Venedict

A Duel in Dustwallow

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It was probably around midnight, the raven that flew high above the city of Theramore had reasoned. With each powerful flap of his wings, his shadow traced down below him thanks to the illumination of the moon. His greatest ally, and his greatest source of power. As he looked down upon the city, he pondered why in Elune’s name they had ever decided to stay here after they landed upon the shores of Kalimdor. Nor did he understand why his former mate loved this place so. But, for now, he needed no such distractions he reminded himself as his talons gripped upon the railing of the Lighthouse. After a brief shrug and ruffle of feathers, the bird’s form gave way to a Kaldorei. The man quickly gripped where his talons once were, leaving his true figure hunched over the fence as he climbed down. As he spotted the lantern, his gaze searched the area, particularly behind him. Satisfied no one was watching, he opened the lantern to blow out the flame, leaving the area darker and allowing him more privacy. His hands went to open the door, finding it would not budge. Much to his frustration. He jiggled the handle again. It seemed to be a firmer lock than he expected. His shoulder slammed into the door. Still nothing. He sighed, “All right, door. We’ll see how you like me angry then.” He smirked as he closed his eyes, trying to evoke one of his commonplace rages he was known for. His body shook as he tried to stir the coals of his burning furies. His thoughts went to all he had lost, all that was stolen from him. To Svet, to the wars, to the all the disrespect he had been shown, and even to the Slut who knocked out his tooth… And then, he cocked his fist back for a massive punch—Only to scream out in such pain afterwards. His eyes opened as he hollered, holding his hand, trying not to scream obscenities for all of the port to hear. Muffling sounds of his self induced pain, he feared he had broken his left hand. Again. He growled now, his frustration starting to get the best of him. The door would not budge, and he needed what he came for. So, if it wouldn’t open, and wouldn’t break… he’d burn it. It was wood after all!

And then the door opened to reveal a tiny woman, it was either a dwarf or a gnome—he couldn’t really tell. He had his theories, but he had been wrong in the past. “Hello…? I heard a thump out here. Was that you? May I help you sir?”

Vaedoras blinked, surprised at this turn of events as he forced the flames closed between his fists, the left aching even worse from the heat. “Gnome?”

“Yes, I am a Gnome. How may I help you?” She spoke louder this time.

Vae smiled for a moment proud of his accomplishment, a sense of pride that was quickly squashed by other realizations. Instead, he began to frown, trying to remember words from what he read for translations. “I… need… Box. You see Box?” Just for good measure, the elf pantomimed the object.

“Box? Could you describe it to me sir? Was it big? Wooden?”

After a few moments the druid nodded. “Wood. Vidyeh go here… box?” And in hopes of helping, he again made a square with his hands.

The Gnome’s eyebrows perked at the name. “Oh! That box! But… why do you need it? Where is Vidyeh?”

First there was excitement on the druid’s face, then sorrow as she started asking questions. So, instead the druid showed his hand. “Help?” He forced a smile, trying to ease himself in. She luckily obliged him with a sigh; so the druid began to speak again as they went down the stairs. “Box… help safe. Bad elf want hurt me. Bad elf hurt Vidyeh. You know where box?”

“Yes, I know where the box is. She asked me to keep it safe. You’re sure Vidyeh’s hurt? Where is she? And who are you?”

And there came more questions. In the Human tongue at that. He sighed, “Svet try hurt Vidyeh. I no understand where Vidyeh…” It was hard for the man to say it normally, but, he couldn’t manage it. “I go far… away… Vidyeh. I… Vaedoras Starshade. I go. I keep Vidyeh Safe.” He took a moment to clear his head before pressing the issue again. “Where box?”

“Vaedoras?” The Gnome frowned, thinking she finally grasped the situation. “Here.” She moved to a shelf where an ornate Darnassian wooden box was, its design decorated with silver leaves.

Vaedoras took it from her, before placing it on a table. His hands went to either side, opening the lid of the box. Where upon a light elegant sound of a lullaby filled the air. It was soft, gentle. Something that had caught him off guard the first time he had heard it. His eyes began to water as he felt his composer cracking. The song, in all its beauty, reminded Vaedoras of things he wished he could forget. Things like how much Svetlaena had been so elven, more so than Vae ever had the chance to be. And it reminded him of his original sin.

“Mister Starshade… are you…?”

The sound of the Gnome brought him back to reality, where he was able to put away thoughts and pity for a later time. It allowed him to pretend to embrace his true nature again. His hands gently went to the contents of the music box. Three crystals of unknown origin that left a mild disturbing sensation to the touch, a broken silver charm alone with a fine jeweler’s chain, and a piece of parchment that Vaedoras quickly and gently opened to ensure it was what was meant to be in there. And there it was; the sketch of someone who almost looked a lot like his sister, but with a single wing on her side. With everything in order, the druid closed the box. Using his right hand, he touched his left hand to allow a small healing spell to run through his body. When he felt a more gentle warmth inside his hand, where the blood was flowing and the body began to repair itself, he picked up the box. His voice was quite as he gave a small, “Thank you.” Before the Gnome could say anything, the druid went to the door and unlocked it before stepping out into the moonlit air. Taking a deep breath, he shifted back into a large raven with the box in his talons. A few gusts with his powerful wings, and Vaedoras would be airborne. With a bank to the left, he circled the city once to head north. This was almost as easy as he had hoped. Only one person saw him, and he was well on his way to where he had been staying... Yes, it seem tonight was going to be a good night.

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"Aha. See? Just where I knew he'd be going," the Professor said down to her drake, smiling and patting the side of its neck. Its only response was to tense its position on the branch, its massive claws holding it in the dull-colored canopy over Dustwallow like a huge, awkward bird. They were as hidden in the leaves as his size would allow.

