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  1. Yesterday
  2. Julilee

    Death of a Phoenix

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

    Death of a Phoenix

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

    Death of a Phoenix

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

    Death of a Phoenix

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

    Death of a Phoenix

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

    Death of a Phoenix

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

    Death of a Phoenix

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

    An End to Summer

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

    Vilmah's Journal - Volume 2

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

    Business Trip

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

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

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

    Vilmah's Journal - Volume 2

    Looks like we'll be working with Andorhal in the near future. I'm sending the Colonel a few men to start things off, and it's a good feeling knowing that we have just the kind of people we need for this sort of mission. I'm being noticeably vague, just in case. If I ever read this in the future, know, future me, that I did this for a good reason. Besides, I'm sure you can figure out what it is I'm talking about. You're me, after all. It turns out my father decided to try and communicate with me through my necklace. Lucky for me, I have a shaman to help guide me through this realm of ghosts and anger. My mother never get a proper burial in Hammerfall. He never told me that while I was alive. I shouldn't have assumed they would have treated us with any kind of respect, but, her spirit is still there, and it's a warfront now. Garinth said he'd go and try to find where she might have been buried. Hopefully he'll have better luck than the ones who looked for her before, if they even looked at all.. but he took some of my blood with him, so. We'll see. She's a Frostwolf. This is part of his responsibility as one of our shaman to do right by the clan. I keep telling myself that, but I want to be there. No wonder I've been chomping at the bit to get to that warfront. My father must have been trying to reach me through my necklace for weeks now, and I had no idea. Makes me wonder what else he kept from me.
  19. Qabian

    Time Shattered

    What... have we done? I have never seen such... So much... These islands bore me, but Azshara's voice is audible here as it was on the other Isles. I do not fear what she will do. I fear what she will fail to do. I fear she will become just another setback that we will overcome, when the history she holds should mean so much more. History becomes meaningless in the face of the Bronze and the Titans. They strip the value from our stories and endeavor to make us worthless. They will succeed if we do not hold them at bay. Alphaeus asked if I had ever done anything selfless in my life. My immediate response, and the correct one, was an obvious no. But then it occurred to me, and because I enjoy the sound of my own voice, I even revealed that I have evidence to the contrary. Perhaps it is a singular event. No, not entirely singular, but definitely rare. I am capable of selflessness, but if you want it from me, you have to earn it by doing something that means a great deal to me and absolutely nothing to anyone else. In the grand scheme of things, I am capable of no such thing. I have no need for selflessness under the Mandate. The Mandate encompasses my self and every narcissistic action I take furthers its impossible cause. It is best not to dwell on stolen moments that suggest I have the capacity for any real sacrifice. I know that what matters most to me is my self, so I had pieces of me carved away, my ear, my name. But knowing that hardly seemed enough, I tried and failed to do more at the time. In the many months since, I think I have done enough, and look forward to earning that future place of respect without continued sacrifice. But to suggest that anything could matter to me more than I do is heresy of the highest order. Isn't it?
  20. Tahzani

