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Kerala's Inquisition

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Kerala blinked, her eyes on the undead rogue sitting on the table beside her.


"Nothing." She honestly was not sure how long the rogue had been there, and that wasn't like her. She'd have been dead now, if this were the desert. The druid shoved a hand at her hair, a gesture that had long since become useless now that the curls were long again, and impenetrable. Had she really fallen asleep?

Arguably, this seemed a safer place than the Grim guild hall, but she was still angry at herself. She'd become a light sleeper fairly early on among the Magram. She'd learned to take sleep where she could get it, and it seemed she was out of practice now. She could not relax within the Grim compound at all- not knowing that people like Khorvis and Syreena openly ate people. She did not understand them- they were mysteries to her, and so she was always on guard. But sleep was needed, and weakness was death. She resolved to take time today and truly rest. Maybe in cat form. They were the masters of resting while not leaving themselves entirely open to danger.

The goblin death knight that seemed to attach himself to Syreena appeared a short time later. "Khorvish didn't like our gift." the rogue told him.

"What gift?" Kerala asked. Another corpse to eat?

"Gaz and I had a dwarf delivered to him." Syreena said, leaving out the important detail.

"...Alive"? Or dead?"

"Alive. For questioning. We'll save the heart for you when he'sh finished with her." Syreena grinned.

Kerala scowled. Not funny. "I have a dwarf already." One without the Shaking Doom, she knew.

"It's best to eat them all at once. You take too long, and they spoil." Gazreeth said.

"It's also best if you let them out of their naptime. Fear adds a nice flavor to them." Syreena added. Could forsaken even taste? It was a well-known fact that stress hormones from fear pain, and anxiety affected the flavor of a creature's flesh. It was why the Magram often enjoyed letting their prisoners attempt to run free, and hunted them down. Why they often tortured them, and mounted them on a roasting spit while still alive.

"Not one I enjoy." Kerala countered.

The Shadowblade shrugged. "You're missing out."

"No," the druid told her, "I'm really not." She frowned, and looked down at her hands, where a gem sat forgotten. She'd been polishing it. A purple one.

"What's taking you so long to eat the hearts of your enemies?"

Kerala rubbed at the gem. Alliance were not her enemies, she wanted to say. Instead "Didn't you hear? I'm supposed to do my trial all in one sitting now, at a guild meeting."

"That meansh Awatu will be there." Syreena commented.

"So what's the problem?" he wanted to know. Kerala was tired of trying to explain, so she said nothing. These were not her allies. "I can make the trial easier if you would like."

"Maybe he'll have your arms ripped off if you fail." The rogue was apparently not in a curious mood today." Kerala ignored Syreena, and raised her gaze to Gazreeth suspiciously. She was listening.

"There is a trick if one must eat hearts and does not enjoy it." he told her. "Children! Preferably babies, tiny hearts. Take one bite." Kerala instantly glared at him. "No need to get mad, it's sound advice. And, they are more tender."

"It is, unfortunately. However, I will not heed it." she told him. It was as nice as she could possibly be at the moment. She didn't think ignoring him would have done any good.

The death knight said he would be right back,a nd disappeared down into the tavern cellar a moment. Syreena eyed Kerala, who obviously was not in the mood the chat, and stood up abruptly, announcing that she was going fishing. The druid wondered if 'fishing' was some cloaked term for hunting elf ears. She worked the gem mindlessly in her hands, her thoughts stuck on the hearts of children.

Gazreeth returned upstairs after a time. "Guy down stairs has filled a special order for me."

"Why are you telling me?" She was absolutely certain she did not want to know what the goblin had ordered for dinner.

He lowered his voice conspiratorially. "I have several tiny hearts I have procured for you. Now I know what you're saying but look, it's like eating small rice balls." He produced a bag that had been hidden behind his back- a small sack full of teeny tiny organs.

Kerala's jaw dropped open in shock, disgust and horror. She wanted this terrible person away from her right this minute, and she shoved at him to accomplish just that.

"HEY! Do not confuse my gift for kindness! I have no trouble turning you into battle rations for your failures. Once you eat child hearts something in you will change. You can show them what you are, you need to let go and embrace the mandate."

"Take. Those. Away from me." Kerala demanded. She looked around at the various people in the bar, then down the stairs. Did he really just go buy those like some vegetable at the market?

"Fine." He popped a tiny gnome heart up in the air and caught it in his mouth as he walked away. A thought occured to him, though, and he turned back around. "Don't hide from this question or be a total bitch, but why are you trying to be a Grim?" Kerala needed to leave. She stood to do so, and moved past him toward the door. It would not be good if she lost her temper now. Not at all. But then he said "You owe nothing to anyone. And you are obviously not up for it."

She growled and muttered a curse in the low common tongue of the magram. Six words that told the goblin to eat shit in order to improve the odor of his breath. Apparently, he heard her. She was in the doorway when something struck her int he back of her neck. The sack full of the hearts of children and babies hit the ground and disgorged the contents. The tiny irregular organs rolled all around her hooves. She really didn't mean to, but she found herself turned back around and staring at the goblin.

"You don't want those to go bad, do you?" He made a smooching motion with his face, as if to blow her a kiss. "Don't cry over alliance children," he taunted.

The druid glared at him for a moment, fighting with herself. She breathed, trying to contain her anger while the tiny hearts quivered to a stop on the floor around her. They were so very small... but Kerala had not cried in a very long time. Zaetar lo odes. It was too late. The children -the babies- were dead now, and the worst was over. Nothing she did now would change it. She began to turn to leave again.

"I'll send you a bill for the hearts your head spilled on the ground."

Kerala did not stop. But she yelled. "-I- did not do this! You did!"

He cackled behind her. "You touched them last."

Kerala did not stop. Her spear was in the air flying at the goblin in the next instant as she completed a full turn instead of stopping at the open doorway. She followed right behind it, growling at how he DARED to imply that she killed children.

The death knight lifted his sword to knock the spear aside as he jammed on his helmet. The bulk of Kerala's ursine form was on him a moment later, and he dodged her furious attack. Gazreeth turned his blade to the blunt side and hit Kerala in the head to knock some sense into her.

Kerala had almost realized her error before doing any real harm. The bear was an apex creature in it's own habitat- nothing really gave a bear a concern. It ate what it wanted, and other creatures left it alone. The stoic and casual attitude ingrained in the bearform morph had almost pulled Kerala back to some semblance of control.

And then the goblin had hit her.

Any calmness she had found was instantly gone again. She reached out again to claw the hell out of him. The tiny death knight stood there and took the hit. Looked down at his blood-covered chest then eyed the bear with a fury she didn't know the goblin had. He rushed at her with his blade in the air coming down hard.

The druid's thick fur deflected the blade, and it cut uselessly into the folds of her skin. She retaliated with a swing from the other direction, aiming for his head. Gazreeth easily ducked the heavy paw. He surrounded himself with ice, then sent a pillar of frost at the bear.

Kerala got hit with the frost, and roared in anger at the icy pain. The noise was loud enough, next to him as she was, to incapacitate if she were lucky. It worked. The goblin grabbed his over-sized ears to try to hide them from the terrible sound and looked confused by what just happened. The bear took the opportunity to shake herself, sending ice particles flying in all directions. Then she lunged forward to try and grab Gazreeth in a crushing embrace.

The small goblin was smothered by the giant bear. He reached for his belt and pulled a trigger there. Kerala flinched, expecting some terrible explosion, but there was only a clicking noise as the goblin rockets malfunctioned. She immediately started squeezing hard.

Gazreeth wiggled in her grasp. The same fur that protected her earlier now proved to be a hindrance as his tiny body slipped free. He tried to run behind the bear and slash at her back legs.

"You're too big to turn, I have the upper hand now!" he cackles maniacally.

Kerala felt the cut at her hindquarters, honestly surprised to have lost her grip on the squiggly little guy. She growled. Then she pivoted with more agility than Gazreeth was obviously expecting, coming at him again with a giant clawed paw weighted with the force of her turn behind it.

Gazreeth went flying. He crashed into the wall, cut in several new places. The goblin ran back at Kerala and dropped to slide under her with his blade pointed at her belly. Just like she had done to Syreena, Kerala promptly lunged down with her weight behind her front paws. She hit and the goblin's slid was quit rather suddenly.

The goblin squirmed beneath giant paws. His momentum had caused his own blade to cut into him with her pummeling. He twisted just enough, managed to free it from his flesh, then he jammed the weapon into the bear with all his might trying to get her off him.

Kerala grunted as the sword blade plunged into her middle. How had he managed that? She scrambled away from him, knowing that if she stayed, the blade could move just a little and find something fatal.

"HA! Should have eaten the hearts and you might have had a harder belly."

Kerala growled, eying the death knight, then rushed at him in a wild charge.

Gazreeth was already in motion, though, anticipating the result of his taunt. His little green body tumbled out of the way even as his arm reached out at Kerala, attempting to lift her in the air and choke her.

Kerala 's charge ended rather suddenly in her gasping for air, and she was honestly confused. How did she end up in his hands, unable to breathe? The bear thrashed in Gazreeth's iron grip, trying at once to shake him loose, and rip him to shreds at the same time. The small death knight held on, and gripped his blade in front of him at the same time. Let the bear slice at that instead of his bloody chest. He grinned at her and then sliced at her front paws when she came back down to the ground.

Kerala still couldn't breathe, and she began to feel kind of desperate. She rammed her weight around, toward a wall. She bent as far as she could to get the little choker beneath all four paws in an attempt to stomp him. Her vision was starting to dim...

But the death knight was incredible agile. He released her throat finally, and was able to slip under around and get behind her as she gasped in air. He put all of his strength into a patented Gaz Butt slice. Kerala 's thick fur, again, made it hard for the goblin's blade to penetrate enough do any real damage. The druid continued to gulp in air, and swung at the maddening little foe, trying to maul his stupid tiny body.

Gazreeth, retreated a few steps back to dodge the onslaught. The bear had lost much of her anger in the choke struggle, he noticed. Reaching his hand out, it turned to ice as he attempted to freeze the face of the bear to stop her from being able to attack any more. But Kerala merely chomped through a face of frost, and tried to bite the hand that froze her.

Gazreeth was caught off guard found his hand clamped painfully in the bear's mouth. He was facing the doorway, and he saw Syreena return to the tavern. "Enough! I didn't think you had it in you to try and eat me!" He yanked, trying to remove himself from Kerala's jaws before she tried to amputate the hand.

"Gaz, don't feed the bears." Syreena said flippantly. Gazreeth could see the intelligence, then, behind ursine eyes as the druid seriously considered the options available to her now that another Grim was present. "Goblins aren't very tasty. I'd stick with Alliance hearts."

The bear eyed Syreena a moment, then released Gazreeth. By violently contorting her body in a viscous shake, releasing the goblin at the apex of a swing so that he went flying through the air. She morphed to her natural tauren shape even as he hit the ironbound post of the stairwell and crashed back to the floorboards.

"If you do that again, I will butcher you myself and it will not be just your heart that gets eaten!" she promised.

Gazreeth sat up slowly, then spat on the ground. He was bleeding from several places where her claws had cut into him. "Perhaps I underestimated you."

Kerala pressed a hand to her middle, over the deep wound there. It was the worst of her injuries by far. She turned then, for the door. The goblin crawled a little ways from his place to grab one of the tiny hearts. He flicked it towards the druid. "I bet these taste better."

She resisted the urge to begin the brawl again with a hoof to his stupid green face. It would be so easy... but no. Not with Syreena here. She walked out the door, trying not to limp until she was out of the line of sight of the barroom. Then she made for the beach.

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Kerala was stalking up and down the surfline, venting and still bleeding, when a familiar voice came to her on the wind.

"Kerala? Are you here?"

She climbed the few rocks separating the tide pool from the true beach, and saw Kex'ti standing there. He had followed the trail of her blood to there, then lost it in the saltwater of the pool. "Over here, monk."

He smiled, spotting her, and stood on the rock with her a moment later. Then he eyed her critically, noticing her wounds. "You're injured."

"Not much. I was just about to fix it." It was the truth, now, even if just a moment ago she'd been planning on doing nothing about the wounds. It had been too long since she had to bleed. She was fighting poorly, reacting instead of anticipating. Most of all, she was letting emotions that were unfamiliar and strange rule her. First, with Brast when Lomani had been in danger, and now, when somehow the goblin had also gotten her by the neck. It bothered her. It bothered her a lot, to have been so easily beaten. If the death knight had not let go, she was not sure she would still be alive.

Kerala turned her attentions inwards, and opened the floodgates to the magic within her. Whatever Kex'ti had said was lost to her hearing as she guided the natural healing of her body to maximum efficiency. What she had said to Lupinum was true. Healing like this gave a satisfaction without parallel. Nature was a problem-solver. Have an issue- it came up with a solution. Wound in the body? No problem- that could be fixed, with enough time and resources. SPeeding the process was like solving the puzzle, returning things to the way they should be, and it felt wonderful. It felt right.

She returned to herself to find Kex'ti rinsing his armor. The tidepool was changing color from the amount of blood he rinsed away.

"You've been in a fight yourself. Worse than mine." she observed.

"I wouldn't call it a fight." He straightened and took a draw from his jug. "In any case. I apologize if I've overstepped my bounds about your trials. You are right. I do not know you well."

Kerala cocked her head at the elf. "Your opinion is yours, not mine." Was he rethinking his choice to help her now, or reinforcing it? Did he want her to explain herself? "Honestly, you confuse me."

The elf looked at her as he fiddled with a bottle. "Why?"

"Because... I told you what is required for the first trial, and your reaction was much as I expected..."

There was a popping sound as the cork came free. "Would you like a drink? Please, continue."

"Which is why I told you..." She nodded to him as he poured himself a glass, then offered her the bottle. She scooted closer to him rather ungracefully, and accepted it. She drank directly from the container thoughtlessly. "But then, you're going out of your way to help me anyway. Why, if what I must do is so obviously against your own ethics? ... that has never happened before." It honestly perplexed her.

"What you have done cannot be undone. But when the task is finished, you can right the course. ...hic! It's a disgusting, vile thing you believe you must do." Kerala looked away at that. "But we all make choices we choose to regret. And that regret is what allowsh us to make better decisionsh in the future. I don't know why you feel the need to do this. But if it ish a matter of your honor, then I may as well help you see it through. You have to eat the heartsh of living men and women. But they are dead. Not much can be done to help them. But what can be done, is help you not to be in a position where you feel the need to harm innocents. I believe you to be a good person." Kex'ti smiled at her. "I want to make sure you be a good person."

She ignored that last part, for the moment. She told Kex'ti about how she was keeping them all in hibernation, and how she'd selected alliance specifically so that she would not be concerned about killing them. They were none of them deserving of life. But his perception of her morality was wrong, and she could not ignore it very long. "I still don't understand. I'm not good. I don't have any honor. Not at all. How can you ignore yours? When you don't even know why I'm doing what I am?"

He smiled again. The expression came easily to his face. "Look. I...have made shome life choices before coming to Shanctuary I deeply regret. We all have our dark times. ...hic!" Kerala sipped more from her bottle. It was something gross, but not as bad as some other strong drinks she's tasted.. "I don't believe you're the type of...individual to join the Grim because you agree with them."

"I'm not," she confirmed.

Kex'ti nodded. "That may not make you good, true. But it does not make you a monster." He looked out toward Ashran. "We have enough monstersh to worry about. ...hic!"

Kerala sighed, because she still did not fully understand. She wouldn't help Kex'ti do something terrible, unless her life was in the balance, so why was he? The monk seemed to read the thoughts behind the release of air.

"It'sh like...a river." She listened intently to the monk. "A river shtartsh from a source, and splitsh into many streams as it goes downward. Along its path, it servesh as a place for fish to grow, crops to water. But shometimes, when it rains, the river overflows. Shometimesh it washes away homes, or drownsh creatures. But, it doesn't mean the river can't change course. It can continue being a danger. Or it can turn a bend, and water crops, run mills, and feed the thirsty." He stopped to take a drink from his jug. His cup wasn't yet empty.

"But, a river doesn't think, it just is." she pointed out. "It doesn't care if it drowns anyone, it will always seek the sea."

"Yes. We are not rivers, though we may be like them. We cant change the course that we run along, despite the sight of other tributariesh in the distance of what may have been. But we can control where we go at the forks. ...hic!"

Kerala looked into the bottle in her hands, not saying anything for a while, but thinking about Kex'ti and his outlook. She assumed that he thought she was at some kind of fork in the river of her life. Maybe he was concerned that, if she passed the trials, the experience would change her, and she would remain a Grim? Did he want to prevent that, then?

The monk coughed into his sleeve, and then brought out a fishing pole. It looked rather rugged. and unfinished. Kex'ti himself was more... rough, than she had seen typically of his race. She wondered what he considered to be a terrible thing to have done. What was his dark time like? So, she asked him. "So, what did you do?"

The monk looked at her, letting his line float casually in the water. He just smiled without a word, and continued fishing. Just as well. After watching him for a time, she grew annoyed at his very poor technique. She told him he would not catch very fish the way he did it, and warned him about the ray she'd seen circling the little semicircle of ocean. He told her he didn't mind if he lost the driftwood pole, and the conversation lulled again.

Kerala considered that the monk had not answered her question at all. Maybe he was trying to get her to share something first. After all, she'd asked Konro the same way, when she wanted something from him. Perhaps he was doing the same thing, only more subtly. Or, maybe she was completely wrong on all accounts. People were so confusing!

She debated, wondering how exactly to lead someone to see her point of view. Even Breygrah, a shu'halo herself, did not understand, nor most of the Skytotem. Lomani did not either, but the seer was aggravatingly just as accepting of Kerala's choice of action as Kex'ti seemed to be. She believed she knew the person that Kerala was, and so she blindly put her faith in that.

"There is supposedly a time in shu'halo history where we were quite evil." Kex'ti looked at her. She had his attention. "Lomani would tell you it was because we listened to some terrible demons below the ground, and then she'd tell you about how the sun and moon are the Earth Mother's eyes, because she was so sad at us killing each other." Kerala sighed. "She's very devout."

The monk nodded. "I have my faith as well. We all must have faith in something?"

Kerala shook her head. not really disagreeing with Kex'ti about the religion, but about his assessment of people. She didn't have faith in any religion "Regardless, the story has some truth in it."

"I am not very aware of Shu'halo history. Would you mind sharing me the tale, from your view?"

The druid shrugged. "At one point, my people did kill each other. The tribal wars must have been devastating. Eventually, there were other threats, though. Important enough to distract us from whatever reasons we had to act so terribly. The monk nodded to her, and she wet her mouth from the bottle. "The centaur were one, I think. ...hic! Shu'halo needed to stop their fighting, in order to survive. They made the Blood Revenge laws."

"Blood revenge?"

Kerala nodded. "It is the reason I am with Grim."

"What does that mean, exactly?"

She tried to find the proper words to describe it. "In a time of tribes that varied so greatly, there was no Cairne to unify them. There was only the Blood Revenge. One law, one tradition to follow no matter what the tribe believed otherwise. Basically, it was a way to stop the fighting, among ourselves." Kex'ti nodded as if he understood. His expression was placid. "It is the greatest sin, absolutely unforgivable, for one shu'halo to take the life of another. Of course, it didn't stop people from dying. There were still accidents, or times when emotion overrode sense. But if that happened, there was a debt to pay, to the victim. Their family or tribe."

She was silent for a moment, thinking of all the debts she'd paid since leaving Desolace. Sacks of gems, wagons full of furs and tools and supplies. She'd located the tribe for each name on her mental list, and gradually it became smaller. She would observe them, find out what they needed, and simply find a way to provide it. Their payment arrived with only the name on a piece of paper to explain it. She did not want to know those people, to see their grief. The Grim were the only ones who had been able to dictate the method of payment. The only debt she'd accrued outside of Desolace, or even by choice.

After a while, Kex'ti must have noticed the silence as her eyes tracked the movements of his terrible fishing. "So you feel...a debt for Konro?"

She blinked, then nodded. "It was Breygrah's, but yes."

"Then why is it your burden to bear?" Then he chuckled, finding something funny in his statement. He was obviously feeling the effects of the drink.

"It wasn't. But Breygrah would never do it, and Konro deserved more than.... than what he got."

Kex'ti frowned and exhaled. "Why do you feel that way?"

"I know you don't agree. People hate him" Kerala let the topic die, then, changing her mind trying to get him to understand. If he did not see Konro the same way she did, then how could he understand the need to balance the soldier's death? Even if he understood the other motive, which was to take the debt from Breygrah and protect her from the Grim, she was not interested in sharing half-truths. Breygrah could hate her as long as she wished- at least the warrior was not the target of Grim ire any longer. She could do that much to protect the foolhardy woman.

Another long silence, and Kex'ti seemed to realize she was done talking. He kicked absently at his bag.

"I know food is a recurrent topic in our conversations, but if you'd like, I packed a lunch." He frowned. "For when I got out of Ashran..."

Her interest was peaked. "How much do you have? I didn't eat my big meal yet this evening." This of course brought a smile to his face, as she thought it might.

" More than enough."

Then a familiar voice came from the rocks. "I heard you didn't like what Gaz offered." Syreena said. She had a big grin on her face. She might have been drunk.

Kex'ti peered at the rogue, then sighed at her. "I've been to Ashran today, Syreena, have you?"

"No, not today."

Kex'ti smirked. "Oh?"

Syreena tilted her head, squinting at him. Definitely drunk. "Why should I have been to Ashran today?"

"Because the Horde demands it. And it's a pity to have 'traitors' like elf monks from Sanctuary be outperforming you in that regard." It was his turn to flash a grin.

Syreena just looked at him. "I was busy defending the Grim garrison from an invasion by the Shhadowmoon clan. Though..I should go to Ashran. I need to collect a bunch of Draenei hearts."

Kerala rolled her eyes at the mention of hearts. Would people never quit bringing that up? But Kex'ti glared angrily. The fishing rod still dangled loosely in his hand. "The thing about hearts, Syreena, that you don't appreciate, is that quality makes for far greater...dedication than quantity."

"Yeah? Well, I'm shtill gonna kill a bunch, just to make shure I get shome of good quality." Kex'ti sighed. "I'll taste them each, and I'll give the best quality ones to Kerala there." The forsaken grinned again..

"You will not." Kerala said, her eyes flashing. She'd had quite enough of Grim 'assistance'.

"Then by all means, be off on your foul crusade. Leave us in peace."

Syreena squinted again at the monk. "Am I disturbing you? So shorry. I'll be quiet."

"Oh. Would you see that?" Kex'ti crested the rock, and absentmindedly looked at the tidepool past Syreena. Kerala saw nothing though she looked closely, trying to see whatever he did.

"Oh no!" the elf cried. Syreena turned and looked over her shoulder to see what they were looking at.

Kex'ti 's expression abruptly hardened, and with far greater precision that Kerala has seen all afternoon he whipped the hook toward Syreena's head...only to miss the wound where her ear would have been. "Ah. Damn." Kerala blinked at him as he rolled the line back up. If he tried again, she had no intention of interfering. "Missed it. Flying fish." Syreena looked back at the monk as she felt something whizz by her face.

Kex'ti smirked. "I almost hooked your ear, Syreena..." Then he frowned.

"Trying to get me closer, Elf? You know I don't do that with your kind."

Kerala raised a brow at Kex'ti. Was he attacking Syreena or not? If he was, why the banter? If he wasn't, why had he tried to hook her?

Kex'ti chuckles at Syreena. "I thought you liked my ears. Or did I misread a euphemism when you said eat?" He shrugged.

"Oh, I like your ears. Battered and deep-fried." She chomped her teeth together.

"You see, you say these things to me, and it does make me wonder of your intentions. Jealousy does not become you, Syreena. I am quite satisfied with my relationship." The smirk was back in place on his face.

"Oh, her earsh are quiet tasty-looking too." The rogue winked and disappeared while Kex'ti chuckled at her statement. The instant she was gone, though, his apparently false levity dropped.

Kerala looked around warily, wondering if the rogue were really gone, or merely hiding. Had been listening before she'd appreared?

"I apologize for that." Kerala glanced to him, and shrugged. She was not sure exactly why the monk should be apologizing. Kex'ti hobbled back to the water, clearly unused to balancing without his staff. He coughed. Kerala followed, still watching for sneak-thieves. The cough intrigued her. Surely his medicine was to treat it. Was it working and the cough was merely a harmless remnant of some deeper sickness, or was his medicine perhaps not working as it should? She briefly wondered what she would find if she were to heal him. Kerala let out a long, drawn-out sigh.

"In any case..." Kex'ti opened his pack and pulled out several round fruits. "You want one?"

Kerala looked at them. "Yes please." She remembered manners.

"Oh. Also, it's a bit cold, but admittedly I've eaten a lot of this lately." The monk slapped his slightly paunchy stomach. "It wouldn't due for me to continue eating it."

Kerala smiled and thanked him for the fruit. Inside, the flesh was moist with juice, and it was rather cold, which she found odd. Cold food seemed unnatural to her still, and the bartender in Warspear knew not to chill her juices or water. The bland sweetness of the melon was very welcoming.

She smiled at Kex'ti, who was obviously joyed to be providing a meal. Her eyes dropped to his middle, since he had draw attention to it. It was true he may have more mass there than other elves his size, but the sight was not something she had ever really noticed.

