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Syreena

Extreme Justice

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Syreena    59

Syreena had heard about the brawl in the Wyvern’s Tail a few days ago.  As she heard it, T’suro had come in and started trouble with Khorvis.  A fight broke out, and Khorvis lost a tusk.  Baal and a couple other Grims broke up the fight, and ran Sanctuary off but were injured in the process.  

Syreena did not take attacks against the Grims lightly.  Since hearing the news, the little rogue had been prowling around Orgrimmar and Warspear, looking for an opportunity to remind the purple people that aggression against The Grim would not be tolerated.  She found her first target along the beaches of Warspear.  A female elf she’d met at the last Cantina.  Sanctuary.  And Cerryan’s mate. 

Sen'ahri sat in a secluded little section of Warspear, having found a semi-quiet spot near the water and slightly far away enough for the din of the hub to be partially muted. She was in simple clothes, the only real flavor to it was the bright purple and gold of the Sanctuary tabard that hung loosely around her. The make shift table was low to the ground, the pole that kept it up right half sunken into the high tide of the water that lapped at her bare feet. Her boots sagged on the table as she sat hunched over a book, an odd spherical puzzle in her hand. She would turn and spin the halves of the object, study it then jot something down in the book, completely engrossed in her progress. Even as the sun hung low with a fire's blood and her feet ankle deep in wet sand, she kept to her studies, ears flicking every once and a while, but mostly limp and droopy as she concentrated. It had been ages since someone last passed by, either in wayward passing or intent. She was alone, and dumb as ever.

With the step of one practiced at remaining unheard and unseen, the Shadowblade moved silently over the wet sand until she was directly behind Sen'ahri. She leaned forward, placing a blade lightly against the elf's throat and her lips close to her ear.

"Hello, elf," she whispered into that elegant ear.

Sen’ahri flinched hard, nearly jumping out of her skin, the sting of the blade on the tender flesh of her throat stinging less than it should, adrenaline starting to pump through her blood. She recognized the voice, though her memories had to search for the woman they belonged too far slower then she would have perhaps liked. Though as the image of the undead woman flittered into her thoughts she knew she was out classed. She was a mage, sure, but where most of her people practice for combat, she had used her time learning of the past... and its people. It was the trickle of red that tickled her skin that slammed her thoughts back into reality. Slowly she sat the pen and the puzzle down, hands flat on the table fingers splayed. She didn't say anything at first as her eyes closed trying desperately to quit the tremble that had over taken her. The fight the day before with Cerryan echoed into her thoughts, a bitter taste running on her tongue from the thought. 

"That's right," Syreena whispered approvingly. "Keep your hands right there where I can see them.”  

“What do you want?” Sen’ahri said, her voice giving away more fear then what she had intended. 

“Hm," Syreena said and then paused, as if thinking on the question.  She tilted her head back and forth in time with tipping the dagger back and forth as well, rocking it gently against Sen'ahri's throat.  

"I just want peace, same as you purple people," she finally answered with a deceitful cheerfulness in her voice. 

The frightened elf flicked her gaze around as much as she could, trying to find someone, anyone to signal to, to raise an alarm, anything. She just had to keep the woman talking, that’s what they always said, keep them talking, get them to monologue get them to spill their guts to save your own. Peace? Peace was easy, but this wasn't the way for it this wasn't how you got it.

"I also want this," Syreena hissed as she licked the outside of the elf's left ear. She raised her free hand, holding the twin of the blade at the elf’s throat.

Sen’ahri’s lips parted to speak, to ask questions, to say more, but her words were soon gone as she felt the blade slice through the skin and cartilage, severing the ear from her head. To the undead's credit, her blades were sharp, impossibly so, before the pain registered the appendage was gone.   Reaching to pick up her small, bloody prize from where it landed on the table, the Shadowblade removed the dagger from the elf's throat and took a step back, quite pleased with herself.

They teach you to be calm, to keep a level head and a mind like a vice when using magic, that using while emotional did little but hurt yourself and those around you, but the only one around Sen’ahri now was Syreena. In a pop of displaced air and magic the mage was gone, standing facing the other woman with wide wild eyes. A shaky hand reached up to touch the unprotected hole, her palm coming back a bloody mess, the long slender pink spear of flesh she expected to feel; missing. The gore streamed down her face and neck, making a mess of her clothes and shoulder as she tried to stop the bleeding. trying to get the ringing out of her...her.... Her vision warbled as tears started to sting, her hearing drastically muted on her left side.

Syreena tilted her head, her gaze fixed on the bleeding hole in the elf's head. Then she giggled softly and lifted the severed ear up to her lips, giving it a tender lick.

The mutilated mage rose her free hand to cast a spell, lances of Ice starting to form around her then haphazardly flung forward as she tried to stumble away, the magic puttering out mostly before getting to their target, or off the mark by more than a mile. She was a researcher, not a harden battle mage.  The rogue’s giggling grew louder as the ice pieces flew harmlessly about her with no real aim or force.

"Ooh, a snowball fight?" With a childish playfulness, Syreena pulled out a magic snowball and threw it at the mage.

The ball of snow smacked the woman in the chest. As she registered what her attacker had thrown, a horrid look of confusion claimed Sen'ahri's face, causing Syreena to laugh harder at the expression. Her one hand still covering the hole, the other slowly starting to cast a simple teleportation spell. More in test to see if the rogue would even let her leave, the cast taking more time, her hands shaking too hard. Having already accomplished her goal, the Shadowblade made no move to impede the elf’s escape.

“You're a monster,” the mage said, her voice sounding half muffled.

Syreena put on her best innocent face and pouted a bit.  Then she grinned wickedly.  “Rawr!” 

Sen’ahri flinched at the sound, dropping the spell once again, only to be quickly picked back up again. Then, with the soft sound of displaced air and magic, the mage was gone.

 

Later that day, Syreena had Lilliana stitch the elf ear onto her own head where, eighteen months or so ago, her left ear was removed after losing a battle with another Sanctuary elf. 

 

((Written by Syreena and Sen’ahri))

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Syreena    59

Satisfied that she’d made Sanctuary pay for the attack on Khorvis, Syreena considered the matter behind her now. 

