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  1. Today
  2. Sister Freida had been an orphan matron for half of her life now. She had started an orphanage in Ironforge many years ago before she realized her aid was needed elsewhere. After that, she had moved to Lordaeron to safeguard the children made orphans by the Scourge War. Of all the children Freida had ever taken in, Charlotte was by far the most energetic. Now she lived in Thelsamar, watching over the child full-time for Brinnea Velmon. The old dwarf paladin could not keep up with the child’s energy anymore. Somehow, late in the night, Charlotte had collapsed from exhaustion and had gone to sleep in her bed. Freida was just tucking her in when she noticed a pair of yellow eyes staring at her from the corner. She jumped, frightened, but it was just Brinnea’s other child, August. The boy had been raised by worgen during his younger years, so he acted much like a wild dog rather than a normal human boy. He was unnervingly quiet, and could move fast when he wanted. He often spooked Freida in the dark with his unnatural stealth. “August!” she chided quietly, so as not to wake Charlotte, “You nearly gave me a heart attack! Shouldn’t you be in bed?” “I don’t sleep much,” the boy said simply. He had not learned the Common tongue until this year, so he often said little if he said anything at all. “Trouble sleeping, boy?” she asked sweetly. “I could brew you a lemon tea that would help you with nightmares, if that’s the sort of trouble you’re having. I know how much you like my lemon tea!” The scruffy boy smiled and nodded. She ruffled his hair affectionately and set to work on the tea. There was a storm out tonight. Thunder boomed and rainfall echoed on the hilltop the hovel was built into. The weather didn’t bother Freida much, but August seemed frightened of the sounds. He shrunk into a corner away from the fire, shivering each time the thunder pealed outside. Freida waved him over to her side. “Come sit by the fire, August. It’s far too dim over there.” The boy did not budge. The dwarf sighed, set a kettle of water over the fire, and walked over, sitting down beside the boy. “It’s only a storm, boy. Nothing to be scared about.” A loud boom sounded just outside the door. August yelped and shrunk his head into his arms, trembling. Freida regarded the front door with confusion. Am I imagining things, or did someone just bang against the door? Another bolt of lightning let off a loud boom, and she shook off the feeling. “That one was a bit close, huh? Not to worry, child. We’ll be alright.” Another boom broke the door off its hinges. Freida gasped and stood between the dark silhouette at the entrance and the children. August shouted and tried to dig himself further into the dark corner. Charlotte was stirring in bed, rubbing her eyes. She saw Freida grabbing her hammer and muttered sleepily, “Wha—what’s going on? Sissy Freida?” The silhouette at the door entered the house, walking down the dwarven stairs and leaning to avoid hitting its head on the low-cut ceiling. It was a tauren woman, dressed in a Sunwalker’s regalia and armor. Sister Freida took up her hammer warningly. Then another figure entered the hovel. And another. And another. Soon, the room was filled from one wall to the other with paladins baring weapons. Frieda kept up a brave face. She had faced odds such as these and survived, she was sure of it. That was a long time ago, though. She mustered up all her bravery and said, “What do you knights think you’re doing, breaking into a private residence in the middle of the night?” The tauren gestured lazily at the dwarf’s weapon. “Put that down. You’re outnumbered, we could bury you before you ever had a chance to hurt one of us. We’re here for the girl.” The tauren pointed at Charlotte, who was now fully awake, and stood on the bed in her pajamas. “You’re bad people, aren’t you?” the five year-old questioned harshly. “Mama said if bad people ever tried to take me, I should do this!” She cast a fireball that flopped on the floor at the tauren’s hooves. The two men in the group laughed. Frieda gestured for Charlotte to stay behind her. “No, child! Don’t do anything reckless!” “Oh, I like her spunk,” the human knight said with a cocky grin. “Can I have her after we kill the dwarf bitch? I haven’t had one that young in a long time.” “No, Leon, you great big pervert,” the group’s dwarf said with a slap to the man’s back. “We’re not to harm the girl. Orders are orders.” “Indeed. Take the girl, no harming her,” the tauren said, drawing closer to Frieda. The old dwarf was backed up almost to the bedside. “And the dwarf? Surely we don’t need her,” the elf of the group said, clearly bored. “Kill the old woman, but spare the boy. He’ll send the death knight a message for us.” With that, they were on Frieda. Her old instincts kicked in quickly. She threw a shield of light up around her just as two swords aimed at her neck fell low. With both the elf and the human guarding low, she aimed high. Her hammer crumpled the elf’s breastplate like it was made of tin and sent him falling over on his backside. He gasped loudly, his lungs crushed by the weight of the swing. Frieda growled as her shield dropped, and blocked a vicious high swing made by the man, Leon. The human aimed high again and again, forcing her to compensate for her height by blocking high. His strikes led her away from the bed, leaving the dwarf woman and the tauren to seize Charlotte and August, who both struggled to break free, futilely. Leon’s blade fell from up high, and Frieda tried to block again. But her old arms had grown tired and slow. Leon severed her right hand at the wrist. Blood squirted across the room violently, and the old dwarf paladin fell to one knee, her hammer fallen to the ground. She screamed as pain wracked her body from her bloody stump. Leon kicked her hammer away before she could grab it again. Shivering from the pain, Frieda’s last sight of the children as they were taken out into the storm was fuzzy. She saw August’s terrified yellow eyes looking at her with fear, and heard Charlotte’s loud yells as the knights failed to gag her properly. Tears streamed down Frieda’s face, mingling with blood from her spurting fountain of a stump. She wept not because she was about to die, but because she had failed the children she was sworn to protect. For the first, and last time in her life, she had failed them. “Nighty night, old hag,” were the last words Frieda heard before Leon’s sword chopped her head off.
  3. Last week
  4. Sagito and Velbina spent the ride south in silence. Sagito rubbed his sore cheek and stared at her as she rode further and further ahead of him. Every time he felt like saying something, he felt the sting in his cheek grow hotter. Plus, his chest seemed to pinched by some errant pain. The only sound to break the silence was his ragged coughing and the sound of water flowing down his gullet. The two draenei met with their fellow knights on the Arathi highroad as the sun began to set. Velbina hurried to throwing the provisions down for the squires to set up for dinner while Sagito embraced his old friend Baladar. “I am glad we found each other before dark, my elven friend!” Baladar smiled cockily. “You doubted my sense of direction? Our whole company would be on the wrong side of the Gap if the tauren was still leading.” Nalysia shook her head. “You easterners and your roads. This whole continent is damned confusing.” Leon winked at Velbina as she set down a sack of potatoes. “You and our boy have a nice night up north, Velby? I almost missed you two lovebirds after you left. The night elves are depressing as all fel.” Velbina glowered at Leon and tossed a kettle at his boot before storming off. Leon yelped and shouted after her, “Bitch! Watch where you toss shit at me!” He turned to Sagito and barked, “What’s her problem?” The draenei man rubbed his bruised cheek again. “We, uh…didn’t have such a great night.” Clea scoffed, undoing her breastplate with a sigh. “I told you, didn’t I? I told you marrying a fellow knight was a stupid, stupid, stupid idea.” Sagito bristled at the dwarf. “I am an impulsive man. I follow my passions. She just…didn’t understand--,” he was cut off by a long string of coughs. Baladar cocked his head at his friend. “You doing alright, Sagito? That cough sounds nasty.” “I’m…I’m fine. It’s just a…a tickle in my throat,” he reassured between loud hacks. He chugged more water from his skin, but he couldn’t hold it down. He threw it all back up, bluer than before. Azure blood poured from his mouth and nose. Baladar’s eyes widened as blue blood leaked from his friend’s eyes and ears as well. “Sagito!” he shouted despairingly. The draenei fell to the ground, and the other knights raced in to stand around him. Christa shoved Baladar out of the way and channeled the Light into Sagito’s chest and throat. She grimaced. “Poison. He’s ingested poison,” she reported with melancholy. “Can you save him? Can I save him? I can heal as well, I could burn the toxins out!” Baladar was nearly hyperventilating as bad as Sagito was drowning in blood. The other knights were silent. Velbina was off away from the others, hands on her mouth in shock. Sagito’s chest stopped moving. The blood stopped flowing. Christa stopped channeling her healing spell and stood. “He’s gone.” She walked off, flicking blue blood off her gauntlets. Baladar stared at his friend’s corpse as the other knights murmured amongst themselves. An uncomfortable quiet settled over the camp. It was broken when Leon glanced over at Velbina, who still stood with her hands over her mouth. Tears were forming in her bright eyes. Leon sucked air through his teeth, nodded to himself and walked over to the draenei women with a smile on his face. “Well, only one proper course of action here.” He punched Velbina in the gut as hard as he could. She doubled over, gasping and clutching at her midsection. Leon didn’t let up. He kicked her with his metal boot again and again, in the chest, arms, abdomen, legs, and face. She screamed and begged for mercy, but he kept kicking. The other knights did nothing. “You poisoned him, huh? You got in a little argument so you slipped poison in his water?! You stupid blue bitch. I’ll show you what the punishment is for killing your man!” He slipped his knife out of its sheath. It was a long, clean, polished blade with a hilt made of solid gold shaped like an elf woman’s body. He grabbed Velbina by the horn and yanked her head up so her throat was shown bare. He held the long blade’s edge against her throat. “Wait!” Baladar shouted, walking towards with his hands raised. “Don’t kill her. Don’t.” Leon looked at him with an unimpressed expression. The blood elf looked at the draenei, his face twisted with grief. “Sagito was my friend. He fought at my side in Shattrath, and came to Azeroth with me when I asked him. He’s always been dedicated and loving. He was the best sort of man who ever lived.” His eyes were downcast and he lowered his hands. He shouted and delivered a punch that broke the draenei’s nose. She yelped and wailed in pain. Leon grinned widely. “You killed my friend! You don’t get to die slow, you harlot! First, I will honor my friend’s memory by having my way with you. Then it’ll be Leon’s turn, then whoever else here wants a go at you before I take you again! Whenever I get bored of you, that’s when you’ll get the death you deserve.” Velbina screamed and begged them not to, but it didn’t deter them. She pleaded for the others to help her, but they all looked the other way, pretending nothing was happening. Christa washed blood off her hands and took up a shovel. While the men defiled the accused woman, Christa dug a grave and buried the dead man. Every scream she heard set her teeth to grinding against one another and her fingers to tense against the wooden shaft of the shovel until her hands turned whiter than fresh snow. The screaming didn’t stop until Sagito was buried, the sun had set, and Christa had eaten and set her bedroll. Then Leon and Baladar returned to camp with the draenei woman in chains. She looked at Christa, and Christa looked back. The girl looked broken and battered. Her eyes showed little life. Christa frowned at her sadly and turned over in her bedroll. She tried to fight the feeling, but no amount of looking away could get the image out of her head. Tears rolled down her cheeks, but no one heard her cry.
  5. Next Coalition Event Thursday 7 Server in Dun Morogh, Outside Iron Forge in the Brewfest spot. Social, Council Meeting (deciding Coalitions first Task: PVE or PVP), Training (Duels, Grouping Up and Communication sorts of things), BEER!
  6. I'm going to note all future Coalition Events in this topic. Top Post will also include Council Members and their Seconds (in case they may not be able to make it). Council Members: -The Dusk Watch: Sprung, 2nd: Murue
  7. A knock at a door. The door opens, revealing a lanky, gaunt man with a bruised face and a downtrodden look. “Gunter Merrygrim, I presume?” Leon the Wit asks, already knowing the answer. He held a friendly smile on his face. “Aye, indeed sir,” Gunter replied with a shaky voice, “You must be with the Silver Hand, judging by the look of you. Are you here about…the death knight?” Leon nodded. “Right, you better come in, then. I was hoping someone like you would show up soon. I’m afraid she might come back and kill me!” Leon entered the lanky man’s dreary estate with a musty taste in his mouth. Surwich was by the sea, a colonial town constructed by Gilnean refugees during the Cataclysm. Leon hated the smell of the sea, and the taste of seafood, and people who lived off the sea. He couldn’t understand why Nalysia would want to send him in to question witnesses, but the tauren had been adamant in her position. ‘You’re a friendly human face, not likely to arouse suspicion. Would you rather me send the blind goblin? He’d probably do a better job than you anyway.’ What he thought she should do he kept to himself. Mostly. He had let slip a comment about marrying the goblin since she seemed to like him so much. Why couldn’t she just send Christa? He thought bitterly, still keeping up a genial look as the lanky man allowed him to sit at his tiny table. At least she has experience dealing with…these people. “Mister Merrygrim, I understand based on what the mayor told me that you were recently taken captive by a force of Naga,” Leon began. “And that a group of private militants assaulted the camp and freed you all?” The Gilnean nodded. “Horrid times for us in Surwich. The Naga came out of nowhere! Swooped in during the night and made off with our fishing supplies. A few of us men tracked them down the coast a ways, and they ambushed us, clapped us in irons, and forced us into the mines for weeks! I thought I’d never see home again.” “Gunter, who’s this then? Is he one of them folks what saved you from the fishmen?” A plump woman with greying curls and an aproned dress strolled out from what appeared to be the only other room in the house with a puzzled expression on her face. Leon raised his eyebrows in mock-surprise and pointed between the lady and Gunter. “Is this the misses?” he asked with a false tone of interest, “She is a beauty, my friend. Name’s Leon, I’m with the Silver Hand.” He introduced himself to the woman pleasantly, offering her a kiss on the hand. She seemed perplexed. Gunter fidgeted when Leon spent just a little too long with introductions. “Well, eh, it’s a pleasure to meet you, sir. I must say, I did not expect to find a knight in my home tonight!” she fussed with her hair, acting stupid and flustered. Leon could feel his distaste growing, but he forced himself to keep smiling. “Right, Margret,” Gunter said suddenly, “You go on to bed. I’m just answering some of the young man’s questions is all. I’ll be in soon, love.” As Margret padded off in her slippers she gave Leon a starry-eyed look as if she were trying to be flirtatious. Leon wanted to roll his eyes. As if a peasant like her deserves the attention of a noble knight! “Returning to the matter at hand,” Leon said, taking a seat, “What happened the day you and the other men were released?” “Oh, it was frightening! A gunshot echoed off the hills, then another and another. A pair of the Naga slithered off to see what was happening and then a pair of warriors in plate, a woman and an elf, charged into the camp and took on the rest. Before I knew what was happening, the snakemen were all dead and some explosion went off in the hills. Then two more of these folks showed up, and a pair of them were wearing blue tabards with a white bird of some sort stitched on.” “A white bird on a blue field, eh? I’ll make a note of that,” Leon interjected with all the politeness he could muster. His interest in the conversation was quickly wavering. “Yes, I’m sure it will be useful to you. Anyways, the woman I recognized quickly. I’d known her once, long time ago back in Gilneas before the fall. Only, she’d been carried off by the Scourge before and no one had seen her for years! But my brother, a soldier type, he wrote letters from the front in the Isles and told me all about how the Lady Commander he worked under had this grudge against a death knight with the same name as this woman!” “A fascinating tale, to be sure.” “Right? Well, here’s where it gets melancholy-like. My brother died in the Isles. His whole camp got overrun the way the letter told it. I found out later from the mayor that she was responsible for it. That death knight woman I knew from way back. She’d gone after Lady Blackmane – the Lady Commander my brother fought for – and ended up getting the rest killed because of it. Damn wench. I knew I recognized her that day, but she denied it. A liar and a murderer, that’s what she is! You gotta bring her down before she does worse! I got my family to think about: my wife in the next room and my kids upstairs. We don’t stand a chance if she comes back!” “Not to worry on that front, Mister Merrygrim,” Leon said with a smile. “My fellow knights and I are working on bringing her down. I just need to know, what was this woman’s name?” Gunter Merrygrim grimaced. “Not right to say the name of a condemned woman in a man’s own house. It’s damned bad luck!” Leon banged his armored fist into the table, losing his patience. “Say the name! Please…I need to find her and I don’t have much time. She could strike any day now with the way the Ebon Blade have been acting lately. You’re my best hope of saving lives, Mister Merrygrim.” His face pale from fright, suddenly seeing a veiled threat behind the knight’s eyes, Gunter replied nervously again, “Brinnea Velmon. That’s her name. She and her mother and sister used to visit my fish stand in Gilneas City. It was years ago, but she was a loyal customer, right up to the day of her wedding.” Leon calmed down some, unclenching his fist and adding some warmth to his callous smile. “See, that wasn’t so bad, was it? No bad luck here, paladin’s honor! But before I take off after this ‘Brinnea Velmon,’ was there anything else she might have said or done that stood out to you? The name of a place, perhaps?” “Well, nothing like that, no. But she did say who we should thank for saving us. She said it was the ‘Night Vanguard,’ I think. Yes, that was it! Night Vanguard.” Leon noted the name. Probably a militant guild of some sort. Nalysia would sort it out. Leon wasn’t interested in that sort of work. He stood from the peasant’s table and invited the man to do the same. “Well, it was lovely meeting you, Mister Merrygrim. You have a lovely home and an even lovelier wife.” He took the man’s hand and shook it vigorously. Gunter Merrygrim looked uncomfortable, but forced himself to smile. “Er, likewise. I do hope you get her in time. I’d hate to see more families suffer for that witch’s crimes.” “Oh, no other families have to suffer at all. Tonight, you made sure of that.” Leon smiled the most genuine smile he could. “Because you’re gonna get us the leverage we need to start ourselves a little witch-hunt!” Gunter looked confused. A knife slid from a leather sheath with a light scrape. A squelching noise followed, and with it a gasp as air was forced from Mister Merrygrim’s lungs. The peasant man collapsed onto the ground, choking as blood poured from his mouth. Leon admired the bloody spot in the man’s shirt, right in his asophagus. The man managed to choke out one final word, “Why?” “Why? Because Brinnea Velmon broke into your house and killed you and your family. At least, that’s what the mayor will assume with he eventually finds you. Once the Gilnean royal army hears about this incident, we swoop in and play enforcer on their behalf. Win-win. Well, not for you, but who cares? You’re just a fish merchant.” Merrygrim gurgled, still clinging to life. Leon was undoing his belt. As he walked past the bleeding man, a bloody hand grabbed his boot weakly. “What is it? Oh, you’re hoping I’ll spare your family, of course. No can do, I’m afraid. Just following orders. Oh, but I’ll make sure your wife’s last moments are the greatest of her life!” *** Nalysia scraped dirt with her hoof impatiently, waiting for Leon to return. When he finally did, he carried that same smug look on his face. She hoped he was satisfied enough not to give her any backchat this time. She greeted him simply, “You get what we came for?” “Oh yeah, the Gilneans will hear about this before too long. And I got the name of the one we’re looking for.” Christa was fully attentive now. Leon flashed her a sadistic smile. “Brinnea Velmon. We have a winner, folks! Somebody give me some money!"
