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  1. Last week
  2. Julilee

    Journeys of a Ghost

    Her feet took her back down the tiers. Conscious thought had little to do with it, as she had no plan, no idea for where to go from here. She would get a letter to Rylie; even with the new conflict, Juli knew there were some on the other faction who would help. But past that, her future was a complete blank. It was a state she had never before in her life found herself. So she wandered through the Zandalari city of which she didn't even know the name. The crowds took her in without a second glance. She was just another Sin'dorei soldier here for the war effort. Without the distinctive, famous tabard, her appearance attracted no attention at all. The only thing that did was when she accidentally brushed by someone too closely. They looked at her with a bit of startlement when they felt the aura. Far more active than that of most Light-wielders, it rose off her with a heat anyone standing close enough could feel. Constantly burning, it could not be quenched. Finally she stopped at the edge of the dock area. Down in the water swam schools of bright fish, and slower, larger ones alone. A couple people stood fishing for them nearby, conversing with one another. Juli didn't pay them any attention and them her any either. Instead, she focused her thoughts on figuring out what she was supposed to do next. It felt like a monumental effort, but eventually, the answer arose within her, the remnants of whatever soul or morals she'd once had. Survive, and do as little harm as possible. She inhaled and exhaled slowly as the bare, cynical truth of it settled over her, and she began to apply it with a cold and calculating eye to her life. While she had few responsibilities now, there were still some things where she had to ensure that her inaction did no harm. The moment she decided was the moment the voice next to her registered. "Aye... inna way... Peaceful b--" "Cobrak?" Juli said before she realized what she was doing. The orc, fishing with a companion Juli also recognized, turned swiftly at the sound of her voice. His one good eye widened as he took her in, reconciling the voice with her appearance, and the pipe in his mouth began to droop. "Hey," she said, for lack of any better ideas. Cobrak continued to stare as the pipe fell out of his mouth to land in the water below with an unnoticed splash. Behind him, Megeda said, "Greetings." Juli gave him a nod and looked back at Cobrak, who was still staring at her in disbelief. "I'm not a ghost, by the way," she said, since he looked like he was seeing one. Megeda tilted his head, seeming to suddenly realize something, as Cobrak let out a strangled laugh, then began to smile, weakly. "Fuckin' shite..." the orc finally managed. "Commander Liene... You look different," Megeda stated. Cobrak set aside his fishing pole, rose to his feet, and swiftly closed the distance between them. Then, he poked her with one finger. She just looked at him. "...'Ah ta see. Bout tha ghost part," he said. Without further ado, he folded her arms around her in a hug, one hand patting her back. It was the first time anyone had touched her in over six months, and it felt like something that was happening to something else. Juli just stood there, not returning the hug, until he released her. He didn't seem to notice her reticence, or the aura. "Shittin' 'ell, Liene!" he laughed again in disbelief. "I'm sorry for my absence," she said evenly. "I hope it hasn't caused any problems." "Tha fuck 'appened? We spent long as 'ell lookin' fer ya... e'en tha Earthen didnae..." Cobrak tweaked his head a little then, finally sensing something was amiss. "...Ya... alright?" The glass wall was here, too. She and Cobrak had achieved a level of respect with each other over the years, especially after he took charge of Borrowed Time. They had disagreed vociferously over many a subject, but still always recognized they both wanted the best for their people, and had each others' backs without exception. Or so she had thought until she'd heard what he'd done shortly before her mission to Silithus. Then there was the whole staring into the void thing that had stripped all pretension from everything anyway. It was all really moot. She couldn't connect to anyone anymore, if she ever really had. But she couldn't say all that, so instead she said, "I'm... just getting used to things again. I was trapped below Silithus with nothing but the void for company for most of this time." Cobrak's eye widened as he looked her over again. Like Kex'ti, he had a special loathing for all things Void and clearly couldn't help the fear that sprang to mind. "Oi. Ya... ya didnae..." "Yet you do not carry its taint," Megeda said with surety. The Light he himself wielded could doubtlessly discern as much. "No, far from it," Juli said in response to both of them. She held out a hand, curling it into a fist. With a moment's focus, a burst of Light showered outward. Cobrak let loose a breath, blinking. "Woah. That didnae 'appen fore." "So one set of rumors was exaggerated. The other was true?" Megeda inquired. "You'll have to be more specific," Juli said, lowering her hand. "We all thought ya wuz dead," Cobrak said. "One was that you disappeared in Silithus, presumed dead," Megeda agreed. "The other was that you were a paladin." "The irony isn't lost on me," she replied. With how much of her life she had spent denying her potential, all because of... well, it didn't matter anymore. It was either the Light or the Void, and she had chosen. Cobrak was shaking his head, still in disbelief to a degree. "I've been bribin' them boys in Silithus ta dig deeper after whar... we found... jus'.... nuthin' o' ya. Jus' yer shield..." "You found my shield?" Juli said. Once, it had felt like an extension of her body, but now the idea of getting it back felt... wrong. She had come to rely more on Mercy than she ever had on her shield. Cobrak grunted. "Aye. Wuz gonna put it on tha statue we commissioned..." A snorted chuckle. "Ya cost me a few dozen gold pieces now that that things goin' ta waste..." "...A statue?" "Aye," Cobrak said again. "Likka all our friends who parted this world... sumthin' we kin remember." "...Well, thank you for the sentiment," Juli said after a moment. She didn't ask about the shield. Cobrak snorted in good humor. "Shut it, good ta know yer alive. Lost too many friends already, but always good ta see one still kickin'." Friends. He thought they were still friends. "How fares Borrowed Time?" she asked instead of responding, including Megeda in the question. He had been regarding her with his lips tightly pressed together, unlike Cobrak unwilling to overlook her changed demeanor. Still, he was the one who responded. "Unsieged... For now," the tauren stated. "A welcome change," she said. Cobrak looked back at Megeda. "Well, things be..." He hummed, looking for the right word. "Even for the moment. Nothin' too upsettin' or well..." "A lot of things have happened while I was gone," Juli said. "There is division over how the conflict is to be handled," Megeda said. "Some have joined our ranks, others have left..." The three chatted for a minute longer about current events. Eventually Juli said, "I haven't reported myself alive to the Horde chain of command yet. I'm... not sure I want to get involved." "Thar's always room in tha Champions," Cobrak suggested. "They're workin' on 'ealin' Azeroth more than fightin'... I been sendin' mosta tha Azerite we recover from tha Allys ta them anyway." "Chieftain..." Megeda said, "she just got BACK from Silithus." "Champs work outta a lotta places," Cobrak argued. "Azerite's poppin' up er'rywhar. But..." He looked at Juli. "Yer always welcome at tha Port. Iffin ya need a place ta find yer 'ead an' think bout things wiffout worryin' bout a roof o'er yer head." "Thank you, I appreciate that," Juli said politely, with no intention whatsoever of taking up the offer. Megeda looked between the two. "So we are to forget the treachery then?" he said. "S'in tha past, Meg..." Cobrak grunted awkwardly. "I'm surprised you looked for me, honestly," Juli said. It seemed just barely worth saying. "I thought you'd chosen different priorities." Cobrak looked at her. "Ya think me priorities e'er shifted from me friends?" "It seemed that way when you chose to attack and nearly kill Allycia, who was under my protection, who I specifically asked you not to harm." Megeda was silent as he watched them finally speak of the matter that hung between them. Perhaps he thought that once they had it out, Juli would thaw, and start acting more like her former self. He didn't know that nothing would ever bring the old Juli back. "I kill void elves, thass fer sure," Cobrak said. "An' that willnae change one bit, wut I will say I didnae try ta kill that'un. Shapeshifter under tha employ o' tha Raven. Wanted you gunnin' fer me." Juli blinked once. Cobrak wouldn't lie. If he had been bold enough to attack Allycia, he would have looked her in the eye and told her so. Still, after a moment, Juli realized that this, like everything else, didn't matter. Though it had not then, if it ever did come down to it, Cobrak would do what he needed to. He was not really her friend. And she was not his if she could not accept that. "Well, I appreciate your efforts in looking for me," she said after a protracted pause. Cobrak looked like he was about to say something, but stopped himself, then said something else. "...Bah. Any case, yer back an' thass wut matters." He looked off to the sea. Maybe he was looking for a reason to believe that as the strain on the conversation grew too great. "I should be going," Juli said, then, politely, "It was nice catching up with you both." Cobrak reached into his pocket and produced something, which he handed over to her. "Here," he said. She took it and looked up at him. "It's ta me cabin in tha port. Ya ever need help, go thar an' stay as ya like." His words were a little strained, but he was determined to uphold this fallacy. He wanted to believe they were friends, that the camaraderie they had shared could be restored. He didn't see the truth of it like she did. Megeda was still watching her. Juli said, still politely, "Thank you." "Stay safe, Juli," Cobrak said. "Tha world's gotten only more dangerous." "Safe Journey, Liene... Azeroth needs all the help it can get," Megeda said. She gave her most honest reply yet in parting. "Safety is an illusion. Don't stay safe. Stay strong." She left. Once she was out of sight, she destroyed the hearthstone with a surge of Light and tossed the ruined rock in the water. [[ Written in conjunction with Cobrak and Tahzani. ]]
