Juli backed up the steps, keeping her shield up and using every sense she could to try to catch any more tentacles that might encroach. Not being able to look went against every instinct she had. Look out, look out, look out. She bumped into Miwanza, who wasn’t moving. Juli whipped her head to look at the girl, suddenly fearing the girl had somehow become transfixed despite the blindfold, but there were no tentacle stalks near the girl. Nonetheless, she wasn’t moving. “Miwanza! Keep going!” Juli tried to give her a shove, but in response Miwanza simply dropped the torch. It continued to burn, but the light was dangerously dimmer. The – inner – eye – is – where – truth – lies – “I saw it,” Miwanza breathed. “I saw it, before. I ran away, but I remember now.” She reached up. “Miwanza, no!” The girl ripped off the blindfold and smiled beatifically past Julilee.
  13. Nathandiel

    Copper Kisses

    Nathandiel groaned as he set down the last of firewood by the hearth, kicking an errant log back onto the blanket he'd put down to catch the bits of bark that always fell from the lengths of tinder. He went back to the front door, leaning out into the street. Tarren Mill was bigger now, more boisterous than years before. Aside from the normal development of a healthy settlement that saw growth, Tarren Mill was now one of the nearer Horde outposts to the conflict in the Arathi Highlands to the East. With the Undercity gone, its also one of the more popular refugee towns. He frowned at this, eyeing a few of those said refugees by one of the water pumps, on their way to the cemetery. Towards the town's centre there would be more of them, crashed out under lean-to dwellings, filling the inn, and taking up space in any shoppe that would permit them. He pulled the door to the little flat closed, sure to turn the lock. It wasn't yet clear who had survived the attack, and while there were some who knew he had, he wasn't yet keen to make it apparent that he was still with the living--he had other things to attend to besides the Warcheif's ambitions. The small flat was old, dusty, and he had yet to properly clean it. What equipment he had bartered for dominated the kitchen, a place that had become more a laboratory than a place in which he made food. In the cupboards there were canned goods tucked snug next to stock solutions and chemical powders with handwritten labels. Before the Undercity had fallen, he had been deeply engrossed in work, finding the solace there that Howard Philip Glinn had promised he would. He had been set back by the assault, but had salvaged his journals--along with his family. Kieran cooed with delight in the single bedroom, a small space with a wooden stove, kept from view by dusty curtains Nathandiel had taken from the living room windows. He had replaced those coverings with linens. His new wife liked it dark in the bedroom, the light still too much for her. Kieran didn't mind, so long as he had her attention--and she was surprisingly good at giving it to him. He could hear her speaking softly to the child, encouraging him to eat more, to become stronger. That should have been a happy moment, to hear his new wife speak to the child in their charge with such hope. It is happy. I am happy--I am. We cannot always have things exactly as we want them. He went to the fireplace, stoking the coals to rouse them in anticipation for more fuel. He wiped sweat from his upper lip as the fire grew hotter with each addition, the glow leaning more yellow than orange as the flames licked up the sappy wood, popping when it hit sugar. He stood, content with his work, and pulled the fire gate closed. He couldn't have Kieran crawling into the fire, that would be most troublesome. The tiny tot had already put his hand on the stove in the bedroom, earning himself a red and inflamed palm that Nathandiel had salved and wrapped, feeling no need to admonish the child; it had learned enough of a lesson from the injury. In the kitchen he took off his shirt, wiping down his upper body and under his arms, removing at least the worst of the stink that enshrouded a man after a prolonged period of arduous labour; he would take a bath after supper. Without reclothing, he set to making the evening meal, pushing aside retort stands and moving glassware so that he could make enough space on the counter to chop vegetables. In the bedroom he heard mutual giggling; they were happy in there. I either need to go hunting, or suck it up and purchase some meat from one of the vendors here. We've been living on vegetables for nearly a week, he thought, while he cut the potatoes. Before moving onto the onions he put on his laboratory goggles. They didn't work entirely, but they did help keep the tearful miasma from his eyes, at least enough that he could finish the task. Once the pot was full, the water added, and the stock dispensed, he lugged the heavy iron receptacle to the fire and hung it. He took a moment to stoke the fire again before giving the soup a stir. It was thick this time, more like a stew. His mouth watered at the prospect of a hearty meal. It would be better with meat.... With supper attended to, he headed to the bedroom, pushing aside the curtains and slipping in before any light would enter. Inside the small room was dominated by a rickety bed, dark covers draped over a slender form who was propped up with pillows, an infant on her lap. The stove was cold, they wouldn't light it until evening. The box that served as Kieran's cradle was next to the bed, making it easy for his wife to reach the infant when she so wished. Affixed to the headboard were IV bags, several of them, some small and some large, some piggy-backing on others while some had direct lines to the woman in the bed. He went to the bed and took each bag in hand, turning them over to check their volumes, frowning at each meniscus that met a line he didn't like. "You need more blood," he sighed softly, biting his lip. While they had been in the bowels of the Undercity coming by blood had been no problem. Now though.... A cold hand closed on his forearm and he looked down. The veiled face was turned up to him, the child tucked against her covered breast with a bottle. "I feel much better," she said, her voice throaty and smooth like velvet. "You worry too much. This is where Melchisedech did his best work, and this is where you will do yours. The fall of Lordaeron is infuriating," her grip tightened. "But for us, this may have been best. Now...favour me before you busy yourself with my care taking?" It was a simple request and he smiled. He lifted her veil, placing it carefully on her crown and leaned down, tipping up her chin as he kissed her. She was still so cold. He let his forehead rest against hers and she held his cheek with one slender hand. "Be stronger than the fear and doubt that wrest your heart. I have seen worse times in life, as have you. This space between life and something else does not frighten me; do not let it frighten you." He kissed her again, eager for her even in her given state. He restrained himself, however, for despite her assurances, she was not well. His eyes met hers, the once-vibrant green gone, a pale violet looking back. Her cheeks were sunken and her lips were barely the colour of bleached roses. Her dark hair tumbled over her shoulders, lank and really too long. Now, more than ever, she resembled the Queen she so adored, but she was not like Sylvanas or her kind, not entirely. "I can smell soup," Drinn said. "I think I would like to have some. Would that be alright?" He smiled, not sure that she really did wish to eat or if rather she wished to please him by appearing to wish to eat. "Of course," he said. "When its ready I'll bring you a bowl to go with Kieran's broth." Drinn nodded, smiling down at the infant she had become keen on. "Eat yours in here with us," she said. "Take just a little time away from the work and care giving and be with us." She looked up at him. "Do you think after supper you could read more to us?" Nathandiel nodded. "Of course." Drinn lowered her veil, hiding her meekness. "Good. We would like that very much. You may tend to me now." She did not like when he invited himself to administer her medicines and supplements, or to help himself to a bodily exam. Even in a nearly helpless state, she was not a submissive woman. He didn't mind this about his new wife. Her strength, even her arrogance, enamored him to her. When he'd finally found her, broken and drained, she'd still tried to kill him. With her permission, he changed her IVs, flushed her catheters, checked her lines, and drew his samples. By the time he had her settled, the soup was ready. They ate together, and when they were done, he read to Kieran and Drinn until they were both asleep. He watched them, the way the baby lifted and fell slowly on Drinn's struggling chest. As much as he wanted to stay there with them enjoying the peace they had created in that tiny room, he had work to do. [align=center]In Memory of Drinn[/align] [align=center]Happy Birthday Drinn[/align] [align=center]October 16, 1980 to June 21, 2016[/align]
  14. Julilee

    Death of a Phoenix

    “First, though, let’s see if I can bandage that wound better for you,” Juli said. Miwanza nodded and sank down against the pillar. Juli gave her the torch to hold and started unwrapping the bandage. “How come you came by yourself?” Miwanza said. She paused. “I mean, it’s very brave, but… didn’t it seem risky?” “Someone else was going to come with me originally,” Juli said as she worked. She didn’t know why she said what followed. “But she felt I was going to betray her, so she attacked me, disabled me, and took off.” “Why did she think that?” Miwanza said, somewhere between curious and alarmed. Juli was silent for a moment before answering, working on unbuckling the girl’s leg plate and setting it aside. “She thought she wouldn’t get a fair trial for something she’d done which others viewed as a crime. I thought she would, but… I guess I don’t blame her.” “Sounds like you two have a complicated relationship,” Miwanza offered. “You could say that.” “Is she the one who gave you those bruises?” Juli paused in the middle of getting out her water canteen, one hand rising reflexively toward the bruises under her jaw. It was a lucky guess. “Yes,” she said. “If, um, she was going to be put to trial, why were you two coming here…?” Juli considered what to say. She had already said all that, so why not the rest? “It was going to be our last assignment together. I resigned from my post as leader of my guild. I just… wanted one last chance to feel like I was carrying out Sanctuary’s mission, the way I’d always envisioned it, with someone I always hoped could see it the same way.” “I’ve heard of Sanctuary,” Miwanza said, perking up. “You want peace between the Horde and the Alliance, don’t you?” Juli sighed inwardly as she cleaned the wound. “We want peace for everyone, regardless of faction,” she said, the correction one she had given more times than she could count. Then she paused, realizing she was speaking as though she were still part of Sanctuary. “Or at least, that was my vision. I don’t know how good a job I did of getting anyone closer to that while I was in charge. But I’m not going to try anymore.” “You’re giving up?” “On some things,” Juli said. She reached into her satchel and pulled out a roll of bandage. “I’m not going to try to lead anymore. I could never really inspire anyone. Not their confidence, not their hope, not anything. So I’m just going to do whatever I can until I can’t anymore.” She started wrapping Miwanza’s leg tightly. “So you came down here on pretty much a suicide mission.” Miwanza gave a rueful laugh. “Do you even expect to get out of here alive?” Despair underlaid her words. Juli looked up at the girl. “I will die trying to get you out of here alive,” she said quietly, “but dying is the very last option, and not one I’ll be throwing myself at. You can’t help anyone if you’re dead.” “You sound like you’ve said that before,” Miwanza said, the words calming her somewhat. “Someone said it to me years ago,” Juli said. “And it stuck… maybe too much. I was too cautious, for too long. An entire guild’s lives were in my hands. One bad call and I could lose someone who trusted me, right?” She was silent for a moment as she worked, tying off the bandage. “But Sanctuary needed to take those risks. We weren’t Sanctuary unless we did.” “Like Aerie Peak,” Miwanza said. Juli stopped again, looking up at the girl. “People still talk about that?” she said. “I was at the Wyvern’s Tail once when some Grim came in, and they mentioned it,” Miwanza said. “I found the official Horde report later and read it. The Grim said you attacked them, but according to the report, you stated that you only stood in defense of Alliance civilians and noncombatants when the Grim attacked. People say a lot of things about Sanctuary, but… I’ve seen what the Grim have done… I wouldn’t put it past them to do that.” “Yes,” Juli said. “The town’s soldiers were mostly away, leaving only children, elderly, the infirm, and other noncombatants… There were only a handful of us Sanctuary, and a whole squad of Grim. But we chose to make a stand, even though we were outnumbered.” She remembered the clash of her and Khorvis’ blades. Lilliana’s twisted face as she flung dark magic. Cerryan’s bright cries. The surety that had rung in her heart, the utter lack of regret even when things were at their bleakest. “But things changed after that… No, I changed. I became unwilling to take any more risks. I was too afraid that someone else would pay the price if I was wrong.” “But you were just saying you can’t help anyone if you’re dead,” Miwanza pointed out. She helped with her free hand as Juli buckled the leg plate back on. “So being cautious isn’t unreasonable.” “Yes,” Juli agreed. “But you can’t help anyone if you never help anyone, either.” She rose to her feet and offered Miwanza her hand. Miwanza clasped it and Juli pulled the girl to her feet. With the new, tighter bandage, she seemed more stable. Miwanza tested her weight on it and seemed satisfied. She still wouldn’t be leaping across any chasms, but she could get around. “I’m not responsible for anyone else anymore,” Juli said. “Just myself. So I’m going to take those risks now that I always should have. I’m not going to run toward death, but I’m not going to always run away from it, either. That’s why I’m here. I won’t let you down.” “If you say so,” Miwanza said with a weak chuckle. “I’m not going to look a gift boar in the tusks. If we get out of here alive, I’m not gonna argue with whatever philosophy you used to do it.” The whispers had quieted while the two spoke. It had been a welcome break, but suddenly Juli had the feeling that they had been listening. Well, it wasn’t anything that hadn’t already been in her mind, on which the shadows had already played. And, as always, the only way to go was forward. No matter what lay behind, she had to keep moving forward, because giving up was never an option. “Keep the torch,” Juli said. “I’ll need both my arms to fight. What can you tell me about the thing ahead?” The whispers were growing loud again as she drew her sword and shield. The bright, jagged lines on Mercy gleamed golden in the darkness. “Oh, you’re a paladin!” Miwanza said, her voice rising with real hope for the first time. “Maybe you really can beat this thing!” “...” “What?” Miwanza blinked. “Just tell me what this thing looks like.”
  15. Julilee