  8. July 19 The road away from home was long and arduous. Lordaeron was in a state of panic even then, before it was discovered Andorhal was the source of the misery. Fitting, really, that my place of birth was also the distribution center for the grain that brought a kingdom to its knees. The Cult of the Damned and its undead minions patrolled the wilderness between Andorhal and the capital, preying on any they felt confident enough to handle. One necromancer and his ghouls ambushed my mother, sister, and I in the night. Somehow Mother managed to fend them all off, but the necromancer threatened to end my life with a deadly spell. Mother shielded me with her body, and I thought she was gone then and there. It was the first time I felt the striking pain of true loss. Christa killed the necromancer after that. She barreled into his leg, toppling him onto the ground, then bashed his head with a rock until he stopped twitching. I don't know where she found the strength to protect us that way, and I regret I never got to thank her for it. Mother survived, but the spell had lasting effects. Too much pressure on her heart lead to lightheadedness or fainting. There wasn't much we could do for her, and she still had to look out for us. Christa stepped up to help fend for us after that. She never complained about working again. I think she wanted to make Mother really proud of her, and couldn't stand to see her suffering so much to protect us. All I could do was whimper. I thank the Light every day Charlotte didn't turn out like me. It was a long journey, but we did make it to the capital alive, all of us. I don't know how long it took after that before Prince Arthas returned to murder his own father. All I remember of those times was some church where refugees were cared for. We stayed there for the entire duration from what I can remember. I had a birthday during our stay, I think. Nine years old and I had already seen a man die, and almost lost my mother. It still wasn't enough to harden my heart to the world. I was soft, weak, and a burden on those around me. Just another victim of this sadistic world we live in. I remember seeing the prince walk through the city with Mother and Christa. We felt so uplifted at his return, only to have our hope crushed in one fell swoop. The chaos the city fell into when it was overrun nearly spelled out our end again. Mother saved us. She took us south through Silverpine, but no matter how far we ran, the Scourge still hounded us and other refugees. Gilneas' border was still open to us then, and gave us safe harbor. I remember not being able to sleep at well for a long time after that. I lay in bed every night, thinking they would come for us again. It didn't matter that we were in the city, surrounded by soldiers at all times and that the fighting was far off to the north. I didn't feel safe anymore, not after Lordaeron. After Arthas. Not until I met Parigan.
  9. "Chanchu? OPEN the door Chanchu!" She blinked. She wasn't sure how long the pounding had been happening on the other side of the door. It sounded like someone was trying to break the building. Maybe they were. Why would someone want to break a perfectly good building? Blearily, she tried to make sense of the muffled taurahe words making their way to her ears. It was surprisingly difficult to grasp meaning. "What?" she finally called. Her tongue felt fluffy and dry. Odd. "Open the door Chanchu! Let me in right now!" "Okay," she nodded. It was a silly thing to do, nobody could see it through the door. She tried to stand up, and was surprised when her limbs didn't obey her. She was even more surprised when she saw only one knee. "Somebody stole my leg," she commented. "What? You OPEN THIS DOOR RIGHT NOW, you hear me!?" Chanchu rather thought this was a ridiculous question, as who wouldn't be able to hear yelling of that volume? Whoever it was sounded really upset, though, and she started to fear that she was in trouble. She thought about that as she crawled toward the door. She was too tired to try standing, and what was the point, with only one leg to stand on? She'd just fall down again. The pounding continued, pausing every now and then for whoever was on the other side to listen. Chanchu reached the barrier and paused. The thunking on the door was oddly comforting. She leaned her horns against the wood. Thunk. Thunk. Then it paused. "Chanchu?" "What?" "Open the door." Chanchu hesitated. "You sound mad." "I'm not mad, sweety. Open the door for me, okay?" Chanchu was unconvinced. "You sound mad. Did you take my leg? I want it back please, I can't walk." There was muttering on the other side of the door. More than one person was out there. "I can help you walk if you open the door sweety." After this was a not-so-subtle and very frustrated "What the FUCK did she do to the door?" "You sure sound mad. I think you should stay outside," Chanchu observed. "Nononono. I'm your friend, and I want to be in the room where you are. Let me in, please." "But you're mad at me." "No, I'm mad at this door, because it won't open. Please open it for me. I want to come in and make sure you're okay. Are you okay? How are you doing? Let me in so I can see." "No. Not okay." Chanchu flopped sideways onto her hip and leaned against the door. She rubbed her knee, wondering where the rest of her was. "I lost my leg somewhere. I can't find it." Which was silly, because she hadn't begun to look for it yet. "I can't walk," she repeated. She couldn't seem to focus her thoughts on anything else. "I know sweety. I know." There was a pause. "I could come inside and help you look for it, if you open the door. Would you like that?" Chanchu smiled. "I like dancing. And...?" she stopped. What else did she like? Hmm. "And me. You like me, remember? Let me in, Chanchu." She thought about this, and doing so took a very long time. It seemed like she should know who was talking to her, but she couldn't quite connect the voice to the memory. She also couldn't drum up enough energy to care. She rested against the wall after reaching this conclusion, content to just be. Being was okay, even if one-legged. Who cared about legs if she was sitting on her butt on the floor? The extended silence seemed to worry the voice. There was more mumbling. Or maybe talking at regular volume but the door was in the way of her ears. She heard someone say it wasn't working, and another voice say the same thing was wrong with the window. Chanchu looked at the wall and discovered that yes, she was in a building with a window. The window had a face in it, peering at her. She waved. The face disappeared. Rude. There was a loud thump at the door that was hard enough to rattle her teeth. Also rude. Then came a new voice. "Chanchu, can you hear me?" She could. She nodded. The voice was quiet. It was raspy, a scratchy sort of gravelly sound, but it was calm. "Open the door. I can help you and the pig." This voice was telling. It wasn't asking. Chanchu knew this voice was not mad. It wasn't upset, and this voice, she knew somehow, always spoke truth. It was easy. I can help you. Chanchu believed it, and she simply reached up and pulled the thumb latch on the door down. The lever inside moved up, and the door was free to swing. For a moment, the door stayed where it was, slightly unseated from the fully latched position. Then it burst open. Chanchu felt like the door was invasive, an unwelcome presence inside her personal space. She retreated, shrinking away from the sensation. Suddenly it was all too much. An overload of sound and vibrations and movement. She pulled inward. Chanchu became accosted with women. She was prodded all over, had eyes that she was trying to keep closed pried open and examined. She moaned, complaining about it. She didn't like it. Leave her alone. They were all talking to each other back and forth too fast to make sense of. She wanted quiet. "She's not hurt." "There's no lock on this door at all." "Sweety, let me see please.""What the hell?" "Why is she crying?" "This boar is perfectly healthy." That last one made all the other noises cease. All except the sobbing, because apparently Chanchu was indeed crying. She was curled into a warm pair of arms wrapped tightly containing all of her. "What?" "Why isn't it breathing?" the wall of fuzz that Chanchu leaned against rumbled with this question as Coqui's voice distorted into her head. She knew why the pig wasn't breathing. She'd failed. She'd tried everything she knew, put all the pieces exactly where they needed to be, had been one hundred percent sure of the placement... and it hadn't worked. She wailed. The cocoon of arms wrapped tighter around her and began a soothing motion, back and forth. "It's still in stasis. Watch." Chanchu did not hear this, nor the long pause which followed. She was still struggling to breathe around a rebellious diaphragm when there was a collective gasp, and grunting. Oinks. "Show her." "She's in shock, she doesn't understand what's going on. Look at her." The raspy voice insisted, as quietly as it had ordered the door opened. "She'll understand enough. She needs to see him. Right now. Turn her around." Chanchu's warm cage suddenly loosened, and she didn't like it at all. She tried to protest. She tried to keep the embrace around her. She felt insubstantial and lost, and that warmth and grip was the only power keeping her stable anymore. "Breathe. Calm down. Breathe in. Now let it out. All the way. Breathe. Look at me. No, let go of her, look at me. You're fine. Breathe out." Chanchu listened to the voice. She obeyed it, this voice that spoke truth and nothing but truth. She was too tired to do anything else. She needed help just to breathe, and with the steady flow of air in and air out, she was able to focus her vision on the speaker. Kerala was crouched inches from her face, serious green eyes focused on Chanchu's face, her nose almost touching Chanchu's nose. She was right there! So close! When she spoke, Chanchu could scent Kerala's breath. She smelled of crushed green things and something sweet. Probably fruit. Kerala liked apples. The druid stayed there, coaching, until she was satisfied that Chanchu had calmed enough to understand. She dropped one knee and swiveled slightly aside. The movement revealed a boar crouched down with his curly tail high in the air while he scrubbed his front hooves with his snout. Perfectly normal piggy behavior. "I'd like you to meet your patient. You saved him." Chanchu looked at the pig. He seemed unconcerned with her existence. He finished his crouching display, then proceeded to snuffle about the room, shoving rudely against the hoofs that got in the way of his following whatever scent he tracked. His lips smacked a moment later as the pig found some bit of something edible beneath a low table. The furniture rattled loudly when he stood up under the edge of it, startled, and darted away. Her expression must have betrayed her utter lack of comprehension. "You saved him," Kerala repeated. "You did it. We're very proud of you." It didn't make any sense. Chanchu had failed. She had tried, but it didn't work, the piggy wasn't breathing. But he was now. He was quite happily on the trail of something else that must have smelled delicious, because he was forcefully shoving his way between a chest and the wall to get to it. His grunts were determined rather than frustrated. Chanchu tried to curl away from the sight, to stick her face back against Coqui's chest and get away from everything. She forgot that Kerala had her jaw firmly in hand. A brief struggle ensued in which the older but exhausted woman of reddish fur fought against the sure stability of the younger druid and lost. This exchange prompted comments from all the other women in the room, including a wordless exclamation from the deaf one watching. Kerala ignored them all, and they seemed to know better than to try interfering physically. "Look at him. You saved him. You are tired right now because he is alive and not dead. You made that difference. Do you understand?" Chanchu avoided those piercing eyes, gladly preferring the fuzzy bristle on the boar's back. "You saved him. You healed him. You are a healer. Say it." Chanchu was silent. Kerala rattled her head. "You know what I say is true. Doubt yourself, but believe me now. You saved him..." When Chanchu still hesitated, the druid shook her again. "I saved him!" Chanchu shouted. "You healed him." "I healed him." "You ARE a healer." Chanchu mumbled, but did repeat this too. "I am a healer." Kerala stared at her expectantly. "I am a healer!" she said, more clearly this time. It was difficult to get the words through her dry mouth, but finally her face was freed. "Damn, Kerala. A little mercy maybe." Coqui stooped back down to hug her distraught friend. "She's weak and vulnerable now. The entire point of this exercise was for her to prove to her SELF that she is capable. Look at her. Do you think she'll remember the events that occurred in this room tomorrow? Do you think she'll remember her success? Or will she lose that in the midst of the trauma she's gone through and the shock she's in now? I know the answer. She succeeded, but only because she's better than you thought she was. I could not have saved that animal. You think I'm cruel? I did not lie to her. I spoke truth. She is a healer, and she made a difference. Maybe she'll remember that later even when the rest of it fades into obscurity. Take her to bed. And for goodness sake feed her." In the time it took Kerala to defend herself to the others, Coqui felt Chanchu slacken in her arms with a few final hiccups. The exhausted girl had just lost her ability to remain awake. Unable to come up with any better course of action, Coqui did as she was commanded. She gathered up her friend and took her to a hammock. She had to swaddle the girl tightly in a cocoon of blankets before she'd release the fistlock on Coqui's mane. She refused all food, turning her face away, mumbling about porkchops and then outright panicking when Coqui tried to be firm about it, so she gave up and let the girl sleep. The sunwalker kept watch through the night and all the next day, wondering. What in the hell had just happened?