  3. Earlier
  4. Bloodbath Setting: Soon after the Burning of Teldrassil Area: Small island off of Darkshore Time: Evening Chestius was restless. Tired after his last job, but the menders saw to immediate injuries, allowing him to be up and about for the next contractual form of self punishment.. A contract back at Darkshore, a place that the goblin privateer now wished to steer far away from, had Professor Skorm calling specifically for him.. The Ethereal had a way with premonitions, and this was one he claimed to be ‘haunting’… Haunting, that was a good word for the feeling of taking flight in the smoggy skies with the massive charred skeleton of failure looming to the northern horizon… He had no idea what would happen amongst the thorns, but not even in the goblin’s six decades of life would he have imagined that this was Sylvanas’ plan all along… It was… Failure.. Pure failure.. There was nothing left now but vengeance and war, given an updraft from greed and fear.. The questions still loomed, even on his mind, and each time his gaze shifted back to the husk of Teldrassil, Chestius felt as though his heart was breaking all over again.. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way… Military occupation would have WORKED. It would have caused a standstill, a ceasefire, allowed for peace talks with the Alliance having full knowledge that the Horde was not to be conquered and converted… Maybe the Banshee Queen saw that, and deemed it outside of her own plans. Her dying people, her own fading light, and the drifting away from her ties to the living. Maybe amidst the chaos of the war she sparked, Sylvanas cooked up another plan… The goblin shook his head at the thought of what this could possibly mean. After what was done to Teldrassil, no one was sure who to trust anymore. Everything was just… Broken… The static of the Etherstone breaking up Chestius’ train of thought on the grim topic. The engineering console of the jet mounted gyrocopter lit up as the transmission patched through into the headphones Chestius wore. Hearing protection AND guaranteed communications at all times was a must, and the static brought the hunter back from his grief to the mission ahead. “Captain, sir, you are nearing the drop point. I will begin preparations for manual override, so please, in the meantime prepare for your drop.” came a raspy, yet pious voice. It belonged to none other than Professor Skorm, working ethereal assistant and one hell of a butler. The flashes of the console signified the overtaking of the controls, and Chestius eased off the wheel in order to begin preparing. First tightening the small pack on his back, then next fastening a series of zippers on his own armor. The sounds of his preparations were drowned out by the whirring and roar of the jets and engine. Regardless, Chestius prepared like any other mission he would, getting ready to drop in by a glider and take out the target. “Tell me Skorm… If this mission is a simple assassination and rescue, why didn’t we send a fleet?” Chestius asked as his eyes drifted below. He was well above it all, hidden between the clouds and patches of smoke. But below, questions began to answer himself as his assistant spoke up. Before Chestius could belay his last, he found himself amidst a briefing. “Precisely, Captain. There is a squadron of deathguards who have failed to respond for some time now. The island ahead, while rich with Azerite, was besieged by Alliance. Going by ship is impossible. And with our forces spread thin, only your machines would be able to make it through the skies in these conditions. The Alliance ships you will see below have circled the island, but many stay anchored off shore, refusing to land. We have little information as to what is going on.” Skorm replied. The destination was still a ways away, but as he donned his goggles, Chestius was able to clearly see them. A small fleet was parked outside of this little no name island! No less than six ships lay in the waters, while a seventh was wrecked upon the shore alongside a forsaken frigate. The movements were wrong. The squad sent to this island from the Horde was likely no more than a skeleton crew for the frigate they used as transport, likely here to snatch and grab Azerite… But what could be holding the Alliance off of the island? Seven ships total meant literal boatloads of soldiers, waiting to fight.. And yet they sat off shore, not even close enough to send a rowboat. Strange. “Skorm. Any intercepted comms from the Alliance here? There’s too many for this job to be a search and rescue. Somethin’s up.” Chestius replied, only to hear the ethereal reply fast, meaning he was waiting for the question to be asked… “Yes Captain. We haven’t been able to scrape much due to their methods, but it appears there is some sort of beast hiding out on the island. I’ll patch in a recording we managed to intercept.” Skorm replied before the kzzzzzt of the radio turned to the sounds of many people shouting, gunfire, and some sort of rumbling. They were speaking Thalassian, and the recording was heavily damaged, but Chestius was able to listen in. “Not alo-…. Horde…-ll been killed…-their own… Blood!… It-…..-blood! Sta-….. I repeat-….- away!” The voice of the night elf was desperate, and while ferociously chopped up, it gave out some vital information. Something was indeed on the island, and a threat to all of the survivors of this fight. Chestius’ thinking was however interrupted by the lurching of his gyrocopter, suddenly beginning to drop altitude as it neared the bailout point. The goblin swallowed hard and began final preparations. “Alright, search and rescue mission engaging. Mission title: Bloodbath, commencing in 90 seconds. Skorm, stay on my comms and cam and keep the gyro in rotation. Get a lock on my location and prepare a transmat, if our cargo is dead this will be nothing more than an in and out. Chestius on standby for countdown, over.” Chestius stated, flipping a few switches and easing up a bit. He was obviously getting himself ready internally, which was a process very few bore witness too. After so many years, one of his few forms of excitement left was the jump from a plane. The leap into a freefall was something he both loathed and adored. As he looked down, seconds ticking by, he looked to the island now setting below. His gyrocopter was coming into range as he scanned the treeline of the densely forested little island. Lights showing locations of azerite could be seen through the dense canopy, but little else would show to the carefully scanning eyes of the hunter, swiftly descending upon its prey. A flash of red flickered far into the center of the island, due south of a decent rocky spire that stretched above the little island, looking like a witch’s hat almost. The flash was there for but a second, but something immediately clicked in the goblin’s mind. A bad feeling set in almost instantly, but for something not yet recognized by his troubled mind. “Barrage incoming. Brace for shock, Captain.” came the calm voice of Skorm a fractured moment before the sound of thundering guns wracked the airspace! Chestius gripped the gyrocopter as it immediately spun and dipped, rolling to avoid cannonfire from some of the ships now not too far below. It was time, and the deployment was going to be a hot one… “Prepare to drop in 10, 9, 8, 7, ...egh Impact Sir!” Skorm spoke calmly before breaking from his calm pattern to send a warning! From the middle of the island, near where Chestius had his eye on, a large boulder broke from the treeline and launched towards the gyrocopter! By time the goblin could react, it was already a split second from impact! Kaboom! A bright orange blast lit up the sky as the rock made a direct hit on the gyrocopter! Chestius was able to just barely throw himself back before contact, the blast thrusting him to wildly spin and thrash through the air into a tumbling fall from his freshly wrecked transport! He growled as he struggled to regain composure, waiting to open his wings for the right moment! A flapping sound strained against the sounds of cannonfire and howling from below signaled that the goblin’s glider suit had activated properly, and to onlookers Chestius managed to disappear into the explosion. But the goblin took to a direction with a spirited dive, the strongly woven fabric attached to his armor secured like webbing between his arms and legs, forming a pair of batlike wings. He wouldn’t be able to fly with these, but as he dove downwards, they made a world of difference, allowing him to gratuitously slow his descent and glide swiftly through the air like a bird descending silently towards its nest… Taking aim to the southern side of the island near the beachhead where the two wrecked ships