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  1. Today
  2. Mardalius' Logbook

    Week Three, Day One: Returned to field. Ninety-eight demons slain. Week Three, Day Two: Provided portal services to mobilize the Army of the Light to regions needing reinforcements. Week Three, Day Three: Rest day, recovering from maintaining portals. Week Three, Day Four: Patrolled Krokun region. Seventy-four demons slain. Week Three, Day Five: Day spent retrieving herbs native to Argus. Evening spent studying herbs and effect of long term fel exposure. Week Three, Day Six: Assisted with opening portals to Dalaran to bring fresh troops and supplies to Argus. Week Three, Day Seven: Tested several new alchemical mixtures with Argus and Azerothian herbs. Results inconclusive.
  3. Yesterday
  4. [ H ] Sanctuary

    Sanctuary and friends are 9/9 N ToS and 4/9 H ToS with more to come. We have two raid nights a week, with one focused on progression and the other on alts or prior expansion raids. In addition, many members run Mythic+ groups and other in-game activities. Meanwhile, there continues to be RP every day on Discord. Speak to any member or an officer if you're interested in joining!
  5. Last week
  6. Writing Contest: Race Bending

    Thank you for running this! Love prompts so much.
  7. Writing Contest: Race Bending

    Oof, I've been meaning to go back and read everyone's posts at some point.
  8. Writing Contest: Race Bending

    Oh hey, what a pleasant surprise! Thank you!
  9. Writing Contest: Race Bending

    Woo! Sorry for the late announcement, but here are your winners! 1st Place: Fhenrir 2nd Place: Qabian 3rd Place: Brinnea Congratulations! You will be getting your prize gold in the mail. Thanks to everyone for writing!!
  10. Earlier
  11. Time Shattered

    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.
  12. This Time with Feeling

    “Snake-suckin’ son of a - “ Tirien whispers in a harsh tone as his lock-pick snaps. A magnificent rug runs the length of the hallway and does little to muffle the plated footfalls approaching the corner. His hands shake from the rising adrenaline as he pulls out another lock-pick. One, two, ignore the third tumbler, half on the fourth and… Click. Tirien sweeps into the room as a duo of Silvermoon guards walk past the hallway, none the wiser to the Human who finds himself in the heart of the Sin'dorei capitol. A soft metallic grind whines from the door handle as Tirien gently eases off the pressure. It quietly locks shut and he takes what feels like his first breath in years. He even has a moment to appreciate the fine quality of the door and the various avian engravings carved into --- “You have five seconds to either leave or explain yourself before I adorn my door with your corpse.” A Sin’dorei Magistrate, short and lithe and in comfortable robes as red as the sunset, announces in a shrill, commanding, and distinctly feminine voice. Tirien turns, only to stare down the length of a sword wreathed in magical fire and then to the Sin'dorei holding it. If the situation were any different, he has a mind to ask this fiery lady what her favorite drink is and what she’d like for breakfast. Slowly, hands raising, Tirien burns the first three seconds of his allotted time in this fantasy and stands. “Answerin’ yer newspaper add,” Tirien drawls, “about needin’ a Sneak.” The lie is obvious and the Magistrate looks at him like he’s an idiot. Why is she here, though? He wonders this as the Magistrate's contempt tightens her face about as much as her hair in that bun. Her schedule says she should be at --- Time-zones. Tirien forgot to calculate the timezone difference between Silvermoon and Dalaran and groans with a roll of his eyes. If he could smack his forehead, he would, though the Magistrate and her blade seem happy to oblige his wish. His meeting with the other Elf, Ardyan, replays in his mind as the flames licking the Magistrate's blade intensify. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- “Mister Forewell?” Ardyan guesses as he approaches the back corner of the Legerdemain Lounge. Seeing as no other Human appears to be here, the gentleman sitting near the bookshelf would then be his contact. Human, born in Westfall, resides in Stormwind, dependable, reliable… All are things that summarize the man who now stands from his seat to offer a friendly hand to shake, as is custom for his kind. Ardyan flicks his eyes up from the extended glove to Tirien’s face and notes the wide, friendly smile the dossier on him warns about. Tirien is, as expected, armored in leathers of dark reds and golds with his identity completely hidden. Excellent. The color scheme in Silvermoon allows for nothing else if one wishes to sneak in. The glint of a dagger’s pommel shines from under the cloak and is something Ardyan keeps note of as he shakes the man’s hand. “Yep. I’m assumin’ yer th’ Ardyan that Siane mentioned?” Tirien looks the Elf up and down and appreciates his smooth and clean taste in clothes. Others of his race tend to be more… flamboyant. The Elf has a sturdy shake too, which gets a tiny nod of respect. At this point, most folks would’ve given away a hint at what’s on their mind but with Ardyan, Tirien suspects the Elf knows this game well enough to hide it. Siane, it seems, has friends in high places seeing as how it’s through Ardyan he’ll be able to perform as she asks and retrieve some files from Silvermoon. “Indeed.” Ardyan makes a lovely smile, Tirien thinks, and distracts him as the Elf retrieves an envelope from his robe. “In here you will find Magistrate Flamewind’s schedule and office location. This should suffice, as anything further would have too great a chance to implicate - “ “Yeah, yeah. It’s more’n enough.” Tirien snatches the envelope from Ardyan’s hand, interrupting the Elf. It gives Tirien a glimpse at something that might get past the Elf’s supreme composure with how it made his eye twitch a little. On any other Elf it would come off as snobbish, but Ardyan somehow makes it cute. “Good. Then our business is concluded.” Ardyan makes a customary bow before departing from the Cafe. Tirien takes a moment and appreciates the Elf’s other ‘assets’ as well as he watches him leave. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Magistrate Flamewind’s incantation snaps his attention out of the reverie. Tirien ducks the oncoming firebolt and rolls to take cover behind a lounge chair. Another firebolt soars overhead, leaving scorch marks on the alabaster painted wall. Flamewind makes a frustrated huff as she waits for Tirien to move. The chair is, after all, her favorite furniture piece to nap on. “Hey now, settle down.” Tirien shuffles to the higher end of the lounge chair. Like it, the room boasts the haughty supremity that is Sin’dorei decor. The modest size of the office is hidden in swaths of red fabric, gaudy portraiture, and bookshelves filled with elegant tomes and scrolls. Tirien awkwardly scoots the lounge chair with him, scratching the floor as he does. The Magistrate enrages. “Do NOT!” She side steps his path, thrusting her hand out to trap Tirien’s feet in a spell of ice. He rolls over the chair in time to dodge. Tirien burns through his precious time as fast as she burns her office space. Incanting another spell, her hand conjures a crystal. It thrums with soft magic and lights up as she begins to speak into it. The crystal hits the floor when a desperate knife, thrown on reflex, sinks into her forearm. Tirien’s face pales seeing his aim for the crystal was off. His record of a clean infiltration goes up in smoke. All bets are off. Terse shouting comes in through the open windows along the breeze. The Magistrate regains her composure and conjures fire under his feet. A column of it sends him up high to the ceiling and sets his cloak ablaze. Perfect. When the cloak lands, two more firebolts pierce the hide, though Tirien is nowhere to be seen. She regains her composure, twisting her eyes to find the man. “Sorry darlin’.” Tirien cups her mouth with a chemical-laced cloth. The Magistrate loses consciousness and slumps in his arms. Using that is something he hates, even as a last resort, but at least she’ll wake up on her lounge chair. Making sure she’s comfortable, Tirien looks to the desk. Heavy footfalls pound closer to the door. Scrambling, Tirien jumps up to get a hold onto a book case. With a heave, he topples the thing in front of the door then gets back to the task at hand. While the guards struggle with the lock, Tirien rummages through the top-most drawers. Magistrate Flamewind, it seems, isn’t as orderly with her private affairs. The drawers are an utter mess, as are the filing cabinets nearby. “How th’ shit can she find anythin’? Gotta be a system here…” He paces around the desk, scanning it and this half of the office to get an idea for how she works. Brinnea’s capture and movement is likely secret, so, keeping documents on that wouldn’t be kept in such an obvious...Wait. Next to Magistrate Flamewind snoozing on the lounge chair is a petite end table with a small letter drawer on the underside. Tirien dashes to it and finds that it’s locked. Feeling under the table for the key, his search yields nothing. As his mind races, he spares a glance to the Magistrate and her robes. Aside her waist are pockets and suddenly his morals are placed in jeopardy. He has to find that key. Surely the Magistrate wouldn’t mind his hands carefully slipping into her pockets, he reasons. “Damn, if Mema caught me doin’ this…Light rest ‘er soul,” He mutters. The outer one, like the table, yields nothing and as he reaches around to search the other, a guardsmen clears his throat at the door. With only the upper half of the guard’s face showing over the fallen bookcase, Tirien remembers that the door swings out, not in. The key falls into his hand as the bookcase crashes down. It sends scrolls and journals scattering over the scarlet and gold rug and buys Tirien a few seconds to open the tiny drawer. Within is a letter bearing the wax seal he’s looking for. That letter has Brinnea’s location in it as well as Tirien’s paych - “I’m doin’ this fer free…” Tirien reminds himself as he draws in a breath. All this trouble for a trusted friend. When the guards close in, he pulls out a smoke bomb. It’s amazing, to him, at how such a small thing will save his blundering ass. The guards cough and sputter as they scour the room, though only a breeze and a groggy Magistrate remain after the wind filters out the smoke.
