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[[ A continuation from the finale of Dark Star Rising. ]]

The old wooden door of the Gallow's End Tavern swung open with that same familiar creak. The last billows of the squall that had crashed into the Northern coast of Tirisfal whipped into the inn behind the trudging form of Khorvis Bloodstar until he pressed the door shut with a tired grunt. Brill had been only a short march from the Whispering Forests, and the old orc had needed some time and space to clear his head.

Exhausted as he was, Khorvis did not fail to notice the guarded looks that the patrons and staff gave the newcomer. It had been nearly a year since the chaos he had caused while under the influence of Mannoroth's blood, but the citizens of Brill were unlikely so quickly forget. Fortunately for him, the immediate presence of the Grim Halls and the restorative work of the Mandate upon the Glades would likely prevent a stealthy dagger in his spine.

Saddling up upon an empty stool, Khorvis rested his elbows upon the bar and cradled his forehead in his hands. The damage to his mechanical left eye had ceased sparking and twitching, but the gaping hole still ached. Another piece of him missing, lost to the Shadowlands. He had departed the ritual circle quickly after reassuring Lilliana that he was fine. The troll woman could exhibit such motherly tendencies, but Khorvis had been in no mood for it. The sight of Theira's corpse and the knowledge of what they had locked behind the closing gate had been simply too much for the warrior's heart. A tersely bitten thanks, an embrace or two, a stone-faced salute, and off Bloodstar wandered through the pines - anywhere, just away from that still Tauren and the odd flower that had sprouted from her chest.

At first he had angled to the Northeast, towards the Grim Halls overlooking the North Sea, but the night and the elements slowly altered his course towards Brill. The entire debacle would require some explaining, and he was not in the right state of mind to confront Commander Stonespire. Not yet. A smart warchief knew he must fight on solid ground, on terrain of his choosing. The Commander was a hard, unfeeling plinth of stone. If Khorvis wanted to escape that encounter with his hide, he would need a clear mind. So the Inquisitor found himself staring at the worn wood of the Gallow's End bar.

A rough clay mug of mulled wine was pushed between his elbows. Looking up, Khorvis gave Innkeeper Renee a lukewarm smile that failed to touch his tusks. The woman returned the look with a curt nod and swept away, her tattered skirts hissing over the stone floor like a worn straw broom. It was amazing that after all these years, Miss Lauer still kept the Gallow's End running at its efficient, if rickety, pace. Truly a stalwart and indispensable member of the Horde.

The thought brought him back to recent events. Theira. Mai'kull.

Why had they sacrificed themselves for him? The fools! Both were important pillars of the Horde, necessary for the war against the Legion. Against the Alliance! It was such a bloody waste... Khorvis was long past his prime. The gut wound delivered by Shokkrah and the mess of his eye ached in tandem, echoing the testament. These were dangerous times, when the Horde and the Mandate required every able body to muster. Damn those addled Mad!

The bar shook under the blow of Khorvis's clenched fist. Fortunately for the inn, he was unarmored, only clad in leather, though the patrons cast souring glares at the Lasher. He offered them a grumpy, conciliatory wave, returning to his drink. Taking a long swig, he let the burning wine ride down his raw throat and set the mug down. Excess liquid dripped from his beard and jowls, splashing onto the waxed counter. The deep crimson hue caught the orc's eye. He could think only of the Matron, her broken and bloody body still in the grass of the Whispering Forest's floor. His own blood had mingled with the druidess's as he had wept above her corpse.

Fate was cruel. Khorvis had allowed himself very few fantasies over the years since crossing the Dark Portal. The notion of a mate, nevermind a family, was for him always a forbidden prospect, a foolish dalliance that would have only left him weak and vulnerable. It was only later in life that cracks had begun to show in that armor, and not until he had encountered the Matron of Rutilus Luna. They had never expressed any oaths or commitments, beyond the professional pact between The Grim and the Rutilans upon Thunder Bluff. Only a mutual understanding of shared sacrifice. Of a similar wish for a more peaceful world. A glance here, in the lull of battle. A hand held there, at dusk above the Gurubashi Arena. Khorvis had never let the wish touch his tongue, for fear of the inevitable.

That dream had died in the Shadowlands.

