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Ninorra

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Ninorra did not like running.

The warlock was built for few things that involved physical exertion. Her limbs were short and thick, used to walking or riding more than running, and her robes were too cumbersome to make the effort easy. They flailed about her as she pumped her limbs, sweat glistening on her skin despite Everson’s temperate weather. How did it get to this?

She had been walking with Steinburg, recently returned from his time in Undercity. He shared the story of what happened to him there, a tale both of sadness and woe that showed itself in the way he spoke and moved; the once cheerful Forsaken, who long ago learned to ‘live’ with his new existence by working with Sanctuary as their official banker and record keeper, had gone to the Undercity recently to help a budding new government created in the Dark Lady’s absence. He sent Ninorra letters, sometimes, sharing what happened. He seemed proud of the work he did, proud of the men and women he worked with. However only a day ago, Steinburg returned to her home in Eversong a shadow of his former self. The once tidy Forsaken wore the tattered robes of a prisoner, and his hair, once so carefully taken care of, lay in limp strands over his face.

He explained to Ninorra the situation, that anyone showing dissent in Undercity were “disappearing”. He considered leaving many times, but it wasn’t until Catalinetta saw him that he realized the time for his departure had come. A portal to Silvermoon was all it took, something he considered fortunate. The elves of Quel’thalas would never allow Sylvanas’ dark rangers to follow him there.

Would they?

Ninorra assured him that no, the Sin’dorei were a proud people. Loyal to the Warchief of course, but, the Regent Lord Lor'themar Theron would never allow her to—

“Going somewhere, are we?” a deep voice said from the shadows.

It was not a familiar voice. The scratchy hollow echo was similar to Steinburg’s, but it did not share the warm quality that he spoke with, in spite of his sorrow.

Turning toward the voice, Ninorra gripped the scythe in her right hand. It was a monstrous weapon, known for stealing the souls of her victims and recycling them. Today it had a dark red glow, matching the red and black robes she had decided on that morning. Her own red eyes cast a faint color across her face, which was strangely relaxed.

Steinburg took a step back.

“Who are you?” Ninorra asked calmly. “If my friend and I have traipsed on private property, we do apologize. My own home is not far from here.”

Of course, she knew that this part of the Eversong Woods was public property, a jurisdiction of Quel’thalas and under Silvermoon’s protection.

Hoof beats signaled an approaching rider, but what came forward were three faces Ninorra did not entirely recognize. Two male Forsaken and one female, who, she could see, was a master of the fel arts not unlike herself. “The Warchief has requested that we apprehend this employee of the Desolate Council,” said the lead rider, a sword at his hip. Each wore a tabard of black and white.

Steinburg grabbed Ninorra’s arm. “Infection,” he whispered to her. “Go, Lady. They only want me.”

Ninorra frowned at the idea. Steinburg was her friend, after all. He helped raised Damian, he cared for her home while she and Vicailde were gone, and he never asked for much in return. “I am afraid that will not be happening,” she said boldly, red eyes flashing a little brighter for a moment. “Mister Steinburg is under my protection.”

The Forsaken sneered terribly. “And why should that matter?”

“Because I am Lady Ninorra Bloodstone,” she answered flippantly. “And my friend has committed no crimes. Our people do not simply allow strangers to walk in our land and take our friends without a damn good reason.”

“The reason is that our Warchief wills it,” the lead rider said without a smile, approaching them on his skeletal horse. “And what our Warchief wills shall be done. Now. Hand over that wretch or you will also find yourself in an unpleasant situation.”

Ninorra frowned deeply, her dark lipstick covered mouth turned downwards. “You cannot command me on this land. This is Quel’thalas. Not Undercity.”

“This is Horde territory,” he muttered, sliding off of the horse. Drawing his sword, the Forsaken approached Ninorra and pointed it in her direction. He didn’t seem to have the patience or the desire to argue with her. “All of it.”