  13. Mardalius' Logbook

    Week Two, Day One: Warband assisted the Army of the Light in freeing slaves. I provided a distraction and cover. Forty three lesser demons, one eredar slain. Week Two, Day Two: Took a shift maintaining portals for the Army of the Light. Ate extra rations to make up lost energy. Week Two, Day Three: Day of rest after maintaining portals. Spent assisting in the infirmary, fetching clean water, bandages, etc. Week Two, Day Four: Returned to field with my grandfather, Brudicus. Joined a sortie against Legion forces. Took minor injuries fighting a fel reaver. Sixty eight lesser demons, one fel reaver slain. Week Two, Day Five: Physical rest, per doctor's orders. Spent day assisting an alchemist with making restorative draughts. Week Two, Day Six: Took a shift in the infirmary, feeding the injured. Held one man's hand as he succumbed to his wounds. Rest of day spent in prayer. Week Two, Day Seven: Sword training with Army of the Light. Learned a new and effective technique for killing felhounds when outnumbered.
  14. Time Shattered

    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.
  15. Time Shattered

    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.
  16. Spelling Trouble

    A message arrived for Damian by the usual means by which Qabian arranged their lessons. Young Master Bloodstone, No doubt you have considered that your response to my last lesson has severely disappointed me, as it has indeed. However, I have also considered that perhaps my lack of experience as an instructor had me approach the lesson with a less than optimal methodology. Perhaps there are other ways I can impart the message with more success. We should meet, if not for further instruction, at least to discuss how or if we shall move forward. Your parents may accompany you if you wish, but I urge you to make that decision on your own, and not merely because one or the other may insist upon it, given the circumstances. ~Magister Qabian (there is a scratched out A here) Grimfire A day after the letter was sent, Damian arrived at the Ledgermain. He was once again wearing his apprentice clothes and the same satchel slung over one shoulder. He had a calm expression and stood opposite of Qabian to bow his head obediently. "Sir." Qabian smiled, and it was almost genuine. Almost. He motioned for the boy to sit in the nearest chair. "I wasn't certain you would be allowed," Qabian said, the smile twisting immediately into his usual unpleasant grin. "My mother said that I learned a lesson. The Commander didn't like that I was training with you, but since I have my parents' permission, it didn't really matter." He sat down opposite of the magister and folded both hands on the table. Qabian sat across from the boy and mirrored his folded hands. "The Commander? What Commander?" "Commander Julilee of Sanctuary," Damian answered easily. Qabian raised an eyebrow for a moment, then nodded. "Ah. You took the human to them and needed to give an explanation? How is the man, by the way?" "He's fine. He was really confused. I think he thought you chose him for some specific reason, but, I didn't know if that was true." He shrugged. "I just didn't think it would be very interesting or creative to pick the two choices you gave me, especially when you brought me down there to break rules in the first place." Qabian lifted one of his folded hands to his chin. "Is that what you thought I was doing? Have you considered other possibilities?" "Yes," Damian said quickly. "You may have just wanted me to kill someone. Or to see me fail. I think you're entertained by the idea of making me into a murderer." "Ah, it was the first of those," Qabian confirmed. "I never for a moment thought you would fail, but there are good reasons for a mage to be comfortable with murder. How many innocents do you think Khadgar has had to kill to get where he is, hm?" "I don't mind killing, sir," Damian said with a shrug. "I know I'll have to. My mother and father do, because it's an important need for the Horde. But it would have been too easy to just take one of your choices. If I'm going to kill someone, I want it to be for a better reason." Qabian nodded, seeming to calmly accept the boy's explanation. "You are correct that simply following my instruction would not have showed any creativity, and while I was not attempting to impart that, neither is the goal of any of... this," Qabian waved a hand, "to create a mindlessly obedient thrall. So be it. You made your decision, and you made it thoughtfully. You did what you believed was best and learned from it what you could. That certainly has its merits. "My original thought," the mage continued, "had been to start the process of becoming accustomed to murder with the easiest of targets, one that cannot move, cannot fight back, but is large enough and mindful enough to require at least a little effort on your part, and one that would mean you need to consider what you have done after the lesson is over. However, I did not consider how the source of the target might influence your actions. I did have a reason for selecting that man, but I doubt it is one he would have understood even if he knew it. You may want to avoid meeting him again in the future." Damian cocked his head to one side. He seemed rather curious, now. "Why?" Qabian smiled again, but there wasn't anything genuine about it this time. "I'm sure you will be fine. After all, you are his savior. But I'm quite certain his first priority will be to convince you to lead him to me." "What, for revenge?" The boy asked with a raised eyebrow. "Did you do something else to him?" "I have done nothing to him. Directly." Qabian grinned horribly. "Just as he has done nothing to me. Directly. An eye for an eye is always entertaining. But if you do bring him to me, I don't think he'll come out of it well, and better he lives for a long, long time, don't you think?" Again, Damian shrugged. "I guess. I don't really care either way. I was just trying to make things interesting." "You've certainly succeeded in doing that for the human, at least." Qabian mirrored the boy's shrug. "Back to the truly relevant, I believe I've already asked this, but it seems the time has come to ask you again before I charge ahead with more possibly misguided plans, is there anything particular you want me to teach you or teach you about?" "Yes," Damian answered quickly, sitting up straighter. "I want to know how to create larger and more powerful explosions. My fire making skills are limited. I wouldn't have been able to incinerate that human if I wanted to, and I'd like to fix that." Qabian looked the boy up and down, considering thoughtfully. "There are endless texts of ever increasing complexity that will help with this goal, and I will send you a few more, but of course, that will not be quick and understanding theory only goes so far without the reflexes honed beneath it. The most effective process will be practice, hundreds of hours of practice, under guidance to correct errors, of course. That can be done to a degree with target dummies, and you and I will spend some time doing that as well, but it is tedious at best. I am thinking we should start to travel. Your mother may accompany us, as she deems it necessary. What do you think?" Damian frowned a little. "..she would agree to that, but.. are you two going to have a problem getting along? I don't want there being any kind of.. issues," he said with a twist in his mouth. "I know you two don't see each other as friends." Qabian smirked. "Is that so? I was under the impression she did think I was a friend, or at least... an amiable acquaintance, enough not to interfere with her son's interaction with me." He shrugged. "For my own part, I have no friends, none whatsoever, and that is the best and perhaps only way to approach the world effectively, so in that sense, your mother is no different than anyone else. It's true that most of the people I work with regularly have not assaulted me the way your mother has, but some of them have." He lifted a hand to his cropped ear. "And we work together nonetheless, even quite well at times. I certainly have no intention of putting your mother in harm's way, and I expect she will not interfere with us unless she suspects you are in direct danger, which we will of course do our best to avoid. That being said, your mother and I have little in common, and a great deal in conflict, which is why I have been reticent to accept her rules. Do you believe overcoming that for the sake of your education will be too difficult?" "I don't," he answered calmly, then paused. "..my mother assaulted you?" Qabian nodded, resting his elbows on the table and steepling his fingers. "Mm. It was many years ago. Before you were born. Perhaps she was even pregnant with you at the time. I have no idea. I'm not sure that she ever had the intent to harm me. She was not a member of Sanctuary then, though your father was. She was... affected by something, and even if she hadn't been, it's unlikely she understood just how much damage her actions caused. In the end, what she did was severe enough that her intent was irrelevant. I cut off all contact with her at that time. Until quite recently, actually." Damian pursed his lips in thought, processing the information and carefully storing it away. "My mother can do things with the fel that are a lot more powerful than I've read about other warlocks doing, but it comes with a price. I didn't want to do what she did. My father doesn't like the limitations of the Light either, but he can fight better than anyone. I want to be able to use both disciplines. I want to be a battle mage." "Yes. Your mother was not the only warlock with horrifyingly unpleasant powers that decided to take them out on me for unfathomable reasons. But it was also ultimately warlocks that repaired the damage they did. That's how warlocks work, always fighting fire only with fire and never with ice, always so indirect in their tactics." Qabian shifted his position in his chair, leaning forward. "If you truly wish to be a battlemage, then you will need to kill and kill often. I'm sure you understand that, but you must also understand that many innocents will die at your hands, whether or not that is your intent. You can attempt to let some sort of morality guide your overall actions, but you will eventually need to overcome your status as a murderer before it breaks you. In this line of work, collateral damage is unavoidable. However, perhaps it can be avoided for today. If there's one thing you have available to you, it is time, hm?" "For now," Damian agreed, studying Qabian's face. "I have time to figure it out. Killing doesn't bother me. Both if my parents do it. Sanctuary does it. I just want to do it for a reason, because I know that every action has a reaction, and if I'm going to take action I want to reduce the amount of harmful reactions." "That's life. Life is nothing but harmful reactions. If you play it right, yours are stronger." Qabian grinned briefly, then put a hand to his chin, thoughtful again. "Do you have a reason now? Why do you want to fight? Why do you want to be a battlemage?" "I want to have the strength to defend myself in more ways than one," Damian explained carefully. "I want to use a sword like my father, but I want to be as skilled and knowledgeable of the arcane as possible, too. I want power, in both my mind and in my hands." "Self-improvement is the only goal worth having," Qabian said with a tone of agreement. "Minimizing backlash while seeking that goal is sensible, but sometimes the backlash is itself the greatest training you could ask for." The mage smirked. "Perhaps you will find, as I did, that once you have enough control over magic, the sword is useless to you. However, that doesn't stop me from practicing with the foil for simple relaxation and entertainment," he mused idly, looking off into the middle distance with a bemused smile for a moment before returning his attention to the boy before him. "Is there somewhere you would particularly