The Grim had recently been ordered by the Commander to withdraw from their garrison in Draenor and return to the guild hall in Tirisfal Glades.  The little rogue returned to the Forsaken lands with mixed feelings. A few days after unpacking her things in the old guild hall, Syreena still felt something wasn’t quite right.  Brill, Undercity, the Glades—all were home to the little rogue.  She should have felt safe and comfortable.  Instead, she was nervous and irritable.  Finally, on her way into Undercity one day, Syreena realized what the problem was.

Just south of the city, in the middle of Lordamere Lake, sat Fenris Keep with its basement cell.  She landed her wyvern on the wall overlooking the lake.  On the island, she could see a colony of murlocs, and some sick wildlife, but she saw no movement on the walls of the keep.  The Shadowblade nudged her mount off its perch and flew toward the island.  From a safe height, Syreena surveyed the grounds of Fenris Isle.  She saw no sign of the keep being inhabited.  No Hillsbrad refugees milled about.  No Alliance patrolled the walls.  No black and white banners flew at the gates.  After a brief hesitation, she signaled the wyvern to land, and she dismounted, tethering the beast to a tree.  She approached the entrance cautiously, staying to the shadows, even though she couldn’t see or hear anyone nearby, and retraced the steps she took that day while she followed Sanctuary members in to check on the condition of a Grim who had been captured by the Alliance.

The place was deserted, and had been for some time, by the layer of dust coating everything.  The basement was empty.  There was no sign anyone had ever been there.  In her mind though, she heard the echoes of the past.

“SURPRISE BITCH,” the Halfling rogue had called out when he pounced on her, knocking her out of the shadows.

“Apprehend her!” Julilee had ordered, as she moved to block the stairs, trapping Syreena in the basement with the humans.

“Excellent,” Kex’ti had said to the little rogue after conversing in Thalassian with the human in charge. “Then you will take Tesonii’s place?”

“Stop,” Kargron said sternly.  “There is no honor in this.”

“Forsaken know no honor,” another Sanctuary elf spat.

“Strip her,” the human leader ordered after Sanctuary had left the little rogue alone as a prisoner of the Alliance.  “Let’s make sure she’s not hiding anything in any interesting places.”

 

* * * * * *

 

The next day, Syreena was in Orgrimmar, on her way to fight demons at the back gate.  As she rode through the Drag, she saw a familiar face near the orphanage.  For several years in a row, Kanda had been Syreena’s orphan during Children’s Week.  When the orc was old enough to leave the orphanage, Syreena brought her to the Grim garrison and gave her a home.  When Syreena gave Kanda her first mission—to retrieve for her the ears of the Sanctuary commander—Kanda instead joined the purple people. 

 Betrayer, she thought as she glared at the orc.  All of them.  Purple betrayers.

She waited, concealed in the shadows, until Kanda left the orphanage and headed through the Drag down into the Cleft of Shadows.  Syreena followed, until they were in a relatively isolated spot.  Then the Shadowblade lunged at the other rogue with her daggers drawn.  She stabbed the orc’s exposed lower back.

Kanda staggered, but she recovered quickly, whirling around to face her attacker as she took one of her axes in hand and raised it in a defensive stance.  She felt blood trickling under the waist of her leggings from the wounds on her back, and she could feel her muscles slowing and stiffening around the wound from the poison that had coated the blades, but she gave no indication that she was in pain or otherwise affected.  She simply watched the Grim rogue.

“Traitor!” Syreena hissed.  “I took you in, and you betrayed me for them!”

“There was no honor there,” Kanda replied evenly.

“Honor?” Syreena giggled.  “Your new purple people have no honor!  Even you purple orcs.  Ask Kargron.  He knows.”

Syreena lunged at Kanda again, but the Sanctuary rogue was ready this time.  In one move, she turned, avoiding the Shadowblade’s attack and slicing her axe across Syreena’s side hard enough to bite through both leather and flesh.  Syreena spun, ignoring her own injury, and swiftly retaliated, her daggers a blur as she came at the orc. 

Kanda, however, was already in motion.  She had launched a grappling hook to the roof of a nearby hut and was pulling herself up.  She turned to face her attacker.  Every movement was an effort with the crippling poison slowing her muscles.  She flicked her wrist, and a hidden engineering device in her bracer sent a small pistol into her hand.  She aimed it down at where Syreena was a moment ago, but the Grim rogue was no longer there.

The Shadowblade stepped through the shadows, reappearing on the hut’s roof behind the orc, and again stuck her poisoned daggers into Kanda’s back.  She twisted the blades viciously.  The green skin, and the flesh beneath, were ripped apart and blood spurted.  This time the orc stumbled, and Syreena kicked her off the roof. 

Kanda twisted in the air, a pained grunt escaping her as she landed on her wounded back on top of an awning made out of a bear skin.  She lifted the pistol and fired twice.  One shot hit Syreena, slowing her as she advanced. 

Syreena stepped off the roof with her daggers held in front of her.  Kanda lifted her axe to protect herself, but, because of the crippling poison, her movements were not quick enough to save her.  Syreena landed on Kanda, using the momentum to drive her daggers into the orc’s belly where the armor didn’t cover her.  She grinned wickedly as she drew each blade downward through the abdominal wall, then sideways, opening up the orc’s gut.

Kanda shuddered, a wheezing gasp escaping her.  Then she felt teeth in her gut wound as the Forsaken lowered her head and began eating her.  She struggled, weakened from poison and blood loss, and finally Syreena lifted her head and crawled up to Kanda’s face, blocking the orc’s field of vision with a bloody grin.

The Forsaken lifted a dagger to the side of her own head and sliced off the pink elf ear that was stitched there.

“Have an ear, Betrayer,” Syreena whispered menacingly, roughly shoving the severed ear into Kanda’s belly.   “It used to belong to Cerryan’s girlfriend.  Don’t worry, I’ll get another one.  Another purple one.  Many, in fact.”

Until now, Kanda had accepted that she was going to die.  Death in combat was an acceptable, honorable death.  But now, as this hideous monster threatened others, anger rose up in her.  She saw red as blood fury descended upon her.  With an angry roar, she lifted her axe one more time and bashed it against Syreena’s head.  The Forsaken yelped and tumbled off the awning, out of sight.