Her own stomach was actually resembling Kex'ti's these days. She'd settled into a routine with her meals, overeating systematically. Once she'd discovered the boundaries to not make herself sick, it went fairly easily, though she would very glad once the trial was over. Her jaw was tired from chewing, and if she tried to use more liquids, she was forever seeking a place to eliminate.

There was one thing, though, that Kerala had not done yet. She didn't want to at all, but she knew at one point or another, she'd have to, if she wanted to be as prepared as she could possibly be for this the task.

"...What is the most....? Um." Kex'ti looked at her, and for a moment, she reconsidered involving him in this. Then she went ahead anyway. Might as well. "The easiest meat to digest?"

Kex'ti thought about the question seriously. "Depending on how its cooked, fish or poultry. Fish, if you prepare it properly, doesn't even need to be cooked."

"What is poultry?" she asked.

"Ah. Birds."

Kerala considered. She'd eaten plenty of vultures and other birds, but the idea of fish was intriguing. What would they taste like? Would their flesh be watery? "I've never had fish....?" It came out more of a question, than the statement she'd intended. She was wondering if the meat of a fish would make her ill like all the rest. Was it a good test?

"I know you have...reservations about meat in general. But, I've obviously made a few catches." Kex'ti chuckled. "If you'd like to try just a little."

"I was thinking... maybe I should see how it sits with me." The druid eyed him. She did not like this idea, but she also did not do do this alone. What if she was more than just sick? She might need his help.

Kex'ti smiled. "Okay Let me finish up a few more." His expression was odd, and it occurred to her that perhaps he thought her adventurous or bold for daring to eat meat when before now it was not something he'd seen her do.

She should fix that notion. "I was not always a vegetarnian."



"It's usually a pretty...compelling choice. I know many druids take up those vows as a matter of practice."

She knew he hadn't meant it humorously, but Kerala found his words incredibly funny. She giggled a little. "It is not a choice, elf, not at all."


He was confused, and Kerala knew in a little while it would become clear to him, so she addressed the other portion of his comment. "I wouldn't hold me up to that kind of ideal, or what you know of any other druid. About the only similarity, I would bet, is that I can shapeshift. And heal." Kex'ti smiled at her. "I'm not overly concerned about the earth, or animals... and I'm not religious."


She shrugged. "Nope"

"You must have extraordinary willpower to shapeshift, then."

This confused her, and Kerala blinked. "Why?"

Kex'ti chuckled. "I have never met one of the Sin'dorei who could practice the druidic arts, and we are renowned for our pride, are we not?" He settled into the familiar smirk.

Kerala shrugged again. "And a bird cannot swim, any more than a fish can breathe air."

Kex'ti laughed and then grinned. After a moment, his thoughts must have turned to something more serious, for he sighed. Kerala watched the monk fish, observing his technique in a different light. Maybe if he thought of it like attacking the fish, he would do it better- for he was obviously very skilled in battle. Why did he have trouble with this simple task? The idea that he was faking did not even occur to her, because why would anybody ever do that?

"So, this debt is about Konro?"

"What? Oh... no." Everyone believed that. She supposed it were true, in part. A very small part. "The undead priest... he said I have baggage. I don't know what he meant, but he mentioned Konro as well." She sighed. "He's dead." she told the elf, just as she had told the Grim priest. Konro no longer mattered. Only her promise to him did, and she had promised to try and protect Breygrah. She was not going to try and mother the woman, or coddle her safely from her stupidity, but she did understand why the warrior had felt there was no other solution to stopping Konro's behavior. She had not wanted to kill him.

When Kerala's thoughts had distracted her long enough, Kex'ti spoke up again, prompting. "The...blood oath, then?"

The druid nodded. "If one shu'halo killed another... there would be a debt to pay."

"Hm. I can understand the logic. It's the principle, rather than the individuals." and he nodded, confident in his understanding.


"This is for Breygrah, if anyone. Even if she doesn't understand." Kerala commented quietly.

"I hadn't considered that."

Kerala sighed her thoughts had become darker. "It is better that she left the Horns, I think."

"You think so?" When the tauren nodded at him, he asked the question, "Why?" His tone was curious rather than judgmental.

"I was being foolish. It was a silly childhood dream, that's all." The monks eyes left his pole to regard her then as she continued. "There is a reason why some things die. I should have seen that immediately, and instead, I did not." Kerala shrugged.

Kex'ti cast his driftwood rod back into the ocean. He sighed and began to gather firewood. "I am not sure I follow."

So, Kerala tried again to explain. She was so bad at this, she knew. Sometimes she thought she should simply use the Magram way of communicating- mostly action, very few and blunt words. She'd always understood them well enough. "I never found the Horns of the Shuhalo, the guild, the people I wanted. So I tried to make my own. They were dead, I guess."

Kex'ti merely nodded, shaping the wood. If he still did not understand, he let the topic die thankfully. She watched the monk build a fire, becoming intrigued. She had no idea what he was doing... but it was wrong. Then, he shifted to the side and lit his fire. It was in the shape of a person. Kex'ti put some of the meat near the flames.

"That's.... unusual." She refrained from adding useless and inefficient. The little mortal-shaped effigy would burn much too quickly, and there was not a good source of fuel anywhere nearby. Then, she was glad she had not said it, remembering how he had said fish did not need much cooking. Perhaps he did not want a long-burning fire. She also did not point out that he could just use the ocean water to put it out if he wished to leave before it burned out.

Kex'ti raised an eyebrow. "What is?" Kerala looked pointedly at the fire, then back to him, and he laughed. "Oh. In my family, we always burn the first fire of the evening with an effigy, to remember the people who came before us. And remember we cook and stay warm for them, as well as ourselves."

Kerala cocked her head. "But they are dead." There must be millions upon millions of dead people by now- that was a lot to try and remember!

Kex'ti said nothing to that, instead beginning to gut and clean the fish. After a moment he asked "What sounds best?" and then he went on to describe several dishes, and Kerala became overwhelmed. The last one was spicy, so she seized on that.

"Um.... not the spicy one..."

"Why don't you try this first. It's very simple, not a lot of anything except fish... If you don't like it, it just means there's always fresh bait tomorrow." he suggested with a smile.

Eventually, he handed her a small platter with two fish on it. Or, perhaps, two halves of a single fish. She eyed the fish for a moment.

Kex'ti busied himself with assembling a more regular campfire over the effigy's ashes, then began eating his own meal. He noticed when the tauren murmured something before taking her first bite, and his eyebrow raised. It had not been Orcish she spoke.

"I apologize, I remain only passingly familiar with taurahe. Hopefully you aren't praying for deliverence from my meal!" The monk chuckled.

This was perhaps the most delicious thing Kerala had ever put in her mouth. Fish flesh was soft, arranged oddly in layers and with a very delicate flavor unlike anything else. She almost didn't even need to chew, though she did, very slowly. She swallowed. "What? Oh... no. It's not taurahe. That's really good."

"Oh?" Kex'ti beamed. "I am glad you like it. I appreciate your spirit of adventure."

Kerala looks at the fishes, as if trying to gauge how much she should eat for this test. She decided it wouldn't matter. It really was yummy, so she might as well enjoy it. "No, you cook very well." she told him honestly. "I sometimes have trouble with spices.... but you generally cook things that aren't overwhelming."

Kex'ti chuckled, and prodded the fire. "Some may debate that point with you."

"Pandaren sometimes make things... too tasty? Is there such a thing?" How could she describe a dish that had so many flavors, that she didn't even know what vegetable she had on her tongue? For a race that enjoyed food so much, she supposed maybe if they ate all the time, their taste buds wore out. She hadn't seen a pandaren tongue closely enough to confirm the theory.

Kerala ate slowly, chewing way more than was necessary for such delicate flesh. She hated what came next, though, and it would be best if there were no chunks. She sincerely hoped it would not happen. She really, really liked fish.

Kex'ti smiled "I can understand that, though I personally enjoy it."

Kerala shrugged. "I didn't have much growing up. Salt, sometimes." The elf nodded, and told her he grew up in the inn. The exchange of information died then, for a moment. He looked at the fire, or out at the ocean, and she savored the meal.

Her stomach flopped ominously. She thought of the phrase she'd spoken just a little while ago. Around a mouthful of fish. she told him "It wasn't a prayer. I don't think you would try to poison me. Zaetar odes. It means... hmm. It means 'Zaetar is dead.' Ah.... the worst has happened. It's too late. I guess." The druid's tone when she mentioned poison was very serious as if she considered it an actual possibility that he would do that.

"Hm." Kex'ti said. "When does your debt end? I can appreciate your circumstances. But I want to make sure you can complete what you owe as fast as possible, as painless as possible."

"Well, the Grim commander asked for a supplicant. The way I see it, if I pass these three trials, then I will have a higher rank, and no longer be one. That would be the end of it. Not more than three months."

The elf smiled. "Very well. I shall help you however I can."

Kerala regretfully finished the fish, and picked up one of the forgotten melons to eat some more of it. It was more food than she'd ever eaten in one sitting in the monk's presence. He smiled at her.

"What are you doing in a week? I might need help... after."

"I said I would help. What do you need?" His glance went from her, back to fire as he poked it again.

"Maybe... healing? Probably."

He nodded to her, and smiled. Then there was a rumbling sound from within the druid, and she abruptly dropped the piece of melon in her fingers to place a hand on her stomach. His smile faded at he looked at her. "Are you still hungry, or did you eat too much?"

Kerala was looking up to the sky, judging how much time has passed. "Neither." Maybe half an hour. She should try to be sure she completed the trial within thirty minutes of the first bite.

The druid lost color then, her lips and nose becoming rather pale, and Kex'ti grew concerned. "Are you okay?"

Kerala shook her head, her fur damp from beads of sweat that had suddenly formed. She stood shakily. She was weak, her body in the midst of an all-out rebellion. Every energy was being rerouted to expel the irritant, the poison that her body was convinced had somehow ingested. She felt very hot, even as the ocean breeze froze her. She staggered a short distance away before her diaphragm began to spasm. She fell down on all fours and was violently ill.

Kex'ti had gotten to his feet when the druid did, and followed her. He attempted to weave the mists into her to quell her nausea as he rubbed her back. "It's okay." He said.

Kerala vomited up the wonderful fish dinner, gasping for air between lurches of her stomach. She coughed. Kex'ti continued his attempts to steady her nerves with the mists, and all she could do was nod to let him know she could feel his help. To please not stop. She hated this. Despite knowing the process, there was no quelling of the animal panic that took firm hold at the very real inability to breathe while she retched.

Even with Kex'ti trying to cure her sickness, it still took a moment for her body to completely purge itself of the terrible protein, and anything else it could just to make sure. Gradually, Kerala was able to breathe better and the spasms inside her began to subside.

Kex'ti frowned. "I apologize. I perhaps gave you too much..."

Kerala tried to stand, to get away from the mess. She felt very empty. And tired. "Not... your fault." She swayed a little on her hooves before finding her balance.

The monk rummaged in his bag for some water. He frowned, coming up only with a small vial of blue liquid. "Ah. Damn. It's not water, but it should help you feel a bit better."

She thanked him and accepted it, because the only other thing available was the alcohol he'd given her earlier. She didn't trust the taste of it not to prolong her recovery. She sipped the potion as she made her way back to the fire, and her color started to return. She sat down. Kex'ti dropped some more kindling into the wood.

She couldn't let him think it was his fault, and now she felt terrible for not telling him beforehand. "I wasn't sure, but I thought that would happen. Sorry." She sipped the potion.

"Liquor and new food does not always lead to positive outcomes." His mouth was turned down in a frown. "I'm sorry." he said again. He still didn't understand.

"Not your fault!" she insisted. The potion was indeed making her feel better, because she also cracked open the well of magic inside of her, letting it seep out slowly and go undirected. In her own body, it knew what to do without her direct attention. "I can't eat meat. I didn't know if fish was the same, but I figured I should try it before... next week."

The monk nodded, but she thought maybe he was no longer as warm as he had been. Perhaps she had offended him. "If you would like, I can prepare a tonic for you which should relax your stomach and numb your tastebuds. As I attempted to do in Bilgewater..."

Kerala reached into her pocket and pulled out the small vial of 'calm waters'. "This one?"

He nodded. "I noticed you were struggling with the food. It'll help you keep it down, and mitigate the taste."

Kerala nodded back at him. "I was saving it. I don't know if getting sick means I fail... but I wasn't planning to find out." She smiled at him.

He did not smile back, but nodded again. "Please don't hesitate to ask if I can be of service." He began to help himself to his feet.

"Thank you, again." She told him, maintaining her smile. Then, because he still seemed distant, and it bothered her that she was the reason, she admitted. "I don't think anyone has ever talked to me this long before."

It worked, the sharing of information unsolicited. He finally chuckled. "I am certain it shall not be the last, friend." And then he smiled.

"Hopefully the other challenges won't be so... messy." Kerala tried to make a joke. She shouldn't have. She was bad at it.

"We can hope." he nodded. "Sinu a'manore."

Kex'ti left, and Kerala sat there a long time. She watched the fire, the normal one, burn out slowly, trying not to think of anything in particular. It had not really been a good day at all, so she sat in silence and enjoyed the sounds of the waves, and the slow crackling as the wood burned and collapsed into embers. And she remembered the deliciousness of fish that she'd probably never taste again.

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Kerala is laying in the bushes, curled up tightly and sleeping off a very big mistake. She'd determined to use juice tonight to fill her stomach. She was so tired of rice, and of chewing. It proved to be a terrible mistake, as the waitress had given her an alcoholic pear cider. It was weak, but in the amounts Kerala was drinking, it was perfectly effective in her small frame to make the druid completely sloshed. She knows she said things she shouldn't have, and to complete strangers. She sort of trusted though, in the Grims' complete lack of caring that whoever she'd said it to would forget. At least she'd stayed out of any real trouble.

Kerala is totally hidden, and this is a safe place to sleep, surrounded by a couple of thin trees and the close underbrush of a few bushes. She'd found it after wandering Warspear for maybe an hour. There was a concealing mist, and trolls. But, who would ever think to look for her here, knowing how she felt about her inquisitor?

Lilliana trotted deliberately into the mists with her shadowy horse. Although Kerala may have thought when she stumbled in here that she was well hidden to take up slumber, one of the friendly spear wielding trolls had told Lilly that a certain druid had come into their mists.

Kerala opens an eye at the unfamiliar noise nearby, but she's not really aware. The drink is helping her catch up on a backlog of fatigue from her poor sleeping within the Grim guild walls the past three weeks. She could blame her poor attitude toward the Grim partly on this without it being a lie at all, but it was a poor excuse, and she was not the type to accept it anyway. She just did the best she could, and was slowly adapting.

Lilliana didn't see Kerala on her first pass by, but the horse nearly steps on her. And that near slam by a hoof, well, it was either deliberate on Lilly's part, or maybe it was the horse, since Lilly seems so oblivious.

Kerala growls as if she were not in her natural form, then notices the rider. "Really? Who walks a horse under trees in bushes?" She scowls at Who.

Lilliana 's dead horse snorts harshly, and then it rears as if indignant over Kerala's question. "Well...." Lilliana says as she reins in the beast with a little giggle, "I guess I do." Kerala sighs. "Why you trying to sleep out here, Kerala?" she asks. Her voice is soft.

"Im.... a little bit drunk. Seemed comfy." Even though there are sticks and stuff, this is a pretty comfy spot to her.

Lilliana seems to grin over that, "Oh yeah? You were drinking with Borghul........" She taps her chin with a finger, then slides off of her horse. The beast bucks and then canters a short distance away. "I didn't think you drank!"she comments, looking the tired druid over.

Kerala shrugs, never having gotten the orc's name. "Every time I do, I remember why I never should again." Never ever ever. Seriously. For example- what is she doing right now, chatting casually with a Grim troll in the middle of the deserted troll section of Warspear. Dumb, Kerala. Dumb. And yet, she still isn't moving to leave.

"I certainly understand that. I don't like drinking....I mean, I can...I'm a troll and stuff...I can drink a lot..." she makes small talk.

Kerala eyes Lilliana up and down.

Lilliana notices Kerala simply looking at her. The red haired priestess folds her arms, almost in a motion of defensiveness before Kerala even says anything. "Wut?" She eyes her right back.

Kerala considers going to find somewhere else to sleep... but then changes her mind and stays. There aren't any other Grim around, and this is semi-private place to be. She stops that thought, realizing the priestess had a knack for picking them up. Instead she asks even as the question occures to her "What did I do to you? Why do you hate me?"

Lilliana 's gentle blue eyes go wide. If her jaw could drop and hit the ground, it least, she makes it look like it would. ""

"Or... are you just vicious and mean by nature?"

Lilliana seems to not quite know what to say to fact, she even looks hurt by it. But she comes around, her expression pulling on a more neutral like expression. "Kerala, I'm a Grim."

Kerala sighs. That actually seems like a perfectly reasonable explanation. The troll tilts her head, now the one simply looking at Kerala. "So, the second one then." And Kerala nodded at Lilliana, blinking to try and clear her vision. She was not drunk anymore, maybe, but she is certainly not sober yet.

Lilliana 's eyes remain on Kerala, her gaze is so gentle with her eyes being the odd blue of her tribe, it's almost disconcerting. She shouldn't look so kind. "By some definitions I guess....but by some other person's definition you would be too."

Kerala doesn't trust Lilliana's appearance for a second. "Me?"

The troll nods her head. "You're just talking about perspective." She speaks quietly....then doesn't say anything for a few moments. "Why do you think I'm mean?"

"It is not an opinion. It's mean to deliberately betray me by giving me that fool's errand with the tree!"

Lilliana doesn't react to that, and she thinks her lack of reaction must be annoying, well, darn frustrating.... considering the effort that Kerala was noted to have put into it....which Lilliana is more than aware of. "And now you have another errand, one not so foolish."

Kerala interrupts. "-Which you also had to go and ruin."

"You've even had two Inquisitors.....the High Inquisitor himself, put a blessing on it!" She tilts her head, her expression seems earnest, as if she's looking for approval. "You should feel honored, I mean much attention for you!"

"HONORED?" The druid glares angrily at Lilliana. Stands up.

"Kerala......" the priestess doesn't respond at least in Kerala's angry and hot glare. "Yes, honored. No one...ever....ever...has set foot here in the Grim as you have."

"And I would not have if your commander had not demanded it. Would you rather I have sacrificed someone else to this?"

"That's what I would have done. But I'm mean." The priestess says rather lightly.

Kerala knows it.

Lilliana snorts as she picks up Kerala's piece of knowledge. It seems to Lilliana like the druid is broadcasting it as strongly as a shout directly into her ear. She frowns.

"Why? Everyone I know is either weaker than me, too good to even consider it, or already Grim." She means morally.

"Too good to even....consider it....?" Lilliana grins. "Kerala................. Being Grim is not about how kind or how cruel you are. The kind can be Grim."

Lie. "You cannot be kind if you are eating the hearts of other people." Kerala frowns.

Lilliana takes her staff down from where it rests against her back, and she twists it from hand to hand. "The Alliance aren't people."

Kerala throws Lilliana's words back at her. "You're just talking about perspective."

Lilliana nods her head in agreement to that, "Of course I am. And it's the perspective of those that are the strongest that becomes the general view of the world." She stops twisting her staff from side to side, and holds it in front of her, one hand placed over the other that grips the violet steel. "So like, yeah." She grins, having stepped closer to Kerala. She looks up at the druid. The troll is so short next to her.

"You are not stronger than the high inquisitor, and yet I must pass the trial as -you- wish it to be. -Your- perspective. How does that work?" She is honestly confused. Why did the subordinate get to change the rules? How was she bound to follow this troll's orders?

"I'm totally not stronger than Khorvis, he could kick my ass off my butt and feed it to me if he wanted to." She grins up at Kerala.

Kerala throws her hands up, to keep from trying to smash that grin off Lillian's face, and stalks in a circle before looking back at the priestess.

"And to answer that.... Konro was my Supplicant...." she pauses, and she doesn't hide a look of regret as she doesn't realize it flashes there. When she does, she makes a face. "And now you are. So like, yeah."

Konro. A thought occurs to the druid. "He failed the trials. How far did he get?"

Lilliana is not always the best at explanations....and....she was watching what Kerala was doing. She is a priest, and kind of good at reading what may be going through a persons thoughts, even if it's just by body language....and that angry stalking was kind of obvious. "Not very far." Her brow furrows.

"The first?" Kerala persists. "Did he pass this one? Did he have to do what I will?"

Lilliana 's gaze drops from Kerala's face, to the tabard she now wears. The one that Lilliana had to go back and retrieve from a fallen Konro's corpse. "Everyone's trials are different." Kerala scowls at the way the troll doesn't completely answer the question. "Just like life." Lilliana brings Kerala on a philosophical journey.

"And it wasn't enough for you... to just have me eat the hearts?"

Lilliana cants her head to the side, "No, it wasn't enough for you." Although her voice continues to be soft, somewhat sweet, a twinge of coldness enters it.

"Why not?! The elf only had to cut off a head and clean it. The troll gets to do something he actually -enjoys- for his trial!..." Lilliana doesn't answer Kerala, instead she has gone back to merely staring at her. "And not only do I get stuck with this, but you have to and try to get me killed with it... zayt kek!" The druid finishes in a foreign language that is obviously some kind of thing similar to an F you, if not exactly that.

Lilliana nods her head slowly, "And that's why it wasn't enough for 'you'." The little priestess puts a great deal of emphasis on 'you' as she says it.

"And that's why I'm asking- What did I ever do to you!? Or... do at all? DO you just hate shu'halo?"

"I don't care what you do to me, Kerala." She scowls at the druid, but something may tell Kerala that the issue is not because of something that may have offended Lilly personally. "Do I hate shu'halo?" Kerala thinks maybe that would explain why Konro was left to blunder into trouble and die. Lilliana was going to say something else, in answering Kerala's question about what she did or didn't do to the troll...but instead, she responds to the shu'halo comment. "No. I respect them, and what they are."

"Is there a reason, then?" Lilliana nods her head, indicating that indeed yes, there is a reason that perhaps Lilliana has acted the way she has been. Kerala waits to hear it.

Lilliana wasn't initially going to just up and volunteer her answer for Kerala, but she sees the tauren waiting, so expectantly. And so...she answers her. Her voice is almost bland as she quick she has gone from gentle, cold, now to as if she could care less. "You are not a soldier. You may battle well, you may be powerful....but you don't know how to fall into the ranks. Follow orders." She pauses, and then continues, she explains what Kerala had waited so expectantly for. "Nothing about you says to me....soldier." The troll eyes her, assessing. "I doubt you think I am either, but I know where my loyalties are. I know who my family are. I know what I will do for them, and I know what they will....and will not, do for me. And I accept that." Kerala listens. Lilliana's eyes narrow cruelly at Kerala. "You, on the other hand, don't." She offers the druid a look so disapproving, any child given that by their mother should cringe. But...Kerala is not Lilliana's daughter. In fact, Lilly must be a good few years younger than the druid. The expression has no effect on the tauren, who was considering the words instead.

What sense did that make? "So you are punishing me... because you think -I- don't know my loyalties? My family?" Or did Lilliana mean that she didn't understand Kerala's? If that was the case, how was treating her this way supposed to solve the problem?

Lilliana gestures to the tabard that Kerala wears. "I'm not punishing you. You are a freaking Grim," she growls. It sounds primal. "Act like one." Kerala balls up her fists, responding to the growl. Lilliana 's gaze flickers to the tauren's fists, and the red haired troll takes a step back. If anyone was watching, it may look like the little priestess was nervous. She's not, and Kerala can see it in the body language. Such a twisted little snake woman, this is.

"You say I am a Grim...."Kerala starts. Then she stops that thought, and blurts the next one that had occurred to her. She still wanted to believe that this was all a misunderstanding. Some kind of miscommunication- after all, the druid isn't the best at dealing with people. She knows that. "Do you know that doing your stupid trial might kill me? Do you care?"

Lilliana nods her head, although she doesn't move back forward, in fact, she kind of takes another step back. A small one, but still. "I didn't know." And perhaps.... Kerala does not see any of the tell-tale clues that the troll spoke a lie.

Kerala cocks her head. She'd been right, and she seizes on that. "Is it too late to get you to maybe change it?"

Lilliana busts out into a laugh over that request, "No freaking way you damn whiny baby!" Her childish laugh echoes down the hill, but the wind behind them does it's best to swallow up the sound.

"Whiny...." Kerala frowns. "Did you not just hear me? You want me to die?"

"Yes, I heard you. The troll actually may sound somewhat exasperated.....seriously. She holds up her hand as if to quiet Kerala. "More than heard you. I've been hearing your complaints, your whining....for like....ever since you decided to put on that tabard." Lilliana fixes Kerala with those blue eyes of hers. The tauren grinds her teeth, silent. She hasn't -whined- about anything since she was twelve years old. "Kerala." Lilliana clears her throat and rolls her eyes. "I." She pauses, then continues. "Do not." Yet another pause. She narrows her eyes. "Want." another pause. "even one." pause. "freaking Horde." pause. "to." pause. "Freaking DIE".

"So CHANGE IT." With just under a week left to prepare, the druid was actually worried now, and the solution was right here, standing in front of her. Just change it back. Kerala had no qualms about eating the hearts. The high inquisitor's task would have been fine, given a month to complete. She'd suffer, sure, but she could do it. But all the hearts at once? She'd even solved the problem of sheer volume, but yesterday had truly scared her. She'd reacted badly to two tiny fish, how could she hope to make it through with the heart organs of -seven- people?