like to go first?" Damian's red eyes drifted toward the ceiling as he considered the question. He seemed to have a strong grasp of how dangerous the situation could become if he chose poorly and took his time before selecting. "..yes," he said finally, turning his gaze back to Qabian. "I want to go to Suramar. I've heard of the Shal'dorei who let their city fall into the hands of the Legion, and terrorize those who don't agree. They should be punished." Qabian smoothly sat up straighter when the boy said the city's name. The mage's expression brightened with real interest, and he seemed significantly, if briefly, impressed by the boy's choice. But as Damian explained why he wanted to go there, Qabian couldn't help but slide back into his chair, chuckling and shaking his head. "The Shal'dorei. Oh, young master. It seems you have no idea what they are to us, to our people. I'm happy to take you there, and even to help you punish them if you so desire, but they are so much more than you apparently understand. Has someone told you stories of the present without the past?" "I read about them. I understand their significance, and their history. But," Damian frowned a little deeper. "To think that the Legion would actually make a deal with them that wouldn't backfire.. that's stupid. It not only backfired, but it cost them thousands of lives." "You are not wrong, especially in the knowledge that deals with the Legion never end well," Qabian responded, leaning back as he comfortably expanded on his own thoughts, giving the closest thing to a sermon someone like him is capable of doing. "But the Shal'dorei knew that very well. They have been unable to forget that for ten thousand years. In the case of the Shal'dorei, their deal was not one of lust for power, but one of meager survival, of anything being better than utter extinction. They lost thousands of lives, yes, but that was the price they were willing to pay for the continued existence, in any form at all, of thousands more. "We made a very similar deal once, our people. It's why most of our eyes are fel-touched, rather than arcane pure. And truly, they are us. They are those of us who never had to separate from idiots who refused to use magic. They would have lived alongside us under the sun, drawing on the Sunwell, had they not been trapped by the flow of tides and the splitting earth, had they not lost the skies entirely. They are those of us who were abandoned to the best protections they could devise, as we were once. Ten thousand years, doing the same things we did, studying the same magic we studied, drawing from the same ley lines we drew from, but while we could walk all of this world any time we wished to leave our protections, they were trapped forever in a single skyless city. "And it is important to note, neither the Legion nor the leadership of the Shal'dorei that were willing to make the deal to survive have succeeded, just as the Legion never succeeded in taking us, despite Kael'thas' errors. The Shal'dorei's eyes are not green, not yet. Thanks to the help of their brothers who have spent the last ten thousand years under the sun, their brothers who were decimated by the error of sharing magic with humans, thanks to our help, the Shal'dorei remain arcane pure. They are the version of us that did not make our mistakes. They are the version of us that we have rescued from following in our broken footsteps." Qabian gave the boy a very strange look. There was something serene in his usually arrogant expression. He followed the strange look with a strange question. "Have you ever prayed?" Damian blinked at the question. It seemed to come from nowhere, and he appeared to have trouble considering it fully. "I.. no," he answered honestly, shaking his head. "My father.. he isn't religious. He's not that sort of paladin, and I don't think he ever wanted to be. My mother.. well, no. No, I've never prayed. Why?" Qabian smiled and it was honest and real. That in itself was strange bordering on disturbing. Something about this subject matter shifted the mage's mental space entirely. "That's surprisingly refreshing about your parents. I'm sure you can gather that I'm rather similar. Piety has never mattered and never will matter to me. But there was a time, when Kael'thas was still alive but everything had gone wrong for our people, when almost everyone I knew was dead, a time when I was losing my grip on my self, that I became certain there were more answers out there. I would go to the horizon, and for lack of a better word for what I was doing, I would pray. I would pray to the horizon itself for answers about what had happened to us, what had really happened and where we were going. I was completely convinced the horizon was hiding something from me about who we really were, about who I really was. I did that almost every day for... years. In retrospect, it's only when I stopped looking to the horizon for answers that I truly lost myself. But when the Legion returned this time, something brought me back. I'm rather convinced it was the horizon, because the Shal'dorei? They are the answer to all those lost hours, to all the questions I once asked no one at all." Again, Damian's brow furrowed. He never heard Qabian speak so calmly about himself, least of all about something so personal. He considered the possibility that it could be a trick of some kind, a way to lure him into a false sense of security. Qabian knew, after all, that Damian did not want to be spoken to like a child. Displaying a willingness to speak to him so frankly would be a simple way to earn his faith. But Damian felt no urge to trust the magister just yet. "I've read about the Light, and people's faith. The Scarlet Crusade wielded the Light as easily as any paladin, and it wasn't because it was a force of good. It's because the Light is a force of will, and someone with a will powerful enough to wield it can. That's why my father does. He understands that faith in yourself is the most important kind of faith you have, and anything else is just a mask you wear. Why are the Shal'dorei the answer to your questions?" The boy's respectful listening and thoughtful responses left Qabian disinclined to put an end to the true confessions of a grown ass adult to a school-age boy. "That's the thing. I was mainly asking 'what happened to us?' We, our people, were going through hell, had passed through hell and come out the other side. While I was trying to convince myself that we were coming out of it stronger, the evidence repeatedly being thrust in my face was that we were degenerating. We were becoming worthless decadents, desperately dependent on others not just for repairing the damage but for surviving at all. Qabian traced symbols on the table top with one fingertip as he leaned back in the chair, continuing, "But any student of history knew this had all happened before. Our people had gone through hell before, ten thousand years ago. So I started asking what happened to us then? Maybe the answers to how to come out of all of this stronger lay in who had come out of adversity stronger ten thousand years ago. Yes, the true elves crossed the ocean and left the dirt grovellers to their dirt, but I knew the story, perhaps just a legend, that Azshara had sunk her city. That meant the truest of elves, the ones strongest in magic, the wisest and most intelligent, ended up beneath the waves. So what happened to us?" "You mean the Naga?" Damian asked with a flick of a long white eyebrow. "Even if they were the wisest and most intelligent once, the Naga are weak now. They're a shadow of what they used to be. We could be a shadow of ourselves too if we let ourselves get caught up in bad deals. Grand Magistrix Elisande saw a future for her people only if she worked with the Legion. Well, that probably would work for a time, but not forever. Bad deals come back at you in the end. Queen Azshara doomed those true elves. We were almost doomed too, but I think we have enough examples to know what a bad deal looks like, now." His red eyes turned to the table for a moment. "I think so, anyway." Qabian smiled genuinely, again. "You are correct. Azshara made her deal out of a combination of ignorance and lust. Elisande made her deal out of desperation. But neither deal could ever turn out well. The answer to my questions, back then, however, seemed to be the Naga. You are right. They are weak. They have degenerated. But nevertheless, they had survived. I became..." The mage stared off into the middle distance. "I became almost obsessed with the Naga and Azshara, with learning exactly how they had survived, not necessarily because I thought we needed to repeat the process. That would be ludicrous. But I thought, hoped, prayed perhaps, that there would at least be answers there that we could use, suggestions of where their path turned away that we could avoid, but also hidden secrets to survival in strength." He took a deep breath before continuing. "I knew there were... implications that Azshara and the Naga have the shape they have because they have been influenced by the Old Gods. At the time, that seemed like a mere theory, but something... something..." Qabian's expression darkened. "Something happened that proved it for me. Many if not most of my memories are broken, fragmented. The proof I found, I've since lost it, but I remember the feeling, the sensation of despair upon being presented with incontrovertible evidence that Azshara was the way she is, and the Naga are the way they are, because of Old God influence. I can't force that knowledge on anyone else, not remembering how I found it, but the strength of my conviction on it remains. And that was not the answer I wanted. The Old Gods, like the Legion, would never give us strength, hm? They would only bring us to ruin." "So then what is it you want to know from the Shal'dorei?" Damian asked, scooting forward in his chair a little. The boy seemed curious about Qabian's story, but still maintained his skepticism. "The Old Gods won't help us. Like you said, they would never give us strength. Whatever strength we need, we have to take. Like with the Light. It's in us, isn't it? We have the power, we just have to have the will?" The boy's reflective curiosity seemed to give Qabian a soft sort of joy, something he certainly hadn't experienced within recent memory, if ever in his life. "Mm, in a sense. Having the will and what's within are not always enough to keep a people from being destroyed. What's within could not help us against the Scourge, and we had a great deal of power then, a great deal more power than we have now. But I don't have any questions for the Shal'dorei. The Shal'dorei are themselves the answers. "You see," Qabian sat forward as he continued, "I turned away from the horizon then. Other things took my attention, other things far less deserving, but I held onto a hope, a small, unlikely, desperate hope that the Naga were not the only ones who survived the Sundering, and that somewhere out there, we could still find the answers to how to survive with power and grace, and without ever sacrificing ourselves or becoming subservient to someone or something else. I even travelled here, years ago, but it was far more dangerous then, and I did not get nearly as far as we've gotten with the full force of the Horde. "And then... we found them. And I was right all along. Some small community of us did survive. Ten thousand years ago, the most powerful and wisest and most intelligent of us found a way to protect themselves against everything, against the Legion, against Azshara, against the Sundering itself. The details lie, of course, in the Nightwell, but the details are unimportant. The proof is in the people themselves. We can survive anything, anything at all. We are impossible to kill. And we can survive with our magic fully intact. "The Shal'dorei are the ultimate evidence of elven self-sufficiency. Our world shattered. It shattered!" Qabian's voice took on an enthusiasm that he didn't let his posture otherwise betray. "And they lived, without