A sudden explosion behind the other two Forsaken startled Ninorra, who turned to look at Steinburg. He was not a great mage, but in a panic he managed to conjure a big enough fireball to startle the skeletal horses of his antagonists. The one with the sword turned to snarl at his companions, who nearly fell off of their mounts.

Steinburg didn’t mince words. “Run!!”

Grabbing her wrist, the Forsaken made for the trees. He was faster than she would have imagined, but his plan was flawed. How could they outrun riders? Obviously, she could not.

“Steinburg, what are you—“

“I will make a portal!” He shouted, running into a copse of trees. “You have to hold them off!”

Of course, now this was a plan that made sense. However, if he made a portal, where would it go? If Sylvanas truly had a strangle hold on all Horde territory, where could they escape? Allowing Steinburg to work with panicked hands, Ninorra turned toward their adversaries and immediately began casting curses. They would work well against Forsaken, whose flesh was already rotting and corrupt. Unfortunately, she could only cast one at a time, and with all three of them approaching, she had no time to summon a demon to aid her.

“Hurry, Steinburg!” She shouted.

The first blast hit her squarely in the gut, a chaos bolt that rattled and sent blazing pain throughout her limbs. She returned the favor with a fresh bout of agony, and followed it by draining the life from her target. Forsaken may have had rotting bodies, but leeching from their soul could heal her for a time, and she only needed enough time to—

“Lady!”

Steinburg was shouting, the portal was finished. Waving her over, she released the soul drain and ran toward Steinburg's creation.

“Don’t look back, Ninorra,” the Forsaken said hurredly, grabbing her arm to shove her through the portal. It was then that another chaos bolt hit him in the back, sending him reeling to the ground.

“Steinburg!” She shouted, slamming the butt of her scythe to the ground to cast corruption at each of these attackers, each of these creatures that would dare harm her friend.

They each seemed, under their armor, to writhe a bit. But what were Forsaken if not accustomed to pain and the reality of their undeath? They would keep moving until there was nothing left. The warrior who spoke before closed the gap between himself and the elf, and without a moments hesitation plunged his blade into Ninorra’s abdomen. She could hardly believe that she had let this happen, and even as shock set in and her limbs froze, she thought to herself how very silly she had been.

Is this how it ends? She asked herself, falling backwards through the portal.

Instantly, she found herself somewhere dark and warm, lying on her back. Pain radiated from the wound in her belly, a throbbing numbness that ached with each beat of her heart. Her back was wet, her clothes slowly soaking. That she was bleeding to death was obvious, and whatever place she was in seemed like the perfect place for it. The sound of gentle flowing water was nearby, and the rustling of robes. She heard voices somewhere, deep and concerned.

A second later, the portal closed. Where was Steinburg? She couldn’t make sense of it, this rush of events. It was too quick and too well executed. Three Forsaken against one elf, who, regardless of any importance she might have imagined for herself, could not defend her friend against them. What a failure. She pictured Qabian somewhere, laughing at her.

Then the world went dark.

Edited by Ninorra
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Birgitte blinked her glowing yellow eyes as she looked down at the unconscious woman in the water. It happened on occasion that someone came through a portal in a state of distress, but it wasn't so frequent that she was unsurprised. She waved an arm at the Forsaken men standing around. "What do you think, Father?" Birgitte asked.

"We clearly have to get her out of the water," Father Cobb said as he stepped into the shallow pool, soaking his robes. He held out a glowing hand as he tried to staunch the stranger's immediate bleeding.

"I don't think I can lift her," Birgitte said, looking around at the others. They each shrugged in turn. "I'm sure we could drag her out of there together, but maybe better run and fetch one of the Tauren."

Sokanon was standing just up the slope from the Pools of Vision, near the Festival Fire, dragging a freshly made stretcher behind her. When a walking corpse accosted her, waving his hands frantically and asking for help, through her shock she managed, "Of course, of course, show me where." While her instinct was to provide aid where it was needed, Thunder Bluff was not her city. In fact, she had only left Highmountain for the first time a few weeks ago. She had only headed up onto the Bluff at all because the animal she had been attempting to tame nearby was injured, and she needed a stretcher if she was going to move it to safety before it was attacked by predators. 