He took another gulp of the wine, his throat choking up under the emotional duress, and nearly spat out his drink into the hearth. Coughing and hacking, the orc wiped away at his beard with the back of his wrist. He should have expected no less. Khorvis was not a mortal made for anything but warfare. Born behind catapults firing upon Shattrath and suckled upon the blood of draenei, Bloodstar was bred to orchestrate death. He was tailored for the Mandate. Bury those foolish fantasies down deep where they could never emerge.

Staring morbidly about the tavern, Khorvis noticed several trophies donated by The Grim. A broken stormhammer hung above a sidetable. To the left of the liquor stores were encased in a dusty cabinet several medals for honor upon the Battlegrounds. And over the hearth was mounted the head of doomguard, its ebon horns spanning at least as wide as a prone human.

Khorvis would need to report the death of Reaper Mai'kull. The mage had shown exceptional valor in the face of overwhelming odds. His name would enter the rolls with distinguished heroism. A final Grim trinket caught the warrior's eye. A pamphlet advertising the Mandate, nailed to a post in the center of the tavern. The next gathering was soon, here in Tirisfal. Clearly his subordinates were carrying on with the good work of the Inquisition, though Khorvis had had little reason to doubt Ruuki.

In his mind, it was settled. The High Inquisitor would return to the Grim the following night, at the Inquisition, and hopefully buttressed from the wrath of Commander Stonespire.

Edited by Khorvis
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Khorvis went by foot from Brill to the gates of Lordaeron City. The road was one of the few still paved in Tirisfal, seeing much traffic between the Undercity and the zeppelin towers. With the Dark Lady having taken the mantle of Warchief, the count of couriers and deathguards had more than doubled in their frantic work to secure the necessary machinery of the Horde's bureaucracy. The orc ignored them all as he made his way up the hill and through the crumbling outer wall.

---

Sleep had evaded him during the remainder of the night, despite how fatigued he felt. His meager cot on the second floor of the Gallow's End Tavern did not help his pain of his wounds, but the bruises were a distant second to the hauntings. If Khorvis shut his eye, that horrid image of Theira's spirit lifting from her corpse stared back at him. When he snapped his eyelid open, the creaking of the old tavern seemed to fool his periphery into seeing things. A quick movement behind the dresser. A scuttling at his bedside. More than once he got out of his covers to inspect the room, but of course there were only ordinary shadows.

It was not until An'she began to pierce her rays through the gloom of the Glades that complete and utter exhaustion claimed the warrior. An unconscious and dreamless slumber lasted through the morning and afternoon, to end with a sore and stiff awakening. Khorvis glared out the window and saw that it was already evening. An icy ball sagged in the pit of his stomach. Nearly time to confront the Commander.

Before setting out, Khorvis took a seat at the Tavern's tables on the first floor. He forced down a late meal of cold venison, oblivious to the greenish hue of the flesh, and flagon of flat ale. As the chunks of raw flesh tumbled down his maw, a familiar elemental wisped into the dining room, flanked by indigo lanterns...

---

The Inquisition was a curious thing. Forged in the wartorn years spent in the harsh wastes of Northrend, the first Inquisitors of The Grim were merely of average rank, but fanatical beyond measure. They sought to weed out from the droves of Horde, that had flocked to the battle against the Lich King, the most bloodthirsty and like-minded killers. In the years since, the Inquisition had evolved into a more formal institution, replete with codified trials and many arcane traditions. Some would claim that present-day Inquisitors worshiped banners and medals more than the original mission, but none could deny their commitment to the Mandate.

Gathered upon the ancient staircases of the inner courtyard of the ruins of Lordaeron, High Inquisitor Ruuki held court among her Dreadweavers and attending Supplicants. Standing to the side, Commader Awatu Stonespire observed the reports and instructions with his usual stoicism. Inquisitor Kiannis was concluding his conversation with the Supplicant Chumbus.

"If you have any troubles, contact me and I will assist you." As the ranger dismissed the warlock, Khorvis approached the dais with Mai'kull's voidcaller in tow. He peered up at Awatu, and for a brief moment, the scene flickered. The impression of gibbets, ethereal and decorated with the hanging corpses of pinkskins, manifested behind the Inquisitors. A raven fluttered from a crossbeam of the gallows and settled to perch upon the pauldron of The Commander. Khorvis closed his eye and took a deep breath, gathering his wits. A quiet hush came upon the assembly, and when he opened his eye, he found the lot staring back. The gallows had disappeared.

