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Fhenrir

Divergent Darkstorm

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The Infinite Dragonflight was always busy; between the big projects that catch the attention of the biggest names around, there are many smaller projects taking place in an attempt to manipulate time to their favor. While more resources were dedicated to pursuits like assassinating Arthas and preventing the opening of the Dark Portal, they could spare a small number to these other assignments.

One such side project had been Fhenrir Phoenix; not exclusively, but he was among a list of officers in the Horde military assigned to a small hit-squad. They would ideally stick a dagger in each and move on. Unfortunately, the various openings in time provided by the Bronze Dragonflight allowed Fhenrir's daughter, from the future, to intervene as an adult.

When the hit-squad of three came to claim Fhenrir's life, his daughter had charged in and struck them down. As Fhenrir woke up and charged in to help her, two of the assassins fell and one left greviously wounded.

The Infinite flight had taken note that Fhenrir lived in spite of their efforts. They also noted that Raina, his daughter, had come back to the past and stayed there. While they had not claimed his life, they did bring a potent fighter back to the past, where she would not be helpful in the future. They made note of the changes to the timeline(s) and moved on.

The wounded survivor was not fit for combat missions anymore, but looked into Fhenrir and found another opportunity. Years later in Fhenrir's life, as he came out of retirement and as he approached the connection of two realities, an opportunity to take from him would arise.

It had a plan.

"Hellscream causes a hiccup here," it said to a superior. "When our existence touches another."

"Your point?"

"Duplicates. Names and faces that were dead, or changed, ripe for the plucking."

"Pitch your project."

"This change alters the course of both its Draenor and its Azeroth. And here," it said, illuminating a section of time in which Fhenrir's clan exists, "they will all die thanks to Hellscream's change."

"Why should we care?"

"Give me jurisdiction over both versions of this Tauren and his clan. I will not only claim the life of one of the Horde's military officers, I will acquire a potent contact and ally."

The superior considered the request for a moment.

"Do it. If you do not show me results, your life is forfeit."

"Understood," is all it replied, off to work in timelines and realities.

-----

The Darkstorm clan: a small off-shoot of the Grimtotem that eventually produced Fhenrir Phoenix. The Darkstorm first existed in Desolace, then eventually relocated to Thousand Needles under Fhenrigo's leadership. Fhenrir had been ousted by his half-brother, then his adoptive father was slain by his ex-girlfriend. Fhenrir took revenge by brutally wiping out his former clan and family, including Fhenrigo. Fhenrigo was later resurrected by the Lich King, and became a nuisance to Fhenrir and his family for awhile longer before having his soul ousted from the world once and for all.

None of it mattered to this second reality; without the Horde to take Fhenrir and the other tauren in, they would all be slaughtered by centaurs.

The Infinite agent opened a small fissure in time exactly where and when he wanted to be - just before the Darkstorm clan betrayed Fhenrir. It snuck to just outside of the tent where Fhenrir spoke with the woman he loved; it was night time, and dead quiet in the secluded little Darkstorm encampment. The agent had seen this all before, but this time it would be taking the chance to change events as it wanted to...

“Fhen, are you sure you want to do this?” the woman asked Fhenrir.

“Positive. I cannot let Fhenrigo lead the Darkstorm.”

“Fhenrir… do you want to lead at all? Come on, they send us out nearly every day. We’re barely part of the Tribe.”

“Memora, he’ll take the Tribe and make it everything I hate in him. I can’t be led by somebody so damn selfish.” The Infinite agent took a moment to note the irony in Fhenrir's words, considering how selfish Fhenrir's motivations were.

“Leading will take time away from us, though. You *do* like spending time with me, right, Fhen?”

Fhenrir paused. "I'll always make time to spend with you," he replied eventually.

“Fhenrir, I… I don’t want to lose you…”

“It’s a duel, Memora. We are not fighting to the death.”

Memora paused for a long moment. The Infinite agent noted that this was the moment Memora realized she would be forced to make her decision to poison Fhenrir instead of alerting him and running away together. "I… I guess you’re right," she said finally. She chose to poison Fhenrir, either proving her cowardice or her lack of true conviction in her relationship.

Perhaps both, the agent also noted.

“Memora, there’s something I want to tell you," Fhenrir spoke hesitantly.

“What is it?”

“I… well…” Fhenrir paused, and let out a small huff. “I’ll tell you tomorrow. Okay?”

“Okay…”

Now was the time to intervene. Fhenrir stepped outside and away from camp to escape the stress; the Infinite agent followed him.

