One Last Gift for Kex'ti

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Konro had just fallen in the snow of Icecrown. Syreena stared at his dead body. Sadness became masked by anger. The Mok'gara was supposed to be an honorable fight. The little rogue didn't claim to possess much honor herself, but she knew what it was, and she knew its value among most Tauren and orcs.

She lifted her cold gaze to the Tauren woman responsible for Konro's death. Breygrah stumbled to her feet with a groan as the little rogue stalked towards her.

"There is no honor here," the Shadowblade growled through bared teeth. "You killed a Grim. I won't forget that. Nor forgive it."

"I do not fear you either," Breygrah responded.

"Of course you don't, you stupid, stubborn, honorless cow."

"Say what you wish. Maybe one day you will grow up."

"I'm not really one for words," Syreena answered with one of her sickly sweet smiles.

"Neither am I. I can promise you that," Breygrah said with no expression. "Anything else? Or are you done?"

Syreena drew her blades in answer, eyeing the woman with deadly intent. She ignored all other voices, some trying to talk her down. She ignored their looks and glares. A Grim was dead. A friend was dead. Someone would bleed for that.

"Try it," Breygrah taunted. "I dare you."

"Syreena, you want someone to fight?" asked a voice that did give her pause just as she was about to lunge for Breygrah. Kex'ti invited her again. "Then fight me."

The little rogue spun towards his voice without hesitation. The shaman, who had facilitated this sham of an honor fight, was trying to command her to stop, telling everyone to go home. Syreena ignored her, and focused. She'd prepared for this. Jinsai's lesson came back to her. Finish him fast, or not at all.

Kex'ti had tossed his staff to the elf woman he seemed to be with, and he drew his blade. Syreena took to the shadows, moving silently and unseen, focusing only on the elf that had cost her so much. He would die in the snow next to Konro. It would be her parting gift to her friend, for Konro hated the elf almost as much as she did.

The Shadowblade struck, fast and hard, giving everything she had in those first few critical moments of the fight. It wasn't enough. Kex'ti still stood, injured, but still strong, and then he struck back, forcing Syreena to use defensive tricks.

The fight went on, for how long, the rogue couldn't say. She knew from her training with Jin'sai, that with each moment that passed, her chance of success dropped. She'd used all her tricks, but she still fought on, watching for one opening, one misstep by Kex'ti, that would give her a chance to slice him apart.

Finally, her injuries were too much, and she fell. The elf moved in with his blade aimed at her neck. In the background, she heard Darethy and Lilly and the shaman, shouting at Kex'ti to stop. Somewhere in the back of her fuzzy, exhausted mind she found that curious; Darethy had attacked her earlier that evening, and now he was telling Kex'ti not to kill her.

"You dishonor the Horde," Kex'ti said, as the defeated rogue looked up at him defiantly over the blade at her neck. "Say your last words to your guild. For no one else will mourn your loss."

Syreena glared at him. She knew she was about to die, and she felt nothing but hatred for the arrogant elf before her. There was nothing she could do; she was too injured to move. If her next words were to be her last, she would choose the words more important than any others. She gathered her last remaining strength and shouted, "Peace through annihilation!"

Darethy was yelling at the elf again, and even Naheal asked everyone to sit down. Kex'ti, still holding his blade to Syreena's throat, looked past her to where his companion was.

"No. You deserve worse," Kex'ti said. "Khorvis of The Grim. This rogue has failed twice in her efforts to kill a healer, and loyal member of the Horde. I want you to remember this."

Khorvis, the senior ranking Grim there, didn't answer. Lilly was quiet too, but Syreena could almost feel her anger.

"There's nothing I can do to you that's worse than your own 'family.' You get to walk away from this, Syreena," Kex'ti said with a smirk. "But I'm keeping a part of you with me."

"I didn't think you cared," Syreena responded weakly.

No sooner were the words out of her mouth than the elf's blade sliced down her face, severing an ear. Syreena screamed in rage and pain, slowly bringing up a hand to cover the hole in her head where the ear was.

"You freaking jackass," Lilly gasped at Kex'ti.

"We're done here," the elf stated simply. "Lok'tar, Khorvis."


The next day, the little rogue sent one last package to Kex'ti Dalendala with a note:

"You have to eat it.

I would have."

Inside the package, wrapped in layers of bloodthistle, was her own ear.

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"You dishonor the Horde," Kex'ti said, as the defeated rogue looked up at him defiantly over the blade at her neck. "Say your last words to your guild. For no one else will mourn your loss."

Syreena glared at him. She knew she was about to die, and she felt nothing but hatred for the arrogant elf before her. There was nothing she could do; she was too injured to move. If her next words were to be her last, she would choose the words more important than any others. She gathered her last remaining strength and shouted, "Peace through annihilation!"

[[ Epic. ]]

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[[From a second perspective. Thanks to Syreena for being such a killer good sport.]]