Following Vaedoras out here without being seen had not been easy. A chance sighting in Hyjal had led her on an exhaustive trip southward, implementing a spyglass so she could keep a greater distance from him, so she'd almost lost him twice over the expansive Barrens in the patches of dust the dry area generated. Hungry, bored, but determined, she trailed him for hours and it all led her here.

The bird that was Vaedoras crossed the water toward them and she tried to remain as still as possible, nearly holding her breath, till he passed over them. That hunger and boredom mostly ceased to be as she watched him take off northeast, giving him a head start.

Tiborstraz wheeled into the air as tiny heels kicked into his scales with all their might, managing to tickle him somewhat. His mistress kept him low above the forest canopy but they built up speed. She had to focus. One wrong move could cause the box to crash unceremoniously to the earth and shatter.

The very thought made her wince, a sinking feeling in her stomach.

Tiborstraz was finally able to match Vaedoras's speed. Giving him another nudge she urged him upwards and he fanned out his full wingspan, gliding on a thermal and aiding his momentum even more as he rose in a swift arc toward the druid. Svetlaena grinned as they closed in.

Vaedoras Starshade would be shaken out of the relative peace of flight with a hard shove from behind and below, the drake trying to knock (but not pierce) the bird with its gargantuan horns.

"Hahaha!" the druid would hear an all too familiar voice above the whistling of the wind. "Give it back, you little shit!"

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Vaedoras had, indeed, been forced out of his satisfaction of a job well done. Where he had thought himself alone and that his efforts of being subtle (or quite possibly just at least for him) had left him feeling successful, he had been giving a brutal wake up call. Between the surprise attack and Tiborstraz flinging the raven like a ragdoll, Vaedroas was plummeting towards the ground back first and with the wind knocked from him.

As the wind rushed through his ears, he could faintly hear the wicked laughter from the worst possible person to have found him. His senses were quickly regaining their sharpness, and with the shifting his weight to flip him over. His talons gripped at the box even tighter before he gave a loud caw in response to the woman’s demands. It could probably be interpreted as a challenge or as a “Fuck you too!” With the chase on, the raven dived further down towards the canopies of the trees below. He knew when it came to size and physique, the behemoth of a creature Svetlaena was riding upon would overcome him far too easily out in the open. How the fuck did she get a dragon under her call? And how did she have so many creatures? He didn’t know, and this wasn’t the time for such considerations he reminded himself as he tried to keep his head in the current crises. If he wanted to get out of this alive, and if he wanted to Beat her… He would have to outsmart her. Which, unfortunately for him, was much easier said than done.

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Svetlaena was a little impressed with the speed that Vaedoras righted himself, even with the extra weight in tow. She smiled; feeling alive. These were always her favorite sort of moments, when her enemy rose to her challenge and forced her to stay on her toes. If she wanted a good fight, he was one person she could always rely on to provide her with hours of fun.

She and Tiborstraz glided down to follow him, stopping just short of the top of the forest canopy, his claws occasionally brushing branches. They stayed on the druid's tail as best they could, the dragon trying to close in again and close its jaws around him. The Professor wasn't even holding the reins anymore, confident enough in the dragon following orders. One hand clutching the horn of the saddle for dear life she was standing in the stirrups now, flipping through a mental spellbook, deciding what spells she could and could not use... after all still couldn't stand the thought of the precious stolen cargo Vaedoras carried somehow getting shattered.

No, she just had to make sure he never made it out of the marsh with it... steadying her hand, she tried to take aim as best she could in the chaos of the chase.

"I said give..." One Penance bolt, "it" another, "BACK!" and a third.

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Vaedoras sped across the tree line of the canopy as he gladly rode the swooping glide as far as it allowed him before he needed to begin flapping his wings again. Unlike Svetlaena, he was using his own energy during the chase. Something he needed to conserve. Especially when his raven form was vastly inferior to that of a dragon; something that was proven as Tiborstraz quickly covered the same ground and tried to devour Vae in mid flight.

The sound of the jaws snapping behind him forced him to quickly change his maneuvers. Where he had been flying straight, he was now forced to dodge something behind him. Something that he couldn’t afford to look at. So, instead, his flight took on the serpentine pattern. The sinking realization of the direness of the situation had finally struck him fully. She was not playing with him. And it had become a win or die scenario. He hadn’t even heard her speaking again at first over the growling, the roaring and the snapping of jaws behind him. That was, until the first bolt of holy energy seared at him. He was sure it didn’t do much Actual damage, but it hurt like a motherfucker. He was at a massive disadvantage. Another one shot at him, feeling like it was singing his flesh. He had to think fast. Her scream was heard much better this time. He had been slowed down by the blasts, leaving only one option to be quick enough to escape the jaws of the dragon this time. And that… was to take a fall.

The rave gave a loud pained squawk, as if he had been critically injured. His wings folded as he fell through the canopy towards the ground, trying to reduce his wind resistance enough to allow gravity to save him from that terrible snapping of the jaws. Relived as he fell, he worked on the second part of the maneuver: Breaking his fall and using it to regain the velocity required for step three. Shifting his weight enough to fall where the trees would better hide his intentions, he waited until he felt he had enough privacy to allow his wingspan to shoot open and for his wings to allow him to fly through the trees—back the way they came. His wings took him to the nearest break that revealed the sky. About thirteen yards or so, where he beat his wings as fast as he could, trying to rise as far as he possibly could before she noticed she had been had. Assuming this worked, when he was high enough in the sky that he had a great amount of distance between them… he decided it was time for a little payback. He shifted the box’s weight more to his right talon, and then prepared his dive-bomb at the woman’s head. About halfway through he gave his own raven version of a war cry; His sharp beak eager to draw blood wherever he may.

Revenge was going to be sweet.