lay. The fresh night was now a desperately needed shield as the goblin made his descent over the water winding towards the beach. While his gyrocopter had jets and multiple lights to make it stand out, Chestius was entirely suited for his best defense; stealth. With all that was happening, activating a light cloaking device allowed the goblin to vanish entirely from view at the distance he flew, landing silently with a dive in the tide after breaking his fall multiple times by drawing back with his glider suit to save on impact. Crawling from the water up to the shore, the hunter whispered into his reciever. “Skorm. Report. What the fel was that?” “A… A boulder, Captain. I barely saw it, it didn’t appear to be launched from a catapult, nor was it fired… It was… just hurled at your transport… Which I am afraid lay in ruins now.” Replied Professor Skorm, seemingly dumbfounded at first. “I’m aware of the copter. Tap into my location and prepare a gate rather than a transmat, I’m moving on target alpha and beta. The wreckage may be occupied. Ask Koopa to be on standby… We got more of a problem than Alliance here.. Hear that howling?” Chestius replied almost silently as he lay out flat amongst a patch of brush just off the sands of the beach. Hundreds of feet ahead lay the Alliance ship, and on the far side, the Horde’s. As the goblin whispered, he drew and matched a pair of binoculars to his goggles, zooming his sights in on the wreckage and beginning a scan. “It sounded… pained… I’ll begin sorting through data to try and match source. For now, keep your head down and recon. I will report to you after you reach a haven.” Skorm replied, seemingly inquisitive. “Aye aye, Chestius going dark. Heed all commands forward as battle comms, codeword: Father.” Chestius replied before pushing the reciever back to the side of his headpiece. The wreckage was occupied. There were several night elves still moving about it. They had taken shelter within the broken keel of their boat to protect from the elements. No fires, no smoke. They merely huddled and waited.. They weren’t attempting to be rescued? If the Horde was still about, prioritizing escape would be wise with 6 other ships offshore… Giving away their location wouldn’t be a risk… Unless… The air had been stilling from the gunfire and crash. The ambush upon Chestius’ vessel came to an end as the goblin crawled up on the beach, and as he lay prone in the brush, scouting his target an eerie silence overtook the coming night. Howling! No, a single roar broke the freshly birthed peace of darkness, turning it to suspense and fear! Describing it was hard… Whatever it was, it was big, furious, and close… Chestius’ hair stood on end as the howling neared. If it wasn’t already sheet white from his falsified age, he’d be losing color as the feeling that had crept into his spine prior to the impact returned full force. It churned into a dreaded gut feeling. Something was very, very wrong… Even the shipwrecked elves felt it, now covering themselves in sand, huddling amidst the shadows of their former boat.. Burying oneself was used for few reasons… either to hide the sounds of armor as enemies drew near…. Or to hide scent… Chestius vanished, his body fading into shadows as he dropped his goggles and began to silently scurry through the grass! The icy feeling finally came to his mind’s eye and reared its ugly head for praise… It was the feeling of being hunted… No sooner than seconds after his disappearing act, the goblin felt it. The rumble of something taking step by step towards the beach. He crawled and scratched his way no less than fifty feet from his position, driven almost entirely by something the goblin rarely heeded, his instincts. Next came the sounds of each thump, something still hidden by the dense woods thumping and pressing through to the beach, now breaking and even toppling some young trees as it neared. Chestius activated his goggles, which switched the spectrum of the darkened night into one he could easily see through, staring into the woods where the sounds of movement warned of his coming threat. Sparks… toggling his vision showed color of a bloody red as he watched marked the way. This was it. This was what the elves were fearing.. What likely killed the deathguards. This was what took out his ship. The rifle Chestius drew from his back made not a sound as it aimed down the line at the figure now silhouette in the distance. With a final thump, it stopped just at the treeline, giving just enough visibility for Chestius to finally get a look at its form… Chestius could count on on hand how many times he’d felt his heart sink. The first time was when he found out he was the father of a boy to a witch, seeing the child used as no more than a test subject for torture… The second time was when corruption took his long time friend Hanz, driving him to becoming fodder for a monster that swept through their company, killing several of their own men. Now, Chestius felt his heart practically fall from his chest for the third time his long life of war and business… As he looked through the scope, he saw a hulking mass of an orc, glaring with eyes of pure burning crimson at the place where his gyrocopter fell amidst the waves. His barrel shook for a second as his finger, which was tight on the trigger, melted away, cowering from its only job in the field. This orc, flashing with red sparks, grunted and growled as it hid away in the treeline. Though outside of view of the elves and the warships that waited offshore, Chestius recognized what this was… This was no monster… It was Banjin… He was hulking, his eyes glazed over with a bloody veil, and his famous chi was sparking out of whack against his onyx flesh.. His clothes were badly torn and barely clinging to his berserk form. He was on all fours like a gorilla, sniffing the air and looking to the beach. This was why the elves dug in, the reason they didn’t signal, light any fires, or even show themselves… They weren’t worried about escaping the Horde.. They were trying to escape Banjin… Inhaling to speak, but silencing himself, the goblin kept creeping back. His stealth arts erased his presence enough to where even his scent was obscured. But Banjin had great senses outside of his primal form.. In that state, if the brute got too close, he’d likely be able to locate Chestius even without eyes. And as if answering his thoughts as a dare, the flaring of nostrils gave notice to the hulking monk now moving through the treeline closer, Banjin’s eyes now fixing on the crawling trail that lead to the bushes. The goggles were still there, lying amidst the shrubbery, waiting to become the battery that lead the orcish bloodhound right onto his trail! Silently cursing, all Chestius could do at this point was get distance. It was either a ship full of night elves too scared to move, or an obviously berserked Banjin most likely not about to ask the goblin to sit down for tea. This amongst hundreds of other thoughts crying out Why or How were silenced amidst the tempered heart of battle Chestius would normally pride himself upon. This situation was beyond dire… As Banjin stretched his head out of the brush, hunching over to crawl slowly towards the bush, sniffing the air and grunting, Chestius scrambled in his mind for something to do. He couldn’t attack, he couldn’t flee, he couldn’t stay here hoping to remain hidden. The pressure building faster and faster as the mad monk hissed words that would claw further at the old heart of his former general. “Ca..ptain….Betray..er….. Burned… Burned.. it… all….” growled the monk. But amidst the sensation of fear prickling at his heart alongside its partner grief, Chestius was able to feel it… ‘...He’s…. Crying…’ The goblin ached out the words into straight thoughts as he stopped in his tracks. Looking at his former employee, a man he treated and boasted about like his own son, Chestius could see the lines from tears still dripping from the monks eyes… Gripping his chest, Chestius felt his composure slip.. He inhaled to call out to his student, senses fading to a rise of emotion strong enough to topple any heart, no matter the stone amidst its make. “Targets, six o’ clock.” Rang Skorm’s voice in Chestius’ ears, tethering him back to Azeroth as he whipped around to see a night elf not fifteen feet from him, eyes and weapon trained on Banjin! Pulling the trigger was all the goblin processed as his own body immediately reacted and chaos once again reclaimed the night! A screeching flare whipped from the gun of the night elf scout, blasting towards the treeline and bursting with light right in front of Banjin! And almost within the same moment, Chestius’ hand slipped to his side to draw and fire a pistol at the elf, the gunshot cracking a split second after the initial flare! The gunfire caught the elf offguard, the bullet tearing through the air and hitting her directly in the head! The thump of her elegant form hitting the ground was silenced by the earthsplitting roar that blasted from the mad monk, thrashing about and howling as his tear filled eyes locked shut! Gunfire from the cannons offshore lead in the moments after, cannonballs hitting the waters and the beach, aiming for the target that was illuminated! Banjin retreated backwards into the woods as the cannons hit the sands and ground, shelling closer and closer, but not landing a direct hit upon him! Chestius hit the grit, deploying a smoke pellet and clawing his way into the dense brush to avoid sight from all the forces around him. Ships waiting for a beachside target to bombard with death, night elves now alerted to an assassin, and his own maddened friend out for blood… ...This was going to shave years off his life...
  5. Vilmah