For several moments, Kanda waited, fighting to stay conscious, expecting the Grim rogue to return to finish her task.  As the blood fury receded, the pain returned. Kanda realized that Syreena didn’t need to come back to finish the job; the bleeding and poison would do that for her.  The elf ear was still sticking out of her belly as she fumbled for her communicator.

“…attacked…Cleft of Shad-….” She coughed weakly, then managed to get a few more words out before losing consciousness.  “Cerryan.....mate’s…..ear….  Need….heal….”   

Edited by Syreena
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Keraph    16

Cerryan was himself on the way back from aiding Orgrimmar's latest defense against the Burning Legion. The golden-haired paladin was weary from hours uninterrupted on the front lines, keeping as many fighters as he could alive and able to keep swinging. The constant fighting was wearing the defenders down, and it was all Cerryan could do to keep morale high and casualties low. He was increasingly struggling to succeed at either, and it was having a frustrating effect on his already strained psyche. Finally, he acquiesced to withdraw from the battle lines long enough to recover himself, physically and spiritually.

He was on his way through the rough, rocky streets of the capital city of the Horde, riding somewhat aimlessly on his armored talbuk just to remind himself of what he was helping to keep safe. He rode through the Valley of Honor, his eyes lingering on the Wyvern's Tail where he planned on ending his trip. He moved past it for now, into the Drag and en route to the Valley of Wisdom, where the sound of rushing water and the company of perhaps the Horde's wisest and most sensible members would help ease his tense anxiety. This was not to be, as while he was heading through the Drag he heard the weak call for help on Sanctuary's channel of communication.

“…attacked…Cleft of Shad-….” The Cleft of Shadow, it had to be. Fortunate that he was so close already... “Cerryan.....mate’s…..ear…. Need….heal….”  He pulled hard on his reigns, bringing the noble talbuk to a quick turn as he coursed as fast as he could down the darkened passage that lead to Orgimmar's most shadowy district.

It took Cerryan a few moments to find the injured Orcess. It was a small gathering of onlookers that drew him to the wounded warrior, and he pressed through them hastily to find Kanda on the ground, gripping her freely bleeding stomach unconsciously. He knelt beside her, coursing healing light into her wounded form. His free hand fumbled for his communicator, finally gripping it and speaking hastily.

"Sanctuary, Kanda has been gravely injured in Orgrimmar. Send guards and medical staff from the guild hall immediately." His brow furrowed as he whispered a fevered prayer to the Light. These injuries are severe...another demon attack in the city itself? He struggled to keep up with the bleeding, his healing not accomplishing as much as it should to close her wounds. He flinched slightly as he realized why this was. Poison...not usually a part of the Legion's usual arsenal. Something isn't right... The paladin uttered a different prayer, expunging the toxins from Kanda's body. The warm, healing light seemed to work more quickly now that it was not opposed by further damage. Cerryan just needed to move her hands to get a better angle on the worst of the damage, but they were gripped tightly against her. He applied gentle pressure to move them, one hanging on a bit tighter. Something was clenched in the hand, something that slid out along with the arm as the paladin finally cleared the area and began surging shocks of holy light to stop the bleeding as fast as possible. He used his free hand to pry at the orc's clenched one, and as the sliced appendage slipped free from her hand and into his, he was at once overcome with sickening nausea and trembling emotion. His eyes welled as they narrowed, his blood pressure rising sharply. Quickly, the mending wound was wrapped tight for compression, and Cerryan let out a cry of anguish as he laid his hands on the downed fighter, coursing a massive surge of holy light into her. He stood up, drained and weary, his face blank and unfocused, and he coldly pressed through the crowd without saying a word. He was gone by the time Sanctuary's responders had arrived.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

A short time later, a bloodstained note is delivered to the Shadowblade's hands with the speed and precision that could not have come cheaply. The writing was rough and hasty, with an anger-filled tone that betrayed the writer's possible instability.

 

You little murderous shit

This is over, Syreena. I will kill you I swear I will.

No more hiding behind oaths or behaving for the commander, I will kill you myself and on my own.

Come find me in the Ghostlands. Your rotting corpse will fit right in among the dead that your kind brought to our lands.

Come find me.

-Cerryan

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Syreena    59

The courier departed as the Shadowblade began reading the letter he had delivered.  A moment later, the note fell to the ground in a crumpled ball next to the mailbox outside the Wyvern’s Tail.

“As dumb as the Scarlets,” she muttered to herself irritably.  “Can’t tell the difference between Scourge and Forsaken.”

Then the little rogue grinned evilly.  She had always thought Cerryan to be a coward--rich, handsome (if one looked at his good side, that still had a long, elegant ear), arrogant as all elves were, but a coward.  She and Lilly had once cut off one of his ears, and he did nothing about it.  She’d seen him use his hearthstone from the safety of his shields to run away when confronted with Grims.  Now, the prissy purple elf was upset, and in his anger, he had challenged her.

She considered whether it might be a trap.  It was possible, Syreena decided, that she might show up in the Ghostlands and find Kex’ti, Shokkra, and Julilee waiting for her instead of a lone prissy elf.  More likely, she decided, she would get there to find that Cerryan had already fled with his remaining ear that she so wanted for a trophy.  She would go, but she would be cautious. 

 

Several hours had passed while Syreena traveled to the Ghostlands and searched for her target.  She hated the elf lands, as she hated the elves, but still she searched all the buildings she could find with the typical stamina and persistence of a Forsaken.  She was beginning to think she was right about him running away before she found him, if he was ever here to begin with.  Then she came upon an old Farstrider barracks beneath the boughs of a twisted white tree. 

The little rogue rubbed fresh poison onto her blades before sneaking into the building.  Finally, she found Cerryan in a holding area of some kind.  She remained hidden in the shadows and surveyed her surroundings.  The building was in ruin.  Bricks and stone were lying on the floor beneath holes in the wall.  Scattered shards of colored glass littered the floor.  A few arcane golems lay about in disrepair, still and silent as statues.  She saw no sign of anyone else nearby.