As Fhenrir moved to collect his thoughts by a nearby ledge, a small fissure in time opened just off the edge in front of him. Fhenrir noticed it, but not quickly enough to do anything; the Infinite agent lunged into Fhenrir's back and knocked him straight over the edge, into the fissure.

As Fhenrir fell in, the fissure closed up, and it was like he'd never been there.

Now for the second part of the Infinite agent's plan.

-----

Memora had been sitting alone for about ten minutes when she began to feel small tremors in the ground. Hear a distant rumble. Her heart rate picked up. She realized if Fhenrir returned and wanted to go straight to bed, she might not get another chance; she stood up and took the poison from her pocket. She gave it a long, hard look, then glazed the fowl breast Fhenrir had prepared for tomorrow morning. "Sorry, Fhen..." she said quietly.

Then, a rustling from the bushes outside made her heart skip and she nearly dropped the vial of poison. She quickly capped it and called out. "Fhen? Is that you?" The rustling stopped.

She made her way to the flap of the tent. "Fhen?" she called again.

Then, she opened the flap. She looked around.

Nothing. She closed the flap.

Suddenly, an arrow burst through the leather and into her chest. She gasped and stumbled backward, then reached for her bow and ran outside, arrow still protruding.

What she saw was an army of centaur bearing down on the camp. Their fiery arrows lit up the sky as they flew through the air, landing on tents and setting them ablaze. Arrows protruded from the bodies of Memora's clansmen, lifeless on the ground.

"No! NO!" She drew her bow and fired into the invading centaur ranks. A few fell, but there were just too many. They'd gotten the camp's location and planned this assault; Memora just couldn't fathom how.

It didn't matter. Two, then three more arrows hit Memora. She fell to the ground, life seeping out of her.

Her last thoughts were of betraying Fhenrir, the tauren she loved.

-----

The Infinite agent had planned this quite thoroughly, though even its position over the flow of time couldn't reveal every variable. As the centaur approached, Fhenrigo stirred from his slumber and began to investigate. For safe measure, and possibly to introduce other variables later, the agent snatched Fhenrigo as well. It would keep him in another fissure, waiting to see if his introduction into the first reality could alter things to the Infinites' advantage. For now, one extra Darkstorm was enough.

With the Tribe, Clan, or whatever they wanted to call it thoroughly wiped out, the Infinite agent prepared the next step.

-----

Fhenrir came to in Desolace. As he sat up, he saw before him an empty waste where the Darkstorm encampment had been.

The only sign a Darkstorm had ever been here was his wounded father, on one knee, a few paces in front of him. "Father!" Fhenrir gasped when the haze faded enough for him to process the scene before him, and he rushed to his father.

"Fhenrir, listen carefully, I don't have much time."

"Shut up, damn it, you'll be fine!" Fhenrir desperately tried to call upon the elements for restoration, but nothing came to him. His connection to the elements had fully faded.

"Stop this foolishness and listen," Fhenrir's father said sternly. "I sensed something last night; the centaur found us. The Darkstorm is no more."

"Like hell!" Fhenrir scoffed. "Darkstorm will not die, and neither will you!"

"I will show you," Fhenrir's father responded, and projected an image of the chaos into his mind; in that moment, Fhenrir saw the death and the fire and the blood. He collapsed to the ground, tears wetting his eyes. "Now calm yourself and listen."

Fhenrir's body shook with light sobs. He could barely control himself. Still, he stopped making noise and he was listening; that was enough for Fhenrir's father.

"I used the only method I could to save us; we are many years into the future. More specifically, the future of another world. This one is like ours, but it is not the same." Fhenrir's father waited to let the message sink in, then continued. "You will have a lot of catching up to do; you must learn from your new allies, and be wary of your new enemies. Finally, there is a Fhenrir that belongs to this timeline; do not assume that all of your interests align."

Fhenrir looked up, the confusion of time travel and reality switching starting to sink in. He wiped his eyes and nodded, more slowly.

"Make your way to the tauren capitol, Thunder Bluff; you will have resources to call upon."

"What do I do...?" Fhenrir asked nervously.

"Live, Fhenrir; carry on the Darkstorm name. And be vigilant. The Infinite dragonflight is a name you will encounter soon enough. They have a negative reputation, but they are your allies. It is thanks to their connections that I could save you..." Fhenrir's father coughed and spit up blood. "Do not let their reputation fool you, and do not let your allegience be known. This reality will not understand."

"Father..." Fhenrir said, watching the life fade.

"May the Ancestors watch over you, Fhenrir."

"May you be among them soon, Father."

And then, just like that, Fhenrir's father died in front of him. The images of the death of his clan still flashed in his mind. He saw Memora dead among them; the woman he loved.