    Inner Peace

    The sky was a pale grey blue, empty of clouds. In spite of the brightness, and the small yellow sun, there was no warmth. White painful cold radiated through her skin, chilling her to the bone. Vilmah Bloodborne lie still, covered in the snow she remembered without much fondness. Somewhere in her memory, she recalled nights alone in exile, her only company the same wolfdog that she was tricked into buying so long ago. Where was he now? Edmund was big enough for her to ride, but only just so. He didn't have the toothy maw of a wolf that most orcs would consider passable, but a constantly wagging tongue and ears that flopped at the tips. He was a sweet creature, more likely to nuzzle an enemy than to attack unless firmly guided. When he did clamp his jaws down on someone, however, he did not let go. He could crush bones with those jaws, but he had little to no desire to do so. Not unless she really needed him to. He was a misfit from the beginning, and she loved him. Where was he, now? She knew that in the snow she would be numb, eventually, but for the moment it was only pain. The cold was slowly freezing her skin, layer by layer, killing the nerves within. Trapped. An avalanche? The weight of it would not allow her to move. Attempting to flex the fingers of her left hand, she realized quickly there was no response. Her mechanical arm was gone, and all she was left with was the heavy snow that covered her up to her chin, burying her within. All she could see is the sky, and all she could hear was the silence. Help! She tried to shout, but her voice would not work. Did something destroy it, before? Has she been yelling all this time? Is anyone there? I'm going to die here, she understands. This was her fate, for some reason. She was alone, cold, and no one would come for her. The clouds drift in, and once again, snow began to fall, burying her alive. ---------------------------------------- Vilmah awoke from her nightmare without much noise, her eyes opening in the dark to stare wordlessly at the stone ceiling of her bedroom in Razor Hill. The orcess was still wearing the same under armor she had on the day before; plain gray linen pants and a shirt. The gray almost matched the stone walls of her room, and with her furs tossed to the floor at some point, it was no wonder she dreamed of freezing to death. Idly, she wondered how long it took Garinth to pick away at that stone, to create each individual room, and what it must have felt like to see it filled with so many new people. She remembered the shy blind half orc she met as a young girl, and recalled just how surprised she was to see him again during the war against the Legion. Surprised and relieved. That relief felt like it happened ages ago. He was gone again, and his partner, Greywind, was dead. Sleeping at her side and taking up half of her bed, Edmund snored noisily. At her feat and at her head, Greywind's puppies joined him in the chorus. Surrounded by canines, there was a certain comfort and familiarity that tugged at a smile in the corners of her mouth. It didn't get very far. The magic time piece on her wall indicated that she had been sleeping less than two hours, and her body wanted her up. Careful not to disturb the puppies, Vilmah pushed herself from her back and slid both legs from the bed. The puppies didn't seem to mind, but Edmund's eyes opened to watch her climb out of bed and move toward her desk. She was nearly silent on bare feet, and the puppies dozed on. Fuzzbutt, finding the warmth of Vilmah's head missing, rolled into Edmund instead. The wolfdog snorted but didn't object. Meditate, she thought to herself, pulling out a sheet of paper and a quill. I need to meditate, and I can't do it if I can't clear my mind. Staring at the blank sheet, Vilmah waited for the words to come to her. They were one part prayer, one part an emptying of thoughts. The words were jumbled and not as coherent as she would have liked, but she poured every thought trapped inside of her on to the page. Before long, it was full of her anger and frustration, and tears blurred her vision. When she finished emptying every thought, Vilmah blew on the page to help the ink dry, and folded it. Edmund raised his head, and the puppies yawned simultaneously. With all three canines at her feet, she went outside. ---------------------------------------- The sun hadn't begun to rise as Vilmah stepped on to the sand, still barefoot, with two huge puppies and Edmund behind her. They were still sleepy enough not to cause a fuss, though Edmund made sure to keep an eye on them both as Vilmah found the small cactus garden cultivated by their other resident shaman, Alinah. Sitting down crosslegged in the sand, Edmund lay down a few feet away and was joined by Furface and Fuzzbutt. The cold desert air chilled Vilmah enough that she briefly considered going back in to grab a sweater, but the prickling of her skin reminded her of the dream, and it settled her. Reaching into one of her pockets, she pulled out a stick of incense and flint. Sticking the incense into the ground in front of her, she then retrieved the piece of paper that she wrote before, and struck the flint to light it. With the folded paper's flame, she lit the incense and sat the burning paper down on the sand. Quickly, it burned to black ashes as the smoke joined the wafting thread of incense. The sight of her words burning away into nothingness drew a strange calm over her, and Vilmah finally closed her eyes to meditate.
  6. Vilmah