She had seen enough of the Horde between Highmountain and Orgrimmar to know that the Forsaken were a thing, and generally they were helpful, but she hadn't interacted with them personally and she found them disconcerting. The dead were to be spoken with as spirits, not as bodies. It was only as she was led into the darkness of the cave that she hesitated, suddenly wary that perhaps she should have questioned the dead man's honesty, but when she saw the commotion around the pool at the back of the cave, Sokanon nodded, determined to help.

None of the Forsaken seemed to want to touch the injured woman, and Sokanon wasn't sure why. Had they seen something that made them hesitate? Was it something about the woman herself? They didn't particularly seem to want to share either when she asked. Sokanon herself wasn't the type to rest on etiquette and with a nod from Father Cobb and the help of a Bluffwatcher, they placed the woman immediately onto her stretcher -- one designed to be dragged alone, but easily carried with help. 

They moved Ninorra quickly and carefully up to the warmth and air of Spirit Rise, followed by the priests and joined by Tauren healers from around the Rise. When Ninorra was laid still and while she was being tended, Sokanon knelt next to the elf woman and went through her red and black robes, looking for anything that might identify her. Sokanon found only a tube of paint and a handful of small stones, most of which were green and gave off a dull glow that made the Tauren uncomfortable, but one of which was white with a symbol. 

She frowned as she examined the stones, then as she was about to return them to the woman, the white one made a sound? It was speaking? She acknowledged she'd led a sheltered life, but each new form of magic she encountered was stranger than the last. She paused, staring at the thing, waiting for it to speak again. When it remained silent, she spoke to it in turn. "He-hello?"

Edited by Qabian
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Keraph Xalascent shook the blood from his blade as the portal before him closed. The elf had escaped, albeit with a mortal wound, but she was not the target of the operation and her life, whether it persisted or ended shortly in miserable pain, was inconsequential. The Warlord of Infection turned his attention to his party's prey, pressing a plated boot on the rogue Forsaken's back to keep him in place while he silently gestured for one of the other Forsaken to approach.

"Resistance only heightens the charges against you, Mister Steinburg. Charges that include treason, aiding and abetting a subversive organization, and of course heresy against the Dark Lady." To punctuate the final remark, he presses his boot harder against the mage's back, pinning him helplessly to the ground. "And now, attacking loyal agents of the Queen. Of the Warchief. You understand of course the severity of such crimes." His voice was dry, hollow, lacking even mockery in his tone. There was an irony here to those learned in the history of Infection, who had themselves been put to the axe in the face of treasonous charges levied by Hellscream's Kor'kron Overwatch following a string of suspicious murders in the Undercity. Few understood the penalties of opposing the Warchief more than Keraph, or rather more than the less-than-worthy Forsaken under his command who the Warlord had seen executed in an attempt to appease the fragile ego of Garrosh Hellscream. It was a necessary price to pay to ensure the survival of Infection's elite, a price paid without hesitation so that the Dark Lady's will could continue to be carried out by those most loyal to Her. Now the tables had turned, and despite all of their prior experiences Keraph had risen gladly to execute the same methods to suppress and silence those who would act against His own Warchief.

Silently, the hooded Forsaken who Keraph had summoned to his side approached. She whispered something to him in a sparse, gravelly voice. He nods to her, plunging his blade into the ground next to Steinburg's face so that he gets a clear view of the blood running down it. "Bind him. Tightly." A whispered word, and shackles of holy energy wrapped around Steinburg's body and seared his decaying flesh. The priestess did not flinch as she quietly channeled the Light through herself and into the prisoner, and perhaps in a gesture of irony she directed the chains to cover and burn Steinburg's mouth, leaving him as silent as she.

A portal was soon opened, leading back to the dark catacombs of the Undercity, and Warlord Xalascent wordlessly guided his flock home, prisoner in tow. 