She looked back at her target.  Cerryan stood in the center of the room, facing the doorway as if waiting for her.  He looked her general direction, but she saw no indication that he knew she lurked in the shadows there.  He held a large golden sword in his hands.  Syreena grinned; he looked like he really did mean to fight her.

Picturing what he would look like without his remaining ear, she slid through the shadows.  She emerged from the shadows directly behind the elf, her poisoned daggers slicing towards him.

 

 

 

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Keraph    16

The Shadowblade tore through the darkness towards her prey, but her poisoned blades never found their mark. Through the murky shadows outside of the room they were in came a searing ray of energy, illuminating the keep's derelict stones as it arced a path directly towards the Forsaken attacker. The beam pierced Syreena, slowing her momentum as Cerryan spun on his heel in anticipation, swinging his glowing golden greatsword at the off-guard rogue. It pressed into her flesh, further pressing her at the wall away from him, and while the cut was not deep the wound burned with brilliant holy energy. The magical whir of a hulking and very much active arcane golem sent heavy steps toward the chamber, but the sentry was unable to clear the entrance through the corridor. A miscalculation on the part of the incensed paladin?

Syreena hissed in pain as the Light from both the beam and Cerryan's sword burned her flesh. Much to her surprise, and disappointment, she had lost the advantage of surprise, but she still gripped her daggers as she regained her footing and began pacing around the room. When she got too close to the doorway, however, the golem's eyes glowed red a second before laser beams shot from them toward the rogue. Syreena rolled away and came up to her feet again. Her movements were stiff though, pained by the Light burns. She got to her feet, glaring at Cerryan. "New pet, little purple elf?" Without waiting for an answer, she lunged at him, one blade poised to deflect his sword and the other aiming for his face.

Cerryan grinned wickedly, but did not respond as he met her blades with his. Her intuitions were right, and as his blade locked with one of hers, her other was free to slice, cutting a gash across the paladin's face and leaving stinging poison clinging to the wound. He hissed as the pain bit into him, taking a swing at the rogue which she deftly parried, and another which she dodged handily. In turn, she rewarded his hasty attacks with a series of stabs running up his side, each leaving more debilitating poison in his veins. He slowed, his guard less strictly maintained and his motions growing sluggish, but still he came at her, golden blade slicing at her once, then again, and over, providing the rogue with dangerous but potentially fruitful opportunities to counterattack.

Syreena's golden eyes gleamed cruelly, even though her body still burned with the Light from his first strikes. "What's the matter, pretty elf? Getting tired already?" The little rogue grinned, her gaze traveling, briefly but meaningfully, to his single ear, and ran her tongue over her lips. "Then let's end it!" She launched herself at him, both blades aimed at his throat.

Cerryan finished uttering a prayer under his breath and the toxins plaguing his wounds at once fell away. As the rogue rushed him with her vicious blades he stood to unleash an aura of blinding light that filled every corner of the room with a burning golden glow. When the stinging incandescence had faded, the paladin had launched his own rush at Syreena, low to the ground with his blade aimed for her midsection. Angered shock filled the Shadowblade's glowing eyes as his burning holy weapon pierced her, and they were both propelled towards the far wall as golden wings of holy light unfurled from Cerryan and aided his surge forward to drive his blade deep into the wall, pinning Syreena against it as searing holy energy coursed through her withered undead form. He drove the weapon as far into the stone as he was able, channeling every ounce of divine wrath into the vile assassin before releasing his sword and launching himself backwards. Even after his hand left the weapon, arcs of golden light continued to wrack her body.

The Shadowblade gasped hoarsely, her daggers clattering to the floor as she reached to grasp the sword that held her to the wall. She tried in vain to pull it out, but she lacked the strength to pull the blade from the stone wall behind her. The Light from the paladin had scorched her skin, and the Light from his sword burned her from the inside. Her mouth gaped soundlessly, and when she looked at the Sanctuary elf, her eyes were wide with shock. Her squirming only made the pain worse, but her struggles were already beginning to slow.

Cerryan stared coldly for a long moment as the source of so much suffering and conflict in his and Sanctuary's life writhed in agony against the righteous vengeance that kept her pinned, then casually brushed aside a few rogue strands of golden hair behind his intact ear as he caught his breath. He stood tall, bloodied and a little wobbly, but he looked at her finally, wearing a well-practiced and abundantly warm smile.

"Light keep you, Syreena." A shimmering shell of protective holy power surrounded the paladin as he ran his thumb across a small glowing stone. At the doorway to the chamber the large arcane golem, resplendent and marked with the ornate heraldry of House Visca, pivoted to face the room beyond and returned to an inactive state, blocking the door behind it. "May it keep you here forever, in the name of Peace."

He was gone, and the Shadowblade was left alone in divine misery.

 

((Written by Syreena and Cerryan))

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Julilee    35

Bits of conversations replayed in her mind. Heard again and again, they made Juli start to question things about which she'd been so sure. The drumming hoofbeats of her zhevra as she crossed the bridge into the Ghostlands couldn't drown out the inner dialogue. She urged it a little faster, though she couldn't risk an all-out gallop. If the horse foundered, then it would take even longer to get there, and if it wasn't too late already, even mere minutes could make the difference between life and death; so she had to make the measured choice.

The measured choice. The reasonable, thoughtful one, where she considered all possible consequences, even those distant or hard to foresee, and made the best choice she could. That was what she did. Those who saw her as reticent to act would surely hesitate to move as rashly as they advocated if they found themselves the ones with the weight on their shoulders. Wouldn't they?

“When we cut down enemies of the Horde, of Azeroth itself with every campaign, how can we stay our blades to a threat that is every bit as dangerous?”

Cerryan had said something about Kanda, but Juli hadn't understood, and hadn't sought clarification. The truth was, she hadn't wanted to know that that line had been crossed. Syreena had been a dangerous nuisance, one Juli knew full well never to turn her back to, but before Kanda, Syreena had tread cautiously. Juli knew Kex'ti could bring her back into line if need be, and knew Syreena knew it too.

“I had assumed you meant a permanent solution.”