    Vilmah's Journal - Volume 2

    Had a nice talk with Gun. He seems pretty happy, he was visiting his family and introducing them to his new girlfriend just before we spoke. I feel a little guilty about throwing my troubles at him, considering how well he's been doing. He's always been good to me, I'm not sure it's been very even. Right now he's just about the only person I feel like I can be honest with, and even then, I can't really tell him everything now can I? To think, I felt isolated when I was in exile. I thought it was because I was in exile that I felt that way. Now I wonder if maybe it had nothing to do with me being exiled at all. Maybe I'm just meant to be the lonely type? Frostwolves are supposed to be like pack animals, but I'm not exactly feeling that way lately. I'm not sure what changed about me. I used to have a lot of friends. Now I find it hard to talk to people, especially about anything too personal. I just let it build up instead. Is that what I'm supposed to do? Just keep all of it inside? I should be meditating. I've been trying to, but every time it seems like my inner voice just wants to scream at me. I can't really blame her, I want to scream too. I want to scream. I want to be angry. But what do I have to be angry at? Sylvannas? The void? The Night Vanguard? Myself? I don't have any one person to blame for all the things I'm feeling, just a big soup of shit I have to keep eating. It used to be that being alone was a choice I made, to keep myself from getting too attached. What was I thinking? It wasn't a choice. It never was.
  7. Vilmah

    Vilmah's Journal - Volume 2

    The Blood War is raging. Garinth is missing. Ridan's mother is dead. Sorathan is dead. Greywind is dead. My chest is heavy and I'm having trouble sleeping. There are things you can't stop from happening, but that doesn't mean I don't feel guilt. I have a duty to serve these people, and I'm failing them. I have tried being conservative with our limited resources, but there are dissenting voices that crave war and revenge. I can't blame them. I want more than anything to find Garinth, and whoever killed Greywind, and tear them apart until my fingers are bloody and I don't feel this guilt anymore. I know that isn't possible, so I have to be patient and wait. Nika is still in Andorhal, and the Alliance wants to march. Soon I might need to bring the few volunteers I have and stand at the front lines. Maybe it will all end there, in glorious battle. A soldier's death, defending my people. It's all I could ever hope for, it's all I should want. I feel selfish for wanting more. Selfish and wrong. At least if I die in battle, I die with honor. Honor is getting so rare these days, it's like trying to keep hold of a slippery fish. Or a slippery shark. I'm chomping at the bit to get back at those bastards who plagued us and killed Ridan's mother, but it's a wildly irresponsible desire. I have Kenton to worry about, now. With a worgen at my heels, I'm practically swimming in wolves. Kenton is kind and thoughtful, but I wonder how much of that is the spell he's under. When you have someone who's been programmed to serve you, it's difficult to tell where the sincerity is. It's so lonely. I have to go through Garinth's journal to find some kind of clue as to his whereabouts and I hate that. I hate that I need to breach his privacy, but I know it's the right thing to do. Greywind's saddle is sitting alone in his room and Razor Hill feels empty. I have to remind myself to eat and sleep, or the headaches chase me down and force my hand. I can't let that happen. So much to do. I hear the embassy is ready. I'll have an office there, a place to work where I can help people away from the war. Is it wrong that I want to stay here instead?
  8. Julilee

    Journeys of a Ghost

    They emerged onto a large balcony. It jutted over the edge of the tier and had a view of a section of the city, as well as the jungle-covered inclines that lay beyond. Further out, the jungle appeared to melt into swamplands. Pterodons wheeled overhead, and the sounds of the city drifted upward. Kex'ti stepped up to the railing and wrapped his grip around it. Juli looked at his hands, seeing the finger he was still missing, and the ring he still wore. "Are you happier here?" she asked, remaining behind and to the side of him. He didn't answer the question, because since when did he answer any question that made him slightly uncomfortable. Instead he tried to find the words to speak of what preoccupied him the most about her reappearance, in his meandering way. "Last I heard, you had been lost in Silithus. And it was not someone from Sanctuary that told me this, but... I am tremendously relieved that you are alive, and were not lost to that cursed place." He grimaced. "I'm sorry if you were worried," Juli said. "It wasn't intentional." "What do you want from me, Juli?" he asked simply. He turned and scrutinized her. She didn't know what he was looking for. Any sign of the taint of the Void? She knew he feared that above anything else. Any hint of the woman he had loved, and who had loved him? She knew it wasn't there in her eyes anymore, whatever he had once seen, though it could very well have as much to do with the knowledge in his gaze as the knowledge in hers. The time they had spent apart had been instructive to them both. If you set someone free and they don't return, that means you were only holding them back. "I wanted to say I'm sorry I never loved you as much as you loved me," she said. He was floored. All he could say was, "What happened to you?" She moved up to the railing beside him and folded her arms on it, looking out but not really seeing anything. Her mind went back to the moment everything changed. The six months that followed had changed her too, but not as much as that moment had. "I came face-to-face with the Void, and it... made me see things differently. I was almost lost to it, Kex'ti. I'm sorry I never really, fully understood your aversion to it before. In the end I had two choices: the Void or the Light. I chose the Light and survived." At her hip, Mercy glowed softly with its jagged lines of gold energy that were no longer just energy. Now the purified weapon glowed with the Light, and so did she. It shone in her eyes and flowed through her constantly, an aura she couldn't turn off. The goblin hadn't been wrong. She was a paladin now. Kex'ti's expression softened. He hadn't missed the difference in her. "I am glad you made the right choice." He thought for a moment, then said, "You do not need to apologize. Love is not a matter of magnitude... and I do not even think it is true. We both made errors in our relationship. Am I happier? No. I am not. But I am also less sad, and frustrated." "You're kind to put it that way," she said. "But I think we both know it was my fault it didn't work. I just want you to know I don't blame you." There it was. She had said it, most of it. She had walked straight out of hell and to him because nothing had mattered more than lifting whatever she could of the burden that she had so unfairly placed on him. If she had died down there, her ghost would have been haunted with the knowledge of the guilt she had inflicted on him, unjust and undeserved. Looking at him, she wondered if it helped. He didn't look dumbstruck anymore, just calm. Maybe it would sink in over time. "I appreciate that. I hope things have improved for you since Sanctuary. I do not imagine it has without you." He lifted a hand from the railing and put it back, watching the birds. "Are you happier?" "I only just got back," she said. He didn't know how true that was. "This is the first thing I'm even doing. Next will be Rylie... if I can communicate with her safely." He nodded. "That is a large part of why I am here, so obviously present in the military. So as not to paint a target on her back. Or draw question to my loyalties. It might be advisable you do the same." "I just don't want her to think she's been abandoned," she said quietly. He scowled. "I have tried to get mail to her. I do not know if it has arrived." Changing topics swiftly as he did when he was irked, he said, "What will you do next?" "After trying to get word of my own to her... I'm not sure." He coughed and reached for where he used to keep his medicinal jug at his waist. It was not there. "Ah. I left my medicine back inside. It was... good to see that you are alive. I am sorry for the troubles you have faced." She listened as he prepared to end the visit, to separate himself from her. She watched as he stepped away from the railing, taking a couple steps back toward the guildhall. Every move he made was so familiar to her. Even with his lost weight, every plane of his face was embedded in her memory. Every twist of his mouth, every furrow of his brow, every pitch in his voice, she knew. But it was like watching him through a window. They couldn't reach each other. So it was just as well he didn't want to anymore. He turned away, but then he stopped. Without looking at her, he spoke. "I never stopped loving you, or believing in you. I just couldn't stomach that one decision you made. I am sorry that choice led you to the path you had to walk, but I hope it brings you purpose and peace. For myself, I often wonder if those things exist. But at least for you, if they exist, I believe you'd be the one to find them." And that was why she'd had to come tell him this. Because he would have kept putting up with her, with far more than he should have, if she had not pushed just a little too far. And then she had accused him of not loving her enough. "You did always love me more than I deserved," she murmured. "Maybe," he said. Before he began to move, he remarked, "Do not endanger Rylie because of a guilty conscience." Then he waved his hand and headed inside. Once, that would have been more than sufficient to offend her. It didn't. What he thought of her didn't matter. Whether he was right or wrong to think it didn't matter. She had done all she could here. The rest was out of her hands. She looked once more over the view. It held nothing of interest. She left Warscar Reach's hall. [[ Written in conjunction with Kexti. ]]
  9. Julilee