any help from demons or any other bullshit. So can we. Ultimately, we don't need the Horde. We don't need anyone. We choose to work with who we choose to work with, but that is our choice, not our need, because we are survivors. No matter how desperate things get, we will always survive, and those of us who can will survive with our strength and our identities intact. The Shal'dorei did it. So can we. They are the proof." Again, Damian was careful not to allow himself to be caught up into Qabian's enthusiasm. This could easily have been a test, a way for him to gauge how gullible he was. It would have been a good trick, after all. Pretend to confide in him, tell him a story, create a false sense of security and then draw him into a situation he could not get out of. Qabian was not a good person, he knew this. He killed children. He killed innocent people, just to make a point. He would kill Damian if he thought it entertaining, that much the boy knew. However, here and now, he felt a certain kinship with the mage. Maybe it was his curious nature, or his need to find answers, but he felt that, at least now, Qabian was being truthful. That amount of trust was not something Damian wouldn't appreciate. "So they're proof that we can be self sufficient. But they're also different from us," he added. "We're not exactly the same, are we? The Sin'dorei have to do things our own way, but maybe we can learn from them." Qabian nodded. He was so caught up in having the opportunity to express himself and having a willing audience to hear the things he had dwelled on for so long that he was wilfully ignoring what he knew the future ultimately held for the individual listening. For the moment, it was enough for Qabian just to talk through the hope and the faith he had found, the things that formed and shaped the very core of himself and the world around him, things he had lost for a time but then found such intensity in their rediscovery. "They are different from us. Our two peoples, separated for so long, have lived through very different things, but we have lived. And at the core of us, within the magic that powers us, we are the same, so we can take lessons from each other. Our version of the Nightwell was destroyed, and we made do with whatever we could find, including the fel, and some of us gave in to the Legion. Our leadership gave in to the Legion, just as Elisande was about to do. Now our Sunwell is twisted, it is Arcane, but infused with the Light. The Shal'dorei, to survive, had to do the same to their Nightwell, twisted its Arcane purity, infused it with Nature. But who controls the Shal'dorei now? Not the Legion. Not the Dragons. Just themselves. We may have stolen the Legion's power for a time, but who controls us now? Not the Legion. Not the Naaru. Not the Light. Not even the Horde. Just ourselves. We are who we are, and that is valuable. That is important." "I guess we are similar, in that way," Damian said quietly, thoughtfully. "I've never met other elves, really. Other kinds. The Kaldorei or the Shal'dorei. I've seen Naga, but they were weak. Do you think.. I know half-elves exist. I know there are hybirds, people with a Kaldorei mother and Sin'dorei father.. do you think that sort of thing.. does it make those hybrids more powerful? Or weaker? Can they even breed?" Qabian frowned, his taste for the subject clearly and dramatically changing. "They can fuck. That much is certain." He certainly had no qualms about using that kind of language in front of a child in public. "Whether or not they can have viable offspring from such a union I would consider highly questionable. The child may be gifted a quirk that makes them more physically powerful, or perhaps even more magically powerful, but without fail they will be mentally degenerate or deranged, on account of their parents being complete idiots." He also had no qualms about letting his biases show. "There are other ways to combine the attributes of two creatures in attempts to make them stronger, methods like cultists and the RAS use. That would likely give you more success: no random chance, the opportunity to cut out the worst of both parents, the ability to incinerate failed results. I understand the human concept of staying too close to family lines producing rotten children, but there is no evidence that applies to elves. The Shal'dorei have been closed in for how long? Their magic is if anything greater than ours, their mental acuity is impeccable, and those of them who choose to engage physically are perfectly formidable. Our... half-breeds outside our race inevitably improve on the partner and corrupt us. Kaldorei unions are similar, given how long they have been without the arcane. Shal'dorei unions... I suppose we will see whether or not those are even possible. I expect they will be, but will not work out well. Neither of our people are particularly welcoming of such things, which, as I said, requires the parents to be idiots, but it will be interesting to see. Unless, of course, the Legion finally succeeds in destroying us all." Qabian grinned. Damian's face didn't react to the cursing. Despite his mother's efforts to curb his habits, Damian's father cursed like any other man tempered by the military. He heard every curseword available to the Sin'dorei by the time he was three. He heard new ones when he started school, adopted from other races of the Horde. "Do you have any children, sir?" He asked, despite assuming the answer was no. "There's a lot of pressure for our people to breed." Qabian scowled, definitely back to his usual self, and his ranting turned ugly. "Who told you that? Your mother? It's garbage. There is no pressure on us to breed. People have been putting sex as a priority out of desperate need for physical comfort after what happened, but it is no priority. We have no need of numbers. We have need of quality, and the survival of the fittest will provide that all on its own. Numbers will just dilute us. If blood elves could stop sticking their dick in crazy for half a second, maybe they could concentrate on issues of actual importance, like correcting the egregious error we made with the humans. The Shal'dorei are proof of that, too. We do not. Need. Numbers." Qabian clenched his fists on the tabletop. "No. I do not have children. And I never will." Qabian let his fists relax and laid his palms flat as he forced himself to breathe calmly. "At any rate, the Legion have no more abandoned their hold on Suramar than they have on the Tomb itself. And there was and always will be a contingent of any people who are happy to trade their freedom for power, so there are plenty down there to punish for their continued demonic support, if you're still so inclined," Qabian changed the subject. For the first time since Damian started working with Qabian, the boy smiled. At first it was just a smirk as he watched the magister's body language shift, from discomfort to anger, all within a few moments at the mere mention of children. By the time he got back to Suramar, he was holding back laughter. Certainly, he learned a lesson there. "I am," he said eagerly, dimples in his perfect round cheeks. Were it not for his red eyes, the wooly haired child would have appeared perfectly angelic. "I'm inclined to learn how to kill. I know my mother won't have any objection, either. I can let her know once I get back. We can all go together," he said before adding with an even more amused grin. While Qabian raged, he didn't notice the boy's change in expression, but as the mage calmed down, he raised an eyebrow curiously. The boy had absolutely hit a nerve, but Qabian was comfortable enough with others being aware of that particular sensitivity. He kept the real reasons for it close. For most of those Qabian interacted with, it meant they avoided bringing up the subject of children. He suspected for Damian, the boy would only be encouraged to needle, but Qabian considered it was unlikely he would be taken nearly as off-guard in the future. The time for openness and emotion was clearly over. Qabian returned the boy's amusement with calm, smirking sarcasm. "Wonderful. If you like, before we indulge in murder, we can use illusions to explore the city proper. Prepare a picnic. Visit the zoo. Pretend we're just an ordinary family enjoying a day. I'm sure your father will love that idea." Damian finally started laughing. Though well kept, a few of his baby teeth had recently gone missing, and it made his otherwise sweet smile into a somewhat disturbing collection of jagged white pebbles. "You think so?" He asked with that same terrible grin. "My father is very jealous. If you actually wanted to anger him, it wouldn't take much. He hates it when men pay my mother any kind of attention, but what he really hates is when she gives them attention back. I don't think that will happen, sir." The mirth was still in Damian's face, even as the grin faded. "I don't think it would amuse you to put that much effort into just making my father angry. I think it would be too much work, and besides. My mother doesn't like men like you," he stifled his laughter again. "And you certainly aren't interested in her. You two could wind up naked in a pond and it wouldn't make a difference to anyone involved. It's kind of funny, really. Like you said, you're not interested in 'sticking your dick in crazy'." Qabian grinned his unpleasant, completely normal-for-him grin. "You are absolutely correct yet again, of course. Far too much work for no reward whatsoever. To be honest, I assumed your father wouldn't care. He was never interesting enough, and he's spent just enough time around me to know I'm not that kind of threat." Qabian shrugged. "Better for us in the end, especially if you actually wanted a picnic." He chuckled, shaking his head at the absurdity of the idea. "While I'm being so very honest," Qabian continued. "I had initially thought we would start with simple tourism, or as far as combat was concerned, with something... smaller, more predictable, murlocs, maybe kobolds. Misguided Nightborne and city-controlling demons are far from easy targets. But if you're intent on destruction, I'm sure your mother and I can handle the greater dangers while you judge how to best get in your practicing, hm?" "I'd like to see the rest of the Broken Isles," Damian said honestly, lowering his eyes to the table. He considered his next question for a moment. "What is your favorite part of the broken isles? Is it Suramar? Or something else? I heard about the city of elves doomed to walk as ghosts because Prince Farondis wouldn't obey the Queen Azshara. I'd like to see them, I think. And the Naga who keep attacking them. I heard he was very brave, but very foolish. But I also heard he fought Azshara herself. To be dead and be able to do that, he must be very powerful or she must have been holding back. Maybe it was an illusion.. either way, to actually see Queen Azshara herself must have been incredible. I'd like to meet the Prince, and see Nar'thalas Academy." Qabian watched the boy carefully as he spoke. Qabian found himself suddenly conscious of his own vulnerability, shared interest leading to confessed secrets, a weakness that had been exploited before, but what power did a child have to actually take advantage of that? Even if he shared it with his mother, there was no risk. Still, Qabian decided to be more careful. He kept his tone and expression calm and measured. "There is nothing like Suramar anywhere. It is one of the few places on this world worth the stone it was carved from. At least it will be, once the demons are gone. Azsuna is... a history lesson, but it is not alive the way Suramar is. Given Suramar's continued existence, it's difficult to believe that Farondis' choice was correct. It seems there was a third option, hm? I'm also inclined to believe what he fought was an illusion, but the Prince's spirit did have ten thousand years to perfect the few spells he remembers." Qabian smirked. "If you really want to see Queen Azshara, you could ask the Bronze really nicely. They