    Death of a Phoenix

    Two and a half weeks later, a group went looking for Sanctuary’s former commander. Cobrak, Cerryan, Amalyn, and Faelenor, who counted themselves friends of Julilee, found the missive on Juli’s desk and went to the camp in Silithus. Finding the overseer had gone ahead and collapsed the mine as Juli has suggested, if not specifically because Juli had suggested it, they sought the aid of a earth shaman, who directed them to an alternate entrance to the underground caverns – a chasm that delved into the earth they could follow. It was a perilous descent, marked by strange whispers and abominations, but they pressed on. Eventually, they found the antechamber, but it lay blocked, half of it entirely collapsed. It was beyond their means to continue. They were forced to turn back.
  16. Julilee

    Death of a Phoenix

    From there, the pathway didn’t fork anymore. It was a blessing because she didn’t have to worry about losing her way, but a curse because she didn’t have concentrating on not losing her way to keep her distracted from the whispers. She spent some time thinking about how to get back across the treacherous cavern on her way out. Once she had a few basic ideas about that, she didn’t have much else to try to anticipate or plan. She found herself wondering what the outside world do if she never came out. How many weeks would it be before someone went into her office to try to figure out what mission it was she’d mentioned to Vilmah? Would anyone try to follow her down into this damned place? Or would they assume she’d just run off with Shokkra? The whispers loved that train of thought, so she tried to think of a new one. A distraction came in the form of the walls and floors. The reddish, bulbous, silithid-made appearance of the surfaces was changing. It was becoming darker, and glossier. Her sabatons made a slightly different sound on them. They clicked more. She paused to inspect a particularly bulbous pustule once it had all become very shiny and black, bringing her torch nearer to it. Deep within, the blackness contracted as the torch neared. It was an eyeball. She flinched back instinctively, but nothing happened. After a few moments to calm her thoroughly unnerved heart, she continued on. Something loomed in the path ahead. She couldn’t quite figure out what it was for a moment, only able to perceive a strange shadow lying in the way, before it clicked. It was a chasm. The earth had been split here, this far beneath the surface, the rending wide enough that she had to get close to the edge before the circle of light her torch provided illuminated the opposite side. The bottom of the chasm, she couldn’t see at all. A breeze stirred the torch’s flame, ever so slightly, though she couldn’t feel it. Did the opening go all the way up to the surface, somewhere? Even if it were impassable to anything but a breeze, the fresh air was welcome. The whispers seemed quieter here. She considered her options. It was a noteworthy distance across, but she suspected that with a running start, she could make it. However... she wasn’t entirely sure. But other options did not seem promising. She had brought no rope, and an inspection of the walls and the edges showed that there would be no climbing sideways or down, the material too slick and sheer to promote a safe hold. If she wanted to continue, across was the other way to go. There were three more Horde soldiers unaccounted for. They could very well be at the bottom of this chasm, so far as she knew. Or, this chasm could have only opened up with the last earthquake in that cavern of impalement. Or, the chasm had been here, but they’d made it across. Or, they could have gone a completely different direction. Well, there was only one way to find any of that out, wasn’t there. She backed up a distance, then started for the edge. However, she didn’t run at full speed, and slid to a stop before the edge. She was half-expecting a tentacle to try to lash up at where she would have been mid-jump. But nothing happened. The whispers didn’t even change. Am I too paranoid? Or am I the only one prepared? You’re always the former until you’re the latter. She backed up again, and this time ran as hard as she could. Her footing at the edge almost gave out under her as she leapt, but she was still able to get enough of a launch to just barely make it across, her feet landing inches ahead of the gap. She pounded to a stop, looking back. The gap looked wider from this direction. She kept going. It suddenly changed. In a transition spanning only a few feet, the material surrounding her shifted from the black, organic (?) material to gray stonework, tendrils trailing into it then disappearing. It was an ancient, deeply buried ruin. She lifted her torch higher as she stepped into the area, looking around. It seemed like some sort of grand antechamber, wide, with dual rows of pillars reaching to the ceiling. The whispers echoed, here, like she was hearing them with her actual ears. Realizing that was also when she realized that she could hear again, and that she had been able to for some time. It was enough to give her pause, and wonder what else she’d missed. But all she could do was try to pay as close attention as she could to her surroundings, and she did as she moved forward, casting her gaze about, aware that there were many directions with much cover that something could appear from. Then a muffled sob came from one side. As much as she had every reason to believe it was a trap, she couldn’t not ensure it wasn’t. Hand on Mercy’s hilt, she moved toward the sound. Sheltering behind the pillar was a troll in Horde armor. She was bunched in on herself, holding a one-handed axe with both hands. She almost leapt at Juli as she appeared, but stopped in confusion at the last moment, stumbling and shrinking away. “What...?” Juli held up her hands, including the one still holding the torch, spreading the fingers a little bit to show it was all she held. “My name is Julilee. I came down here to find you. Are you all right?” she asked. “Are... are you real?” the trolless asked. “Are you?” Julilee replied dryly. “The shadows haven’t stooped to outright illusions yet, but I wouldn’t put it past them.” The trolless didn’t seem entirely reassured by that, but she looked like she wanted to be. She was young, with blue hair and darker blue skin. Her youth made Juli think of Mariz. Mariz could have easily ended up here, had she signed up with the Horde military instead of Sanctuary. But Juli had ended up here too, hadn’t she, because of Sanctuary. Juli wasn’t sure what lesson she was supposed to draw from that conclusion and didn’t have the time to ponder it further. “Look,” Juli said, “I want to get you out of here safely, and your companions if they’re still alive. Do you know where any of them are?” “We lost Mal’lul early in the tunnels,” the trolless said hesitantly, “and Orenzi to the spikes.” She swallowed, still gripping her axe. “Lomar and Kaishu, they convinced me to keep going once we got here... They said that there would be treasure in ruins like these and the goblins couldn’t complain about us helping ourselves down here while we cleaned up the voidspawn... and maybe we’d find something to help us get back through the spikes and the suffocating dark thing...” “What happened?” Juli prompted. “Where are they now?” “We went ahead, and... the voidspawn... it... there was... it was too big. It got Lomar and Kaishu... almost got me...” Julilee nodded. She didn’t press for details. “What’s your name?” “Miwanza.” Juli gave her a closer look. The girl looked scared out of her mind. She also had a bloodied bandage tied across her right thigh. The stumble hadn’t been entirely due to the pulled swing. “How fast can you move, Miwanza?” “Not very,” the girl admits. “I only got away because the... thing... it was occupied.. with...” Juli nodded again, letting the girl know she didn’t need to explain. “There’s a chasm in the tunnel on the way out. I made it across but I don’t think you can with your injury. We’ll need to find something to help us cross it, or another way out of here.” The sheer practicality Juli evinced seemed to be reassuring the trolless that Juli was real, though the situation as described clearly scared her. “What do we do?” she asked. Juli considered that herself. There was no guarantee that any other exit existed. Nor was there that there would be any items they could put to use in these ruins. And it was guaranteed that an enemy lay ahead. But there were literally no other options. “We get past it.”
  17. Julilee