Syreena vanished from sight like a snuffed candle. To the average viewer, her presence was merely gone. Kex’ti, who had spent the last few weeks receiving packages of bloodthistle from Syreena, smirked and waited.

What few outside of certain cabals of alchemists knew was that while bloodthistle certainly afforded Sin’dorei greater access to liminal mana, this was more than a mere alchemic reaction. Bloodthistle was unique to Quel’thalas, and likely an evolution caused by proximity to the Sunwell. Bloodthistle drank up mana as other plants absorbed air. Enriched with the essence of the Sunwell, the plants developed a latent ability to soak up emotional residue like a sponge. It was no surprise, then, that bloodthistle addicts found themselves physically and emotionally drained. Emotions which remained in the plant. Emotions Kex’ti could read.

Syreena’s unrestrained hate had infused the leaves she’d sent to Kex’ti. A weapon designed to attack his psyche had in turn revealed herself to him. Where others saw only darkness in the wake of her disappearance, Kex’ti followed a narrow trail of smoke. Of rage.

It was an imperfect defense, but it was enough of one to shield himself. From the shadows, twin fangs aimed at his spine and thigh. She had watched him well, and attacked from behind on the side of his bad leg. Turning into the strike, Kex’ti used the flat of his Arakkoan-forged blade to drive the upper sword high, and used the green-blue plating of his gloves to turn severed vertebrae into a thick bruise. It would hurt later, but adrenaline and mist surged within him. His arms displaced by her cheap shot, the rogue kicked at the back of his knees, driving him into the snow.

She pressed the attack, pushing him backwards against his weak leg and drove a heavy thrust into his diaphragm. Kex’ti reeled under the rogue's crippling strikes. While the blade hadn’t pierced his armor or flesh, the sheer force of it caused deep internal pain which required his urgent care. He steeled his resolve, his hatred spiking his veins with cold insight. He fought the nausea from Syreena's attacks and wheeled his blade to knock the follow through into his pauldron rather than throat.

Syreena’s attack was swift, and furious. She certainly hadbeen training. The gleaming edges of her blades struck not only to wound, but to keep him from the postures and stances necessary to fully wield the mists to his advantage. His bleeding organs weakened him, allowing her to slip one strike through his guard, then another ferocious blow against his head. Without his helmet, it would have been the end of the monk. Even still, he was dazed by her onslaught.

Act or die. Syreena's sword arced for his throat.

Act. Calling on the ferocity of the White Tiger and the serenity of the Jade Serpent, Kex’ti’s battle cry echoed over the howling winds of the peak. A cloying, burning mass of chi sprung into being. Leaping in time with Kex’ti’s thoughts, the incarnation of Xuen tore at the rogue’s back and bit at her legs. The beast’s fury assaulted Syreena’s body, and her chi as well. Kex’ti drew her negative, burnt chi into himself and harnessed it into his own reserve. The tiger drew enough attention away from him for the monk to weave his chi into an iron-hard aura of living energy. The saronite resonated with the exhausted chi, sustaining the barrier and amplifying the mists he wove.

Kex’ti’s wounds began to close, and his strength coiled itself inside of him. The advantage of the surprise, as in the last time they dueled, diminished. The summoned avatar faded into mist. She was an oncoming wave. A tide crashing again and again against his sword and sweeping kicks. The blood of his injuries slowed to a trickle, then sealed. He begun to feel the strain of his mana exhausting itself, and took a steadying breath as he stared into the Forsaken’s glowing eyes.

The tide must ebb, he thought to himself, and elf’s mist surged into his Apexis mageblade and body alike.

He spun and his sword and body fell against Syreena like hail. She evaded most of his efforts, preserving fractions of inches of energy she redoubled into her ripostes and parries. His lightning was absorbed by the shadows she wrapped around herself. Kex’ti knew she was faster. But he thought he was smarter. He knew Syreena’s assault was growing desperate. As the fight went on, he grew ever stronger as his mists formed strands, then shrouds. Even Syreena’s resilient, calcified muscles would tire.

Provided I don’t run out of mana, first.

Leaving openings in his defenses, he willingly took venomous blows from her longswords, the mists and chi which coursed through him warded off the deleterious bite of the rogue’s poisons. He needed to finish it. He thought back to the cave, of his bruised muscles and broken as he raged against the stone. His pain was a goad, pushing him ever onward. As Syreena struck his ribs, and her smile began to show a wicked gleam of teeth, Kex’ti moved. His strikes were a blur, each slice and cut of his blade curling in on themselves in a fractal, unbreaking chain of burning energy. Each slash of his blade was followed by a ferocious kick to previous injuries. He snarled, looking for even the slightest hint of regret or fear in the woman’s eyes.

He saw none, and his cold hatred boiled over. Against a less deadly foe, Kex’ti could’ve taken his time stripping away her defenses and cutting her pressure points one by one. Watching with sadistic glee as the undead who’d made so many victims on his behalf was in turn victimized, he’d see her helplessness grow, and when mercy was asked for, he would heal her. To break her again. Some black part off his heart pushed him to do it. To get revenge.