Juli had been sure that when she sent Kex'ti after Syreena after hearing about the attack on Sen'ahri that Kex'ti would teach Syreena a lesson, nothing more. Without admitting as much, even to herself, she'd thought the worst Kex'ti would do was take the Grim rogue's other ear, despite how dire Kex'ti had sounded. Surely with her words echoing in his head, he'd come to moderate his actions in the end. Instead, he had only been saved from responsibility for the act because Cerryan had moved instead.

“This lunacy has gone on long enough. The hope I had... Was for nothing.”

“That's not good enough, Julilee. 'Sometimes we can't do what is just because the world isn't that kind of place' is not GOOD enough!”

“Sanctuary will burn.”

That last was what she had said. If nothing else, it didn't matter even if Syreena really did deserve such a fate. One Sanctuary member attacking members of the Horde, they'd been fortunate to have the Warchief overlook. By bringing Saphiara to justice, Sanctuary had sufficiently distanced itself from her principles and actions. But two would destroy them. What little claim they had to loyalty to the Horde would become utterly unbelievable to public opinion, and mob mentality would tip against them.

But what if she was just being paranoid? Yes, Sanctuary had been burned to the ground under Garrosh's reign. Yes, Sanctuary was, and always had been, viewed with suspicion for their interest in peace with those who were otherwise enemies. But the Horde cared about strength. Often, might made right. By turning the other cheek, were they making the distrust self-fulfilling? Many would respect Cerryan for what he did. They respected Kex'ti for his uses of strength. The willingness to take matters into one's own hand was often seen as a virtue.

There was the fact that the Grim simply outmanned them. This wouldn't be the first time Juli had steered clear of antagonizing the Grim simply because they could not afford to with their smaller and often weaker numbers. The Horde respecting might was undeniable in the latitude the Grim had to conduct their questionable affairs. Multiple Warchiefs who had expressed interest in peace with the Alliance had not acted to defang the Grim. With Sanctuary's weaker political position as well, the Grim could act against Sanctuary so long as it had the thinnest veneer of justification, and come out well enough in the end. Maybe they wouldn't risk it; but Juli couldn't afford to give them the excuse. Not with every life in Sanctuary resting on it. Even if it was a slim chance that the Grim would choose to act, it simply wasn't worth taking.

Wasn't it? Was she making the considered choice, or just finding excuses to avoid making the call?

It seemed every argument started with the assumption that the only options were do nothing and be destroyed, or utterly annihilate your enemy. Those who advocated something more like the latter always assumed that when Juli refused she was espousing the former. She wanted to say she didn't, but then why did she never offer a counter proposal? Why did she focus her efforts on simply saying they were wrong instead of arguing for a different path? Maybe they never asked, but maybe she had always been counting on that.

The voices multiplied as the zhevra bore her through the misty paths. Some were things that people had actually said to her, others she couldn't help but imagine them saying.

“There is no sacrifice in taking punishment for nothing.”

“It is no worse than what she would do. Has done.”

“Finish the job. Any other outcome is going to lead to WAR.”

“It was consensual combat. She showed up voluntarily.”

It was a clamorous chorus with a theme that reached all the way back to Naheal, Faelenor, Kargron, Jinsai, Saphiara. Every argument beat at her resolve and not all of them she could counter. It was true Syreena had attacked and nearly killed Kanda. It was true Syreena had willingly accepted Cerryan's challenge. Juli would lay odds half of Sanctuary would believe Cerryan had done nothing wrong. Maybe more than half.

But inside, her soul protested. It was wrong, what Cerryan had done, what Kex'ti had wanted to do. It was just wrong. It just was. It had to be.

Because otherwise, deep down, she had no reason not to agree except being coward.

The old Farstrider barracks came into sight over the hill, and Juli reined in the zhevra. The mount was still pacing to a stop as she slid from the saddle, drawing her sword and shield and moving forward. Over twice her height, the construct loomed in the doorway. She didn't hesitate as it reared up, activating at her presence, and her sword chopped into its ivory arm before it had finished its motion.

It swung, dislodging her blade and forcing her back. “Trespassers will be eliminated,” it announced. Behind it, something glowed within the dilapidated barracks. Juli focused on the fight. The construct had the advantage of the doorway, meaning she could only come at it from one angle. It began charging up energy, and she darted at it again, slamming her shield into its knee. She was unsuccessful in bringing it off balance, and barely dodged the energy beam it released. “Repairing,” it stated, and arcane energy flowed to the points she had struck, reinforcing them. The one exchange, over in seconds, was all it took for Juli to calculate that she would not be able to get past it. She stepped back, out of range, and it remained in alert mode, standing guard in its position.

It only took her a moment to decide what to do next. Even as self-doubt plagued her mind, she didn't waver from the path she had chosen. Maybe that, too, was just a sign of cowardice, but it remained to be seen what would happen in the end. Before anything else, she had to see for herself what lay beyond the construct.

She spoke into her hearthstone. “Lilliana,” she said, “I need your help.”

Edited by Julilee
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Julilee    35

Lilliana's curiosity, of course, got the better of her, like Juli knew it would. When the red-haired priestess arrived, spiraling down on her hippogryph to a landing, the look she gave Juli was not one of someone who was going to be easily duped. The questions Lilliana had peppered her with after getting the call had received only the most vague answers, and Juli intended to give nothing more away now than she had to. All she said in greeting was, “Lilliana. We need to get in there.” She indicated the barracks, guarded by the tall construct.

Yeah?” Lilliana rolled her shoulders and eyed the construct lazily, acting entirely unconcerned despite her discerning eye. “Why ain't you asking one of your own? 'Cause like... I might mind control that thing...” She pointed at the construct. “...to eat you or something.” She giggled. “You know me, always such a danger to all that's Sanctuary. How's your head, by the way?”

Juli utterly ignored the taunt, considering she had thoroughly humiliated Lilliana several times since the incident she was referring to, and taunting was all the priestess could do. “I don't think it has a mind to be controlled, it's a construct. And–” She hesitated for a moment. “No one else who could help was available, and it's something in your best interest. There's no time to waste. Let's do this.” She drew her sword and shield. Mercy, the sword Kex'ti had given her, glowed with bright, jagged lines in the gloom of the Ghostlands. “Are you with me?”

Lilliana's guard went up more obviously as she eyed Juli with open suspicion. “My best interest?” She didn't move. “Tell me what's in it for me. Then I'll help your self-righteous ass.” She grinned.