  10. The muggy air of the Eastern Plaguelands hung heavily around the stalwart defenders of Light’s Hope Chapel. Seven defenders stood at the gates to the chapel grounds, their shining armor glinting dimly in the muted early morning light flittering out of the blighted sky in the east. Spears had been buried in the soft, dead ground and helmets had been set on the ends of the tall polearms as three of the knights bearing silver hand badges on their cloaks sat around a hollow, open box and a cup full of hand-crafted dice. A blood elf man spilled the dice out into the box and groaned as singular dots appears on all five. The other two – a human man and a dwarf woman – burst out laughing at their companion’s misfortune. The elf reluctantly tossed a gold coin into the other half of the hollow box, increasing the size of the pile. Two of their companions sat off to the side leaning against the mossy white-bricked wall and smoking pipes while staring off into the distance. The pair were a male and female draenei. The woman’s head was on her man’s shoulder affectionately. They seemed content with their place in the world, and grinned off at the dead landscape without a care in the world. A female tauren stood overlooking the dice game with an expression of distaste on her face. She wasn’t upset by the lack of attention or professionalism by the guards at her feet, nor the dusk to dawn watch duty they had been saddled with the past fortnight. Her feeling of disgruntled annoyance was so deep-set that her face always looked like that, no matter who she looked at or what was happening. Her arms were crossed and her hooves scraped against the old cobbled road occasionally. The last knight stood with her back against the wall on the other side of the gate from the draenei couple. Her spear remained at her side, but she remained laid-back and showed no intention of picking it up anytime soon. Her build was large for a human woman. She stood a head taller than most other women and a few stones heavier as well. Her body was round overall, not toned like a warrior woman, but weighty like a lavish noble. In any case, she had a strong presence as she stood high and overshadowed others. Her tangled auburn hair was tied back in a sprawling ponytail. The laid-back woman was the first to catch sight of the approaching figure down the road. It was still far-off – the sight lines from the Chapel went out for miles so it was nigh impossible to sneak up on it – so it only appeared as a greenish-yellow splotch on the distant landscape. The woman stood up and grabbed her spear and helm, saying to the others, “Something’s coming.” The blood elf sighed. “So I won’t get a chance to win my money back?” The dwarf woman punched him in the shoulder. “You woulda just lost more anyway, Baladar!” she said as she boxed up the dice, cup, and coin and kicked it all behind her. She and the other three knights gathered around the game took up spears and helms as well. The draenei couple took their time putting out their pipes first. The shape approached slowly, and as it grew closer, more details could be made out. The human woman noticed it was of a smaller humanoid race, possibly a gnome, goblin, or even a short dwarf. It wore a bright lime-colored cloak with yellow patches sewn into it, and carried a walking stick about the height of the average dog, paw to ear. The male human piped up loudly, “Any bets on what that thing is? I’d wager two gold it’s a leper gnome.” The tauren snorted impatiently at the man. “How about you shut up and make sure your helmet is on straight, Leon?” She scraped the ground with a hoof in annoyance. The man begrudgingly checked to see if his helmet was in fact crooked. The figure walked up to the group and raised a green hand in greetings before lifting the hood from his head. He was a goblin with a bald head, sharp yellow teeth, ears with holes bitten out of the edges, and dim green eyes. He seemed to look around the knights rather than directly at any of them. The human woman guessed he was blind. The tauren spoke curtly, “Name and business?” The goblin cackled madly for no particular reason. “Scruggs, that is his name! He is called Scruggs! Scruggs is here with information – knowledge for the brave protectors of the Light! For when poor Scruggs was lost, alone, and nearly mad, the Light saved him! So Scruggs – nice, meek Scrugges! – has gone to the bad knights’ flying house and listened closely for knowledge. He was asked to, yes he was, and so he did!” The tauren woman sighed. “Right, we were expecting your report hours ago, goblin. Did you get lost or something? No, nevermind. I don’t want to hear it. Just tell me what you came to say.” Scruggs smiled, flashing his disgusting teeth at the gathered knights. “Ah, Scruggs has quite the news! He hears that a bad knight who did bad things in the Chapel is all alone, ripe for the Light’s vengeance! A human, she was, and spotted far south by Surwich in the lands blasted by hellfire. Scruggs did good, yes he did! Didn’t he?” The tauren replied, “Yeah, sure. You did good, little guy. Let me just report to my superiors and figure out how to proceed here. Don’t go anywhere.” She stomped off into the Chapel, grumbling on her way about crazy little green men. The human woman bit her lip. Something about what Scruggs had said rubbed her the wrong way. She took off her helmet and spoke to the goblin, “Hey, Scruggs, you said it was a human woman, right? The death knight seen in Surwich? What was her name?” Scruggs cocked his head at her in confusion. “Why does it matter to the noble dame? Scruggs hears it is a bad knight, so she must be punished. Her name does not matter.” “Wait,” the female draenei said suddenly, looking at the human woman, “You don’t think it’s her do you Christa? That would be just awful!” Christa glared off at the desolate landscape, biting her lip angrily. The dwarf woman scoffed. “Why would’t matter? She’s a murderous little bint ain’t she? She’ll get what’s coming to her, Light willing.” “But Clea, it’s someone important to her!” the draenei said to the dwarf, who looked back at her with an expression of amused disbelief. “Family is family, no matter what. My grandfather is one of the Eredar, but I don’t think I could bring myself to kill him if I had to.” The male draenei put a hand around her waist protectively. “It’s alright, Velbina, you won’t have to worry about him as long as I am here.” “I know, my sweet Sagito,” she said, leaning into him. “You are the best man a girl could ask for.” They kissed deeply. Clea put her head in her palm. The other man made a mock gagging noise and pretended to puke as the draenei showed their affection. “You two are disgusting, you know that?” “Leave them be, Leon. Not even a demon invasion could put a stop to their makeout session.” The dwarf waved them off dismissively and turned back to Christa. “Honey, you can’t let that woman get the better of you. If Nalysia comes back with the news that we’ve gotta kill her, we’re gonna do it. End of story. Gotta let this one go, hon.” While the others discussed the matter, Scruggs was drawing religious symbols into the dirt just off the pathway with the end of his stick. He seemed very content as he stood there, muttering some prayer. Nalysia clomped back out of the gates. Her exasperation hadn’t cleared up since she had left. Christa looked at her, asking, “What’s the plan? Are we going after her?” Nalysia eyed her as if searching for something. Christa only seemed interested in receiving orders. “Good news and bad news. Good news is, we’re being relieved from guard duty. Command says to go to Surwich tomorrow morning and gather intelligence, see what we can find out about this woman.” “What’s the bad news?” Leon asked with a smug grin on his face. “The bad news,” Nalysia replied with a twinge of annoyance, “Is that we have to take the goblin.
  11. "What's she doing, can you see anything?" "Lomani, relax. This is gonna work." "I hope you're right! I don't like it, Coqui, lying to her like this. What's she doing now?" "Not sitting anymore. She's kneeling in front of her patient, I... think she's resting? Also whatever. I didn't lie, did I Kerala?" "You did." "When!?" "When you said she was the only one who would heal the pig." "That wasn't a lie, you said it should be put down. I assume YOU were truthful, at least? Right. So you weren't going to heal it, and the rest of us... let's face it, trying to heal and actually healing are not the same thing, dear. So it was not a lie." "Very well." "Speaking of trying..." "She can DO it. Relax. What are you looking at her for?" "Because she's the druid, and she actually knows how bad it is. How bad is it?" "You should probably pray." "Oh come on DON'T TELL HER THAT! What is WRONG with you?!" "Shh!" "I'm surprised the boar lasted long enough for her to come up with that hibernation idea." "Perhaps she was helping it somehow, even then? Coqui. Please. It's been hours. Can I see?" "Fine. I'll give you a boost. Maybe you can tell what's going on with your Sight. ... ...Well?" "...I ...I don't know what I'm looking at..." "Oh for...! Isn't it like paint by number for you? How can you not comprehend colors?" "There's only one." "Which one?" " Just a big... cloud... Just green." "Cloud? Wait! That's good! Clouds are mist. The pandabears weave mists. She's doing it!" "Look again. There is no fog in that room. No mist." "What does the color green mean, Lomani?" "It could mean anything. Green is the color of the heart anchor, it's strongly related to the sense of touch, to love and intimacy, things like that, but... but of course it's also the opposite. Green is depression and, and..." "And what? Spit it out girl." "Great pain. The fourth anchor is also the source of grief." "Shit."
  12. Chanchu's first introduction to the Skytotem tribe was one of conflict. Depressed and alone, she had been a nomad for several years, living as a thief on whatever she could steal from easily distracted men. She learned a lot from watching tavern whores drum up customers, and put it to good use as a tease. She was also handy, fixing broken tools or mending nets and such. She got by. Then she met Coqui. A Grimtotem so obvious had never been seen since the Earthmother blinded herself. Of course, Chanchu's mouth got her in trouble. That and a huge jar of shine. It was the first time Chanchu had ever been soundly thrashed in her pathetic cripple life, like she was a whole person. Afterwards, she woke up in the warm firelight of Coqui's tent with the mature woman tending to the injuries she herself had inflicted. Still reeling slightly from a concussion, Chanchu was subjected to hours of stern scolding between both a bath and a hot meal. She was dismissed from Coqui's company with a small but respectable purse of money and the distinct impression that she had disappointed the woman personally. The implication from the start was that she could be more than just what she was, a petty thief wasting her life. Chanchu breathed slowly, exhaling a thin stream of air and moisture through the tunnel of her lips. Air and moisture. Under the right conditions, it could become visible. It was the essence of life itself. Mist. Chanchu let out her breath and imagined it. Amber clouds floated down and out, billowing around her. The Earth Mother breathed like this, so the legends said. She created the world with it. Chanchu was not a goddess, nor even anyone's mother. She was only a girl. A maiden. But she breathed. In, and out. The least experienced of the Skytotem healers, Chanchu was perceived by most of them as an annoying little sister. Over time each one had tried her in their disciplines, but though she failed them each in turn, they never cast her out. Chanchu ended up with a great deal of general knowledge regarding healing professions despite a lack of ability in any of them. She had a basic understanding of anatomy and herb lore and of the spiritual world and the importance of elemental balance in all things. She knew the incredible power of An'she's Light and had often asked Lomani to describe over and over again the incredible colors she saw with her Seer's gift. Chanchu went through several stages of yearning to be a druid or especially a priestess, but ultimately hadn't the knack for either one. Despite some actual serious efforts, she failed. She saw herself as worthless. Elements largely ignored her calls, she hadn't the first clue how to change shapes and often killed any plant she tried to take into her own care. She was decent with animals, which was something, but that wasn't any real skill in empathy, but rather learning to read body language cues. Then the pandaren. If anyone was disappointed that Chanchu came back from Pandaria little changed, it certainly wasn't more than her. When her last teacher had run out of patience and asked her to leave his home in that very polite and yet steely manner of his race, Chanchu had no ideas except to return to her old friend. Coqui took her in, of course. Chanchu always had a place among the Skytotem. She settled into her role as healer's assistant and assumed things were going well. That was until Coqui came back with this silly idea. Heal something, earn your totem, be a real Skytotem. Don't you like coyotes and junk, you could be a vet! It had never been said officially, but the unspoken addendum to this suggestion was that if she didn't earn her totem, Chanchu needed to scram. She didn't want to go back to her old life. Surely she could find some little scratched up critter and nurse it back to health and call it good. They all knew she wasn't a real healer. Chanchu took another deep breath. "Alright piggy. Earth Mother help me, here we go."
  13. July 17 I haven't kept a journal since I was eight years old. I suppose that means there's a lot to write about. When overwhelmed with ideas, it's usually a good idea to go back to the beginning. For the last seventeen years I haven't felt truly at home. The only home I've ever had was in Andorhal, and I saw the state of the city only a few years ago. So that home is gone now. But it was gone long before the Scourge infested it or the Forsaken bombed it or the Alliance burned it down to stop them from spreading. My home was gone the day my mother, my sister, and I ran from it. Ran from him. I loved my father, perhaps even more than I had loved Mother. He saw a spark of something in me that his two other children apparently lacked. I loved his stories of fantasy and heroism, magic and monsters, knights and princesses. I loved seeing where he worked. His magical study was full of little wonders and knowledge. But that was before the hard times. The hard times started when we lost Owen. He was my half-brother, but I remember him only fondly. He was older than my sister and I, so he was the first to head off to war. And of course, he never came back. The good ones never seem to come back, or if they do they aren't the same -- not as good as they were. Father lost a part of himself when Owen's letter came. That piece of paper caused all the grief that has ever befallen my family, or at least that's how it seemed at the time. Father drank to forget. He drank until he couldn't remember the son he lost, or the lover he had lost before. The memory of his first love lived on in my brother, I'm sure of it. But Owen was gone, and so was she. He drank to forget they were gone, but in the process, he forgot about us as well. He lost his position as the Kirin Tor representative in Andorhal, and after that, Mother was put upon to provide for all of us. She had to somehow pull enough love from her heart to keep us all happy, Father included. There was little left for her. I couldn't imagine what kept her heart beating in the midst of it all. I couldn't then, but I can now. Father drank until he forgot us, and once he had forgotten, he had no reason to love us. He had no reason to forgive, not even for the smallest mistakes. A drunken, bitter mage and three helpless girls do not for a healthy, happy household make. He usually just hit us. Sometimes he burned Mother by accident, trying to scare her or let off steam. He never turned his magic against Christa and I. Perhaps that was a small blessing. A sign that he could still come back from where he was. It didn't matter to me then. He wasn't the same father who had tucked me into bed at night and read me happy stories. One night he tried to scare Mother with fire again, and I couldn't take it anymore. Something snapped inside me that I could never piece together again, and I cast my first spell. He was frozen against a wall, passed out in a drunken stupor. We were all gone by the time he came to. I often imagined what he must have felt like to wake up and find himself alone. When I was younger, I imagined anger and bitter rage. I was still afraid of him. As a teenager, I started to imagine sadness and sorrow. I hated and pitied him then. But as I grew, I knew exactly what he must have felt: alone and empty. By that point, I just missed him.