    Death of a Phoenix

    The path opened up into another large cavern. Juli could tell it was huge by how the small sounds she made, her footsteps and the rustling of her armor, got swallowed up by the dark that her torch couldn’t find the end of. She weighed her options: go through the middle or stick to a wall? In the end she decided to follow the whispers, which led out away from the walls. The soldiers, if they were fleeing in terror, would have taken much the same course anyway. An obstruction appeared – a stalagmite. She moved around it and encountered more, the ground growing thick with them. A natural cavern? She paused to look at one of them more closely. It didn’t appear to be made out of mineral. She hesitated to inspect further, and continued on. Her ears strained to pick out sounds in the dark surrounding her. Even her own movements seemed muffled, and to be growing more so. Only the whispers stayed at the same volume. At first she wasn’t sure if it was an acoustical trick, but eventually she stopped and tapped and her armor to check, and she heard nothing at all. She scanned her surroundings, wary of what this meant. Had she lost her hearing, or was this some new threat? Or both? Then she began to feel vibrations under her feet, rapidly growing stronger. Instinctively, she reached out to steady herself on one of the stalagmites. This proved to be a bad idea as it broke off at her touch, far more fragile than she had anticipated. The rumbling grew heavier, accompanied by a rushing of air, and she turned her head to see a stalactite crash down not far from her. She couldn’t hear it hit, which was disorienting, nor the fragments that she could feel bounce off her armor as she shielded her face. Managing to keep her feet, she started moving quickly, seeking the end of the cavern. With her right arm she drew her shield and held it up to protect herself as more stalactites came crashing down in utter silence. At least one bounced off her shield directly, but other than being jarring, it did no harm, its material far too fragile. While running for cover, Juli almost tripped over another body, this one a female orc. She also wore Horde armor and was impaled on a broken stalagmite, which appeared to have fallen over and shattered in the earthquake. How? Juli didn’t have time to puzzle it out and quickly passed by. Almost all of the spires along the ground had collapsed at that point, and fewer stalactites were falling now. In another few moments, it ceased entirely. Juli slowed to a stop, looking around. Fragments lay everywhere that the torch’s light could reach. The cavern was clear of obstructions now, save for the rubble. But she has a feeling that that wasn’t it. The rumbling started up again. Instinct made Juli break into a sprint. The ground grew strangely mushy under her feet. The debris was disappearing. Absorbed into the ground? Then, the ground grew hard again. She had the weird feeling that the ground was actually changing, and not from her passage of distance, but altogether. This place was all wrong and unnatural. Then a stalagmite erupted from the ground in front of her. She spun, barely avoiding running into it, though she still bounced off the side of it. The soundlessness of it all was as jarring as the impact. It didn’t break, much stronger than any of the ones that had collapsed. Fully capable of impaling someone. It was a new one. It had regrown. She didn’t know if her own wild imagination had supplied the thought or if the whispers did, but couldn’t do anything right then but dismiss it anyway. She kept running. Another one erupted just in front of her, but she saw it coming this time, and leapt over it. Her instincts told her there was going to be more than direction to this threat, and when a spike suddenly speared down down from the ceiling, she was not entirely surprised. She ducked, her short height once again coming in handy for something, and kept going. Several more close calls later, she fetched up against a wall. Quickly reconsidering that, she moved away from the potentially lethal surface and moved to follow the edge at a safer distance. No spikes did end up coming out of the wall, but several more erupted from the floor and ceiling, trying to get her. One scored along the side of her leg but her armor took the scratch. Eventually, she found an opening and ducked in. The spikes didn’t follow, and the rumbling ceased. The whispers flowed down this passage. If there had been more than one exit from the impalement cavern, it seemed she had found the right one. Juli slung her shield back on her back, put her hand on Mercy’s hilt, and continued on.
  18. Julilee

    Death of a Phoenix

    The narrow entrance led to an even narrower corridor, one that looked like it was created by the earth’s rupturing rather than created by creatures, sentient or otherwise. The cavern it led into, however, was another matter. The torch’s light shone on bulbous walls signature of what one could expect in the zone. Juli moved out into the open, looking for other exits, and the light illuminated three other corridors out of the cavern. From one of them flowed the whispers. Eerily, they sounded like someone she knew, though she couldn’t say who. She put her other hand on the hilt of Mercy and followed them. The path forked; Juli took the one that the whispers were coming from. Then it forked again, and again, and again. She started building herself a mnemonic to remember the path she took: My really lousy rocks reach lower levels… It didn’t make any sense, but that was fine as long as she could remember it. Focusing on the dumb game kept the whispers from encroaching on her mind, too. It seemed odd that the path forked so much. As far as she knew, most silithid hives just spiraled deeper and deeper, without many branching paths at all. And this one just kept going. At one point, she realized she was going in a circle, and was forced to take some time to revise her mental map, figure out where she had started repeating herself, then go from there, finding a passage where the whispers were marginally louder than the one she had been taking. After that, the whispers started becoming a thrumming undertone of too many speaking at once to understand. She chose to not be disturbed by it, determined to get to the bottom of this and find what had happened to the missing soldiers. Her thoughts started wandering as she continued on. There was too much weighing on her mind. Losing Kex’ti, giving up Sanctuary, even Cobrak’s actions. And Shokkra. The more she thought about it all, the more depressed and discouraged she got, her thoughts darkening. Why was she even here? Why was she even trying, when she couldn’t help anyone? Then she realized that those thoughts weren’t her own; they were what the whispers were saying. Anger burned bright clarity back into her mind. She wasn’t going to give up, and she certainly wasn’t going to give up because manipulative entities were toying on her fears. It was at that same moment that she realized the shadows were encroaching on more than her mind. An amorphous blob hovered at the left side of her peripheral vision, and as soon as she realized it was there, she instinctively swiped at it with the torch in her hand. A shriek split the enclosed space and suddenly it was hard to breathe. It occurred to her she didn’t even know how far she was underground and if good air could still reach down there. She could suffocate. She was suffocating. No. More shadows. She drew her sword as the blob recoiled then lurched for her again, and the shining blade sliced right through it. It died with another shriek, and as soon as the sound dissipated, she could breathe again. She took a moment to do just that, as she shifted carefully, looking around for any other threats. She ended up finding a body instead. It was a male troll in Horde armor. His eyes bulged, his mouth agape, as though he had choked to death. His body was cool, but not yet stiff. His companions must have fled ahead and left him to die. Juli turned back toward the whispers and continued.
  19. Julilee

    Death of a Phoenix

    Juli stood at the entrance to the mine. Besides being unnaturally dark, a chill breeze flowed gently from the cave’s mouth, yet it failed to stir the flames of the torches on either side. That wasn’t the worst part, though. The worst part was the impression of whispers carried on that breeze, like a hushed conversation you were overhearing while asleep and couldn’t make any sense out of. It was no surprise the two Horde grunts guarding the entrance seemed uneasy. They looked at her as she stood there, and as she did, their expressions slowly turned from dubious to bewildered as she did not move for some time. She ignored them, immersed in thought. Eventually, she took out her hearthstone and spoke. “Sanctuary, thank you for the chance to lead you as long as I did. It’s been the most important three and a half years of my life. If you haven’t already heard, I’ve passed the mantle of leadership to Vilmah Bloodborne. I had reached the end of what I could offer Sanctuary, and I know she’ll be able to guide you further than I could. It’s been an honor. Thank you.” When she was done, one of the guards asked with nervous gentleness, “Err, lady, you’re not going in there out of some deathwish, are you?” The juxtaposition of her words, which they could hear, and what she was staring into was rather clear. The other shifted awkwardly, and the first guard went on. “Just take a little time, find someplace to blow off some steam. Go fight in an arena, spend some gold somewhere – fel, go get laid. You’ll feel better and realize you don’t have to do anything drastic.” “How many are unaccounted for?” was all she asked. “Five of ‘em went in,” the other guard said. “Two trolls, two orcs, and a pandaren.” She grunted. “Haven’t heard a peep. Other than...” Her eyes shifted toward the dark of the cave mouth, where the unheard whispers were coming from, and she scratched at an ear nervously. No new information since the request that had come to her desk, then, about what Juli would actually be facing down below. The report had just mentioned voidspawn in a cave the miners had broken into, from which they’d quickly retreated with no casualties. Juli mentally reviewed what she knew and found it wasn’t much. She would have to figure out what was going on herself. “She sure stands around thinkin’ a lot,” the second guard commented to the first. “Someone has to,” Juli muttered, then walked into the cave. She grabbed a torch off the side as she passed by. The guards didn’t stop her.
  20. Julilee