Juli looked at Lilliana, evaluating. Then she said, “Syreena is in there.”

She counted on Lilliana knowing she wouldn't lie. Lilliana might think Juli was crazy at times, but Juli had never been deceitful. And Lilliana tensed immediately. “What the frack? You lock her up in there like you did with Lupinum and I... But like now the construct thing is out of your control or something and Syreena is like done being grounded by you poopheads?” She started moving toward the construct as she spoke, drawing shadows to flicker about her body with a vicious, dark hiss.

Don't jump to conclusions,” Juli said coolly. “I asked for you to come here. Syreena's presence here has nothing to do with me.” She couldn't keep the edge from her voice at that. “Let's go.”

Wait... What?!” Lilliana looked from Juli to the entrance to the barracks. She was trying to reach Syreena via mind magic, and couldn't. But Juli was done trying to convince the priestess to get on board, and was closing the distance between herself and the construct.

She slammed her shield into its side and swung her sword at the arm that immediately reached toward her. Like she anticipated, Lilliana's battle instincts kicked in and she was with Juli in the next moment, weaving shadows to strike at the construct and knock its reaching arm away. Juli's strike cut into its torso, but it quickly forced her back with a downward-aimed punch she had to dodge and aimed a blast of arcane power at Lilliana.

The blast caught Lilliana in the side as she was briefly distracted watching Juli dodge the punch. “Ow! Rude!!” the priestess hollered. With a gesture, she pulled a fiend from the shadows and sent it after the construct. The construct parried another slice from Juli, then turned to try to make a sweeping strike at the shadowfiend. Juli got in a good chop to its back, making it stagger, though it managed to stomp and scatter the fiend into bits of shadow that dissipated. In retaliation, it turned, its torso rotating more than Juli had counted on, to deliver a horizontal blow to her shield-arm shoulder before she could pull back and raise her shield in time to block.

The force of it drove to to the ground, though she kept one leg under her. It started raining blows on her that she hefted her shield despite her broken shoulder to catch, and a shield of Light shone around her to help, a token courtesy of the priestess. Gritting her teeth, Juli thrust up inside its guard into its internals as Lilliana blasted it with shadow.

Error,” it announced, as it continued pounding on her. “Critical damage suffered. Emergency recovery systems will activate in ten seconds.”

Finish it, quickly!” Juli said, pushing herself to her feet under the onslaught.

I'm trying!” Lilliana whined. Shadowy apparitions drifted in with deceptive languidity, eroding the thing as they came to it. Juli dodged another attack and started to circle it, looking for a way to stun it, but it stayed with her.

Then the flimsy bubble of Light around Juli expired. “Weak point analyzed,” the thing said, and it leveled a two-handed blow at her left side. Juli was forced to catch it on her shield with her injured shoulder. The pain was intense and she couldn't raise her shield again as it lifted its arms for a killing blow. Its core began to power up with regenerative energy.

A devastatingly deathly blast of shadow struck it from behind. It stayed frozen where it was for a moment, looming over Juli, but then began to slowly topple over. “System... failure...” it ground out before crashing to the earth. Juli got out of the way just in time.

There was an unearthly, hissing sigh as the shadows around Lilliana vanished again. The priestess didn't stop to check on Juli as she vaulted over the fallen construct and entered the barracks, looking around frantically. Juli followed, grimacing as she sheathed her sword and slowly took her shield with her other hand to place it on her back. She stopped short when she saw the scene within, just as Lilliana went, “Oh fuuuuuuuuck...”

The flickering light Juli had noticed earlier proved to be coming from a sword. Cerryan's greatsword, in fact. It pinned Syreena to the wall like an insect, the Light arcing from it illuminating Syreena's charred figure. It didn't seem the rogue could still be alive, but that the Light still attacked her. It was probably keeping her alive even as it burned her. Juli realized she had muttered an oath under her breath, though more of the Light was certainly not what was needed here.

Lilliana reached toward her fellow guildmember but pulled back, knowing she lacked the strength to pull the weapon free from how deeply it had been buried in the wall. She turned to Juli. “Julilee, get it out! Please please please!” she begged frantically.

To think Cerryan had done this, had created this sickening sight, and felt nothing but satisfaction. Juli moved forward and grasped the hilt of the sword. “Hold her,” she said to Lilliana, and Lilly did. With a heave, Juli pulled the sword out of the wall and Syreena both. The priestess caught Syreena and lowered her to the ground, desperately checking for signs of life, or unlife as it were. She glanced up once at Juli and her eyes narrowed. Juli felt the brush on her mind and realized too late that Lilliana had picked up the thoughts of Cerryan from the surface level of her mind. But the priestess just turned back to Syreena, beginning to weave the shadows into mending – knowing that more Light would certainly not help the Forsaken rogue.

Juli watched, holding the greatsword, and slowly began to realize something.

To allow Syreena to be nursed back to health was ensuring the rogue would go on to hurt more people. Juli knew it; she had thrown as much in Kex'ti's face for freeing Syreena from Alliance prison. But the damage that had been done to Syreena was appalling, and sickened her to her stomach. And that was the heart of the matter. Syreena had deserved to die, but not to suffer.

That was why what Cerryan had done was wrong. And even if Kex'ti had found Syreena, and had enacted the “permanent solution” he had spoken of so ominously without making her suffer first, his reasons wouldn't have been completely right either. Because he, like Cerryan, would have taken satisfaction from it. That was why Juli hadn't been able to ask him, or anyone else in Sanctuary, for help. She didn't know who she could trust to do this.

Besides herself.

Step back, Lilliana,” she said quietly

Edited by Julilee
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Julilee    35

Lilliana’s head snapped up. She heard the quiet resolution in Juli’s voice,  and her blue eyes blazed with immediate anger, all suspicions confirmed. “Why, Julilee?” she asked.

Juli pointed the sword, Cerryan’s greatsword, at the priestess. It still glowed with the power Cerryan had infused it with, arcs of Light moving along its blade. “Step back, Lilliana,” she said again. “I can’t let you heal her. She didn’t deserve to suffer, but she doesn’t deserve to live, either.”