"Commander Stonespire," Khorvis intoned without a hint of emotion.

A look of surprise had come over Ruuki's face, one that few in the Grim had ever seen: utter shock with a mix of something between relief and disbelief. It didn't last long. Awatu spoke first, eyeing Khorvis up and down. "Lasher? You have been... missing, as of late." 

Khorvis winced, placing a hand to his stomach. A moment of nausea passed over his face, but he squared away and trod up the stairs to the Tauren who was now looking at the voidcaller. "By the look of the seasons... aye, I do seem to have been gone for some time," the orc responded.

"Many moons indeed." The Commander spoke carefully, betraying nothing with his inflections. Even as the elf Baal'themar emerged from the shadows at Khorvis's side, he only raised an eyebrow.

"I do come with a foul report," barked the orc. "And submit my flesh to the judgement of the Mandate." Khorvis gestured at the voidcaller. "A minion of the late Reaper Mai'kull."

"Late? Executioner was his title," spoke Inquisitor Kiannis. He stared down his nose at the orc haughtily, to be caught by a look of disappointment from Baal'themar.

Ignoring the tone of the ranger's voice, Khorvis motioned to the voidcaller, which set before the Commander a burnt facemask. Next to it was placed a hearthstone, an orb of the sin'dorei... and Mai'kull's guild 'tabard', in fact an over-sized Tauren's tabard fashioned into a cape, now folded. Kiannis fought back a scowl as the realization set in.

"I take it he has fallen, then?" Awatu was eyeing the remnants.

"Yea, dead." Lilliana deadpanned to both her boss and Kiannis. Khorvis grunted, the events still raw upon his nerves. "Aye, Commander. I did be... lost, in a place of shadows. The Rea- Executioner- found me. He did sacrifice everything." Brushing his palm away, the voidcaller faded, its work done.

With an emotionless stare, Awatu looked back up at Khovis. "Unfortunate. But at least his... sacrifice was not without some success. Your presence seems to indicate as much."

Khorvis could not help but hear some note of mocking in his superior's words. Imagined or not, it rankled, but the warrior continued his report. "There do be more." Lilliana had resisted the urge to go charging at Khorvis when he had appeared... to her credit she did a very good job remaining controlled. She did now look at him fiercely, while Awatu exhibited all of the emotion of a rock.

A rare example of the orc's sealed emotions came to the forefront as Khorvis choked up for a moment. It was a titanic inner struggle to speak the words aloud. He had sworn to himself the night before that he deserved his fate, and that he would continue on as the warrior he was bred to be. It was too much. He broke down and knelt before the Commander.

"The Matron of Rutilus Luna, Theira Oaksong... she also do be departed." Khorvis sobbed, tears running freely before the Grim.

Knitting together his eyebrows, Awatu echoed himself. "Also unfortunate." Rather blankly, Kiannis stared at the orc who had once blown out his own kneecap. A small touch of anger pulled at the side of his mouth an nose- yet he remained silent. Not so for the High Inquisitor.

Ruuki stormed down the stairs towards the battered orc, her nostrils flaring in rage. Grabbing Khorvis by whatever vest he's wearing, she hauled him up to his feet with a ferocious yank. "The BLOODY HELL have you been, you twice damned son of a pig?!"

Her howl sent Lilliana backing up, almost as if to use Awatu as a shield to hide behind. Even the Supplicant Somdot stood up straighter, realizing that there was some intence energry in the air. Certainly not the time to be a clown. Awatu only watched the exchange.

Khorvis, his face and tusks wet with tears, growled right back at Ruuki. "The fel would you know, you useless woman! I did be locked in the shadows, chased by goatsucking horrors!" His feet nearly dangled as he was held up. Lilliana could not help but scold with a yelp. "Khorvis!!!" Supplicant Chumbus gasped while Somdot glanced at Kiannis with wide open eyes and tight lips. The ranger returned the look only momentarily. His face was a mixture of emotion - rage predominantly, and a gritted frown.

Snarling, Ruuki tightened her grip. Now Khorvis did truly hang above the stones. "Quit BITCHING like a spoiled little human BRAT!" she screamed. "If they died saving your sorry hide, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!"

The Lasher shoved Ruuki away and peeled off one of his bracers, one of the last metal armaments on his person. He held it aloft and shouted, "Do you remember forging these, Inquisitor? A lot of bloody good it did! There do be things in the dark, things that strength of arms do have NO purchase against!"