    Business Trip

    When the first bottle had been removed from an unnaturally deep pocket in his robes, the guards had whistled and laughed about their good fortune. By the twentieth, the amusement had turned into utter disbelief. They would never understand the sheer weight he suffered under to exceed expectations. Piece by piece they stripped him of everything he had. When he had nothing left, not even simple cloth to protect his dignity they made him choose what they would return. For the hoard of "evidence" they had collected from him, they were feeling generous. They told him it was the peak of generosity towards exiles when they made him choose. Water and rations that could be stretched out for a long weekend, the clothes on his back, and a handful of personal items were all that they allowed him. The weight of the punishment made up for the lack of material as he trudged along with a score of other trolls out of the city with his hands shackled tightly in front of him. Several days were spent in a forced ride and trudge. Every few hours the prisoners were rotated between the cramped, wheeled cage pulled by the great, horned lizard and the line of walking prisoners behind it. The fires of rebellion still burned among the prisoners as they muttered, hissed, and swore revenge. He felt subdued and tired, even as the others hissed and spat all he could manage was to put one foot in front of the other. When their path brushed the border to the misty swamp, all protest died in their throats. The prisoners became as silent as the stone-faced guards, mutually fearful of alerting what hid in the muck and vapor. One troll in the group only had just enough strength to make it to the land of their exile and no further. The old man had begun falling into coughing fits a few days out of the city and only grew worse when they passed through Nazmir. The hacking sounds only grew rougher and wetter with every day they spent on the journey. When his feet touched the sands of the outskirts, his debt to the empire was officially paid. The old man fell to the ground, hacking and gasping for air as he dragged the line to a halt. The guards watched him with a hint of annoyance at the delay but made no movement to help him back to his feet. When the coughing stopped, they removed the old man's limp body from the line and shouted for the rest of the prisoners to continue onward. Tahzani kept his eyes on the ground, terrified of staring into the empty eyes of the lucky man who had avoided the future hardship. ---------------------- His mind was a jumbled mess when a rough shake forced him into consciousness. HIs head ached horribly and only one eye could see the star-filled night sky. His irritant had stooped beside him in the darkness to rouse him for reasons he could not comprehend. He had no recollection of going to sleep on the sand. The memories slowly tumbled back to the forefront of his mind as the man's unintelligible words reached his ears. They had been released by the guards and given their final sentence. They were to remain in Vol'dun for the rest of their days. To be seen by soldiers of the Zandalari anywhere else was grounds for execution. Their choice of how to live the rest of their lives was the one mercy granted to them for their crimes against the King and his Empire. With their duty fulfilled, the guards turned and rode away. In their exhausted stupor, the first troll to begin moving was quietly declared the leader and the rest of the mob shuffled after him. The path of exile had been tread and obliterated by the shifting sands countless times but after so many years and prisoners, a semblance of permanence had been worn into the earth. They followed that line, silent save for a handful of murmured conversations. The sun had begun to set when they found the first camp established along the trail worn by the exiles. It was little more than a firepit ringed with sandstone in a shallow pit of land protected from the sun and wind by two shards of stone jutting out from the earth like crooked, crossed teeth. He greeted the sight with a sigh of relief. The troll behind him had greeted it by striking Tahzani in the back of the head. " Ya took something sentimental didn't ya?" The troll in his blindspot rumbled in cracked voice, roughened by thirst. " Didn't think it would make ya target, richmon?" Tahzani's response could not even make it past his swollen, dry tongue. " Musta been a thief...Or caught in bed wit de wrong mon's mate. These men, they be here for much worse. While ya took what ya needed to comfort yaself, they took what they needed to conquer. Ya keepsakes didn't protect ya much from a good cudgel, did they?" Tahzani finally turned enough to get a look at the troll speaking to him, realizing with relief that his eye had swollen shut from the blow. The Zandalari had pale, nearly white skin and short hair. The rags of a poor man covered his chest and legs, a rope had been tied around his waist as a makeshift holder for the dull saber on his hip. " Who... Be ya?" The bartender finally managed before coughing painfully through a closed throat. " Name best be forgotten, but ya can call me Dock." " Aight Dock... Why ya botherin' ta talk ta me about dis?" " Came ta check an' see if ya had died yet an' get first dibs on ya clothes. Found ya still breathing so I felt neighborly." Tahzani coughed and gasped through a dry throat several times before he was able to control himself. Dock continued to speak, undeterred by the conversation turning one sided again. " If I was you, I would wake up before the rest. If ya feeling brave, steal it all back while they sleep. Either way, get out before they decide that the noise ya make when they hit ya be funny. Or that the meat on ya bones be enough for them when they go hungry in a few days. Lotta people lose it out here." Tahzani pushed himself up out of the sand an released a breath. They had left him where he had fallen after the initial assault, outside the light of the fire and far away from its warmth. He wrapped his arms tightly around his chest and let out a shuddering curse. The night air was frigid and sucked the warmth from deep within. The harness had been enough for the heat of the port, here, he cursed his choices. The other exiles had formed into clusters, the largest and the most heavily armed were allowed the luxury of the fire while the others huddled together for warmth outside of the ring of bodies. The anger he should have felt at their arrogance found no space to build in his throbbing skull. There was no use waiting for morning. " Ain't nothin' fah me heah..." He choked out before looking towards the sky. The north star was enough to give him a sense of direction. He turned south. Dock did not rise from his seated position and followed the bartender's wobbly gait with his eyes. " Where ya goin' richmon?" " South. Ah know enough about dis place ta know dat be where de coast is." " And?" " An' i'm goin' there." " Ya not leavin' Vol'dun in a rowboat, mon." Tahzani bit back his first response and simply exhaled through his nose. " It be a slim chance. But if dey lettin' de Horde in heah, ah know dey gonna be expandin' operations ta all reaches a de island. Ah make it ta de watah, ah might be able ta find a way out. It be eithah dat or die in the sands." He began walking. Every step took him further and further away from the light and noise of the other exiles. " Won't be de sun dat kills ya at night, richmon." Dock warned him, falling in step with him a few moments later. " The sun will roast ya alive but the night sky will suck all feelin' out of you. Freezin' ta death is no better." " Ah didn't take keepsakes." Tahzani's hand shook from the cold as he reached into the abnormally deep pockets of his apron. The thieves had taken what they had felt on the surface, but they had not found where he had hidden the important items. He withdrew a heavy bottle made of obsidian glass from his pocket and twisted the cork until it popped out, releasing a smoky, pungent scent. The paler troll wrinkled his nose. " Liquor? Ya took -liquor-?" " Need watah... But you'd be surprised what even a sip a dis can do against a chill." Tahzani muttered before withdrawing one significantly smaller sewn waterskin, the remains of his water ration from the death march. He pursed his lips and took one last slug from it before he fit the mouths of the containers together. His hands were shaking badly enough to slop the liquor onto the sands as he mixed the two without precision. " Ya realize it does not actually warm ya up, right?" " ...Lemme tell ya about a fun place called Blackrock Mountain an' a drink named aftah a royal asshole." In the relative darkness of the dunes, a single spot of flame sprang to life. It burned just long enough and bright enough to illuminate the Zandalari's look of disbelief.
  21. Magister Vathelan Frostwhisper made his slow march through the wartorn port, his eyes scanned the devastation as he made his way to the Infirmary. The entire area looked as it had been through a hurricane of Shadow and Fel. The winds from the sea helped to illustrate this further. He calculated the estimated property damage against the last numbers he had seen on the market value for resources required-- numbers that had been rising ever higher since this war had began. The gusts buffeted the Magister as he continued his stroll, straining his already damaged and worn attire he had insisted on wearing. To say that the costs accrued from this conflict would be significant was… quite the understatement, potentially insulting even. As he neared the doorstep of the infirmary a particularly strong gale proved rough enough to rip one of the weaker buttons from its place, the robe flapping in the wind as a cloak more than its intended purpose-- revealing the paler grey-blue undershirt that hugged his swimmer’s form. And as he stood at the precipice of the doorway into his destination, he found himself faltering for a moment. Doubts and fear lingered between him and this glimmer of hope. What if Miss Cat was mistaken? What if what he had done wasn’t enough to impress her, making this a waste of everyone’s time while the threat of oblivion loomed over all their heads? His head hung low as he contemplated what he had hoped to achieve. Behind him he could hear Kirital closing the gap. With his eyes closed he took a breath. No, there was still Hope. He had to remind himself, he could help them; that was the very reason he stood here. He only needed to convince them. But that is the problem... “Vathelan?” “I’m fine.” The Magister reopened his eyes, focusing on the door before them as his hand rested on them. No point in lingering, is there? He summoned the courage he required. No, I suppose there isn’t. And he opened the door, inspecting the scene as he entered. Miss Cat sat at one end by her fiance's side, giving a small wave as he walked by, rewarded a small nod in hopes of reassuring her as he continued to scout the area. His first stop being the grey eyed medic. She was certainly elven, though it seemed hard to pin down particularly what kind-- given she had features of both Quel and Kaldorei. But that wasn’t any of his concern; especially not right now. He kept his voice low, both out of respect for