He fished through his pockets and produced a charm; a bracelet she'd made for him. He slid it onto his horn, then provided a proper burial to his father.

After, he gathered what meager possessions he had, and set out to find the tauren capitol. He did indeed have a lot to catch up on.

-----

After Fhenrir had left, the grave burst open. The illusion of the father dispelled, the Infinite agent had finished this part to its plan; it would make an ally of this new Fhenrir, and attempt to turn him on the Fhenrir that existed here.

The pieces were all in play.

Soon, the agent would introduce its actual self to the new Fhenrir and cement their allegience. Hopefully, against the older Fhenrir.

It was time to move to the future and see what this changed...

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I am Fhenrir Darkstorm. My Tribe, the Darkstorms, were named after the thundering skies in which we splintered from the rest of the Grimtotem. The same lineage runs through me as it does the Grimtotem, but our similarities begin and end there.

My given name, Fhenrir, comes from the wolf. My older brother, Fhenrigo, has a bastardization of the same name. We were to be the two blood hounds of our tribe.

We weren't.

Fhenrigo became a shaman and wrestled for leadership of our dying tribe. I was an outsider, until I was pushed into a future that wasn't my own. Now I am a step removed from outsider: I am an exile, a shadow, who arrived too late. I watch as another tauren lives my life, wears my face. My own face has even been warped; white fur like my brother Fhenrigo's has stained my complexion in a way it was never intended to.

Since I've arrived I've watched the profound stupidity of this Horde, and yet it bumbles on in spite of itself. The other me has physical prowess, but a weakness in every relationship he maintains. A blind eye for their faults, their evils, or their foolishness.

This other Fhenrir, his partner Xaraphyne, their friends Leyu'jin and Lilliana. Fhenrir and the three trolls. These things all eye me with suspicion and treat me as an outsider, yet none of them have the guts to just shoot me. Cowards. Fucking imbeciles.

How do you blend into a world that rejects you? I've found one night stands to help me forget Memora. I crushed her bracelet around my horn as a memento, but it gets easier every day to ignore the extra weight atop my crown. The ladies will ask, and I'll lie in whatever way is convenient. I had my horns reshaped, and only the bases of each remain my actual horns. The rest have been molded into wider horns that point downward.

I'm often called "Lieutenant General" despite being a decade younger and blotched with a different fur pattern. These morons aren't very perceptive.

When I first arrived, Leyu'jin gave the other Fhenrir a very generous offer. He was perfectly willing to slit my throat and dump me in a lake. I heard about this after-the-fact, spying on a meeting between Fhenrir and his right-hand, Makul.

I decided to disappear from any life that had a trace of the 'real' Fhenrir. I took privateer work out of Booty Bay, and worked there for months until I was offered more lucrative work from the Bloodsail Buccaneers. Freelance work was easy; I hunted the foolish and sustained myself as well as my talents with it.

I was also more isolated than I'd ever been.

I don't know what compelled me to come back, but I did. It seemed like the same life that I'd returned to. A shadow of the Fhenrir that belongs here. The one that had killed his own former friends and family. The butcher of the Darkstorm.

Nobody seemed to know or care that he had committed fratricide. Not just on Fhenrigo, but upon an entire clan of Darkstorm.

I attempted to form friendships, relationships, anything. Roger was a hit with the ladies and gentlemen alike, but the old mutt did little more than begin very short conversations. They would typically start and end with him.

Speaking of Roger. He is a wolfhound that found me in Ashenvale not long after I arrived. I'd taken a stroll through the nearby territories to learn the new lay of the land. I found Roger lying sadly beside the corpse of a human with a gun. The human appeared to have died of self-inflicted injuries - offed himself right by his dog. Disgusting.

The dog took to me immediately, and I assumed he'd get bored and leave sooner or later. As time passed I began to give him more scraps, and that sealed it. The dog had brought his human-given name and become my companion in this foreign world. Would he have simply stayed there and died if I'd never been brought here?

Either way, Roger became my shadow. A shadow within a shadow. He followed me through my explorations, my privateering, my grunt work, and my return. He even met the other Fhenrir and stayed with me. Hell if I'm able to figure the mutt out.

What else has stuck in my memory? I witnessed Leyu'jin, Lilliana, and other Grims torture and disfigure a Tauren. One of these high and mighty Sunwalkers stood chief among them and watched with the creepy looks you'd expect from a serial murderer. He drank tea, even spotted me watching, and didn't care. A walking corpse among the Grim even tried to pin the atrocity on me. Kudos would be in order if he'd done so with any believability or subtlety. Instead he simply pointed and shouted.