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The Professor's eyes widened as Vaedoras started to plummet to the ground, narrowly avoiding Tiborstraz's jaws closing around his wing. The creature did not need to be told to stop, fortunately, wheeling around as soon as he lost sight of his quarry and starting to do large circles over the trees. Svetlaena scanned below for any sign of movement, near-frantic, worried that he might have fallen from too high up to preserve the box. The soft ground of the marsh would break its fall... right?

She was so occupied looking below that the loud bird-squawking from Vaedoras was the only warning she had. She opened her mouth to speak of her confusion, but... "What the f--AAH!"

A shrill yelp emitted from her and she struggled to keep her balance, disoriented from the blow to the head, thankfully not losing her grip on the saddlehorn. She adjusted her feet in the stirrups a bit and stood up straight again, jerking the dagger at her side out of its sheath. A growl rolled through her throat when she felt a streak of warm blood creep down her scalp and get absorbed by her black headband.

Her eyes on the druid she kept the point of her dagger leveled at him, daring him to do that again and get impaled. Both drake and elf were focused on him, and she called out over the sound of the wind, voice tinged with false honey:

"Vaeeee! Just give it back, okay? We can talk this out, there's no need to be rash!" The stability of her tone cracked a little, and a keen eye might catch a strange twitch. "You're a sensible... purple... thing... this isn't fairrrr!"

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It worked! It actually worked! As his wings ascended him further into the air, giving him a more tactical look above her as he circled, he couldn’t help but feel elation. While he had hoped to knock her down, knock her out, Something to end this fight quickly—He was still Quite pleased at hearing the Harpy-Bitch yelp from pain and fear. That sound was probably the sweetest he had heard in Months.

But, again, he had to remind himself to get his head back into the fight. The conflict wasn’t over. Far from over he suspected, knowing his luck. As he prepared for a second round, he heard her voice. She was changing her tactics. Though, he couldn’t help but wonder just how stupid she thought he was. Her words spoke of a way to end this, if he weren’t wise enough to know she was a dirty liar. Like all of her kind, he suspected. But she also had a knife out! He could see the reflection from the moon from it. But she wanted to play? Fine, he could change tactics too. After all, she had an unfair advantage with the dragon expending his energy rather than her. But, from his vantage point, he saw something that could prove useful… Vaedoras gave a Caw as if in affirmation to her statements before he swooped down towards a clearing which contained what looked to be an abandoned house, where the windows were boarded up. Which, for what Vae had in mind, was perfect.

Vaedoras knew he didn’t have much time before Svetlaena would be upon him again. He knew that if he was earthbound when she reached him, he would be a dead man. He also knew she didn’t dare risk harmed her precious box. Because of these facts, he wasted no time kicking in the old musky door. As the moonlight spilled into the room, he grinned before gently tossing the Darnassian music box across the floor where it slid across the illuminated strip. With it in view of the door, he quickly took out what looked to be hand sized sacks with a green circle painted on both sides. He used both hands to rip three of them at a time before trying to toss the in a way that would leave the seeds and fine soil inside around the room. Next, he took out his canteen, flinging water everywhere he could before dropping it and setting his left hand to his thigh. Here, he gripped at his rather decently sized skinning knife as his eyes watched at the door way next to him while he kept his form as tight to the wall as possible. She would be coming through that door any second now…

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He descended through the trees again, and when she saw his target the Professor smiled to herself. Vaedoras could be relied upon to fall for some of the simplest things. He would get all the time he needed, however, because it took her a moment to find a space clear and large enough for Tiborstraz to pass through easily. The bulky creature even sank a little into the soft earth when he alighted just outside the house.

Svetlaena hopped out of the saddle, initially wrinkling her nose at the sudden onset of swamp air. Above the trees there was enough wind to keep it fresh, but down here it was stagnant and thick, almost enough to make her cough. And when she was getting her breathing straightened out again-- a task sometimes difficult for someone who smoked so often-- she noticed Tiborstraz was staring at her.

"What?" She asked with a sigh, and then followed the dragon's moving gaze to the middle of the floor. There it is! Just sitting there! A couple of steps were hastily taken forward before her mind caught up with and halted her feet.

Waaaaaitasecond. She scowled a moment, but it was nearly instantly replaced by a wide grin. Oooooh. How adorable... he is beginning to learn.

The Professor hung back, lighting up a stick of bloodthistle to smooth out the rough edges of her adrenaline high. "So what are you waiting for?" She asked the dragon, using Orcish to keep her words indecipherable to Vaedoras. After another long stare, and a look that said 'you've got to be kidding me', the poor creature stuck one of his large clawed feet into the building, trying to get at the box.

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Vaedoras had finished with time to spare it seemed. His hand gripped the hilt of the blade even tighter as he tried to prep himself for what he was about to do. He could feel his heart rate increasing as he heard the dragon’s descent down. Easy, Vae… Keep calm, remember your training… He focused on his breathing, keeping it controlled. He didn’t want to give away his position. He heard hasty footsteps towards him. He grinned. If she thought his dive-bomb was bad, she was about to learn he was just getting warmed up. For all the shit she put him through, he was going to teach her a lesson tonight.

And then she stopped. Had he been found out? He looked at the windows, there was no way to see him there… He had positioned himself where his amber eyes wouldn’t be spotting. He heard gibberish, sounded like the same pattern like he had heard during The Invasion… What if he was surrounded? Could she have expected this? Was she using foul sorcery as he had seen before? What about that husband of her’s? He steeled his nerves, preparing to for a fight of his life. If he was going to die, he was going to take as many of those fuckers with him as possible. His eyes once again focused on the doorway, where he saw red. Mistaking it for rage, he knew Now was the time to act! With a vice-grip on the knife, he violently ripped it from its sheath and swung as fast and as hard as he could, go from hip level up in a diagonal path as he screamed another one of his strange war cries. “Fuck Fair!"