those injured she attended to and to hide his weakness as he spoke through cracked and split lips. “Is there anything you need for these people?” “We’re pretty behind on clean linens.” The Medic spoke as she finished changing out the bandages of one of those who had been injured in the battle from the day before. As she looked over him once more she picked up a nearby pitcher and poured a glass of water before handing it to the Magister. “You look parched. Here, take this.” “I’ll see what I can have routed here, either from the Scryers or personally.” He instinctively took what was offered to him. A glass of water? For but a moment he considered protesting that others, such as the patients or the Medic herself, would need it more. But he remembers that just like the Medic, hydration would be something they needed to keep functioning, so that they could help others. So he relents, after taking a drink he speak again. “Thank you. If you have the time, please get me a list-- I’ll pass it on.” As he drank the water, he continued to scan the room. Every detail he could find he tried to pick apart and commit to memory. If the Scryers were to choose the Borrowed Time mercenary company as their champions, they would need to be optimized for the war ahead. But that all quieted down in his head when his eyes finally laid their eyes upon her. Dora Arath’dorei was already out of her cot, instead straddling a chair with her arms slung over the back. Her chin dug into one of her arms as she seemed to skirt the edges of consciousness. A book within her hands threatened to fall loose from her grip and onto the floor. Vath set the glass down as he muttered a polite departing to the Ashen-eyed woman to go to greet the very woman he had sought here, a spring in his step--until he saw who laid in the bed next to her. The psychopathic Orcess that had been allowed to run wild and threatened his life on multiple occasions. Perhaps this is a bad time? He hesitated, his mind devising excuses as to abort this approach. In spite of the water he had consumed, his mouth once more went dry. Get a hold of yourself, Vath. This is the whole reason you came out here… is it not? Attempt to steel himself as he may, when he worked the courage to continue his steps became lighter and far less certain than they once were. When he finally reached her side, despite the mental protests, he choked out two words. “...Lady Arath’dorei?” The chair feet scuffed the floor as she jerked within it. Her disorientation was obvious, it seemed he had taken too long to muster the courage and she had fallen to one of the sides after all. “Oh,” Dora murmured. She hissed at the bite of cold fingertips as she pressed her balms against her lower back in a stretch within her loose linen attire. Afterwards, she regarded Vathelan with remnants of sleep in her eyes, alertness swimming against the current. “Magister-” Her tone more formal, setting the pace of the conversation, “-I’m glad to see you.” “My apologies if I woke you.” The solemn look was distorted by the hint of warmth within the frost mage’s small smile. This would be short lived as his eyes once more caught the image of whom she was visiting. He takes a moment to consider on just how to continue. “...I… was worried you hadn’t made it. I am heartened to see that my subordinate was wrong on this matter. One in my profession is…” he tried to lighten the mood, though he fumbled. “...It is hard to imagine me repeating that phrase.” “I’m fine,” she assures him, likely remembering his mention of not being trained for field work from past conversations. Her eyes try to focus on him, unused to having to look up at the Magister when they talk. They were of similar height. “Minor damage to my legs, so you’ll have to forgive me for staying in my seat.” “I am… relieved to hear you say such.” The tip of his lips surrendered to a small twitch. ‘You’re relieved to hear she was hurt’? How kind of you, Vath. He was stumbling over his words, he knew it. This is why you don’t get emotionally compromised, it makes things messy. He likely seemed to be excessively quiet. Enough. “Shall I take a seat, or…?” His hand hovered over one of the chairs next to the despicable Shokkra Deathrage. “I will try not to take up much of your time.” Dark hair obscured her features before being cascaded to her side. Her back remained hunched for a moment before she unfurled to sit straight within her chair as she mentally shifted gears. Her eyes spotted the figure of Kirital behind the Magister and then a smile floated to the surface as she gestured for him to take a seat beside her. “It’s clearly important to you, Vath. Take however much time you need.” The Magister gave a small nod, his motions were slow and gentle as he sat beside her. He tried to quite his thoughts and emotions as he focused on the task at hand. They may have won here, but this was but the start. “...We have a lot to talk about, Dora. And to try to impress all of it upon you given what surrounds us is, admittedly, unfair.” He took a breath. “So, I am suggesting we do this in stages. The most dire being handed fist. And we shall go from there. Are we in agreement?” The medic from earlier made her way to examine the bandages for the Orcess before them, this was sure to split the attention of the acting Boss of Borrowed Time. Even still as her hands turn in slow revolutions between pinched thumbs and forefingers she responds. “Yes.” “Very well… Good.” He reaffirmed as he reorganized his thoughts, he prioritized them best he could. In spite of his personal needs and desires that nagged at him, he shoved them aside once more in favor of the fate of the world. He tried to ignore the feeling in his stomach that fell to the fear he wouldn’t get another chance-- but he would have to make due. In the grand scheme of things, he was meaningless save what he could provide to the world in this war effort. “I… feel it is prudent that we support you in your reconstruction efforts after this conflict. Were you able to recover Lord-General Rayfeather?” The notebook stilled in her hands, then began once more in the same rhythmic turns. A trench appeared between her brows. “Shan’do… Faelenor is still recovering, but he’s alive.” “That is a relief. I haven’t failed this one entirely then as of yet.” Vathelan considers this approach for another moment. “And for this to work… I am going to need both of you.” It seemed he had her full attention now, though the regard he gave him is peppered with reluctance that nipped at the heels of her curiosity. Her body angled towards him as she shifted in her chair. She slipped her notebook back into her pocket. “Need us both for what, exactly?” “The same reason I came here in the first place.” He paused. He wasn’t being entirely honest with that statement. “That may be slightly misleading.” He corrected. “One of the major reasons I fought in this battle: to save the world.” “You’re talking about the Scryers.” “And Borrowed Time.” He clarified before his eyes cast back upon the ground. He gave a small sigh before he continued. “The war continues, the Legion threat is barely being held back while the world worried over the Emerald Nightmare. To make matters worse, Sanctuary drags their feet in accepting our aide. I have worked tirelessly to try to make this work. Months have gone by, with far too many nights where I collapse out of exhaustion as I keep seeking any logistical advantage to buy us time. But no matter how hard I work, Commander Liene won’t talk to me. So that’s a non-starter. We’re running out of time. Countless are dying needlessly. We have the resources, the technology and the research. But we simply don’t have the numbers.” The healers around them tended to the sick and wounded, the footfalls lead in the direction of their passing. She took in the ambience of her comrades, friends and family in such dire situations. All the while she sat taller within her chair after these moments of silence; which further accentuated the distance between them when she finally spoke. “Magister Frostwhisper. When I sent a response to your letter as acting leader of Borrowed Time, I wrote that now wasn’t the best time. Maybe I should have been a lot more clear.” She pointed in Cobrak’s direction; she didn’t even need look to know where his cot was. “Our current Boss is our priority. My people are my priority. When they’re recovered, then… Then we can talk.” “And if you would hear me out, Lady Arath’dorei,” Magister Frostwhisper gritted his teeth. He would not be stonewalled again, he would not be denied or dismissed. He had secured a retired Scryer tactical agent at great cost to himself for them. He had fought for them. He had faced death for them. He had Made his shot, he refused to throw it away. He was determined to save all of Azeroth, no matter what it cost him. “You would take note that I mentioned offering aide in reconstruction efforts to make sure your people come out on top of this. I can direct this to happen, I can lend support in your time of need. We are not asking you to wade into war Tomorrow. That would be both immoral and tactically unsound.” Before her very eyes, it seemed Vathelan Frostwhisper had underwent a change. He claimed he was not a hero, and yet the lengths the Magister showed he would go for the sake of his beliefs reveal themselves to her. Her mind wandered back to one of their early conversations. In stunned disbelief, she smiled. “I understand.” She bridged the distance between them with her taking hold of his shoulder, scrunching the elegant but tattered fabric of his robe turned cloak. At her touch, the iced demeanor of her friend melted once more. She felt as if she understood him much better now. “Listen, Vath. I’m not saying no to what you’re proposing, but I do have to decline your offer for assistance right now. The company needs to start believing in themselves again. We’ve got too many outsiders here as it is; I’ve had concerns brought to my attention already. It’s bad for morale, to have more strange hands trying to prop us up.” “...What if it came from one of your own?” After a pause he shot back. “I am not looking for favors. I don’t care for any sort of esteem. I gave up on that, in what seems like a lifetime ago.” “Well,” she quirked a corner of her moth, releasing him to fold her arms along the chair back once more. “That’s a bit different, isn’t it? I’m open to whatever you have in--” The conversation was cut short as the Orcess stirred once more. “Vath, look, we’ll take later, just---” the chair clatters to the floor as she clambers out of it, nearly leaping for the cot. “In my office, later,” a hasty assurance, “Just- Shokk…” “I--” As always the Orcess shattered all he worked for. The moment, their planning… gone. He was forced to watch as his first friend in his life, someone he had been willing to go to war for, clung to someone who had tried to kill him on multiple occasions. And like still wanted to. He felt as if his head had leapt from his chest and shattered itself upon the floor. "...Of course." Be barely managed to mumble as he was dismissed, feeling cast aside. He stood, his body felt numb. And he slunk his way out of the infirmary, defeated-- helpless as he heard the women in their reunion behind him.
  22. RiktheRed21