    Journeys of a Ghost

    Down, deep within the sprawl of the Seal's halls, she found the banner the woman had described. An eager-eyed orc stood beside it, dressed in black chainmail with red accents. He addressed her the moment she was in range, before it was even reasonable to assume that his hall was her destination. "Throm-ka, paladin! The Reach could always use more of your kind. Have you come to enlist, following our recent victory?" She continued until she stopped in front of him, her gaze briefly moving to the banner. It was not far removed from the Kor'kron banner Shokkra had kept in her room. To the orc she said, "No, I'm looking for one of your members. Kex'ti, Kex'ti Dalendala." "Dalendala? Oh. Huh. Who're you to him?" the orc asked, hand on his pike. Juli paused, distinctly. Wasn't that quite the question. The answer she finally came up with was, "Julilee Liene. He'll know who I am." "Oh. Uh huh." The orc seemed to know what that meant. "Well, he's back about three torches on the left. Should be sparring with Tulip, Ochiga, Kaeeli, and Gorgath. I'll escort you." He added the very last sheepishly after Juli simply looked at him for a moment, since he stood blocking the doorway. "Thank you." The orc nodded. The thirst for drama was evident in his hurried pace as they entered the Warscar Reach barracks. Past the third torch, the hallway angled down to a veranda with overhanging vines. A sandy ring lay in the middle. A white-haired Sin'dorei stood in the center of the arena, a burly Blackrock orc and a lithe Nightborne strafing around him. He hadn't noticed the newcomers yet. "Think fast, old man!" yelled the Nightborne then, rushing in to take a swing at the back of the elf's head. The orc growled and charged in at the same time, low, aiming to tackle the elf's waist. Outside of the arena, a goblin kicked her feet on a planter, and a pandaren monk sipped at a cup of tea, cross-legged, as they watched the sparring match. Juli stood in the archway and observed. Kex'ti twisted lithely and leaned back to catch the Nightborne's fist, only to spy Julilee as he did so. A moment of confusion crossed his face. "Juli?" he muttered, then the orc's converted uppercut connected with his jaw. The phenomenal strike landed him in the Nightborne's arms, caught and hanging limply by the armpits. "Whoa, hey, wait a second!" called the goblin. "Kex'ti, you alright?" She hopped off the decorative container and walked over, summoning a few drops of healing rain onto the sand. "I wasn't expecting that to work!" boasted the orc. "But... are you okay?" Kex'ti never took his eyes off Juli. He spat some blood into the muddy dirt. "I am fine, everyone. Excuse me a moment." He held a hand to his cheek and began to mend the damage as he regained his feet. Then he walked calmly over towards her, limping only slightly. Juli stayed where she was, letting Kex'ti approach. Seeing him... It felt different. Everything was different now. It evoked feelings she wasn't allowed to have anymore. She found she didn't know what to say, and was silent. He looked different. He was dressed in sparring leathers in red and black. The red on black of his tabard looked out of place compared to the purple and gold he'd worn for so many years. His beard was much better kept, very close to the sides of his angular face. He'd lost a lot of weight. He'd never been fat, exactly, but it was clear the traveling with a military branch left little time for him to bulk up to his usual size, or perhaps the lack of quality food... None of it mattered. He was there. She was looking upon him. And she could tell him what she'd spent every day these past six months hoping she'd have a chance to say. "I see you have matched your hair to mine," he chuckled. She'd forgotten how different she looked, too. Her armor was no longer muted purple and gold, but white, dark gray, and gold, and lacking tabard, pauldrons, or shield. And her hair, long now, had become as white as his. The last changes she hadn't known about until she came across the mirror in the ruins. Her eyes no longer glowed green. They glowed gold. The differences were so striking that it was remarkable he had recognized her instantly. No one else would have. "Yeah, I guess." She paused. The words wouldn't come out, hardly. "I just wanted you to know I'm alive. I thought... You would want to know." "Should we go somewhere to talk?" he asked. "Probably." He raised a hand to his eyes and rubbed them. "Fine, let us head out to the general concourse." He walked past her, causing the orc guard, who had been hovering, to start hastily moving back toward his post. The goblin in the arena called after Kex'ti. "Uh, you want your staff?" "No, Tulip. I will not be long," he said, wearily. He glanced to Julilee, and nodded out back towards the humid mid-day heat.
  10. Julilee