Ruuki's tone descended from a yell to a quiet sort of threat. "Does that mean you're going to hide and pray they go away? Because you know as well as the rest of us that there is NO peace, not when the Mandate still commands us."

Throughout the entire tense exchange between the two High Inquisitors, Kiannis and Baal'themar conducted their own confrontation. The ranger stared down the rogue. "Put the blades away. This is not the time." Baal'themar grined slyly at Kiannis. "If this turns ugly, you're the first," he said, following with a wink.

"It will not."

"We will see."

Somdot slighted raised his head to stare at Baal'themar while Chumbus adjusted his tie. Over the quibbling elves, Ruuki continued her diatribe. "A sword is just sharpened steel, and armor bits of metal and leather. But it does no one any good if there's no damned heart or fire in your soul to back them up."

Khorvis threw the bracer down on the ground and shook his head. "I did not come here to argue with you, Ruuki the Reborn. I did return to the Mandate, my home, to submit my failure to the Commander's judgement." Ruuki raised a clenched fist as if ready to sock him, but she restrained herself, fully clad while he was only in leathers. Instead, she turned and stalked several paces off.

Seeking to soothe the situation, Lilliana moved over to Baal'themar and whatever he hell he thought he was doing with his weapons. The elf blushed at his previous Inquisitor. The woman must have put some thought into Baal'themar's head, for she looked away and faced Khorvis and Awatu, now that Ruuki had let go. Kiannis found it an appropriate time to pull one of his skunky cigars and press a lit pebble into it. His gaze lingered on Khorvis. Walking over to Kiannis, Somdot whispered, "Any chance you've got a spare one of those bad boys?" The elf did a quick double take, then absently fingered a blunt out to the Pandaren. He left Somdot to find his own spark. "I have fire," the monk said in thanks, nodding.

Khorvis glanced to his right, surprised to see the elf Baal'themar. "Stay your blades, brother. I do be here of my own will." His words were punctuated by a sneeze from Chumbus's imp Laznik, who failed to cover his mouth. It's owner only tilted his head. "I know," retorted the elf, "but then... the Grim have a nice habit of chewing up and spitting out people. I'll not see that happen to you, Khorvis." Awatu snorted. "Not after the hell we went through to get your old ass back here." Lilliana placed a gloved hand on Baal'themar's arm. "He's fine, Baal'themar." She did happen to whisper silently into Baal'themar's head... something else, so that no one else might hear her.

Pointedly ignoring the elf, Commander Stonespire roved over the orc's form with his gaze. "So then. What grievous failure have you brought to the feet of the Mandate?" 

Lilliana was unable to stop herself from getting right in the way between the tauren and the orc. "He hasn't failed at all!!! He's like... totally being a super dumbass, Awatu!"

Khorvis brushed away the trolless's defensive screen - "Kodotits, woman..." - and stuck out his chin, as if begging to be struck. "I did leave you and The Grim without a High Inquisitor for months. A dead Reaper due to my bloody carelessness-"

"Executioner," Kiannis interjected, to be countered with a baleful glare. "The Maleficar was risen in your absence."

Lilliana piped up again. "Eh uh... there is one right there." She pointed to Ruuki, the current High Inquisitor. "And like... people die. All. the. time."

"Ream my arse with a vry'kull pike," Khorvis muttered at the quibbling. "Wait, what?! Ruuki did be raised to High Inquisitor?" The warrior was incredulous. Her arms crossed and entire body tensed, Ruuki stood stoically with her rage reined. "Indeed she has," intoned the Commander, glancing backwards at Ruuki.

Khorvis grunted, some of the flame being taken out of his sails. "You did think me dead," he breathed.

"I thought you missing. Perhaps stuck between crates upon a Booty Bay pirate vessel," cracked Awatu in a rare taunt. Ruuki ameliorated, "It was the only explanation we could fathom. We all knew damned well you were no deserter, especially not with the Legion's invasion so fresh."

"Unlike others," stated the Inquisitor Kiannis in the direction of Baal'themar. The rogue grinned. "More loyal than you. Didn't see you fighting to save a brother, Kiannis." The ranger bristled at Baal'themar's words, but was not goaded into a rebuttal. He glowered, before turning his attention back to Khorvis.

"The Inquisition required direction. And so, it was given," Awatu stated matter-of-factly.