    An End to Summer

    Swords flashed silver and blood spurted green and black across the verdant field. The undead reeled silently, his sword hand fallen from his wrist. Brinnea closed the distance in a long stride and cleft his head free. Only one enemy remained standing. He didn’t hesitate. With her arms extended mid-swing, the death knight was an easy target. The Forsaken hacked down at her arms with all his undead strength. Steel bit into blackened flesh. Brin gritted her teeth and hissed as she plunged her blade into her final foe’s head. He fell over, twitching. The ground drank his blood greedily. “Shit,” Brin cursed, looking down on the ruin of her left arm. The Forsaken’s blade had shortened it at the elbow, leaving a black stump spurting corrupted blood. She tore cloth from a dead man’s cloak and fashioned a clumsy bandage with her hand and teeth. This wasn’t the first time she had lost her left hand. In fact, it was the fourth. The first time her hand had burned off by a witch’s grim spell, which had left a lingering curse on the arm. She replaced the hand, only to watch it blacken and rot away. She shortened the limb even further before replacing it, but the curse remained. Sighing, Brinnea retrieved her sheath from the undead who held it before she had broken loose. Her arms and armor had been stripped from her, leaving her in breeches and tunic. Without her hand, she had no way of putting on her armor. It is probably best that I leave it behind anyway, she thought. I may hide my identity in Forsaken lands with some luck and my hood and cloak, but there are too many who know me by the saronite plate. Adding in the lack of mount since her charger had fallen into the spike trap, she had little hope of keeping the armor without dragging it the rest of the way. And she had no net or sack to tie it up in. She cinched her belt and wrapped herself in her faded shadowskin cloak. She had extra clothes in her saddlebags, but there were too many enemies on her trail to take time backtracking. She stretched her leg – formerly wounded by a pit stake – and found it healed well enough. The Forsaken had been enough to repair her wounds from the fall. Before she started north, Brinnea glanced back the way the Forsaken hunters had brought her. She had been riding away from the mercenaries when the ground fell away beneath her horse. Jessaya had taken cuts but was able to climb out before the undead came. Brin had been stuck and had to wait until the hunters dragged her out. Given their numbers, she decided playing dead was her best bet, and in her undead state, it was rather easy to pull off. After they had taken her a short distance, she sprang loose and took up her blade. Everything after was simple butchery. Jessaya got away. The mercenaries are after me. That orc as well. She’ll be fine. Yet she lingered. For the remainder of the day, and the following night. Half the next day passed before the first pursuers came upon her. She had not been idle in that time. She had arranged the bodies and their skeletal-horse-drawn cart into a defensive position, ringed on one side by a small slope and the other with bodies, arrows from the hunters’ quivers dug into the earth like miniature stakes, and the cart itself on which she stood. The riders ringed her makeshift fort on all sides. The man with the tauren horn helmet whistled at the sight of the battle. “You’ve been busy, Red.” “Bronto,” Brinnea said icily, “Your people have bled enough on this hunt. My reward cannot be worth the men you’ve lost.” Bronto grinned, his smile aglitter with golden incisors. “It’s even more worthwhile, actually. Fewer shares means more for everyone. And now, you’ve got no horse, no orc friend, and…oh! You’re even short a hand. How quaint.” Brinnea had fixed a dagger to her stump when she heard the hoofbeats approaching. She pointed it at Bronto. “I don’t need two hands to tear you apart.” “Two hands tend to help, though. Oh, and I wouldn’t count on miraculous last-minute rescues this time. That big green shit and the little blonde bitch you were with? We already had our fun with them. Now it’s your turn.” The Bruisers laughed cruelly, weapons clattering against shields and one another. The horsemen approached at a trot, keeping a tight formation. Brinnea’s arms felt heavy as lead. Jessaya… Her sword clattered against the armor of the dead hunters where Brin dropped it. She began untying the dagger from her stump. “You win, Bronto,” she said, “I stand no chance, that is plain.” Bronto sniffed, looking disappointed. “Aye, true. Can’t say I expected such meek surrender. Bruisers, collect her head.” Brinnea held the dagger’s point under her chin. “Not so fast,” she warned, “One more step and I’ll end it myself.” Bronto watched her, befuddled. “I believe you’ve missed the first principle of delivering a threat, Red.” “You’ll get a heavy purse for me dead, certainly. But if you give me to the right person, alive, then you’re in for ten times what the Alliance have put on my head.” She pressed the point into her skin, spilling a dribble of blood. The mercenaries looked at their leader, unsure. Bronto looked rather silly with his face scrunched up in deep thought. “This is a ploy to escape. A plot to kill me. Everyone knows you’re not to be trusted, murderess.” “True. If you took me captive, it would mean greater danger. But my odds of survival are higher – and your reward much greater – this way.” “Then tell me, Red, who would I deliver you to? Who has such coin and such a passion to collect you?” “The Knights of the Ebon Blade. I was a champion among their ranks, and gold means less to them than any who offer you bounty. Take me to Acherus and you will have it.” It was a bluff; the Knights cared little for Brinnea, though they would likely accept her back into their ranks if she offered herself. She only hoped her lie was masked well enough. Bronto thought a long while, then flashed a golden smile. He chuckled, a throaty laugh for the throat of one thirsty. Or hungry. Hungry and lusty and greedy. I’ve won myself another day, at least. He said, “Agreed.”
  23. Aruku

    Moving Day

    The Exodar: At last there was a response on his hearthstone, an unfamiliar woman's smoke-roughened voice gave a quivering reply. "Are you, Aruku?" "Yes, where's Janala?!" A pause, then, "I'm... I'm sorry. We got trapped in the burrows. My child and I, she shared her hearthstone with us. We all tried to use, but she didn't... make it." Janala's hearthstone had been set to their home, here on Azuremyst. The bottom dropped out of his previously clenched stomach, leaving him feeling cold and alone. They were gone, his wife and his unborn daughter both. "... Hello?" It took him a long moment to regain enough composure to reply, voice thick with emotion, "Thank you, for letting me know." Long ears wilted and shoulders drooping he stared at what was now the funeral pyre for two of his loved ones, along with many other unfortunates. Some time later his kids found him, having come up to see as well. They all hugged one another, a small family group among the crowd of many. "Where's mom?" One of them asked timidly, afraid of the answer. Looking at the kids surrounding him the young man swallowed his feelings, forcing them to the back and locking them away. Vemy was right, he was going to be needed even more right now. They all were. "Don't worry, I'm sure she's fine. She's a druid, she can fly, remember?" Forcing a smile he tried to reassure the kids and keep them calm. Once they weren't needed for the injuries coming from Darnassus, then they could mourn. "But there's gonna be a lot of people from the big tree who'll need our help, so let's go back inside and start, aye?" Giving each a kiss and hug he went back inside with them, dropping them off on the way to the clinic. When he came back the elf was no longer smiling. Instead a subdued, grim person returned and went quietly to work, eyes hollow with pent up loss. Finishing his shift with Vemy he saw her off, then went back in to keep working. Sanjay seemed to have the same idea. The monk had not left the hospital since he returned to the Exodar, and had worked through several assistants in the whirlwind days since. He adopted Aruku during nightly rounds and forced a cup of tea into the elf’s hand. “If you intend to stay and you wish to be useful, you will drink that and steel yourself,” he says. Aruku didn't balk and simply drank the tea, not noticing the taste at all. "Alright." He couldn't sleep anyways. Being assistant to Sanjay kept him occupied and they worked together in quiet accord. It was like a grim test of stamina between the two as they settled into a work rhythm. Working their way through the next few days without sleep and only taking breaks for necessities the pair efficiently treated as many victims and refugees as they could; mostly those folk from Teldrassil or near it who had gotten 'lucky' in escaping via means other than the portal to Stormwind. Azuremyst was the nearest safe port for anyone without teleportation. It was dawning on the third day after the tragedy when the thin blood elf finally collapsed between one step and the next, having driven himself to his limits. Strain lined his face even while unconscious, leaving him looking worn out and used up. With all the beds in the clinic and its overflow area filled it ended up being Vemy who took the exhausted young man home and put him in bed there. With her husband gone there was plenty of room for a scrawny elf and between her shifts she took care of him too. ----------------------------------- Resting he might be in bed but Aruku's mind was fitful, struggling to make sense of everything that had happened. The Horde set fire to Teldrassil, a World tree. Those damn stupid orcs, those hateful undead. Why had no one stopped it? Why had no one stood up? What had the Tauren been doing with all their Earthmother talk? The blood elves should have known destroying a magical world tree was bad! Even the goblins should have recognized that Teldrassil was more profitable existing than being ashes! …. did those in the Horde he had counted as friends, had they been part of this? Had people he'd healed been the cause of this suffering? Even unprovoked, the Horde would attack and kill. They might as well be The Grim. He could feel bitterness replacing the emptiness inside of him, that once had held such love for everyone and everything. Was this how the world had always been, and the Light had just made him blind to it? Without Janala he alone had to raise all these kids; find a way to support, feed and clothe them. Bitterness sparked anger, helplessness turned into frustration. Without magical talent, physical prowess or mental sharpness how was he supposed to do that? Alchemy made some gold, but all the best herbs were in dangerous places. And worst of all he looked like a Horde. Aruku was almost tempted to fix that by embracing the Void but some lingering bit of self preservation kept him from doing it. With the state of mind he was in he'd be lost to it immediately. Driven with no goal he rose, mechanically taking his hearthstone to set up a place for his kids to be taken care of while he lost himself in trying to find a new path to follow, a reason to continue.
  24. Aruku