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Tiborstraz roared out loudly, though it wasn't the sound of a dragon in pain... it was the sound of a dragon that had just reached the end limits of its patience. It withdrew its claw immediately, the strike the equivalent of a stinging paper-cut because the blade had managed to get under a few scales. He reared his head up and fanned out his wings in a grand display, stirring up a gust. Instead of taking out his irritation on the house, however, he wheeled around to face Svetlaena.

The Blood Elf looked up at the raging beast, wholly unimpressed with the little temper tantrum he was having. "You almost had it!" She yelled at him, pointing furiously back at the doorway. The statement wasn't inaccurate-- the box now lay on its side, knocked over by the hasty retreat of the claws. "Get it!"

The dragon's face came within arm's length of her own, a growl rolling through his large form as he spoke down to her. "Enough, arrogant little elf!" Came a voice that was equally demanding and smooth, an aristocratic sort of tinge to it. "I agreed to be your transportation, not your servant and most certainly not your shield. Get your own possessions!" The air kicked up by his takeoff nearly knocked the diminutive Professor into the mud but she balanced herself on a rusted lamp-post.

Ditched right in front of my Nemesis. How embarrassing.

There wasn't really time to dwell on it, though. Tiborstraz had left, but that was alright... now the odds had been evened. She took a long, contemplative puff of thistle smoke and then called out toward the house, remaining where she stood for the moment, hesitant to find out if he had any more traps in there. "Vaeeee~dorrr~aaaas..." The tone was mocking, light, almost sing-song and she tapped the blade of her dagger on the rusted post. "Come out and play..."

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In his forced rage, he continued the upper slash even as he noticed something was wrong. Normal flesh didn’t cut like that. Fel, for most of it… the Blade hadn’t even gotten a chance to sink in. For in that moment he hadn’t cared, he even mostly drowned out the roar of Tiborstraz in his dedication to this one single movement. His form had him ready for another blow before he heard words. A conversation. Kneeling down, he regained his composure as he realized the threat wasn’t aimed at him for the moment. And then he grinned when he realized, he just fucking scared off a dragon! Not a little drake, but a whole fucking dragon!

And yet, his foe still tried to taunt him. He couldn’t help but laugh. Between the smoke from his practically living on the Molten Front for a majority of the conflict and the clean up, and the grim humor he saw in this… the raspy tone sounded almost menacing from the shack before he called out to her. “Oh Svet… leave it to you to think I’m that stupid. Your little pet leaves, and you act like you still have the upper hand. I can’t figure out which is sadder: That we are doomed to do this little dance for the rest of lives because both of us are too stubborn to give quarter…” His hand started to give off a blue illumination, where he made sure she could see it’s glow from the doorway before he took upon on a sharper tone, one that was just as dark but was as if it could rest on the very edge of his dagger.

“…Or… is it more sad that the Harpy-bitch thinks this is still a game when the box is still within My Possession, and Ready To Burn? You Broke the Terms of our Agreement, Svet. You attacked my Sister. You threatened Vidyeh, and even now, you seek to harm me. I have been forgiving, partially out of pity, partially because I’ve been denying my own true nature, but, here we are. You out there, wanting to kill me. Me in here with nothing to lose anymore. Did you know different wood burns differently? I wonder… What Ever Wood is that box made out of?”

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Svetlaena raised a brow inquisitively as he spoke, pausing to remove the thistle cigarette from between her lips for a brief moment and flick the ashes away. Was he actually Monologuing? She smiled and took a couple of cautious steps toward the house, tilting her head a bit, trying to see into the doorway at an angle without getting too close to it. "Poor Vaedoras," she mocked. "It must be so hard to be you. Pitiful. Please, do tell me about the angst-ridden poetry you write before you cry yourself to sleep." A shake of the head, a click of the tongue in disappointment.

"I suppose they don't teach you simple things in Kal'dorei society, such as the fact that all wood is susceptible to fire." With that she scraped the point of her knife into the dry wood of the building. "I'd think twice about starting a fire while cornered in the middle of a tinder-box if I were you. It'd be quite a disappointment if you only ended up as fancy barbecue. I mean, I'd be sad of course, but just think of the look on that elf's face when I tell him his rescuer went up in smoke and now he gets to do the same."

"All that lost potential~" Sing-song words that broke into a chuckle. The threat was making the Professor tense, though she wouldn't show it, not in her tone or body language. As much as she disliked the idea that he might actually go through with it, she was already preparing herself for the very real possibility of having to barricade him in there just to make sure he burned with the box. "Trust me, I have absolutely no desire to kill you. I just want the box... if you give it to me, I will go away. I swear on..." A thoughtful pause. She needed something he'd believe. "I swear on my marriage."

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Vaedoras couldn’t believe his ears. Nor did he believe her.This bitch is Still mocking me? Does she think I’m kidding? A low growl emanated from his throat, as uncontrollable as the sudden rise of temperature from his right hand as the brilliance of the blue only intensified and as unpredicted as the splitting headache that suddenly plagued him, the stinging of his forehead was almost agonizing. “You want a poem, do you?” He forced himself to laugh. A bead of liquid rolled down his forehead. He couldn't be sure if it was sweat or blood at this point. “All right, all right…” He cleared his throat, “Fire is red,”

He grinned a savage smirk as he tried to compose his thoughts. He was starting to realize it was starting to become more difficult to do so. His fingers were becoming like bladed talons that tried to keep the flame in his right hand in his control. “But mine is blue,” his eyes gazed out the doorway, curious if he could see her—or if she could see him from her location. If not, he would just have to guesstimate where her voice was coming from. “Get your little pale ass in here,”

A blast of brilliant blue flames jetted from the house, scorching anything in its path. It would hopefully show he meant business before he retreated back into the safety of the hut, where upon he started working on the next one. “Or your box is next!” He would give her just a moment to hopefully get it to sink in from his little display. “Did you like it? I wrote it just for you,” he teased back as best as he could before he forced another laugh. “Oh, and don’t you worry about a little fire killing me. I’ve toughed out worse, and besides: I’m not going to be greeting our private little Oblivion alone. I’m going to make damn sure that when the time comes: You Will Be Joining Me. I'm going to be there to make sure I make your afterlife a living hell, what do you say? After your work on making my people and me so miserable it only seems Fair to return the favor."