    Death of a Phoenix

    Months ago... Julilee arrived in Silithus, alone. She had bruises under her jaw, above the collar of her armor. “Julilee Liene reporting for Sanctuary,” she said. The overseer she spoke to, a goblin, looked her up and down. They stood at the edges of a busy camp, the makeshift command yurt behind him strung with contraptions of unknown purpose. This had been where she’d been directed upon arrival. “Yer all they sent?” he said, tilting his hard hat back. “We asked for three, and apparently we’re gonna need a whole damn platoon, so you’re definitely not going to cut it, short stuff.” Juli didn’t comment on a goblin calling her short. She barely commented at all. “What’s the situation?” she asked. “Mining accident, with a special voidy bonus,” the goblin replied. “My team was mining up Azerite, and broke into some sort of underground chamber. Thought we’d find some good bug artifacts in there, but what we got was abominations.” He frowned, a hint of uneasiness in it. “I was actually plannin’ on increasin’ my request... A few Horde soldiers volunteered to go in this morning for a little extra grease, if you catch my drift. Clean things up. Shouldn’t’ve been too hard. But they never came out.” Julilee looked toward the mine. This particular operation was a distance away from the wound in the world, but the earth had heaved here enough to expose some underground caves the goblins had eagerly turned to exploiting to get deeper faster. The caves had probably been part of a buried Qiraji hive. The mine entrance was guarded by a couple of uneasy-looking Horde soldiers. At this hour, the shadow from the gigantic sword was fallen over where they stood, and the cavernous black hole of the entrance seemed to swallow far too much light in that shadow. “How many hours ago?” she asked. It was past noon. “Two and a half. You’re not going in there, are you?” he said, incredulously. “They could still be alive,” she said. “Not likely, shorty! And I’m not payin’ you to go in there either, if that’s what you’re thinking. That’s just throwing good gold after bad.” “I don’t want your Light-damned gold.” Juli continued looking toward the mine’s opening. Her cold, flat words confused the goblin to silence. She spoke again, after a moment. “How many people can you help if you don’t ever help anyone?” “What?” he said, baffled. “If I don’t come out, detonate explosives and collapse it.” She walked toward the mine.
  21. For a brief moment, one that felt longer than it truly lasted, there was a silence that fell between the two people that remained within this office. The sigh from Dora as she sunk within the chair that was too big for her was all that was heard as seconds ticked in what felt like minutes. Vathelan cast his gaze away, uncertain if it was really wise to bring up something so meaningless. He pondered if this was truly a mistake-- but that train of thought was shattered when she once again broke the silence. “Right!” She clapped, drawing his attention back to reality as she jolted in her seat. The act of that of the Boss of Borrowed Time was no more, instead sat before him was the woman he admired once more. “So, Vath- that was your first big battle, huh? How are you doing?” “I suppose… that would be accurate.” He couldn’t look directly at her still, the melancholy was far too apparent. If his voice or gaze didn’t give it away, he was sure his ears did. Even still he tried to press on. “...I will continue to do what I must to save this world, even if that requires me to use a more hands-on approach. Dora…” Here it goes. He inwardly braced himself for what was to come as he took a breath, though the frosted exterior from earlier melted away. “...I thought I lost you. I thought-- I thought Hope had been lost.” His head turned away now, leaving her to study the burn of color upon his cheeks. “...All before…” He left the words linger, not daring to finish that sentence. “There’s always that risk of losing people in war. It doesn’t get any easier when you do lose them. It just hurts differently.” “And that is what I am here to do, Dora. To reduce the risk for your people.” His voice surged with another desperate determination. These two sentences were declarations as he tried to stay focused, the next part served as an attempt to reassure them both in the face of the danger. “I… will endure. Until the end. For you, for the Lord-General.” “...Maybe find a reason to endure for more than just your ideals.” It took her a moment to word her concern, his notable lack of self preservation. “Look around you, Vath. We’re more than just our dreams. There’s an entire present that’s happening around you. Stop and embrace it every once in a while, okay? Promise?” “A present I have no future in.” All Vathelan could muster was a sad smile as he shook his head. “I wish I could make such promises, but, I understand the harsh reality before us. This will not end well for me in the end. I knew this, and I still acted-- I had to. As consequence, I’m well aware that I’m running out of time. I’m not a hero. Far from it.” They have had this conversation in the past, on Heroism and the philosophy regarding the concept. And a repeat of it loomed above the duo, until it was cast aside. “Time will tell. Life’s going to keep testing all of us.” She shrugged as she stood and rounded the desk. “Thanks, though. For being there when you could have taken a step back.” “We both know I couldn’t do that.” Was his retort as he stood.“...Not while you were in danger. You’re far too valuable, both professionally and in personal terms.” She paused as she was, caught in the motion of preparing to escort him to the door. Instead she peered at the Magister, in the robes that are just slightly too big for his frame and the little quirk of the corner of his mouth. “Right.” She laughed, her feet taking her back near his chair. “I think your negotiations with the Boss of Borrowed Time would look very different without me.” Her hands slipped into the pockets of her trousers. “As for- personal… well. I’m a bit lost, still, when things get more complicated.” A pause. “Really terrible at that, actually. And, alright, to be honest, a bit exhausted by it all? Not- not really in the business of bothering with it.” “I see…” His face kept that same melancholy smile from earlier, as if the rejection hadn’t come as a surprise. “I’m not particularly… familiar with these types of scenarios either. I do not want to cause any additional stressors to your situation here, nor do I… expect anything to come from this. Dora, I’m a commoner, I don’t own an acre of land, a troop to command nor an ounce of fame to my name. I’m not a hero-- how could I ever think you would…?” He sighed as he shook his head. “Vath… if you knew me, you’d know that none of that stuff matters much.” She unfolded herself from the unsure, hunched figure she had bent into while she tentatively smiled in his direction. “I don’t need money, or- or a legacy. But, I could use friends. And that’s… you know, enough for me right now.” “I figured, but this is the reality of the situation. I will remain your friend so long as you will have me… but would you please forgive me for this selfish indulgence?” His green eyes behind his glasses look at her as he summoned the courage to continue when she made no objections. “I’ve been hated my entire life, and I expect it to continue well after my short bitter life comes to an end. No matter what I have done, it has always the wrong decision. And-- I digress.” He shook his head as he offered his hand in a similar fashion upon the night before the battle. It lingered as she hesitates. Until she at last took it, though timid in her action. His hand wraps around her in hopes of reassurance before he continued this one time indulgence. “I want to, first, thank you for being my first friend in this miserable word. And I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that, I don’t want you to feel pressured by my actions… I… I want to be worthy of your trust. And for that to happen, I feel I should be completely honest. Or as honest as my profession allows, at least.” He talked, keeping best as he could to his train of thought as the words finally flow. “...I love you, Dora Arath’dorei. I tell you this, not because I expect you to love me back. Not because I want something from you. No. I say this… I say this because I loathe the idea of holding onto this. To regret every word I never said while I had the chance.” Dora gaped at the confession, surreal as her hand remained still within his. “I-” She attempted, only to trip on her own words and thoughts. For once since he had known her, she seems stunned and wordless. “...But, as I said, I don’t expect you to reciprocate such a notion.” He gave a small shrug as he offered a reassuring smile as he fought against the urge to avert his eyes in embarrassment. “...I simply figured that I should say it. While I have my chance. Before the consequences of my actions catch up to me.” “Wait,” she blurted. “What consequences? What actions?” “All of them.” His smile faded, a grim expression took its place. “There are things I have done, more of which I shall do. And I am… pardon the expression… living on borrowed time. Someone such as myself ‘playing hero’? ...Well…” He forced a laugh, it was hollow. His caressing grasp of his hands loosened in spite of his attempt to hide his fear. “It never ends well. If I’m lucky to survive this war, then I’m sure my court martial will finish me off. But, if I can save the world, if I can save you… then it’ll be worth it.” “You’re expecting me to listen to all that and take a step back?” Where his grasp may have loosened, she now gripped at his hand like an anchor. “I let you walk into a fight where the odds were stacked against us, heavily, but I did that because I knew if I was in your position I wouldn’t have taken no for an answer! Vath, you can’t expect me to just let you march into whatever it is you’re up against without telling me what’s going on!” “I wish it were that simple…” The Magister lowered his head, both flattered at her passion for him and shamed in how right she was in how unfair this seemed. “What’s most important is saving Azeroth right now. It’s better you don’t know, not before I have a plan at least.” “How long are you going to keep me in the dark?” She insisted, her form looming into his space. “How many times am I going to be side-stepped before you can give me an answer, Vathelan? Because this isn’t the first time you’ve brushed me off.” “It’s the nature of working with classified infor…” His tone started off defeated at first as his eyes found themselves planted upon where their hands met, unable to look her in the face as the guilt was eating at him. Then he noticed a seemingly meaningless detail to the untrained eye, but important to those who knew the significance: his cufflinks were missing from his person. His brows knit at this detail, did this mean he really could speak freely? Maybe more so than he usually would given his need for subterfuge against his own organization. “...A lot is going on, and more still. Do you remember what I told you I did fun on our first outing? After the hunting trip?” “You worked for fun,” she sighed as she released him to slouch into a backwards lean with the desk lip hitting her hip. Her impatience leaked within her words as he strained her limits, her arms folded across her chest. “Read articles, right?” “Yes.” He had to weigh his word choice, even if he could trust her. Even if he couldn’t be spied on through his cufflinks, who knew what other ways they could discover what he divulged? “...I’ve read articles I shouldn’t have been able to. My security clearance in terms of information is, well, higher than it should be expected given my position.” “You flagrantly disobeyed the hierarchy.” Worried for her friend as she may be, she couldn’t help but crack an amused smile. “Spirits, but this is why I don’t mess with the bureaucracy of organizations like the Scryers. Would do my head right in, and I’ve got an awful poker face.” “I… know things I shouldn’t.” How he envied her levity, that bright light in these darkest nights. “We knew the Legion would return someday, and we have been preparing for it. We’ve developed things for such a scenario. And… I was on one of these projects, before I was sent to Sanctuary.” That got her attention. “So what happened?” “He escaped.” He could see the vague intel he had just divulged work its way into her expression, that realization of the implications exonerating him--at least partially--in his dodginess in telling her exactly what was wrong, what he had done. How it would paint a target on her back. “And you can’t find him.” “...I helped facilitate his escape.” Vathelan shifted to take his place beside her, leaning on the desk as he tried to figure out how much he could feed her in terms of information. “Admittedly, I didn’t think she’d actually be able to cause it… but…” “Before we start needing to label persons A and B, I need to know why you felt you had to release a- a ‘Project’ into the world without authorization. What were your justifications?” “...Because of whom he is.” Vathelan looked back at the door, feelings of discomfort and outrage waring within his chest. His voice got heated as he tried to explain his reasonings, while not disclosing the identity on the man.“The Legion is here, at our very doorsteps, and they didn’t even want to use him. So I forced their hand. When I did that they wanted to hinder him. They’re risking… everything. He may very well be our best hope, we should be supporting him. Not chaining him down so he can’t do what needs to be done to bring about our salvation.” “...alright. Okay. Okay okay.” Dora reached up to scrub furiously at her hair, her shaggy black mane that she tosses back with a hint of the Wild in her. “Okay. The second,” she pivoted in his direction, her finger pointed like a gun. “The moment I can help, you’re gonna call me. I mean it. Private channel on my comm. No excuses. You’ve given me probably way more than you should have, and I’m not going to ask anymore, but promise that when you have a plan you fill me in.” “As much as I loathe the idea of putting you in danger of my actions… you may very well be right. This might be too big for me to do alone.” He sighed. “I am working on a plan, and I do have a lead on how to find him. I’m sending Her back where he said they would beet. The problem is… this is extremely delicate. I have to use the utmost subtly, lest I get all of us caught. If that happens, they’ll probably just sedate him again. And as for me… I’ll be…” In a fate worse than death. He swallowed air, unable to finish the sentence. He knew what happened to traitors. It would be as if he had never existed. “Then don’t get caught. Do what you have to, and when the time is right, you’ll seek me out.” “Of course.” Vath nodded, a hint of a smile gracing his features only to vanish as the threats of the past once more began to echo through his mind. If things went sour, which was most likely the probable course of action, he was going to put her directly within harm’s way. Was he really okay with this? “Okay,” she repeated as her finger lowered. Again, a little softer. “Okay. We’ll get it figured out. Just… try to get some sleep, alright? And send Captain Vanderzee into my office in the morning to go over his contract.” Could he really do this to her? She wanted to get closer, not minding to see the first hints of his sins-- of his shame, and the threat he posed to those who dared get close to him. And yet she remained as loyal and steadfast as ever, wanting to help. Was it not fair to let her in on his suicide of a crusade? He stood upright and headed for the door. He wasn’t sure this was a promise he could keep. Even still he smiled back at her. “...You know, you really should visit me in Shattrath one of these days.” She returned the smile, a very glad one at that. “When things calm down here, I...I can probably get away. Be nice to finally see that memorabilia collection you’re so proud of.” “I would love to show you, there’s a lot of history there. Assuming things ever calm down enough to allow it.” He stretched the smile into the biggest, most winning look he could muster over his shoulder before exiting into the moonlit port. When the door closed, his facade finally broke. Raeventus’s voice echoed through his mind as his pulse began to race, his body threatening to keel over in a panic attack all the way back to the apartment. He would barely manage it. “Where you have treaded, death will follow. I will burn down the entirety of House Visca: His wife, son, brothers and niece… all of them will pay for your trespass. I will erase Sanctuary from existence. I will bomb Dalaran out of the sky, I will return their last bastion of hope in Orgrimmar back to the ashes from whence it raised from. I will imprison your little friend… the Arath’dorei girl, she will learn the truth of you, she will learn why she will be brought to her fate was because you couldn’t keep your mouth shut. And then you will Beg me to end your life, what I will do to you once I am done will become a merciful killing, have I made myself clear?”