tend to leave convenient timeways in their wake. Worthless for accomplishing anything, but excellent for learning from the most immersive of textbooks." "Or dying," Damian suggested. That Qabian either wanted him dead or wouldn't mind if he died wasn't lost on him. The way he grinned always seemed to remind him of a predator. "Which I'm pretty sure you'd be entertained by. I'd rather live a long time, sir. There are a lot of things I want to see, and you can't do that when you're dead. Unless you're Forsaken or a Death Knight or something.. but those aren't exactly options. I think I'll be happy meeting Prince Farondis. I've never met someone ten thousand years old." "If I wanted you dead, young master, you'd be dead," Qabian said, quiet and serious. "You've stepped through portals I've made and come out perfectly safe. Down in the Underbelly, nothing was stopping me from killing that man, and nothing was stopping me from killing you. The Bronze, however... Mm, perhaps not. They've bested me before. But if you wish to meet Farondis, that can be arranged. Discuss it with your mother. As she'll have to accompany us no matter what, you're certainly free to choose wherever you wish to go without fear." "Sir, I have no illusions to the idea that you could kill me whenever you wanted," Damian said carefully. "And I appreciate you showing me as much as you have. I know you don't think much of me, or anyone else for that matter, but I'll be honest," he tried to look hopeful. "I hope I can surprise you. My mother thinks you're very dangerous. I do, too. So I think that if I can survive being the student of someone as dangerous as you are, who has no qualms about killing someone like me, maybe it will mean something. It would definitely mean something to me." Qabian placed his hands together, pressing his fingers to his lips as he stared at the child. The mage was fighting an urge for honesty. Honesty weaponized could be delicious, but it didn't seem right at that moment. It couldn't do enough damage. "Perhaps. I have my own reasons for continuing this," he said, when he finally spoke again, "and guaranteeing your survival is not among them, so that is up to you, and to your mother's interference, I suppose. What good you can take from succeeding in that is entirely yours. But my reasons to do this are continually countered by quite compelling reasons not to, so that can be a difficult balance to maintain. For now, I'm rather pleased that your so-called Commander dislikes this, and yet it continues. For now, we'll see how it goes, hm? If you want to go to Suramar and help your mother and I wreak havoc, we'll do that. If you want to start with something safer, we can do that instead." "I'm interested in havoc, sir," Damian said honestly, then gave an excited grin. "But the rest of it, too. My mother hasn't shown me the new things she's learned to do, recently. I'm curious to see that, too, and how it compares to the magic I'm learning. I can go to her now and tell her about the plan if that's alright with you, sir?" Qabian sat back, smirking slightly. "Mm, perhaps we should put in an hour or two at the target dummies before I send you back to her?" "Yes sir," Damian said enthusiastically, his ears perking. "I'd appreciate that." Qabian pushed his chair back and dusted off his pristine robes. "All right then."
  17. Raelana De Bergerac was found on the side of the road in Eversong Woods and no one claimed her, so she has no family and Raelana is her made up name (since she had to pick one). She served in the ranks of the Blood Knights, moving up quickly to being a Master before trying to quit the Blood Knights to explore. As such, Liadrin made her a deal to continue serving the Blood Knights, but giving her the position of Ambassador which allows her to travel and explore while continue to serve. TL;DR: Raelana is an amnesiac who serves as the Ambassador to Lady Liadrin and the Blood Knights. __________________________________________________ A gentle breeze wafts through the field, the smell of grass and flowers floating along as the moon begins its slow rise as the night begins. A small tauren with reddish brown hair and large green eyes delicately wades through the field, picking flowers and occasionally looking up as the stars begin to appear. She often claims it’s to guide her way at night, but truthfully it’s because she is often daydreaming more than anything else. Especially on this night, when she knew precisely where she was headed, her daydreaming is at it’s best. Thinking about seeing new lands and meeting new people, eventually she pauses to actually reorient herself and pick some more flowers before continuing on her way. Looking up to the west, lies a village, long ago abandoned and it lies in wait for someone to come care for it. She glances to the house at the top of the hill and wistfully contemplates leaving the path to go inside, but knows her final destination is more important. Trying to distract herself, she starts weaving the flowers she has collected together into several wreaths as she walks. Cadmus, her stallion, walks nearby and tries to steal flowers from her as she weaves them. Laughing, she picks several flowers from a nearby plant and offers them up to him. He gobbles them up greedily causing her to giggle louder. She grins and pats him on the snout, but as her thoughts resume to the task at hand her smile quickly falls again. Trundling onto the road, she starts to look around for signs of where she needs to go, eventually finding the path she needs to take. The small totem often goes unnoticed to those not looking for it, but it really isn’t for anyone but her. The wood is slightly cracked with age and the grass has grown around it as it has sunk into the mud. She pauses to brush it off and adjusts it slightly so it is no longer leaning to the side. She sighs softly, glancing up and thinking of Mu’sha and the Earthmother and her hopes and dreams before shaking her head to refocus, her ears twitching and tail flicking as she straightens herself up. Cadmus, having made this trip with her often enough, nudges her gently, prodding her to continue her journey. She rests her head on him for a moment feeling sadness wash over her. She doesn’t continue just yet, but instead glances behind her at the house on the hill. It seems like just yesterday that she was there playing as a little girl, laughing with her sisters and brothers, not a care in the world. She thinks of her parents coming home from working their elemental magic and work with all of them to hone their skills. Glancing down at her hands, she attempts to feel the elemental spark within them. She snaps her fingers a few times out of habit, feeling the spark of power within which then quickly fizzles out. She long ago turned away from that path and her birthright, instead dedicating her time to An’she. But from time to time, she calls forth that power within herself, just to remind her of where she came from. It’s a quiet night, the kind of night she likes best, as she continues to amble down the road. The altar she made long ago is the first thing she sees: Heavy rock and aged wood make up the altar which is also adorned with candles. Approaching it and not wanting to waste any more time, she takes out a small box of matches from a pocket and draws one forth. She strikes the match several times, getting only sparks. She frowns as the match breaks in her hands and she delicately pulls out another match out and attempts to light it. It lights long enough for the wind to blow it out. Cadmus snorts, almost in laughter, and she shoots him a look, but a small smile creeps up on one side of her face. She turns back to pull out another match and realizes the small box is empty. She shakes her head and then closes her eyes and feels for the little bits of elemental magic residing within her. It’s easy enough to feel for the tendrils of magic, but still being out of practice it takes several attempts to call it forth. She finds it and snaps her fingers - once, twice, and then on the third attempt little sparks of fire come out of her fingertips. It’s just enough to get a candle lit, which she the then uses to light the rest. Once the candles are lit, she assesses the state of the altar more closely. She brushes the leaves away from the windrose she had carved into it long ago and she picks up and adjusts a few small items on the altar. A long pipe gets moved so it’s facing South; a small, opalescent stone is adjusted slightly so that it glows perfectly in the candlelight; and finally, she adjusts four small bowls, each placed on a direction above or to the side of the windrose. Satisfied with the altar, she turns to Cadmus. Knowingly, he trots over and turns so she has access to her bags. She draws forth a small pouch and brings it to the altar. She places her sword in front and then slowly removes four small vials. She holds them in her hand and begins a ritual. To the Easternmost bowl, she places a small vial with what appears to be nothing inside it. She calls out, “Earthmother, I bring you mists of dawn from far away lands and beseech you to watch over us.” Next, she places a small vial of ash in the bowl to the South. “Earthmother, I bring you the remnants of a fire I built after a great hunt on a full moon and beseech you to watch over us.” To the West, she places a small vial water. “Earthmother, I bring you waters from the edge of the world to represent your sorrow and beseech you to watch over us.” Finally, she takes out a small vial of dirt and places it in the Northernmost bowl. “Earthmother, I bring you earth from all the far away places I have visited since I last was here and beseech you to watch over us.” She then gets down on her knees and closes her eyes in contemplation. She looks up to the stars and says her prayers for safe travels as she continues to fight for peace across Azeroth and the other far away lands she is sure to visit. She prays for safety for her friends and her guild as they embark on their own adventures and she prays that in between everything she has time to search for truth and meaning in her life. She then prays for the ability to make good decisions and be rational and reasonable when dealing with those who are not. And lastly, she prays for her family and asks Earthmother to watch over them. She cries softly as her prayers echo out to the stars. She goes quiet for a bit, taking in the whole of the universe before her. Then, methodically working through the altar in reverse order, she opens up the vials, returning them to her pouch as she goes along, and repeating the words she has said many times over the years: “Earthmother, I thank you for hearing my prayers and for watching over us.” When she’s done, she waits a moment, listening to the wind blowing and feeling so close and connected to the Earthmother. She turns and picks up the wreaths of flowers she made and walks behind the altar. Brushing away the leaves and dirt from their markers first, she places one on each of the graves for her deceased family members. First her mother, then her father, then her sisters and brothers. Kneeling on the ground before them she talks, recounting her adventures and telling them about the broken shore and the ongoing fight against the legion. She promises to make right the wrongs that were done to them and tells them how she has asked the Earthmother to continue watching over them, as she does every year when she visits. A long time passes as she sits there talking and finally just sitting quietly. She turns and stands as An’she’s rays break through ending the night, saying a prayer to him as she does every morning, asking for guidance in following him. Quietly moving to the altar, she picks up her fiery blade once again. Double checking to make sure all the candles are out before getting on Cadmus, the two of them begin the slow, long walk back to Thunder Totem. She turns her head and looks back at the graves and altar fall out of sight, a single tear trickling down her face, and whispers “I love and miss you.”