    Journeys of a Ghost

    Juli didn't know what the Paku'ai were and didn't bother asking when it didn't seem like it would make itself obvious. It was a climb indeed but it didn't bother her. She had learned long ago that it didn't matter how slow your forward progress was as long as you kept moving forward. Endurance would win you any battle, eventually. At the Great Seal, a hall characterized by an ancient device that hung broken overhead, soldiers more than any others came and went. Juli knew them by the way they carried themselves, by the purpose with which they moved. Sprinkled amongst them were emissaries from the new lands: diminutive, foxlike people, a few snake-like ones, and the slow, wizened turtle-esque ones. Juli barely spared the unusual sights a glance as her gaze moved over the crowd, looking for a familiar face that did not materialize. She ended up wandering, and came to a field hospital. There, chants to the Loa, the Light, and other supernatural forces clamored for attention. A slight Sin'dorei woman, her ears evident through the cap she wore, tended to the wounded with pulses of mists. Her ministrations were gentle, hope blooming on the faces of those she tended. Juli thought of Kex'ti's less-than-tender healing as she watched and waited. After the monk finished tending to her last patient, Juli approached her. "Excuse me," she said, "have you seen another Sin'dorei monk around here? His name is Kex'ti... White hair, slight limp?" The woman nodded. "He was here right after landfall. Fell in with a division called the Warscar Reach. Black tabard, red Horde crest. Don't know where the Zandalari have garrisoned them, but should be somewhere near here, in the halls below the Seal." After a moment she added reflectively, "Proficient healer. Little sensitive about the quality of his work." "Warscar Reach," Juli repeated. Luck she had no right to had befallen her again. "Thank you." She went to turn away just as she had every time over the past three days. "Your spirit seems troubled," the woman spoke up. "It's not," Juli said, both politely and honestly, and left.
  11. Julilee

    Journeys of a Ghost

    The next morning she had stopped in Echo Isles to start searching for more information, and that's where she discovered two things: one, that it had been six months she had been gone, and two, the pleasant coincidence that a boat sailed from the Isles to Zuldazar every day. Thus she had ended up in the Zandalari capital city that very afternoon for the price of only two gold, her journey more direct than it had any right to be, though at that point she was on her own to figure out where to go from there. She'd only had the one idea of where to start looking for him. As she stepped into the sailors' tavern, she gave herself a moment to adjust to the interior. The tavern music was loud and heavy on the drums, but the addition of stringed instruments added a strangely elven vibe. Within, sailors threw knives at targets, quaffed drinks, and brawled. Most were Zandalari, but grizzled orcs staked their claim. In a corner, two goblins, a Farraki troll, and a single Forsaken were engaged in a game of cards, and laughed in unmistakable Orcish lilts. One of the goblins clutched her hair and bemoaned whatever she'd lost in the exchange. Juli was standing there, pondering whom to approach, when the female goblin noticed her and seemed to brighten with hope. "Hey! You!" she called to Juli. "You're a paladin, aintcha? I just lost my staff. Really, really a shame. Can barely call down the Light on my allies here. Mind helping a fellow girl out?" Not offering any corrections, Juli approached. "What do you need?" she inquired. "Just uh, you mind spotting me some coin? Just three gold, enough to buy back my staff." The female smiled coyly, batting her eyelashes. "I'll do anything you might need. Y'know, 'cause we're fellow travelers on the path of the Light." Juli reached into her satchel and pulled out her remaining three gold. "Just help me find someone. His name is Kex'ti. Sin'dorei, white hair, a little weathered, likes to punch and use the mists like a monk." The goblin quickly grabbed the three gold, but didn't hesitate to turn to her companions. Her voice, known to the other regulars, elicited attention as she spoke loudly. "Hey, any'a youse know anything about an old blood elf monk guy?" She set down the coins and pulled back an ornate, gaudy staff. "I've seen one or two," spoke up one of the orcs. "You might try checking up at the Great Seal." He addressed Juli. "Hell of a climb, 'specially in plate. Ask for one of the Paku'ai to send you up." If Kex'ti had kept to bartending, or underground fighting, these people would have known him. This Great Seal seemed like her only remaining lead, weak though it was. "Thank you," she said, and once more left without a backwards glance. "That's it?" Juli heard the goblin say, then, with a shrug in her voice, "All right, boys, buy me back in. I'm gonna win this one."
  12. Julilee

    Journeys of a Ghost

    She'd also forgotten what pork tasted like. After journeying north into Durotar, she'd killed a boar, then cooked it over a proper fire. While the meat sizzled and browned, she'd stared at it, struggling with a sense of unreality. Dissociation, she told herself. She'd heard the term somewhere, probably in a leadership course or other schooling her privileged upbringing had provided, but like many other things, she hadn't understood it until she experienced it. Pork didn't really taste special. It was just meat. In the fading light of the evening, Juli inventoried her possessions. She carried very little. Her sword, Mercy; her armor, with the padding she wore underneath; and the contents of her pack, which was at this point only a short rope, a knife, a patched waterskin, a well-used sharpening stone, and five gold pieces. If she continued to Orgrimmar, she could access her accounts and purchase anything at all she needed. She could commandeer a mount, sleep in a bed, replace her shield. She thought about it, then laid back on the hard-packed dirt and stared up at the sky until stars began to twinkle into existence. The sight wasn't as reassuring as she had hoped. It wasn't really anything. It was just the night sky, which was to say, more an infinite void than anything else. "I'm alive," she whispered. The void did not answer. That was a welcome change.
  13. Julilee

    Journeys of a Ghost

    She had gone to Ratchet, first. That was where he'd been the last time she'd seen him. She barely remembered the overland journey there, but remembered that the bartender had had to tell her twice that he had quit and gone off to join the war before it sank in. "What war?" she asked. "The Legion was defeated." The goblin gave her a look that said he was finding her more and more questionable in terms of sanity, intellect, or both. "With the Alliance? You know, after we burned down Teldrassil and they tried to take Undercity so we bombed it to plaguey smithereens?" She stood there, digesting that. Once, those two hefty pieces of news would have sent her into a tailspin. It would have changed everything. Now, she found they didn't matter. They just passed through her. It was noise, unimportant background. Her objective remained the same. "Where should I look for him?" "Uh, Zuldazar's where the Horde's operating out of, so start there, I guess?" The goblin was nothing more than that same background now, and she almost turned and walked away without a further word. But something stopped her. With an effort, she focused on the hesitation and identified it. It was that the goblin was a person, and you were supposed to treat people with respect. It had been so long since that had been relevant she'd forgotten it mattered. "Thank you," she said politely before she departed.
  14. Julilee

    Journeys of a Ghost

    She stepped off the boat and looked up, up, up, at the tiered and thickly floraed city. The air was heavy with humidity, so heavy that it had made her dizzy for a moment when she'd emerged from the ship cabin before she'd warded it off. The commingled foreign scents of rotting jungle and the unique culture of this city made the air even thicker. Around her moved crowds almost as dense, made up of many Zandalari trolls, but also Sin'dorei, orcs, Nightborne, Forsaken, and others, including a race of turtle-like people she had never seen before, and everywhere else she looked there were dinosaurs, used as beasts of burden and labor. Everything was different and exotic and strange. She barely spent a moment looking at it before turning to a dockworker. "Excuse me," she said politely. "Where can I find taverns?" The green-skinned troll had nearly two heads on her. Clearly taking a break, he stood leaning against a pallet of crates while smoking a foul-smelling herb, but responded with lucidity. "Ya be lookin' fo' de elf-like taverns, de sailormon taverns, o' de Horde soldier taverns?" He pointed in the direction of each as he spoke, three separate locations along the docks. She considered the options, then asked, "Which one has the most fighting?" The troll chuckled. "De second. Which loa do you bargain with?" He looked at her sword as he asked the question. Julilee put her hand on the hilt of Mercy. "None," she said, then, still just as politely, "Thank you for the advice." With that, she turned away to head in the direction he had indicated. "Paku watch over ya, richmon," he said, regarding her with a wary respect as she left.
  15. RiktheRed21