Lilliana 's expression hardens. Never would Kerala have seen such a look on Lilliana...expect, there it is. Childishness aside, she looks like nothing could alter her decision. "No, Kerala. Figure it out." Kerala blinks at the priestess. "Act like a soldier.....and figure it out. I don't want you to die...but here you are..." she swings her hands out, gesturing as if to all the world. "You're here, figure it the frick out. I'm not here to baby you. Or mother you." Lilliana says this coldly. She thinks there is the cuteness here, even if it's annoying cuteness.

Kerala knows that killing Lilliana will not solve this.... but she's incredibly mad now, and not thinking clearly. Maybe pain would convince the priestess. If not it would be very satisfying....

Lilliana is carefully following Kerala, gauging her mood.....she steps to the side, and she snaps, demanding, "Figure it out, KERALA!!!!!!"

The drunk druid finally loses it, and snatches herself toward Lilliana in a Wild Charge.

Lilliana shouts, "Kerala!!! Bad girl!" And she brings her shadows down upon her with a whoosh of harsh whispers. The priestess is quick to use her shadow step ability, and she leaves behind an image of her red-haired form, disappearing behind the raging druid.

Kerala meant to hit the priestess in catform with all her claws extended, and when she instead passes through the priestess' image, she falls to a crouch and slinks into a hiding place.

Lilliana rushes around, searching for the cat. Although she could quite easily run away, back to the Grim's main compound.....she remains within reach of Kerala. Perhaps the little priestess is angry or, or perhaps she just wants to mess around with her. It would be hard for anyone to tell. She runs near Kerala, unknowing that the druid is there in stealth, her shadows flickering from her dangerously.

Kerala waits patiently, her muscles coiled, until the priestess is close enough, then leaps for the troll, trying to bite her.

Lilliana had truly....truly not expected Kerala to act without thinking. Her guard was not up as it should...for Kerala was her Supplicant after all. The cat is successful in her attempt to bite Lilliana, and Lilliana's voice rings out not so much as in pain, but in surprise. Her shadows respond quickly, and she moves to fill Kerala's head and soul with the pain that shadow priests bring.

Kerala spasms in pain, which makes her teeth clench down harder. Involuntary, but advantageous. She manages to turn the muscle twitches of her limbs into a full furious shredding motion of her rear feet.

Lilliana had not been dishonest when she had informed Kerala that she knew she was a strong fighter, but not a soldier.... and now she slightly panics as the cat gets a hold of her not just with teeth, but with claws. There is the sound of tearing, and the priestess's robes are shredded. And here she becomes angry.......and as the cat spasms, Lilliana lets loose with another powerful blast of shadow not only lashes through Kerala, but it spreads in a demented circle all around them.

Kerala loses her grip with a scraping of teeth. She prowls back toward Lilliana, not hiding, and openly growling, content so far to remain the cat. She is a predator. Here is her prey, and she stalks Lilliana for the opportunity to strike again.

Lilliana keeps her distance as Kerala prowls forward....she's fairly quick on her feet, but of course her movements could no where match Kera's when she is in that particular form. "Kerala, stop it. You are being a BABY." She actually says this as she moves along with Kerala, bleeding. She hasn't moved to heal herself. What a little mess. "This how you solve your shit?" Lilliana may be speaking boldly, sarcastically...but the druid knows she is rather injured. There is a trail of blood falling from the troll with each step. Ow.

Kerala thinks hard, trusting that she'll be heard since Lilliana has been in her head once before. I'm being Grim. I don't like you, so I'm going to attack you.

"Grims....never....ever attack Grims." and now she snarls....there is something like anger in her voice, although it lingers closer to distaste.

Kerala pounces while Lilliana is distracted talking, her thoughts furious. No, Grims just set other Grims up, or stand by and watch them die!

Lilliana has multiple thoughts flash through her head as Kerala pounces at her...does she fear her, should she turn into a ball of purple energy and escape? Should she protect herself in a priestly bubble and attack the hell out of her? No, what Lilliana decides is something that she should have done ages ago. She snarls and steps into the true shadows that only a shadow priest can step through, once more leaving behind a facade of herself. As she does so, she grabs onto Kerala's angry mind, she rushes through there before the druid's instinctive defenses can react, and unlocks something. The event that Kerala seems to have mysteriously not remembered prior to her joining the Grim. Something about Inzema and wanting to cut things off and eat them, a white haired troll and a threatening sword...and of course, the other tauren and the cup of tea that was left behind. Lilliana then rushes off down the hill, keeping to her shadows. She's so out of here. Lilliana leaves Kerala behind......not wanting to engage in the fight further for either of their sakes.

Kerala freezes. Memories slam into her, all at once, and it's crippling. She remembers. Everything that happened after Konro's funeral. And this time, she's -feeling- it. The lioness falls over, seemingly asleep. She's not resting, though, and she won't be able to rest for quite a while. Kerala gets carved up by inzema, slowly, in her mind, feeling everything that she didn't before. She gets beaten by Leyujin, and then, when all of that is over, she can smell tea, and hear Awatu's voice. She cannot move at all, cannot fight back. She is helpless is the dream that is no dream at all.

Lilliana knew exactly what she was doing when she shot into the druid's mind. The druid remembered this now, felt this now, but she also would again. 'Flashbacks' from terrible events people lived through were quite haunting. They felt just as real as the trigger trauma, but eventually they faded with time as the mind began to cope. What if the traumas occurred without the victim being able to do a thing about it? No fighting back, not even screaming. This is what she had done.

Kerala was alone in the dark when the memory ended. The sensation of sliced and beaten flesh was fresh and real, the pain acute and overwhelming. Then it was suddenly gone. She opened her eyes, completely disoriented. The lioness panted, eyes dilated and panicked, hormones raging through her in response to an agony that was no longer there. Fight or flight! She blinked, finding that she could, now.

In the next instant, the druid was off like a shot, running. Because she could.

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Sunday night. Kerala had been awake now for a day and a half, if she didn't count the brief nap that had been interrupted. She didn't. Added atop the past several weeks of accrued fatigue, the druid was in bad shape. She can barely think, and every time her eyes close, she finds herself back in the cellar of Dalaran. It is a place she never wants to see ever again.

The visions -no the memories- are losing strength, she knows, but it is taking far longer than she wants. Logically, the experience in the cellar should not have caused this sort of reaction in her. She'd been beaten before and while Inzema had been far more intricate than anyone else prior, even his blade 'artwork' was something she should have been able to handle. The memories stuck on replay stopped at Awatu leaving her there on the floor, but she even remembered now how Cobrak's two-headed dog had found her only a short time later. She'd been healed remarkably quickly, in fact.

She'd survived. So it infuriated her to no end that the priestess was able to do what no real world experience had been able to. She is supposed to be stronger than this.

The druid wasn't in the mood to really mingle in public. She lands on the Cantina wall and perched there, planning just to see if there was anyone she knew. Would Kex'ti be up to anymore antics? Would Breygrah show up? She also knew that the Grim used this tavern to rest between battles. This was really why she had come.

Tonight's bartender was the troll. "So anybody need a drink heah?"

Darrethy is here. He is dressed oddly, with a bow on his back. The undead shakes his head "I'm good."

Syreena is also here. "Yeah, Tahz. Something shtrong." She notices Kerala land on the wall, but only looks at the bird without saying anything. The troll brings a drink over, and she tips the barkeep.

Kerala 's eyes close. On the wide wall, the tendons in her feet cannot lock as they would if she were perched. This is intentional. As her body shuts down in it's singular attempt to rest, her weight shifts. She begins to fall, and suddenly jerks awake. She fluffs her feathers, trying to shake off the tiredness despite knowing the uselessness of the gesture.

The Grim are here.

Kerala flaps twice, propelling her light body through the air. She shifts even as gravity pulls her earthward, and lands on her hooves in natural tauren shape. The barkeep is attentive and asks if anyone needs a drink, meaning her, really. She smiles her no at him. No alcohol again, ever. Until she's stupid enough to forget again.

The undead Grim priest Lupinum is running around annoying -or maybe being annoyed by- the crude elf priestess with the short hair. Kerala did not like her or her foul mouth, but then again, she did not like Lilliana either. The red- headed priestess is standing beside the white-haired troll from the cellar.

Lilliana waves over at Kerala. Then she winks. The choice in companion is entirely intentional, then. Only the rogue was missing. And teh commander to watch them all. Kerala frowns.

Darrethy shakes his head "Good to see you're still getting along." he says to Lily. Kerala stifles a yawn through clamped teeth. "Hunting still going well?" Apparently they had just returned from battle, then.

Leyujin shrugs. "Sum losses, but we be facin' stiffah opposition."

Syreena looks at Khorvis at he returns to the Cantina as well. "Lasher."

Kerala eyes Lilliana a moment longer, then turns to Khorvis. "High Inquisitor" she says by way of greeting.

Darrethy nods slightly "Khorvis."

The orc nods to Syreena, then turns his eldritch eye to Kerala and nods a greeting. "Supplicant Kerala. Throm'ka, Blackguard."

Right on the tail of Darrethy's completion of the greeting with some foreign word, Kerala blurts. "Are you still on call with the battlemaster? I'd like to talk with you." Lilliana tosses a tired grin over to Khorvis, and rolls her eyes, then gazes at Leyu'jin.

"No, the battlemastersh have let the Grim rest for the evening."

The barkeep seemed surprised that they were done fighting so early in the evening, but he only got in a few words before Kerala spoke over him. It wouldn't be long before this temporary clarity became fog and confusion again. "I'd like to talk to you... privately. Please. If you aren't busy."

Khorvis grumbles an ogre curse. "Zug zug. Find me at the tower to the Northeast." Kerala glances to Lilliana, then back at Khorvis. She nods.

Kerala leaves immediately to fly there, knowing the high inquisitor would not be far behind on whatever mount he has.

The island is small, with an old tower standing on it. The wreckage of some kind of patio, or maybe an entryway, is underhoof. It's tilted, but stable ground. The sea around them is especially beautiful is the dying light of the day.

Khorvis had beaten her there, because she really did not know where this tower was, and had to spot it from the air. The orc sniffs the air with a sense of nostalgia. "Ah, the Great Sea."

Kerala smiles. "It is beautiful here." Then she yawns, unable to stifle it.

"What did you wish to speak of, druidess?"

Several things. Which first? She thinks maybe he should know about last night before trying to discuss other things. "Have you spoken to Lilliana at all today? About me?"

"No. My Inquisitors are their own masters, and masters over their own Supplicants. To an extent."

That is good, isn't it? "Oh.... So... If I made a mistake and attacked her... Would you care?" Kerala cocks her head with the question. It isn't the phrasing she had really intended, but too late now.

"You did raise a paw against a Grim?" Khorvis is chillingly calm in his questioning. Some of the soul mist of his eldritch device catches in the sea breeze and twists into shapes. She finds it rather mesmerizing. She almost wants to step closer to be able to make out what it was she was seeing. His words catch her attention. A paw? No, that wasn't quite right.

"And teeth. I had too much to drink- as I said it was a mistake.... but I'd rather tell you myself than have the truth of things twisted."

"I do see. So you do be a drunkard, and can not aim your blows. This do be your statement?"

What? No! How...? What was it with the Grim and getting things so terribly wrong all the time? The image of a someone robed, most likely a mage, armless and writhing, apparates in his soul shroud. No, she does not want to be close enough to see the mist. Kerala takes a step back with a sigh. Was she really surprised? "No, not really. Nevermind. If there is to be any punishment, I suppose the details do not matter."

Khorvis grips his hands in a fist at the small of his back and paces to the edge of the ruins. Kerala merely watches, waiting to see why Khorvis moved, or for him to confirm or deny a punishment. The orc unlatches a compartment of his bracer and ponders an old scar that the panel had covered. The druid eyes him, looking unabashedly at the scar. If she had to guess, she'd say the wound was caused by a spear. She'd seen enough to know. It was a relatively clean cut- so from a sharp weapon. Metal, rather than horn or bone or stone. Long with a widening in the middle, perhaps from the weapons alliance soldiers carried. They liked cross-shaped blades for some reason. Plus, Khorvis is Grim, and she figures alliance was a pretty safe bet.

Khorvis eventually shuts the metal plate and voices a tired bass. "Your blood debt do be a contentious thing, Supplicant Kerala."

Kerala blinks. "I... do not know that word," she admits.

"Half of you does wish to honor the customs of our peoples. This do be a noble goal and the Grim does support it." Kerala listens. "The other half does scream in rebellion against our ways. How can your debt be paid if only half of your swing does meet the flesh?"

Kerala's tired mind wants to tell him that a half-powered strike is better than a total miss, but she isn't that stupid. Not without liquor. Flesh... though. Since he does not seem angry at all, she figures she's not in trouble. She grasps at the topic switch. "Actually, that was what I wished to talk about most of all." Khorvis reclasps his gauntlet at his back and listens stoically. "There are things the Grim does that... I don't understand why. How it is acceptable behavior. For example, you." Kerala tries to think of how to put her thoughts in words. She's aware that she's not doing a very good job at all. She can't focus. She wants to punch Lilliana. Most of all though, she wants to sleep.

Khorvis continues to stare at the tauren. The taladite crystal in his left socket pulses with the lapping of the tides. The mist almost seems helpful, as if it reflects the thoughts she cannot seize hold of on her own. Kerala sees a courier carrying a package. Yes. That was it, right there. "You ate the shu'halo child."

"She did already be a corpse."

"She was a person." Kerala argues.

"Did be. When I do be a corpse, I do pray to my ancestors that what little meat be left on my bones be useful to the Horde." Kerala frowns. "The Grim do use all means, druidess."

"But..." Kerala frowns again, because this is something she's thought of all day... exactly -why- she is bothered. "By openly doing that, you are inviting people to murder others, praising them even."

"There did be an orc girl delivered to my chambers."

"Yes, I saw. Was she meat to you as well?" Kerala knows the answer, she saw the tiny bone hit the floor at inquisition.

Khorvis ignores Kerala's platitudes. "She did be murdered by some stranger. But there did be some small tattoos on her feet, marking her as kin to one of the matron's whelps in the Drag. Of the orphanage. Her body and affects were returned to the Matron. The orphanage did be granted the living cost. By our coffers, at that."

Kerala frowns. "She was returned?" The druid knows bones. The one she'd tossed into the brazier had most definitely been from an orcish child.

"Aye. You do have my word."

"Where did the bone come from, the one you threw from there at Inquisition?" she gestures to the thing covering Khorvis' face, his feedbag.

He stands there, unreadable not just for the misty portion of his face, but that mask contraption as well. He hardly moves, so there is no body language to use as a gauge to his mood. It is like speaking with a statue that talked back. "Have you been to Bladefist Hold in the Spires of Arak?"

Kerala shakes her head, not certain. She'd been to the Spires, but does not know the names of various areas.

"The Iron Horde do have children of their own. The Bleeding Hollow are our enemies, druidess. Would you deny me my fill?"

Kerala is so confused that she speaks without thought. "I do not understand. You returned the child I sent you, but did eat one from the Bleeding Hollow?" She doesn't notice that she just admitted she sent the orc girl. "What is the difference?"

Khorvis frowns at Kerala, somewhat taken aback that the druidess who he did think honorable would commit such guile. "It do be in the taste. You will know this power when you do feast on the hearts of your targets at our great gathering."

Lie. Or maybe... another twisted Grim truth. "Any difference in taste is perceived only in your mind. The manner of death, the diet while living, that makes a difference, but not whether the meat was once Bleeding Hollow or not." she argues. Khorvis seems to snicker for a moment at that. The visage of a pale orc coalescing in the mists of his soul shroud. The pale thing's eye twinkles malevolently before winking out with the licking of ghostly lips. Kerala stares at Khorvis, surprised to have finally provoked a reaction. Then she realizes why. "And I see the expression of your eye, though your face is deformed and covered. I did not kill the child, or deface her body."

Khorvis again ignored part of her words, choosing to address the first part of her statement. "These do be the words you say now. Your first trial is not to question, but to bloody obey."

Kerala considers Khorvis. Why is is that everyone thinks she isn't obeying? Skipping that meeting? They'd had this attitude before that, so what was it? "What is it that makes you think I will not? Or that this task is something hard for me to do?"

Khorvis waves his hand dismissively. "You do not be the first Supplicant to toy with her Inquisitor. Many do think themselves better than the Mandate. They are all broken of this thought by the end." He straightens up at her remarks about difficulty and fear. "You do fear the bodies of our foes. Their will and their swords and their words? I do know you laugh at them. You still do see the breath of the Earth Mother in their bones and this does make you weak."

Kerala holds in her snort. So very wrong. "I do not believe in an Earth Mother."

"Hrmph. Is she not of the Shu'halo?"

Kerala crosses her arms, and blinks tired eyes. This was not what she wanted to talk about. "She might be, I guess. But not me. Not really. I do not fear the bodies of alliance, or laugh at them. Their hearts do not frighten me,the taste of hot blood and the raw softness...." The druid stops, realizing she was rambling, and saying more than she means to. She shrugs.

"Supplicant Kerala, I did be more than patient with your rebellious acts. You do know where the Inquisition does stand on the matter. You will apologize to Inquisitor Lilliana for your brash fists and teeth, and mend the wounds. You will appear before your brother and sister Grim to complete your trial. And when this is done, your second Trial will begin with the Cen and the orphanage. Do my words be lost to the Great Sea, or will the Lash stay coiled at my side?" He had apparently run out of patience.

"As you wish." Kerala is too tired to press the matter about people-eating any further, even though she still doesn't understand why one child was eaten while the other was not.

"Zug zug. You will be Grim yet. And I will join you in your feast."

Kerala blinks at the high inquisitor rather stupidly. "You will?"

Khorvis barks a tart laugh. "The strength in those hearts do be enough for more than one! I do wish some for myself!" He abruptly turns to leave and gives Kerala a casual salute.

Strength. Hearts. Strength is life. "Wait!" Kerala cries. "One more question then, about the task. Does vomiting mean that I fail?"

He stops and turns back for just a moment. "You must show no fear of your foes' remains. If you do vomit as a solider of the Mandate, there do be no shame. If you do squeal in fear of the taste ... We will know. The eyes of our felmancers will watch."

Kerala smiles, genuinely happy now. Everything, all the worry these past weeks, is solved with those words. "Thank you for speaking with me." she remembers her manners.

"Lok'tar, Kerala. Ogar." The orc leaves her standing on the tower island, and she cannot believe her good luck. The first trial is now easier than she could have hoped. Why had she not asked this question earlier!?

Kerala grins at Lilliana after she lands back in the Cantina barroom. Lupinum is perched atop an umbrella with his back to her. He doesn't bother to look over his shoulder. The druid's grin converts to a wide yawn, and she doesn't care.

Lilliana is talking with Khorvis, but she's standing close enough to the umbrella. Lupinum leans back and hangs a foot over the edge. He tries to knock it into Lilly's head. Kerala walks around so the priest can see her. He waggles a couple claws in Kerala's direction.

Lilliana reaches a hand up and grabs Lupinum's boney clawed foot. He squawks loudly, and the druid laughs. He abruptly points to her. "Quiet." Kerala's laugh turns into another yawn.

Lupinum takes his feet back in and leaps to the ground. He pokes Lilliana, obviously drunk. He belches loudly, confirming the suspicion, then stumbles towards Kerala.

Lupinum tries to poke Kerala's broad shoulders. She evades his touch. The priest stumbles forward and almost ends up on the floor, and she does not move to help him. She doesn't like to be touched, and keeps a space between them.

Lupinum is now going to make a drunk point to touch Kerala. His eyes blink unevenly. "What were you been up to today?" Lupinum is so drunk, he can barely walk. He pursues Kerala with a dogged determination, still blinking like an owl, as if that will clear his double vision.

"Eating. Trying to sleep. Failing." Kerala says. She glances to Lilliana.

"Trying to shleep? You don't shleep? I get that." She shrugs at him. "No no, cause I'm dead! We don't shleep ...hic! It'sh always... this... Life. All the time. ...hic!"

She smiles. "Well I still need it, so good night."

Lilliana looks over to Kerala, "You're going? You just got here."

Lupinum lunges forward and tries to hug Kerala while the druid is distracted. She evades him easily, by snatching herself toward the imposing frame of the high inquisitor. The priest falls onto his face, because Kerala is just SO DAMN FAST.

"Lupinum, leave the druid alone. You dork." She heads over to druid. "Kerala, I hope you have a good night." She clears her throat, watching Kerala move to Khorvis, as if he'll protect her. "I hope you have sweet dreams, Kerala." She says again. Her face is a mask resembling a gentle smile.

Khorvis promptly steps away, leaving Kerala in Lilliana's dark clutches. He glances at the troll and tauren Grim, as he answers a question posed to him about how things were going. "It does go. The battlemasters pit our ranks against tougher foes every night."

Kerala smiles at Lilliana, not bothered at all by the three-faced troll priestess. "Not likely. But nightmares don't keep their power forever." She really couldn't be happier right now. She knows it is the giddy effects of sleep deprivation, but it feels good.

The trolless lowers her voice. "Not if you don't let them." She pauses. "Figure them out."

"I will. Goodnight." And with that simple cheerful reply, Kerala gives the assembled bar patrons a quick wave goodbye, morphs to a bird right where she stands, and flies away.

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Sleep was a necessary part of any living being's survival, just like food or water. It allowed a body to rest- to utilize less energy during a time in the day when it would be inefficient to search for food. Sleep provided the opportunity for a body to repair and rejuvenate itself. Most of the immune system was based on processes occurring during sleep. Major restorative functions such as tissue repair or muscle growth happened mostly, or sometimes -only- during the sleep cycles. The brain dreamed and processed information gathered throughout the day.

Kerala was suffering from a severe lack of sleep Monday. She had no sense of time, and had no idea what she had been doing for the last two days. She remembered talking with Khorvis. She knew that the conversation hadn't accomplished what she wanted, but that one crucial detail had come from it, and now her trial would be easy.

When Cobrak found her in the Un'goro cavern she'd called home after leaving Desolace, the hunter had a hard time waking her. She didn't remember what she said, but she told him of the trial, and confirmed that he wasn't back yet. From... she couldn't remember what he was doing. Thinking was hard.

She slept for hours after he left, and when she woke again, rubbing away the pain of Inzema's daggers, it was evening. The flight to Hyjal and the Grim meeting wasn't too terribly arduous with the prevailing winds aloft able to send her there with hardly any effort. She almost fell asleep in the air, actually losing some altitude on the way. She made it to Hyjal and landed among the giant roots of the world tree. It was easy to lose oneself among them, she though blearily. The meeting would be soon, she just wasn't quite sure where.

But Kerala's abused body wasn't about to let the druid remain awake that long. Her head nodded forward, and did not jerk back upright. She slept through the inquisition entirely, even though she really wasn't very far from the correct place. Below her, supplicants were questioned and a Morinth exploded, and the druid was blissfully unaware.

Nature insisted, and after all, wasn't She the master of druids anyway? Kerala wouldn't have argued even if she could have. There was no punishment for missing the inquisition, and lots of opinionated hatreds to avoid. She was so very tired.

Kerala slept.

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((I kind of had a good creative spurt :P If you get lost, I'm making sure to put a sort of summary list in the first post so you can see what was missed.))

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Do you want to die?

If anyone had followed her out of the guild hall, had somehow stood there right then to pose the question Lupinum had once voiced to the druid, Kerala would have told them yes and begged them to quicken her end. Anything to make it stop.

* * *

She entered the guild hall, much like she had done exactly four weeks ago. Now as then, the Grim commander was poring over blueprints, notes, and whatever other papers were strewn over the large table. Looks were so deceiving. He didn't -look- like he should be the leader of the Grim. He looked.... well, he looked like her uncle once had, though her memory of the man was hazy at best. Awatu didn't look evil. But he was the one she saw the most, in the terrible memories Lilliana had forced on her.

"She's so looking at you, Awatu."

"I know."

She had other things to worry about now, though. So she stood in the back of the room, just inside the doorway on the left. Her thoughts were oddly still, now, after having been a whirlwind all day long. A calm before the storm? She was as ready as she thought she could be.

The seven alliance were outside, all in a line and covered with a blanket. She'd brought them up from the jail just a little while ago, once she found out the meeting would be here. She saw no reason to deviate from the fastest method she knew for extracting a heart, which was how the Magram did it. So, she'd stripped them to the waist, using their armor as the prop to lay them over. It worked passing well, and even the fat pandaren curved backwards, his great belly flattened and stretched out.

She'd spent all morning sharpening a talon dagger. She didn't need the blade to snag when she used it, to give her pause, a moment to think, to hesitate. Bad enough killing again, with cold blood and no motivation for it.

Lupinum came in, and Kerala didn't even care enough to frown at the undead. He found a place to sit with his legs underneath a bench, his clawed dead fingers drumming idly. She'd been angry at him earlier, in the Brokenspear tavern. The priest was busy getting his bodily fluids replaced with alcohol, it seemed, and he was completely smashed now of all times. She supposed it was a good thing that she knew better than to rely on others.

She was expecting that even being able to purge the heart meat from her stomach, she might still be sick from this, or at the very least, not be feeling well at the end. She had a little ring of mushrooms growing in her sleeping place. The residual magics she'd imbued in the colorful fungus caps was probably a bit excessive, but she'd been growing the little things since before she knew she was allowed to be sick. These were healers she could trust... who did not flinch in a crisis, or get drunk.