What I have learned above all else in my time among this new world is that the strong still survive above all else. That is as true today as it was in my old life. And the Horde and Alliance both are full of the foolish, the weak, the clingy, the needy, the fatty. They are both doomed if they do not adapt and return to strength.

The former Warchief, Garrosh, seemed to have the faintest idea there was a problem. He screwed up by being a stupid bigot and isolating most of his allies.

Varian, Thrall, Vol'jin, all seem disinterested in seeking power. Instead they fling themselves into unnecessary conflicts and kill each other the whole way.

Enter Accalia. I have watched the situation develop, I have eyed the attempts to stop her, and I have been left wanting. The god of the hunt seems to understand that might is right. Nature forges itself as we should, by testing the world around it every second. Animals struggle for life and death, rocks are barraged by wind and sand and waterfalls. What remains is strength and survival.

Her agent, Vionora, offered me a place as her hound. She offers power, and she is intent on using it.

Her intentions are foolish. She would end everything. If her God feels the same, then they are both short-sighted. What good is power without a new test?

I agreed to take the mark onto my own flesh.

It sapped the color from the black fur that remained on me. It awakened in me a dominating power to warp the elements to my will, regardless of their refusal to cooperate with me in the past. It is as if I have the powers of the Dark Shaman fused into my natural abilities as a hunter.

Not only that, but Roger has been given a place among the pack. His formerly silver fur and soft yellow eyes have been turned black and amber respectively. His muscles have warped and bulged with power. Yet he remains the same loyal pup he has been.

And now I hunt. And the hunt is potent indeed. The scent of blood and the mark of the kill are invigorating.

I will test this power on everyone. The other Fhenrir. His partner. The Grim and their trolls and their corpses.

Vionora. Accalia.

They will all come to hell with me.

---

A voice let loose a soft chuckle and two pairs of eyes watched as Vionora infused the young Fhenrir with power and placed the mark upon him.

"He is in."

"Good. Proceed."

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The giant wasp was broken under my onslaught. It lie in the dirt, twitching, inches from death. Arrows pierced through its wings and one stuck out of its abdomen. I wiped the blood from my chest and weaved a light healing spell over the wound, thanks to my newfound domination over the elements.

I knelt before the twitching bug and clutched its head in in my grasp. "You are mine now. Follow or be crushed."

The bug wouldn't understand my words, but it knew my intent. It followed me then, and returned to flight with a power it had never known before. I became aware of a presence behind me and turned to find Vionora looking on with an unreadable expression.

"Is it more satisfying to conquer than to kill?" she asked me.

"One will inevitably lead to the other," I responded. The bug was to be my tool until it had exhausted its use, then it would return to the earth broken. "Kill them," I commanded it, and it flew off to go exterminate the rest of its former hivemates. My gift of power to it made it a simple task.

She watched it fly off idly. "Will you bother naming it?"

"No."

We exchanged looks. "Wanna give it one?" I asked jokingly.

"Should I?" she asked seriously. I looked her over; not the sharpest with humor.

"Something... elfy," I said, trying to be more obviously humorous. To be honest, though, I'd never named a pet and wasn't planning to start. Before now, the animals that followed me were always cast-aways from other hunters.

"Neph'anis," she responded after a moment.

I shrugged at her. Guess the bug had a name after all. "So. Can I help you?"

"They're planning something. I need your help to disrupt it. It involves alternate timelines."

I paused, and could feel my blood start to boil. "My place in time is ugly at best."

"I'll get you when they gather," she said. "It will be soon."

She didn't say anything else, simply looking at me. "That it?" I asked.

"For now."

I gave the elf another hard look. This woman was the scourge of countless fighters on both sides of the Horde and Alliance war, commanded an army of shadows and worgs and who knows what else, and... acted like a buffoon. An idea popped into my head.

"Why do you fight them?" I asked.

"Because they fight me."

I shook my head. "Why do you fight at all?"

"... I don't know. Why do you fight?"

I stepped toward her; she didn't react. "The weak die," I explained. Like the rest of the Darkstorm in this time and my own. They grew weak, and they died.

"To live, then."

"To thrive," I countered.

"To suffer."

I considered that. She saw surviving, living, as suffering? The idea in my head grew. This woman had a weak soul. If I could take advantage of that, I could end the threat of Accalia right now. Time to test her mettle.

"You see living as suffering."

"Perhaps I do the world a favor by bringing Accalia," she said.

"You've seen how this world clings to life in the face of each and every ridiculous threat it faces."

"I have."

"And you're part of this world."

"Against my will."