  18. Cerryan Vyel is a devout Sin'dorei Paladin of the Holy Light. In the time since the Scourge's assault on Quel'thalas and the slow rebuilding of Silvermoon, Cerryan has played the role of Blood Knight, freedom fighter, anarchist, exile, crusader, hero, and more. Above all things he is dedicated to the pursuit of peace, not for any faction but for the whole of Azeroth, and to standing for those who cannot fight for themselves. This is not his story. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ “Another wave! Form up and brace for impact!” Cerrian Vayelle hadn’t heard the order. The Kal’dorei’s glowing eyes scanned the black, felscarred landscape for the wounded amongst the corpses of heroes and demons in the miserable little corner of the Broken Shore that he and his allies found themselves defending. He closed his eyes, reaching out to the healing light of Elune above to lift the fallen to their feet and continue the fight against the surging ranks of demons marching relentlessly towards the Temple of Elune, the once resplendent center of worship to the priest’s beloved Goddess. The structure was twisted and warped now, a corrupted mockery serving as the great enemy’s seat of power on Azeroth and an affront to Elune, neither of which could stand while Cerrian drew breath. His breaths were weary and ragged, as it happened. The day had turned quickly for the priest and his company; a mission of suppression amongst the ancient ruins of his ancestors to prevent the summoning of demonic reinforcements had become a bitter defense of those ruins. The wicked agents of the Legion that his group had come to stop were defeated with minimal injury, as the Alliance heroes had been operating on the shore for many weeks now. Unanticipated was arrival of scores of demons not from a summoner’s spell but by foot, in droves, from encampments much further off from where they now fought. The demonic forces seemed to be rushing towards the Tomb from all paths leading out from it, and Cerrian’s allies were unfortunate enough to be on one such pathway. He could feel holy energy surge through him as his ritual neared completion, only a few seconds left in the delicate blend of spell and prayer before those who had fallen would be blessed with another chance to fight for their world. His face was caressed by warm light that sent rogue strands of moonlight-silver hair aloft and made his purple robes billow gently, and his soft eyes opened slowly just in time to focus on the burning green meteor hurtling straight at his unblemished face. Moments before his fiery demise, a wrenching pull on his shoulder drags him behind a wall of shields, and a dour looking Night Elf wielding a finely wrought Mithril greatsword stares down at him as an explosion of green fire illuminates the warrior’s silhouette. Another wrenching jerk brings Cerrian to his feet, followed quickly by a cuff on the shoulder. “Your eagerness to aid others is admirable, but maybe keep an eye open to look after yourself with? We’re pressed hard enough as it is, the last thing I need is-” A heavy impact and panicked shouts interrupted the warrior as the shield wall behind them broke against the onslaught of a new wave of demons. The warrior moved with swift grace, filling in the space made open by the two knights that had been thrown back. His blade sang out as it slashed and pierced demon after demon, its bearer holding back the tide long enough for one of the soldiers to return to his place. The other laid on the ground, moaning weakly at his injuries until pain suddenly numbed and faded. Cerrian smiled at the Human, helping him to his feet and pressing the soldier’s sword back in his hand. A curt nod was returned as the knight hefted his shield and traded places with the Kal’dorei warrior, dumbfounded for a moment at the number of bodies their commander had left before he withdrew. “I’m sorry, Anteris.” Cerrian immediately went to work closing what wounds his commander had sustained in the last attack. “We’ve lost so many that we need up and fighting, and I can’t maintain that kind of ritual when combat surrounds us.” “Focus on those who are still fighting. Keep them fighting. We’ll do what we can for the fallen after the battle is won, but first we need to get there. Keep yourself alive until then, or their souls may be lost to us forever.” The warrior didn’t wait for a response, leaping heroically back into the fray the second his wounds were healed. Shrieking screams could soon be heard across the shieldwall, and no small number of severed demonic limbs could be spotted in the air. “Yes, Commander...” The silver-haired priest turned his attention on the line of defenders keeping the Legion forces from their destination. He wove arcs of healing light across the battlefield in an intricate web of channeled prayer, his will a conduit for that of his goddess. His allies struck back with renewed vigor, and before long the tide of enemies seemed to ebb before them. Cerrian allowed a small, thankful smile to cross his face as he prepared his mind to again reach out to the fallen. Before he could begin, a shadow was cast over the already dark, fel-warped sky, and a chorus of gasps and shouts was soon drowned out by countless piercing shrieks as the air above them filled with slavering felbats flocked more tightly than the priest had seen since the doomed first assault on the shores. “Cover! Shields up, stay low! Archers!” Commander Anteris’ orders could barely be heard over the panicked screams and bestial cries. Soldiers attempted to flee in all directions as the mass of winged demons descended upon them. Cerrian grouped closely with the knights he had been fighting beside, their shields held to the sky as they worked their way towards their commander. He saw the fruitless attempts of a few archers and mages to thin the horde, a mere handful of the attacking number falling from the sky before there were no more heroes to resist. It was all Cerrian could do to keep those nearest to him shielded, and every few seconds he’d hear the gravely harrowing last gasp of one more soldier plucked into the sky by the relentless demons. They’d not made it halfway to Anteris, and Cerrian couldn’t even see him through the flurry of skyborne attackers. The silver-haired priest’s heart was beating out of his chest as he desperately searched, before he and those around him were slammed into the ground as a felbat sweeping overhead slammed into the shields above them. He was pinned under at least two of his own allies, face down in the black dirt and unable to hear anything but the rapid impact of blows against the shields and bodies that kept him immobile and the frantic pace of his own breath. Incapable of anything else, Cerrian whispered a prayer to Elune and prepared for his own horrific death. This went on for countless, eternal minutes; the young elf lay trapped and traumatized as he waited to die as he’d seen so many of his friends and allies die before him. Still he prayed, his faith the only thing keeping him sane in those dire moments, until a low, humming shockwave seemed to cascade over everything around him. A new wave of monstrous shrieks and flapping wings echoed across the battlefield, and soon all was quiet once more. In that silence Cerrian knew that none of those piled above him still lived, and it was another many minutes before the weakened night elf was able to pull himself up between the battered corpses and shattered armor to reach the open air. In a shocked daze the priest took gulping breaths and stared blankly at the scene, looking with subdued hope for signs of life he couldn’t find in the haze. As his gaze travelled across the broken battleground and up into the sky, he felt his heart sink into the pit of his stomach as he regarded the bleeding, burning world that now hung balefully above the horizon. He stared awestruck at the growing tear in the sky and the planet hanging sickly at its center, terror and realization building as he contemplated what this might mean. An end to the war, with the full might of the Legion a stone’s throw from Azeroth. The world he held so dear would be ravaged and picked apart as swiftly as those around them had been killed. Cerrian tore his gaze from the skyline as the moans and cries of wounded soldiers began to fill the silence. Instincts bred from years of warfare accompanied by an unending stream of whispered prayer focused the priest as he dragged himself to his feet and mustered what energy he could to bring the first soldier he could find back to her feet, and then the next, and the next again until a small, ragged group was huddled together amidst the chaos and bodies. Cerrian helped a few others search for their commander, but Anteris could not be found alive or otherwise. The priest's heart sank further when the warrior’s sword was found half-buried in a pile of dead, none of which its owner. He stared at the blade in despair, but the last words of his dear friend echoed in his head. Focus on those who are still fighting. Keep them fighting. We’ll do what we can for the fallen after the battle is won, but first we need to get there. Cerrian fixated on those words, and a sort of anger grew within him. A righteous anger, directed at the wicked forces that had brought him to this point, that had brought his allies to their doom, that had wrapped the entire world in fear for the end. Divine energy surged around him, cascading the elven priest in silver as glowing wings of golden light unfurled behind him. He gripped Anteris’ sword tightly as he and his comrades watched a new pack of beasts come into view. An end to the war, perhaps. But he couldn’t stop fighting. None of them could, not while there was still a fight left.