  14. Earlier
  15. Reminder! This Saturday! ((If anyone needs help getting an invitation, I'm happy to help you. Just let me know! Invitations are required to fight in the brawls, but anyone can come in and RP. ))
  16. Today, we're going to back into story structure but this time we're going to dive deep. A lot of the stuff I've covered so far has been deep dives into certain concepts, but I want to be comprehensive here. Today, we're going to talk about: Beats. And then also scenes and sequences and acts and the story itself. But all that stuff starts with the beat. So, even though I'm going to go and define all of these things after the fact, I'm going to head this one up with my definition of what a "beat" is. The beat is the smallest, distinct moment in a story. Now, today we're going to focus on "plot beats" rather than any other, but it's actually important to note that beat doesn't just apply to plot. Using the same breakdown from the Poetics article, if we're going to say that a story is comprised of six component parts: Plot, Character, Theme, Setting, Aesthetic and Spectacle, those six things for any individual story (like, the plot of this story is: XYZ) is going to be built of a number of "plot beats." Similarly, the characters of this story are going to be built of a number of "character beats," and so on. And so on and so forth all the way down. Just to define things even further, a plot beat is a moment that moves the action of the story forward, a character beat establishes or changes a character, a thematic beat is any moment that has more meaning other than the telling of the story itself, a setting beat establishes the world of the story, an aesthetic beat is built to be beautiful or appealing in and of itself, and a spectacle beat is any moment that is built to be particularly engaging. Here are some examples Plot Beat: Luke watches the Princess Leia message Character Beat: Han steps on Jabba's tail Thematic Beat: Luke deflects the blaster bolts with the blast shield down Setting Beat: Obi-Wan slices off Ponda Baba's arm with his lightsaber Aesthetic Beat: Luke watches the twin sunset Spectacle Beat: The Death Star explodes As a quick aside, I want to mention: Each of those beats is so simple that even its grammer is bare bones. A great litmus test to figure out beats is to look at your verbs. If you ever have a conjuction or use more than one verb to describe your beat, you're really describing two beats and you should split them up. "Luke puts down the blast shield and tries to deflect blaster bolts" is not one beat, it's two. The first thing he does is put down the blast shield. Then he tries to deflect the bolts. Now, you might notice that some of those examples overlap. "Luke watches the twin sunset," which is the best shot ever in all of Star Wars, could basically apply to all of those. That's OK. But the point is, if you break a story down to its very fundamental components and track how it moves from moment to moment, the things that you're tracking are its beats. They are the atoms of your story. In keeping with the heirarchy of importance that is the six components in that order, plot will have the very most beats and spectacle the very least, most likely. And any specific moment in that story will be conferrable to at least one of those six categories. If a moment has no category, then it has no purpose and should basically be cut. Most beats will have multiple categories just to make things nice and confusing, and the very best stories will try and pack as many categories into as many beats as possible. But the specific thing I want to talk about with regard to beats are plot beats. They are by far the most useful and I honestly have articles planned for some of the others that are coming up in the future, so let's get even more detailed and nitpicky, shall we? Plot beats also exist in a greater structure. While character beats and thematic beats also have underlying structure (thematic beats combine to form symbols, for instance, or metaphors, character beats combine to form characterization or character arcs) plot beats have the most rigid structure, because they are the skeleton that the whole story is going to rest on top of. This skeleton is necessary for everything else to even consider having its own beats and its own structure. And that skeleton looks like this. Story > Act > Sequence > Scene > Beat And the first thing I want to do is break down a scene so you can see what beats look like. Keep in mind that I'm only keeping track of plot beats, and that there will be moments in here where the beat is something else, like a character beat (bonus points if you can pick one out!) So, please watch this link( and match up the beats below: > The Jawa meets Owen and Luke > Aunt Beru calls for Luke > Aunt Beru reminds Luke about the translator speaking Bachi > Owen buys the Red Astromech droid > Owen declines buying R2-D2 > Owen asks C-3PO if he is a protocol Droid > C-3PO affirms > Owen does not need a protocol Droid > C-3PO affirms > Owen tells C-3PO he needs a droid who understand binary > C-3PO affirms he can > Owen asks C-3PO if he can speak Bachi > C-3PO affirms > Owen calls Luke over > Owen asks Luke to clean off the droids > Luke takes C-3PO and the Red Astromech droid > R2-D2 gets C-3PO's attention > The Jawa paralyzes R2 > The Red Astromech droid malfunctions > Luke informs Owen of the bad motivator > C-3PO recommends R2 to Luke > Luke recommends R2 to Owen > Owen buys R2 23 Plot Beats in 2 minutes and 30 seconds, or about one beat every 6 seconds. Some things I want to point out here: there's a lot of back and forth. That's good. When your plot is built on conversation, a lot of time you'll have one beat dialogue, where each character responding to the other is a single beat. It's a natural rhythm, very back, forth, back, forth and even though it'll be broken up in places, it's the default way to get plot across through dialogue. Also, it's important that individual beats inside the scene set things up and resolve them on a microscale. The beat pair of "R2 gets C-3PO's attention" and "The Jawa paralyzes R2" is a meaningless pair outside of this scene. But, inside of the scene, it heightens the tension, even if only a little bit. The audience knows that R2 and C-3PO are main characters and the story suggests they're going to hook up with Luke, another protagonist, here. Those two beats are just a momentary hint of danger for the audience calling that eventuality into question. Maybe R2 and C-3PO get split up here. Maybe not. I also want to call to attention the placement of certain informational beats that are explicitly for the audience's benefit. Aunt Beru reminding Luke of the translator speaking Bachi is only useful for the audience; Luke never even reminds Owen. But the audience then gets a hint for the criteria that C- 3PO needs to meet to get purchased. When Owen asks about Bachi, it's the signal to the audience that criteria is being checked. But information doesn't have to be only for the audience's benefit. Information is the #1 thing that gets traded and exchanged back and forth by characters. Sometimes, you'll see something like an emotion change hands or an object like the McGuffin, but most of the time a conversation is (from a mechanics and story perspective) the exchange of information between two characters that puts fuel in the fire of the narrative. Sometimes, this can be information that the audience knows about but the character doesn't. This is called dramatic irony, and creates tension and suspense. Sometimes, it's information that the character knows but the audience doesn't. This is a plot twist, and it causes a radical shift in the perspective of the audience watching, almost always correlated to a huge surge in engagement with the material, as they're then running all the details of the story through their brains to re-orient themselves around this new information. Stories are built on a foundation of cause and effect, and also have a law of inertia native to many humans. Given no change in context, a character will continue to act as they have been acting. New information, therefore, is the change in context that changes the character's action. They learn something new, even a tiny small thing, that propels them in a new direction. The plot, which follows the characters making it, changes along these trajectories to. A character that is training will continue training until new information is introduced to them, which will alter his trajectory. This effect might even be minor. Owen was going to pass over R2, but then the Red Astromech droid exploded. That information, plus C-3PO's recommendation, is the new context that causes him to change his mind and take R2. (By the way, if someone is changing their behavior without having changed their context, they're acting out of character. That's what character inconsistency is.) The last thing I want to mention while we're still on beats is what is a nice throwback to longtime readers. Waaaaaaaay back I described Logos as moments in your story that prove the logic of it to the audience? Yeah, you guessed it. Logos is a type of plot beat. While most plot beats are trying to drive the story car across the finish line, Logos is a plot beat that performs maintenance on other plot beats. If you need the story to get here or go there and end up uncovering a bit of ugly logic in doing so, you need a story beat of Logos in order to patch things up so people don't get distracted. Like I mentioned in that post, Logos is very commonly where characters ask other characters dummy questions to preempt those questions coming from the audience. Why couldn't Gandalf just take the One Ring to Mordor? He knew the way, was clearly much more capable, he's a wizard for godsake! Well, because the Ring corrupts and if it corrupted him with his power level, that'd be doom. That moment isn't forward facing like most plot beats. It's backward facing. It answers a question that inevitably gets asked when you're setting your story up. So, even in my explanations about storytelling, I really like my continuity. Ok, so with beats down, we need to move up the ladder. What's the next structural piece of a story? The Scene. This one is pretty straightforward. People naturally orient their storytelling around scenes, not beats, so it's much easier to explain what a scene is and how to handle one. The reason we think in terms of scenes is because they are not single, but fluid moments, but have the clearest beginnings and endings. A scene is a collection of plot beats that all take place in the same time frame and the same location. It is a continuous stretch of time (though, you can cut a scene up. Every time you return to that time frame and location, you're returning to that scene.) Some scenes take place in huge locations (the Aaron Sorkin walk and talk can take place in an entire building, for instance) and some can take place over huge periods of time (time lapses in Breaking Bad can demonstrate a character's actions over long hours in just minutes.) But any time there is a jump in time or location to something else, a new scene has started. This jump is what allows us to categorize these easily. It provides a finite beginning and a finite end to the scene and puts that scene into an easily qualifiable unit. But don't mistake that familiarity for thinking that scenes are easy, especially in RP. Yeah, we all instinctively know what a scene is, but the nitty gritty of how a scene works is something that eludes a lot of folks. Over most everything else, the scene needs to have a point. It can have more than one point, absolutely, but in the vast majority of cases, as the writer, you need to know what that scene's about in one sentence. In Star Wars, the point of that scene was to take one main character (Luke) and group him with two other main characters (R2 and C-3PO.) It did plenty of other things (establish Luke's young whineyness, worldbuild Luke's humble life, contextualize R2 and C-3PO's relationship even more) but the main thing that scene accomplished was taking three characters and smooshing them together. And that scene was pretty fucking minor in the grand scheme of things (which was kind of the point; not to show my hand too much, but I wanted to show how even in a super straightforward scene the plot beats move quick and change things up constantly.) So, don't put a scene in there if it doesn't have a point, and this ESPECIALLY goes for RP, because in RP you're asking your audience to put some work in to it. You're asking them to get involved in things, don't fuck around with them and put them somewhere useless and that doesn't matter to the story being told. Have a point. Have many points. The more stuff you can use this scene to communicate to the players/audience, the better, but I would also always know what my main point is. This is going to be useful on the back end, too, because the more points a scene has to it, the more it shakes things up, the more the scene is deserving of your time and space. There's a reason this throwaway scene is two and a half minutes while the assault on the Death Star is 15 minutes long. It is only just now dawning on me that the term "point" is horrendously bad for what I'm trying to use it for. WHELP. I HAVEN'T EDITED THESE BEFORE, WHY START NOW? Just to reiterate, have a goal. Have a purpose. Have a few of them. Have a purpose for the plot (The characters need to learn this) have a purpose for the characters (they are going to change in this way!) and have a purpose for the themes (this symbol is going to come up again!) That said, scenes in RP are a give and take. Walk into a scene with some purpose, but be ready to pick up new ones as the players feed you things and be ready to switch up your gameplan if things don't fit. RP is collaborative storytelling, so it's bound to get messy. Alright, let's move on. The next big block are called "sequences" and they are, unsurprisingly, collections of themes. Most of the time, you'll see sequences talked about in chronological ways, mostly because it's a film term to link scenes into sequences and a prolific film studies academic pioneered a story structure revolving around 8 smaller sequences rather than 3 larger acts. And while I think he's a smart dude (seriously, the next few articles might be alternate story structures besides the three act structure, because there are a lot of different ones out there and I don't want to lean too hard on it) I also think that sequence has a better usage than the way he uses it. But before I refute him, let me paraphrase him. Sequences are groups of scenes that form cohesive narrative units, typically turning the "and" in the definiton of scene into an "or." Thus, a sequence is a group of scenes that all take place in the same time frame or same location. If everything takes place in the same location, you have a unity of location. Typically, you'll see this kind of thing when multiple interested groups all descend on one spot and the different scenes of that sequence will focus on each of the individuals all overlapping one another in their time. If everything takes place in the same timeframe, you have a unity of time. Typically, this looks like Luke's time on Tattooine. All the stuff that he does on Tattooine, from getting the droids to leaving with Han, is is in a fairly straightforward timeframe and so even though there are a bunch of scenes in there, it's one sequence. Wait, though. All that stuff also took place on Tattooine... which is one location? So which is it? This point is why I think this definition is bad and harder to pin down into digestable chunks. The parameters for what is one end of a sequence and what is another are too weird and varied for them to be of much use here. In certain kinds of structures, maybe, but I think there's a better narrative unit that sequences are perfect for tracking and that should do so to the exclusion of other aspects. That unit is called a "plotline" or a "subplot." Undoubtedly, these are words you've heard before. But when viewed in the context of sequences, they take on new life and meaning. Typically, we see these in reference to serialized material like TV shows or comic books, but RP is the same kind of thing. That doesn't mean that it doesn't show up in other places, even inside of single movies. Inside of the Two Towers, for instance, you have some easy ones. You have Pippin and you have Frodo and you have Aragorn. There are some others, here and there (Eowyn and Eomer, for instance) but for the most part the plotlines that run through that singular story cover vast distances and locations. And it's in another Lord of the Rings film that we really see the failure of the idea or time and location linked sequences: Journeys are tough to follow. In Fellowship of the Ring, for instance, we have two plotlines intercutting between one another, Gandalf and Saruman and the journey of Frodo all the way to Rivendell. Along the way, Frodo and company dodge the Ringwraiths on the road, pick up strider in Bree, and fight the Ringwraiths on Weathertop. This whole sequence has one goal: get the Ring to Rivendell. Long distances are covered, so location can't really be the same without just saying "Middle Earth" and long times are covered, so it's not like we can say "the night before they got to Rivendell." But these scenes are unified by something more than that, and it's the goal of getting to Rivendell with the Ring. It's a plotline based entirely around that. And if you separate out the intercutting of the wizards, (these are two sequences running in parallel before they weave back into a single thread in Rivendell) this group of disparate scenes all tell that story. There is a clear goal to accomplish. Once it is accomplished, the sequence ends a new one begins. There are two sequences heading simultaneously, and indeed they will fracture into many more when the Two Towers and Return of the King roll around, but I'm trying to be illustrative. When we look at sequences this way, we come to a definition that looks something like this: "A grouping of scenes with similar characters and similar goals, sometimes united either by time or location." Characters are the things that run around your story and pick up your plot beats from one scene and take them to another, so it's likely that the characters in a sequence will be consistent from scene to scene. The rest of the stuff happens commonly, like despite the journey example above, it's easy to say that the Death Star Sequence in A New Hope all happens while their ship is in the Death Star. The goal is to release it, and they are unified in that even if Obi-Wan and Luke and Leia and Han aren't unified in time or location otherwise, but it happens commonly enough to make it in there. But if you're asking the question: How do I know when one sequence ends and another begins? Well, now we've gotten to some place interesting. Ok, so even though I like the Three Act Structure a lot, there are plenty of detractors out there. Lots of folks attack it for being a blueprint for storytelling, when storytelling is mostly alchemy to begin with. Nobody knows the recipes and there are no formulas, so why bother. Tangentially, my response is typically something along the line of: "Dividing things into beginning/middle/end is really helpful and codifying how we think about those phases of storytelling is useful." But that is a tangent. What these detractors typically point to regarding the problem with Three Act Structure is that an "act" itself is pretty poorly designed. Now, I know that you all got the cheat sheet in the beginning and are waiting for me to define what an act is, but we're not there yet. The point is: haters typically counter the typical Three Act Structure act by defining their own. And when they do, they invariably come to something along the lines of: "An Act Break happens when a character makes a dramatic decision which has consequences that change the context of their life forever." Outside of this just