    Moving Day

    Lor'Danel was falling, the last defense before the Horde reached Teldrassil. Pressing her lips together grimly the green haired night elf surveyed the map and markers of her family's assets. People, goods, equipment, knowledge stores; it was too much to move at once but if they could just move things that couldn't be taken now into hiding, they could be retrieved under the noses of the Horde during occupation of the city. Her people were skilled at that. Snapping out orders and arranging plans to the best of her ability she sent clan members out of the hidden burrows with missives, knowing they were racing against time with their lives on the line. Not enough time, never enough time. Janala felt like she was always trying to beat time; first in her own life, then in her husband's life, now for all of her clans' family's' lives. She'd won the first two of those, now... There was a little shudder in the ground under her feet. It'd not been long enough, by her estimations only the most essential things had been moved and non-essential family members should just be packing up or heading out now. Looking about the empty burrow alcove she slowly walked out, her pregnancy slowing her down. She should be leaving soon as well, once everyone had their orders. Giving a little harrumph at the idea of having to use a beast for transportation instead of shifting forms as she usually did the young lady rubbed her rounded abdomen, smiling softly as she murmured reassurances to the baby girl within. Up ahead she could hear running, stumbling footsteps coming towards her. Frowning Janala started at her slow pace up the passageway, stopping when she saw a panicked mother and child round the bend. These clan members were not the ones she expected to see. “Teldrassil...” gasps out the other lady, tears welling up in her eyes. “It's burning! We... we're trapped!” Hugging her young child tightly she trembled. Pursing her lips Janala tried to stay calm, someone had to have a cool head here. “We will exit the burrow and get the nearest Hippogryph, there should...” she was cut off by the other lady's wail. “No, we're trapped, in the burrow! Fire's everywhere outside, in the entrance...” Shaking her head she sobbed, already the smell of smoke was drifting down from the passageway up. Violet skin blanched in color as understanding set in. Placing a hand on the other lady's back she rubbed and asked softly, “Honey, is anyone else in here with us?” A 'no' shake of the head was the reply given. Options were quickly becoming slim. Awkwardly standing there trying to soothe one of her subordinate's and her crying child Janala had many thoughts running through her mind. There was one way out but it wouldn't take all of them, even this small of a group. Selfishly she had wanted to use it for herself to get out just before the Horde came in. It'd take her to her home on Azuremyst, where she could be with her children and her loving husband. Her eyes softened as she thought of them and him, then looked down at the two next to her. She knew what Aruku'd do, crazy as it was. And she knew how he'd feel if he knew she didn't try to save these two when she saved herself. Giving a sad little smile Janala settled heavily next to the pair with a little 'ooopf,' taking and drawing their hands into her own. “Do not cry, everything is going to be alright sweeties.” With one hand the druidess reached into a bag at her side, withdrawing a hearthstone. “This is not set to Darnassus, this will take you to my home on Azuremyst.” “I.. we couldn't you're Head of...” “Shhhh,” Giving the two a reassuring smile she placed the stone into the middle of their joined hands, “We will just see how many it can take at once, perhaps Elune will bless our trip.” With a deep breath she made up her mind. Please Elune, let this work. “Be sure to hold on tightly, ok?” When she'd gotten nods of agreement and saw hope in their eyes the three of them held onto the hearthstone, practically covering its surface with their hands. Smoke wafting in thickened as Janala traced the rune to activate the teleportation device, a soft green glow issuing forth from between the group's hands. Reaching out it enveloped them, whisking away to safety those who had previously been without hope. As the green glow disappeared, only Janala was left behind in the otherwise empty burrow corridor. Gently lowering her hands onto her rounded stomach she began to sing softly, strangely at ease with her fate but still mourning for her child to be. You had your whole life ahead And that I took away from you Was it selfish of me to decide this To save lives precious to another? I wish I could have shown the joys and wonders of the world to you Held your perfect little hands in mine and shared in your triumphs as you grew. But it shall never pass now so to you I give a lullaby, a story of the place where we lived and shall die. In purity, all things are born. The eldest tree was once a tender sapling, And even the stars were young. O Lady Elune, Weep tears so sweet At the thought of the innocence That once was ours. The huntress' horn has sounded! To battle, it calls us now, To the defense of all we hold dear: This city, This well of the moon, This soft song of the evening breeze. it calls us, And we answer. The jewel of our city Lies within their craven grasp. One last time, we shall stand. One final act, we shall perform By the light of the moons, By the flash of our blades, By the song of our arrows, We shall triumph-- Or we shall fall. The tree has fire for leaves And skeletons for branches And its roots feed only upon The ashes of the dead. The winds that sigh through it now are the cries of the dying And this daughter, This lament For horrors unspeakable, For cruelty unimaginable, For this life and the beauty and the grace that once were And shall never be again. By the moons' glow, listen. Beside the river, listen. Holding those you live, listen: To the cries of the dying, To the whisper of the wind over the silent dead, To the song my broken heart will ever sing Of the story of the Tree of the World And the death of all the dreams It once cradled in its mighty boughs. -----------------------------------------------
  25. Aruku