Practicality won out over passion. He didn’t want to draw this out. He couldn’t afford to, though his thirst for her suffering spurred him just enough to risk a blow which, in one hand or the other, would end the fight.

Kex’ti twisted sideways and spun his blade in a complete arc across Syreena’s core. Unlike his sudden attack in Warspear, he had a full battle to prepare himself. To weave his mists. They flickered and danced even as the blade cut through her armor and skin. The staggering force of the blow was enough to knock her back. Kex’ti completed the circle with a vicious stomp above Syreena’s knee. The leg buckled. And broke.

If Syreena had been able to, if she had made this less personal, if she hadn’t let him deny her an ambush, she could have knifed him in the back as he made his terminal slash. She could’ve felt one sword pierce battle-hardened elf-flesh. She may have grinned as his heart’s blood spurted over her leather, and she may have fully erupted in laughter when her second sword slit his throat. She could have mocked the elf for his recklessness as he died and as she indulged herself by consuming a few meaty gulps of flesh.

Instead, the pain in her chest and in the wild cuts she’d sustained drew her attention away from the numbness spreading down her knee, and the sudden feeling of cold as she collapsed onto her knees in the snow. He completed a second turn, and held his blade in an open stance at her throat. This fight was over.

Over the trill of blood in his ears, he vaguely registered people telling him to stop. To remember his oaths. His lip quivered with unadulterated hatred. The misery she had caused to him. All of her actions designed to do nothing less than make him hurt.

“You dishonor the Horde,” Kex’ti spat. The defeated rogue looked up at him, exhaustion and injury setting in, her mind thinking whatever horrible thoughts Kex’ti fathomed her to think.

“Say your last words to your guild, for no one else will mourn your loss.”

“Peace through annihilation!” the undead yelled. Her gaze remained unflinching.

A pity, thought Kex'ti. He saw Darethy draw his blade, and watched him weave fel-fire to strike at him. As he readied a burst of chi to paralyze the warlock, he saw something else. Over the din, he saw Tesonii. Her mouth was opened as if in a scream, and her eyes showed a horrifying amount of strife. She clanged her blades together in emotion. Her hood was down, and her lank hair bristled in the wind.

He imagined how he must have looked, standing over Syreena. He looked as his tabard, and recalled the oaths he’d sworn. And he looked at the crimson stain on Syreena’s own black and red. His blade was still. One motion, and this monster in front of him would be gone from the world.

But, if he killed her, wouldn’t he be proving her right? That might made right? That attacking weaker peoples was what the world needed? Tesonii would know he’d changed. He knew he had, but to break that delicate illusion for her after her efforts to find him would be far more cruel than any punishment he could devise for Syreena. What would Julilee think, who’d put so much trust in him? Remiaan? Remiaan wouldn’t have hesitated if she were in his position. But the priestess would have tried to redeem her first. He thought that would be futile. But he hadn’t tried it. He'd just be replacing one monster with another he could never hope to kill.

The defiant eyes on him from below. The fel fire beside him. And there, in her plated robes, the quiet woman he’d thought long dead.

“No,” Kex’ti said. “You deserve worse.” The monk turned his ragged visage towards Syreena’s superior officer. Her inquisitor. The elf gestured with his free hand to Syreena, locking his gaze on the one-eyed orc.

“Khorvis of the Grim. This rogue has failed twice in her efforts to a kill a healer, and loyal member of the Horde. I want you to remember this.”

Kex’ti didn’t want to send a message about himself to Khorvis. The judgment of the Grim was beneath him. He wanted Khorvis to remember that Syreena had failed her duties twice. He knew well enough that forgiveness was not a trait the Grim espoused. No matter how he hurt her, nothing would compare to the pain her friends would cause her doing the same.

“There’s nothing I can do to you that’s worse than your own ‘family.’ You get to walk away from this, Syreena,” said the monk. He turned his blade and tapped the flat of it against the Forsaken’s face. He smirked, and waited for her to speak.

“I didn’t think you cared—“ she began.

“—But, I’m taking part of you with me.” His blade still turned, Kex’ti raked the edge of his sword down the side of Syreena’s face, tearing an ear and bits of flesh free. Syreena screamed in some combination of pain, surprise, and anger. She clutched at her rent face, and Kex’ti slammed the hilt of his sword into the bleeding wound. The screaming rogue doubled over in pain.

“You freaking jackass!” gasped Lilliana. Kex’ti ignored the troll’s remark and hobbled away from the bleeding woman. He kept his attention on Tesonii, and Breygrah, and Naheal.

“We’re done here,” he spoke emptily, glaring at Khorvis. “Lok’tar, Khorvis.”

Kex'ti spat blood into the snow, and drank heavily from his jug.

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