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Qabian

Time Shattered

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Qabian    76

Now I have a decision to make. An opportunity arises.

I don't remember the discussion well. Khorvis and Syreena, Lupinum, I think, commiserating about how Sanctuary gets away with great injustices and no punishment, how everyone seems to have forgotten what they did. I wasn't even there for whatever it is they did. Torture, I gather. Which is beyond hilarious. They always had such pretense for heroics. But yes, torture is fine. Torture away. Provide me with hours of laughter.

But I knew from the first I heard of them that the violet and gold were a ridiculous farce, so bringing them to their knees was always somewhere on the to-do list. Unfortunately, that list was always full of other things, still is, and they were never important enough to be far from the bottom. Perhaps most of us have forgotten, or were not there to experience their sins, as I was not. Perhaps my comrades are correct. No one is going to do anything. No one is even considering doing anything.

Except, curiously, me.

I interject with my situation, my considerations, that I came to entirely without any prodding from the Mandate.

Someone presents the idea of turning the child to my side, as if that weren't my intention from the moment I learned he'd somehow managed to survive this long. Well, other than the initial intention to have him blow himself up by teaching him magic he couldn't control. That didn't work.

But turning someone to your side is not something that can be done overnight or through sheer force of will. You cannot simply force someone to agree with something that has been taught to them as fundamentally against their nature, at least not in a way that cannot be easily broken. 

Turning someone to my side is not something I ever do. Murder is so much simpler. I have, on occasion, reached out to those who have not yet chosen a side and made my case. But to try to take someone from the light into the darkness? That is so much effort for so little reward.

It requires cajoling and convincing. It involves drawn out plots and schemes that cannot be accomplished efficiently or they fall apart simply by virtue of moving too quickly. One piece at a time. Slowly. Birds, small animals, larger animals, lesser beings, obvious villains, then the apparently innocent, until eventually, someday, everything becomes the target it should be. 

This drawing out is not in my nature. At all. I tried to skip steps, but this is a process that cannot be forced if there is any hope of success. I can easily cajole and convince those who are weak to certain wants and needs, money, murder, things that seem desperately out of reach but can in fact be acquired easily. But what do I have that a child wants? 

Apparently, knowledge. So I share that. Already, I've had more success than I ever expected. The boy is my apprentice, after all, not that I ever wanted an apprentice, ever, but his parents are... somehow accepting of this? I have not pressed them regarding why that is and I will not. I assume he simply has them more obedient to his desires than he is to theirs, as is the way of children who become too precious. I should know. He has already begun to break their rules at my request.

It is a process that takes time, I tell the others. How do I get anyone who follows people like that to instead follow someone like me? And any time I spend engaging in that endeavor risks them trying to play the game in reverse against me. However entirely certain I am that such a thing is a losing proposition for them, even the idea of fair play is unpleasant.

I present the situation. My companions give up easily. Just kill him. Just kill the kid. Why don't you just kill it?

Well, yes, that's an option. It would not hurt Sanctuary, though. It would hurt only his mother. I'm not sure his father even has emotions. The pain would be brief and restricted. The rest of Sanctuary would comfort her in her mourning. I would become the villain I already am. Too easy. Insufficient reward.

There were other plots, other people who needed to die in pain, other reasons to try to manipulate the child to manipulate his parents to manipulate their friends, but it has almost all fallen to the decay of complexity. The longer this debacle draws out, the more appealing the easiest option looks.

However, through pure chance, through an unexpected occasion for honesty, I am also closer to gaining the child's trust than I have been thus far. If I continue to bide my time, to act in gentle ways they do not expect, occasionally, when it is natural to do so and not suspicious, perhaps the future will hold the key to using him to dismantle them entirely.

The child has also given me an unexpected gift. Most of my memory has been mangled, but the moment his mother assaulted me, a brief point in time from before bronze interference, now stands out with a clarity I had believed impossible to achieve. Simply being able to see that moment so clearly has given me valuable insight into the self that was very nearly devoured by dragons.

There are other memories crystallizing. The statues of Azshara. The blood I spilled before them in my search for answers. The endless horizon line.

Are there ways to reveal other memories like this? Is that even something I want?

No, it isn't. It is no gift. It is a curse. 

And yet, there's something brilliant in that particular memory, my hands at her throat, the anger in her song, the words we shouted at each other, such rage, such vitriol, the pain I suffered that day, the pain I caused that day. Its clarity is a gem once entirely lost, now found again.

She was pregnant with him. I nearly killed him then, before he was even born. Amusing. Disappointing.

There is something else that is concerning. I have a weakness. It arises so rarely that it is just as rarely a problem, but the boy has touched on it. When someone is genuinely interested in me and my words, and are not themselves entirely repugnant, I am easily convinced to share my thoughts, even to overshare to the point of considerable risk. That never ends well for me. Apparently simply knowing a weakness exists is not enough to prevent it. I should take more care.