    Moving Day

    Things continued that way for some time. The routine changed when Sanjay returned with the new patients and healers. The clinic exploded in size and began to resemble a true hospital, albeit with few real walls or beds. Though it was easy to get lost in the tangled mass of wounded, sick, and healers, Aruku found himself constantly working alongside Vemynisa. Every day they grew more in-sync, able to assist one another with barely a word spoken between them. The Draenei spoke to the elf freely about nearly anything, and was an attentive listener when Aruku spoke. While Aruku didn't seem to think the near constant presence of Vemy was odd, he did end up opening up and relaxing around her more, acting more his normal self. That came with both raunchy jokes, casual flirting & talk of his family, at least as far as she was comfortable with. One of their break conversations over hot beverages; coffee for Vemy, tea for Aruku; turns to baking plans to treat the staff. Both of them have spouses who are hazards in the kitchen so it'd be a nice change of pace to make food with someone else... and maybe afterwards they can enjoy one another's company in a different way. Before more plans are made Sanjay bursts into the room, clenching his jaw with iron strength. “Those damn maniacs...you two haven’t heard yet, have you?” He glances between the two, his eyes stern and angry, but underneath the anger there lies something Aruku has never seen in Sanjay before. Fear. Puzzlement and worry showed on the thin man's face, and by the lack of reaction it was evident before he even spoke that he hadn't heard. "What happened?" While his mind flew through several thoughts he wasn't about to presume what it might be yet. “It’s Teldrassil,” the monk says, “The Horde set fire to it. The entire tree is ablaze.” Vemynisa gasps. She puts a hand over her mouth. “By the Naaru...” Aruku stared blankly at Sanjay for a long moment, his mind refusing to grasp what the words meant. Teldrassil couldn't be completely on fire, it was giant! When Sanjay's expression didn't change his golden eyes grew wide in alarm and he spun to dash for the door. While recklessly speeding off he dug out his hearthstone, trying to reach his wife in Darnassus to let her know if she didn't already. Sanjay sidesteps, still cursing under his breath. Vemynisa leaps to her hooves and races after the elf. "Aruku!" she calls after him, "I--I think we're going to need you even more now..." She fidgets nervously. Too wrapped up in the panic of trying to make sure his wife was alive and safe, and needing to see this with his own eyes the blood elf bolted out of the clinic and across the Exodar. It seemed everyone was still in a bit of shock at the news so he managed to exit unhindered, panting as he passed through the bits of wall around the city till he could get a view of Teldrassil. Already there was dark smoke making a smudge on the sky in that direction, under lit by an angry orange light. He wasn't the only one out here either. Others had come out to stare in horrified disbelief to the north east. Men, women, young, old, all were gathered in an eerie quiet vigil only broken by sobbing here and there.
  26. Aruku

    Moving Day

    As with most such things everything had started out fine. Time had come around for the visit to the Exodar Sanjay had said he'd work on getting through for Aruku. As Janala was off in Outlands working on growing their new home that meant the young blood elf had brought along the entire entourage of half-breed children with him to visit, much to the dismay of his host Sanjay. Fortunately the human's working partner Ingrid, an easygoing dwarf lady was delighted by the additions. Dropping the kids off at their friends was uneventful enough and allowed Aruku to pay attention when he was brought over and shown about the human monk's pride and joy in the Crystal Tier: 'The Sands of Time Healing Clinic.' Tucked in a back corner it was a modest establishment but homey. It wasn't long before the blood elf had been introduced to most the workers and had waded in with Sanjay to lend a hand, having some casual.... ok, maybe not so casual conversation. But before the talk could get more awkward and uncomfortable... “Sanjay!” Ingrid cried as she burst into the room, looking panicked. “There’s been an attack in Kalimdor! The Horde is marching on Darkshore!” Those words marked the end of the pleasant trip, and the beginning of working full shifts along with the others in the clinic as they received injuries that couldn't be taken care of out in the field. Sanjay left to go to the warfront, leaving Ingrid in charge. Temporary beds and rooms were set up outside and still there was concern of not having enough space to handle it if things got worse. Everyone in the city was pitching in in their own ways, even the older kids were being sent on tasks and given responsibilities around the Exodar. Aruku's wife, Janala had returned to Darnassus and was doing work she could what with being in the late stages of her pregnancy. Mostly giving orders and handling the Shadowblade family's organization to this crisis, or at least that's what Aruku understood of it. The week rushes by at a blinding speed. Injured soldiers and civilians run through the clinic like a river of blood, and in the thick of the tide stand Aruku, Ingrid, and Vemynisa. Ingrid mostly operates on her own, leaving Aruku and the Draenei woman to work together most of the week. She’s quiet mainly, and her thoughts seem preoccupied. Yet she always seems strangely close to Aruku. Every so often their hands brush against one another and she rushes to hide her blushing face. When she does speak to him, she always seems out of breath and flustered. Between treating the injuries, grabbing bites to eat here and there and the tiredness at the end of the long shifts, Aruku couldn't find a good time to ask Vemy about her shy reactions to him. His golden eyes ask questions but there never seems to be a free moment to put voice to it. When a full week has passed, Vemy finds Aruku in the break room with a roll of paper in hand. “I have something for you,” she says. Hearing her words and seeing the paper his heart jumped in his chest. He'd nearly forgotten his pass here was only for a week, was this an order for him to leave? Worried he raised his golden eyes to meet the draenei lady's, "Is it good, or bad news?" "That depends on you. I spoke with the ambassador's office, and convinced them to extend your visit indefinitely to assist with wartime treatments." She hands him the scroll, sealed with the pink and gold seal of the Prophet. Her hand lingers by his a moment before she promptly retreats a couple steps. The thin man's eyes grow big as he looks at the seal then up at her. Questions come out as incredulity and relief fight for space on his features, "I can stay?" The rhetorical inquiry was quickly followed by, "You did this for me?" Vemy opens her mouth, closes it, then clears her throat and says, “I did it for the sick and wounded of this war. They need your help — our help.” While he might not be quick on other things, social things he was decent at. Giving Vemy a soft smile despite the tiredness from the long week of work he took the few steps over to her and gave her a quick, strong hug of thanks. "Yer a nice gal, ya know that?" Vemynisa freezes at the embrace. Her face flushes a deep blue color, which she tries to hide with her facial tentacles. "You...you're not bad," she manages with a cough. Giving one final squeeze he lets her go, a hint of mischief twinkling in his eyes as he looks up at her. "Thanks cutie." Her blush transcends embarrassment. This time she reaches out to pat his cheek. “It—it was my pleasure,” she says awkwardly before clopping out of the break room. Smiling after the nice lady (and view) exiting the room he took a seat, happy she had willingly touched him at last without moving away. Breaking the seal open on the paper he read over it, more of a formality since Vemy had told him what was inside already. At least something good had happened.
  27. mockrabbit