Khorvis tugged at his goatee with no little annoyance, but looked again to Ruuki with appraising eye. "Aye. May be she do be fit for the rank." The wheels could visibly be seen turning in the old orc's head, working overtime.

The facts laid upon the figurative table, Awatu continued to humor Khorvis. "So... you come seeking penance?"

"I did swear my flesh and spirit to the Mandate, Commander." Khorvis was resolute in his guilt. "You do be in your rights to end the former. The latter does remain bound, whatever your words."

Glowering at anyone but herself, Lilliana still seemed relieved to see Khorvis present that night. That relief melted into horror at the warrior's suggestion. She looked to Awatu plaintively.

Awatu gave Khorvis a once-over. "I fear that any further... physical punishment would leave us with only your spirit." In moment of oddity, The Commander appeared to exhibit a profound insight. "Do you sleep well, or are you assaulted by night-terrors?"

The assembly displayed their curiosity or disbelief in varying ways, from snorts, to quirked eyebrows. In the intensity of the exchange between The Commander and the former High Inquisitor, Somdot, calmed and relaxed by the blunt obtained from Kiannis, walked over to Baal'themar and scanned him up and down. "I'm not sure what to think of you sir..." Chumbus remained motionless while Laznik started to sneak off. "Think nothing, Somdot," Baal'themar soothed.

Khorvis looked at Awatu strangely, as if he recognized the Tauren's foresight. Awatu made no indication of his awareness, simply awaiting a response. "No terrors," spoke the orc. "No, Commander, they did cease once Lilliana, Baal'themar, and the rest evacuated me from... whatever land of shadows that did be." He continued, unable to stop himself due to the uncanny inquiry. "But last night, at the Gallow's End, I did see spirits. Strange that you should mention this."

Awatu furrowed his brow in thought. "Curious. At any rate, I could find your... hauntings to be... suitable punishment. Sleepless nights and waking screams." Lilliana was peering at Khorvis wondering what kind of spirits he was talking about. She couldn't hide the quick glare that crossed her face. Whether it was over Awatu's ruling or Khorvis's suffering now that he was back in this world, it was unclear. Ruuki was only scowling.

Kiannis gave Awatu a surprised look. "You saw him sobbing. Is this the same orc we once knew?" Of course, Baal'themar's countenance mirrored his defense of Khorvis. "More a man than you will ever be," the Rutilan snarked. Chumbus inched closer to the edge of the ledge, the temper of the meeting pushing him away.

"The edges of eternity change us all. It is Khorvis..." The sunwalker narrowed his eyes, as if attempting to look through the Lasher. "... but different. Something is different."

Kiannis pivoted his head only slightly with gritted teeth, squinting at the Commander. He nodded solemnly in acquiescence.

"He would not be the first Grim to find a new calling," offered Ruuki

Khorvis was growling under all of the scrutiny. "You may command my blades, Stonespire, but you do not own my dreams." Now that he return seemed accepted by The Grim, his usual thorniness was peeking through. "I did say that there do be terrors that steel is no ward against. For the Mandate, I will see to it that I do find a new weapon."

"I do not command your dreams, no," advised Awatu, "But you will find that you do not command them either." Glancing upwards, the tauren was far away from his normal stony self. "The dream-realm of the spirits is... beyond us." Khorvis seemed unsure of these words, his freshly ruined eyepiece a testament to the power of nightmares.

Kiannis had noticed the activity of Laznik and pointed to Somdot. "Investigate that imp," he ordered. Chumbus remained motionless while the imp eyed Somdot suspiciously. Noticing that Laznik was urinating in the bushes, Chumbus became frustrated and dismissed his minion.

"Answer me this, Khorvis." Ruuki was growing philosophically bored. "Does the Mandate still call to your heart and soul?" The woman's question dug at the crux of the issue, with regards to the Mandate and the Inquisition.

Turning to the new High Inquisitor, Khorvis retorted, "I could have gone running like a child to Orgrimmar and hid beneath Sylvanna's skirts. I do be here, woman. What else would you ask of me?"

"Then whether you wiggle your fingers, wield a blade, or shoot a gun, you are still a Grim." The Reborn turned the instructive nature that Khorvis had instilled into her against the orc. "I think perhaps you should work among the Supplicants as you seek out what may be a new path for you to walk." The woman was immensely pleased with herself.