So here I am at this crossroads.

I can kill him, or rather, have him kill himself, because he wants power so badly, he'll no doubt choose the most dangerous targets in range. Even better, I may have the chance to make it look like whatever accident befalls him is his mother's fault. Does no damage at all to their organization, but it would certainly be satisfying for me personally.

Or I can take the gamble on another opportunity to do something far, far worse, far more entertaining, perhaps even far more useful down the road. If he does live through this venture, they will all have no choice but to trust me more than they do now.

As I consider this crossroads, I cannot help but wonder how much time can you bide before you realize that you have spent all of it only working against yourself, that your scheme will never truly conclude? When is it time to stop scheming and simply drop the blade? 

Usually, my schemes have the blade worked in. Its fall is inevitable and it does not wait for long. Not this time. This plan has been different from the start. I don't convince people. I kill them, or I offer them the blade with which to kill themselves. 

This is not the first time I've considered ending this whole charade. I have a decision to make. This is not my style. It is making me extremely uncomfortable.

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Qabian    76

I am no noble. Such an amusing criticism.

I can understand the misconception, and I feel no need to correct it publicly. I carry myself as they do. I work alongside them. I was educated with them. I grew up around them. I idolized them when I was young enough not to understand where their power and prestige truly came from. I even murdered and schemed my way to a title that I no longer use, but which I suppose, theoretically, I still have claim to, so I suppose, on a technicality, the criticism is correct.

But my family, whose name I have abandoned for one with no history, had no money, none whatsoever. Our money and our status were lost at least two if not three generations earlier. My family sold their children to the church, to the schools, to the military, always in desperate hope of regaining what their ancestors had squandered.

Those children were handed nothing, were born to nothing, received nothing by inheritance. Whatever they have, their titles or status, their wealth, their power, they have earned through their work, their intellect, their determination. We are our own small meritocracy in a sea of displaced monarchy.

My family lost everything. And now they're just gone. Because I am the only one who survived, and I abandoned them and their name entirely. If I have any claim to nobility, it is mine and mine alone.

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Qabian    76

Amusing how few Grim have any sense of irony. Peace through war? Makes complete sense to them. 

And the Horde? The Horde doesn't even know what it is one year to the next. How many of us were allies of the humans a mere decade ago? How many of us were simply humans a mere decade ago? How many of us are still allies of kaldorei? But that's what we're protecting? This amorphous mass of peoples without any real identity of its own?

Of course, what we seek is an everlasting peace for the Horde. What else would it be? The removal of all enemies and obstacles so that we can finally sleep uninterrupted.

That's what the Grim professes to want more than anything else the universe holds. Sweet, deep sleep.

I hate sleep. Memory and dream slice like a fan of knives. It is only in the center of the hurricane that thoughts go quiet. Create, create destruction, create destruction without cease, and at its core, there is the only peace worth seeking. As the Pandaren translated for me, the only peace we ever find is in chasing the dragon.

The peace of calm sleep is stasis. Stasis is death. If we ever actually won, we wouldn't even have the luxury of undeath. We would be the cold stone lords of a world of ice.

You want peace through annihilation? Walk into the fire. You'll find it.

For those who want something more than mere peace, there is an eternal supply of fuel for that fire. Burn it all down. When there's nothing left but ash? There's your peace. Overlooked seeds will grow, and we'll burn the new forest, too.

Not sure what brought Aquizit to his senses, but he's far better off. He had multiple opportunities to make a new bad impression, but somehow avoided doing so. We'll see how long that lasts.

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Qabian    76

I've never had to spend much time with Awatu. Not that I had to spend much time with previous leaders, either, but it was occasionally forced on me. What few impressions of him I have are gentle and soft-spoken, stereotypical Tauren qualities. I've also seen him stubborn enough to be immobile once he has a notion in his head, so I've never had a reason to question his fitness for the role.

Now I know he's completely insane and fits here perfectly.

In the past, they've preferred deference, demanded it even. If you won't lick my boots, I'll crush you into the dirt and force you. Metaphorically, usually, but certainly by demanding your pride, rather than by simply pummeling your face. But they were always human corpses, not Tauren. 

Yichimet once tried to teach me something. He ended up... giving up. To this day I have no idea what he was trying to convey. Perhaps I'm simply ill-equipped to understand them.

Somehow bowing angers the Commander. I... What? Why? I wasn't kneeling. I wasn't prostrating. I wasn't grovelling. I wasn't going overboard. I wasn't doing anything untoward. It was a gesture of respect. And for that, I should be punished? All right then.