Another tauren, this one another druid, let the commander know that someone called The Insane would not be attending. Kerala briefly wondered who was crazy enough to actually earn that as a title among all the Grim. Then elf ears were mentioned, and it could only be the Shadowblade's sister.

The little rogue had told another Grim hopeful how the supplicant rank was viewed by other Grim. It made sense, to the druid, for she'd heard similar words before. Syreena's terms had actually been kinder than the original version, which amused Kerala in the same strange way as when people told her to eat something because she looked as if she were starving.

Supplicants were the the bottom rung of the ladder, the rogue had said. Like dirt. And then she'd amended it to be something lower- a worm crawling through dirt. How was it that the orcish language had so many words, and yet the Magram expressed themselves better?

"You less shit- you less fly on shit. You puke fly puts on shit to make useful him."

Being a worm seemed like a much nicer thing, than the vomit of a dung-eating pest. Kerala was moving up in the world.

Kerala watched others arriving, slowly filling the room. It quickly became a gathering large enough to make her uncomfortable, even though the hall was large enough to hold them all with each person allowed plenty of space. Nothing good had ever come from her being near so many others.

The white-haired troll, called the Wordbearer arrived. He spoke to an elf about another elf- the one Breygrah liked. Kerala had not seen him in a long time. The high inquisitor entered the room with his usual heavy-thudding gait. He could usually be heard before he was seen, she was noticing.

Eventually, it seemed everyone was here. The Grim commander looked around and announced "We are gathered. Well met, Grim." The heart-eating former deadshot troll snuck in then. He smelled pungently of blood, and if the dripping was any indication, he may has well have taken a bath in it. Concern flared within Kerala for her seven alliance- not for their lives, but for the possibility of the troll having found them. Surely he would not have ruined her trial now, in front of everyone? Kerala resisted the urge to leave while Awatu was speaking just to check.

Zaetar l'odes. Nothing mattered now, and it was too late. She'd deal with things as they happened.

"We have fortunate news in regards to our efforts against the Alliance this evening. But first, for this evening, we will deal with matters concerning the Inquisition. As I understand it, we have a task that is... due to us."

Remember what I am owed.” he had said in the cellar. Kerala sighed. She wished she could keep her mind completely calm, but thoughts like these were better than a nervous anxiety. They bubbled up, and sank again. It was an eerie sort of feeling, to be facing the act required for the trial in such a manner. She almost wanted to flail out and punch something, to start a fight. She could probably be next to Lupinum in an instant, or even Khorvis. She might even be able to land a blow before the assembled Grim reacted. But then, what would that accomplish? Earning a beating was not exactly the same thing as raising a bloodlust.

The orc high inquisitor had confirmed Awatu's words, talking about supplicants as if they were a tree that had needed pruning. Instead of addressing Kerala first, though, he made her wait. Intentional? Even the huntress was surprised, for she had not been the only one to shoot a glance at the druid at Awatu's words of what was due to the Grim.

The elf produced her two drenei skulls, proof of having completed her Trial of Combat. She would have laid them on the table then, but the orc was a showman. He had her hold them up triuphantly, which she did- one in each hand. The bones had been not only cleaned, but polished as well.

Finally, Khorvis was satisfied. "This new flesh did take in all of her training beneath our banner. There will be no question of her skill in Combat. The heart, though ... that do be left to be seen." His words brought a scowl to Kerala's face. Heart references, even now? She wanted to be done with this, and put and end to those. His calling the elf 'flesh' was also not lost on the druid. Did he choose that word on purpose, calling the elf meat? He gestured for the huntress to put the skulls down and return to her place, then.

"The blood debt to you might be half filled this night, Commander." Khorvis beckoned to Kerala, and her stomach roiled. She left her place to approach him, keenly aware of the commander's brown eyes on her, above all the others. The white-haired Wordbearer watched too, hawklike eyes staring over his troll nose. "Do you, Supplicant Kerala, have any trophies to add to the pile?"

To the side, Kerala saw the goblin death knight shake a bag at her. It dripped darkly, soaked through with what she could only assume was blood. There was a big smile on his face. Kerala ignored him, but Awatu was distracted. His expression showed disdain as he followed the path of liquid drops smattering on the floor. Apparently he had not noticed the blood-soaked troll in the room making a far bigger mess.

Trophies were things like skulls and heads to be displayed. Ears strung on necklaces, or bones. What a strange question. "Trophies? No. I am to complete my first trial though. Now?"

"This tauren was given a very simple task. Hunt down each race of the Alliance, remove their hearts, and consume the flesh to gain the enemy's spirit." Khorvis said, for the benefit of those unaware. To her he said, "Now is the time to prove your skill in Combat, Kerala." Awatu looked at Khorvis, his mouth twisting into a small grimace. He looked at Kerala. Did he not approve?

"Come then." the druid said and she did not wait for a reply, but turned and led the way outside. Behind her, she heard Awatu give the command for the rest of the Grim to move out as well.

"I do think there will be enough for everyone to taste!" Khorvis declared. Others following behind him muttered things as they all filed out.

They came to the wide flat place outside the guild hall where Kerala's victim's were arranged. She pulled the blanket off them without a word. Awatu raised a brow, seeing the seven. Khorvis planted his sword tip-down into the snow and leaned on it, leering.

An elf woman tilted her head slightly and spoke her thought aloud. "Why are they alive?"

"So we can see the kills?" the huntress supplicant guessed.

Kerala unhooked the talon dagger at her waist while they spoke, and stepped to the line of arched-over people. The alliance were arranged from largest to smallest. She nodded at Shaelie. "I am to kill them myself, he said. You all witness."

There were other comments, but the druid was no longer listening. The only voice she cared about was Khorvis'. He was the superior, the only one she needed to hear. She bent over the pandaren lying there and brought the hand with the dagger to his stretched belly. Without hesitation, without a thought, she made a quick cut across the panda's middle, slicing the abdomen and diaphragm. She murmured a quick phrase as she did.

"Nees ko stroval. Strovalt lo ralt. Kek strovalt di ka. Kek ralt di ka. Nuth. Ka agol sroval." Words she knew like reflex. Words that came to her lips without her intent to say them. She didn't try to stop herself from saying them. Weak to strong. Strength is life. Your strength to mine. Your life to mine. Rest. I am stronger.

Awatu's ear perked at the language, but he said nothing. He watched Kerala carefully.

The dagger cut well, and her hand was sure. Kerala reached into the wounded pandaren with her free hand. Fingers felt through hot tissues and found it easily, sheltered up under the breastbone. His heart, thudding rhythmically. She seized it in her fingers and snatched sharply. Vessels broke easily as the thing tore loose, and blood began flowing freely. The heart beat still under it's own impulses as she brought it out to the air. The druid dropped it into a lined basket waiting for that purpose, then straightened to move onto the next alliance.

She almost ran into Khorvis. The orc stood closer than she'd realized. Close enough to have somehow managed to get himself a splash of blood across the remaining half of his face. His single eye was pink where the liquid had hit it. Kerala immediately bent to repeat the process for the pandaren's neighbor. Draenei, worgen, dwarf... humanoids were all the same, and she knew how to kill them. Everyone all died the same. Human, night elf, gnome.

Awatu appeared especially interest in the killing of the dwarf and gnome, though Kerala did not treat them any differently than the rest, nor did she look up to see his face. Her basket full, the druid stood from the tiny gnome body and looked at Khorvis.

"Zug zug, Supplicant. Inquisitor Lilliana would be proud ... did she not be a missing fool. Your task do be half done." the orc said.

Then the Wordbearer troll spoke, and his strange voice captured her attention, distracting. "Kerala. Drinn an' Nathandiel will dispose o' da hooman corpse. Joo will leave it ta dem." She just nodded, not trusting herself to speak just now.

Kerala returned her gaze to Khorvis, unsure. Would they go back inside now? Or start eating here? Awatu was staring at her expectantly. Khorvis stepped toward her, and she murmured "Here?" Leyujin had shattered her concentration, and she was suddenly aware of the many strangers surrounding her. Faces that were not painted, were not dirty. Faces of horde races, not centaur. She was cold standing in snow, not hot and sweating, and it was all wrong. What was she doing?

"And the time does now come. I will hold my end of this bargain." Khorvis said to her, his voice nothing more than a whisper. Louder, he ordered sternly "Show your commitment to the Mandate."

Awatu looked at Khorvis, then spoke. "Yes. The filth of lesser beasts does not stain the floors we walk upon." Kerala set down her basket as the grim commander spoke, and she wanted to snort at him then, and say something about the very obvious trail of red that the deadshot troll had dribbled everywhere he went. Instead, she focused again, on Khorvis. He was the one to obey.

She knelt down in the snow beside the basket of hearts. A simple movement of her hand flipped the blanket back from the last item that had been covered by it. The case of sulfuron slammers. Enough to wash any taste from your tongue. She believed that she didn't need them, that the taste of the blood would not bother her, but this was the only thing anyone had given her that she could actually use. Having made all the other preparations, the possibility of choking on taste alone wasn't that farfetched. After all, hadn't she been avoiding apples lately just from having seen one in the mouth of a corpse? So, she had the beers with her. She didn't dare look up and see what Khorvis' reaction to seeing his gift might have been.

Kerala picked up the first heart- the gnome. A quick squeeze of her fingers made sure the chambers were empty as could be of excess blood, and then she brought the thing to her teeth. She bit, ripping off a piece. It was warm and metallic and familiar, and terrible. She had thought to just swallow the bite whole, and could not make herself do it. Her insides clenched already, as if protesting.

She went to set the gnome heart down, intent on following Syreena's advice to bite once from all the hearts before trying to eat more. Above her, Khorvis ripped a foul snort and thrust his hand at her, offering to take the muscle. "It will be shared."

Kerala shrugged, handed him the heart. Her teeth still worked, and her mouth was filled with saliva, and still she could not get her throat to work to swallow the lump on her tongue. She was glad of the terrible beers, now. She'd eaten Kex'ti's fish just fine, it made her angry that she'd have this trouble. While the high inquisitor unclasped his feedbag and took a ravenous bite from the little heart, Kerala opened the first sulfuron slammer.

She tipped the bottle back, sucking just enough liquid to help her wash the heart away. Just as before, the terrible taste burned her all the way down and made her gasp, as if the vapors of it stole the air from her breath. Khorvis was ecstatic when he passed off the gnome heart to the rest of the rim and she passed him the rest of his favorite alcohol.

And so it went. One by one, Kerala's teeth took pieces of ever-larger hearts before she passed it on to the high inquisitor. She opened a sulfuron slammer for each one, to wash it down, then passed the bottles off as well to him.

Among the Grim, people ate the hearts as well- some biting like they held an apple in their hand instead of a lump of raw meat, others waiting for the race of their preference to be passed around. Kerala saw the huntress supplicant eat, as well as the white-haired troll, the goblin death knight, and the drunk forsaken priest, who ate a bit right off the ground before smearing his face with blood. Their expressions stunned her, so very similar to her desert captors.

Khorvis sent the dwarf heart sailing through the air directly at Awatu, who had apparently requested it. The Grim commander stared at it, inspecting the bite marks in it for a moment. Rather than biting it himself, though, Kerala saw the tauren crush it in his fist, excess blood and squashed flesh squeezing between his fingers. Then the commander growled and did something that made the gore burn away to ashes. He shook them from his hand, then wiped his palm on his tabard, his eyes moving to Kerala. She blinked at the sight.

Then, Khorvis hauled her roughly to her feet, gripping her hand hard and holding the bloodied thing high up in the freezing wind. "Lok'tar, Grim! This one does honor to our cause! And feeds our bellies!" The orc cackled. Wisps of steam rose from them both. The basket had kept the pandaren heart fairly warm beneath the rest, and it had squirted when she bit it. Kerala let herself be handled, the barest frown on an otherwise blank face. Her insides were already churning in turmoil.

The white haired troll saluted her without a hint of the bloodthirst he'd shown just moments ago. Awatu nodded to her. The tauren inquistor nodded as well, but more in a general fashion of approval. Kerala just stood there, feeling oddly numb. Maybe from the slammers. She glanced at Khorvis, then. The orc looked slightly mad, as if a more bloodthirsty self were peering through the soulmist of his strange eldritch device.

Shake! The sight of him, of that glimpse of madness, made every hair on her body lift. She snatched her hand away immediately and stepped back from him with an aversion bordering on instinctive.

But Khorvis nodded at Awatu, and said rather calmly "That do be all, Commander."

"The flesh of the lesser beasts connects us." Awatu said. "This is the enemy, and we will not fear them. We rejoice, even beyond their deaths." Several cheers erupted from the assembled Grim. "It is not enough that they die... They must be annihilated. Every trace of their presence upon this world- OUR world, must be extinguished."

As he spoke, Kerala knelt back down in a clean patch of snow, numb now to it's coldness. She used it like the sand she was more familiar with to rub the worst of the blood from her fur.

The other tauren druid took a step toward her. "So Kerala, how do you feel now?" the woman asked.

Kerala thought about that a moment as she rubbed at her hands. The red would not come all the way off. Not with stupid snow. "I'm full." she told the woman. It was the truth, if not all of it. She was full. And also she felt terrible. She was right back to being monster she'd tried not to be since leaving Desolace. She felt like running to be alone. She felt cold. Lupinum cackled at her answer, his face smeared red, and a line of blood, or maybe drool, leaking from his dead mouth.

Awatu looked at Kerala, then to Khorvis. "If that is all, then we will return indoors."

Khorvis held up some kind of device and gestured at the bodies. "Annihilate the rest, Commander?"

"Dispose of them however you see fit. The Forsaken may enjoy the leftovers..."

The high inquisitor nodded. "Then we do best get inside..." He pushed the buttons on his N.U.K.U.L.A.R. Target Painter, and started for the guild hall. Awatu motioned for everyone to return inside. They went, with Lupinum catching bits of meat from an elf woman like a trained dog. Kerala wiped her hands on her tabard and moved to follow them, but then lingered and did not enter the building with the last of them.

Khorvis' device caused some kind of giant explosion a moment later, knocking her back against the wall she stood beside. When she looked back at where the alliance bodies had been, there was nothing but blackened gravel. The bodies, the blood, the snow, it was all gone, as if it had never even happened. Except that Kerala's fur was stained red, and her gut roiled.

The druid bent over and stuck a finger down her throat, trying to trigger the reflex to make herself gag. It didn't work. Not only did it not work, but she did not feel the finger pressing in her throat at all. Frowning, Kerala cracked open the dam of magic within her, expanding her awareness. She pushed at all the vomit triggers, alarmed when there was no response. She panicked, looking for poison. Nothing. She searched again, forcing herself to go slower. There. Not poison... an herb? Her thoughts immediately settled on the vial of Calm Waters Kex'ti had given her.

She was betrayed.

By friend or enemy, it didn't matter- the result was the same. Kerala straightened with a sigh. Knowing now, was oddly comforting. She'd prepared for this all along, really. The validation of her solitary habits was disheartening, not only because she'd been sloppy and let someone alter the things she ate or drank, but because she still needed to be concerned with that at all.

Strovalt lo ralt. Strength is life.

Kerala returned to her place in the back of the guild hall. It hadn't occurred to her to simply not go back. Her teeth were shut tightly. She glanced at Lupinum, then fixed her eyes on the floor. He was drunk, and had thought she was joking when she'd asked for help besides. She didn't need him anyway.

Lupinum glanced over his shoulder then, perhaps sensing the druid's thought, or smelling her, or whatever silly ways he had of knowing things he shouldn't. She was staring down, her expression one of worry. The priest was not the only one to notice, he saw Leyujin glance at the supplicant as well. He left his place and slowly made his way over to her. She didn't acknowledge him, so he leaned close to her and whispered. "How was it?"

Kerala just frowned at him. The Grim were discussing elf ears now... some five hundred of them or something. She wished for the meeting to end quickly. Her stomach flipped, and she could feel a cramp. There was a long rumble.

The druid was no longer listening to the meeting, that much was clear. Lupinum glanced back down at her after another moment and was surprised to see her drained of color. Her nose and lips had bleached, and the bare furless stripes on her face stood out more than usual in sharp contrast to her brown fur. She looked terrible enough that he channeled a bit of holy Light and stepped closer to Kerala. He let the waves of warmth brush against her.

She noticed. Her eyes met his briefly and she gave him a small nod of thanks. Lupinum's face flashed her a small smile, and he returned part of his attention to the conversation.

"We have done well enough in the fight againts Blackhand and the Iron Horde. We have thrown him out of the Foundry and claimed it for the Horde." Canai reported.

Khorvis cheered. "Blackhand always did be an arse!"

Lupinum went to join the rest in cheering to the Ironbreaker's success, but his hands actually met eachother only once. The tauren beside him trembled. A shiver, even though he can smell her sweat. The scent of rich loam, mingled with the heavy copper smell of blood. Kerala crossed her arms.

Gazreeth saw the shiver too, and he made his way to the back of the room. "Don't let them see you as weak after what you just did. This may help you." He set up a thermal anvil in front of them. Kerala nodded silently to the goblin, feeling the waves of heat.

For a moment, she though maybe she could make it to the end of the meeting. The heat was helping, and felt wonderful. And then the first protein exited her stomach. Had it been thirty minutes already? Her body reacted violently, only this time she could not be sick. Her insides twisted into a hard knot of pain, as if someone had stuck her with a spear and were trying to stir her guts around.

Kerala gasped and abruptly turned for the door. She had a choice between collapsing here in front of the Grim, or running for her mushrooms. Even if she never made it, she'd go to be alone every time. She held no illusions that the Grim would be sympathetic to her condition, this weakness, or help alleviate it.

Poor Lupinum had been standing there to her right. She ran right into him, bodily shoving him along, until he lost balance, rolled and hit the wall. Somehow he kept his feet. Kerala staggered, putting a hand out to stabilize herself. On the thermal anvil. The metal seared her palm, but it worked to keep her from falling. She ran out the door into the cold.

* * *

Kerala used the banners outside the door to swing her to the right, and she stumbled past the windriders. She let loose her magic and frantically shaped it into spells as she went. To dull pain, to rejuvenate irritated tissues... All she wanted to do was curl into a ball, and it was hard to make her legs move instead to carry her forward. She didn't dare stop to try anything more complicated yet.

Twice she fell, overcome with full-core spasming of her muscles. Uncoordinated, they did nothing useful, only caused agony. Kerala couldn't focus enough to manually control all the nuances needed to vomit. So she grit her teeth until it passed and she could move again, and then she did. She made it to the waterfall, then across it. Her mushrooms were waiting.

She almost collapsed right there in the gravel, but she'd never survive if she did that. She was sick, or very severely going to be. Experience was a harsh, but effective teacher.

Kerala stumbled to the edge of her little hidden space. Her hooves slipped on the gravel, and she landed hard on her rump and slid into the cool water. Ow. She scooted further in. Tremors shook through her, but the coolness was important to manage fever. She drank as much as she could. Then she laid down, on her side. The arm closest to the ground went straight out, dug slightly into the gravel to keep her from slipping down the slight incline. Her other arm bent, and her hand went under her face. She bent her outside knee and put weight on it.

Another cramp rippled through her. She bore it silently, eyes and teeth jammed shut. Afterward, she felt weak and dizzy. She told herself this would be like that time she'd eaten those rotten vegetables. Really, it wasn't that different, only in severity. And this time, she could heal. She'd hurry this suffering as much as she could, then fix the damage.

Zaetar l'odes.

Kerala gathered everything she had, and then she PUSHED.

Like a mage warping time, the druid's metabolism jumped in response to the magic. Her digestion sped forward, working to process. Her body reacted to the meat, but it also wore out the duration of the Calm Waters. Intense pain slammed into her as several purging initiatives struggled to occur while the potion prevented it, and her fever spiked. Kerala slipped unconscious.

After about another thirty minutes, the Calm Waters finally wore off. The druid's poor body could do what it had been trying to ever since it detected the terrible proteins she'd put in it. Expulsion began in earnest. She was violently ill, and her arranged position kept her safe from suffocation. The water she laid in swept away the worst of the evidence, and kept her fever down enough to at least not be lethal.

The colorful mushrooms sat there, perfectly still, releasing their imbued healing magic in slow, rhythmic pulses. Eventually, Kerala woke. Delirious, not coherent enough to try and heal herself, or even form thought, but enough to feel, and to suffer.

If the mushrooms lasted long enough the bits of heart meat would be gone, they might heal the internal damage that had occurred, and she would survive. If they lasted.

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((Lomani spots Kerala heading to her 5th Inquisition meeting.))

Two and a half days, Kerala was ill. Her fever broke sometime Monday morning, leaving the soggy druid feeling empty, weak, and very sore. She was honestly surprised to open her eyes. The sun was shining, the waterfall beside her gurgled like laughter... it was as if nothing had happened.

Kerala groaned and crawled out of the water, cold. She peeled off the Grim tabard, and the dress she wore, and collapsed to the ground again. She slept then, nude in the sunbeam streaming down from the opening in the rocks, until the light left and the chill shadows woke her. Then, she found her clothes and dressed.

The inquisition meeting was held at the faire. Kerala took the portals early, and made her way through Thunder Bluff on foot. She was somewhat shaky, moving heavy limbs without feeling, as if she were an outsider having to think and plan each movement. It felt as though, if her will were to falter for just a moment, she would simply melt into a puddle, and cease to be.

It was good to move, though, and she had missed two meetings already. Eventually, someone's patience was likely to run out. She had enough troubles without willfully adding to them. Even the short walk was a labor, and as soon as she found herself on the island, she accepted one of their violet plainstriders to ride. Moving was good, but maybe not so much so soon.

She found the high inquisitor sitting in an area behind a tent, a circle of logs around a small bonfire. He nodded to her, his expression somewhat warmer than it has been since she met him. She eyed him, but did not see any sign of the madness that had seemed to come over him at the trial. She returned the nod, and if he noticed her hesitation, he gave no sign.

The elf hunter showed up, and Lupinum. It was a very small gathering. Greetings were exchanged by the others. While they did, Kerala shivered. She was still cold, even dressed in all the normal armor. She stood and tried to drag her bench closer to the fire. It was heavier than it looked, and did not budge at all. Or rather, she was not strong enough to move it. She sat back down.

The conversation turned to Lilliana, who was still missing. Kerala had trouble following along. She heard them speaking, but it seemed to take so long for her to extract meaning from the words. Perhaps she should have stayed away and slept more- she really was useless.

Kerala heard her name, with Lupinum's, and realized that she was under scrutiny. What was going on? Oh yes- Lilliana. The druid wished she could sit in the fire without getting burned. Maybe then she'd be warm. As for the troll.... well. The formerly red-headed scalped priestess could stay with whomever had her, and Kerala would never miss her.

Lupinum spoke up then, perhaps trying to distract them from Kerala's silence on the subject. She knew from the glare directed toward her from Khorvis that the priest's attempt did not work. It occurred to her belatedly that she was expected to participate. When the orc asked for her thoughts, he didn't really want them, he wanted her to act like she cared. Even if she didn't.

"Do..." Kerala's throat screamed at the abuse of using her voice, and the pain made her cough, which of course caused more. Stomach acids had seared and irritated it. It hurt to swallow, and so she simply breathed through parted lips, to keep her mouth dry. A little more rest, and she'd be able to heal again. For now, she had to say something. "... Do you need help? For the thing?" Rescue. Attack. Whatever. Her voice was hoarse.

Khorvis frowned at Kerala, not concerned but inquisitive. "Do you be well, tauren? Aye, any rescue can use more hands, but steady ones."

Steady hands indeed. Knowing that she would not be required to jump up immediately and go retrieve the three-faced bitch, Kerala almost growled "I'll be fine."

"Mrmph," Lupinum made a noise. He'd been peering at the druid after that cough. Khorvis looked at the undead, obviously not entirely convinced either, but he did not press the point.

They spoke of the Blackguard, apparently referring to Darethy. Everyone had a title, among the Grim. Soon enough, Kerala heard her name again, and she tore her eyes away from the mesmerizing fire.

"While your Inquisitor do be ... scalped, Kerala, I do have some tasks for your horns."

His choice of words confused her for a moment. The Horns of the Shuhalo no longer existed. "My horns... you mean me?"

"We Grim did celebrate your kills in the Trial of Combat. The second trial will test your ears and whatever mind you do possess. There do be an Elder druid of the Grim, very seasoned in his battles. Seek out the one named Sang'jai. Learn from him the history and meaning of the Mandate."

"The history, and meaning of the mandate." Kerala echoed, committing to memory. And she nodded, to show her obedience. She wanted to make sure he knew that she wasn't being... what had he called it? Rebellious. That his words were not 'lost.

"Maybe listen to a bit of his history too, hmm?" Lupinum added.

Kerala glanced to him, then back to the high inquisitor. She smothered the urge to cough again. "And The Cen and the orphanage later? Or also?"

Khorvis peered at the druid for a brief moment before he said "Fine. The second will be the Wanderer, Cen. May be in that you will find some solace, for a time." Kerala 's eyes narrowed at what seemed to be the high inquisitor's lapse in memory. The Cen was supposed to be the first for this trial- did he not remember? And that look in his eyes at the trial- she had glimpsed true madness there, she was sure. He did not tremor yet, but if he was afflicted, it would show in the next few months. "The last will be the felmancer Akorharil." he was saying. The orc grinned at Lupinum.

"That crotchety old Orc. Have fun, Kerala." the undead said.