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The portal opened into a dark room where three chairs lay waiting and nothing more. Steinburg crumples to the floor, writhing under the effects of the priestess' shackles. She moves silently around the room before gesturing to one of the chairs, expecting Steinburg to seat himself. When he doesn't move she flicks her hand and throws him into the chair in front of her. The Warlord stands in the corner, arms folded, waiting to see what she does next. 

A few moments pass, the only sound a slight plop of a droplet of water hitting the stone floor of the room. The Warlord narrows his eyes at her, "Get on with it." 

Her head snaps up as she turns to look behind her at the Warlord. A whisper comes from her and those unaccustomed to listening for her voice would miss it entirely. "You've done your job, let me do mine." The Warlord glares at her and she quickly looks to the ground submissively. "I promise: You will get what you want." 

The Warlord ignores her, moving quickly to stand behind Steinburg. He looks up at the priestess as he whispers in Steinburg's ear, "If I wanted you to talk, you'd talk. But I don't have time to waste on you." Another quick movement brings him to the backside of the priestess, his lip curling slightly as he looks at Steinburg. "Fortunately, I have someone who does..." He directs his attention back to her. "I said, get on with it." Her head bows before her whispered response, "Your will be done." But he had already left the room, the door slamming shut, locking her in with Steinburg. 

Steinburg leans forward, muffled cries as he tries to plead with her. She ignores him and turns and cracks her knuckles. Steinburg cranes his head, trying to get a look at her, trying to catch her eyes, anything so he can try to convince her to let him get away. A scream erupts in his head and he howls out in response. His shrieking eventually dies down as her's does, but he doesn't dare look back up at her. Eventually, a noise brings his attention upwards and he sees her dragging the second chair across the room. She sits down in front of him, looking at his face, trying to catch his eye. He cringes in response and, looking away, notes that something isn't quite right about her. Something about her presence is extra unsettling as he becomes even more aware of his status of being undead. "Fast learner," she whispers out gleefully. Or was that whisper actually in his head? He couldn't tell. Her hand reaches out, a faint aura of gold around her skin and he tries to pull away. A blue shield snaps up around her as she grabs his hand and his muffled wails echo out once more.  
 

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All at once she found herself floating again. This time, the waters were cool and chilly, the cold seeped into her skin and bones and blood in a way that felt unnatural. No warm hands pulled her to a soft embrace, but icy pinpricks on her flesh carried Ninorra into darkness. Opening her mouth, she found that her voice was gone. She could not call for help, and try as she might. No breath entered her lungs. The blackness that enveloped her senses was thick and weighty, like molasses over her eyelids  creeping into her mouth with the sweetness of silence. 

But silence was a nightmare, and the warlock struggled. Red hot pain spread from an ache in her side, a searing tear in her being that she yearned to reach for but couldn't touch. Her limbs were too heavy, and even the act of moving a finger was fruitless. She was limp, floating in a dark sea of hollow voices and emptiness. Somewhere in her mind, she searched for an escape. Surely there must be a way to pull herself out, to reach for the sun even as the night pulled at her toes and ankles, threatening to drag her silently screaming into abyss. A nothingness. A void. 

But where was the silence of the dark, now? Whispers tickled her heels, the tip of her nose. Like ants, they crawled up the length of her ebon hairs, each one carrying a tiny fraction of information. Each one asking to move past the oily scalp, to burrow into her skull and fill her brain with knowledge. It would be so easy, she thought, to let them in.

No.

Her mouth made the movement. Progress, she thought, as the whispers itched at her face, antennae tickling delicate earlobes.

No.

She did it again, and her voice was almost there. A whisper among chattering, hoarse and uncomfortable, thin as silk thread yet unbreakable. Real.

No!

The whispers were loud and angry, and now they dug at her flesh from the inside, crawling within her veins, eating at her as they spoke words of wisdom and creation. Her voice was insignificant but theirs were intimate, infinite, incredible.

"No!"

A flash of dawn, and the face of an elf. Two red eyes looked up to see the face of a friend, no, two friends, and the light of a place that felt safe. No more itchiness, only the healing Light. 

It only lasted a moment, and she was asleep again.

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