"You'd choose death?"

We exchanged looks. She was hard to read, but my instincts were dead-on. She was weak. She wanted to die, like I had when I first got here. She had not thrived, despite the gift of power. She was wilting, and only needed the right snip to give way.

"If you want to... thrive... why aid me?" She asked genuinely. "Do you think you can outfox the Beast?"

A new idea forced its way to the forefront of my thoughts, like sand being pushed through an hourglass at twice the right speed. I'd overheard 'heroes' talking about a way to transfer the curse between targets, though I never found out if it was confirmed. Still, it if were possible, I could have her curse transferred to me. I could have the power of the herald, and wield with it the respect I deserve.

"You intend to let her consume you, along with all that power?" I asked out of genuine curiosity, ignoring the thought of usurping for the moment.

"It doesn't matter what I intend."

"A lot of people think otherwise."

"They know nothing."

I stopped and my eyes traced along her exposed neck. I removed a single arrow from my quiver and presented it to her. "If you're that miserable, there's no need to wait for a wolf."

She accepted the arrow automatically. She looked down at it in her palm, and slowly curled her fingers around it. Her grip tightened until there was the muffled snap of the shaft breaking. "It's not that simple."

"You have plenty of hunters willing to take the shot, if you can't." I could end the curse right now. I could see she sought death.

She looked at me and uncurled her hand, letting the broken bits of arrow fall to the ground. "My soul is bound. Death would accomplish nothing." Her eyes drifted down to the broken arrow shaft.

"If that were rectified?"

Her gaze shot back up to mine. "Only one can do that, and he won't."

"What makes him unique?"

"He did it."

"And nobody else has the ability to work with souls?"

"He hid the stone..."

"You're speaking to your bloodhound." I said that with enthusiasm, but not for helping her. It came from the growing possibility of ending this right now. Or... of usurping her power. Yes, one or the other. She looked at me, her vague gaze growing more intent on my words.

"He would destroy you," she warned.

"Let him try."

She made a strange motion at that, absently grasping at nothing in the air near her side. Perhaps a triggered memory? She shook her head and looked off to the distance. "There's no use in trying... this is what's meant to be..."

I stepped up to her, but she didn't seem to notice. "There is no fate," I told her. "Want an example?"

"I have lived enough examples," she replied vaguely.

But I had a point to make and nothing was going to stop me, whether it was a shadowy elf or a conniving dragon or a god of hunting. "The Fhenrir that belongs here has two wavy horns that point forward and up. He rarely uses them in combat, but I was born with the same set. When I was forced here, mine were weakened by dimensional travel. They crumbled near the tips the day I showed up. I had them altered that same day."

She watched me curiously.

"I am Fhenrir from a decade ago. He still has his horns, strong as ever." On my right horn was the bracelet Memora gave me as a memento. I'd crushed it against my new fabricated horn as a reminder of where I came from, and what had happened to the woman I loved.

And in this moment I snapped the fake horn from my head and held it out to her. She looked at it, baffled, and took the horn from me.

"There is no fate. You want to die, we will find you a way to die." Again the thoughts of power pushed to the forefront, and a plan began to shape. "There are countless warlocks who work souls - we find one, we can find a way to get what you want."

I grit my teeth and snapped the other horn from my head; this one held on tighter than the first. She accepted it when I presented it along with the first, and she had a faint crease in her brow.

"These were an attempt to hide who I am. The truth is that I have no horns. Now I turn to you: you walk with both horns forward, as I did until this moment. But are they real, or are you posturing? You're able to snap off your fake persona just as easily and do away with your pikialo." The taurahe word for despair, and an emotion I was very well acquainted with.

"There... is no one I could trust."

"Then we will force one. I will break them to your will, as I did Neph'anis."

She looked at me, and I could see the light of hope in her expression. Pitiful. "They won't be able to match him in power... unless..." She thought harder, and her hand moved to the small satchel she wore at her hip. "The tome will make anyone a greater force to be reckoned with. If they have the ability to understand it."

My thoughts clashed again, like a wave smashing into a weakening beachfront. I could help her die and save the world... or I could steal her mark and let the power run through me. As it should be.

She looked at me with determination in her eyes and interrupted my thoughts. "Find me your insect."

With that, she disppeared back into the void.

---

I would hunt a warlock that nobody would notice was gone. But my first prey would be a troll priestess I'd commanded my worg to sniff out for me.

When I caught up with her, it was night time in the deserts of Tanaris. The chill winds mixed with sand would be a miserable feeling for anyone, but doubly so was the miserable feeling of sand caught in one's fur.