"Be sure to ask the warlock of Raziel and its service in the Mandate." Khorvis finishes. Kerala struggled to file the instructions away in her memory. Right now, she wondered if she'd be able to recall any of this later, but, it would show weakness to ask for a written list, plus it galled her to liekly need one. She hated writing so much.

The polite Grim warlock appeared, and Kerala was done being the object of attention. A moment later, the druid felt something in her hands. Lupinum had slipped a piece of paper to her. Her hands were resting on her lap, slack, and it occurred to her how close he'd had to get to accomplish that. She was being stupid again. If there was a fight now, she really wouldn't be able to defend herself.

Kerala wondered if that even mattered.

Kerala glanced at the paper. It was a list of names. Then, she realized that the dead man had given her exactly what she'd been wishing for just a minute ago. Her eyes narrowed at him. Priests and their creepy ways of just knowing things. She suppressed a shiver that had less to do with mind magics, and more to do with a body's attempt to raise internal temperature from friction. Her arms wrapped around her torso, the paper smashed in a fist. Shaelie received her three assignments. Kerala did not listen.

The Priests voice echoed, only faintly "What's wrong? And don't lie, I'm probing only gently, for now."

Kerala looked at Lupinum, and absently scratched her ear, as if it could fix the itch in her brain. But she said nothing. She didn't even react to the threat of force.

"Do there be any other words to be spoken before the Inquisition this night?" the high inquisitor finally asked. There was some banter exchanged between Lupinum and Malhavik, and then Khorvis said "Bah, this meeting do be at its close! Dismissed! Enjoy the Faire!"

Kerala didn't move. Shaelie looked at her across the fire. "Do you feel better now? The next task is much easier." The elf's tone was genuine, as far as she could tell. No snark or bitterness in it. Kerala just nodded, saving her throat.

Lupinum chewed something while he watched Kerala. A scent wafted on the breeze, sharp but sweet, like green apples. She glanced to him, but did not see an apple. Her middle knotted tight, as if to rebel against even the thought of eating.

"How goes your trials miss Kerala?" The polite warlock inquired. She just wished for everyone to leave her alone. But, she glanced at the piece of paper in her hand. She had her second trial without a fuss. "I have people to talk to now. A hard part is over, it seems."

Lupinum scratched his head through his thick wool hood. "Combat was an easy trial for me...The talking was hard." Kerala wondered if he still had mites. Then she wondered why she bothered caring. It wasn't her hair.

"Why?" she croaked.

Lupinum lifts a shoulder in a shrug. "Didn't know what to ask, or who to talk to."

"He just told me what to ask."

"Yeah, I know. It's easier for Supplicants now than it was." As his remark, Kerala almost snorted, but it wasn't worth the energy. Easier. Right.

The little ignorant goblin, the harmless one, had arrived sometime and Kerala didn't even notice. Suddenly he was standing there, reaching out to Kerala with something in his hands "You look thinner than last time I saw you." It was a plate with a stringy sort of bread on it, covered in powder. "They are pure funnel cakes, no demons in there!"

Kerala smiled. The goblin really was smarter than he looked. She accepted the plate and thanked him. Despite the hard rock of her insides, the druid ripped off a tiny piece and put it in her mouth to demonstrate that she appreciated his kindness. He seemed satisfied with that, and then wandered away. Kerala held the bit of food in her cheek.

"Make sure you ask them about their pasts. Who they were before they were Grim." Lupinum said.


"Because we already know the history of the Grim."

"Well I understand that, but I assume you also know the history and meaning of the mandate. SO it's just another useless task."

"It's not, Kerala. We... they, the Inquisitors, want you to find out about the Grim as people. It helps to learn that everyone came from different backgrounds. They all have their own reasons for believing in the Mandate. Maybe it will make things clearer for yourself, who knows?"

Kerala frowned. "It helps what? Make supplicants understand that they can fit in here because others have too?" Lupinum nodded in answer and voiced affirmation, but the druid's thought wasn't done yet. "Because you forget one important thing, I think. They come to you. They want to be here."

"You aren't the only 'Poor me and mine' the Grim have taken in." he told her.

Embers flared to life within her. How dare he? "Poor me?" She stood, angry. "I have -never- said that."

The undead regarded her, and then his lips curled up at the corners. He hadn't been serious. "You say very little. I have to make some assumptions."

The druid was not amused. Not at all. "Well you're doing it wrong." She considered sitting back down, and decided against it. The fire was warm against her legs and back. "I will ask them those things you said too." She sighed.

She hadn't noticed the look on his face, reflecting glimmers of further thoughts, such as that maybe the Inquisition has a better use for its resources not carrying a pouty child around. At her words, the expression softened. "That's all I'm asking. And I'm not an inquisitor. You have every right to blow me off. So thank you, Kerala."

"Blow you off? You are the only one who doesn't just outright ignore me or hate me." the druid said tiredly.

"Oh c'mon. I don't think I'm the only one!"

No. That was true. "That little odd goblin. The simple one that gave me the noodle-cake." And perhaps another goblin. In his strange and barbaric way, Gazreeth had tried to help as well. Kerala glanced at her palm, still shiny where she had burned it, but mostly healed. Then, Kerala remembered the funnel cake Kizrax had given her. She picked it up, rescuing the sugary food from ants who had already discovered it. She brushed off the few insects crawling over the plate. She offered it to Lupinum bug-free.

The undead took a piece and chewed. He seemed surprised to find it good, as if something without blood or gristle should not have been enjoyable. She recognized the look that crossed his features a moment later. "Here, I don't want it." She dropped the plate next to him on the bench and turned to leave before he could ask her again about her plans for when she finished the Grim trials.

He let her go, but his eyes followed the druid, glowing yellow. The priest left the rest of the plate untouched.

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Logging started on 06/10/2015 at 01:34:40.

Lupinum 's Warhorse's hooves clack loudly over the cave's gravel.

Kerala 's ear swivels

You nod at Lupinum.

[Kerala]: Hello there

Lupinum looks out over the water.

[Lupinum]: Hey, Kerala.

[Lupinum]: Did you have fun listening to the Insane today?

Lupinum cracks a smile.

[Kerala]: Who?

[Lupinum]: Anaie.

[Lupinum]: Syreena's sister

[Kerala]: Oh, no... she wasn't there tonight.

[Lupinum]: Probably got lost on the way there.

Lupinum cackles maniacally at the situation.

[Kerala]: I got to see the high inquisitor look like a fish out of water, though.

You smirk slyly at Lupinum.

[Lupinum]: Is that right?

You nod at Lupinum.

[Lupinum]: Well! I do be listening to this story, Kerala!

Lupinum attempts to mimic Khorvis.

Kerala smiles at Lupinum's impersonation.

[Kerala]: I don't know. He always seems so sure of himself, talking of killing alliance and such.

[Kerala]: And I know he said he battled the iron horde...

[Kerala]: I guess it was just strange to see him following someone else's directions.

Lupinum smiles again.

[Lupinum]: He's stubborn, but Khorvis isn't a fool. He knows when to follow orders.

[Lupinum]: And when to give them, certainly.

[Kerala]: I suppose

Lupinum listens to the steady drop of water from the stalactites above.

[Kerala]: It's peaceful here, yes?

[Lupinum]: It's pleasant, yes.

You smile at Lupinum.

[Lupinum]: Why does your fishing pole have a handguard?

[Kerala]: Um...

[Kerala]: I don't know. I just grabbed one.

Lupinum eyes you up and down.

[Kerala]: This one looked like maybe it wouldn't break in my clumsy fingers.

Lupinum giggles at you.

[Lupinum]: Fair enough. I suppose even the Tauren women are strong, yeah?

Lupinum giggles again.

[Kerala]: Stronger than you.

You smirk slyly at Lupinum.

[Lupinum]: Oh sure. Compare yourself to a fella who is literally rotting. My muscles have decayed long ago, Druidess!

[Kerala]: Mm

Kerala feels sorry for undead.

Lupinum shrugs his shoulders, as if he feels Kerala's thought.

[Lupinum]: Came to grips with that shortly after I was risen.

[Kerala]: You know... your question has been on my mind a lot lately.

Lupinum nods slowly.

[Lupinum]: Do you still not have an answer?

[Kerala]: Well... two questions, I guess, then.

Lupinum blinks. "Two?"

[Kerala]: Well I didn't really mean your silly question about after I pass trials.

[Kerala]: You asked if I wanted to die.

[Lupinum]: That was...

[Lupinum]: Not that recent.

[Lupinum]: I'm surprised that stuck.

[Kerala]: You didn't mean it?

[Lupinum]: No, I do.

[Lupinum]: You're not actively trying to kill yourself. But you're...

Lupinum furrows his brows.

[Lupinum]: I don't know what it is.

Kerala agrees, "I know."

Lupinum pops a [small Sea Scorpion] into his mouth raw.

[Lupinum]: Sho what ish it?

Kerala shrugs.

[Kerala]: I don't see a reason to be, really.

Lupinum lets his lure be snapped away by a fish. He's looking back into the water.

[Lupinum]: I understand.

[Kerala]: But... I haven't survived this long just to throw it away so... here I am, still.

[Kerala]: I guess

[Lupinum]: When you ran out of the guild meeting... were you scared you were going to die?

[Kerala]: Yes

[Lupinum]: I found you, later..

Kerala blinks at Lupinum, and her eyes flicker across the water, to her place.

Lupinum smiles a tad.

[Lupinum]: Well hidden, but I can smell mushrooms.

Kerala doesn't know what to say to that, so she says nothing.

[Lupinum]: I wanted to make sure you were okay.

[Lupinum]: And it seemed like you didn't need my help at that point.

[Kerala]: I suppose I didn't.

Lupinum can't think of anything he hasn't already said, so he stays silent while he casts.

Kerala frowns.

[Kerala]: ....When was that?

Kerala 's question seems rather pointed, as if maybe the answer will confirm something she already knows.

[Lupinum]: When was what?

[Kerala]: When did you check to see if I was okay?

[Lupinum]: Shortly after we got back from the Night Elf place.

[Lupinum]: Maybe around midnight?

You look at Lupinum.

[Kerala]: Did you poison me?

[Lupinum]: Do I look like I have any knowledge of poisons?

[Lupinum]: I'm willing to bet it was a reaction to the meat.

[Kerala]: I know exactly what is was.

[Lupinum]: What happened?

[Kerala]: I already told you- I can't eat meat. Someone either poisoned me deliberately, knowing that, or tried to be helpful and did it out of ignorance.

[Kerala]: I couldn't purge it.

Lupinum scratches his head.

[Lupinum]: So did it feel arcane or something?

[Lupinum]: Nature magic?

[Kerala]: No. They used a vial Kex'ti gave me.

Lupinum flares his nostrils a bit.

[Lupinum]: A vial? Of what?

Kerala shrugs. "I don't know. A potion called Calm Waters. He gave it to me right after I told him what I had to do for the trial. He thought it would help."

[Lupinum]: Hrmph.

[Kerala]: It 'calms the stomach, and numbs the tongue'.

[Kerala]: Hmmph

[Lupinum]: It has nothing to do with you, but I do not trust him.

[Kerala]: Neither do I. But then, I don't trust anyone.

You shrug at Lupinum. Who knows?

[Lupinum]: I understand he speaks to you a lot, I don't care. But just be careful. He holds no love for the Grim.

[Kerala]: It's not his fault.

[Lupinum]: Not saying it is.

[Lupinum]: Do you think someone tampered with it before the Inquisition?

[Kerala]: They didn't need to.

[Lupinum]: Then I'm lost.

[Lupinum]: That Elf gave it to you, and no one messed with it. So it's his fault, albeit unintentional.

Kerala puts down her fishing rod so that she can rub her face with both hands.

[Kerala]: Look,

Lupinum turns his head to stare at her.

Kerala says, starting to get annoyed.

[Kerala]: The potion did exactly what it was supposed to do.

[Kerala]: It kept me from getting sick.

[Kerala]: It's not a poison, so I didn't even know it was there until it was too late to do anything about it.

Lupinum blinks at you.

[Kerala]: It's not Kex'ti's fault that I was too stupid to throw the vial away, or give it back, or put my things in some kind of lockbox in the barracks to keep people out of it...

[Kerala]: And it's certainly not his fault that my insides are so ruined that I can't even eat a piece of fish without puking it up again.

Lupinum rubs his cheek.

[Lupinum]: Have you ever tried to... y'know..

Lupinum waves his hand in a circle.

[Lupinum]: Fix it up?

Kerala is not the type to bonk her head and make some snide comment about Lupinum's wonderful problem solving skills, so she just gives him a flat stare instead.

[Lupinum]: So that's a no.

[Lupinum]: I can do some work with muscles, ask Filora some time. Are organs any different?

[Kerala]: I don't know about other magics, but mine only work to restore things to their natural condition.

[Kerala]: If someone were born with a deformed hand, I can't fix that- it's the way they are.

[Lupinum]: We're not miracles workers.

[Lupinum]: So you born this way?

[Kerala]: This.... no.

[Kerala]: I just...

[Kerala]: it was a very long time.

Lupinum eyes Kerala up and down. She does seem svelte for a Tauren.

[Lupinum]: Do I need to pull everything out of you? What happened to you, Kerala?

Kerala fiddles with her fishing pole.

Lupinum peers at you searchingly.

Kerala says in a quiet voice "I starved."

Lupinum sets his fishing pole down.

Lupinum runs his claws against his forehead. "A long time. Hrmph."

[Lupinum]: How long is long?

Kerala thinks.

[Kerala]: Um. ...eleven... then the earthquakes... Seven years? I think.

[Kerala]: I'm not sure, I was very sick when the Circle got me.

Lupinum opens his mouth to speak, but shuts it again.

[Lupinum]: That's a very long time.

Kerala is quiet for a long time, then just says, "yeah."

[Lupinum]: Who would do that? I refuse to believe it was self imposed.

[Kerala]: Centaur. Look, I don't feel much like fishing anymore...

Lupinum holds up his hands.

[Lupinum]: Fine.

[Lupinum]: I'm not prying for a reason.

[Kerala]: I'm still not really feeling well after this weekend. I think I'll go get some rest.

Lupinum nods at you.

[Lupinum]: You know where to find me, if you need to.

Lupinum 's joints and bones creak as he stands.

Lupinum looks at you.

Kerala doesn't know what else to say... so she just walks off, tossing her pole back in the shack's pile.

Lupinum shrugs and dives into the water.

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A week after Kerala's trial, the druid sat in the Brokenspear tavern, in her customary place at the top of the stairs. A creature of habit, she was there simply because she had no reason to be any place else. She had no one she wanted to see, or anything she particularly wanted to do. The gems Lomani had sent to the druid sat forgotten in her pocket, and she simply stared at the fire, passing time.

Her mind was quiet. The woman sitting here, who had woken in the waters of the Grim garrison, was not the same one who had gone into them. This one ate hearts. This one trusted no one, and was a survivor. But this one was lonely too. When Glagnar stepped into the tavern, and sat down, she found herself talking with him.

He was an elderly orc, which was perhaps why she liked him. Past his prime, he wasn't threatening like a younger orc would have been, and the weight of years was obvious. Kerala had always respected the wisdom of the old. After all- they had lived long enough to earn wrinkles, surely they were doing something right.

He sat there, not minding if she was quiet. When she did speak, he listened. He took the words she said, made sure he understood them, and then shared whether he agreed or not. He did not judge. They simply spoke with each other- meaningless and without expectation.

They spoke of draenie, and his feelings about them. That led to a discussion of carried grudges and burdens. She called him odd, because she didn't understand how he could believe it was good not to hate and yet he viewed the draenei through a similarly colored lens of predudice- even if he called it pity instead. He quoted some saying at her about pots and kettles. Eventually, the topic moved to the Grim, and her place in it. Why surround herself with those she did not trust?

He did not understand, anymore than anyone else did. He believed that she was following some code of honor. When she tried to tell him that she had no honor, he said she sounded remorseful. That simple fact, and that she listened to him, meant that she was not lost in his opinion. They discussed right and wrong, then.

Honesty and honor. Glagnar agreed that honesty meant not telling a lie... but then he went on to say honest people could lie, and dishonest ones could speak truths. That was wrong. She clarified the definition, just in case she was misunderstanding. Perhaps the orcish word for honor and honesty meant something different... but no. It was simple to Kerala- if you spoke a lie, you were no longer honest. If you went against what you knew to be right, you had no honor. She had violated every code of ethics and moral law she knew of- she had no honor.

Glagnar acknowledged their differing viewpoints finally with a comment about young minds and black and white.

The lack of clearly defined rights and wrong led to discussing the reasons why people fight- because each side believed they were justified. He said people must be true to themselves, and she asked what that meant. Finding a way to let go of past regrets, having future actions be ones that were with your beliefs, and reacting without doubt. But what if you had to do things that were wrong while you followed that one thing in which you had no doubts? He said if the reason was just, how could the actions then not be? Again, differing perspectives. They spoke of horde and alliance fighting, and Kerala expressed her confusions. There was no difference between the factions- why did they fight? She inadvertently mentioned the Grim, and Glagnar pointed out that she was one of them.

For now, she told him. This caused them to circle back around again- to burdens. He wanted to know what burden she carried that caused her to do all this.

"It's not a burden. It's.... more like a law, I suppose? Hmm."

"A law?"

"That's not right, but we'll call it that, sure. So far, no one I have tried to explain to understands it at all.

"Perhaps they choose not to."

"...That actually makes a strange sort of twisted sense."

"It happens from time to time."

"What about you? What do you choose?"

"I choose to understand even if I don't agree."

"...Alright. Let me try then." And she did. Kerala explained the history of the blood law, and when she was finished, he only had one question.

"Would they hold an entire tribe responsible or the individual?"

"No, just the one."

"Blood for blood, is more than just an orcish saying. I understand."

Really? "Ok, so that is older than living memory, for the most part. Ancient and no longer used, or even really known." Kerala had to think of where to go from there with the story... "Alright, the centaur. They are barbaric and vicious. Cannibals that came from the west, and the enemies of my people, or any people, really. They use up the land they live in until almost nothing is left... they capture people and eat them. They hate everything. So..."

And here, Kerala paused, searching for words. A way to tell it, without saying too much. "So, for the prisoners.... They might live for a while. Inside the spear wall, there are rules very different than outside it. There is no right or wrong there, there is only survive- or die. Inside the wall, the only law is one- blood law. Only that one matters. Among the prisoners, there was an understanding. Anyone could die at any time. Anyone could decide that the person next to them had to die next, so they could live a little bit longer. Centaur didn't care who was next, right?"

Glagnar nodded at her. He was following so far.

"So you learn. You learn not to make friends, you keep yourself separate. You learn not to trust. Those that don't die. In case any of us ever got loose, it was understood that there was no promise of rescue. Maybe they would, but if they left and never came back....Well that was understandable. But too, there is no erasing what is done. The one law is the only one that matters. Above all others. Everything else can be forgiven, except that. And so there is an agreement. No names. If you don't know the person next to you, and if they agree, there can be no revenge. There is no debt, then."

Glagnar interrupted, a look of confusion on his wrinkled face. "You mean if they were both prisoners, they could kill eachother?"

"Technically, yes. They would absolve themselves. There were some that did not."

"Seems like mercy to me, I would kill someone next to me if it saved them for a brutal slow death."

Kerala paused. "Many did." she said carefully. "It never really mattered. No one escaped."

"If no one escaped, how do we know these tales are true?"

"I did not escape. I was rescued." Then, she thought of Mudhide, and the whole stupid blackout thing. "Technically, I died in Desolace."

"You do not appear to be a Death knight." Glagnar chuckled.

"No. I was revived. For me, it matters. It's the only thing that does."

"The blood debt?"


"Owed to whom?"

Kerala answered him literally, listing the fifteen names burned into her memory. "And Konro Stormreaver."

"I think I may be missing something. The blood debt was for those who were killed by someone, did you kill all these people?"

"And forty seven other shu'halo, who agreed to be nameless. Konro was a debt I took on."

This was the part Glagnar did not understand, and it took many questions to explain the complicated situation that had led to Konro's death. He was not sure a debt was owed, and if it was, why Kerala was making payment rather than Breygrah, especially since the payment, to him, amounted to slavery.

"You would kill the person next to you, and call it a mercy to murder them quickly... but you would not step in to accept the blood debt of another?"

He said he would, and Kerala blinked. Perhaps the old shaman really did understand, then.

He left a short time later, leaving a tiny totem in her hand. He said it worked like a stone. If she needed him, she was to speak into it and if he was able, he would respond. He claimed that helping others reminded him why he fought- that it wasn't just for himself. That was the reason Glagnar gave, when she asked him why he had sat there and listened to her, why he cared.

* * *

The druid was in the same spot, still watching the flicker of flames, when Lupinum came into the tavern. He saw her, but went upstairs. Then, hanging over the balcony, he called.

"Hello down there." She moved to join him, taking the post on the left. "Feel any better, Kerala?"

"Some, yes." She answered honestly. "I was hungry today, so... there's that." The pangs had finally returned after being blissfully absent for the past week.

"Did you actually eat? Put some... mushy vegetable stuff into your mouth? Chew AND swallow?"

" Just broth." She didn't bother trying to explain that it would be some time before she'd be able to eat solid food again.

The undead priest expressed his wish that their two dilemmas were reversed, that he craved true sleep. He said he'd murder a field of babies for just an hour of it, and she blinked at him. Surely there was a potion or something that would work on an undead body. She knew some undead could sleep... or at least do something resembling it. It was merely a different process in the brain, different chemicals. She told him so, and he flipped the topic back to her.

"If you eat a little more everyday, will your..." Lupinum wiggled his fingers at Kerala's torso. "Y'know, get better?"

"Hmm. I'd have to eat an insane amount of food to get the same nutrients, but maybe? I don't know. I assume you meant make me fatter?"

He giggled. "No, you look rather nice for a Tauren." Kerala blinked at him. Well, he was undead, so she supposed maybe to him, her marred face and too-thin body would look perhaps alright. He was missing a jaw. "I meant your organs. Will that get them back into some sense of normalcy?"

"Oh. No." Kerala said dismissively.

"Hrmph. You don't even know!"

"I do know." she told him. "It would take some pretty extensive healing, if it could be done at all. I mean, magic does some amazing things everyday, right? But why bother?"

The priest shrugged. "I'd help."

"I'm fine as long as I don't do around eating... you know. Hearts and things. Honestly. It hadn't been an issue until now." She paused. ".... I do hope... to never do that again. Though."

He laughed. "I was going to say that it might, but you're leaving us so it doesn't even matter." Lupinum dangles his bony legs off the bannister.

"Only if they require it for the third trial." The druid frowned just thinking about it.

"You know, you make the choice as to what you sacrifice."

"You say that, and yet I still don't know if that will be true for me. And if it is, what sort of thing I could possibly do?" Kerala still didn't know what she had to give up, other than body parts. Even then, would the Grim consider that passing the trial? They knew she did not wish to stay, and proving that you did was the whole point of that trial. It weighed on her mind.

"That's up to you. I gave the Grim the life of my murderess. It was sufficient. Is there... anything or anyone who want vengeance on?"

She thought about that. She'd been about to say Lilliana, the Wordbearer, and Inzema.... but no. Not even them. She could understand the reason behind their act, even if it had been unjustified. "I could go kill centaur again, I guess."

The priest blinks, reading the druid's unguarded thoughts easily. "You guess. They starve you for... years, I'm guessing. And you 'guess' you could enact revenge on them."

She shrugged. "I've already killed enough of them." The priest wondered if there ever really was 'enough', but then she added. "I don't ever really want to go back there."

That, he could understand. Lupinum snorted. "I can imagine." He began digging in his pack, looking for anything to snack on.

Kerala guessed his intent easily enough. She offered some potions and then, when he didn't notice, pressed one into his hand. The priest blinked at her. "It's not food, but they are tasty." It's what she'd been consuming lately, and she told the truth. She found them delicious.

An orc came up to them then who apparently knew Lupinum. He crushed the forsaken man in a hug hard enough that Kerala heard joints popping from the pressure. When he was released, Lupinum looked down at his hand. It was stained from the purple rejuvenation potion, and shards of glass from the broken bottle were embedded in his skin.

"Oh wow. Are you alright?" Kerala asked immediately.

But Lupinum wiped his hand against his robes, uncaring about stains. The purple was streaked black with thick ichor. He looked at Kerala. "I'll be fine. I've had worse." He cackled.

"Has Hugg met you yet, tauren lady?"

"Make introductions." Lupinum waved at them, heading downstairs. "I need alcohol."

Kerala frowned, then called down at him. "No, you don't!"

The crusher orc tried to make friends with Kerala as the druid stared down at Lupinum. He and that blood elf priestess apparently started some sort of mind games, and promptly began yelling at each other. Hugg closed some distance to Kerala, and she sidestepped. "You don't need to be so close." she said pointedly. Lupinum was working his way through a line of mugs arrayed before him on the bar. She frowned.

Hugg moved again, to hug Kerala. "Hugg only saying hi!"

The druid leaped, her hand on the bannister the anchor point for her pivot. She fell over the chain, leaving only empty air where the orc's arms swung. She -yanked-, and since she'd been looking at Lupinum, that was where she ended up with the barest sensation of having broken a swift dive in a flurry of wings and feathers. Such a handy ability, that.