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"Ah, you know just how to make a girl blush, don't you?" Svetlaena was just outside the doorway now, against the side of the house so that the jet of moonfire had barely missed her. "Chase me around for eternity, eh? Oh Vaedoras, even when you say the meanest things, it's moments like these that really let me know how much you love me." A teasing tone remained ingrained into her voice to project her confidence, but internally she was going over every possible tactic, and starting to get a little worried. The longer this conflict went on, the less stable Vaedoras sounded.

She needed a way to get into that building, but her calculating mind took into account the variable of his craziness here and imagined up horrible situations. He clearly had some kind of weapon, his casting was also a problem. The angle of that jet of fire had indicated he was close to the door. The more she thought about this... the more she saw the possible trap, and the more she grinned. "But alright, fine, fine." She called out to stall him, dropping the mockery. "I'll come in, just give me a second to powder my nose." Okay, so, maybe not completely dropping the mockery. But that last crack had been too hard to resist making.

The small Professor took a heavy drag from her thistle cigarette, which was starting to reach the end of its short lifespan, and leaned, leaned... strained... to the left and peered down the side of the house. Windows. Boarded up. Didn't look too thick. With a sigh, she straightened up, flexed the fingers on the handle of her dagger and walked right into whatever trap her enemy had set up for her. Often we walk knowingly into traps as Grim, Ashenfury had said to her, to prove their futility to their makers.

And then there was that part of her that still loved every moment of this; the animal, non-logical side, the side that wanted nothing more than to actually be impressed by whatever Vaedoras was going to dish out.

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Time to play my strengths. The druid grinned as he prepared to spring the first phase of his trap, the most obvious of strikes. He would make her pay for her transgressions upon him. His eyes watched the doorway, awaiting her arrival. She had constantly underestimated and undermined him. She was playing with fire, and just as the old adage went, she was going to get burned. As she stepped fully into his line of sight, he flung the starfire ball from his taloned nails. He cared not whether if it hit, it should serve its purpose either way. It was meant to distract, to disorient, to keep her off balance. All for what he had planned.

He didn’t wait to see if the flames scored a hit before making his next movement to close the jaws of his impromptu trap. His large skinning knife still bared he leapt in a charge against Svetleana. Between his crazed look of warrior’s intent and the bloodied jagged formations that had pierced his skin for the beginnings of horns, he looked almost like something that stepped from beyond the dark portal—and it was quite evident he was still pissed. As he landed, he hoped to knock over the woman with sheer mass compared to her form, added with the muscle of his training to back up his display of force as he tried to pin her to the ground. If this worked, he tried to move the knife close to her neck, for he wanted her to know just how dangerous he was. She might be smarter than him, but he was damn well stronger.

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The glowing ball of starfire caught her vision from the corner of the eye, and she whirled around, keeping focused. A split-second utterance from her lips, barely heard, resulted in a glimmering bubble around her person. The spells met, the whole of the barrier around her shimmering brightly as it absorbed his attack. The light from this was fading as he came at her, the Professor's eyes still adjusting to the deep darkness of the building they were in made it difficult to make out his shape, but even still something did not seem right about it.

The dark silhouette rushed her. Eyes widening she tried to step back but unable to tell how fast it was coming, she wasn't quick enough by a long shot. An enraged Vaedoras collided with the shield but did not recoil or give pause, pressing onward fueled by all the built-up anger that was rising to the surface in her presence. As he did, the energies that made it up flickered again, trying to absorb the brunt and casting a half-second's worth of strange golden light across his somewhat changed form. Adrenaline spiked in a combination of thrill and shock but she did not have time to retaliate immediately. The shield gave way and the druid brought them both to the floor, her much lesser weight trapped under his.

Close combat. Bad news. The skinny little Professor gasped to get her breath back after having it knocked from her, and got her bearings just in time to see him coming at her with the knife. Animal instinct was allowed to steer now, the shrill cry she let forth being the first indicator of this, and the second being her swiftness in bringing her hand up to disarm her opponent with Holy Fire directly to the knife-hand.

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Vaedoras let out a deep, dark, harsh chuckle as he had her pinned, unable to speak for a few moments time. “Monsters you called us, Svet.” His drawn dagger was slow; he wanted her to see it as he moved it. He grinned as she screamed. He couldn’t admit it, but he was relishing in delivering this Justice “And so the Pred—” He saw the flash of brilliant light, his mind trying to register what just happened right before he bellowed a lion’s roar in pain before being blinded as the light reflected from the metal of the blade as it flew from his hand towards the very prize they were fighting over.

Blind and even more enraged, he felt the splitting pains in his forehead again. They sent him over the edge, his composure lost as he roared, “THAT HURT, BITCH!” In response, his left hand—the one that had been holding the knife—flew down to strike her. He shifted his weight on her, trying to pin her in a sitting motion to keep her in place as his right soon followed. It would be a storm of fists, sloppy and unpredictable as they were fast in strong in this frenzy. “THIS COULD HAVE BEEN CLEAN!” Each fist that flew down seemed to bring his rage to new heights. His blood seemed to boil, his flesh felt as if it were engulfed in flames. And with it, his muscle structure seemed to grow, his flesh seemed unable to quell this itching sensation as feathers slowly started to sprout from his skin. Each fearsome roar allowed her a glimpse at his sharpening teeth. The very small part of him that hadn’t fully given into the rage started to react in fear. Vae! Vae! VAE! His body screamed at him in the wracking pains of the rage manifesting. His vision was started to return, albeit a red blur. However, this gave his still sentient side more of a consciousness, and therefore a better chance at stopping himself. VAE! CONTROL! You Have to keep Control!