Lilliana’s gaze trailed over the sword and moved back to Juli. “Get the fuck out of my face before I kill both you AND Cerryan… and then sic the rest of the Grim on your guild. You are not the Horde’s police,” she responded icily. Protectively, she put a hand on Syreena’s burned chest.

In most of their fights, those in play and some in slightly more earnest, Juli had defeated Lilliana handily. But Lilliana had never honestly tried to kill her, barring Aerie Peak where both had been in groups with others. And Juli’s shield shoulder was injured, making it impossible for her to use her arms of choice. She held Cerryan’s greatsword, an unfamiliar weapon, but it wasn’t as hard to wield as she would have assumed it would be. She felt clear; resolute.

“I will ask you one last time, Lilliana. Syreena tried to murder one of my own. If she is allowed to live, she will try again.” Juli raised the sword slightly. “I have no other option. If I did, I would take it. You can’t offer one, either. Step back.”

“Oh yes, Julilee, I can offer options,” Lilliana said. Her childish voice had gone dead cold. “The option is, either you drop that sword and leave me and Syreena in peace… Or I make you drop it and I help you fucking find peace.” The words came out in a hiss. “As I said, you and your stupid guild are not the Horde police. Syreena goes back with me.”

“What I am is a bringer of justice,” Juli said, and stepped forward to slice at the priestess with the greatsword. It was a calculated move, not overextending herself as she tested her ability to wield the blade, but it had strength behind it; no mere feint. It forced the priestess to scramble back, but Lilliana had grabbed onto Syreena and dragged her with her.

“Julilee! I’m fucking serious! Go the fuck away!” Lilliana yelled. “You’re no bringer of justice… You’re just as bad as the Grim, and you know it!” She wrapped an arm around Syreena’s midsection and backpedaled as Juli moved on her.

The words may as well have fallen on deaf ears. Even if what Lilliana thought wasn’t immaterial to her, Juli knew the priestess would say anything to try to achieve the effect she wanted; that she was willing to call her own guild bad just illustrated that fact. She aimed a low sweep to try to trip Lilliana up, and caught a glancing hit as the priestess tried to hold Syreena away from the strike. A shield of Light glimmered into existence around Lilliana in the next moment as she continued to back away, deeper into the barracks.

“You’re a fucking hypocrite!” Lilliana said. “Are you seriously doing this right now? You let Cerryan do this and you speak of justice? He is so fucking dying… I’m going to make him into a drooling vegetable and leave him outside the Legion’s gates—”

Juli concentrated on getting through Lilliana’s guard. She made a feint to the side that turned into a thrust. The commitment behind the strike was enough to have run Lilliana through if allowed to hit unprotected. She was not pulling her blows. The shock on Lilliana’s face when she felt the force of the blow bounce off the shield, weakening the barrier, meant she realized it.

“Julilee, please don’t do this shit…” Her tone changed to begging, desperately. “Please… Not with me… Don’t!”

“Then surrender Syreena and I’ll let you leave,” Juli responded implacably. She shifted her grip on the greatsword as she circled to cut Lilliana off from the exit. The Light that arced around the sword’s blade had moved into the hilt, coalescing around her hands. Somehow, Juli was able to sense that despite her pleas, Lilliana was reaching for the shadows. In the next moment, they returned to the priestess with an unearthly hiss, and the moment after that, the priestess loosed a blast aimed directly at Juli’s injured shoulder.

Juli’s first instinct was to raise her shield to counter it, and having to readjust her instincts cost her. She tried to dodge but the blast still caught her with most of its force, spinning her and nearly knocking her down. She turned the momentum into a vault, completing the turn and lunging at Lilliana, the sword trailing behind her as she shoulder-checked the priestess with her good shoulder. As they collided, Lilliana loosed a piercing scream, one that burrowed into the deepest recesses of the mind and sent any enemy with a mind fleeing in blind panic.

It was also a trick Lilliana had tried to use against Juli many times in their duels. Juli staggered but threw off the effect in mere moments. Letting go of the greatsword with one hand, she pummeled the priestess in the midsection to try to forestall the dark magics she sensed forthcoming, but they were loosed instantly nonetheless. A creeping shadow settled into the warrior, beginning to eat away at her strength and leaving behind considerable pain as it did. Her shoulder flared in renewed agony that she hadn’t noticed easing. Grasping the greatsword again, she took half a step back to bring up the sword between them in an upward slash.

Lilliana, still burdened with the slight figure of the rogue in one arm at her side, took the slash shallowly up her stomach and chest. She screamed again, this time in pure anger, and released a serous of blasts with no pause in between. All three struck Juli, driving her back a good distance. Juli didn’t realize that the Light from the sword had crept all the way up to her shoulders. Her resolution kept her unfaltering. There was no other choice but this.

As she charged forward to close the distance between them again, Lilliana had the few moments she needed to conjure up her shadowfiend. It launched itself for Juli’s bad shoulder, and though Juli twisted to try to slice the thing down, she was not fast enough with the heavier weapon to intercept it, and it latched on. She let go of the sword with one hand again to try to grab the thing and pull it off, but her hand passed right through its incorporeal form. Meanwhile, Lilliana was taking the time to work shadowmending on herself. Ignoring the shadowfiend for now, Juli set her sword and charged again.

The shadows around Lilliana darkened into pure void. It was something Juli had never seen Lilliana do before. The blasts the priestess loosed were merciless and forced Juli to stop and raise the sword to put it between herself and the blasts. It seemed to buffer the impact somewhat, though the darkness still tore at Juli, so hard it forced her down to a knee. She grimaced in pain. “Lilliana,” she said between blasts, “Syreena tried to kill Kanda… the orphan she helped raise. Just for… joining Sanctuary. I can’t let her live.. and… be successful next time.” She pushed herself to her feet with an effort under the deluge of shadow. “You’d do the same in my position.”

“Shokkra tried to kill Khorvis just to be an ass!” Lilliana screamed. She sounded nearly unhinged with anger, punctuating every sentence with another blast that pounded Juli remorselessly. “Your fucking ambassador… so fuck you! You and Sanctuary are not our police… You are not the judges… This is revenge and murder at this point… Maybe I’ll be the guilty one instead… Although at this point it’s kind of self defense! And WHY THE FUCK DID YOU CALL ME HERE ANYWAY?”