Hugg frowned at the avoidance of his hug, and Kerala arrived just in time to see Lupinum get slapped by Aaren. Her eyes narrowed instantly. "What is going on?" Instead of answering, the priest stalked to the end of the bar. He lifted another mug.

Kerala followed, not liking that elf woman a single bit. "Are you ok?" she asked again, whispering. She wasn't sure what she referred to- his shredded hand, the situation with Aaren, sleeplessness the reason why he was drinking so much. Maybe all that.

Lupinum paused in his back-and-forth with the priestess long enough to glance to Kerala. "I'll live." She scowled at the terrible joke. The touchy-feely orc met Aaren and her friend then, and crushed the two elves in another hug. Lupinum leaned closer to the druid to whisper "I could be like that, y'know. Wouldn't that be fun? ...hic!" Then he mimicked embracing her.

Kerala mimed punching Lupinum in the face, and he turned back to his cups with a grin. "You drink too much," she observed.

He snorted. "Not like I can die from it."

Kerala poked him then, gently, to see how much he wobbled. The forsaken swayed back and forth a good bit. He put his hand on the bar to steady himself. "Mhmm."

"Mhm what? You're juding ME now?" Lupinum turned in anger, and upset the row of steins he had on the bar with a loud clatter of pewter and iron.

"Yes." Kerala said simply.

"Fair enough. ...hic!" Lupinum's anger seemed to die instantly, and he resumed drinking, albeit somewhat slower.

"I don't really see what good you are, drunk all the time. You can barely stand up, and you make a mess everywhere. How do you even fight?"

The priestess turned sharply and screamed at Lupinum to stop even as he angrily answered the druid. "I fight fuckin' wall that you!" Realizing the nonsense he just spewed, he corrected loudly. "WELL EVEN!!" He angrily tried to pop his jaw, and instead dislocated it entirely. "Oh greaf..." Kerala laughed at the ridiculousness.

"He's a good fighter from what Hugg hears." the orc said helpfully. "Holy magic from a Forsaken demands some respect."

Lupinum turned his back on everyone and held his hand up for another drink. "Uhn oor 'eeze..." The bartender oblidges. The forsaken tries to drink, but the liquid falls down out of his mouth, all over his robes.

Hugg tried to offer a new jaw, but Lupinum was doing his best to ignore everyone behind him, supposedly concentrating on his drink. Kerala rolled her eyes. She didn't even ask, but reached out and seized the undead by the back of his head. Her fingers were large enough that she could hold him in one hand. Her other reached around to cup his chin. With a quick jerk- a practiced motion- she snapped Lupinum's face back together, then released him.

The druid gave the bartender a glare over the priest's head. "He's done." She spun the priest around roughly so he could see her. "You're done."

Lupinum worked his jaw up and down, the hinge connected in his mouth is squeaking loudly, but Kerala's hands had been sure. The jaw was where it should be. "Hmph."

Hugg offered the jaw he'd ripped from a skull in his pack anyway. The forsaken accepted it, though he said he liked the metal one more.

Aaren's silent friend stood on the other side of the Grim priest. Kerala thought she seemed familiar, but she wasn't sure if they officially met. She was eying the woman when she saw the elf pass a bottle to Lupinum discreetly.

Aaren screeched again. "Hey! Stop it!"

Kerala glared at Lupinum. What was he doing to that elf? He ignored her, and poured the bottle of liquor into a cup. He toasted the sneaky elf before downing the entire thing. The druid debated knocking the stupid undead's jaw back askew for him.

The priest leveled his drunk eyes at Kerala, which meant he gazed up at her blearily. "Wanna punch me?"

Yes. "Absolutely." For many reasons. Because he kept badgering her with questions. Because he didn't understand the answers she gave him. Because he was nice to her. Because he'd offered help and she'd stupidly believed him. Because when she had needed him, he'd been so deep in his cups he could barely think, let alone stand. Exactly like now. "You're an idiot."

Lupinum stuck his chin out. "C'mon, Druid. Get angry! HIT ME! ...hic!" He teetered in that position, still holding the empty mug. Kerala instantly suspected a trap. He wanted her to hit him, to get her in trouble with Khorvis. Or, less likely, he wasn't really drunk at all, and was baiting her. The druid struck out with an open hand- at his cup, not his face. The mug went clattering to the floor, and Lupinum looked at it dumbly for just a second.

The Tesonii slammed her forehead into the back of Lupinum's skull. The priest dropped forward instantly boneless. His knees hit the floor first, and he pitched forward, his head crashing into Kerala's knee, then landing against her hoof.

"Hey!" Kerala shouted at the woman. The elf was down too, but she wasn't attacking, and Kerala halted her impulse to lash out at the elf. Tesonii rubbed Lupinum's back, making shushing sounds. She gestured to Kerala, forming an O with her index and thumb. Then she stood and returned to Aaren, smiling widely.

The strange orc started putting together some sort of needle injector, and Kerala held up a hand to stop him. She didn't know what was in it, and he seemed to want to help, but she was not about to let him stick that into Lupinum. Then, she had an idea.

"Watch this, then." she told the orc. She grinned at him, and knelt, placing a hand on the priest sprawled on the floor.

Kerala released her magic. It flowed through the undead. She felt the terrible weight in his lungs- the result of his drowning death. She felt the sheer -deadness- of him, and it was unnerving. She worked quickly, focusing on the liver, the ichor that once was blood, and the other important systems. She urged the forsaken's metabolism to process faster. The alcohol saturating him began to wane. His body twitched slightly as she worked. She mended the undead's head.

She noticed the orc, still looking as if he might try to stab Lupinum. "No." She finished, and released the forsaken. Lupinum stirred, coughing as he woke. He pushed himself up off the floor on hands and knees, then promptly voided his stomach under the bar. He finished and sat back, looking confused.

"The Fel just happened...?"

"Congratulations," Kerala announced. "You're sober."

Hugg went into more detail. "Someone bonked you by bonking themselves and so you bonked the floor. Or did you bonk yourself with a druid before you bonked the floor?"

Lupinum noded, following the clear logic of the Orc. "I remember hitting her knee. Then..." He looked up at Kerala. "Was I asleep? Did I really... blissfuly..."

"No. Unconsciousness is not sleep." Kerala crossed her arms.

Hugg offered Lupinum the injector. "Was gonna try to give you some fuel."

The priest accepted the contraption, and promptly placed it on the bar above him, nodding. "I'll keep it for later, Knight."

"Let me know what happens!" Then, after a pause, "Unconsciousness is just an illusion of death just as sleep is."

Lupinum rubbed the back of his head as he climbed the bar to his feet. "He's got a point... Even though I'm already dead."

"Sleep is very different from death. Sleep is revitalizing." Kerala pointed out.

"You still move and talk and walk and kill and eat and drink." Hugg added. "All things that the living do. You're still alive. Just because some squishy bits don't work doesn't mean the machine's broke."

Lupinum nodded. "So..." he looked at the druid. "Can I drink more... or...?"

She smirked at him. "No."

"Thanks, Mom." The undead snatched a mug and tried to drink from it right in front of her. Kerala's arm immediately shot out to punch the forsaken right in the jaw, but he was indeed sober, and prepared for it. He scooted away, sideways like a scorpid. "Personal space, Kerala!"

"Really?" she snapped. She grabbed for him.

"Yes. Really." The priest smiled as he sidestepped again. Then, he stilled.

Kerala was wise to this trick, now. Her eyes scanned the tavern. "Fine. You drink alcohol, and when I get Coqui to make the tonic I request, I'll keep it all for myself."

Predictably, he'd gone up, to the top landing. His preferred spot. He reappeared up there, even as he yelled. "WAIT WHAT TONIC?"

Kerala snatched herself through the air, suddenly standing right there in his face, and he squawked in surprise. His cup dropped to the tavern floor below after ricocheting off the chain at the edge of the balcony. Apparently, he still wasn't wise to -that- trick. "I'm a druid healer, silly. Forsaken are dead, yes, but they just work differently."

"We hardly work at all." He patted his rotted torso with an equally decayed palm. Then he stood there looking at her. His hands fidgeted at his sides, as if he didn't know what to do with them without a beer to hold. His eyes dropped to the chain where his mug had disappeared.

"Sure you do. You expect to be just as you were, and that is not possible. You... are like a different animal." It made sense to her. She often felt deprived, shifting back to tauren form. Her sight was limited and dim, she missed the thoughtless grace of the cat, or the careless power of the bear. Most of all, she regretted the earthbound lack of the falcon's wings. But she was not a bird, any more than Lupinum was still a human.

"Suppose that's true. Though, to be honest, I hardly remember my life before. Only my time at the parish." Lupinum leaned over the railing for a moment. Then, he straightened, and scooted a little closer to Kerala. She tensed, on edge after the altercation below, but he wasn't really -that- close. She stayed where she was. "So. I remember hitting the ground. How did I come to?"

"I did that."

Lupinum pointed a claw in disbelief. "You."

"Yes me. Why is that hard to believe?"

"Because you... You just don't care!" The priest let out a laugh.

"You were drunk enough to halfway rip your jaw off, and this guy had some sort of needle with I-don't-even-know-what in it." she pointed out. She was confused. Should she have let the orc inject him? The sobriety... well. She couldn't deny a small satisfaction in wasting his hard-earned drunkenness. He used alcohol just like Konro had, self-medicating. He wanted to drown his problems, and it never worked. Drinking like that was a weakness- running away from problems rather than facing them.

"Piece of slag's been iffy the past few weeks..." Lupinum raps his knuckles against the jaw in question. "Was bound to happen. But you... You touched me? Put magical goodness into my body?"

The druid blinked at the terms 'magical goodness'. "I made you process the alcohol, yes. You drank too much."

"Drinking too much would be killing myself. But we've been there before." Lupinum smiled a tad.

"Too much as in- you could barely stand, idiot." she retorted.

He blinked at her, the yellow glow of his eyes winking out of sight. "I just think you like me."

He was a liar, she realized. He claimed that he existed because of the Grim. They were a family, and they supposedly gave him his reason to be, but it was all false. He was just like her. He existed, without purpose, but without a good reason to end it all either. But he was different too. He was obviously in some kind of pain, whereas she wasn't.

That he believed she liked him irritated her. She almost had, and then he showed up before her trial stinking of the drink. She got angry. Fury smoldered- at him for betraying her, but mostly at herself for not expecting that he would. She knew better. The rules were simple.

"Oh, so you're a liar now? Is that it? You drink because you'd like to die? I -don't- like you. In fact, I'm pretty mad at you."

"Mad for what? You're the one with the deathwish. Or rather, the not-really-living wish!"

"You're the one who thinks someone has to have some grand scheme to live by, some fight to participate in or something." she shot back.

He rubbed the back of his head where Tesonii's head had smashed him earlier. "Maybe. You do to, or did you forget about the Horns?"

There was no hesitation at all. She'd already been over this with him. "I told you. The Horns are dead."

Lupinum changed with those words. His eyes flashed a brighter yellow. The lost man craving alcohol to drown himself in vanished, overwritten by something else entirely.

"LULU DAMN IT STOP IT!" came Aaren's yell from below.

The priest's lips curled into a smile, hearing it, but his attention was still on the tauren. "I've been nice. I've been patient." He said slowly. Quietly. "But I want to know what's going on in your head, Druidess."

Kerala took a step back from him, then. Any illusions that this man in front of her was an ally vanished in that instant. He had been nice. Patient, so long as he got what he wanted from her. Apparently, he was no longer satisfied with asking nicely. She should have kept her distance. Would she never learn? The rules were simple.

The elves down below attracted Lupinum's attention for a moment. Apparently, Aaren was making for the stairs. "It's okay! Really! I just gotta yell at him sometimes! Because he's a JERK!"

Kerala didn't waste the opportunity. She spun on her hoof and descended the stairs fast, right past the angry priestess. Lilliana had soundly proven that she knew nothing when it came to wielders of light and shadow. Lomani's piercing sage gaze came to mind, raising the fur along her spine. She didn't even like the idea of her twin sister knowing the things she did. She did -not- want a Grim holy priest doing.... whatever he had planned.

"Goodnight, dead man," she whispered as she ran.

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Logging started on 06/15/2015 at 13:34:04. Brokenspear.

You look at Sang'jai.

Kerala double-takes.

[Kerala]: You.. Sanga... erm.

Kerala can't remember the troll druid's name.

You wave at Sang'jai.

Sang'jai greets you warmly.

[Kerala]: Hello

[sang'jai]: Sang'jai be mah name

Kerala smiles.

[Kerala]: It is you. Do you have a minute to talk with me? You are one of the three for my trial of resolve.

[sang'jai]: da lettah said jah needed ta talk wit' me?

You nod at Sang'jai.

Sang'jai grins at you wickedly.

[sang'jai]: joo got questions, ah gots answers!

[Kerala]: I'm supposed to ask you about the mandate. It's meaning to you, and who you were before you joined the Grim... how you've changed.

Kerala just blurts everything at once.

Sang'jai smiles

[sang'jai]: ah gettin' a mug, joo wants one?

[Kerala]: No, thanks. Alcohol... mm. Doesn't agree with me.

[sang'jai]: well den

Kerala gets comfy beside the fire... which means she just plops to a seat.

[sang'jai]: da Mandate be a pow'ful heavy ting ta uphold, but at da same time it be free'in

Sang'jai sits also

Kerala cocks her head, confused already, and waits for Sang'jai to elaborate.

Sang'jai frowns and concentrates

[sang'jai]: sometimes, it be hard ta know right from wrong, dat what choo be doing be da right thing, ya tink?

[Kerala]: Yes?

[sang'jai]: da mandate make dat part easy, we be bringin' da peace, and we do what we must ta achieve dat objective

[banjin]: Eh. I know that banner. You goons is mad as they get. Great brawlers, but still mad.

You look at Banjin.

Banjin mildly glares from across the fire.

Sang'jai grins wickedly at Banjin.

[banjin]: 'Peace through Annihilation', eh?

[sang'jai]: heh, dat what we call all others. it be da only way, mon

[banjin]: Nonsense.

[Kerala]: So, to you, the end result is what is important- not the things that must be done to get it.

[sang'jai]: aye, dat anuddah way ta put it, I s'pose

[banjin]: Same goalsh ash the Alliance. Cept more of them want us as slaves, rather than just dead.

Kerala ignores Banjin.

[sang'jai]: aye, ah use ta tink like dat, but you see what da Alliance be upta, and dey be liars and cowards, dey just needs ta go

[banjin]: Theresh plenty o those here too. You remember Garrosh

Sang'jai spits

[Kerala]: Liars are not specific to one race or another.

You agree with Banjin.

[banjin]: He was welcomed to the Horde. Celebrated a hero. and even in madness, he was treated as that by so many. So what does that make that mandate of yours? 'Peace through Annihilation'. It's the same as that brown skinned fool.

[sang'jai]: Garrosh be a puppet ta madness, he was not da way fer da Horde

Banjin chuckles at the response.

[banjin]: Then if that motto isn't fer the Horde. What are you? A pool of water waiting only for someone to corrupt it.

Sang'jai chuckles

Kerala raises a brow. Banjin raises points similar to ones she would have, but he talks faster. She waits to see how Sang'jai responds.

[sang'jai]: ah not a good fighter wit' words, ma friend, so ah not da best speaker fer da Grim

[banjin]: I've shpoken with plenty. You're the only one who has backed out. the others merely shpat that 'We're Different' crap. A blade covered in blood is a tool of murder. It doesnt matter if it'sh a dagger, or an axe. ...hic!

[Kerala]: So to you- three words- 'Peace through annihilation' includes everything you consider for your moral code. Right and wrong... it's all explained through that?

Sang'jai ponders

[banjin]: The same ash the Kor'kron. The leader's will.

[sang'jai]: ya gots ta pick ya battles, and ya gots ta have a purpose, and peace be da ultimate purpose

[banjin]: With that Mandate. Your battles have already been picked.

[sang'jai]: too many wants to be weak, and lean on words ta bring dat peace, but always, ya gots ta be watchin' joo back if dat be da case

[Kerala]: Peace. It is a state of harmony. The absence of strife and conflict.

Sang'jai nods at you.

[banjin]: That too, won't happen.

Sang'jai grins

[banjin]: No matter what you do, how many you kill, how many you inspire. No matter how much you work. There will always been one who awakens in the morning yearning to destroy that harmony you forged.

[sang'jai]: mebbe, mebbe not

[Kerala]: And annihilation- that's the utter destruction of something, yes? So... basically the Grim aim to simple eliminate anything they see as a source of conflict. To the Horde. Right?

[sang'jai]: da relationship between da Horde and da Grim be a interestin' one

Kerala thinks that is the biggest understatement she's heard recently, but she restrains a snort.

[banjin]: These ideals live in impossible futures.

[sang'jai]: when da interests o' da Horde mesh wit' ours, den all be good, but sometimes, like when Garrosh went mad, we gots ta split, and make tings right

[Kerala]: The entire horde was against Garrosh. Were the Grim in support of him?

[banjin]: Garrosh was merely the lingering bloodlust suffered by the horde. There are many more like him, wearing all sorts of skin. Tauren, troll, undead, even goblin.

[sang'jai]: bloodlust wit' no purpose but ta fulfill itself, dat not be peace

[banjin]: Then what be your mandate? You will destroy bonds that could be forged. and in the end you will suffer just as many enemies, if not more.

Sang'jai shrugs

[sang'jai]: if'n dat be our fate, den so be it

[banjin]: Fate ish for the weak willed.

[Kerala]: When have Grim interests not meshed with the horde's?

[banjin]: Fate had me in chains. not once, but twice. My will is what made me free. I dishonored horde and alliance alike. killed just as many orcs ash ive killed humans.

You look at Sang'jai.

Sang'jai looks to Kerala

[banjin]: Nothing of it mattered. I merely survived. A mandate would have weakened me. My mandate. Is to live now, by MY hands. and to those who would bind them, Death. simple as that.

[sang'jai]: hmm, Ah knows we had our problems wit' da amount o' diplomacy dat Thrall was lookin' fer. and we definitely had problems with Garrosh aftah it became clear dat he be mad

You nod at Sang'jai.

Sang'jai focuses on Kerala: "Did dat answer joo question?"

[Kerala]: I have the basic idea, I think. Yes.

Kerala gaze flickers to Banjin, briefly. His outlook seems pretty sound, to her. She returns her full attention to Sang'jai.

[Kerala]: What did you do before you joined the Grim? Who were you?

[sang'jai]: before ah joined da Grim, ah was just anuddah Darkspear trainin' ta be a healah. mah sistah trained ta be a priest, and ah took ta da druid ways

Banjin sighs and stands.

Sang'jai wanders back over to the bar to get another round

Banjin turns and leave without a word.

[Kerala]: And now? Do you heal the Grim, or did joining them change you at all?

[sang'jai]: ah have been busy wit' udder tings lately, but yes, ah have always filled da mender role

Kerala considers that.

[sang'jai]: joinin' da Grim gave me purpose, and fills da need ta be needed, ja know?

[Kerala]: But... why did you choose Grim, over any other group? Menders are always wanted.

[sang'jai]: da Grim be suggested ta me by a friend, and aftah ah joined ah knew dat it was da right place fo me. ah respect mah guildmates fierce-like. ah protect dem, and dey fight fer a righteous cause

. ah have no love fer da Alliance, ah have no love fer any of our foes dat we have fought against. ah would do anyting fer mah guildmates

Sang'jai grins and absentmindedly rubs a scar on his forearm

Kerala glances around the tavern, to see who might overhear.

[Kerala]: Do you think it is righteous when they eat people? The alliance?

[sang'jai]: eh, ah tasted most o' da meat, and it not as good as fish

Sang'jai shrugs

Kerala breaks into a genuine grin at that.

[sang'jai]: ah know some be rather zealous about dat, a show o' powah, ah guess, but not really mah ting

[Kerala]: Fish is delicious, the bit I tasted.

[sang'jai]: aye, dis land be good fer fishin'

Sang'jai grins

[Kerala]: Alright. So, you simply trained as a healer, and someone recommended the Grim. They were the first group you considered joining, and you believe you fit here, so you stayed?

[sang'jai]: gnome ears be pretty good fried, but den, most tings be good dat way

Sang'jai chuckles

[sang'jai]: aye, dat be da story, sorry it not be excitin'

Kerala shrugs, not saying anything to the fried ear comment.

Sang'jai shrugs embarrassed

[Kerala]: No one said it had to be. Simple things are sometimes the best.

[sang'jai]: aye, dat dey be, dat dey be

Sang'jai nods

Kerala tries to think if there is any question she forgot to ask...

[Kerala]: Oh. Do you know any history of the mandate? I don't know how long you've been wearing the tabard... but I'm supposed to ask that too, if you know.

[sang'jai]: da mandate be in full standin' long befo' ah joined. Ah knows some o' da history, but ah'd just be listin' off names o' leadahs dat ah nevah met

Sang'jai ponders

[sang'jai]: ah tink Greebo was in charge when ah joined *frowns* or was it da little grouchy undead, Abric?

Sang'jai shrugs again

[Kerala]: Really? How long ago was that?

[sang'jai]: it was shortly aftah Deathwing brought da Cataclysm

Kerala blinks. Only four years.

[sang'jai]: so da world was a bit crazy when ah enlisted

[Kerala]: I kind of thought Awatu had always been the leader...

[sang'jai]: he been da leader fer a long time now

[Kerala]: Hmm. Well, I'm bad with names, so I won't ask you to list them all off for me. It would be a waste of your time.

[sang'jai]: not sure, ah tink he took ovah before da Mists opened up Pandaria, but mah memory may not be right

Sang'jai looks relieved

[Kerala]: Thank you for speaking with me.

[sang'jai]: anytime. mah minion, Druthers, he said choo been doin' well in da Foundry

You eye Sang'jai up and down.

[Kerala]: I've been healing there, yes.

Sang'jai nods. Sang'jai grins "keep up da good work"

Kerala relaxes.

[Kerala]: Thank you. I'll keep them strong.

You smile at Sang'jai.

Sang'jai nods and stands

[sang'jai]: if'n ya done wit' ya questions, ah be headin' back ta mah garrison, gots ta keep on da grunts

You nod at Sang'jai.

[Kerala]: Good bye

Sang'jai waves at you.

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[Ruuki]: Kerala, step forward.

Kerala looks at Ruuki.

Kerala appraoches Ruuki.

Ruuki gestures to the center of the loose knit group, so that all could see.

Kerala sidesteps obediently.

Lupinum watches Kerala with great interest.

[Ruuki]: It is my understanding you've been assigned your second trial. Give us an update on your progress. What have you learned so far?

Gallid eyes kerala.

[Kerala]: I spoke with the troll druid this morning.

Lupinum sighs at Toad.

[Ruuki]: What wisdom did they impart to you?

[Kerala]: He uses the mandate as a replacement for any real considerations of right and wrong. If it leads to peace, it is justified.

Lupinum snorts.

Khorvis frowns at Kerala's tongue.

[Kerala]: Before joining, he trained in the healing arts. The Grim was the frist group recommended to him.

Ruuki narrows her eyes ever so slightly, but allowed her to continue.

[Kerala]: He joined, said he found his place, and never looked further.

[Malhavik]: How nice of you to gracce us with your presence.

Xekanjo smiles at Malhavik.

Xekanjo greets everyone with a hearty hello!

Ruuki actually growls slightly in her throat. "It seems to me that you are making your decisions on what you will learn based on what you choose to hear."

Shaelie raises her eyebrow inquisitively at Ruuki.

Kerala blinks.

[Xekanjo]: Hello dere, inky-zit-ors!

Xekanjo waves at Ruuki.

[Kerala]: I have said just as he did.

Lupinum snorts derisively at Kerala.

Gallid ponders what may lie ahead for kerala.

[Kerala]: He said joinign the Grim gave him purpose.

[Ruuki]: You insult Sangjai by insinuating that he settled once he found his place in th Grim, and gave up all thought for himself by following the words of the Mandate.

Xekanjo smiles, as his empty head still doesn't fathom the trouble he may be in.

Malhavik nods at Ruuki.

Kerala keeps silent, rather than agreeing with Ruuki, even though that's exactly what Seng'jai had said.

Xekanjo waves at you.

Shaelie stepped out of the way.

Khorvis moves to crack Xekanjo upside the skull.

[Ruuki]: The Mandate is not simply a justification to kill. It is a path that has thus far shown to be effective in securing the peace that not only we, but ALL Horde deserve.

Malhavik backs away.

Xekanjo 's blows makes the troll topps backward...even with his feet still upon the ground. His back cracks and pops as he becomes a U-shaped troll.

[Ruuki]: There is still the balance of right or wrong, and we must weigh our actions carefully and thoughtfully lest we lose sight of our goal.

[Ruuki]: I hope you pay more attention to your remaining two interviews.

[Khorvis]: You do spit on the honor of your Inquisitor with your tardy, rubber-bandy spine, felmancer!

Kerala stands very still, not looking behind her, though she hears Khorvis striking the troll.

Lupinum is ignoring the insanity happening with the Troll and is watching Kerala.

Ruuki snorts, glancing over at Xek'anjo and looking none too pleased. "I will deal with him, make no mistake."

Xekanjo tilts his head as it lays upon the floor. "Whadda bea fally-man-sir?"

Malhavik sighs at Xekanjo.

Khorvis does a convincing impression of Leyu'jin as he throws his hands up into the frozen winds of the Dragonblight and mutters, "Loa save us!"

Lupinum looks at Kerala and blinks, his mind reaches out and brushes her surface thoughts.