  19. Fhenrir Phoenix is a tauren warrior that has served the Horde for over a decade. His staunch and unwavering commitment to fighting both the Alliance and the other threats from around the world has earned him the title of Lieutenant General. In the past, he struggled to find who he was beyond his duty. He has since settled into a (mostly) content personal life, with many close allies and a caring partner. He is generally ornery and humorless, but lets his guard down around those closest to him. But now... Fenny Cranksplat, in: "A Piece of Cake" One of my earlier memories is about a cake. It was at my birthday party. We were outside the house, sitting at a public bench in the park. Dad didn't invite anybody that wouldn't pay for their own food, so there were only Cranksplat family members watching when he brought out the cake. Crappy graying grass under the bench crunched with each of his steps, and he nearly slipped on an oil stain. But when the cake came down, I was thrilled to see it slathered in pink frosting and oozing some kind of chocolate sugary filling. Dad sliced a piece for me and set it on my plate. I must've had the biggest, fattest, happiest face an eight year old goblin could have. Then my older half-brother, Rigo, snatched my plate and started eating. I started bawling. "D-d-daaaad!" Dad slapped me in the back of the head. "Shaddap. I look like a cake dispensary?" I sniffed and watched my brother eating my chocolate oozing pink cake and was about to lose it again. "Pushovers don't eat," Dad said. Nearby in a pile of junk, I saw an old bent wrench. I wiped the snot off my nose, grabbed it, and beat my brother to a pulp. "Dat's my boy," I heard Dad say while I ate the rest of my reclaimed cake. After that, Rigo went to go live with Mom. Dad knew I was a fighter. When I was gettin' big enough to do proper work, he bought me my mech-mace. Well, he said bought, but it had an inscription on the handle that read "Love, Your Little Corkscrew." The spinning gears on the head looked kinda stupid, but they were supposed to make it 42% more Aerodynamic and 69% more Ouchy. "If you wanna keep eatin'," Dad told me, "ya better make dis a worthwhile investment." I worked my butt off every day with that thing, and by the time I was old enough to make myself useful, I went and got myself a job for the richest goblin I could find. Some jerk who counted coins at the bank needed some muscle to keep thugs out. "I... see. What makes you qualified to watch our gold, Mister... Fenny Cranksplat?" the banker asked as he read my resume. Well, it wasn't really a resume. It was a paper that I wrote "Hire Me" on, cause they said I needed a resume to apply. "I'm gonna level with you, buddy. Everybody in line out there bashes heads, probably about the same as I do. But," I dropped my mech-mace on his desk. "You don't have to pay to arm me. That's less risk on your end, cuz if I die or my stuff gets stolen, you didn't pay for a copper of it." The banker tilted his head and scratched his chin. The next day, I was working for the guy. I scratched my butt and leaned into anyone who looked funny for eight hours a day, and I was making more gold than Dad ever did. I had to crack a few skulls, but that was the way of things: either He probably resented me for it. Well, no, he definitely resented me for it. The old dope tried to rob me after I'd stashed up a couple months of pay under my pillow. I woke up one night face to face with him, his hand literally clutching my bag full of gold. "Hey," he said casually, sweat pouring down his forehead. I slept next to my mace, so I had it available to bash his head in. I woulda felt bad, but he kinda asked for it. By trying to steal my stuff. Nobody at the mortgage company really asked questions when I took over payments from my old man. They were still getting their gold, so they were happy. After a year or so working at the bank, I got approached by a guy in a shady outfit with a shady agenda. "Meet me in the alley down the block by the weird-smelling dumpster tonight. Got a job that'll triple yer pay." Didn't trust him for a second, but gold is gold, and my ladyfriend cancelled our plans for that night, so I went and checked it out. Flickering street lamp just outside the alley showed me the shadow of the guy waiting for me; the flabby, spidery shadow. Trade Prince Gallywix himself came out to meet me: maybe this really was something. He also had maybe a half dozen guards - that I could see, at least - surrounding him. "Hah, he actually came, boss!" one of them squeaked in an awful twang. "That he did," the Trade Prince said through his bouncing jowls. "So, your name is Fanny, right?" "Fenny." "All right, Fanny, here's the score. My boys say you got a night shift at the end of the week. You're gonna look the other way, for about two hours or so." "Why am I gonna do that?" "So ya don't have an affair with tha fishes tomorrow," another guard said in a leathery growl. I pulled the mech-mace off my back. "You wanna rumble?" "He's strapped!" the first guard shrieked. "No need for a rumble," the Trade Prince cut in. "It's bad for business. Tell you what: you do what you're supposed to, triple your pay." If I was loyal to one thing, it was to the coin. And a Trade Prince was worth way more than any random banker. His diet alone was probably worth more than my house; Gallywix had more chins than I had fingers. "Guess I won't see you later." The heist came and went, and I ignored it like I was supposed to. Once they were gone, I didn't even finish my shift: the bank was gonna know who to blame when their gold was missing tomorrow. Soon as the sun was up, I was at Gallywix's place. "Here to see the Trade Prince." "Shove off, no appointments for today." "He should be expecting me." "He ain't expecting you." "He ain't expecting a certain guy getting paid for a certain thing that wasn't observed last night?" The guards exchanged looks. "Be right back." One of them left, and I was left staring the other guard's ugly mug for just a bit too long. I was getting suspicious. Finally, the guard came back. "Go on in." So I get to the Trade Prince, hanging out in his spider tank thing. I had a sinking feeling when I realized just how much of an oily smell that thing put off, and how much noise it made when he moved around. Didn't notice either of those things in the alley. "You hinted at something out at the gate?" Gallywix said. "The job," I prompted him. "Ah, yes. Fenny Cranksplat, correct? The AWOL guard?" I was screwed. "Maybe. Listen, Trade Prince-" I didn't even get to finish my sentence. I woke up at the bottom of a trash chute. The only source of light was a square opening about three floors up. A goblin around my age poked his head through after he heard me shuffling around. "You awake? You must be the dumbest burglar on the whole island." "I didn't burgle anything." "Sure, sure. Hey, nice mech-mace, Little Corkscrew. Worth just enough to keep you out of cement shoes." They were gonna sell my mace. "I'll kill you!" I tried to climb up, but I couldn't get up the walls. They were coated in some kind of oil; or I hoped it was oil. "Clean up the whole place and we'll see about getting you a promotion!" "Screw yourself!" I shouted back. "Just think!" he called as he threw something into the chute that obscured the only source of light. "You could be "Lieutenant Garbage!"" The source of the shadow smacked into my face: A big piece of pink chocolate cake.