Lilliana was in Gadgetzan, which seemed like an easy enough place to kill her and claim it was for a bounty. My task was interrupted by the sight of Darrethy and Khorvis, who had beaten me to the punch and now hung around her like a mobile. When I joined the conversation, Lilliana seemed particularly happy to see me. I'd be lying if I tried to say her warmth wasn't infectious, and I found myself forgetting what had brought me there admist friendly chatter and an introducion to something called Noggenfogger.

"Fhenrir, how you been?" she asked me when the two of us had stepped outside to try her goofy desert drink.

"I've survived," I replied simply. "And as for yourself?"

"I've been good. Well..." She paused and offered a smile hinted with sadness. "As good as one can be when you're living in the middle of so much fighting."

That was a way in which Lilliana would never understand the Darkstorm. We did not exist in spite of harsh conditions, but because of them. Combat forged me into something greater than I ever would've been otherwise.

"But... just surviving, really, Fhenrir?" She interrupted my thoughts. "Where's Bob?" She looked around for my wolf, Roger. And somehow, knowing he was being talked about sent my mutt bounding out of cover to greet Lilliana enthusiastically. "Hiiiiiii!" she said with a big smile and a hug for him.

It was after that greeting that she noticed Roger's transformation: he acted the same, but he had been misshapen, discolored, and energized by Vionora's magic. She stepped back and gave him a scrutinizing look. "I thought he had lighter fur, Fhenrir?"

"Roger and I have both been afflicted against our desires," I constructed my sentences carefully, since the priestess had the ability to probe minds. What I said wasn't a lie, but it wasn't the whole truth either. I didn't want to be afflicted to serve under Vionora, or anyone else. I wanted to bend this affliction to my will and conquer it as I would any other challenger.

I later realized I never felt her take the chance to read my thoughts. Perhaps she held a misguided trust in me. I'd formerly warned her about some hair-brained scheme Naheal suggested in my company. I suspect Naheal's further misguided trust in me was because of the face I share with this world's Fhenrir.

She guided me to go back to the group and seek advice from Darrethy, but I didn't pay much attention to the advice he offered. My circumstances were different than the rest of the group, and I'd rather tell them as little as possible.

---

I left the gathering in Tanaris with little other fanfare. I don't remember many of the details, save strange dreams in the night. The influence I could command if I held Accalia's power to myself, the revenge that was waiting for everyone in this world who had attempted to break me, the weakness in the hunt's herald, the scaly touch of dragons. All these things haunted my dreams, and then, I awoke back in Thunder Bluff.

The thought beat now like a drum: Vionora was going to be showing the warlock this book. The warlock's eyes would be on it for extensive study, and they could be made to study how to transfer the curse to another. I could have Vionora's power in my own hands.

I would take her mark for myself.

I had a warlock to hunt.

---

It didn't take me long to track one down.

I learned about a troll with shockingly obnoxious orange hair and a repulsive personality to match. When he was alone he was either grabbing himself, reading smut, or stuffing his face. The only times he ventured out into society were to try and get his rocks off, or to resupply himself for living in the disgusting hovel he'd settled into out in the middle of the Swamp of Sorrows. He was on the outskirts of society, and that made him a perfect target.

However, I underestimated him. He must've felt the tail on him and started to get suspicious. He started dodging down side streets in Orgrimmar, taking rides to nowhere and throwing a hearthstone, generally being a slippery little bastard.

I caught up with him at the cantina in Azshara. He finally settled down with some booze in him, and I managed to slip a little extra something into one of the drinks he had on his belt. The group started to disperse and the disgusting slug waddled off into a shady part of the port. That's when I moved in.

"'Ey, what are ya doin'!? If ya tryin' t' get frisky ya bettah 'ave a nice rac-!" I slugged him and knocked him out cold, then draped him over my shoulder.

"Shut the fuck up," I said, even though he couldn't hear me. I suspect a lot of people have wanted to do that before now.

I draped the unconscious warlock over my shoulder and set out. She'd have her insect soon.

---

Ah awoke wit' a poundin' headache an' no idea what the hell was goin' on. Ah felt a hand over mah face an' knew somebuddeh had hit meh hard. It wasn' exactleh an unfamiliar feelin'.

Ah was strapped to a tree in th' middle of Loa-knows-where. In front of meh was a face Ah hoped Ah'd nevah see again, dat o' Fhenrir Phoenix. 'E looked a few years younger, an' the color had drained outta his face. 'Is eyes cracked with lightnin' like 'e was a full-fledged shaman o' the elements.