defining the barriers between one act and the next and not actually addressing what is the content of each individual act, this definition actually highlights something really cool and important. These points in stories are milestones. When the hero accepts the quest. And, hey, sometimes the hero is kind of forced into it. Luke makes the decision to go to rescuse Leia with Obi-Wan and it's dramatic, even though the context changing was entirely outside of his control. Frodo, on the other hand, willfully accepts the consequences of his choice. He could return to the Shire and wait out the War of the Ring if he wanted, but instead, he chooses to carry it to Mordor. DRAMATIC DECISIONS. I do not call these act breaks. I call them "plot points" and I think they're really useful in helping us see the beginnings and endings of sequences. Lots of heft gets put on these plot points, but I've always found them to be more common than others, mostly because it's a pretty natural thing for characters to do in a story. There's a plot point in Lord of the Ring where Gandalf sees the Ring for the first time: he chooses then to go to Gondor and investigate the old passages to confirm the Ring he saw was Sauron's ring. That whole thing takes like 4 seconds to get through, it's basically montaged (which is kind of a sequence in miniature, by the way) out and he gets right back to the Shire to kick everything else off. But that was a plot point. It dramatically redirected the course of the plot. So, when plot points happen, you are snapping your sequences up. Typically, plot points happen when goals come to be or change, so it's the most convenient way that we have to define a sequence's logical start points and end points. We know what the content of that sequence is (It's a chain of scenes one after another where the plot follows one explicit set of goals) and now we know what separates them. By the way, the best metaphor I've ever heard to describe what a plot point is would be: Now, we have the final piece of the puzzle: The ACT. To be honest, I'm not actually going to dwell on this a lot, because I already opened with so much thought put into the Three Act Structure stuff from my first post. An Act is a functional term describing the overall purpose of the section of story that you're in. Essentially, all an "act" is when it comes to this is the simplest subsectioning of your story that you can do. Act 1: Beginning Act 2: Middle Act 3: End Are you introducing tons of things and getting everything established? You're in Act 1. Are you taking those things that you've introduced and changing them? You're in Act 2. Are you taking those things and wrapping them up? You're in Act 3. That's about as easily as I can wrap this up. But there are some caveats here that I want to cover before we get into the Act 3 of this post. First, Acts aren't defined by the sequences they are made of. It's looser than that. In most cases, a your sequences will all neatly wrap up by the time that an act break rolls around and we'll start new sequences from that act break, but in the same way that one scene can contain pieces to two sequences, you can also have sequences blend the lines between Act breaks. This happens especially between Act 2 and Act 3 and especially with sequences that are keeping up with your subplots. Pippin and Merry in the Two Towers don't really respect the coming of the Urukhai before Helm's Deep sequence that defines the third act of that movie. Neither does Sam and Frodo's encounter with Faramir in Osgiliath. They all correspond to a certain extent. Like, the entmoot to the assault on Isengard is Act 3 territory and so is the incoming assault in Osgiliath, and so are Helm's Deep, but these do not start at the same time. And because that line is blurry, you're going to have aspects of these sequences cross the line and bleed over one another and that's natural. For sequences and scenes, that kind of crossing of the line doesn't happen. A beat is either in one scene or another. It doesn't bleed in the same way. You should be able to identify where certain sequences are coming down in terms of structure, and be able to separate them out by which of Act 1/2/3 they fall in, but don't go crazy compartmentalizing things. Secondly, this is a specific term for the acts described by the Three Act Structure. It's my favorite story structure, so it's my default that I want to present to you now (though, I will be presenting others in the next few entries just to give myself a little healthy distance.) If you are using a different act structure, like 5 Act structure (Shakespeare used this and is typically defined by essentially two climaxes: the midpoint and the endpoint of the story) you will be using a different version of the definition "act" to describe it. The function is relatively similar (it's going to be a collection of sequences that perform a certain purpose, generally,) but the specific definiton will be vastly different depending on how you look at things. Look, this was a lot of stuff to cover and it's always tough with definitions. I'm thinking back to the writing of this whole thing and in a way, I almost want to give one huge caveat to all of it: Definitions are slippery. I'm trying mostly to help you define these ideas for yourselves by presenting how I define them to myself. There are a lot of holes to poke in this stuff because none of these definitions are going to be ironclad one way or another. So, in a way, I'm telling you to think critically about all of it. I haven't said that enough. Think about it. Think a lot about it. Obsess over it. Even outside writing, I think the number one best advice I can give to anyone ever is: Think critically about everything. And that goes both for your own writing and for my recommendations for what your writing should look like. Anyway, I did want to do something of a summary since we've gotten to the end of it. There are 5 big concepts that we covered today. Beats are the individual moments of your story. The words, the phrases, the actions. Anytime anything happens in your story, that's a beat. When you make your story out of Aristotle's six parts (Plot, Character, Theme, Setting, Aesthetic, Spectacle, in that order) you are putting beats in there that correspond to these six aspects, slowly building on themselves to create more powerful units. If your beat does not further any of those 6 aspects of your story, cut it out. It is worthless to you. There is no reason to include it. And those are just the easy cuts (I should do an article on that.) When you get a bunch of plot beats together, you create a scene. One location. One timeframe. When you skip time, even if you're skipping the five minute walk from the foyer to the office, you're creating a break between these two scenes. Scenes are the operative unit for your readership. They organize their thoughts about your story by the scenes inside of that story. And your story is not your plot, your story is all six components combined. This is because your scenes (and sequences and acts) will be the structure that all the other aspects of your story hang off of. It's this structural baseline that puts Plot in that number 1 spot. Do not let it slip. All of your scenes should have a point to them. Something driving them. Something that you're looking to accomplish. And when to zoom out of that and measure it against other goals coming down the pike, that's how you get a sequence. Stories find their complexity when sequences weave into one another and out of one another. I can't think of a single story that follows one line of sequences from beginning to end. I'm sure there are some, but most stories have subplots and plot twists and it's by managing your sequences that you won't let this stuff get into lost inside your own head. It's how you'll keep everything focused. We also talked about how sequences are commonly defined by "plot points," which is where a character makes a dramatic choice that radically changes the context of their situation. Plot points are useful to chart out because they're moments of powerful engagement with the audience. When they see the drama of consequences laid out before them, they see the power that comes with using plot points to help inform us of a character or story. A plot point is effectively the most powerful single beat that you can put in a story. A scene will be powerful based on the quantity and quality of beats, but a plot point is one single moment of tremendous heft. Use them early and often to help your story not become rote and predictable. Finally, we refreshed a bit on acts. As the largest piece to the puzzle, they are ironically the most finicky. Depending on the kind of story structure that you're walking into, you could have acts defined in a number of different ways, typically be some kind of chronological metric. But even if the form or function of your acts are in some strange way defined like this, they will always be a loose collection of sequences that define that time period in your story, whatever it looks like. In the three act structure, this just corresponds to Beginning, Middle and End. If your scenes are about introducing us to concepts, you're very likely in act 1. If they're about developing and morphing those concepts, you're in act 2. If they're about crystalizing and finalizing those concepts, you're in act 3. As a final word, I want to mention that some of this stuff doesn't apply as directly to RP as other posts. Because so much of this is about looking forward to the uncertain future of your story and looking back to the dried ink past, you have precious little time to worry about these kinds of things in RP. You can't go back and edit things you did months ago to get the flow right. You can't plan out every beat and detail in some scene you're going to have months in the future. You only really have the moment that you put up your post. But consider that that post itself is made up of beats. Where are your beats? Are they useful? What actually, materially, transpires during your post? Are you advancing the plot? Are you giving exposition? Are you world building? Are you just being pretty? Are you trying to explain some deeper theme that has yet to be fully explained in its nuance? These are the questions that every sentence, every word of your posts should be able to answer for themselves. The internet may be an infinite space, but your readers' attention isn't. Do not take it for granted. Everything that makes it onto the screen needs to earn its place there, otherwise it is having a profound negative effect on your story. Make your writing justify itself. Cut vigorously and liberally. Keep track of your beats. Godspeed. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Bam. Beats. OK, so I told you that I was going to do something on a different kind of story structure than three act structure, so next time your choices will really be: -5 Act Structure (Shakespearean Structure) -5 Act Structure (Freytag's Structure) -7 Act Structure (No, seriously) -8 Sequences -Harmon Story Circle -Harmon TV Circle -A Plots/B Plots/Subplots The other choices which are down below, are mostly to keep track of other topics I want to cover. -McGuffins -Protagonist Types -Antagonist Types -Tropes/Cliches -Lorebreaking/Lorebending/Lorepolicing -Creating character arcs for characters you don't control -Creating stakes -The Six Components of a Story -Pathos/Ethos/Logos -"RP is small" -Clever Plot Tricks -"And then/But then" -A Plots/B Plots/Subplots -Character Arcs -Elements of Style, but for RP -Plot Points/Story Beats -Dialogue vs Emotes -Storyline vs Tavern RP -How to edit your posts -Creating a voice and a tone -Character perspective and you!
  17. July Pandaria is pretty. I stay mostly in the Shrine, but sometimes I go for a ride around the Vale. It’s peaceful here, mostly. Every now and then a couple or so Horde will attack out on the terrace, but they rarely make it inside. I haven’t seen any sign of Qabian here. I guess I lost him. Sometimes it’s too peaceful. Too quiet. Even with Buster here, our little room in the inn here sometimes feels more like a tomb. I miss the apartment in Dalaran. I hung some crystals in the window here, and got a soft blanket, but it’s still missing something. It’s a hideout, not a home. I guess I don’t have a home anymore. Well, it was nice while it lasted. I miss Daerek. I know I did the right thing though. He’s safer without me, and I don’t want him to get hurt…in any way. If they know I care about him, they’d hurt him just because of that. And I don’t want to hurt him anymore than I already have. The General says he wouldn’t care about my past. Still, I don’t want to think about what he might think of me if he knew the things I’ve done. He was already upset when I fought that demon. That was nothing compared to….. That one couple still fights every week in cooking class. What could anyone have to fight over so much? If they fight that much, maybe they shouldn’t be together. I’ve learned how to make fish cakes and rice pudding. My fish cakes were too dry, but the pudding was good. I got a new cooking partner in class. Her name is Chi’u Driftbrew. Her family brews ales, as many Pandaren do, and she experiments in class by adding it to every recipe. She says the plants the brew is made from held powerful spirits, and distilling them makes their power more concentrated. I don’t know about all that, but I think her ale tastes good. I wonder if they have Pandaren ale at the Recluse or the Shady Lady.
  18. Happiness is an ephemeral, transient thing. It doesn't take much to make it wink out, like a guttering candle snuffed with a pinch, or just an errant breeze. I was lucky to know it for even as little as I did. I knew it and appreciated it dearly at the time, but losing it was still more than I could bear. Yet here I am, writing in my diary. I re-read my old entries today. I find myself envious of my past self, when I awakened on the isle and had no idea who I was or what I'd done. Or of myself right after Xandric helped me get a whole soul again, and it seemed like I could do anything. At some point, I started coming to the realization that that wasn't the case; that some things are inescapable. And it wasn't when Karthok attacked me the first time, or the second. Before that hovered the realization on the horizon. Maybe it was having Jeho. When I found out I was pregnant, I was stunned, and about the thought of having a child, I was ambivalent. I knew, I just knew, that I wasn't mother material. But I didn't fully understand how deeply I would let a child down until Baal'themar. It was then that I began to understand that I couldn't protect myself, and therefore anyone dependent on me. But I didn't truly understand why. I went back to Baal because, I told myself, only I could hope to stop him, to tame him, to gentle him with love. People would get hurt if I didn't. But that ignored the larger truth, which was that I wanted to have to. I wanted to be trapped. I wanted to suffer. It felt like what I was born for. It felt... right. And it always will. The pattern my life has taken, the spiral and its inevitable conclusion, time and time again, has proven that. I've tried to explain, and all people do is tell me I don't have to be that way, or things don't have to be that way; but I know otherwise. Only Xandric was different. He just... accepted it. I don't know if he really understands, but he accepts it. But I can't help but feel guilt, because my urge to seek out suffering will always harm those around me, especially those that care about me. That was the realization that destroyed me, when the first happiness I had was snuffed out, moments before Accalia devoured my soul. For a time, as Siané, I was blessed with a chance to forget that knowledge. But now I know that was only a dream, and one I can't afford to re-indulge, or others will be hurt again. Yet here I am, writing in my diary. I tried to end my life. As before, I was not permitted, by those that cared about me, in their own ways. The irony is not lost on me. What I can do now, I don't know. I try to put on a brave face for Xandric. I try to focus on helping others. But I can never forget. I don't dare take Zakael up on his offer. I can never be Siané again. Here I am. What do I do now?
  19. It feels like I do less and less. I've always tried to be a relatively hands-off commander. I let people find and choose their own assignments, to put their talents to use where they believe they'll be the most effective in upholding our virtues. We all have directives to support the Horde and the Legionfall offensive to give us opportunities to make a difference. But sometimes I'm not sure if things are running smoothly or slowing to a halt. I feel like if I can't tell the difference, it's probably the latter. At least I was able to make a difference in the Borrowed Time/Twilight Empire matter. I'm not naive enough to think Cobrak will go any easier on them because of what I said, but one of their people being returned safely and sooner is definitely a victory in my book. I also hope that by speaking to Katelle, she will see Cobrak as more of a person and less as an obstacle. She would be more likely to than most already, as would any called to Twilight Empire's cause I think, but a little encouragement might help keep things smoother than they might go otherwise. It'll be a long time, if ever, before I can hope to sway Cobrak the same, but at least in respecting my personhood he finds himself obligated to respect the things I care about, and that's a start. Another matter weighing on my mind is Karthok, as it has for... how many months now? How long has Shokkra been missing? I haven't even kept track. Her being gone has just become... normal. It's terrible, and it makes me feel terrible to say that. I continue to believe she must be safe and that Karthok wouldn't harm her. And I won't stop looking for her. But all this time away has put some things into perspective. When she's back, and recovered enough, I'll have to talk to her about what she wants to do with her life. And not just accept what she says if it's what I want to hear when it might not be true to what's in her heart and soul. Some people are just angry. Some people just believe in vengeance, in its necessity. I don't agree. But I respect that some people feel that way, and don't want to shame them for it, not really. Encourage them to open their hearts. But not shame them for doing what they think they need to do to survive. Shokkra tries so hard to be Sanctuary, but I don't think she really is inside; she just feels like she should be. I should let her go and not let her keep torturing herself, and everyone else around her, by trying to be something she's not. It's sad it took me this long to come to that conclusion. I can't count how many people would laugh and scoff at me for finally getting to it. But I wanted to believe. I wanted to believe in what Shokkra wanted to believe. I just wanted to support her. And she needed it, so badly, something the people that would scoff just don't care about because they can't see past their own pain to another's. The fourth oath is always the hardest to uphold. We leave soon to brace Karthok in his den. I hope we are in time to save her.
  20. Katelle found herself part of a small crowd in Stormwind, listening to the Dusk Watch dwarf. Coalitions had come and gone, even during her scant few years as General of the Empire, but the possibility of new and beneficial relationships with Alliance entities was always something the Empire had to look into. Especially now, with the final pushes against the Legion coming so close--it was folly for anyone to isolate themselves or break ties with one another. As she returned to her canal office once the gathering broke, the rogue reached out to her sister--conveniently another Path Leader in the Empire, and one who would be most interested in this opportunity on a professional level--through her guildstone. "So sis. There's a meeting I want you to join me for..."