“YOU WANT TO PLAY WITH FIRE!?” The Druid shouted as he moved to lift her by her robes, his vision still blurred from the blast of light. If he had her, he would try to throw her into the wall, “I AM FIRE!” Both of his hands lit with blue flames anew.

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Forgotten, the bloodthistle cigarette Svetlaena had been smoking rolled away from their struggle. This was the biggest divergence from that scared little Druid she once assaulted out in Zangarmarsh that she had seen from Vaedoras yet. Fury, pure fury. She was sure all the memories, including that specific one, were probably rushing back into his head now; he was taking out rage he hadn't had means to express before. And this would not be the only time: this was what she had to look forward to from now on, to some degree, and internally she was thrilled. Because it was all her doing in the end. Because it was she that inspired such strong reactions from him, because she knew very well right now just how deep under his skin she had managed to get.

All that potential was finally being given a purpose.

Svetlaena felt extremely lucky that in his flurry he could not keep her arms pinned down, bringing them up after the first couple of blows had managed to land, the initial one splitting her lip and the second dashing her head against the floor painfully. Yet even the combination of both arms couldn't keep every single blow back, and she knew she had to do something. Eyes still fixed on him as best they could be in the storm of strong hits she centered herself on her own anger, turning her head just enough to be able to see the music box. Two could play at the rage game. It meant her powers of healing and defense that Creation gave her would be diminished, but she cared not for defending herself right now when handed the possibility of retaliation.

There was no resistance as he lifted her up... she just stared at him, unwavering, even after she was tossed back against the wall. Her long, bony fingers curved like claws as she held to the wall behind her, eyeing him through the hair strewn across her face, stuck to the blood streaking from her split lip down her chin. The gaze shifted for a second to the box, then back to him, and her field of vision was beginning to blur. In that blur Vaedoras began to look a little less like Vaedoras, long white hair... so much anger... and in a couple of particularly surreal moments she swore she could see a skeletal mask.

That did it. Another scream, this one somehow even more disturbed than the first, tore from her throat and filled the air, deafening and piercing through the mind of anyone in earshot. The Shadows from the dark abandoned house seemed to pull towards her, swirling round and melding with her form in a fine, translucent layer. The Professor was quick to take advantage of any opening this gave her, even though her steps were not as steady or quick as she would have liked she started to go for the box...

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His vision was starting to finally come in focus again. His eyes were transfixed on the Monster before him. His rage was intensifying the flames on each fist quicker than he normally able. This was the powers of rage he contained. Trying to keep it in a cage in his mind, for it had a price. He could feel feathers sprouting from his flesh, through his armor first white… then turning an ashy-grey. For a moment, both were silent—And then came another one of her foul tricks of sorcery: A scream of terror that cut through the bones and rattled the mind. Where he was blind and could now see, he had now found himself deaf.

There was a war inside his mind. As there always was in moments such as this; moments where the Beast Within wanted nothing more than to rip itself from its imprisonment and manifest upon his flesh. This time, however, Vaedoras wasn’t sure if he had ever had to fight so hardly to keep it from succeeding. In his mind, he was surrounded by flames that rivaled the Molten Front and the Firelands. This was where the roaring of flames almost drowning out his attempts to yell for him to get a grip of himself. And then came that dreaded scream that seemed to bounce off the walls of his mind. Giving both himself, and the beast of inferno inside his mind-- Something that had taken on the form of a Moonkin that had devoured the bear spirit. His entire world shuddered, the flames parted and died out at places giving Vaedoras a chance to try and soothe himself.

For about four seconds, as the professor stumbled towards the box, Vaedoras stood there, seemingly frozen as he lost touch of reality. Suddenly, as the spell wore off, the Druid’s consciousness returned to the surface. Where the fuck did she go?! His eyes raced over the room, unable to see her thanks to the darkness of the room and her new form. His eyes went to the box. That was still there—For now. Unsure where she was, he knew he needed more light. But that was fine by him. “Nice trick, Svet. But do you Really think I’m just going to let you walk out of here with that Box?” His hands lit ablaze once again, shooting fire balls at the opposite sides of the room. “After all you have done to me, All you have Stolen from me, All the trespasses you have been allowed to get away with—I would rather watch us Both Burn Alive, in this house to be returned to the earth as ash so that we can at least contribute Something to the survival of our world than to give you the satisfaction!”

All during his little speech, his eyes stayed upon the prize. He awaited the light from the flames that were spreading all along the walls to give him enough light to pierce whatever magics she was using this time around. He refused to let her win this time. When he locked his eyes upon her he grinned, Time for Phase Two…

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The flames illuminated her slight form, flushing her out of the shadows just in time for Vaedoras to witness her picking up the box and holding it closely to her chest, wrists crossed protectively over it. The barely-visible Shadows stuck to her like a thin layer of wispy smoke even as the rest in the house dissipated. Desperately clutching her prize, she looked not unlike a cornered animal.

The Professor turned round in a quick circle and found flames on all sides. The heat started small, but quickly became overwhelming. Through the haze that was still clearing she could hear the voice of her enemy yelling at her, declaring his own death-wish pridefully. She shook her head, trying to speed up her return to clarity in the face of the dire situation. Breathe, think. She had what she wanted after all, and it felt familiar and comforting to have it in her arms again.

"Don't worry," Svetlaena whispered to the box in Thalassian. "I'm here. I won't lose you again." It was both a statement and a resolution to herself. She raised her head and eyed the tall Night Elf who was mostly blocking her way to the door and she started to approach at a slow pace. One hand peeled itself off the box, hesitantly, but quickly started to gather up a rather significant blast of destructive energy.