Shaelie looked down at the ground, her hair hiding her face.

Xekanjo gives a thumbs-up, though still upside-down to Khorvis. "Okay, tank ye, Inky-zit-or Salamander!"

Ruuki sighs and waves a hand, dismissing Kerala back into the ranks.

Xekanjo rights himself with a painful chorus of cracks and pops from his spine realigning itself.

[Ruuki]: Xek'anjo! Get your sorry ass over here, you'd better have a damn good excuse for taking your sweet time!

Kerala retreats immediately.

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The toad sat there, staring at her.

Kerala hugged her knees, staring back. In the darkness of the night, he looked black instead of blue, and his yellow belly was bleached pale. She spoke to him in taurahe. The toad seemed to like that language more than orcish, looking at her and occasionally changing the angle of his head, or chirping softly. Like he was actually listening.

"Alright fine. I have a pet now. If only to keep those others from eating your legs."

She still wasn't certain why Lomani had sent the thing to her. She'd tried to heal him, assuming maybe he was sick, but there was nothing wrong. She'd mailed him back to the seer, and a day later, there was a croak from the ground. The toad was back at her hooves, staring at her, and he hadn't arrived in the post. She'd dropped him off in a pond in gorgrond, and a day later the thing was back at her hooves. Apparently, he did alright in snow. She hadn't thought frogs could deal with low temperatures. She hadn't thought a creature would attach itself this way to a person, and certainly not to her. She was no hunter to form that kind of a bond to an animal companion.

"I've never had a pet before. I'm not going to feed you, so you might as well go bug someone else." The toad croaked at her, almost like a snorting laugh. She almost smiled at him. Hehe. Bugs. Toad. Instead, she glared.

"You're probably going to die. Especially following me around." She cocked her head. "How long do toads live? I'm not giving you a name. If you go belly-up, I won't care. I don't want you. Go away."

The toad expanded his throat once, flashing a giant stretched globe of skin. As fast as it appeared, it deflated, and the amphibian hopped closer to her. He stopped beside her hooves and blinked at her.

"Fine. Don't say I didn't warn you. I'll try not to step on you."

Kerala shifted on the gritty ground, laying out on her back. She could see a small window of stars in the gap in the rock ceiling. Occasionally, a heavy mist from the boil across the lake drifted across the opening, obscuring the points of light. The fog was shadowed and thick, almost like a cloud that shapes could be seen in. The druid thought of Khorvis, of the mist of his face, and the meeting that had been held earlier that evening.

"You know, I haven't the foggiest idea why you've decided to attach yourself to me, but it doesn't worry me. Maybe you think I have food. Maybe you just like the way I smell. Animals are simple. You have a reason, and I just don't know it yet, but whatever it is- it'll make some kind of sense." The toad blinked at her. "But people.... I still don't get people. Just when I think I've got it, something happens to prove just how wrong I am."

"Today for instance. I did just what I supposed to. I thought. I talked to the troll. I asked all the questions, and he answered them. And then I told them what he said... and they were mad at me. Was I supposed to lie?" Kerala frowned at the stars overhead. "I don't think so. I think they would be even angrier at me if they caught me lying. I'm not good at it."

"Hmm. They take my silence as open rebellion. They take truth as... I don't know..." the tauren repeated the orcish word Ruuki had used. 'Insinuating'. She didn't know what it meant. "Mocking, maybe? She said I insulted the druid somehow."

Kerala turned her neck, looking at the toad. He was, predictably, just simply staring at her.

"Maybe...? Maybe I could just twist it. The best lies are grounded in truth, so I hear. Maybe this trial is to teach me how they do it. How they see the world through such tainted vision. They are a lot like the Magram..."

The toad chirped.

"The Magram believe their own reality too. They hate everyone, the Grim just supposedly hates alliance. But... the Magram didn't care if anyone else agreed with them. I guess the Grim do. A supplicant... is supposed to go through inquisition... to become a Grim? To prove they -are- a Grim?"

Kerala was silent for a while, thinking about that. Then she started talking again. Moving helped her think, but she was comfortable. So, she moved her tongue instead. Talking with Glagnar had been satisfying, and the strange orc that had been present when she spoke to the Grim druid had been right. Sometimes just saying things out loud helped. It wasn't as if the toad could understand, so she felt safe enough voicing her thoughts.

"They know I don't want to be a Grim. I've done everything I'm supposed to, and still they don't like me. The first trial was to obey. I did that... and I nearly died. And it doesn't even matter. I've made sure to obey everything since then. I make sure they know I'm listening now- I always nod when they tell me things. I just seem to make them angrier when I talk..." She sighed.

"But... I think I understand now. They aren't the Magram. In this case it isn't that actions speak louder than words, is it? It's more like... say whatever you should to seem like you are following a code... and then do whatever you want."

"Peace through annihilation. That could be the motto for every creature that has ever tried to destroy the world, couldn't it? The Magram would definitely shout that, if they could pronounce the words. I've been Magram, before... in action. The Grim... maybe the Grim just want me to be Grim in words instead. Words speak louder than deeds."

The druid almost laughed. It was the part of her sense of humor that bubbled up when people told her that she looked hungry- she, who had nearly starved to death. When it was -not the possibility of her death that had drawn people to offer assistance- but the eating of hearts. When they walked up and expressed concern that she was somehow violating the code of honor they thought she had. That was funny.

"It's not the strongest that is the best, in this clan. They are more complicated. Not actions. Words. The one that screams the loudest, is the most devout? The one that says it the most- 'Peace through annihilation'? When I open my mouth, they hate me. Is it because I have not said the words?"

Kerala shifted, sliding her weight and twisting onto her hip and shoulder. She propped her head up on her elbow and stared across the lake, at the buildings outlined in the darkness. Her thoughts were distracted from their current course.

"That elf today... he was supposed to be getting ingredients for something. For the high inquisitor. I remember what they are. The elf has been given another task, but surely the things are still needed. Lightning spirits... blood infused with the hormones of despair... These are powerful things, not just trophies. I think I will get them. It will be good to do something while I wait to speak with the warlock. Who knows when the wandering elf will return? I don't know if it will even be within the month, and if she doesn't get back, my trial will take too long. Perhaps, if I get the high inquisitor those two things, he will have a project to distract him from me?"

"I don't have to convince everyone that I am Grim... just the leaders. If I start shouting the words now, they will be suspicious. I would be. But, if this trial is all about learning... If I start sofly... maybe they will believe. They don't want strength. They don't really want obedience- that much is clear. They didn't punish me for missing meetings, or even for when I got too mad and clawed the death knight. Or that troll inquisitor. So what is it?"

Kerala frowned again, thinking. The first trial tasks were definitely themed. Kill alliance. Prove you hate them as much as we do. "They hate... alliance. Many have families that died to the humans or others, and they treasure that emotion, to justify continued killing... Hmmm. Annihilation. They... they are shu'halo. Before the blood law! They cannot stop now, because to stop would be to admit they are wrong!" Misery loves company? The druid sat up, her bending knee shoving the toad across the grit. Instead of hopping clear, the thing's spindly toes grabbed and he climbed onto her.

"They want others to feel as they do. They need someone else to hate the way they do, to prove they are right. So... it's NOT the deeds that really matter. It's the words. That's how they twist the truth... because as long as it sounds close enough, they hear what they want to hear. And I never said anything that was close enough for them to even pretend. The tauren said to pay more attention to my next two interviews. She believes that I did not listen properly. But I think I understand now. Anyone can become Grim... if they can mimic well enough. I can do that."

Kerala looked down at the bumpy animal on her knee. She pushed him off, and not gently. "Oh no you don't, Toad. I don't like to be touched. Go sleep over there."

The druid laid back down, and curled into herself. Elbows clasped tight to her chest, legs folded up, head and tail tucked in. She stayed still, waiting for sleep to come. She thought about the Grim, and of the Magram. She thought she understood the rules, now. It was a strange game, to be sure. This one was still about bluffing and posture, but without the physical acts to reinforce the position. This one was about subtlety and illusion. She wasn't good with either of those things, but she didn't necessarily have to be.

There was a lizard that lived in Desolace... a harmless one. But, it had adapted to look like another, highly poisonous species. It avoided predators this way, and lived a quiet life in the otherwise harsh environment where everything fought for food and survival. It went ignored by the animals that normally would eat it, and only because they thought they could not.

Perhaps Kerala could play this grim game after all. She didn't have to lie. She just had to make the right noises, and let everyone think she was the lizard she looked like.

((This is Toad's official introduction. He will be the recipient of Kerala's oral 'journal'-type posts, if I choose to start those :) Screw writing!))

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He hadn't attacked her... yet.

Kerala smiled at the priest as he entered the Brokenspear. "Hello." She was in her customary place, perched on the log in the nook at the top of the stairs. Quiet. Out of the way. She leaned on the wine barrel beside her. There was nothing to do right now but wait.

Lupinum eyed her up and down. He was decidedly in a bad mood, for he did not return her smile. His coldness toward her lately had not gone unnoticed. "Hello, Druidess."

He had stopped using her name. She knew what that meant probably even more than he did.

It was freeing, in a way, to have him acting just like the others. He was closer than the rest, and that made him more dangerous. The rogue had stopped trying already, ever since that day Kerala had grabbed her arm to keep her from chasing the stupid elf. Or maybe it was since the first trial was passed? Regardless, it seemed that some threshold had been crested- she was still disliked by the Grim, but now it seemed she was regarded as just another supplicant- no more and no less. It wasn't quite as good an anonymity, but it was an improvement. But Lupinum... Lupinum still noticed.

They sat in silence for a moment. He thought whatever dark thoughts he was wont to, and she considered him, and his mood. After a while, he sniffed loudly. "Given any more thought to what we discussed a few nights ago? Or are you still going to be a stubborn cow about it?"

She paused. He'd been drunk the night his eyes had flashed brighter. He'd asked about the Horns. About her. But there was also that elf that had been fighting with him. It could be anything, really, that had set him off. So she didn't touch it. Not yet. There was still the possibility that she'd been wrong.

"I'm not a cow. Why did you get new robes? I liked the others better."

"I got tired of blood staining my robes. Mending the Grim is a lot of work. Especially when other menders slack off, or don't help at all." The robes he wore now were dark. Like Lilliana's, with lots of deep red.

The druid blinked. "Oh." She supposed there would be a lot of blood involved in healing Grim against alliance. Especially when people like the deadshot troll liked to bathe in it. "I guess so."

Lupinum rolled his shoulders. "Hrmph."

"Is that why you're grumpy?" She finally asked.

"Part of it. Part of it is you."

"Me? What did I do now?" Kerala sighed. So it was her. She really had hoped it wasn't.

"I've strained my patience with you. Trying to be nice, to be cordial. But it's like hitting a wall, and frankly I'm very, very tired of it."

This annoyed her, and she couldn't help but retort. "You're the one who wants to talk to me. I never asked you to be nice. Go. Fight your alliance or mend or whatever. You won't hurt my feelings if you ignore me." The tauren waved at the door.

Instead, Lupinum smoothed the front of his robes. "I'm not leaving." Kerala shrugged at him. "I think it's a masochistic thing on my part - trying to find out what you're thinking... why you act like a petulant child."

He used words she had never heard before in orcish. "Petulant. I don't know that word. Or the M one."

"They're... human words."

Not helpful. So Kerala cocked her head. "And what does it matter what I'm thinking?" She couldn't help the tenseness that crept into her muscles, then. She recalled the times she'd heard the priest's voice in her head instead of her ears. It was unnerving. He'd always made sure to mention how he wasn't being demanding... implying that at any moment he had the ability to get what he wanted by force.

"It matters to my morbid curiosity, I suppose. Perhaps, some part of me thinks that if I find out what has happened to make you so apathetic.. I don't know. Mending is in my blood, little that is left, and I do hate to see a patient suffer so." Lupinum grinned at that, somewhat sadistically. It was a frightening expression, made more so because it only extended to half his face- the lower half being iron.

"That's like the pot calling the kettle black." She used the new phrase she learned a couple days ago. A distraction.

"In what way? The only magic I've seen you use was to make that skull disappear."

Kerala had been rather happy at being able to remove the curse that had manifested the chittering skull annoyance to plague Lupinum earlier. It surprised her that he seemed resentful at her help, and that he disregarded the healing she'd done with him prior- both in the Arakkoan mountains and against the alliance. She may as well have not been there at all, in his eyes. "You're the one without enough self-respect to keep yourself clean and free of bugs that obviously irritate you, and you try to drown your troubles in alcohol."

"Oh, then won't you come bathe me?" Lupinum cackled.

"No, I won't." Then she remembered something, and smirked at the priest. Her annoyance at him diminished.

"Then get over the bugs! Maggots are attracted to rot, and become flies. There's not much I can do." Lupinum doesn't say that the fleas and such probably come from the other races of the Horde... the more... animal-like ones.

"I had a better idea. Still no mail?" she asked.


Kerala sighed, disappointed. It still mildly bothered her that he chose ignore the things she had done with the Grim, when she hadn't even wanted to. Her magic -had- been used."Oh well. You don't always need magic to help people, you know."

Lupinum peered at the druid. "How do you mean?"

"I mean, what good is it for you to bathe? You might wash off some critters, but the important ones don't care about a little water." She resisted the urge to scratch, thinking of the mange and lice that had afflicted her for so long. "And you'll just go out and get more."

"None at all. I also fear my condition will worsen with water. Y'know. The decomposition."

"Exactly." She nodded to him. "So, I spoke with Coqui. She's supposed to send you something."

The forsaken blinked, the glow of his eyes vanishing a few times. "For me?"

"Yes. You're doing it wrong. Just like Konro."

"Don't bring him up," the priest warned.

"Why? He did the same thing you are, try to drown himself in drink, and it didn't work out for him, just like it's not for you."

"He was murdered. I just drink."

"You were too, dead man."

Lupinum growled menacingly. "And what happened to you? Centaurs didn't feed you enough? Go graze somewhere."

Kerala laughed. His anger was quick and flared. Not dangerous. This was good. "So very grumpy. Here, I'll go see if she sent it to me by mistake." Lupinum watched her walk away, saying nothing. The mailbox held nothing for her, and she returned to her seat on the logs. "Nope Wait til you get it. You'll be less grumpy then, I promise."

"Hrmph. I hardly doubt it. The bugs aren't irritating." He clung to his grumpiness, determined, it seemed, not to be happy about anything.

"Oh. Well that part is just a perk anyway." She grinned at Lupinum, surprised he hadn't asked what it was yet. She was more excited than he was, it seemed. "You'll just have to wait and see."

"If I don't like it, I'm using whatever it is on you." The priest nodded, satisfied with himself.

"I just promised. That means you will like it." Didn't he know what a promise was?

"Fine." His tone was still surly, but Lupinum looked at the door, toward the mailbox. Kerala noticed, and smirked. He -was- curious. "Made any progress on your list or are you delaying that as well?"

The druid ignored his jibe. "I talked with the druid Monday, you heard. I was hoping to corner the warlock while we explored the Foundry, but he didn't show up. The Cen is.... wandering. I guess."

Lupinum finally cracked a smile. "Yeah. The Cen does that... Which Felbreather is it? They all smell alike."

"A..." Kerala had to consult the list Lupinum gave her. "Akor...haril."

"I won't be mad at you for that name. Him and his... associates are a mouthful. You'll enjoy meeting him." Lupinum smiled again, wider this time. The strange creepy smile.

"Why... Do I not believe you?" The forsaken giggled, even though his expression worried her again. "Ah, well. Nothing is ever easy."

They fell quiet again for a while. Kerala watched the people moving in and out of the tavern. Ordering drinks. They wanted to relax, or forget their troubles, or inject courage. They were mildly interesting.

Lupinum blinked out of his reverie when he heard the loud goblin postman sauntering up to the mailbox outside. Kerala grinned at the priest immediately left his seat, then watched expectantly as he returned.

"You got them! Yay." Kerala was still grinning.

He re-perched himself and placed the box on his crossed legs. His eyes, bright and clear of any alcohol, sparkled a light gold. "I love presents." Lupinum drew a claw along the thin paper wrapping and pulled apart the two halves. Kerala watched excitedly, because she's wasn't sure what exactly Lupinum got, just what she asked to be sent to him. He repeated the same action across the silver tape and opened the box proper. So slowly! A small letter was taped to the bottom of one flap. The forsaken read it, his lip mouthing the strange, harsh words of Gutterspeak to himself.

Kerala blinked, waiting.

Lupinum finally finished with the note, and looked in the box. He scratched the tightly packed snow... snow? ...away with his claws. They eventually clinked against some glass with a sharp chime. "Well."

The priest used his long nails to gently extract a triangular glass vial, one of a pair, with a spidery tracing of cobalt as reinforcement and a sea-foam green liquid inside.

"Oh. That's pretty." Kerala gasped at the beauty of it.

"Deepstone oil... with some other things. ...your friend is very well connected." Lupinum set the vial back into the snow, according to the letters instructions.

Kerala smiled. "And? Do you like it?"

"Yes. Thank you, Kerala. I'll be using one after our meeting with the Alliance this evening." Lupinum giggled.

"So... maybe not so much drinking... if you can sleep?" she pressed.


Kerala smiled. That wasn't a 'no'. "See? You don't always need magic."

The quiet stretched again. Kerala had hoped that her gift would improve Lupinum's mood, but that didn't seem to be the case. Instead, the priest might even be more broody than before. She wondered if perhaps she'd made a mistake. It wouldn't be the first time. She sat and waited, either for him to be nice and ask what he wanted to know... or for him to not to. She tried to think of some other way to diffuse the situation between them. And how did one fight with one's thoughts?

The toad, forgotten on the floor let out a giant croak. Kerala flinched, startled. She glared angrily at the creature. "Don't DO that!"

Lupinum giggled. "I like it," he said, pointing at the toad.

The druid scowled. "Do you want to eat his legs? If not, you take him." She nudged the toad toward Lupinum. It hopped over her hoof rather than be pushed across the floorboards. That was a 'no' to forsaken ownsership if he had ever seen one.

Lupinum giggled at the animal again. He set the box on the less elevated crate beneath him

"I would save the bottles. They are very pretty." Lupinum grunted noncommitally. "Well then... can I have them? When you're done?"

"Yeah, you can." Kerala beamed at that, picturing how the vials would sparkle in the sunshine. The priest looked at her. He rubbed his cheek gently with his claws and glanced towards the bar. "Kerala."

The thoughts of crystalline beauty vanished at his tone. "Hmm?"

"What are you doing after the Grim?"

Kerala shrugged, and Lupinum clicked his tongue, seeing the gesture. She eyed the priest then, her face thoughtful. Sound like the lizard you look like. Maybe she needed to convince this forsaken even more than the high inquisitor. "I haven't made plans yet..." she let her words trail off, maybe implying that there wouldn't be an 'after the Grim' because she wouldn't leave.

"Because why? You're leaving, you've said it over and over."

False. Kerala shrugged again. "I've said I haven't found a reason to stay. That might change. You never know."

"Hmm. I would be very surprised."

"Me too." the druid said truthfully. "So, I'm not planning anything."

"Alright. What WOULD you do?"

What did it matter? "Find a quiet place somewhere green. Eat fruit. Fly around. I don't know. Why do you care?"

"Because I like you. And I know you like me. I even think there are other Grim you like."

This was bad. The fur along Kerala's spine stood up when he said he liked her. Even though he didn't mean it in the same way, his words echoed in her memory. She squashed the thought. "Really," she said to the priest.

Lupinum nodded. "I can name three right now." Th druid just looked at him, waiting to hear them. He smiled as he ticked them off, "Shaelie. Khorvis. Gazreeth. Though I doubt you know the first or the last names."

Kerala 's mouth dropped open. "NO."

Lupinum tilted his head a little, misunderstanding. "C'mon!"

Kerala copied Lupinum, ticking off on her fingers. "The elf has freely said she'd go murder the farm children for no reason, the high inquisitor eats his own people -and- children, and that GOBLIN threw a bag of hearts at my head. From BABIES. I have problems with that."


"Because children are innocent! Especially babies."

"Revenge is powerful. I've told you this. We've fucking TALKED about this before!"

"A baby doesn't even remember! It can't feel hate if it doesn't even know!"

Lupinum rubbed his forehead with two fingers. "The Alliance won't stop until we're all dead, Kerala-"

"-And neither will you."

"-We're protecting ourselves, and that child will hear 'The Horde did this' its entire life. And you don't think it won't join the fight? I think you are naive."

Kerala resisted the urge to copy the forsaken's gesture and rub her face. "I already know I don't fit in here, why do think my answer is- 'alone, someplace green with no people'?"

"I think it's too late for that. There won't be any green place left, certainly not one for a tauren. But if you want to lay down and die while the Blue Lion rolls over you, feel free."

Kerala frowned. There were two entire planets, how could he think she wouldn't find some place? "Feralas, Un'goro, the ogres haven't destroyed Nagrand. Who said anything about laying down and dying? It doesn't have to be kill-everything-you-don't-like, or fall-down-and-die. There is a middle you know."

"That's what I hear when you say that. And that makes me angry, because I think you can be happy here."

It was his own twisted Grim perception causing all of this trouble! How was she ever going to convince anyone she was a Grim when they were so.... so stupid! "Well you are wrong. Be angry if you want, I don't care. You're your own person, and I am me. Leave me alone."

Kerala stood and started walking out. The glow of Lupinum's gaze followed the tauren woman. He stood as well, and the druid instantly tensed. It was a struggle to keep walking relatively calmly. But, he stomped over to the bar. She forced out the breath she'd held and continued out of the Brokenspear. He was letting her go. She fled again, and hated herself for it. How was she going to get this priest away from her?

Back in the tavern, the forsaken at the bar stood unnaturally still. After about a minute, the shadow of him disappeared completely.

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Kerala kicked through the stupid snow. The toad hopped beside her. She's made her way to this lonely spot instead of trying to go inside the walls. She needed to be alone. The wind whipped up here, icy and unforgiving through the fur left exposed by her armor. The mild numbness and aching pain was welcome. The druid glared angrily at the toad as it crouched there. She paced around it, moving for the sake of motion, expelling anger as well as generating heat.

Unbeknownst to her, Lupinum was crouched behind some rocks near the edge of a drop. His robes were gathered about him in an effort to stop them from flapping. Lupinum watched Kerala kick up large tufts of snow, almost engulfing the toad beside her. Her track was rather short, much less than she could have been traveling in the openness around her.

"Does he really think I'd be happy? How can I?" Kerala snorted. She pointed at the frog as she turned around him. "Why can't they just leave me alone? You too!"

Lupinum lost grip on the flared end of his robe in a hard gust wind. It waved and snapped briefly before he caught it again. The forsaken huddled down, but the rocks he chose weren't really suited for hiding.

Kerala turned sharply toward the noise as it carried to her, her eyes scanning the rocks. "I said leave me alone!" she called, guessing that someone was hiding, and who it was. She tried to keep her thoughts neutral.

Lupinum figured the game is up and stood. The druid frowned at him. "It's too late for that!" He had a wry grin on his face, a look that Kerala didn't like. Not at all. He hadn't let her go after all.

Lupinum fumbled over the low barricade of stones before striding towards Kerala. She eyed him warily, and her hand slowly went to her spear. "You should be more bundled up than you are, Kerala. Hardly any padding to keep you warm." The priest's grin slowly faded.

"I had a cloak." she answered. "Awatu made me burn it. I've got fur..." She stood, cautious. She was pretty sure Lupinum was not about to be nice, but maybe she didn't have to fight him...

"Why come out here anyway? There's a nice fire in the walls."

"And more people. Why would I tell you to leave me alone and then go where they are?"

"I've given up trying to guess what you would do. Plus.." Lupinum pointed at Toad. "You're stuck with that."

Kerala glanced at the amphibian, half-buried. "Well, he doesn't seem to care what I do or why." She raised her voice over the wind. "What do you want from me, dead man? Ask! Get it over with."

"I want to know why you're acting like a child."

"You have to explain that. What makes me childish, to you?"

"You don't care about the people around you, and not just the Grim. The people who try to help and be there, you push them away. Instead of facing what made you like this, you're running from it."

Kerala held her spear casually, in loose fingers. "I'm not. There's nothing to face!"

"Then what happened to the Centaurs? Where's this blood thirsty murderess you allude at?" Lupinum straightened his back for a moment and stepped towards Kerala.

The druid stepped back. "What murderess? What are you talking about?"

"You, you thick headed cow!"

"I don't know what you want to know! The centaur are in Desolace, the Circle united the tribes..."

Lupinum took another step forward. She recognized stalking when she saw it. "I want to know what happened to you, Druidess."

"It doesn't matter! I already told you." She had told him, so why was he out here harassing her?

Lupinum let out a low snarl. "It matters to me."

Kerala tried to answer whatever it was that the priest had confusion about. "The centaur caught me, I was their prisoner and I nearly died. The Circle rescued me. That's it."

"What happened between then and now?" Lupinum continued to stalk forward.

Kerala sidestepped rather than continue backing. Behind her somewhere she knew was a giant boulder and a tree, and she didn't want to get stuck. Her spear was no longer held loosely. "Nothing."

"Answer me!" he shouted

"I got better!" she screamed back.

Lupinum 's eyes flashed once again as he continued through the snow. "I don't think you ever recovered..." The priest sidestepped as well. Now they circled.