  21. Surveying the carnage, Aetheril strode on through the aftermath. He kept sharp watch on the dead and the dying as he moved - knights of either stripe reduced to so much bloody wreckage. There was a space in the battle-priest's eyes, a distant remembrance of similar sights, back when he still called himself an Ebon Blade. His padded half-plate rattled only slightly as he walked. After a time, he came to a stop at the foot of one sorry case – a Silver Hand, some young adept whose career was cut painfully short. He was laid open at the belly, the entire scene a ghastly tableau. There were pieces, some already breaking down from the telltale corruption of unholy runes. He covered his eyes with one iron-shod hand, forcibly stilling his own breathing. Aetheril murmered something indistinct as his head was bowed. It could have been a prayer or a curse, for the scene warranted both. After a few quiet minutes, clinically examining the scene with the air of an investigator, he seemed to come to some sort of decision. The priest turned on a heel, and came striding back towards the tavern, purposely. He gave Cat a harrowed look as he passed, his gaunt face turned even more ashen than normal. Whatever terrible notion drove Aetheril, he seemed to have eliminated his options. He came back out bearing his pack, which he'd dropped at the first outbreak of violence. He didn't look at Cat on his way out, but spoke to her all the same. "The Shriven will need to know. My splinter chapter. The Brotherhood," he said, voice clipped. "Come with me. Or not. But I may have a use for you. Just know that this won't be the honorable option, but its the only one I have right now." He was blunt, and terse, and seemed to be speaking out of a distracted state. "..what do you mean?" Cat asked with a somewhat blank face, still shaken from the fight. The last living paladin was long gone, but she still felt their presence there, watching. "They're all dead. The fight is over.." she blinked a few times and turned to watch him. "You're my brother. What's not honorable about going with you?" "I mean -- what I'm about to do," he said, quietly. He'd come to a stop, and looked back at her over his shoulder. "We can't very well make contact with them directly, and risk exposure. The Brotherhood is very strict in times of crisis. I have the means to reach them even here. A ritual," he went on, his breathing slowed and his eyes looking a bit sunken. Cat checked their surroundings again. The remaining death knights, though few, tended to themselves. There were a handful of wounded knights, and they helped one another before eventually collecting the bodies of their fallen brothers and sisters. Only when she was sure there was no more danger did Cat approach Aetheril and stand beside him. "Unless you're planning on hurting anyone, do what you have to do," she said with a shrug. "There's not much that'll shock me, at this point.." He gave her a long, searching look. Finally, he met her shrug with one of his own, and sighed. "Let's get this over with, then." They both approached the dead adept, his armor -- well-appointed, perhaps newly-issued – lay rent asunder at the gut, its gleaming mirror-shine marred by the evidence of wrenching violence. Something had happened here, and wounds were seldom so hungrily gouged. There was a distinctive animal brutality that only a rune blade had the will and the malice to inflict. Muttering something indistinct, he removed his tall, wide-brimmed hat, and laid it over his heart. He then offered a momentary silence as the weight of the scene settled on them both. A ground-mist had begun to gather. Then, the silence ended abruptly. Without further ado, Aetheril dropped his pack, and began to rummage through it. As he did, Cat might've picked up the strains of another rasped incantation on his breath, perhaps a ward against evil or restless spirits. In a place as eerie as the Ghostlands, such things were a common traveller's refrain, but the priest uttered them with such haste and urgency. Finally: "I'm not very good at this," he admitted, pausing in his search. "But I must put my meager skills to the test. We're running low-to-zero contact, for your safety...and mine, come to think of it. And the Shriven Brotherhood wouldn't have it any other way." Looking paler and sunken for just an instant, he withdrew a spherical object from his backpack, wrapped in thick canvas. He undid the ties, whispered another ward, and uncovered the thing. The object was a strange silver mechanism, inlaid throughout with a shining, cyan-tinged metal. That sickly inlay – as if metal could be unwholesome! - was sinister, uniformly unsettling, and Aetheril's eyes and lips quivered with unwilling, mild fascination. And yet, his hands never touched the gleaming device directly – it was encased in a membrane of sorts, a sphere of polished dark glass or crystal. Smoky currents seemed to shift freely, obscuring and revealing the inner workings. Shaking himself awake from an unaccustomed chill, Aetheril spoke to Cat again. "This should not affect us, or so the Ebon Blade has said time-and-again. But treat it carefully. The mechanism is of saronite inlay, and a devious thing." He stood and gave it to her, hesitantly, gingerly. "Hold this for now. I will need it soon." "Uh.. o-okay.." Cat said with as much bravado as she could muster, taking thing in her hands. Despite wearing gauntlets, she seemed less than willing to let the weird thing touch here skin and held it away from herself. She did not, however, question Aetheril. Aetheril reached into his pack again, withdrawing a capped, opaque-painted vial. Delicately, he unscrewed the cap from its threads, and teased out the contents into his palm, carefully. Packed in cotton wadding, it was a wickedly sharp needle that shone with a telltale light. "The two resonate. But first must attune to the medium." He held the delicate, evil-looking thing between two fingers. Aloft, it looked to be crystalline, as if it were a pointed shard from a larger mass. And, with that green glow, undoubtedly fel in origin. "Forgive me," he sighed. Aetheril kneeled again, before the corpse. He made some esoteric gesture in the air, handling the tiny thing like a conductor's baton, carving out an unseen pattern. Then, he anointed the needle with the still-cooling blood of the corpse, going directly to the source, the terrible wound. There was no immediate reaction, but after a moment, the blood quietly bubbled and hissed on the point of the implement. "The sphere!" he demanded, quietly but urgently. He held out his free hand. "Uh... here!" Cat babbled, handing over the strange device. It was true that she wasn't shocked by his actions, but she wasn't quite sure what was happening either. Careful not to get too close, she watched as the blood bubbled, smelling the changes as they were made before her eyes. The moment the sphere touched his hand, he jerked upright where he sat, as though an electric shock had passed from one hand to the other. Aetheril grit his teeth, grimacing, before finding the will to move. Beneath the smoky glass membrane, the saronite mechanism had sprung to sluggish life, layers within layers turning and arranging in jerks and starts. "The fel, and that which issues from beyond, the blood of the Void, have a certain antipathy," he intoned, breathing deliberately, as small beads of sweat sprung up on his forehead. Aetheril spoke to keep himself distracted from the discomfort. "Where they meet, there are ripples. The mechanism issues a dissonant note, a shriek that carries through the Saronite lode...all the way to Northrend. For the blood of Yogg'Saron is one blood, one life." He then whispered another prayer, another ward, and laid the mechanism down in the open belly of the corpse, a grotesque cradle. The tremor in his hands stilled. "If one of the Brothers is on the other end," he explained, breathing his relief. "They will hear. It is a direct line through the black blood, untraceable by any ordinary magic. The reception is...difficult, however." He held the needle aloft once more. More whispers, and then his hand came down deliberately, fiercly, before reaching a jerking halt. The bloody point hung above the surface of the sphere, shaking slightly in his hand. The priest uttered a single word of power, and a film of shadow magic sheathed the needle. He releaseed his hold on it, and watched as it slowly descended of its own accord, penetrating the glass membrane without a sign of a crack or displacement. It was as though the outer layer were viscous, and the point was sinking into a layer of molasses. He snatched his hands back, like he'd touched a hot stove. Then clapping them together, he nodded once, fiercely. The mechanism within the sphere began to turn with greater speed, layers locking into place. A channel was forming, the fel needle allowed passage deeper into the heart of the device. It's sheath of conjured voidstuff remained unbroken. Cat watched the whole scene with widening eyes. This sort of magic was never her specialty, but if Aetheril was being careful, that meant something. "The Brothers," she repeated quietly. "Where were they, last? I mean, where did you see them?" "Not long after the war in Northrend," he began to answer, as his eyes remained locked on the needle's delving point. Aetheril spoke with a flat tone, entranced. Most of his attention was fixated on the device, sitting on his haunches in front of the body. "--the Brotherhood -- my order, the Shriven -- they took part in the first, doomed assault on the Broken Shore. I believe some have gone back there since. But their home, where I hope to make contact..." His eyes shuddered in their orbits, as his mind began to interface with something other. To the priest, the psychic ether grew deathly still. Even so, an unskilled onlooker might note an inexplicable sense of tension, of mounting dread, a deep-rooted aversion that might compel them to quickly leave. Aetheril was carving through the local thoughtscape with a surgeon's finesse, but to an uncertain end. Sensation in the immediate area took on a sort of waxiness, as though details were unfocused, and sight and sound slipped out-of-joint. The sound of his voice was muffled, bubbling up through the haze. "The Shadow Vault." The words were an invocation. His eyes stilled, and their pupils dialated fully. Aetheril's hands rose painfully-slow and deliberate, the air like molasses in that small clearing around the paladin's corpse. It may have been a trick of the senses, an attenuation of percieved time. Whatever the case, after a very long transition, they at last hung in space in front of him at about chest level, a blank-eyed conductor ready to lead an orchestra. "..the Shadow Vault..." Cat repeated under her breath, careful not to distract Aetheril from his task. She remembered this place well. Located in northern Icecrown, so close to the Frozen Throne that one might spit and have it land at the feet of the Lich King. The Ebon Blade took that place as a base during the campaign in Northrend, and to Cat's knowledge, still held it. Why then would the Shriven Brotherhood be there? If they disassociated themselves with the Blade? She thought back to her time there, fighting for the Horde, bits and pieces of her earliest days as a Death Knight creeping back to the front of her mind. A presence was there, too cloaked in shadow for her to remember entirely, but never gone from her past; Soleren. She briefly remembered a glimpse of his face and immediately recoiled from those thoughts. What few memories she had of him were pure dread. But then, there was no way he would be anywhere near the Shadow Vault. Was there? When Aetheril's scrying finally led him to create what looked like an illusion before him, the smaller death knight had to fight her instinct to leap back in surprise. She watched the ritual like a student, but felt that this particular sort of magic was far beyond what she was capable of. Clasping a hand over her mouth, Cat waited for Aetheril to speak with his brethren. At once, the needle found the core of the sphere, the final saronite gate aligned and locked into place. The last seal was broken. The lingering tension relieved, all at once, and a gentle, inward rush of air disturbed dead leaves. The clearing breathed with an unseen presence. Then, the scene took on a new and frightening light as Aetheril's hands began to move, swiftly and mechanically. His face glistened with cold sweat as his fingers were puppetted by some alien impulse. Droplets of blood spattered his tunic and gambeson, as the priest worked. The paladin's own steaming innards were the so-called "medium" of this method of scrying. Somewhere in the preparation, Aetheril had silently produced a fine-edged knife, and was deliberately excising and sorting the contents of the corpse's belly. Not once did his tool nick or disturb the dark sphere where it lay in the center of the mess. He didn't dare. He worked at his grisly task for several minutes, pausing at irregular intervals. At times, the light of recognition crept into his eyes, momentarily breaking the seer's-trance into which he'd fallen. Aetheril seemed more puzzled than anything else, but each time shook his head to clear it, and resumed with renewed deliberation. When he finally released a long-held breath, and wiped the knife clean, he sat surrounded by cooling remnants, an esoteric array laid in blood and offal. He struggled to his feet, turning about, surveying the results as he would any runic configuration – this one, however, was not any recognizeable language or sigil. Aetheril vacillated between confusion and peturbation, before grasping something resembling recognition.(edited) "The Vault," he explained, at last returning to life, or whatever ashen mockery passed for it. "Is not wholly under the Blade's control. Their garrison is a token one, and has been since Acherus moved. The Brotherhood has always operated within the larger hierarchy, meeting in secret in the foundations of the place, to practice their subtle arts. To the Ebon Blade, they were just another sub-Chapter, a force left to protect their holdings." Aetheril screwed up his face, trying to make sense of the confusing sensations he'd recieved during the trance. He wiped his forehead, carelessly smearing blood as he fought off confusion, and pain. "I sensed...danger. A need to flee. The Lich King's outstretched hand -- doom stalks the halls. He will know that the Shriven Brothers are faithless, that they deny him and refuse their swords. His terrible eyes pierce the veil, where the Ebon Blade was unawares. A doctrinal dispute will turn to a question of treachery." In the ruined belly of the corpse, the mechanism began to silently click, as the needle was slowly extruded from the dense and murky interior. Atheril's attention was arrested for just a moment. He shuddered. "I recieve these...feelings. Through the black blood. At the Vault, another sphere is tied directly to this one...a sort of...magical entanglement," he muttered, waving his hand absently in an attempt to simplify the picture. "What effects one will effect the other, and a psychic medium must use unorthodox means to interpret it." Aetheril rubbed his temples, and took on that same pained expression again. He seemed drained by his efforts. "I'm a poor haruspex, I'm afraid. But I reached one of the Brothers. Or a Sister? Either way, I know that they will move, soon, some directed to aid us in our time of need. The others scattered and gone to ground. I've tried to relay as much detail as I could, but it's jumbled, confused....but at least others cannot sense this. Only those who hold the spheres." "The important thing is that they're doing what they can to be safe," Cat said with a quick nod. "That's all that matters. Though I wish.." her voice faded a little as she looked around the village. The handful of surviving death knights had almost all gone, left their home abandoned, perhaps in search of a new one. Or at least in search of safety. "..I wish we could have done more, here." The mortality of their situation felt heavy. Cat was so used to death by now that entrails and blood hardly impacted her, but seeing the remains of her fellow death knights was a reminder; she was not immortal, and if this could happen to them, it could happen to anyone. "...I need to find Kreyen," she said suddenly, blue eyes focused on her brother with a painful confidence. "If he finds out what happened here, he's going to worry himself into an aneurysm. I've got to get to him before that happens." Aetheril's mouth tightened, pressed into a thin line. His features were sunken and cold, his energy spent. One eye twitched, just slightly, an absent spasm. He didn't speak for a few moments, and took the time to carefully retrieve and stow the sphere and it's fel needle. He handled these effects with utmost delicacy. "I'm not going to tell you this was a mistake," he said at last, quietly. "I think we did some good, and we need whatever allies we can get in this time. Interference. Something to throw the opposition into disarray. And I wouldn't have dared use the sphere inside the bounds of the manor." Aetheril was wringing his hands as he surveyed the carnage. The mechanism was now out of sight, cradled in its sack, and hopefully out of mind. Its lingering influence soured his stomach. The priest took a moment to swallow his rising gorge, idly surveying the carnage. "All that said...we move from goal to goal quickly and hastily. It is perhaps time that we waited, went back to ground ourselves. Hit and fade. We shouldn't assume that we are ever alone, or that we move unseen. Nor Kreyen." He breathed in through his nose, sharply. Cold eyes met hers just once, and then scanned the area. Cat pursed her lips as Aetheril spoke, his general good sense setting her course. Whatever she imagined Kreyen must have been thinking when he left didn't feel entirely right, anymore. The real world danger that awaited her, and every other death knight, wasn't a situation she knew he would want her exposed to. Frustrations about feeling trapped aside, she lowered her eyes to the ground and made a difficult decision. "..yeah. Okay. I guess.. we should probably go back, then," she muttered, touching her axe reflexively. It was satiated, for now. "We'll find him," he said, nodding sharply, a little of the tension going out of his face and voice. Aetheril cast his eyes around, but it seemed he looked for something that wasn't there. Then, speaking deliberately: "The Brotherhood will help us. This is a crisis for them, too." He wiped some of the blood from his hands as he thought this aloud, to nobody in particular. A moment later, he turned back to Cat, and carried on as normal. "We just need to regroup. I promise...if Fael hasn't already located him, we'll put our heads together and figure this out. I promised Amalyn we'd return together, and safely, after contacting our allies." Aetheril sighed, gently, sensing her reticence, her wrestling with the decision. But, at least, she'd taken his advice. No overextension. A sigh quickly turned into distracted urgency, however, and his nose wrinkled. "Help me burn the body. I can't leave him like this." Cat nodded quickly and lowered herself beside the corpse. Aetheril was usually easy to read, but his shifts in mood had her a little concerned. Was it the scrying? The way in which he tore through a corpse to get what he needed? She felt a little ashamed for not being as disgusted by the act. Having grown accustomed to not only using blood runes but eating her victims to regain strength, Cat and long since passed the point of disgust. Sliding both arms underneath the paladin, she lifted him easily into the air, limbs limply hanging down along with his entrails, and carried him toward the town's small dilapidated chapel. The graveyard was small, and may have gone forgotten for some time. However, for the death knights residing there, forgetting the dead was not an option. The few surviving death knights already had a pile of bodies going, but only for the paladins. Their own dead, they would bury. Cat lay the corpse among his brethren and took a step back, looking at the pile of bodies with a newfound sense of awe. "Thank you for helping us," said the death knight orcess from the tavern. Her voice was low and strained, as if she were having a difficult time speaking. Leftover burns on her arms faded slowly, leaving behind gray scars. Cat smiled awkwardly. "I'm sorry we couldn't get here sooner. I'm hoping nobody else tries something like this again, but.. I can't be sure. What will you do now?" The orcess shook her head slowly. "There are few of us left. We had hoped that this could be a new beginning for us, but.. now, I do not think we can stay. Not after this. No, we will go to Northrend. Regroup. After that, I do not know. What will you do, elf? You look like a fighter. Will you return to the front?" It was a difficult question to answer. The Legion was attacking, and death knights provided a necessary service to the Horde. Even if her kind were being hunted, could she ignore her duty? Cat flashed a glance at Aetheril before answering. "..eventually. For now, we regroup. Please, be careful out there," she pleaded. "I know this was a setback, but.. it was a nice place. I hope you can find another home, someday." There was a long pause in conversation as the orcess reached for a book of matches in her pocket, struck them, and dropped the little fire on to their pile of bodies. As the paladins went up in flame, she smiled sadly and nodded. Had she been alive, the orcess might have wept. "Yes. I hope so, too." Aetheril listened to the conversation, silently. He watched as the bodies burned and crackled. "I'd ask for your help," he murmered, without tearing his eyes away. "But you hardly wanted any of this." The priest swallowed a lump forming in his throat, and hesitated, as though he couldn't find the words. Finally, he shook his head and settled on an indistinct curse. The piled dead were consumed in the heat. "Such a waste." The orcess looked carefully at the priest as he stared at the rising flames. He seemed less than happy with the situation, so she reached into her pocket and pulled out a stone. It wasn't particularly interesting looking, just a plain smooth polished stone, gray in color. "Here," she said to Cat gently, handing her the rock. "Take this. We made a few for everyone who lived here. We must regroup, but in the future, if you or your friend need help, do not hesitate to call on us." A few yards away, the remaining death knights had begun shoveling. There were plenty of bodies to bury. Cat nodded and pocketed the stone. "Sure. But before that, let me help you dig," she said with another glance at Aetheril. "And then we'll go?" Aetheril furrowed his brow, looking at the stone in Cat's hand. After a moment, he nodded. He turned to the orcess one last time, before they joined the work. "If, in your travels, you come accross the sigil of the scabbard and the empty hand...know the bearer for a friend." He gave a cryptic smile, then went to find a shovel.