    Shallow Grave - The corpse and the rabbit-

    The combined forces of the Horde and Alliance set out for Highmaul later that night hoping to use the darkness to hide their numbers. By first light the next day they had setup a command post outside the city gates, had siege weapons bombarding the city walls and gate, and archers firing at anyone brave enough to put their head, or heads, up to survey the enemy. It was a few hours before the sun would hang high in the sky that the allied main force shattered the city gate, as a smaller group had gained access to the city earlier creating a distraction. Inside the invading army and defending ogres clashed in a bloody mix of metal, stone, and magic. Even with what appeared to be superior numbers, the invaders where having a tough time with the larger inhabitants. The ogres could cleave, crush, or pull apart some of the smaller soldiers in a single motion. Small mounds of the dead dotted the battle field, usually a fallen defender and the corpses of those that eventually brought it down. Graite, Lubella, Yurrie, Mock and Ottis were in the third wave of soldiers to enter the city. The first two waves had secured the inner gate and had been handling opposition allowing the next waves to secure the entrance to the Gorthenon which had already been assaulted by the smaller force that had entered the city first. On the way Luebella and Graite charged ahead, slashing at ogre defenders already engaged, cleaving the wounded with precise deathblows, and working as one when any enemy dared to stand in their way. A lower ogre magi, with two heads, tried to stop their progress at the stairs leading up to the Gorthenon. Before he could get a word out Lubella had choked one head with her dark powers while Graite leapt up with unnatural strength and removed the other head in a single stroke. Yurrie and Mock trailed the two death knights, being sure that no one would attempt a back attack on their fierce commanders. The death knights are very efficient in the art of war and killing. Mainly Yurrie and Mock just tried to keep up to them, Ottis clinging to Mock's shoulder plate, constantly looking behind them for any surprises. As the Death Knights had finished off the orge magi and started moving up the steps, a loud roar could be heard off to the south. Yurrie stopped and looked down a short road in that direction. An orc warrior and orgre guard were looking in hand to hand combat, their weapons on the ground around their own personal arena. The orge was winning, Yurrie seeing it lift the orc off his feet by his neck, raspy gasping and sputtering struggling from his lips. Mock had already began to charge at the orge, Yurrie close behind him. The orge turned his head as Mock raised one of his large spiked maces over his head. Ottis jumped from the shoulder plate, pouncing on the orges arms, and assaulting one of it's wrists with bloody nibbles. Blood erupting from the orcs lips, spattering the orges face as he loosened his grip to defend against the corpse and the rabbit. Yurrie did not draw her halberd, only balled her fist and flew threw the air. Mock's mace struck the orge heavily on the shoulder, narrowly missing it's head, but shattering bone and crushing the tissue that it did hit. The orc fell to the ground, clutching his throat, trying to suck in air and more blood spayed from his laboured coughing. The orge howled in pain as he fell to a knee. Ottis was now on the ground next the liberated orc, ready to pounce again. Before Mock could raise his mace again for a killing blow the orge's howling stopped. In what seemed like a strong breeze moving by the monk had struck the orge hard in the face, stunning it. In the next moment she placed her paws on either side of it's head, and with a quick movement put the orge out of misery with a 'snap'. The heavy body fell to the ground with a a hard 'thud' before the orc. The orc's coughing and sputtering had also been silenced. Mock picked up what he assumed was the orc's axe. Yurrie rolled the warrior onto his back, and Mock rested the axe across his chest. A brief moment of stillness passed. It was Ottis that scrambled back onto Mock's shoulders that shook the warrior and monk back into their situation. The sounds of war rang throughout the city. Turning back down the street they hurried up towards the stairs of Gorthenon.
  28. Magister Vathelan Frostwhisper would finally wake, though he gave no signs of doing so. He had no notion as to how much time had passed. But what did it matter anyways? He remained curled up in the bed, unwilling to face the day and results of his failures. Kirital knocked out of habit before letting himself in the room. On the night stand he sets a tray with a biscuit, three sausages, a ham/cheese/pepper omelette, two halves of cantaloupe, and some jam. "So these are the extras from my meal. I dunno exactly what you like and it's really missing grits, but, hey," Kirital looked at the magister expecting some sign of life. When none showed, he shook Vath's shoulder gently, but with a firm grip. "Hey. Food?" The Magister was clearly awake, but doesn't particularly respond. Through his mind he reviewed what he could have done better, how he could have prepared more wisely, and scolded himself constantly for each mistake. If he couldn't even protect his very capable heroes, then what was the point? How could he expect to save the world? He mumbled something before trying to curl himself into a ball even further. "What are you thinking?" Kirital sat on the end of the bed. He couldn't resist the sausage and took one to eat. Taking interest in Vathelan's thoughts, he hoped, could help him out of the metaphorical shell he seemed intent on curling into. "...I'm a fuckup." Vathelan murmured, not one for such language as he kept his back to his companion. He couldn't face anyone today. "All my heroes are now dead, thanks to my negligence." "I wouldn't be so quick to conclusions, Vathelan." Kirital's voice was quiet, similarly unusual coming from him. "We didn't think you could handle visiting the infirmary and you're not a fuck-up." He smiled softly at the Magister of questionable dress; brow creasing up in concern for the man. "Besides, your wall - " He sighed as a knock cut him off. As he stood into a brief stretch and grunt, the bed lifted back into its original height. "It worked. I know it did." He closed the door to the bedroom behind him then opened the front door to whomever knocked. Cat stood behind the door wearing an oversized man's shirt and a pair of old pants. Her hair looked damp from a recent shower, and her fading bruises had taken on a greenish color. On her shoulder was a white kitten. Her downcast expression was heightened by the dim glow of her eyes, who's once vibrant bright blue were so faded that they revealed the naturally dark colored eyes underneath. "...I heard you guys were staying here," she said weakly. "Is Vath okay?" Kirital leaned against the door frame and rests a hand on his hip. The sobriety of his eyes betrayed the jovial smile of his mouth. The battle taxed him, though his worry for Vathelan is evident. "He's recovering. I'm not sure how many large scale battles he's been in but...How's Dora?" "Uhm.. still sleeping, from what I last saw. She's in the infirmary. Her brother was with her." The kitten on her shoulder batted at Cat's pigtail, but was otherwise ignored. "I think she'll be okay," Cat suggested, her voice lower than usual. "They're taking good care of everyone." "Glad to hear it." He rested a hand on the side of Cat's arm. "And hey, I'll tell Vathelan. I don't know if he wants to see anyone just yet." The kitten suddenly saw its chance, and ran up Kirital's arm toward the half-elf's long hair. Cat raised her eyebrows in alarm and reached for her, but it was too late. The white ball of fluff disappeared underneath Kirital's ponytail. "Munchkin!" Kirital froze once the kitten begins exploring the expanse of his neck and upper back. The occasional twitch from the dagger-like claws threatened to unbalance him. "Excitable." He jerks at a nip on his ear. "Fella." He tried to snatch the kitten, succeeding only to be met with a face full of claws. "Gotcha-ahhhh!" All the while he is gentle with the tiny creature. Cat winced at the sight, reaching for Munchkin as swiftly as her grace (which was zero) allowed. Cat stumbled against Kirital instead, prompting Munchkin to leap from his back and make a run for Vathelan. The ungraceful attempt to retrieve the kitten nearly knocked them both over, though one might consider their her body on his somewhat scandalous. Kirital barked after the kitten, oblivious to it. "Hey! Don't wake Vathelan you fuzzball." As Catalinetta and Kirital fumbled in their attempts to catch the little furball, it took the opportunity to further explore. With little bounding paws it delved further into the temporary lodging, it’s snow white fur quickly disappearing from view as it turned the corner into the bedroom where the Magister refused to rise. With tiny claws the creature bounded and climbed the bed until it found itself beside the man and lay upon him. After a few moments, Vathelan’s hand would rise to greet the little creature, giving a gentle scratch behind the ears. Cat followed Kirital inside, unphased by the brief physical contact. The death knight seemed more or less concerned that Munchkin might bother Vathelan, but she seemed