  22. “All I’m sayin’, Lad, is all work and no play makes Vath a dull boy.” Since the Magister had cleaned up and dressed in robes of his usual uniform—albeit now a size or so too big for him—the Captain had deemed it appropriate to counsel his employer with his ‘worldly advice’. It wasn’t entirely welcome. “Might be why she rejected yeh for another suitor.” “…Thank you, Captain.” He spoke through gritted teeth as they stood before the door to the office, his hand hovered before the door as he gave his employee a pointed look. “But for now, we have a task at hand. Please stay focused.” Vathelan awaited some sort of rebuttal, which thankfully seemed to not come forward. Instead the Captain nodded, and at this indication of him finally falling into line, Magister Vathelan Frostwhisper knocked upon the door of the office. The meeting could at last begin, and their dealings could proceed. "Enter!" He forced aside the feelings that lingered within as he opened the door, retreating back into the mask of the Magister persona. It mattered not their history, he reminded himself, what mattered was coming to a compromise that would benefit Azeroth. Cleaned and groomed, he looked as a man of his station should. Now he just had to act it. Which was harder as he saw her, adorned in a military uniform. His heart faltered for a mere moment before he redoubled his efforts. When he managed to speak, his voice came out more cold, the distance so palpable that it would concern them both. “Lady Arath’dorei.” “Magister, Captain.” She smiled as she gestured towards the chairs before taking her own behind the desk. “Evening, you two.” “Evenin’, Miss.” The Captain remained in the doorway, respectfully tipping his hat in the Lady’s direction, even if refusing to take the offered seat for the time being. Vathelan hesitated for a moment before finally complying. His voice still carried the clinical tone as he tried to focus on business, not what his heart yearned for. “I am sure you remember why this meeting was scheduled?” “We’re here to talk about resources, or at least the allocation of them.” She nodded in the Captain’s direction before setting her forearms upon the desktop as she leaned in; closing the circle to create a space where it is just them now, where nothing would interfere with the topic at hand. “I explained the kind of situation I’m in, with the developing the morale of the company. We need that now more than ever, but we also certainly could use resources. You sounded like you had a suggestion that would satisfy the both of us.” “Hope is a precious resource, though not finite.” He echoed the same notions he had written to her in recent weeks leading up to this all, his eyes averted for a moment before once again focusing on the matter at hand. “But to do so requires careful cultivation. We spoke of your hesitance to take our aid, as it may damage morale, and I suggested that we may have ways around that-- a few, actually, at least in the eyes of your company.” “Go ahead and lay ‘em out for me, then.” Her dimpled smile threatened to melt his demeanor even now. “I’m listening.” “Either way, it appears to me that we must make the aid acquired to seem as if it comes from an internal source. This will require new perceived origins. For starters, the Arath’dorei and Rayfeather families are well invested into your Company, are they not?” Dora took a moment to respond, the leather of the chair seat stretched as she leaned back a scant inch. “Faelenor is Second in Command. I’m not sure about his reputation among the rest of the company, really. He has a strong network and his name certainly gets around. Amalyn has earned a lot of trust among the ranks as a healer and a person to seek for counsel. As for the Arath’doreis… my mom has been a member for a while now. I know some of our company members look at her as a Veteran. She’s fought in enough battles that she’s earned some clout. She’s MIA, though.” Another pause. She sucked in her bottom lip for a brief moment. “So is Amalyn.” “That… was not my intent. I am sorry to hear about this, and should you wish, I am willing to lend you aide as a personal favor in finding them-- unofficially obviously. Their reputation, should we able to find them, or… if need be, your own, gives us an opportunity. No one is likely to question such a prestigious family that is well recognized as the leadership for this company in supplying resources you require to get back on your feet.” He paused, allowing her to absorb the offer and to mentally working out a way to address the next part. He knew of at least some of the Scryer financial operations, that which helped fund their missions across both worlds in which they operated. He also knew how it would look to some. “...Furthermore should you, ah, purchase from certain companies-- we can ensure they send you more than you paid for. And then… there is one final route I have devised.” “Okay,” she mumbled as she scribbled something quick within the margin of her day’s logs before her eyes lifted to meet him once more. “And the other route?” Vathelan couldn’t help but stare back into her eyes as they once again made contact, his mind threatening to veer off course into some romantic fantasy. His face turned, giving him a moment away as he addresses the man behind him. “Captain, would you please have a seat?” From behind the Magister the Half-elf Captain watched their display, seeming less interested in their politics than in the body language of the two. He shifted from the door frame, taking little more than a step before came an unceremonious rattling of the office’s door as it swung open. It revealed an elf with raven hair that flowed around his shoulders. His eyes shifted from the acting Boss of Borrowed Time, to the Magister and then to the Half-elf who practically stood at his side and greeted with a cocked brow before calling with a snarky tone, “Is this a bad time? Or should I come back when you do not have a pair of gentlemen callers oh Boss Sister?” He chortles, swaggering his way in with a lackadaisical stride. “In the middle of a serious meeting, Phy.” The sister in question frowned as her gaze shifted from Magister to her brother. The brother’s eyes darted between the three in the room, seeming to measure each in turn as a hand rested upon one of the twin pommels of his deferentially-runed blades at his waist. He moved closer to the desk, aiming for behind the desk and towards the windowsill. “Allriiight…” “The kind where you walk out of the room and lock the door behind you,” Dora adds. The look of shock was obvious upon the young man’s face before it faded as his gaze shifted away and his mouth hard-lined. “Fine.” He managed to mumble out before making good on her order, leaving the room back to their meeting. When the door clicked shut, the signs of sudden weariness were obvious upon the the woman’s expression. She rubbed the back of her neck and took some time to gather herself back into the conversation. “I’m sorry,” she said as she let her hand drop. “You were saying?” “Ah… so that was the Phyruss you spoke of when we met.” Vathelan gave a small smile, both to reassure her and at the memories of that night played within his head. “Yeah, my brother. He’s- I wish you’d meet him at a better time. He’s very sweet, and really clever…” The moment hung for both of them, it seemed. That which was shattered as Captain Van cleared his throat behind them. “...But back to business?” Her quill raised again at the suggestion. “Okay, so we were discussing various routes to take for this supply. Using family reputations is one idea. What was the other you were going to suggest?” “Yes. We discussed utilizing your and the listed family’s reputation to remove doubt, or using certain companies in order to to maximize your resource gains-- the final is a new recruit.” He motioned once more to the Captain, giving him the floor. “I was contracted by yeh, ‘is contract is offically over.” He eyed the Magister before looking back at the his potential new boss. “Buy me out. I’ve got a bit ‘o history wit’... shall we say ‘requisitions’, yer boss man will be sure to find that. So I’ll just be deliverin’ on that by hittin’ up the ol’ business, from teh look o’ it… it’ll be part as me o’ membership, aye?” “It’s a thought,” she conceded, “But if you’re suggesting that we have one new recruit provide a substantial amount of provisions, enough to make an impact on an entire company, it might raise some suspicions. I don’t think it could hurt to… maybe have a balance of the suggestions. Have sources trickle in from various outlets. As long as we don’t have any more strangers to prop us up, no one loses face.” She looked at the both of the men. Vathelan seemed as serious as always when it came to work; the Captain merely shrugged. “We can sign you on, Captain Vanderzee. And I’ll talk to some of our suppliers to clear the new source of shipments. But,” she notified the pair, “If anyone asks, I’ll be transparent about where the supplies are coming from.” “I would have to agree with you that, yes, it would be wise not to use one avenue exclusively. Nor will we be granting everything in one massive sum as to avoid such suspicions, if it pleases you.” Magister Frostwhisper gave a small diplomatic nod. “If you wish to reveal your source should you be asked, well, that is your prerogative. With the current plan in place, we will have to resort to supplying you with resources alone, unfortunately, but… it should be enough to get you back upon your feet and ready for what is to come.” “Great, am I keepin’ the room we’ve been stayin’ in… or…?” “If you’re settled there already, I don’t see why not.” She addressed the Captain with a little amused grin. “Unless there’s a problem with it?” “Ain’t ever really settled anywhere.” The Captain returned his most fetching grin. “But I can move in, soon as teh roommates take their leave.” “Now… what I ask in return is, relatively simple. We are fine remaining anonymous, all we ask is once you are recovered and supplied that you take the fight to the Legion. They threaten us all. And… should they find out we were behind your supply, you paint a favorable picture for us as to keep your company on the right path and keep them open to continuing to accept our donations and perhaps even greater boons in the future. We’re in the business of defending and preserving our people, I would like to think that saving the world would fall under that.” “Right. Look,” she sighed. “I’m glad we have some terms that we can come to that look agreeable on paper. Here’s the thing. The actual Boss needs to sign off on this. The only precedent we have for decision making and extreme shifts of power like this was when my… when my dad left. He was declared KIA, and that was it. Cobrak took over. But Cobrak is alive and here, just not… responsive yet.” She swayed forward, her eyes held an ernest approach to them. This was much more pleasant than any conversations he had with Commander Laine in terms of Sanctuary accepting Scryer Aid. “All I can promise right now is that when Faelenor and Cobrak wake up, I’ll present your case to the both of them. If it’s from me, they’ll hear me out. I know that much.” “That is all I can hope for then, Dora.” Vathelan smiled, “the Legion is a threat to us all. He would be a fool not to see this. We are not asking for an official allegiance should he not trust us, we are simply trying to enable the right organizations to be the most effective against a threat that seeks total annihilation of all life. As for Lord-General Rayfeather of a branch of the Scryers, when he wakes… I would like to speak to him. But that is neither here nor there at current.” “I’ll notify you as soon as I can, when Faelenor wakes up.” “That should help this partnership in… considerable measures.” The smile lingered, only to falter when he looked back at his employee. One that was going to set him back more than he cared to entertain the thought of. Even a Magister’s salary was far from unlimited. Even still he forced his smile to return as he addressed the Captain. “ Congratulations, consider yourself hired on a full time salary.” All he was rewarded for his efforts was a noncommittal grunt. Well, that certainly wasn’t encouraging. Vathelan tried to push that thought aside, however, “Anything else, Dora?” She shook her head. Some of her long, luscious, locks spilled down her front. He was reminded of statues of a certain goddess that he had seen in Reliquary files. “Nothing business-wise. I wonder how you’re holding up.” “Pardon?” He raised a brow, taken by surprise. A moment of recovery, and then he looked back at the Captain. Who was smiling at him. “Should… we have some privacy?” “Hah, well- I guess this is a sort of sensitive topic. Uhm,” her smile at the captain may have been hard to decipher for Vathelan. But Vanderzee knew what it meant. “For a few moments, I guess.” “Then you are dismissed, Captain.” Vathelan mimicked the tone of a military official, though he was uncertain who he may have fooled within the room as his gaze returned to the lovely woman before him. There was a clouded uncertainty upon his face, tempered by the struggling mask of the professional he tried to hide behind. So many conflicting emotions, and here he worried they may finally be addressed-- for better or worse. “Yeah, I could stand a smoke.” The Captain nodded as he raised from his seat, his singlar eye wandered to both of them with a knowing smile before he made his way towards the exit of the room. He stopped before opening the door as he gave a sidelong glance back at the two. “Yeh kids ‘ave fun now, we’ll worry about tha paperwork later.” And with that, he left before either had a chance to retort.
  23. RiktheRed21