  22. The more things change, the more they stay the same. What a stupid platitude. And yet, the longer one lives, the more truth there seems to be in it. Also, there's nothing new under the sun. Illidan's gone out of his way to prove the first one true and the second false. Nice to see there was no redemption. Sacrificed everything, he says, and has all his little followers spouting the same. Sacrificed all the people on the world to save the rock they can no longer walk on. Hilarious. Sacrificed what? And for what exactly? Maiev and Khadgar are no doubt introducing bricks to their own faces about now, or they should be. The boy is going to be a thorn in my side. He's not that incapable, nor does he overly interfere with me, but his parents are unsurprisingly stymieing my capacity to convince him to get himself killed. I'm working on it, though. There weren't any implications. If there were, I'm the only one who made them, and I'm determined not to see them if they came from others. There's a difference between willingness to do something and actively seeking it out, hm? Sometimes there's simply no accounting for taste.
  23. I took father's book to Crowley yesterday. He accepted it with as much grace as I could expect, I guess. One door closes, like they say. Some kind of sermon was going down at the cathedral, so I stayed to listen. The words were hopeful, but there were uncomfortable echoes of things I've heard so many times before. I assumed he was just another church man. He was dressed like just another church man. Slightly more glowy and shiny, sure, but otherwise, you know, churchy, but it turned out he had his own Order and was just using the space? I guess his words were churchy, so why would they object. He left an open invitation, but I don't know. Perhaps if I find a chance to speak to him privately, but I can't just go throwing my faith behind every person who declares the Light is their guiding star. There have been so many of them, and every single one of them has failed me. At least in Dalaran, the leadership doesn't pretend to know the will of the universe. They just throw their own personal power behind whatever seems like the right thing. Figured since I had the time I would check out that Coalition group. I learned more about Alliance politics than I could ever get from the Kirin Tor, that's for sure. There were more of them than I was expecting. They're barking up the wrong tree if they think they can work with the Horde, though. It was a good question to ask, if it was okay to be neutral, but how is that legitimate while they're being led by someone who makes it her mission to torture the dead, our dead. There are enough organizations fighting the Legion. If everyone at that table wants to help fight demons so badly, they can go join any one of those gangs. The Kirin Tor are bad enough, just letting anyone walk through the doors. I get to talk with Horde all day if I want. Why would I want to here? If anyone should be drawing lines in the sand, it's the Alliance. But people do what people do. See how it goes, huh.
  24. Full Name: Querelle Townsend Nicknames: Q, Squirrel (don't ask) Date of Birth: October 2 Age: Late 20s Race: Human Gender: Female Hair: Red (probably dyed, not quite natural at any rate) Skin: Brown-ish Eyes: Brown Height: Slightly shorter than average Weight: Slightly heavier than average Place of Residence: Dalaran Place of Birth: Lordaeron Known Relatives: M______ Townsend (father - deceased) A_____ Townsend (mother - deceased) Religion/Philosophy: On the surface, she follows the Light and she's 100% anti-demon, but there's something darker and more self-absorbed underneath. She's not particularly pious. Occupation: Mage Group/Guild affiliation: Kirin Tor Enemies: -tbd- Likes: Magic, intellect, reading, dark humor, wit, sarcasm, confidence bordering on arrogance. Favorite Foods: Chocolate. Dark. The blackest of the black. Extra bitter. Should only be used for cooking. Favorite Drinks: Chocolate. Dark. The blackest of the black. Extra bitter. If moderately pushed to drink alcohol, she'll choose whatever is the most like dessert. Favorite Colors: Blue and blue variants. Weapons of Choice: Staves. Dislikes: Elves. It runs deep with her. Horde. She's a good Alliance soldier. Also dirt, and humility. Hobbies: Magical theory and analysis, applied magic, needlework, the worst kind of novels Physical Features: She's a little soft all over. While she likes walking, she's a wizard, not an athlete. Special Abilities: -tbd- Positive Personality Traits: Curious, intelligent, finds humor in everything Negative Personality Traits: Hypercritical, judgmental, sarcastic, vicious, bigoted Misc. Quirks: -tbd- Played by What Famous Person: -tbd- Theme Songs: Ain't It Fun - Paramore Stupid Girls - Pink Hurricane - MS MR History: Querelle was born in Lordaeron during the trouble between the First and Second Wars. Her mother was killed when she was quite young. Her father turned to work as an executioner, and as a result of his employment, both of them were socially shunned. Querelle hardly seemed to notice. She grew up unintentionally reclusive, finding joy, excitement, and interest in books rather than people, but less because of particular negative experiences than because she never really understood or cared to find out why most people crossed the street when they encountered her and her father. Querelle's father, who had an understandably bleak outlook after the loss of her mother, shaped a great deal of Querelle's mindset, fostering her dark sense of humor. When the Scarlet Crusade formed to fight the Scourge, her father signed up immediately, taking the teenage Querelle with him. She worked quite happily alongside them, oblivious to the demonic influences within that organization and the subsequent Onslaught. When her father lost his life in Northrend, Querelle was disillusioned with how predictably Scarlet events turned out, but disappointed that its true mission had been effectively eradicated. She turned to Dalaran for stability rather than fulfillment. While they were reticent to take her in at first, she's spent long enough without showing signs of falling to corruption and she works with them to this day.
  25. Full Name: Sanjay, Sandor Redjay Nicknames: San, Desert Wind Date of Birth: May 21 Age: 35 Race: Stormwind Human Gender: Male Sexuality: Heterosexual Hair: Black, shaved head, long beard Skin: Dark brown Eyes: Dark Brown Height: 6' Weight: 210 lbs Place of residence: The Wandering Isle Place of Birth: Redridge Known Relatives: None Religion/Philosophy: Pandaren Spirituality Occupation: Monk of the Jade Serpent, Former Military Doctor Group/Guild affiliation: Twilight Empire Enemies: The Sha, Mantid, Cultists of the Old Gods and the Black Empire Likes: Physical and spiritual exercise, the smell of incense, the sea, snakes Favorite Foods: Cinnamon ginger snap cookies Favorite Drinks: Black coffee Favorite Colors: Green Weapons of Choice: Staff, fists Dislikes: Fighting, hypermasculinity, the color red Hobbies: Researching medicine, brewing tea, mixing coffee Physical Features: Large, muscular build. Dark skin and black hair. Shaved head and long, thick beard. Dark brown eyes, thick and bushy eyebrows. Scar over right eyebrow. Multiple surgery scars at the small of his back. Special Abilities: Healing mists channeled through his staff and body. Physical excellence at its peak, as with all Pandaren monks. Spiritually in-tune, and able to commune with spirits and cleanse bodies possessed with dark spirits. Incredibly fast runner, and has high stamina to boot. Positive Personality Traits: Supportive and caring, always looking out for people even if he can’t always express his emotions clearly. Reliable and rarely loses his patience. Devoted to those he cares for. An imaginative thinker, always observant to details and finds solutions by piecing together these details into a fuller picture. Avoids jumping to conclusions, and keeps up hope by searching for new solutions even when all seems hopeless. Acts enthusiastically toward his goals, and remains loyal to his cause, working hard to achieve them. Trained in many practical skills, as is his preference. Negative Personality Traits: Humble and shy, slow to voice his own opinion. Takes criticism highly personally and tries to correct himself to extremes. Though able to take care of others, he lacks the same care for himself. Slow to change his opinion. Even if he is wrong, he never sees anything black and white enough to admit his path is completely wrong. Highly altruistic, to the point he can forgive those who want to kill him or hurt people he cares about. Sticks to his code of non-aggression to the point of absurdity. History: Born to an illustrious Stormwind military family in Redridge, Sandor Firejay was destined for a life of military service at the insistence of his father, Sandor Sr. During the conflict with the orcs of Orgrimmar, the night elves of Ashenvale called on their new Alliance partners, the humans of Stormwind. Sandor served in a battle in Ashenvale against the Warsong Raiders as a combat medic, having already shown an aptitude for medicine. During the battle, a cannonball shattered his spine, leaving him paralyzed and incapable of continuing his military service. Drifting from his disappointed family, Sandor pursued his medical degree in Stormwind, often held back by his confinement in a wheelchair. After many years of hardships and isolation, Sandor earned his doctorate. Then, he shifted his focus to repairing his body. He investigated hundreds of claims from doctors, surgeons, physicians, magical healers, and spiritualists the world over to try and repair his paralysis, but all of them proved to be unable to repair his broken back. Still dissatisfied with his life, Sandor began using his inherited wealth to pursue selfish luxury and pleasure. His father confronted him and warned him to stop wasting his life and his family’s hard-earned wealth, but Sandor told the man off angrily and bitterly. The disappointed Sandor Sr. departed, cutting his son off from the family and the remainder of his inheritance. After the mists lifted from Pandaria, Sandor half-heartedly travelled there with what was left of his wealth. Upon arriving, he found himself captivated with the beauty of the land, and enamored with the philosophy and lifestyles of the people. He spent the next few years training to repair his broken spirit, and upon lifting his downtrodden haze, he found his body responded, and he slowly regained the use of his legs, and dedicated himself to the preservation of the land that had granted his rejuvenation. He continued his training as a monk until he reached physical perfection and learned the healing arts of the serpent and crane styles. Now imbued with new power, having cleansed his spirit, restoring his body, and reaching new heights as a healer, Sandor cast aside the past that had embittered him so he would never be dragged down by it again. He cast aside all he had from his past, his possessions, his wealth, and his name. He took on the name Sanjay, and his new title of Desert Wind. With this new identity, he roamed the world to spread a philosophy of balance, peace, non-aggression, and spiritual purity.
  26. "Love... your eyes... they're violet!" My wife exclaimed. "Hrm?" I wondered. "They are violet, like mine! It happened last night!" I was pretty happy about this. I've *always* been envious of my wife's violet eyes. They're quite perfect. "My word. But how?" "I think it was your fel experience. Your eyes started blue, they became fel tainted, but you overcame it. The mix of High Elf and fel made them violet!" I looked upon the violet city of Dalaran with a new set of eyes that day.