The Lasher was having none of it. "I did be making macaroni art out of dwarf cocks when you did be a calf, 'High Inquisitor.' I do be no Supplicant." He looked at Awatu and spoke forcefully. "As you say, Commander. What do be my rank? If I am to be of any use to the front." Ruuki shruged one shoulder, a wicked smirk on her face as she looked to Awatu. "The decision of course is yours, Commander. I was merely offering my input."

"Um... Dwarf cocks... that sounds fun!" A strange interjection from Somdot earned about as much surprise as Khorvis's usual rants. The bickering evoked a tired but satisfied sense of completion from Baal'themar. The talk of pointless ranks and titles finally bored the elf. "Good to have you back, brother. I'll leave you Grim to talk about... Grim matters." He patted Khorvis's shoulder and gave a brief salute to both the orc and Lilliana. Somdot did his best to reciprocate while Khorvis could only offer a grunted thanks.

Kiannis refused to back down from Ruuki's suggestion. "And I was a man before you were but a twinkle in the eye of your father. Age is of no issue, Khorvis. I suggest you speak to the High Inquisitor with... some respect." The elf had a glint in his eye that hearkened back to their initial duel at the Crossroads, which ended in a special amount of agony for the ranger.

"Your new High Inquisitor keeps a loose leash on her dogs, Commander." Khorvis bluntly ignored the ranger and stared straight at the tauren with a clenched jaw.

Awatu grinned... just slightly. "But a harder pull can have lasting impressions."

"A taste of the Lash did many Supplicants some good. My question still stands. If I am to be of use to the Mandate, what the felsucking Illidari tentacle do be my rank?!"

Supplicant Chumbus pondered the meaning of "Felsucking Illidari Tentacle" while Awatu responded. "That depends. The only rank of consequence to yourself would be that of a Supplicant. You could remain a Harbinger, and it would be as if nothing had happened. But that seems... unjust."

"I vote we shoot him in the knee," Kiannis posited. Ruuki reached out and smacked her subordinate upside his head for that inane suggestion. Whacked, Kiannis tenderly rubbed at his domepiece, looking to his left sullenly. Ruuki gave Kiannis a warning look that spoke volumes before returning her attention to Khorvis. The elf held his tongue, but kept that same unpleasant glare focused upon the orc.

"You appear before us, a sobbing babe, and now you give an Irredeemable colorful language and attitude." Awatu was becoming more incensed than before. "If i were to recall, the -LAST- High Inquisitor to take that abuse would have been much more... outgoing with his punishments."

Gritting his tusks, Khorvis said nothing to the contrary. "I do serve at the pleasure of the Commander..."

"And now you speak of the Lash as if it is some prized relic. I recall the bite of the Lash, that wretched tool that you allowed it to become." Awatu leaned forward, his height becoming a tool of the interrogation. "So, tell me, what good are you to the Mandate if your first orders of subservience is resistance?"

The entire back and forth of the evening brought Khorvis into his element. He relaxed his shoulders, shifting into the familiar rote of the Inquisition. "Supplicants do be taught that they do be nothing before the Mandate. We do be forged as weapons through the Inquisition. I do be a weapon of the Mandate." He held his stance wide, despite the bleeding of a few wounds from the last night's debacle. The blood seeped through his brawler's wraps.

Awatu straightened himself. "Good answer. I do not believe you require remedial training... You are molded into a weapon. But you do require refinement. The Inquisition is a tool for determining who is and is not Grim. I believe you are Grim, therefore you should not be subjected to relearning what you already know. But something is needed..." He pondered for a moment. "Weapons dull and break. You require refinement, sharpening, and repair. You will remain a Harbinger, but you will seek the guidance of our Seers."

Khorvis raised both eyebrows. His eyepatch dropped and revealed his ruined eyepiece. "The Seers?"

"Duskheron, Kharzak, Daxxum, and Kharthak."

Ruuki inclined her head in approval of the decision. Somdot picked up the cigar that Kiannis had given him, with only a few pulls taken from it, and sat next to Lilliana. He lit up.

"Perhaps they can aid you with your... hauntings," Awatu explained. "And once you are able to sleep a full night's rest, I believe your penance will have been served."

"A strange request," Khorvis pondered. "But I do value the wisdom of our Elders."

Awatu looked around, his eyes focusing on distant objects. "You will see."