to be doing the opposite. She curled up somewhere between the magister's shoulder and chin to bury her head against the crook of his neck, seeking warmth. The Magister rhythmically stroked the tiny kitten’s head, other than that he remained laying bundled under the sheets. Kirital smiled at the disgruntled, blanket hidden Elf. "Cat's got some news for you, Vathelan. I'll be outside. Your food's getting cold." He exited the bedroom and leans against the wall just outside of it. Cat approached Vathelan carefully and sat down next to him on the bed. She put a gentle hand in his shoulder. "..s..sir? Are you.. are you okay?" The man mumbles something in response to Kirital’s announcement. The entirety of the man was hidden from view underneath the sheets. Though that was likely for the best. Before the battle had even started, the man had lost his usual luster. As the woman sat next to him, his motions of affection for the feline had not stopped—though his voice weakly spoke a single word through the cloth. “No.” Cat pet Vathelan as she might have pet the cat. Her voice wasn't as chipper as usual, though she seemed genuinely concerned for the magister. "..I know.. it was a bad day, sir.. but you really did good out there. With the wall. You saved those casters, a-and... only a f-f... f... few c-c... casual... casualties.." The death knight seemed to have a hard time saying the words. "..b-but.. m... most of us s..survived. All of K-kreyen's f..f...family." The hand paused at the mention of the fate of the Arath’dorei family. For a moment nothing more happened; a hesitation. And then slowly the now greasy ebon hair of the Magister poked out of the bundle. Soon thereafter came his fel-stained eyes behind their glasses to peer up at the death knight beside him. His voice somehow more muffled than before as the sheets rested up against his lips. “…All of them?” Cat looked down toward Vathelan's face. She tried to smile reassuringly, but could only offer a nod. "..mm hmm.. b-but... Ari.. Ari d-din't make it.. a-and.. and K... K... Kreyen lost a l..leg." The dark brows of the Magister knitted as he processed the news. And then he began to stir, much to the known chagrin of the poor fuzzy creature that had been resting on him. He murmured an apology to the kitten before fully sitting up, still wrapped in the sheets. “I… see.” Kirital stood in the doorway now, leaning against the frame with his arms folded. A light hearted smile met Vathelan as he watches and listens. "Morning, blanket slug." Cat reached for Munchkin and held the sleepy kitten to her chest before standing up from the bed. "I was gonna go back to the inf.. infirmary.. some of them are th-there." Moving away from the bed, she finally gave the best smile that she could to Kirital and pat his shoulder. "Take care of him. I'll be around." The Magister moved to stand, the sheet giving way to fully reveal his face. His lips were chapped from dehydration, his lip split and his face covered in grime from the night before. Other than that, he seemed to have gotten off—quite well, considering the reports of the death of one and the loss of limb of another. Both had done him wrong in spite of his goals, but he hadn’t wished them ill will. He started to move towards the door. “I’ll go too. I need to make sure.” The Sheet dragged with him as he made his way towards the door. Kirital remained in the doorway. "You may wanna reconsider your outfit." There is a smirk to him. "Also, I'd like for you to at least...something? You decimated your mana yesterday, which was inspiring granted, but I'm not moving till you down this sausage at least." He held a plate with two sausages and some biscuits in one hand and a glass of water in the other. “Hm?” He looked over at the mirror and saw how the sheets clung to him. With an ‘Oh Right.’ He takes off the sheets to reveal tattered robes from the chaos of the day before. “…This… won’t do. Not if I’m going to play the part of dignitary.” He ignored the comment about food. He still wasn't hungry. Kirital, at least, set the glass of water down in front of Vathelan with a pointed look as if to insist on consuming it. Retrieving the food from earlier he idly munched on some of it as he moved to the kitchen. "Whenever you're ready, then." The Magister looked over the robes, taking the glass of water gratefully. His head was starting to pound from from the lack of proper hydration. "Kirital," His voice only able to rise ever so slightly. "The robes or my undershirt? We did fight in a battle... do you think it appropriate I visit looking like this?" Kirital did his best to not giggle or laugh when he suggests going in his wrinkled and ripped attire. Folding his arms he rubbed his chin and thinks. "A friend of my brother and I conjured clothing sometimes. I'd say an undershirt if you don't have anything to go over it. It's kinda cold though, which is fine for..." Kirital got an idea. "Here." He took off his jacket and offered it to Vathelan. "Thankfully your build can fill this out a little, but I think it's more appropriate for you to be the more clothed one. I'm your bodyguard afterall, not a dignitary." He couldn’t keep a grin off his face. "Are you certain that this would not be perceived as... offensive? Not to have proof of my participation of this battle?" His brows furrowed as he takes the jacket. "We fought to defend them. Maybe we can use that as leverage?" "Leverage for what? You're visiting friends and making sure folks are all right. You don't need to prove anything." Kirital ran a hand through his hair to put it behind an ear. "Everyone knows that wall was yours and that it stopped that demon dead in its tracks." He found Vathelan's diplomatic sensibilities cute in this situation and smiled. "Besides. If something happened to you, I wouldn't be doing my job very well." "Kirital..." Vathelan gave a small frown. "Nothing is ever so simple or easy in my line of work. I... forgive me, I am new to this position. And sometimes I hate it. I am sure they have better diplomats. But I was sent." Kirital rubbed the back of his head and sighs a little. "That's just my two cents. I just...recommend checking up on people, you know?" Grappling this line of thinking took a moment. He really didn’t consider his actions and tried to see them from Vathelan's side. "Though I guess in the future maybe? Bringing up our involvement might seem like we're holding it over them and uh, I really don't think now's the time for that?" A slight embarrassment overcame him from speaking his mind about something not his specialty. His hand rested on the back of his neck as he blushed. "I... plan on giving them some time to recover. Lady Arath'dorei knows how to contact me. But it needs to be addressed." He looked back into the mirror with a frown. "I have wasted too much time on Sanctuary, we can't afford to waste more." Kirital felt rather disappointed to hear that. It's not his place to apologize for the guild or anything that's happened, but he could understand some of the frustrations that lingered afterwards. "Yeah there's a time and place for politics, but tact is equally as important. Who knows? Maybe if you're in need of help, helping here could be a way to get it. Favor for a favor, you know?" As he spoke he paced about the room, hands behind his head. The sleeveless shirt over his torso thankfully is well fitted. He regarded Vathelan for a moment in thought. “I’m not looking for Favors.” The Magister spoke as he still debated what sort of appearance he should provide for this encounter. He set the coat over his chest as he tries to picture what that would look like, and its implications. “I don’t understand why this is so hard for people to come to terms with. I want nothing more than to do my part to save the world, to fulfill my purpose in Lord-General Visca’s teachings. The Scryers have and are still developing the technology to give the world a fighting chance. We have been preparing for this day… for a long time. But we’re too few in number to stop the Legion ourselves.” He decides against it as he sets the coat down. They would respect him more if he showed his willingness to fight, he decided. The tattered robes would remain. “So we’re looking for an army. Someone we can trust to take the fight to the Legion with our backing and blessings. Someone we are sure will not become a threat to us or our mission later.” Kirital folded his jacket over an arm without a desire to put it back on. "I mean, it doesn't hurt to be courteous though. You can do both. Besides, it helps to have folks think they owe ya one. Sure helped me leverage my brother to do things for me." The thought brought up a few memories which bring out a laugh from him. Throughout the course of the conversation he had yet to make it feel like an argument. He enjoyed the discussion and, if anything, helped him understand Vathelan more. "I'll ask you more about the Lord-General later, if you'd like?" "He was... a great man." The Magister’s voice got quiet once more, his eyes averting themselves from his reflection. "I cannot express my shame in failing him... or his family." He looks back to his companion. "...Are you ready?" "Yup." Kirital is as he was during the battle. Tank-top, cloth bound waist and forearms, loose cloth pants, and heavy boots. His jacket stays draped over his arm. "I'll be right behind you."
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