  27. Qabian arranged for the child to meet him by the statue of Antonidas again. The mage was wearing blue this time, no longer opting for the extremely plain robes and no longer wearing a mask about town, but still refraining from the level of ostentatious that was his usual preference. He also continued to keep his hired Kirin Tor watching the street. Punctual as usual, Damian arrived in what looked like well-crafted black pants and a white tunic cinched by a leather belt. He was dressed modestly, for someone from such a well off family, but it seemed as if there was an effort being made to ignore that. His curly white hair seened recently trimmed, but still wouldn't lie flat against his head. Slung over one shoulder was a leather satchel, where he stored his notebook, quill, several reference books and, at his mother's insistence, a first aid kit. "Sir," he said politely to the magister, bowing his head respectfully. Qabian smirked at the child's approach. Something about the white tunic and curls was bringing the innocence to slaughter metaphor into sharp relief. "Young master." Qabian offered a curt nod. "How have you been finding the city? Had the opportunity to visit any libraries yet?" "Yes sir," Damian answered with a nod. "I've been studying fire elementals and the War of the Three Hammers." Qabian tilted his head slightly. "What drew you to those subjects?" "My mother has a staff from the Firelands. It's very old and powerful," the boy explained. "She said that if you find things like that, it's important to know their origin so you can use it. If you don't, you might wind up using it incorrectly. I'd like to go to the Firelands, someday." There was a hint of a smile on his face as he said this. "She's not entirely wrong. We could go there right now, but... not today, I suppose." Qabian shrugged, smirking unpleasantly. "Do you know who this is?" The mage gestured to the statue beside him. Damian shook his head slowly. "No, sir." Qabian raised an eyebrow. "His name was Antonidas. He led the Kirin Tor for most of its recent history. Human. Of course." Qabian's tone was bitter. "A child prodigy. I suppose he's meant to be a testament to what such a child can become." He looked pointedly at Damian as he spoke. "Jaina was one of his apprentices. He was, amusingly, ultimately killed by Jaina's own pet Arthas when the Scourge ransacked this very city. There is one reason and one reason only why this man's spirit does not still haunt this place. Can you imagine what that might be?" "Was.. his spirit freed by Prince Kael'thas? I remember reading about that," Damian said quickly. "There were a few spirits left, and his was one of them. The Prince freed him." "Precisely. Kael'thas," Qabian hissed. "If it weren't for Kael'thas, if it weren't for us, if it weren't for me, Jaina's precious old man would still be fighting nightmares long since dead. And she had the audacity to try and erase us from this city?" Qabian spat on the small plaque in front of the statue. "They would have been devoured by the Legion before even learning how to light candles if it weren't for us. We should have let it happen." Qabian took a deep breath, stifling the more obvious edge to his anger. "But here we are. Again. Do you want to see what they're hiding in that tower?" He gestured towards the Violet Citadel. Damian looked toward the tower, his brow furrowed in thought. Throughout the rant, he took mental notes; both on Qabian's words, and his candor. " that allowed?" Qabian nodded. "If you're my apprentice. However, there are no stairs or doors. There's only one way in." He smiled, an oddly incongruous expression, and opened a portal. There was an obvious amount of thought that went into Damian's decision making. Staring at the portal, he seemed to be going over his options. Go through the portal and risk his emotionally unstable mentor throwing him off a cliff? Trust him not to murder him at the first opportunity. The boy put a hand against his bag and held it close to himself, then walked through the portal. Qabian's smirk stretched into a grin at the child's reticence. Smart kid, considering all that had been said in his presence. The question of why the portal didn't simply open over old Dalaran's crevasse went unanswered, though, as both mage and apprentice stepped from the portal into a open foyer. In front of them was a large fountain where two statues that looked not unlike the one they had just left stood holding glittering staves over an eternally overflowing vessel. The unblinking eye of the Kirin Tor featured prominently in the decor around the high-ceilinged hall, and the walls were covered with so many extravagantly framed paintings -- many of them portraits that seemed to move -- and stone busts of mages past that the stonework behind them was difficult to see. Books and scrolls lay about haphazardly on almost every surface. Mages of all races went about their business, some walking by casually while chatting in pairs, others alone but rushing quickly from one place to another, thoughtlessly interspersing their quick jogging pace with shimmering blinks across the space ahead of them. Conspicuously absent was any sign of children whatsoever. "This is the Hall of the Guardian. The books are up those stairs behind the fountain, but I doubt we'll get to those today. Follow me," Qabian explained, turning to his left towards a set of stairs curving slightly downward. Damian followed Qabian closely, careful not to let himself be distracted by all of the sights and sounds. He was curious, but understood the price of curiosity. Qabian led the boy through a hall where several mages were casting spells at large constructs of floating shields and weapons surrounding shimmering blue crystals. "These are for training. Again, we may get to them later." He moved to the back of the room where against every wall were desks and benches cluttered with books and scrolls. The space was surprisingly quiet, despite the chaos of the practical spellcasting training that flashed behind them. He smiled strangely as he gestured to the room and the mages working there. "Almost everyone here is an apprentice like you." Qabian approached an empty space at a bench and disdainfully moved a steaming mug of something someone had left behind to one side. "Now tell me," he said quietly to the boy. "How are your demons treating you since you arrived?" "They've been quiet. Mostly," he answered awkwardly, shifting from one foot to the other. It was clear that this was a subject Damian was not comfortable with. "Usually the demons that talked to me were my mother's, but sometimes I heard voices. Since I came here I haven't heard them unless I walked too close to that sewer that leads to the Dreadscar Rift. They don't really say much, unless I'm in trouble or they're trying to help me with something." Qabian tilted his head slightly as he listened to the boy's explanation. "Curious. I had thought perhaps because this place is far closer to a great deal more Legion activity than Quel'thalas that there would have been a significant increase in their demands on your mind, but it seems they only bother with you when they have reason?" Qabian shrugged. "Do you want to fix that, to stop them, or at least look into and experiment with stopping them? Or are you fine with the way things are?" "How would I stop them completely?" The boy asked cautiously, tilting his head. "Is that possible?" "It's difficult to know without looking further into the details and causes of why and how you hear them in the first place, but I'm sure you can imagine given magic's tendency to provoke the Legion that we have people who specialize in defending against just that sort of thing. It's not my specialty, but there are people I could ask. You might not like how such research turns out, though, as it would be... experimental at best," Qabian explained. The tone of his voice sounded sincere, but there was something not quite right about the offer. "Experimental?" Damian repeated. Qabian's tone wasn't lost on him. He knew better than to believe the magister had his best interest at heart, but if he was going to make good on his promise, he couldn't allow himself to be afraid of the outcome. "I don't mind. I'm not afraid. My mother is a warlock, but that's not what I want to do." Qabian smirked slyly. "Good. You know the line between mages and warlocks may not be as clear as some assume. Have you heard of the Empyrean Society?" Qabian glanced sideways as he dropped the name. Damian shook his head. "No. Never. Are they.. a hybrid class sort?" "They are mages, for now, but they believe that the study of magic should not be limited. They work with shadow and fel magic as well as elemental and arcane." Qabian looked upward thoughtfully. "I wonder if they bother with light. I doubt it. Too philosophical, not enough power in it for them," he mused. "The Kirin Tor disagrees entirely with that philosphy, however, and they are not on good terms. Mages opening themselves up to working with fel magic generally aren't approved of in the current climate." He kept his voice low. The boy eyed Qabian, then looked around them. They were surrounded by others, but those others seemed too distracted by their own work to pay much attention to the red haired magister and his apprentice. "..I didn't think we'd be breaking the rules on the very first day," he admitted, then smiled a little. "But if you can do it all, why wouldn't you?" Qabian finally bothered to sit down in one of the wooden chairs before the bench and leaned back, steepling his fingers. "Perhaps if I had ever felt that I reached my limit, I would consider expanding those particular horizons, but I don't need to do it all. I resist reaching into frost as it is. Moving beyond that... certainly isn't worth the risks. I have so much farther to go with the arcane. I'm a good, pure mage." He smirked horribly. "But if you ever start to feel limited? They're out there. You'll just have to, yes, break the rules, if that's something you want." "For now, I want to learn," Damian said with a determined frown. "I can ignore the demons. They're noisy, but I know what it is they're trying to do. They did the same thing to my mother and I know that eventually, she'll be corrupted by it. My uncle became an Illidari. He has to cover himself in tattoos just to control it. That's not what I want." Qabian nodded, a hand on his chin. "Hmm. Can you speak Common?" "Not fluently," Damian admitted a little shamefully. "But Steinburg taught me basic stuff. I can understand most of it." "That's good enough. Filthy language, but it will widen the options for who I can go to for help." He sat forward and straightened his robes. "Now what do you know about the Guardian this place is named after?" "I didn't know it was named after a particular guardian.. I know about the guardians Aegwynn, and Medivh." "You are correct. Although it could have been named after the first," Qabian said with a glance toward the stairwell, "I believe this Hall is simply named after the role rather than any individual, and seeing as there can only be one at any given time... The Guardian. But what do you know of the role, or of those two you mentioned?" "I know the Kirin Tor appointed a guardian," Damian began slowly, looking up as he recited. " He or she is supposed to protect the realm. They can't refuse the King if summoned. The King of Stormwind, that is.. Medivh was a guardian, but he was corrupted by the fel. He's responsible for the orcs coming here. His mother, Aegwynn, served for almost five hundred years before him." Qabian raised an eyebrow. "You've had some curious instruction. Have you heard of the Council of Tirisfal? Do you know why a Guardian was ever needed?" Damian smiled a little. "Steinburg told me. Since he's human, he knows stuff from both sides. The Council of Tirisfal is supposed to elect the Guardian. They selected a guardian to protect Azeroth against demons." Qabian steepled his fingers again. "I suspect he was wrong on many things. We made the Guardian, you and I, our people. It is only of the Kirin Tor in as much as it was Dalaran that caused a need for such a thing. A bunch of barbarians from Arathor thought they could toy with magic, and when the streets of their city inevitably filled with demons, they begged us for help. Silvermoon needed to step in and prevent them from setting their own hair on fire, prevent them from repeating the Highborne's mistakes that we already knew about and they blundered into like thoughtless morons. The Guardian was our attempt at helping them keep themselves from falling down the stairs like the infants they are." Qabian looked around the hall with an expression of disdain. "All these people, all these races, they've all forgotten that, of course. This would all have fallen apart at its inception, the world would have been eaten the moment humans touched magic, had it not been for us. They benefit from what is ours while never acknowledging who it actually belongs to." Damian cocked his head to one side at the explanation. "..but.. we're still a part of it all. They can't deny that, right? And why would they want to? We'll always be better at this than they are. It's what we're made of." Qabian grinned. "Exactly." His grin faded instantly. "But go down to the bottom of this tower and see who is watching the streets, see who owns this city. It would not exist without us, but they are trying to erase us. We are still a part of it, yes, for now, but we have been pushed to the side and all but forgotten by the arrogance of those who owe us everything. And every high elf who keeps their eyes blue, who refuses to touch the fel, who refuses to rename themselves after the blood of those we lost, is nothing but the worst kind of traitor." That sentence turned low and angry as the mage glared at the floor, but he suddenly straightened up in his chair and turned his focus back to the boy. "You're very young to inquire about this, but we've touched on the subject before. Have you killed?" The boy shook his head slowly. He turned to look back at Qabian, pushing the fear of what he might have had in mind deep into the pit of his stomach. There was no time for fear or apprehension, now. "No." Qabian tilted his head with a sly smirk. "Really now? I know, or at least have made the deduction that you haven't killed a person. That's perfectly reasonable at your age. I'd be somewhat suspicious if you had, to be honest. But have you ever killed anything? Small creatures? Insects? A plant?" "..a plant?" He repeated, blinking a few times. "I.. guess maybe a plant? No animals that I can think of, though.. we don't kill our own meat, and my mother only gardens flowers. I've never really had any pets." Qabian laughed. "While I might advocate having pets for the purpose of killing them, it does sound counterintuitive. But it does strike me as odd that you might have never swatted an insect. If I recall my youth correctly, which it's quite possible I do not, boys your age frequently pulled the wings off flies and set fire to anthills." He stood from his chair and moved toward the balcony behind the training constructs. "Perhaps creatures are where we should start then. I've seen you take on stationary objects with fire. How's your accuracy with moving targets?" "It's been getting better," Damian answered quickly, following the magister closely behind. "Steinburg taught me how to shoot projectiles at clay disks. He has this machine that shoots them. He said usually, humans and dwarves use them for shooting guns but taught me to shoot fire at them instead." Qabian pushed one of the tables around the balcony to one side and stood at the railing, looking out over the city of Dalaran far below. The Hall was a curious place. From the city, it couldn't be seen, but from inside, the city was clearly visible. "There aren't many birds up here, but a few find their way and think it's ideal for nesting." He glanced upwards. "Provided the fel bats aren't around. If you see one, kill it. In the meantime, do you have any questions?" Damian chewed on the inside of his cheek. "..I'm killing birds? For how long?" Qabian smirked. "Start with one." The boy turned toward the balcony, furrowing his brow as he considered his assignment. He wasn't happy with the idea of killing innocent birds, but if they were making nests where they didn't belong, there wasn't much else anyone could do besides waste time removing them. Focusing on a bird that flew in front of them both, Damian waited until it was close enough that he could see its eyes. Only then did he point a finger in its direction and send a small ball of fire zooming toward the creature, engulfing it with flames for a moment before it fell blackened to the ground. Qabian watched the charred bird fall. It was a long way down. "Good. How do you feel?" Damian shrugged, but took a moment to reply. "..I don't know. Bored?" Qabian chuckled. "That bird's eggs will grow cold and never hatch. Or perhaps they've already hatched and the babies will starve now. Or perhaps its mate will wait for a return that will never happen. Did you consider any of that?" There was a moment where it seemed as if Damian considered his actions a little deeper. Perhaps even felt remorse. That moment passed quickly. "..they're just birds, though. Someone would have killed them, anyway." Qabian smirked. "Doubtful. No one cares about them much. Except us. Today. They would have lived out their lives, enjoying each other's company and the breeze, until they grew old and died, just as we do. But your capacity to move past empathy is something that will help you a great deal. Best to practice it when you can." "Yes sir," Damian said quietly, looking toward the sky again. A few more birds flew past them, carefree. "That and hitting a small moving target is no easy feat for a mage who spends more time with books than on the field. Well done. Do it again." Qabian clasped his hands behind his back as he waited for another bird to pass. "You mentioned the Dreadscar Rift. I know... nothing of it, other than that it exists, but have you been into the city's Underbelly?" "Once, with my mother," he admitted, eyeing another bird. As it flew close enough for him to see the its eyes clearly, the boy fired another blast of fire and let its blackened corpse fall to the ground. "It smells bad. There's a black market, there, and people fight. Mother didn't take me down there for very long. She just wanted to show me where the portal was." "Good shot. You may stop now if you wish." Qabian smiled unpleasantly. "Why did she want to show you the portal?" "The Black Harvest," he explained nonchalantly. "She told me that if.. something ever happened to her, and then I decide later that I want to learn from them, I should go there." Qabian grimaced. "I wouldn't recommend it, but I suppose if something happens to her before you deal with your own demon issues, it's only practical. The Kirin Tor and Tirisfalen have plenty of experience separating magic users from demons that would suggest going instead towards further demonic interaction is thoroughly unnecessary, but perhaps there's more going on with you and your mother than the ordinary seduction of power." Qabian shrugged. "She left instructions that you're not to leave the city, but she doesn't mind you going into the sewers?" he inquired. "Only with her," Damian corrected. "But if something happens to her and father, then yes, I guess I'd have to go by myself." Qabian scowled as he looked out over the city. "They're certainly doing their best to make it so that teaching you would both far simpler and far more interesting for you if both of them were dead." He turned back towards the Hall. "Is there anything particular you wish to learn?" Damian nodded quickly. "I want to learn how to really feel the magic that we use. I know I don't feel it yet, it doesn't feel like anything. Just what I'm made of, and it comes to the surface, but when I read about the best mages they all talk about this sort of.. I guess knowledge. Of the universe. That they feel from the inside, and it gives them this sort of power and understanding that others don't have." Qabian grinned. "Just what you're made of." He looked down at the boy. "That is the universe. Everyone else in here," he motioned to the hall and the other mages in it, "is made of dirt. You are made of magic. They all have to work and work and work, study and study and study, toiling their whole lives just to be able to do what you can do without a second thought. It's possible you will never feel it because you are it. You can't know it's a gift if you had it the day you were born. How can you know how good it is to breathe when you have never known what it's like to drown? But... I think I understand. You want more than you've known thus far. You want to at least know where everything else is. You want to see where the door opens to everything you haven't seen yet. You want the books that rip away the veil between you and phenomenal cosmic powers. Am I right?" Damian shrugged, a little embarrassed. He understood that what he was asking for might have seemed ridiculous, or at least that's why he kept it to himself."...yes." "It would be so much easier to show you that, or at least an easily tasted facet of it, if we could leave this bubble of a city. Karazhan, Ulduar, the elemental planes, the Tomb under this very city..." Qabian sighed. "But you can find smaller steps, echoes, hiding here in the books. The tomes that would do it for you instantly are not so easy to get even my hands on. But you were on the right track with your study of the elementals and the dwarf wars. Keep going further. Find what you can on the Firelands themselves. I recommend adding anything you can find on the Council of Tirisfal to your search. Khadgar is who he is because of Medivh. All of them are who they are because of Silvermoon." The towheaded boy nodded obediently. That he was being assigned to read more books didn't seem to put him off. Rather, the subject itself seemed to invigorate him. "Yes sir. I'll do that." "Good. I have other places to be," Qabian said. "I'd just leave you up here to do what you like, but given that there's no exit, I think your mother would worry about you and we should head back down, hm?" Damian looked around them for a moment, then down from the balcony. "Yes sir. I'll study for the rest of the day." Qabian nodded and opened a portal back to the city below.
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