Her eyes didn't leave him for a moment as she prepared to throw it, not speaking a word. The look in her eyes said it all; wide, wild, and questionably present in reality, all the while sitting atop a grin that seemed to be stuck there.

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Annnd… Gotcha! His golden eyes were dead set on his prey’s profile. She was hunched over. Possibly injured. But that was fine, it would be over soon enough. He gave a large, savage grin. If she’s hurt, may as well put her out of her misery now… His arm raised to parallel the floor, giving a small flash of green. Just for an instant. And, in response, the tiny seeds that were scattered over the area—most of them concentrated closer to the box—started to sprout before acting like briar patch inside the room. Right now, it was little more than a nuisance that seemed to cling at her clothing. But this was just the beginning. She would see.

He started to walk towards her. He couldn’t hear her speaking to the box, not over the increasingly amplified sound of the fire spreading. It wasn’t quite a roar. Not yet. She lifted her hand. Was she about to surrender? To plea for mercy? Should he grant it? After all she had done, should he even care? He had a job to do. But he didn’t have time to think—No, a blast of dark energy released from her hand before he had time to react.

With a purple flash around him and a searing pain in his head, the entire world changed around him. There were no more duels to the death, no more smoke, no more flames. And as uneasy as he was, he felt no rage in this instant. With quick turns of his head he tried to get a bearing where he was—between the all too familiar faint green hue that insisted on lingering in the air, the common Kaldorei architecture and the Cyan waters below from which he was suspended—it was a quick realization. He was in his dreaded hometown again. But everything was larger than he remembered it last, and as he struggled to get free, he smelled liquor in the air. He stopped looking forward to see what almost looked like an unmarred image of himself staring at him with a gaze of intoxicated hate. “Look at you, so happy… You’re proud of what you did, aren’t you? You little shit. She’s dead because of you, you know. Little Vaedoras-- Don’t you coo at me! You killed her! You little Monster!” The voice almost seemed to echo in his head. Suddenly he felt a sinking feeling, that dreadful freefall as the cyan below him started to plummet closer to him. The white cloth he was in as a blanket unfurled before his very eyes. He screamed. A shrill wailing of a child who was terrified. No!

“NO!” Roared Vaedoras, his hand again outstretched, the green illumination from his hands having an ever greater intensity from the burst of emotion. The sound of flames returning to his senses, his eyes watching as the Briarthorn grew and became more animated with the radiance from his hand. It moved like serpents, trying to strike at Vaedoras’s prey as quickly as it could. If it grabbed hold, it would slither around her limbs, her torso, anything it could grab before trying to force her to collapse on the floor. With each passing second, it seemed the plant got larger, weighed more, and the thorns became more like spikes and blades than prickly annoyances.

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The plants were latching around her limbs, tugging her down to the floor, trying to peel her arms off of the precious music box. The briars dragged the skinny Professor to her knees, kicking and snarling and thrashing the whole way, though one arm remained insistently closed around her prize as if she treasured it more than life itself. The other was trying to pull the vines away from her, the thorns that got bigger by the moment cutting into her hands and bloodying up her palms and anything she touched. They caught and frayed her clothing and jabbed into her flesh wherever they were trying to take hold.

Despite the pain she caught hold of one of the thicker roots and cast a destructive shadowy plague right into its cells. It crept up the plant to the thin branches, some of which began to first show brown spots, which spread and melded together, then whole branches shriveled away as its very life force was devoured. This seemed to at least counteract the freakish growth that their caster had inspired with his surge of rage, but did not stop it completely, and the first thing on Svetlaena's mind was peeling these bits of drying plant matter away from her body before they became kindling for the flames that were starting to roar around them.

With great strain and digging some thorns deeper into her ankle than she thought she could bear, the small woman leaned over and caught hold of her knife with the tips of her fingers. She managed to drag it across the floor to herself, and started cutting frantically at the vines that hadn't been killed by the shadow plague. Vaedoras was still between her and the door and getting angrier and weirder by the second. Svetlaena had no idea what she was going to do when she got cut free, but she would just have to improvise if she got that far.

The building let out an ominous groan and the roof sank a few inches, tearing her attention away from her task just long enough to see it happen. She returned to work with renewed haste. The structural integrity of the place was starting to turn to ash, and if they stayed in here they would become just part of the smoking pile.

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With every moment that passed in her struggle to stay standing, Vaedoras filled the room with his own snarls and growls as he amped up the intensity of the life energy he pumped into his trap of thorns. This would change, however, as not only did the weight and might of the plants force down in an attempt to pin her, not only was she snarling, but he had actually caused her to bleed as well. His body began to shake as the growls became more and more like a chuckle. “Lookit you, Svet—you call my kind Savages, and yet here you are, snarling like some caged animal.” His voice teased as he eyed her. “A fitting description, don’t you think? But… I guess it doesn’t matter.”

The Druid’s steps were slow as he moved towards her, his back forced to slouch as to not have his head in the smoke. It agitated his voice even worse than it was these days. “You know Svet… I’ve been thinking about what you said to me in Dalaran that one night. A lot actually, about us being Monsters.” His voice was slow, his eyes never leaving her. Not even as he kneeled to pick up the weapon she disarmed him of. It was still hot. He wasn’t sure if it was from the fires surrounding them of the burst of energy she had shot at him earlier. “And as much as I didn’t want to admit it—You were right. There is no point to hiding from the truth anymore, is there? Now that she’s gone, now that I’m out of family, now that I can’t even trust my best friend anymore—I, like you, am a Monster. Capable and Destined to do Terrible Things.” He grinned as he showed her the blade again, the reflection of the flames being visible upon it as she plagued the plant, and started to destroy it. At this point, his impressive antlers rose into the smoke, obscured as the heat around them increased ever higher. His body was covered in feathered fur.