    An End to Summer

    Charlotte yawned loudly, earning her dirty look from the grey-bearded dwarf. The other children were all bored too, she could see, but Charlotte was the only one who made a sound in her boredom. “Young lady,” the old Master Gorum grumbled, “Is there something you wish to share with the class?” “No, sir,” she replied sleepily. “Good. Now, as I was saying...conjuring arcane energy is a balancing act. Too much, and your spell will go out of control. Too little, and it won’t be able to sustain itself.” His grey hairs wobbled as he droned on, almost hypnotic in their movements. Charlotte felt her eyes grow heavy… She was in the Plaguelands again and sitting astride a donkey. Friede was there, the woman who called herself Sister and had been like a mother to her for her first five years. The dwarf kept Charlotte still in the saddle as they crossed the hidden path in the southern hills near Chillwind Point. It only remained a secret so long as they crossed in silence. The thrill of the crossing set Charlotte’s heart racing. Her feet jittered in place excitedly. “Cut it out, will you?” the student in front of her said between clenched teeth. Charlotte huffed and tucked in her legs. Her fingers drummed along her desk as Master Gorum rambled on and on about balancing mana when conjuring arcane power. None of these dummies have ever cast a spell before, but I can throw fireballs bigger than Gorum’s wrinkly head! Without realizing it, she pulled on the familiar and comforting presence of power always just within reach. Her fingers glowed with orange light as the power wrapped her like a warm blanket all over. Charlotte looked nervously at the lecturing Master, but he was too fixated on a dusty tome he was reading from to notice her. Charlotte moved her fingers like a puppeteer does to move his puppet’s strings and watched a little flame like a candle’s light up above her hand. She imagined a little man dancing through the air and focused her vision on the flame. Before she knew it, the flame took the shape she had in mind. The dancing man flickered magically as he pranced above her hand. Charlotte thought he looked lonely dancing alone, so she focused and made a second little fire to look like a woman in a flowing dress of yellow light. The two flames danced together like Charlotte had always imagined her mother and father would. “Miss Blackmane!” Master Gorum’s voice snapped Charlotte back to reality. The flames died down in an instant. “What do you think you are doing?” He sounded mad, but weirdly surprised, too. “I, uh—was just testing out what you were talking about, sir,” she replied with one of her winning smiles. The dwarf’s slate-grey eyes measured Charlotte for a long moment. The girl shrunk into her seat when she realized all the other kids were staring at her with open mouths. How long had they been watching her play with her fires? “Little lady, step into my office and wait for me. I will speak with you after class ends.” Charlotte’s face flushed as the stupid kids snickered at her. They were all babies compared to her; most of them had never been out of the city. I’ve seen demons and witches and places they’ve only heard of in stories. The dwarf’s office was decorated with stones, stones with writing on them, shiny stones, stone furniture, and more stones. All the rocks made Charlotte feel like she was being buried alive. Out of spite, she made a new dancing couple and let them prance along the floor. When they left her hand, they sputtered out within a couple seconds, but they were still pretty when they faded into ashes. Master Gorum entered the room as she released one of her couples. He watched curiously as they leapt up and poofed into nothing. Charlotte folded in her legs and smiled innocently. “You are a rare talent, young one,” the dwarf said. Charlotte blinked. She thought she was in trouble, but he just sounded impressed. “Thank you, sir.” “If I remember correctly, you received some training from your grandfather, Torven Velmon, in Dalaran, yes?” She nodded. “And further training from one Mardalius Anterius, a half-elf and well-known battlemage. Impressive instructors for one so young. Even more impressive are the results of their brief training. A mage with enough mana could theoretically conjure fire at your age, but to have such control over the flames is usually only seen at novice or apprentice level.” Charlotte shrugged. “My first spell exploded grandpa’s stove. I made ice once, too. I blocked a witch’s black fire with it, but it made me tired.” The dwarf stroked his beard. “Yes, I imagine it would. I won’t lie, girl, the level of spellcasting you display has dangerous implications. Someone your age using a spell too powerful to contain could have deadly consequences. I have known students to strain themselves so greatly that they drained all the mana they had, leaving them as empty husks. Not a pretty sight. I am going to recommend you for advanced courses. If you show as much aptitude for coursework as you do spellcasting, you may make apprentice before the year is out…” Charlotte smiled, but on the inside, she was kicking herself. Now I’ll have to listen to even more boring teachers! They’ll have me doing homework forever at this rate!
  24. Magister Vathelan Frostwhisper couldn’t sleep. This proved another disturbing pattern he seemed to be developing as the war for the very survival of Azeroth itself progressed. With every inaction more people died, the chances at failure exponentially increased—and at times he felt alone in fighting for it. He looked down at the cup he had found within their temporary lodgings; he knew it was a foolish notion. He wasn’t a hero. He knew this. They made it all too clear to him. He bitterly set the glass to his lips once more, allowing the revitalizing fluids from the glass to grace the interior of his form. More and more died as people refused to accept his solution. He was beginning to understand why the late Lord-General had delved into the bottle after the battle which secured his seat in history. A coping mechanism, earned by the blood spilt upon both sides—the cost of being a hero, surely it had earned some perks? Was this is why he was so scorned? Unblooded, Untested. He was not a hero. But the greats were being picked off one by one. Lord Cerryan was likely dead. Lord-General Rayfeather was horribly wounded, he hadn’t gotten any word as to if he would actually be able to continue the good fight. The Shattered Son was missing; his only lead to find him was too preoccupied with her betrothed’s condition. And then there was Dora. Lady Dora Arath’dorei… where did he begin? Here in these late hours, when his companion was finally slumbering, when he could stop the act of being as if he was well—He took another drink of his iced water as he tried to focus his mind as he chided himself. There was too much to worry over, the fate of an entire world was at stake, and yet he tried to nurse the cracks within his heart. He tried to help them here, he was rejected. He followed her words and example, and still one of his more violent political rivals won her heart. …But that was to be expected. She was a Hero. He was not. He was foolish to think he had a chance, was he not? He was shoved aside, something he should well be used to at this point, and yet— His thoughts would find themselves interrupted by the sound of the knocking at his door. Returned to reality, his spiraling depression interrupted, he opened his eyes to find his forehead resting upon the table. Slowly he raised himself from his seat as his brow quirked, curious as to who would bother him in this late hour. His question would be answered before the Magister even got the chance to reach the wooden barrier from the outside world, as it opened anyways. From the other side came his lost hire, his missing mercenary. Gone was the hardened leather chassis he was last seen in. In its place was a long leather coat, accompanied with a wide brim hat concealing even more of his face. He gave a small nod as he closed the door behind him; Vathelan couldn’t help but notice he was still armed as the coat flourished ever so slightly in his movements. “Where have you been?” “Don’ worry ‘bout it.” The Captain said as he looked over the room. “Jus’ been busy.” “That doesn’t answer the question.” The Magister shook his head at the attempt to brush off the question. “Fer yeh? It’ll ‘ave ta do.” He shrugged as he moved passed the young full-blooded elf to take a seat at the table. He eyed the glass with a smirk as he procured a bottle of whiskey from his coat, taking a swig before tossing it at the Magister’s direction. “Yeh look stressed, take a load off.” Vathelan used a blink spell upon the bottle, returning it to the table before the rogue. It spun as it tried to correct itself from the alteration of momentum. The Magister gave a small sigh as he glared from behind his spectacles as he leaned upon the table. “No, it shall not have to. As such, I’ll ask once again. This time as your employer. Where have you been?” At the insistence from the Magister, the Captain smirked. It made Vathelan uneasy, the singular eye proving hard to read if it was a threat or simple amusement. In spite of the thuggish half-elf only have a couple inches on the Magister, it worked way too much in the accused favor. It didn’t help that the rogue dropped his accent. “…Big words from a man with the lack of experience to back it up. But if we wish to speak of employment, you owe me the second half of my pay—on top of a retainer fee if you should wish to hold that over me. So, for now at least, ‘I have been busy’ will have to do, eh?” “You will get your money.” The Magister looked towards the sleeping monk, cursing his lack of foresight. He needed to deescalate the situation, this man before him could likely kill him before the slumbering monk even had knowledge of what happened. “…In fact, assuming Lady Arath’dorei agrees to our my proposal, I will be requiring your continued services.” The Captain grinned as he set his boots upon the table. “I’m listenin’. And how does yer little courtship go with ‘er?” “That’s… not important. She made another choice.” He shakes his head. Before he can continue his train of thought, he was once again interrupted. “Yanno… I do Assin—" “No. That won’t be necessary.” Vathelan was quick to respond, his brow rose. He couldn’t help but wonder just who exactly he had hired at this point. “We just… need to convince her that our aide is undeniable. We have the technology, the research, and resources to make this work. But we Need an army. A single blade in the right place doesn’t work here. Even if bombing the entirety of the Isles repelled the enemy, it would just gather the ire of the rest of the world—still ensuring our extinction as a species.” “Save yer speeches.” The half-elf shrugged. “As long as I git paid, I dun really care. But if yer serious about this…” He procured another item from his coat. A robe iconic of the Scryers, neatly folded and packaged, now presented upon the table. “Go git cleaned up, yeh look like yeh been through the Nether an’ back. Ain’t much a good look fer someone tryin’ ta present ‘imself. Shower, put this on, an’ we’ll go see about gitten this deal here workin’, eh?” Vathelan looked at the robe, then at the Half-elf, dumbfounded. He slowly nodded before excusing himself to the restroom to get cleaned up. No matter what emotional attachments he had, he had a job to do. He had a world to save; he may as well look the part.
  25. Vilmah

    Vilmah's Journal - Volume 2

    Thought I'd take some time and visit the cantina tonight. Had an alright time catching up with Tahzani, telling him all about what's happening on Zandalar. I'm not exactly an expert on what's happening, but from what I've seen, I think we can expect big trouble in the future. Killing a loa.. that's something beyond my understanding. If there's one thing Nojinbu taught me, it's to respect the loa, even if you don't understand them. They're powerful, and some might not be in your corner, but there's a certain logic to them so its best to let them be. Gods know I don't have the balls to make an enemy of any loa.. The night was going alright until Cobrak showed up, which kind of soured the conversation we were having about Tul'urak. Apparently Tahz and a friend of his were helping him pay tribute to his loa, which is definitely a good idea considering how much abuse he takes. I hope he's doing well. I haven't heard from him since Alinah blew up at him, and I'm not keen on talking to her about that either. They're both strong willed and at the perfect age for anger and hormones to take over their brains, so really I'm not surprised. I just hope he's okay. Supposedly he left Borrowed Time, so he's on his own now. I don't know why I'm so worried. Well, sure I do. He's Nomeni's kid, and Nomeni would have wanted him to be safe. I'm just really shitty at looking after people, especially when they're not even a part of Sanctuary. I can't very well make someone accept my advice or accept the fact that I want them to be safe. I'm sure from his perspective, I sound ridiculous. I am ridiculous. Hearing Cobrak call him a coward, and all his blustering about killing humans, I would have given just about anything to be able to give him a good punch in the face. Just. One. But what does that do? Nothing, and I've got to be the cool headed one, and I can't just start fights anymore, so I have to keep my big mouth shut. I left. Cobrak wanted to go on and on about killing and war and all the bullshit I've been trying to avoid contributing to, and I knew it was just going to upset me. Last thing I need is to let it go to my head. I'm supposed to be the calm one. Sometimes I wish I could actually just be the bitch they think I am.
  26. Tahzani