"You're going to study the curse," 'e said to me. 'Is voice sounded a bit different den th' last time Ah remember talkin' to him. "

"What, you gonna make meh? We done workin' togethah, cow."

"I can kill you and find another who will. I'd be doing the world a favor."

Ah swallowed hard. Th' demeanor was totally different den th' Fhen Ah used to work for years an' years ago. Dis one wasn' bluffin', and the bow restin' idly in his hand was readeh to pin mah brain to th' back of th' tree. "Ah'm listenin," Ah said.

"There's a tome full of the secrets to this curse. You'll be tasked with finding a way to unlock a soul-binding, and a way of finding extra power within the tome to do it. I want you to find out how to transfer the curse between hosts before you solve her riddle, and don't let on that you're doing it."

'E was playin' an angle, an' needed meh to do it for him. Dat meant Ah had some leverage once Ah had th' boss-lady between me and th' cow. Ah didn' know what the hell was goin' on here, but Ah knew what crappeh cards Ah'd been dealt an' how Ah could play 'em. Dis cow gets meh before Ah get him, Ah was dead meat. "You got it," was all Ah said to him. He gave me a dissatisfied look and pulled some engineerin' doohickey from 'is belt, den forced it down mah throat.

"What you just swallowed is a bomb and listening device that will lodge in your intestines for about a month before exiting your system naturally. You misstep, your stomach explodes and you bleed out."

Ah crap. Dey make somethin' so disgustin'? May hand jus' got a lot worse. Hopefully Deembah be out lookin' for me, but somethin' tells meh he ain't gonna exactleh rack his brain.

"You have a nice nap here. I'll be back with Vionora."

Dah cow jus' walked off den.

What the hell!?

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The troll coughed as I unhooked him from the wall. "Mon, dis is hell! When ya gonna let meh go!?"

"Progress."

He watched me suspiciously, as he should. He was a dumb one, but savvy enough to know I'd likely kill him after I got what I wanted. Until then he would suffer, and I was banking on his desire to end the suffering sooner rather than later.

"... Ah got what ya need," he told me finally. "The spell be ready any time." I sensed a kinship lurking in his mind and mine both, like sand, but the feeling lasted only a moment.

He explained that he would need an opening of about thirty seconds, and that I would need to connect a sampling of reagents to both her and myself before the transfer could commence. Making the mix and applying it to myself, under my tabard, was easy enough.

As luck would have it, Vionora appeared behind me as I pulled my tabard down over me. I wouldn't need to wait much longer to make my play. "What are you doing here?" she asked me dubiously. We were inside of a sealed cavern, after all. I'd had magical help getting inside.

"Keeping the insect alive," I lied.

"I ensured he had sufficient food and water."

We both knew my lie was weak. I needed to turn the questioning around. "As for yourself? Why are you here?"

The disinterested look she gave me sent a brief chill down my spine. "This work is no longer needed."

The herald was giving up? Then... I wouldn't need to do anything. "Explain yourself," I said instead of rejoicing. She glanced behind me to the troll who stood scared and alert, and I saw her eyes flick to the book open on the ground. It was propped up against a rock.

"I don't require the bond to be broken," she explained.

I stepped into the way of her view and gave a signal to the troll behind me. He would begin casting the spell immediately.

"You can stop," she said. "I'm going to free you now." Whether she spoke to me or the troll, I don't know. But I felt an awful scratching in my head and I knew it was too late to turn back. Somehow I knew that the troll would continue as well, despite it being against his best interests.

"What do you intend to do?" I asked.

She gave me a another cold look. "I do not need to explain myself to you."

"Is that so?" I could hear the troll's chanting coming close to its finale.

The intensity of her staring grew. "Do you seek to challenge the alpha?"

"You clasp your collars and leave, expecting no consequences?"

She stepped closer, her eyes on mine. An elf even her height barely came up to my chest, but she moved with confidence in the power we both knew she had. "I expect them to do exactly as I expect. Just like you."

It was time. I grabbed the bag on my hip with one hand and threw it forward toward her shoulder. She was still damn fast - faster than I could be. Not only that, but she seemed twice as strong. She moved her arm into my path effortlessly and stopped my move, but fortunately the bag still burst against her arm and covered it in spell reagents. Just in time, and the troll behind me began to channel the spell through himself and the book both.

Her right arm was covered, and as soon as the warlock began his spell, Vionora only had time to blink before the mark of the Eclipse on her hand burst into light so brilliant it lit up the cave through the back of her fingerless gloves. Then she gasped aloud when the spell began to take effect. The troll had to wrestle with the curse as it fought him, like a spring that resisted being coiled. But then I felt it, and it was done.