“If I wanted revenge I would have left her here!” Juli shouted, fury overcoming her steely resolution. She swung heedlessly to parry a blast of shadow, the Light from the sword deflecting it, and began to advance, parrying Lilliana’s attacks. “I would have asked Kex’ti to help me instead of you!” She parried another blast, though her shoulder cried in agony. She didn’t know how she was even carrying on at this point. Strength suffused her. “I called you because I won’t hide… I won’t compromise… I can be PUSHED TOO FAR… and you and the Grim NEED TO SEE THAT!”

“You brought me here to teach me a lesson?!” Lilliana said incredulously.

Juli swung and struck the priestess with the flat of the blade in one knee. The crunching sound promised an injury as bad as her shoulder had been. Lilliana fell hard to the floor.

Edited by Julilee
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Julilee    35

“Because you won't stop hurting us!” Juli cried. “You won't.. stop... we have.. to...”

The entropic shadows were overcoming her. She staggered and fell to her knees again, and this time couldn't get up. Lilliana pushed herself up, still clutching Syreena like a broken ragdoll, and stared at Juli in amazement. “Freaking psycho hypocrite,” the priestess managed. She began to weave shadowmending around her leg, and Juli couldn't stop her. “Cerryan comes and tortures my friend as revenge... You attack me when you demand I step aside after we, together, save her, and expect me to allow you to kill her in front of me... and like totally break... oh shit what are your vows again? First one! Peace! I will not initiate hostilities!”

Lilliana got to her feet, supporting herself mostly on her one good leg, and threw a fresh blast of shadow at Juli. Juli flinched as it struck her.

“Second one! Justice! I will react with force only to defend the innocent, or in fair, consensual combat! Err okay maybe you didn't break number two... But you did break number three... Mercy! I will respond to hostility with the least force required!” Another blast followed. Juli gritted her teeth as it hit, her eyes watering with pain, and Lilly continued. “And Julilee... Sacrifice! I will forgive mistakes, insults, and injuries to me person for the sake of peace, justice, and mercy!”

The final oath was partnered with another blast. Bracing herself on the greatsword, it was all Juli could do to keep herself upright. The Light from the sword had entirely faded away, dissipated absorbing all the shadow attacks. Without its warm glow, the pain Juli was under was nearly unbearable. Lilly paced around her, limping.

“You and that jerk face Cerryan don't even follow your own rules! At least I follow my order's rules! But noooo, it's totally okay for you to play the eye for an eye game!”

“You.. don't... understand... the vows!” Juli pulled the greatsword back and hurled it at the priestess. The sheer unexpectedness of the attack took Lilliana by surprise and it knocked her down again. Juli fought her way to her feet and started moving toward the door. Putting her fingers to her lips, she blew a shrill whistle.

In response, a red-gold cloudserpent came swirling down from the overcast sky. Shou-Yana, the loyal companion Kex'ti had helped her tame, landed outside in the courtyard. Juli turned back as Lilliana started shouting. The priestess had left Syreena inside and come to chase Juli down.

“I understand your stupid vows! I understand you don't freaking follow them! Don't run away from me...! We're not done! You haven't taught me a lesson yet!”

Juli forced her broken arm to work as she grabbed her shield off her back and held it up to deflect the new spells Lilliana was flinging at her. “Our vows don't tie our hands, Lilliana,” she said through gritted teeth as she backed away. “It's not our job to keep turning the other cheek. We are allowed to fight back! We don't have to roll over and die because someone wants to kill us! I'm not going to let you, or Syreena, or any of the Grim hurt us. You did learn something today. We're not who you think we are. I'm not.” Turning, she reached Shou-Yana and grabbed onto the saddle with her good arm. She coughed, hacking up black blood, and leveled a stare at the advancing priestess. “Take Syreena and go. I can't beat you this time... but remember... I might try again.”

“You might try again? Do it, I fucking dare you!” Lilliana shrieked. “Try to get me, you two-faced...” She inhaled and released a psychic scream again. Shou-Yana writhed in protest.

And Juli simply stared Lilliana down, fury radiating off of her. She was not one to lose her temper. She would never rage incoherently like Lilliana was doing right now. But she was a warrior, and though she kept her rage tightly controlled, it was there. “Be wise, Lilliana,” she said lowly, “and consider it even.”

“Don't try to backpedal!” Lilliana hollered. She started throwing spells at Juli's mount. Shou-Yana snorted, her reflective scales immune to most of the attacks, but backed away, and Juli let her go. “You know it's not even!” Lilliana yelled.

“No, it's not,” Juli said angrily. She drew her blade, Mercy. Its jagged, glowing lines flared with a new light as Juli pointed it at the priestess. “It's not even. I've overlooked so much... but the Grim has gone too far, Lilliana! And even now I don't want to kill you!” She gave a bark of laughter, of all things. “You're just trying to protect her, that's why I'm holding back, even though if Syreena recovers she'll hurt me and mine again...”

“Oh yeah, well I'm trying to kill you! I think Awatu will forgive me for like, totally disob—”

Whatever Lilliana was about to say was cut off as Juli stepped forward and took a swing at her. The priestess flinched away and the sword only grazed her arm, but Juli followed through with a reversal, plowing the curved hilt into the priestess's stomach. At the same time, however, the spell Lilliana had been preparing was loosed, and it knocked Juli down, sending her rolling along the dirt a distance.

Somehow, she managed to maintain her grip on her sword and shield until she came to a stop. Looking at Mercy, she realized it was glowing more than it usually did. Had the Light from Cerryan's sword transferred to it? Shaking her head, she pushed herself up and whistled for Shou-Yana. This time, she was able to pull herself astride the cloudserpent with her good arm before Lilliana caught up.

Lilly's screams quickly grew distant as Juli rose into the sky. Despite the loss, Juli felt relieved. She had done her best to enact justice. If Lilliana thought she was a hypocrite didn't matter. The point had been made. And Lilliana, and the rest of the Grim, would look a them with a lot more wariness from this point forward.

The glow on Mercy had faded by the time she landed in Dalaran.

 

Edited by Julilee
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