    An End to Summer

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

    An End to Summer

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

    An End to Summer

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

    An End to Summer

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

    Business Trip

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

    An End to Summer

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

    Death of a Phoenix

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

    Death of a Phoenix

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

    Death of a Phoenix

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

    Copper Kisses

    Nathandiel groaned as he set down the last of firewood by the hearth, kicking an errant log back onto the blanket he'd put down to catch the bits of bark that always fell from the lengths of tinder. He went back to the front door, leaning out into the street. Tarren Mill was bigger now, more boisterous than years before. Aside from the normal development of a healthy settlement that saw growth, Tarren Mill was now one of the nearer Horde outposts to the conflict in the Arathi Highlands to the East. With the Undercity gone, its also one of the more popular refugee towns. He frowned at this, eyeing a few of those said refugees by one of the water pumps, on their way to the cemetery. Towards the town's centre there would be more of them, crashed out under lean-to dwellings, filling the inn, and taking up space in any shoppe that would permit them. He pulled the door to the little flat closed, sure to turn the lock. It wasn't yet clear who had survived the attack, and while there were some who knew he had, he wasn't yet keen to make it apparent that he was still with the living--he had other things to attend to besides the Warcheif's ambitions. The small flat was old, dusty, and he had yet to properly clean it. What equipment he had bartered for dominated the kitchen, a place that had become more a laboratory than a place in which he made food. In the cupboards there were canned goods tucked snug next to stock solutions and chemical powders with handwritten labels. Before the Undercity had fallen, he had been deeply engrossed in work, finding the solace there that Howard Philip Glinn had promised he would. He had been set back by the assault, but had salvaged his journals--along with his family. Kieran cooed with delight in the single bedroom, a small space with a wooden stove, kept from view by dusty curtains Nathandiel had taken from the living room windows. He had replaced those coverings with linens. His new wife liked it dark in the bedroom, the light still too much for her. Kieran didn't mind, so long as he had her attention--and she was surprisingly good at giving it to him. He could hear her speaking softly to the child, encouraging him to eat more, to become stronger. That should have been a happy moment, to hear his new wife speak to the child in their charge with such hope. It is happy. I am happy--I am. We cannot always have things exactly as we want them. He went to the fireplace, stoking the coals to rouse them in anticipation for more fuel. He wiped sweat from his upper lip as the fire grew hotter with each addition, the glow leaning more yellow than orange as the flames licked up the sappy wood, popping when it hit sugar. He stood, content with his work, and pulled the fire gate closed. He couldn't have Kieran crawling into the fire, that would be most troublesome. The tiny tot had already put his hand on the stove in the bedroom, earning himself a red and inflamed palm that Nathandiel had salved and wrapped, feeling no need to admonish the child; it had learned enough of a lesson from the injury. In the kitchen he took off his shirt, wiping down his upper body and under his arms, removing at least the worst of the stink that enshrouded a man after a prolonged period of arduous labour; he would take a bath after supper. Without reclothing, he set to making the evening meal, pushing aside retort stands and moving glassware so that he could make enough space on the counter to chop vegetables. In the bedroom he heard mutual giggling; they were happy in there. I either need to go hunting, or suck it up and purchase some meat from one of the vendors here. We've been living on vegetables for nearly a week, he thought, while he cut the potatoes. Before moving onto the onions he put on his laboratory goggles. They didn't work entirely, but they did help keep the tearful miasma from his eyes, at least enough that he could finish the task. Once the pot was full, the water added, and the stock dispensed, he lugged the heavy iron receptacle to the fire and hung it. He took a moment to stoke the fire again before giving the soup a stir. It was thick this time, more like a stew. His mouth watered at the prospect of a hearty meal. It would be better with meat.... With supper attended to, he headed to the bedroom, pushing aside the curtains and slipping in before any light would enter. Inside the small room was dominated by a rickety bed, dark covers draped over a slender form who was propped up with pillows, an infant on her lap. The stove was cold, they wouldn't light it until evening. The box that served as Kieran's cradle was next to the bed, making it easy for his wife to reach the infant when she so wished. Affixed to the headboard were IV bags, several of them, some small and some large, some piggy-backing on others while some had direct lines to the woman in the bed. He went to the bed and took each bag in hand, turning them over to check their volumes, frowning at each meniscus that met a line he didn't like. "You need more blood," he sighed softly, biting his lip. While they had been in the bowels of the Undercity coming by blood had been no problem. Now though.... A cold hand closed on his forearm and he looked down. The veiled face was turned up to him, the child tucked against her covered breast with a bottle. "I feel much better," she said, her voice throaty and smooth like velvet. "You worry too much. This is where Melchisedech did his best work, and this is where you will do yours. The fall of Lordaeron is infuriating," her grip tightened. "But for us, this may have been best. Now...favour me before you busy yourself with my care taking?" It was a simple request and he smiled. He lifted her veil, placing it carefully on her crown and leaned down, tipping up her chin as he kissed her. She was still so cold. He let his forehead rest against hers and she held his cheek with one slender hand. "Be stronger than the fear and doubt that wrest your heart. I have seen worse times in life, as have you. This space between life and something else does not frighten me; do not let it frighten you." He kissed her again, eager for her even in her given state. He restrained himself, however, for despite her assurances, she was not well. His eyes met hers, the once-vibrant green gone, a pale violet looking back. Her cheeks were sunken and her lips were barely the colour of bleached roses. Her dark hair tumbled over her shoulders, lank and really too long. Now, more than ever, she resembled the Queen she so adored, but she was not like Sylvanas or her kind, not entirely. "I can smell soup," Drinn said. "I think I would like to have some. Would that be alright?" He smiled, not sure that she really did wish to eat or if rather she wished to please him by appearing to wish to eat. "Of course," he said. "When its ready I'll bring you a bowl to go with Kieran's broth." Drinn nodded, smiling down at the infant she had become keen on. "Eat yours in here with us," she said. "Take just a little time away from the work and care giving and be with us." She looked up at him. "Do you think after supper you could read more to us?" Nathandiel nodded. "Of course." Drinn lowered her veil, hiding her meekness. "Good. We would like that very much. You may tend to me now." She did not like when he invited himself to administer her medicines and supplements, or to help himself to a bodily exam. Even in a nearly helpless state, she was not a submissive woman. He didn't mind this about his new wife. Her strength, even her arrogance, enamored him to her. When he'd finally found her, broken and drained, she'd still tried to kill him. With her permission, he changed her IVs, flushed her catheters, checked her lines, and drew his samples. By the time he had her settled, the soup was ready. They ate together, and when they were done, he read to Kieran and Drinn until they were both asleep. He watched them, the way the baby lifted and fell slowly on Drinn's struggling chest. As much as he wanted to stay there with them enjoying the peace they had created in that tiny room, he had work to do. [align=center]In Memory of Drinn[/align] [align=center]Happy Birthday Drinn[/align] [align=center]October 16, 1980 to June 21, 2016[/align]
  26. 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.”
  27. 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.
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