    Business Trip

    The first rays of sunlight pierced through the gloom and stabbed straight into the weary eyes of the pale troll who had taken the lead. When he stopped short with a curse, Tahzani walked straight into his back. Even with a mixture that was more water than liquor, the alcohol had proven potent enough to provide them both with a sense of inebriation that followed them throughout the night. Sipping on the watered down slammer had warded away most of the chill, leaving them both uncomfortable, but it had succeeded in keeping them alive against the chill. After an hour of passing the bottle back and forth his companion's tongue had loosened and the time was spent listening to the man ramble from one story to the next with frequent distractions, rambling, and irrelevent tangents. Tahzani almost regretted not remembering a word of it. Fatigue that had nothing to do with sleep deprivation or exertion had become more and more prominent since he had left the city. Even as his companion talked for hours on end, Tahzani struggled to keep moving in a straight line. "We made good time, but we gotta stop." Dock stated, peering blearily at the stone wall before them. The mass of rock had only become visible when the sky had begun to lighten as if in invitation.The land sank into cayons and rose into terraces of stone, dark brown against the cold tan of the dunes surrounding it. In time, it would offer shade from the burning glare. "We ain't got enough watah ta mix left. We can drink it straight ta survive anuddah night but we'll be dyin' a thirst even quickah." Tahzani sighed, licking his lips and glancing towards the canyon. At the moment, he would have welcomed the warmth of a horrifically hot day with open arms. "A few hours of sun exposure is going to exhaust what little water we have left. I don't want to face whatever else rises with the sun without proper rest. It was your idea to push away from the others, now we gotta make this work or we are both dead. Pushing ourselves until we drop or run into a real threat is a sure way to achieve the latter." Dock stated, setting his lips into a grim line as he stared at the taciturn bartender. Tahzani spared the rocks a weary look as he considered their options. The darkened pathway between the rocks held little appeal when his mind had been set on trudging a few miles further. The sight of thin, green leaves poking out of the ground changed his mind. "Look... Grass." "...Aye Mon. I know what grass is." The exile said slowly. Perhaps the chill of the night had frozen his brain and it needed time to thaw. "Grass means watah. It might be deep but-" " It might also mean plants we can use." Dock said, catching on and flashing a grin filled with tobacco stained teeth. " Exactly, ah figure we got an hour befoah de sun be up. Dunno what be edible heah but we should look an' be quick about it." His words lacked the force required to inspire. But the next moment both trolls were striding with purpose into the winding stone canyons. ------- "What about-" "Do not drink the cactus." "But I seen-" "The after effects? The water in there is acidic. You gonna give yourself the shits drinking that by itself... Take the young pads though, there might be something we can do with them." Dock spared the bartender an annoyed look. Ever since the sun had risen, the troll had become even more sluggish and he was struggling with even basic tasks. "Just look for broad, green leafy plants." The other troll sighed, drawing the blade on his side as he spotted a healthy looking plant and began digging at its base. Tahzani watched the other troll work without comprehension or basic awareness. He should have kept looking but he could not draw himself away from the digging troll. The death of his drive had begun with the loss of momentum. He was dimly aware of what they needed here, yet when they stopped, all he could think about was lying down. Not even to sleep. "Ahahahahaaaa!" His partner's cackle roused some life into his dulled senses. The hole he had dug into the roots of the plant was beginning to fill with gritty water. It did not stop the other troll from leaning down to drink deeply from the puddle. "Quickly mon! Gimme the skin!" Dock gasped, holding out a hand towards him. Tahzani stared at the hand for several moments before he seemed to understand and handed off the deflated skin to his partner. It only took a few scoops from the shallow water to drain it too low. When the puddle was too shallow to effectively fill the skin, Dock stepped away to allow Tahzani to wet his swollen throat. With or without sand, the water was a welcome relief. "This should be enough for one more night. Let's find a place to get some shut-eye." Dock rumbled, his spirits notably higher as he strode past the stooped bartender with purpose. Tahzani tarried a few seconds longer before staggering after him. The optimistic attitude was short lived as the two wandered through the winding pathways carved through the stone. There was no shortage of cracks and small crevices to trip over and stub their toes on, but none that were large enough to slip into. An hour passed as the two staggered and cursed their way through the passes before they found an indent in the stone. It was deep enough to provide relief from the heavy heat that had begun to weigh them down. He missed the question when it was asked the first time, too focused on the relief of getting off of his feet. "What?" "I asked, what the hell is wrong with you?" "Ya want a fuckin' list?" "Last night you had one idea that seemed insane but it worked. Now? Ya head be on de moon." Tahzani twisted his lip and remained silent. It was an answer he had been curious about. The lethargy had been slow to start but spread quickly. "Ah don' know." "What do ya mean ya don't know?" "Just that. A few days outta de city an' errytin' got hardah. Thinkin' about escape turned inta strugglin' ta focus. Was able ta walk an' talk but even das gettin' hahd now." "Ya been huffing?" "Jah... But das not it." "Ya sure?" "Aye. Even de worst cravings not been like dis." "Snorting?" "What? No." "Shooting?" "How does dat-No!" "Licking?" "Licking?" "Toads." "NO! Ah'm not a junkie!" Tahzani snapped at his companion. The other troll had sunk down beside him with his eyes closed and a slight smile curling his lip at the bartender's outrage. " Could have fooled me. Fine, don't tell me." "Ah slung de Fel." Tahzani snapped without enthusiasm, resting his head against the wall after the proclamation. When his friend made a knowing sound in the back of his throat he lazily swiveled his head towards him to tiredly glare. "What?" "The Fel. I have heard enough stories about it." "Yeah well ah'm not messin' wit it. Not anymoah." "Maybe that might be the problem? Your greenskinned friends went through a similar struggle did they not?" "Withdrawals don' kick in months latah. If jah be hooked on it, it could be hours befoah jah want anudda hit. Even wit as little as ah used ah woulda felt sometin' before today." "Are you sure about that?" "Well, ah was a second ago." The bartender muttered. Apparently satisfied, Dock folded his arms across his stomach and settled down. "Ya good ta take de first watch?" "Aye. I'll wake jah in a few hours." Tahzani sighed, rubbing at his eyes before staring down the path they had come from. He had reached an odd point of fatigue where he lacked the energy to feel exhausted. Deigning not to point out the other troll's state. Dock closed his eyes. The sun was high in the sky and edging towards a descent when Tahzani's time for rest was cut short by urgent shaking. " Mon! We gotta move!" Dock hissed glancing down the path to their right as he roused the Revantusk. Tahzani muttered incoherently, his eyes gummy and his vision blurred. Befuddled by sleep, he offered no resistance as the troll grabbed him by the forearms and hauled him to his feet. "We gotta move!" " Ah heard jah! Fuck! Don' gotta be so loud mah ears are ringin'." He growled irritably before cocking his head and blinking his eyes clear. His ears were not ringing, they were buzzing with the heavy reverberations of rapidly moving wings. A bass, droning buzz. When a shadow flew by overhead, his exhaustion disappeared and both trolls took off running. The blood pounding through his veins gave him clarity and pushed away the exhaustion for the moment as he focused entirely on keeping up with the athletic troll in front of him. The droning buzz only grew louder and more agitated as they ran. He risked a glance over his shoulder and regretted it immediately. The shadow had been a scout, now the workers and the defenders had arisen to darken the skies. Dozens or hundreds of winged insects were behind them and moving forward. He barely avoided colliding with Dock when the other troll skidded to a halt. The narrow path had widened into a broad, circular area no longer than a hundred feet across before it turned narrow again. The walls were covered in the bulbous hives of the wasps. The defending wasps were the size of dogs while the drones were the size of his fingers. He could easily count the number of defenders but the little ones were too numerous to even guess at. His companion spat out an oath and glanced over his shoulder. They had drawn the attention of the swarm behind them. "We run through there an we'll be flayed alive." "An' if we stay put, we gonna get swarmed." Tahzani protested, earning a stressed look from the exile. The anger disappeared as he shoved a hand inside of Tahzani's pocket, earning an indignant squawk and an frightened jerk backwards by the bartender. "Ah ain't grabbin' YA bottle i'm grabbing THE bottle! Shut up!" Dock groused, pulling the obsidian glass bottle from his pocket. "Dock no!" Tahzani wailed, too late as the bottle had already been hurled towards one of the closer hives of alerted wasps. It would have been a solid plan, a short explosion to disrupt the wasps and a flaming hive to send them into a confused panic while the two ran for their lives. But the magical fire the man expected had always required other components to start. None of which would be found in broken glass. The heavy bottle shattered explosively, raining shards of thick, black glass onto the smaller wasps and even tearing the delicate wing of one of the defenders, sending it buzzing into the earth. The rain of glass was mixed with a rain of thick, black liquid that painted the hive and the wasps alike with what remained inside. Dock froze with a confused, fearful expression. Where was the flame? The buzzing grew louder as the insects became enraged. Dock ripped the blade from his waist with his free hand as he tugged Tahzani forward. The bartender had closed his eyes in a look of silent submission. As if he was awaiting his end. In truth, it was taking Tahzani everything he had to work out the spell. He had yet to succeed with anything Paiyuna had tried to teach him, and in the dreadful moment, he believed he knew why it had never worked. As the insects approached, he reached out a hand towards the glaring, fiery orb above him. The wasps had been eating far too well lately. There were too many exiles to feast upon and not enough of anything else to support the explosive population growth. Balance was needed. The beam was miniscule, only notable because of the shade that the drenched nest resided in. But the spark was enough. The insects scattered as flames roared up the wall and began to greedily devour the hive. The tongues of flame lashed at large and small insects alike, uncaring and all consuming. When every other creature scattered in a panic away from the flame, the trolls shot towards the exit. The exile arced the blade through the air at one of the more resilient defenders, slicing through the barbed stinger and out through the sternum to spill its insides out. Torn between panic and a surge of joy at the accomplishment, Tahzani barely managed to block a stringer with his arm rather than his skull. The knife sized stinger twisted just right to thread the needle between his bones of his forearm and pass clear through the meat of the limb He had not even registered the pain when another slash from Dock freed the stinger from the creature's body, leaving the confused bartender with a brand new piercing. "It went though." He informed his companion in a tone of disbelief as the sudden shock wore off and the delayed agony surged forward. "We'll get it out later! RUN!" Dock ordered, giving his unmaimed arm another tug. The next second he let go again to cleave through a curious wasp that had come to investigate the noise from further down the tunnel. Tahzani raised the wounded limb again as another wasp fell upon him. He greeted the next wound with a scream as the stinger buried itself into his arm an inch away from the first and released a burning venom into the meat of his limb. The creature pulled the stinger out with a sudden jerk, sawing through flesh with the barbs as it readied itself for another stab. Scrambling wildly with the other limb, Tahzani found a hefty stone to swing at the plunging blade, cracking the weapon and wrenching it free of the wasps's body to dangle by a string. Tahzani leapt back up to his feet and staggered away from the mess, hurling his newfound weapon at another attacking insect as he staggered after Dock. The other troll was shouting for him to hurry as he continued to slash and cleave with a flash of steel and a spray of ichor accompanying each motion. The swarm had caught him by then, showing particular interest in the already infected flesh as they focused on covering the limb.In the moment, all he could focus on was the simple task of running before the ones with the big stingers got there. The tiny stingers stabbing into his chest tickled by comparison. His heart was hammering into his ribs with every moment as panic seized him. His arm ached abysmally but not nearly as much as it should have. Even as he watched, he saw bits of his flesh being ripped off and chewed by tiny mandibles. Before his very eyes, he was being eaten by the swarm. He screamed incoherently as he slapped at the insects with his free hand, crushing some and backhanding others away. Casings cracked and stingers were ripped free in ways that should have hurt far more than they did. They shot out of the pathways out onto a descending dune of sand leading down to patches of an old, stone road. Bare feet slapped the stone loudly as they fled the swarm. It was unclear which one of them was shouting or if they were both adding to the already deafening racket. ------------ He was not sure when the creatures stopped pursuing them, but when he collapsed they were thankfully nowhere to be seen. His throat was as dry as a kiln and every breath he sucked into aching, burning lungs. He felt uneven and even rolling onto his back took more effort than it should have. Against his better judgement, he looked down to look at the damage the swarm had inflicted. From the edge of his bicep downward, his arm was a mess of chewed flesh and discolored, grotesquely swollen bumps. The limb had grown as thick as his thigh in places, resembling bunch of punctured grapes still on the stem. As horrible as it looked, he felt little more than a mild burning sensation. "It's... It's not dat bad right?" He asked in a quivering voice as Dock approached him with a guarded expression. "De venom, it isn't dat bad, right?" He quietly plead, hoping that the grim faced exile had some sort of reassurance. He began to shiver as the other exile removed his belt and cinched it down tightly above the damaged flesh. "I'll heal! Ah just need time!" His voice rose an octave as his companion drew the blade again with a sickened expression and forced a dirty cloth into Tahzani's mouth. His heart pounded in his chest and fear locked his limbs as he stared at the man with a naked blade. "Aye mon... It will all heal with time." Dock promised with a soft, kind tone reserved for calming frightened animals. " Close ya eyes. Ya won't want to watch this." He murmured, positioning his blade above the damaged limb. Dock was right.
  27. Pelande Aijatar