"As you say, Commander. If it do be necessary for the Mandate, I will even tame the elements!" Khorvis laughed at what he considered a foolish boast, not recognizing the portent in his own words. Awatu did not share such mirth.

At the same moment, another party of Grim came wandering through the courtyard, fresh from the bowels of the Undercity. Kurg and Fanyare, as different from each other as they were both fiercely Grim, approached the Inquisition. Qabian trailed the duo, observing, with Ul'rezaj in tandem. "Heya guys!" blurted out the Sunwalker Kurg. Somdot returned the greeting with a jovial wave. "What up, Brother!" Ruuki scowled at was she now considered fools. Kurg smiled wide at Somdot and popped him in the shoulder. Glancing over at Khorvis, almost unrecognizable without his armaments, and seeing the serious mood, he quieted down. Fanyare only wondered what pit the orc had crawled out of this time.

Khorvis dropped his grin at Awatu's stoic face, remembering how close he came to losing his hide. The Commander continued with an edge of warning in his tone. "This shoulder also help teach you the importance of respect to the Irredeemables and Dreadweavers."

The orc winced. He recalled the events of Tanaan and how he had nearly torn the neck out of that Sunwalker... but he pushed the memory away. Awatu watched Khorvis for a moment, then turned to Ruuki. "What other business does the Inquisition have this evening?"

"I do feel whole again, to be back among my brothers and sisters. I..." The Lasher attempted to salvage his pride, but trailed off as the Grim's guildmaster moved on to other matters. Khorvis felt the dismissal, and it burned. He took his place in the ranks of the assembly alongside a smirking Qabian.

"None else, Commander. Unless the Supplicants have something to add?" Ruuki inspected her charges, but none had any words of importance. "Then this night is sealed to the Mandate."

Awatu nodded his head under the cacophony of "Peace Through Annihilation" that ululated from the throats of the fanatics. Khorvis made in the air the orcish rune for 'peace' as the assembly dispersed. Narrowing his eyes at the orc, Kiannis pressed a fist against his own chest in a casual salute. "It is good of you to return." Khorvis managed to grunt "Dabu, Dreadweaver," through a wall of phlegm. The elf nodded once, and departed through a portal of Qabian's making.

Watching the Inquisitor fade away, Khorvis voiced his annoyance. "I do swear to the spirits, I should have shot out both of that cocky ranger's knees."

"Perhaps the lash would be best turned into a leash, Khorvis." Fanyare goaded the old warrior. "You keep wandering off causing trouble." Khorvis responded with a deep growl, but reined in his temper in front of the Commander.

Awatu was diplomatic. "If we shot the knees from everyone we did not like, the The Grim would be a bunch of cripples." Qabian grinned at this morbid pragmatism, but Ul'rezaj was less metaphorical. "De Grim be on fundamentally good terms wit' each otha, so fah as ahm concerned."

The Commander was in agreement with the troll. "For the most part, but disagreements and squabbles arise at times."

Wasting no time, Khorvis laid out the facts. "I do have two tasks before me. Speak with the Elders. But first, find some fresh bandages." He offered Awatu a respectful salute. "Commander."

Awatu nodded. "Lasher."

The orc once feared as High Inquisitor of The Grim, now demoted to the rank of Harbinger, slapped his hearthstone hard enough for his palm to sting. The way back to the Grim Halls pulled him through, to a home he had just fled and yet had not seen in many months.

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He had never before noticed how very overbearing the cloisters of the Grim Halls felt. The curved ceilings hung so low, pressing down upon Khorvis's spirit like a vice. As the passageways stretched on, they seemed to narrow to a thin crevasse through which he would need to wriggle... then get stuck... wedged in a dark cave...

Khorvis shook his head and dispelled the image. Sucking in a deep, musty breath through his nostrils, he snatched a lit torch from a nearby sconce and marched onward. It was a foolish notion, for the Grim Halls had now been his sanctum for many years. He knew the twisting and multitudinous corridors as well as any - this was a den of allies.

The wing through which habit forced his stride brought the orc before a tall wooden door. A few burn marks were hidden by a new placard of etched brass.

"High Inquisitor Ruuki the Reborn"

Yes, his nightmarish jaunt through the Shadowlands had mirrored something of the truth. Cracking the door open, Khorvis peered inside to confirm that the office of the High Inquisitor was indeed remodeled after the Tauren woman's tastes. The only familiar items were the old bookcase that hid the passage to the tower and the Desk of Resolve. There was no sign of Khorvis's trophies and keepsakes - likely the stewards had absconded with the artifacts to storage in the Lasher's own quarters.