Kerala didn't know what to say to that... but this was not going to diffuse now, she knew now. There might as well be a ring marked out in spears.

Lupinum continued towards Kerala. "If you won't tell me, you're going to show me."

"Are you mad because I can't eat the alliance?" she asked, almost desperate now. She didn't want to do this with him. It was the only reason she could think of- he'd begun to gain interest in her after he'd found out she couldn't eat meat.

"That doesn't matter! "Eating or not eating. They're a plague none the less. And I know about plagues..." Lupinum chuckled darkly.

Kerala stood her ground, but leveled the spear. "I didn't do anything. I recovered. I tried to find the Horns... when that didn't work I tried to remake them." She tried again to answer his question. "Don't do this, whatever you're doing."

Lupinum took one step towards the spear. "I'm only trying to help, Kerala."

Her name on his tongue was offensive. "No... you're not."

"I think you're more ill than you realize." He stepped closer.

"Leave me alone." Kerala doesn't move the spear from it's aim at Lupinum.

The priest reached out with the arm closest to Kerala and gripped the bar of her weapon tightly. Impossibly fast, he finally attacked her.

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(written from RP log by Lupinum, editted by Kerala)

It did not matter if she leveled a weapon at him, Lupinum was going to find out what he wanted to know. The spear was held just below the sharpened stone point to prevent any sudden movements. This was all the priest needed to send his mind probing towards Kerala.

"No..." her voice was nearly lost on the wind. Shifting and churning tendrils of Shadow leaped from Lupinum's fingers and traveled down the length of the spear towards the druidess. Kerala threw the weapon to the ground but it was too late, the vines of shadow had crept up her arm and began to form themselves into a thick shroud of inky violet. The magic working down into her skull was slow moving; the druidess snatched and pulled at the ethereal cloth, "Stop!" panic was evident in her tone.

The priest hardly heard. His face was pulled in with concentration as he willed the magic IN. In a moment of desperation, the tauren lashed out with her horns, "Don't do this!" she shrieked as she leapt forward. The thick skull caught Lupinum over his left eye and shattered the socket.

The Forsaken let out a roar of pain and frustration - his work was undone and the second attempt would be much more difficult. While Lupinum reeled from the blow, Kerala ran a gloved hand over the wisps that remained in her fur. With her other hand, she gripped the fallen spear. The chilled wood shocked some sense back into her. The half-blind priest cried out again and raked at her with his claws. The druidess swung about with the spear's length in both her hands.

Lupinum and Kerala connected with each other at the same moment, but the tauren's blow was unaimed and too wild to do much good. The priest felt the soft graze of fur and immediately sent a wave of shadow magic into Kerala's flesh. He would invade her body to get to her mind.

She hauled the spear back for another shot at Lupinum, this time for a serious jab with the pointed stone, but his good eye caught the movement in time and shocked her muscles into paralysis with a rush of Shadowfrost. "Keep... STILL!" he growled into the wind.

Kerala's attack was stopped short and a strangled sort of gurgle escaped her jaw. She could no longer move, however hard she tried to will the spear in her hands, it wouldn't so much as stir. Lupinum paid no attention, he was concentrating on finding out... something... anything that might help him understand the tauren woman better, something to help her...

Kerala was glaring up at him. A mental invasion like this was new to her, that was clear... but she would learn to fight as she went. Lupinum's own mind was a blur of images. No form or chronological system seemed to be in place... His voice was an airy whisper in her mind, "Show meee..." His own mind produced the image of a tauren in Horns regalia, representative of what he wanted.

"Stop it! The Horns are dead!" her own mental voice was thin and small, yet defiant. She wasn't able to stop the priest, not yet. Some things came to him easily then, like objects thrown in desperation. Lupinum had a sense of time on based how faded the images were. The first across his vision was bleak but vivid.

A small pack in the mail contained a neatly folded tabard. That it had belonged to Breygrah was known fact. The box and cloth fell slowly away into a small depression in a snow drift. Sluggish waves of betrayal and grief slosh in the priest's stomach as he watches.

A figure, unseen but heard, is telling Kerala the outcome of the Mak'Gora. More waves of grief, overwhelming helplessness...

The scene shifts to one of shadowed hulks of tauren surrounded a campfire, there is laughter. The priest feels that she is happy... but suspicious of the gathering. He must investigate... That too is gone as quick as it came.

Kerala, pacing with energy. Words, almost indistinct tumble out of her mouth as she speaks with a priestess. Lupinum recognizes Lomani. Kerala seems younger, or at least her hair is shorter, and her coat thinner. She is determined. She speaks of Cairne and of potential new members. Where did this druidess go? Lupinum pauses as a hard punch in his chest stops him. There was nothing before she tried to remake the Horns. Why did she try so hard? Why is she so alone? The priest grasps that question and urges his consciousness towards it, further into Kerala's guarded thoughts.

She puts up a harder fight. The memory Lupinum wants is very old... he feels the push back and his grin returns. He forces his mind deeper into Kerala's.

A whine escapes Kerala's throat, sounding much like the child of her memory. An elderly shaman woman is hunched over, speaking to Kerala. Lupinum notices the telltale signs that she is of Skytotem clan of tauren healers. His mind is warmed by the feelings of a young girl wishing to be rescued, swept up by courageous warriors. The decayed face of the Forsaken softened involuntarily. The scene reminded him of how he felt when his parents sent him to the Parish... all those years ago.

This did not fail the druidess' notice and she mentally shoved him as hard as she could. It succeeded and Lupinum was forced out. A growl once more escaped his lips and he pursued other memories around the periphery. Kerala's body trembled in the snow as she fought against the paralysis in her limbs even as her mind was attacked.

Lupinum's voice was a hard gale of wind buffeting her resistance, "Show me the centaurs, Kerala!"

She resisted and the Forsaken grasped and snatched at flickering thoughts. The Horns... she wanted to resurrect a force to stand against external threats - to protect each other. Lupinum heard a low growl from Kerala's throat as he found one of the memories he wanted.

There is a rough pit in the ground surrounded by burly Centaur, jeering and laughing. They fight each other, fight her or other tauren.

Lupinum couldn't keep track, too many scenes... too similar to pick apart. His vision was slammed into Kerala's head and he latches onto a chaotic memory, full of emotion.

The priest watched her being pulled through a dense wall of spears by another tauren in the midst of a frantic fight. He is an enormous bull, the fur markings less chaotic but very similar - it has to be a father or close relative. Having broken through the wall, the two continue on running. Hoofbeats of the Centaur continue behind them. Panic and a scream, the flash of teeth. A hyena latches onto Kerala's arm out of nowhere and she fights it. She quickly wraps an arm to choke it, but it will take too long... they are coming. And then the bull is there, and with a yip and a whine the hyena releases her. Kerala's father hits the ground. Blood rushes from a leg wound and mixes with the hoof-torn sands.

She grabs the two halves of the broken spear and wrenches them from the packhound. The child-Kerala turns with eyes glistening with rage to face the oncoming rush. The centaur surround her, tall. There is laughter.

"NO!" Kerala screamed out in psychic anger. Lupinum could sense his paralysis waning on her limbs.

"Kerala!" He yelled back mentally and attempted to restrain where her thoughts are going. She shoved back against him and he lost his grip. Lupinum was used to brute strength, slippery thoughts were difficult to pin down and this one had been yanked from him.

The druidess whispered strange words out loud, but their meaning was clear in the priest's mind: "Lupinum. Stop. Please." She used his name. He jerked his head in response, trying to ignore her. He further lost his grip.

The scene changed to Kerala as a child, sitting next to the same Tauren who took her through the spear wall. Another, very starved-looking tauren, is telling them about Centaur life, "I don't need to know your name, stranger. I'm not your friend, and no else here is either. We'll kill each other, you'll see. No names."

Kerala's thoughts flashed now, very swiftly with her anger as she fought him back. He saw her killing, surrounded by the cheering ring of Centaur, Magram. Various scorpids, hyenas, other creatures from Azeroth fall before her rage. The scene shimmers and Kerala is in combat with Centaur of different clans, designate by the patterns of their warpaint and color of armor. They're connected only by the blood that the druidess spills. Kerala has dry eyes as she pushes a broken spear tip into a fellow taureness. Dispatching her with a form of mercy, without the savagery of fierce combat. It's the shaman woman from before.

Unbidden, the feeling of being held down stopped Lupinum's limbs. He watched Kerala's form in a low lit hut. Her figure is obscured by another tauren with dark fur. Another similar bull watches the door until his comrade finishes.

The scene switches, there are more tauren. Kerala's arms are held spread and her face is exposed. She jerks her head in resistance and her eyes burn in the harsh light of small collection of coals nearby. A large palm encloses over a thick iron band and slowly approaches Kerala's sweat shined cheek.

Through these vivid images, Lupinum failed to notice Kerala slowly moving and stretching her muscles against his hold. A deep snarl reached his ears even as the memories came like a cyclone of color, sound and feel. A pain wrenched Lupinum's mind free of Kerala's completely. His eyes opened and he saw Kerala breathing with anger - the spear was gripped in her hand tightly.

Perhaps the priest didn't know quite what he was digging into... he brought to light many hellacious memories for this woman, what kind of reaction was he to expect? He worked to clear his blurred vision. He saw Kerala's svelt figure standing before him now, her muscles pulled into cords of rage. With little else to say, the Forsaken whispered "Kerala... I... I had no idea..."

It was much too late, the druidess was fully engulfed in her anger. Her spear swung, gripped in both hands like a sword or an ax. The stone edge came for his neck.

Lupinum noticed her motion far too late and Kerala's spear head hacked his head from his body. His mouth opened and a wild yell escaped... and continued as his head sailed through the air before it smacked into packed snow.

Kerala hurried after the noisy projectile. She found Lupinum's head where it lay sideways and lifted a hoof. Her eyes were hard and merciless. The Forsaken glared up at her, his only defense left.

The druidess brought down her hoof hard.

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Grim are experts when it comes to saying one thing, and meaning something else. Kerala had learned this many times.

Syreena had said she would cease attacking Breygrah. Then tried to stab the warrior again.

Lilliana had claimed to want to talk. Then instead had initiated combat in a cellar.

A trial given that was impossible to complete.

A changing of the task required.

Peace, through annihilation...

Lilliana had been trying to deliver a message, that day she'd had Kerala beaten in the dark. Trying, and failing. She'd exploited a weakness, and in doing so, had rendered their efforts completely useless. Kerala had laid sleeping for a month, and woke without any memory of the retaliation that had taken place. Even though she now had the knowledge... the message itself was lost.

They wanted to say 'Don't attack a Grim again- you'll regret it'. What they actually communicated was more akin to 'We enjoy violence without reason.'

Kerala knew of another group that did as well, and they were much better at declaring themselves to the world with certainty. She'd lived among them for seven years. Prisoner. Pet. She had learned many things from the Magram. She knew how to speak in their primitive language, with few words. She also knew how to communicate without any words at all...

Message of Intent

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Logging started on 06/22/2015 at 16:26:55.

Kerala looks at Cen. Kerala greets Cen warmly.

Cen smiles at Kerala.

[Kerala]: Welcome back.

Cen nods gratefully for the warm welcome. Cen reaches out toward the fire, wiggling her fingers to warmth over its flames.

[Kerala]: Did you learn much while you traveled? Did you enjoy it?

Kerala stirs a bowl of something pale, and steaming.

[Cen]: I did enjoy it. Yes. And hopefully I have learned, almost certainly I have.

Cen looks at the grim fire.

[Cen]: Whenever the Cen returns here, this fire remains burning.

Cen turns to Kerala.

[Cen]: Do you think always it will?

[Kerala]: Only as long as there are people to tend it. If they leave, it will burn out.

[Cen]: Mhm, mhm. The core of the question. Do you think always there will be tenders?

Kerala cocks her head at The Cen. Kerala considers -this- fire.

[Kerala]: No.

Cen nods at hearing the curt answer.

[Cen]: Funny... Funny... tenders not tender's. So close, so far.

Cen smiles warmly and winks at Kerala.

Kerala blinks in confusion.

[Cen]: Have you questions for me?

Cen takes a seat, palms tuned up and open on her knees.

[Kerala]: I do. You are one of the folks I must speak with for my second trial.

[Cen]: Have the others shared words with you?

Kerala glances at the fire again, wondering briefly what that was all about, then shrugs and moves on.

[Kerala]: I've spoken with... *has to think to recall the name* Sangjai.

Cen is tilting her head side to side as she listens intently.

Kerala remembers her manners only after a spoon is almost to her mouth. She offers the bowl to The Cen. "Would you like some?" It smells of apples... but has no scent of spice and it is obviously cooked to death.

Cen looks at the bowl gayly. "One spoon. For I am not hungry, but should revel to taste it."

Kerala holds the bowl out to The Cen to pass it to her spoon and all.

Cen pulls a spoon from her pack and dips it in. She blows on it watching the steam move from her efforts.

[Kerala]: It's just apple mush.

Cen closes her eyes and eats the mush, nodding and rocking as she absorbs the flavor.

[Cen]: Ooo... I taste... orchards, not young, but old. ... Mhm, mhm... and the wind is rattling the fruit, it, it, yes, it fell to the ground I think. Mushy before mush. How wonderful!

Cen opens her eyes.

[Cen]: Thank you.

You smile at Cen.

[Kerala]: There are not many that would enjoy it. I'm glad you do. I do too.

[Cen]: Now. Ask me matters that you would.

Cen smiles.

[Kerala]: Alright... I am supposed to find out what the mandate means to you.

Cen nods slowly, narrowing her gaze in thought.

[Cen]: Alright.

Cen drums her fingers upon her lips as she forms her answer.

[Cen]: The Mandate is... a lens.

Cen tilts her head to the side considdering her answer, before nodding and pursing her lips.

Kerala waits for Ther Cen to explain further.

[Cen]: A lens is a fantastic thing you see. It helps us see, and so achieve, things that we are otherwise blind or blurry to. ... But, it is also a tool used unique to the eye which peers through it. For a lenscrafter is an artist, deliberate in her craft and intention. But her lens cannot account for each eye in its making. So seer is part of the lens, inseparable from it in that the tool is tooled only in relation to and through them.

Cen looks to the flames.

[Cen]: These flames are these flames, regardless of Cen or Kerala. But, what we see on the other side is at once a result of the flames, as much as a result of our eyes.

Kerala struggles to simplify The Cen's concept from her rambling words.

[Kerala]: But

Cen turns back to Kerala and nods.

[Kerala]: Hmmm. What we see through the flames is the way it is regardless of how we see it. The fire distorts the truth of it to our eyes.

[Cen]: Yet in the distortion is also the ability. For imagine it was dark: the distortion of the flame allows the sight.

Cen grins.

[Kerala]: But a lens is useless in the dark.

[Cen]: Agreed. And so the Cen hopes that darkness is never truly complete. But I have not answered your question as you meant it, have I?

[Kerala]: So.... the mandate... is a lens, because it gives people a... a vision. But it means something different to everyone because they are all different, with different eyes to see it?

[Cen]: Perhaps, perhaps. But to that it is also the same. The Cen's meaning in this analogy is that the sight seen is a product of the lens as much as the seer, and so it is also one and unifying. I would not go so far as to say "different" but rather ... ... subjective.

Kerala is lost.

[Cen]: Now. That said and said it I have. Most grim ones would say there is nothing subjective about the Mandate.

[Kerala]: What does the mandate mean to -you-?

Cen nods acknowedging she will answer that question.

[Cen]: For each member, the Cen would say that the relationship to the meaning of the Mandate is in the relationship of the subject, to the objectivity therein contained. subjective object - relationship. And this leads to the meaning for the Cen.

Kerala spoons warm apple goop to her mouth

[Cen]: The Cen's relationship to the Mandate is one of choice.

Cen nods and closes her eyes.

Kerala nods. "Everyone here has chosen to be, even me, in a way.

[Cen]: That is good to know. For the Cen would say, if you do not chose the Mandate, you should leave, and better serve elsewhere. ... But I say this with affection, and yet to come, yet to come. As to me... forgive the rambles. A fortnight without using my tongue and it seems to have forgotten the manner of sense!

Kerala smiles at Cen.

Cen chuckles to herself.

[Cen]: The mandate, for the Cen, for me, is a tool. It is NOT the end, but a means. The word within its content that I seek is peace.

Kerala cocks her head, listening.

[Cen]: This grim choice has the Cen made, that those who are yet young, on BOTH sides, may not have to hate in the future. Too many orphans, too many broken families, tribes, homes, towns, hearts... bones are the least of it. Peace is the word that the Cen focuses on through the lens.

[Kerala]: But... it isn't just peace. There are two other words. Do you ignore them?

[Cen]: "Annihilation"?

[Kerala]: Through it, yes.

Kerala nods at Cen.

[Cen]: That is the most dangerous word.

Kerala agrees with Cen.

[Cen]: And when one holds that word first, than "peace" is infused with meaning therein. But. But, but, but.

Cen winks.

[Cen]: When the heart of the meaning is given to the last word spoken, the first word becomes of service thereto. I would see the annihilation of many things in the service of peace. Cruelty, bigotry, war. And institutions that promote these most of all.

Kerala frowns.

[Cen]: This upsets you?

[Kerala]: But... the Grim are cruel, and make war.

[Cen]: mmm...

Cen nods in response.

[Cen]: Are the grim cruel, or are grim ones cruel?

[Kerala]: What?

Cen becomes particular.

[Cen]: Am I cruel?

[Kerala]: I don't believe so, no.

[Cen]: Am I grim?

[Kerala]: Grim as a description, or the title?

Cen grins widely.

[Cen]: I am certainly not one, but the other?

[Kerala]: I think I see what you mean. There are Grim who are not described as grim, like you. I.... just have not met them, I guess.

Cen looks at Kerala with soft eyes.

[Cen]: The lens, or the tool as I called it... The Cen sees the grim ones as the most effective means to peace, for the Alliance is dangerous in concept and conception. Is there evil within the Grim? Yes. Evil within the Horde too? Yes. But when a tool can be used so potently for a cause deserving, I would help direct the slice, that maybe more good and less evil may come in the path toward the end sought.

[Kerala]: The Cen, who were you before you joined the Grim? Were you different? Did you change?

[Cen]: That is a large question... Yes. Yes, I have been different, and I have known change. Perhaps again I will too. And perhaps the end will see me too it in different manners again and yet again. But in the now I am content to seek peace through annihilation. And that brings us to the third word. "Through" ... this is the word often forgot. And this is the key to the relationship between the two so focused upon. Again, remember the Cen said that Mandate exists in relationship.

Cen nods and continues.

Kerala listens closely, her food long forgotten.

[Cen]: "Through" annihilation is taken to mean "by", and so it does. But also, "through annihilation" can mean within the thing moved through. ... So within the field of annihilation, the thing thought complete in and of itself, there is room for the peace ... ... to be brought. "Throughout" one might understand it, yes? I seek also peace WITHIN the annihilation, and by the annihilation, that the end may negate the annihilation.

Cen nods complete.

[Kerala]: I don't understand.

Cen turns back to the fire.

[Cen]: I could burn something "through" use of the fire. Yes?

[Kerala]: Yes

[Cen]: That is the meaning taken as default in the Mandate. And it is true, to be sure. But through also has a temporal meaning, not only a directive one. For could I not also say that there are wood and things that the fire is living through?

[Kerala]: I suppose.

Kerala rubs her face, because language is hard.

[Cen]: So for the Cen: peace is sought at once by the fire, and within it.

Cen narrows her eyes and then grins simply.

[Cen]: But then, the Cen may just be rambling! Listen too long seeking wisdom in a fool, and you may become foolish!

Cen chuckles.

[Kerala]: So peace is the fire. It burns things- annihilates them, but it needs them to live. So peace lives through annihilation?

Kerala shakes her head. "I'm sorry, I feel very dumb. I'm really not very good at talking with people."

Cen shakes her head firmly. "No! Well, not for the Cen. Those words belong more to and through other lenses."

[Cen]: You are not dumb. You are brave to be walking through waters that do not make sense. I know the grim path does not feel natural for you now. This I will say simply. The Mandate is a tool through which the Cen seeks a future where the children will not need fight. Concise. True. Yes, that will do.

[Kerala]: You work with children a lot? I forgot, but the high inquisitor told me to meet you in an orphanage.

[Cen]: Did he?

[Kerala]: I may have upset him.

[Cen]: I have convoluted simple things with foolish words. Perhaps he wanted you to see what the Mandate means to me.

Kerala says slowly "Maybe...."

[Cen]: I can ramble and blather with words or silence, but in action I find clairity. The orphans: if the Cen achieves her goals through the Mandate, they will never need to. Will that come through so? It does not matter. That is where my heart beats.

Kerala smiles at Cen.

Cen smiles simply.

[Cen]: If I may say one more thing?

[Kerala]: Yes. I had no more questions to ask.

[Cen]: Find how the Mandate might fit in your eye, that the two together serve you better than the each apart. For the end should be that Kerala is more Kerala for the Mandate, and the Mandate more the Mandate for Kerala. If this is not possible, well... I am certain you can find your path.

Cen smiles and winks.

[Kerala]: I do have one more question, actually. Have you succeeded so far- In changing anything that you wish to?

Cen nods in thought as she responds.

[Cen]: Yes. There are lives lived that may not have been had I walked a different path. And those lives, should I succeed, will know less hateful hearts than the ones who came before. Also... though, I will not be false. I have seen horrible things done that haunt me.

Cen sighs.

Kerala is reminded of the farmer question asked of those wishing to join the Grim. She wonders what sort of trials the Cen had to do... but doesn't ask.

[Cen]: Again, as I said before. Th relationship I have with the Mandate is a choice. And I must hope more good is achieved than evil.

Kerala stirs her cold apple mash.

[Kerala]: Maybe.... maybe I could be like you.

[Cen]: You have the power to do great good. I have no doubt.

[Kerala]: I know you wish the best for me... but I still really don't see how I fit in here. You are only one of very many, and they are... they are not good.

[Cen]: I do not know that any one is good or evil in its whole. Perhaps they are struggling within. An individual is not so different from an institution like the Horde. The Cen has seen much trauma, much pain. And these things when not cleansed and stitched, fester: and then greater evil grows. Often an evil-doer as a victim of the same cruelty they inflict.

[Kerala]: Hmm.

[Cen]: I am called, at times, a healer. But broken bones? The least of my tasks.

Cen points to Kerala's tabard where Cen stiched the bloody ythread scar over Konro's wound. Cen nods silently.

Kerala does not look at the stitching.

[Cen]: Anything further?

[Kerala]: The Cen, what did you have to do to become more than just a supplicant? What were your trials?

Cen twitches her ear, nodding her head as she often does.

[Cen]: A talked with three members. One who is no longer with the Grim, Khorvis, and Syreena.

Cen nods.

[Cen]: The latter two where generous with vulnerability, and then and there the Cen knew that a mother's love was needed for these grown orphans, as much as for the children.

[Kerala]: That is this trial like I am doing. What about the first- did you have a trial of combat? And of sacrifice?

Cen comes back from remembering the wounds that were shared with her.

[Cen]: erm...? Ah, yes.

Kerala is incredulous at Khorvis being called a grown orphan...

[Cen]: The Cen aided the peoples of Pandaria in their most challenging of tasks, receiving golden recognition for her aid. And her final task was one she chose herself: to find members for the grim ones who there belonged, to strengthen the family beyond herself.

[Kerala]: You found people to be supplicants?

[Cen]: Yes. Three. Ahag, a beast, and an intellect.

Cen coughs ... "A hag."

[Kerala]: Did they all pass their trials?

[Cen]: Two did. Intellect... erm, Bjarnemon, is still amidst his.

[Kerala]: Hmm. Alright.

[Cen]: Do you worry as to your own?

[Kerala]: Not this one, but the next. The first... was terrible, but it is passed.

[Cen]: Yes. Yes. I knew of your first, through wind words only. Terrible for you. Do you know your last?

[Kerala]: No. I'm told I get to choose something.

[Cen]: Wonderful! ... perhaps therein, you can find a thing that serves you and Mandate equally as one and two. Then and only then would you truly belong.

[Kerala]: But... I do not know if that will be true.

[Cen]: Fight for it, if'n you belive it will help you find home.

Cen smiles at Kerala.

Kerala looks fully at The Cen.

[Kerala]: Home?

Cen nods and gestures about at the grim compound.

[Cen]: Home.

Kerala looks around.

[Kerala]: There are reasons why this cannot be that. Do you think they would let me change them?

[Cen]: Hmm... I do not know, for I do not know what they are. But the Cen can tell you for her the change is within in the witnessing of the without. This, this place is but another orphanage, and where the lost children are, so is Cen home. Perhaps there is a home here for you hidden within the things that could never be home?

[Kerala]: Are you a mother?

Cen becomes very still.

Kerala nods, seeing much in that sudden stillness.

[Cen]: I ... I will ... ... I will say... in a manner, yes. But that is too much of a question to probe here and now.

Cen smiles warmly through heavy thoughts.

[Kerala]: I will not pry. You've told me enough.

Cen nods.

[Cen]: Wonderful! And do remember. You have a friend within the thing you see yourself without.

Cen points at herself and then winks and grins.

Kerala smiles at Cen.

[Kerala]: Thank you for speaking with me.

Cen takes Kerala into a big hug, while little from the size of the elf, but big in affection.

Kerala remains frozen.

Cen squeezes tighter for a second and then wanders away unceremoniously.

Kerala eyes Cen up and down.

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