    Sins of a Patriot: Act 1: Rise of the Shattered Son

    Suramar City was rotting away with unrest, this was undeniable. After the invading armies of the Outlanders had been lost to the might of Grand Magistrix Elisande’s magics, she had become much more ruthless. Deserters were dealt with extreme prejudice, those who remained loyal garnered more affluence to abuse the public with. Just as it was tonight. Here within the canals of the Terrace of Order where a group of Spellblades threatened the life of a suspected Dusk Lily rebel. “Dearest Marquette,” sneered the captain as her phantasmal blade of energy loomed before her victim’s neck. She was flanked by three of her followers upon either side. “I thought we exiled you last time, left to wither away like the miserable little cretin you are. Whatever are you doing in front of us now?” Before the cornered and accused could respond, another Spellblade moved casually toward the gathering and cleared her throat. Azure-tinted white hair was pulled back into a harsh bun. A scowl on her perfectly-painted lips, she looked like a harsh mother that had come across her child doing something she didn’t approve of in the slightest. “Surely,” Pelande spoke, “you aren’t planning to make a mess.” A snort. “And I don’t just mean for the street cleaners. Interrogations without recording pertinent information? Executions without magistral approval?” She shook her head. “The Grand Magistrix might suspect you have your own agenda.” “Piss off.” The captain of this septet spoke as her eyes inspected the newcomer. Marquette, whom the blade remained pointed on, slowly tried to scoot away upon the floor. “Mind your own patrol, unless you really want a mess made?” As if on cue the flanks started to move to show just how much they meant business. “You’re not alone, P.” The soft voice of the woman garbed in a veiling illusion whispered, “Just remember we need them intact if we’re going to steal their likeness.” The nod she performed passed as acknowledgement to both those in front of her and the unseen elf. She moved her hands into view, but stood her ground. “No need for savagery. I just want to make sure we’re not all bogged down with extra paperwork. I mean, I’d just hate to think all the rumors about you were true, Captain Ludrissra.” “Tsk. You talk too much.” Ludrissra’s attention was now fully upon Pelande, granting Marquette a chance to flee. “Detain our intruder, she’s likely with them.” “Um… P…?” Pelande cursed softly, following up with a quick instruction. “Behind them.” It was very swiftly turning into an unavoidable fight. Pelande hoped Marquette had enough sense to get away while she could, and that her companion had the sense to cut off any that tried to pursue. “Fine, fine.” She said aloud, meandering verbally to buy the rogue the precious seconds she needed. “It’s fine. I’ve never been good at pretending I’m all high and mighty with an ass that smells like roses.” In a singular motion she freed her hair from the bun and took her spear from her back, charging rather than letting them make the first move. It was met with a just-in-time block from her opponent and she was quickly stepping back to avoid an attack from another. As long as she kept their focus, her partner could act freely-- given her strikes were true. Her partner teleported behind their primary target with a small arcane pop, slinging her razor-like blade into the opening upon the Spellblade Captain’s back. As the dagger sunk into Ludrissra’s flesh, Isabaele realized she had missed the spine. This wouldn’t be as quick as either of them wanted, but no matter. The shadow magic that lingered would still prove useful. “What the-- Dammit all!” Screamed the Captain. She pulled away from her attacker, forcing the rogue to relinquish the shadow laden blade that still remained. “Protect me, idiots!” Pelande was busy taking the butt of a polearm to the chin when she heard it, and staggering when she saw the attention of all but one of the group leave her. Her thoughts raced as she wiped away the droplet of blood from her lips, carelessly smearing the heavy makeup. She could probably kill this one on her own. That would leave the rogue to handle the rest. But, Isabaele wasn’t clad in armor that exceeded her own weight, or hardened by millenia of servile labor. The girl was quick, that much was sure, but this was hardly the time to test her. Pelande instead slammed her boot into the street with thunderous force, destabilizing the ground beneath them all. That was enough to make them hesitate at least as they debated which of the duo was the true threat. And that heistation would be their downfall. Isabaele abandoned Captain Ludrissra to the afflictions of the shadow laced dagger, moving with another arcane pop to appear behind one of the more aggressive of the guards. As he raised his glaive to strike, the rogue’s blade found its mark with a flick of her wrist. She nicked one of his arteries, the blood loss would claim his life soon. One of the guards moved rather deftly and sought to cut the rogue off and strike her from below, but she fast found herself on the ground, facefirst, delivered and then skewered there by a sweep and then a piercing blow from Pelande’s spear. A sharp kick freed the weapon from the soon-to-be corpse. She moved her weapon behind her, the bloodied point downwards, inviting the next attack her way, and the smile on her face was more genuine than any she’d given during her failed performance. “Two down.” Isabaele leapt over the body when Pelande was done with it, “And thanks!” Her dagger pointed its shadow-laced tip at the next lackey of the Captain. He blocked. No matter, she was fast enough to correct her trajectory. Sliding under the man’s legs, she kicked at the back of his knees to create her opening for another execution. The blood spraying over her dark leather armor. “Guess that’s three?” A glaive swung at Pelande; she brought her own spear up in a block, and the two began a brief dance. Block, block, parry, block, parry… but as soon as the warrior saw her opening, she took it, twisting her opponent’s weapon right out of her hands and piercing her throat. Now both intruders were making a mess. “Four,” she amusedly shot back, unable to even remember the last time she’d experienced such excitement. “Neat, we’ve hit the halfway mark!” Isabaele dodged a glaive that came down in response of the blood end of the guard’s comrade. Instead the guard maimed the corpse, ruining it for their own uses. “Ooh. Someone’s mad.” Her turn. The thin woman used this opening to send her blade through the soft underside of her attacker’s chin. “No worries! You’ll be with him soon.” A wink, a twist, and then a retrieval of the blade. “Hey P, think you can clean up this last one yourself?” “Yea.” “Thanks, I have a blade to retrieve.” But that last one wasn’t charging, rather he seemed torn between fighting and fleeing, hands tight on his weapons and gaze shifting from Ludrissra (with more fear than concern, Pelande noted) to the attackers. The warrior watched him at the ready. He made a break for it. Her smile wavered; he couldn’t be allowed to leave, and she took no joy in murder. The excitement ended on a morose note as she cut his escape short and silenced his cry before he could give it. Leaving the last of the lackys for her stronger companion, the rogue teleported behind their primary target once more. “Miss me?” She looked down at her prey who was still desperately trying to remove the agonizing blade from her shoulder. The spell was waning, but that didn’t matter. The rogue’s leather glove firmly grasped at the Captain’s jaw to hold her in place, forcing her to look at Pelande with a look of terror as the blade rested upon her neck--a look that was only met by the warrior’s disgust. “...N-no… please…” Her begging was cut short with a simple incision. The blood flowed like a fountain from her severed veins before she was released from the rogue’s grasp. The still bloodied blade returned to its sheath. Pelande ran a messy hand through her hair, looking round as she walked back to Isabaele and Ludrissra, “Could’ve been worse.” “Yeah, the right people are dead and we’re still alive.” Isabaele kneeled before the corpse of Captain Ludrissra as she took out a small pouch from her armor. Her fingers gently went inside and pulled a ring from within before she offered the bag to her companion as her smile continued. “What do you say we wrap up and call this mission a success?” Her adrenaline wearing off, she smeared away more of her itchy, smelly makeup. Multicolored fingers accepted the pouch and gripped it tight. “The sooner the better. I feel stupid.” She gestured to the elaborate armor. “Don’t be like that, you look nice.” Isabaele smiled, looked up at her companion and slipped the ring upon the corpse’s finger. Over the next few moments the magic within the ring absorbed the information needed, “Remember, we can only use those whose bodies are still intact enough for the illusion.” Pelande gazed around at their mess once more. She’d forgotten about that rule some ways into the fray, and it showed. Still, there had to be at least one. After turning over a couple and grimacing she found it; the woman she’d stabbed in the back. She knelt. Of course she had a familiar face. They all did. It wasn’t as if she knew any of their names off the tip of her tongue, but millenia of being a contained community meant there were no strangers among them. She placed the ring on the dead woman’s finger, rose, and began looking for another, idly tapping the pouch against her hip. When the process was complete, Isabaele removed the the ring and set it within another one of her pouches. She stood up and looked up and down the canal. An empty gondola rounded the corner, ripe for capture. The rogue threw a grappling hook to ground it. As she prepared the ritual to commandeer the small boat she looked back at the warrior for a moment. “When you’re done all we have to do is load up the bodies for disposal and get out of here.” “Right,” Pelande replied, setting about the conclusion of their grisly labor.
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