A creaking of leather and a bony rasp upon his calf spun the Harbinger with a start and an un-orcly yelp. Recoiling in fear upon all fours crouched the decaying knight, Edgar Hornridge. The pathetic Forsaken whimpered in the shadow of his Master like a beaten hound edging away from a coiled belt.

Khorvis let out a long exhale, his wits rattled, and held out his hand, palm facing up. "Come, Boneslave." The servant scampered forward, every trace of fear evaporating from his dour face to be replaced by unbound joy.

"Edgar found Master!" exclaimed Boneslave as he licked and slobbered ichor over Khorvis's palm. "Through Shadow-" he gurgled "-and sad months..." A pool of excrement was growing beneath both the orc's outstretched palm and the knight's own rusted boots. Perhaps this reunion had produced far too much excitement within the patchwork heart of Edgar.

"Bah!" cursed Khorvis, and he shook both his hand and boots of slickness. "You mad corpse! Come with me, we do have work to be about." The orc stomped and clomped his way from the wing of the Inquisition, past the arcades of Supplicant quarters and stairways that led to deeper dungeons, through the central Great Hall.

The long banquet tables had been righted and the saloon repaired since that fateful night of battle that had whisked Khorvis away to the Shadowlands. Now the benches sat in orderly rows and the great Arcane Clock that hung from the rafters ticked with masterful precision. Still, he glanced up into the shadows of the massive oaken beams that supported the cathedraled ceiling. Did the voidlings yet lurk, lairing in wait? Was he a careless tick of watchlessness away from another eon of imprisonment?

The pair wasted no time making their way through the Great Hall and down the corridors housing the rank and file proper, arriving at the private quarters of Harbinger Bloodstar. Fumbling through the pockets of his leathers, Khorvis managed to produce an old skeleton key and unlocked the door with a rusty creak.

Aging trophies adorned the walls, each heavy with a thick coat of dust. A tattered banner of the old Horde here. A shattered Lordaeron lance there. What appeared to be a swatch sewn of dwarven scalps. A carefully carved wooden figurine of an orc, bearing the mark of Isadore. The trinkets numbered many, but were dwarfed by a mound of furs piled at the center of the chamber. Buzzing still with flies in the reek of old sweat and drool, Khorvis's bed beckoned with the lure of dreamless slumber to an utterly exhausted orc.

He brushed past the skins restlessly, meandering among all of the possessions that reminded him of his long life. Inextricably he was drawn to the armor stand, upon which hung his darkened platemail. Khorvis ran his fleshy left hand along the armor's hard lines, admiring the craftsmanship of Ruuki. The woman had faithfully reproduced the onslaught armor the Horde had worn in the Outland campaign against the Legion. The spikes bore the aggressive runeplating he remembered from those years, which had served him faithfully in service to Warchief Thrall's new Horde.

Khorvis's hand dropped away, letting one of the leather straps dangle unclasped. The armor now seemed to him as much a relic as that of Edgar's. He had need not worn it within the Shadowlands to have come to his current realization. For this was the third time that his martial strength had failed in the face of an otherwordly foe.

First in the caverns of ice beneath the Lich King's Citadel, trapped for months in a freezing stasis. Again, snared by the lure of the fel, wandering the halls of Acherontia's soul gem. And finally this cowardly flight through the Shadowlands. Ice, fel, and shadow. Each time, more of his comrades were thrust into greater danger.

The chamber rang loudly with the clatter of metal as Khorvis shoved over the armor stand.

"Enough!" the orc howled.

There had to be a better way. A more strategic way to serve the Mandate. He was tired of being taken advantage of by outside forces. Tired of being outsmarted and outflanked. Khorvis had sworn himself, flesh and spirit, to defend the mad project that was the Horde. The Mandate was the weapon to accomplish this feat. He had recruited and trained dozens of Supplicants and Reapers, and yet he was useless to them if he was ensorcelled by the very enemy that they threw themselves against.

"Gather all of our belongings, Boneslave." Khorvis had lowered his hands from his face. He stared as his fists unclenched, one of green flesh, the other a simulacrum in gears and titansteel.

"These Halls do be too constricting. We must seek out the Elders as the Commander did order."

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