Perhaps he actually took offense to me telling him he was wrong. Because he was. I have never had this position. I began interviewing potentials shortly after I completed my own interview, yes, but I was never in charge. I was never in charge of anything beyond mages. They tried to force me to take charge of other people, other things, yes, but this position is not one I had. Poor dear, he was incorrect. Better beat the person informing him of the truth, yes?

He accused me of mocking him. That... I was not doing, but I was -- still am, to a degree -- extremely amused, not by his words or even the situation, but by the sheer lunacy of trust, so I can admit my tone may have sounded much like mockery indeed. How am I not supposed to find this funny? I acknowledge it might be difficult to separate the fact that I find anyone asking for my help hilarious from the possibility that I believe he's inferior. On the contrary, while everyone is inferior, he is certainly less inferior than most.

However, I acknowledge true subservience to no one and nothing, shu'halo nor sin'dorei, and yet I'm very good at making the pretence whenever necessary. What's the difference between pretence and actual subservience? I suppose that's for them to decide. My very reliability is itself a falsehood, but if I exercise it long enough, does it matter? Perhaps all of my time will be spent biding, but that doesn't make me hate them any less.

Syreena said I was being "elfy." Exactly how am I supposed to prevent that? Does that mean he prefers corpse-like stiffness in his communications? Perhaps he prefers acknowledgment in the form of salutes? I'm sure whatever he prefers, he prefers it without the smug, barely stifled laughter that I certainly had, and that I can certainly avoid in the future.

Further elfiness, however, that's an inevitable part of the package. I'd rather not continue to be pummeled for it, but maybe that's just going to be part of the job. I'll certainly endeavor to avoid it as much as possible, but I'm not going to die to be rid of who I am, or sacrifice my remaining ear to play human, sew my eyes shut and go back to Stormwind. I'll take the bruises if I must.

Syreena said she wasn't simply repaying my favor, but some part of me resists that. We'll see, I suppose. And I had my revenge by making her my second, which perhaps means I now owe her, not that I've ever cared about repaying debts. I owed Acherontia rather a lot. I don't believe I ever repaid her anything. I am rather glad to see the game with Syreena's girl is over, at least my part of it. Unfortunately, other games remain.

I'm not sure that hers was a good payment, at any rate. Yes, I have a taste for power, and if this were nothing more than decisions on worthiness, it would be power, but to me this is less power and more control. I dislike controlling others. If that were the kind of thing that appealed to me, I would have been a warlock when we were still allied with the humans.

However, there are significant positive aspects to this opportunity, especially in terms of position and influence, despite Awatu's insistence I not treat this as a game of lords and ladies, as though nobility are any different than anyone else. And the truth remains that my intentions toward the Grim are absolutely to further its strength. In that respect, perhaps I am what is needed. 

I am capable enough of coping with those who have already made it this far, that much is true, but I wonder if I am at all capable of making new connections. I went to one of the dozens of Hallow's End celebrations around this time of year and it took all my willpower not to roll my eyes and shout them all down as morons, nevermind actually striking up conversation of any sort.

It will be a challenge, at any rate, and that can only make me better. 

I hope.

Edited by Qabian
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Qabian    76

It's not about the boy. Not anymore. It was at the beginning. It was supposed to be a harmless -- no, not at all harmless, but a simple, hilarious lesson about why children are a terrible idea.

Now, though... Now, it's something else.

At first, if he died, I gained something -- a laugh. Now if he dies, well, I’d still get the laugh, but I’d lose more than I’d gain. It’s not worth it.

If his mother dies, it’s the same situation. She has more sins, more flaws to answer for than the boy does, but I would not gain much more than a laugh, and I’d lose the investment.

It started as a prank, almost. Now, though... Now, it’s a game. Now, it’s politics. I missed politics. Kael’thas ruined them for me, at least when he finally met destruction. Toying with Pathaleon was incredibly entertaining. But those days are long over.

Perhaps that’s the reason to keep going, to move through the discomfort, to keep playing, to keep the pieces on the board, to avoid flipping the table. Politics. To give just enough that I’m not entirely turned away. To give just enough that I’m given a little more in return, and a little more in return, and a little more in return, until I can smash all of it at once.

There’s the reason.

It’s not about pleasure. It’s not about enjoyment. It’s not about romance. It’s not about ownership. It’s not about belonging. It’s sure as the sun not about love.

But it is about respect. If you only indulge with people you respect who respect you in turn, how does that possibly leave you open for exploitation? I suppose there’s the possibility for respectable exploitation, but that benefits everyone involved, hm? It takes a certain kind of person to find me respectable. The miniscule size of that population means my standards appear exceedingly high, and even, perhaps, inscrutable, when they are in fact simple, but rare.

I admit I... moved more quickly than rational on a few encounters, but Suramar is unique, and now that I have carved my niche there, it is not the sort of experience that will ever be repeated.

Edited by Qabian

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