He could hear the groan, his eyes turning up to the ceiling as well before he started laughing again before he turned his gaze back upon her. He had won, and now it was time to finish the game. His right hand had once again started to glow blue. “You know… I heard this really interesting thing about Fire. I heard it could purify the Soul. Don’t know if I believe it. I mean, Staghelm was an evil bastard, but he was on fire. But, Professor… What do you think? Do you think that when this place comes down on us that we’ll have our sins burned away?” He raised his right hand towards her, “I guess we’ll just have to fi—“ There was but one last groan before the building had become far too compromised to uphold the roof, causing the world to seemingly crash right before his very eyes. With a quick jump he barely had gotten out of the way of what could have been fatal. Fuck!

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On and on Vaedoras talked at her and Svetlaena was only getting something like two-thirds of his actual words out of it. She found herself understandably very distracted by the task at hand until the ceiling sagged and finally collapsed between them. The last thing she saw was the druid backing out of the way of the falling debris and then it obscured him and the doorway completely. She was cut off-- but so was the tangle of briars from its source of energy and it immediately began to wither away. Flames licked up the rapidly-drying plant matter and stung at her skin as she freed herself, crawling away from the patch.

The Professor didn't have much room, however, and she had even less time. The corner of the house she was trapped in was filling with smoke and it was getting harder and harder to breathe by the second. It was even getting painful just to keep her eyes open, squinting and blinking and tearing up against the onslaught of smoke and ash. Svetlaena fought back the spasms of an uncontrollable cough as she finally laid eyes on a possible salvation-- a boarded up window with a hailstone-sized hole in it where the smoke was fast rushing out. First things first, she rushed to the window and cupped her hands around the hole, set her face close, and took several deep breaths of outside air to clear her lungs.

That was infinitely better. Somewhat refreshed and no longer stumbling around half-delirious from smoke inhalation, her wits returned to her much faster. She didn't even have to take a second glance to know this was her only way out. Using both hands she pressed on the boards, hoping they were also rotted out enough to give way, but her diminutive strength was not enough. Instead she worked her sharp little fingers underneath the first board and started to pry, and discovered the nails holding the boards in place to be their weak point. It was not long before she had stripped all the boards from the window and was using the last one she had freed to shatter the rest of the glass pane. Hastily she swept the shards from the edges, just enough to avoid dire injury.

Svetlaena tumbled out the window disgracefully, clutching the box in one arm, the other decorated up and down in cuts from briars and broken glass. She just laid there on the earth a moment before it occurred to her that it was still somehow blindingly hot, and this led to the discovery that part of her robes were still aflame. Panicked, but lacking the energy to get up just yet, she yelped and rolled across the ground-- right into a thick patch of swampy mud that left her covered from nearly head to toe in brown-green filth.

Well, at least it put out the fire.

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The crash had left an impressive amount of destruction. The entire house had almost been consumed by either flame or wreckage. And yet, Vaedoras stood there, claimed by his manifestation of wrath. Through the chaos the beast had found the final hole in Vae’s internal defenses. Growling, where the beast inhaled both smoke and ash, it left the creature less clear minded than it normally was—not that it was much of a change. Slowly, what was probably just seconds but felt like moments, he came of a realization. She got away. This infuriated the already enraged druid even further. Despite his best efforts, she had gotten out of his trap! And even worse, probably laughing at his failure! He decided that this could not pass. So with a roar of rage, his hands lit up in more flames to burn the wreckage that remained an obstacle in his path. He couldn’t let her go unpunished!

But the outburst would be short lived. Even if his body was stronger in this form than normal, he still needed air in order to survive. That air that he was he was super-heating to the point of becoming unbreathable, the burning becoming ever more apparent in his lungs. He needed a new plan. Come on Vae, think! You can’t die here! Not while she still walks and murders unhindered! The very idea made him tremble in rage, his eyes following the smoke that spilled out from the hole formed via the crashing of the ceiling. It seems he would have to go up, if he meant to catch her. Taking his clawed hands he quickly moved to grasp the still burning wreckage. With a few handholds he was happy that he still used armor from the Molten Front that was dedicated to protect him from the heat from the flames. It would be a slow journey up, not only due to height but where his lungs screamed in protest as he breathed what felt like little more than the smoke rushing up towards his very destination. But, it got worse. For without proper oxygen to his body, his body would weaken in protest from the deprivation. But he would not allow this to stop him. Justice would be his mantra. I’m going to get you still, Svet. I’m going to make you pay! He no longer cared about the box, he even practically forgot about it. This had become personal. Vengeance would be served with the pain he inflicted. As one board, charred to the point of uselessness, was just simply unable to support his mass he forced himself to continue with little more than a pause. Justice will be served. He would have grinned if he still had teeth. He could see where the smoke was thinning up ahead. He was almost there! He had to keep going! He would not allow her to win, damn it! He would press on, no matter the obstacle. Stubborn; classic Vaedoras Starshade fashion.

And, in time… his persistence would be rewarded. Slow and grueling as the process was, he did end up standing on the roof. Here, where the smoke billowed from the inferno below, and the flame’s orange flicker enhanced the ambiance Vaedoras Starshade—or the monster he revealed himself as, rather—slowly approached the edge of the building. His eyes wandered over the swamp in front of him, trying to find the small woman. He couldn’t rely on smell, there was too much smoke. He couldn’t hear anything over the flames below him, or the cracking of the wood when he made a misstep. And as for sight, even if she were not covered in muck, or if the shadows still clung to her—the shadows that flickered as they danced along the swamps below. This would be harder than last time. Perhaps he could scare her into revealing her position? Hunching over, he summoned from the depths of his core, to his lungs, he gave a fierce war cry. The sound, something like a terrible cross between a roar of a bear, the growl of some other beast and screech of an owl echoed through the night. A challenge, a threat, and a declaration that the game had changed all in one.

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