The curse was mine. Vionora's curse.

"W-what?!" she exclaimed. Behind me I heard the troll mutter "jus' let meh live..." and pass out on the floor.

The power flowed and pulsed more powerfully than any magic I'd ever felt.

I still held onto her forearm. I threw it aside and grabbed her neck with my other hand.

"You are weak," I said. She struggled in my grasp, but her strength and speed were gone. The shadows were no longer there for her. She was helpless in my grasp. "There is a new alpha, Vionora. And this one is a true wolf."

I threw her at the wall beside the troll's unconscious body. She bounced off the hard rock and hit the ground with a thud. "N-no... she will.. ruin ev...erything..."

I moved to the book and slid it away from the both of them with my hoof. Vionora pushed herself up and clutched her hand, where I noticed the mark had disappeared.

I removed my glove to see; sure enough, two marks overlapped over the back of my right hand. I turned it to show her, feeling a grin on my face. "You can't..." she spoke weakly.

"I can, and I did." I tossed some of the overflowing energy as lightning between my palms. I eyed it with marvel. "You were going to throw this away with the end of the world..."

"No... not anymore..."

I glanced up at her. The scratches in my head subsided and I felt more at home than ever with this power. At the same time, I knew I would not be on this plane much longer. I had little left to care about and few secrets I needed to keep. "Appreciate life here while you can. The Infinites will be here to take you soon, before the Eclipse begins properly."

"The... what?"

"The Infinite Dragonflight," I stated again for emphasis. I saw the clueless expression on her face and decided there was no need to explain us to her. "Any last words for this world?"

"No... this isn't... how it ends."

I knelt down to look her in the eyes better. She would acknowledge me. "Any. Last. Words?"

She looked up at me, but more through me. Her gray eyes were vague and wide with shock. "I'm sorry," she said finally.

I snorted at her. "You're sorry? You're... SORRY?"

She nodded slightly. "It's all that matters in the end," she said quietly.

I felt the need at that exact moment to beg for help. To give it back and let this end. To become a nomad and find myself. To find myself in a way that mattered to me, and not simply in relation to those around me.

Instead, all I could do was antagonize her.

"What would you have done with this power?" I inquired.

"I would have removed your mark," she said. It was something I wanted and loathed both. I bared my teeth and snarled to grind the thought from my mind.

"Power is everything," I echoed my own internal mantra. I had power now. Thanks to the mark.

She shook her head sadly. "Power isn't ultimately a goal. It's just a means."

"A means to test yourself against everyone and everything. To grow and to fight and to win."

"It's pointless... it's not a competition..."

"Then what is left? What do you have for this world beyond pathetic apologies?"

She closed her eyes and folded her arms. "To try is to miss the whole point."

"Would you kill me right now if our positions were reversed?" I stood up.

"I'd spare you." It wasn't a disagreement.

"Should I spare you, too, then?"

She opened her eyes back up and looked at me. "I'm not afraid of you," she responded to the threat.

"I'm not interested in your fear."

She blinked.

I needed to get her attention right now. Something was very, very wrong. There was a hold that was different than anything we'd seen coming, and the hold was tight. I pulled the skinning knife off my belt and dropped it on the floor beside her.

"Go on. Spare me." I was curious if she had the capacity for diplomacy in her. But no, that's not the whole truth. I also wanted an escape before it was too late. I could feel... watching. I knew it was too late to kill her. Would I be surprised?

She took the knife and stood up. She didn't hesitate and attempted to stab the knife up and into my brain. The one I'd worked so hard to get. I smacked it aside with one hand and grabbed her throat again with the other. She cared nothing for me. Nothing for Fhenrir. Not once did she attempt diplomacy, and not once did she reach out to help.

"You're weak in body and spirit both," we said to her. "You still consider physical strength your only escape." We squeezed down on her neck to make a point and dropped her. She dropped to the ground coughing. We would kill her, but that would cut the transfer to Fhenrir.

The wrestling in my mind grew exponentially. She had failed to pull me from this. Everyone had.

She looked up at me one last time. "Why do you need to prove yourself?"

"... I have proven myself," I said, the last words I had.

A tranquility came over our mind after he said that. It occurred to us that we had no reason to prove ourselves any more. This power was the proof. This was what we needed all along. And now that we had it we could proceed to the new timeline we'd picked out. Another would be along soon to take her, that we could keep the curse flowing.

We could hear Alpha pacing restlessly below in the caverns. She was without a partner now, and would prove a useful enough tool.

But we had places to be. The world would see us soon enough. We left Vionora and Tetsuju to their fates, bringing the book with us as we left.

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