  20. Mardalius strolled out into the gardens. They were beautifully manicured, and glowing lampposts illuminated the area very well, growing brighter as the sun finished setting. The warm later afternoon was turning into a sultry evening that continued to be pleasant for outdoor socialization. Right outside the side exit from the ballroom was an open area where tables had been set up with food and drink, where most of the guests who were outside were milling, and several paths wound off through taller hedges and statuary arrangements. To one side there appeared to be a cleared space that, if Mardalius wasn’t mistaken, appeared to be reserved for duels, judging by the two attendants with cases standing nearby. He straightened his coat and looked around, considering where to begin and scrutinizing the area for illusions, only to be accosted immediately. “You! Boy! Are you an Anterius?!” It was a human man who called out to him, squinting at the sigil on Mardalius’ coat. Appearing to be an old soldier, the man wore traditional Stormwind military dress attire with his medals pinned to his chest and the rank of General on his collar. His hair was cut clean and short, his beard trimmed for the occasion, though he didn’t look too excited to be there. A younger man who could only be his son stood beside him. With a large beard, the sides and back of his hair shaved to keep a short cut on top, proud leonine features and a muscular build, the younger man embodied the image of the perfect Alliance soldier. It was enough to make the elven-tending Mardalius feel slightly inadequate. Nonetheless, he approached confidently. “Yes, sir. I’m Mardalius, Margoz Anterius’ son,” he said with a bow. “I take it you know my father?” “Comrades for as long as it lasts in times like these.” He extended his hand. “Josef Morozov, Son of Lothar.” The younger man stepped forward. “And this is my son, Ivan.” Mardalius took Josef’s hand firmly, shaking it briefly, then Ivan’s. “A pleasure to meet you both. I can’t help but notice your rank and honors, General. A prestigious career, and your son seems poised to follow in your footsteps.” “He’s a damn good soldier, sure as hell better than I ever was.” Josef grins, clapping his son on the back. Ivan just nodded politely and said, with gravitas, “Thank you, I’ve only done what I’ve felt was right for the Alliance.” “Sometimes, all it takes is the right man, in the right place, at the right time,” Mardalius said with a companionable smile. “Would you gentlemen care to join me for a glass of wine?” He beckoned them along as he started towards the wine table. It seemed to him that getting to know these two better couldn’t hurt. “Wouldn’t mind a couple. Get the taste of Horde air from my mouth,” Josef grunted. Mardalius choose one of the impressive wines on display on the table and procured three glasses. Once all three men had their drinks, he raised his glass. “To House Morozov, and House Anterius. May glory and honor shine on both.” The other men concurred, and Mardalius drank, savoring the wine for a moment before deciding where to go with the conversation. “So, what brings two honored Alliance soldiers to a Shal’dorei wedding, especially one attended by so many members of the Horde?” “I insisted my father come. It’s time he added more temperament to his life than his hate,” Ivan said. He turned to begin strolling, and the other two followed, Josef with a snort. “They took too much from me to make it up now. Nothing the Horde could do to redeem themselves, especially after getting King Wrynn killed.” Mardalius smiled agreeably, but stated none of his own opinions. “I see. And what of Argus? The last I heard, that was a joint operation. Some things are too big, too important for Azeroth to be divided on. Surely, General, there is some way the Horde could find redemption.” As they walked, he let his gaze move around them, ostensibly admiring the scenery, but in reality on the lookout for illusions. However, nothing was not as it seemed, including the two men with whom he conversed. The gardens were innocuous. “I’ll rely on the Army of the Light and my own soldiers for that, they’re preparing for it as we speak. Trusting the Horde to put their faith in the Light, or the Illidari…” Josef shook his head and took another sip as they continued strolling. “The heathens that created warlocks and death knights are not trustworthy creatures.” “I think you would find that the Horde today is very different from those of old, the likes that created Gorefiend.” Mardalius sipped his wine before continuing, “And what of the Shal’dorei? Are they trustworthy, General?” Josef wiped his mouth and turned down a path away from the hedges, into a slightly less maintained area of the gardens. There was a shed up ahead, and the path curved back around to the party area. “They’re dangerous, but Thalryssa and her advisors are good people. So long as she keeps her people in check, they’re fine in my book.” It didn’t sound like much motivation for disrupting a wedding, but Mardalius kept probing to be sure. “I see. Are you gentlemen acquainted with the groom, to have been invited this evening? He appeared to be a military man.” “We are,” Ivan said. He tucked the back of his suit down as though he were used to something being there. “We worked with him to quell the loyalist resistance.” Near the shed there appeared to be an exit from the gardens that looked like it was used by staff rather than guests. Mardalius began to wonder why they had brought him this direction. “A servant’s entrance? I hope this means one of you paid off a man to sneak in some good Lordaeron bourbon.” Both of them followed his gaze as though they hadn’t realized it was there. “Thought this was the way to the bathrooms…” Josef grunted. Ivan paused by the entrance, beside the shed. There were several boxes there that looked recently deposited. It was his father, however, who moved over and opened one to see what was inside. The old soldier took out a small bottle and sniffed it, then said, “Shit.” The scent wafted toward Mardalius from the open box. He smelled something he recognized from his father’s collection – a common kind of poison, one that had a strong scent, but no flavor. It could be put in aromatic food or drink and go undetected. There was another scent, too, he couldn’t quite place. He moved forward to open another box. “A dagger?” he said as he found one that had been left behind. “How did these things get smuggled past the guards?” He began looking around intently, sure something was going on. “Might’ve gotten paid off, might’ve killed ’em.” Josef said. He took out a rag and sniffed it. “Smells like oil for crossbow strings.” “We should probably tell security. We could prevent a tragedy, gentlemen.” He no longer believed the men were up to something. They seemed as disturbed by the find as he. Ivan nodded, lightly pulling his father up from the boxes. “You’re right. I’ll go alert security. Father, you go back to the gardens so it doesn’t look suspicious.” He looked to Mardalius. “You should go tell your friends about this.” It seemed Sanctuary’s presence here hadn’t gone unnoticed. “Indeed,” Mardalius said. “You gentlemen stay safe; the Legion likely has targets painted on your backs for the work you did digging them out of Suramar.” He headed back toward the ballroom to find Julilee.
  21. The Prison of the Mind

    She was reading by the fire again. He loved watching her do that. She always seemed happy, even for the briefest of moments. Even if there was so much fear in her heart that she spent nights weeping in bed or curled up on their carpet, she could always find solace in a story read by firelight. Parigan didn’t enjoy much. He didn’t enjoy going to the bar his brother used to take him to. He didn’t enjoy attending the galas his sister sent him invitation after invitation for. He didn’t enjoy meeting his father every month to tell him what he had been up to. Parigan was sick to death of his family and seeing their hands in every aspect of life in the city appalled him. He had his forge, and he had his sword. And he had her. Parigan regretted so much that he had pushed her away since the rebellion. It was the last thing he had wanted from the cause. A fair society, free of tyranny and oppression, of course. Freedom from his father’s dictatorship of a family, most definitely. But he never considered it would mean losing her trust. She’ll never look at me the same way. After what the rebels did in the war – terrorism and mass mayhem – she won’t feel safe setting foot outside the door. And she knows I was part of that. How can I ever make her trust me again? But at the very least, she could find freedom in the pages of her books. He admired that about her. With him, he could never set aside his problems, but it was clear he hadn’t the foggiest idea how to fix them. She was in much the same boat, but could manage to set aside her worries to enjoy her passion. Parigan used to take literacy for granted until he’d met some of Brinnea’s relatives. Brinnea Velmon. Parigan had never once questioned why she had kept that last name. Now he wished he had taken it as well. What has being a Blackmane ever gotten me? She didn’t talk much about her father, but he could tell by the way she reacted to any mention of him that she wasn’t sure what to think of him. Parigan thought she was trying to be angry with him, but she came off seeming more worried than mad. He felt such sorrow for her complex array of emotions, but he couldn’t empathize. With Parigan, everything was black and white. Yes or no. Right or wrong. He felt he had chosen wrong. Marrying her didn’t make her life better. It had dragged her into worse shit than she had already been dragged through. But he loved her more than anything, so he selfishly kept her close and never let go. And she never said anything against it. Does she truly love me anymore? Did she ever? He felt the need to comfort her, or maybe he just wanted to be comforted. He picked himself up off the stairs and walked up behind her chair. She was reading something about a knight and his lady, and a witch who had cursed them to fall in love. Parigan had never enjoyed books, at least not the way Brinnea had, but he remembered this story well enough. The two were from rival kingdoms that had an unsteady truce between the two in the face of the Horde invasion. It was a common theme in literature after the Second War. Everyone loved a good story about romance in the face of a calamity that nearly wiped out humanity. The two lovers had been brought together by the orc witch in the hopes of shattering the alliance between the nations, but instead the people saw how beautiful things could be if everyone held love in their hearts. The ending was blissful – the two humans married, the families and kingdoms both united, and the witch was burned for her treachery. Parigan liked the story well enough. Real life is far from a fairy tale, though. Love isn’t so simple or clean, and hatred is never easily set aside. Parigan kissed her on the head, ruffling her hair affectionately. She set down the book on her reading table, which was buried in piles of books she’d bought with his money. Her grey eyes looked up into his brown eyes. She smiled, but it was a bad fake he’d seen too many times to be fooled. She was upset he had interrupted her. She wanted to look up and see a noble knight, not the failure he was. “Hi,” he said quietly. “Hey,” she said back. “I’m sorry.” “For what?” “I don’t know. I’m just sorry. Sorry for everything, I guess.” “And why do you feel like you need to apologize? Have you done something requiring an apology?” “I just…I don’t feel like a very good husband. Or man, even. I don’t know what to say.” She stood up and walked away from him, towards the hearth and fire. She warmed her hands over the flames. He wasn’t providing her any, clearly. “It doesn’t really matter what you say, does it? Everything out there isn’t real. This isn’t real. All that’s real is what lies outside the Wall.” Parigan stood behind the chair, unmoving. His eyes lowered to the tome she had set down. The Tale of Richlid and Theodara. If only life were so simple. “What is outside of the Wall isn’t the world. It’s just a nightmare. We’ll live through it.” “What makes you so sure?” “We have so far, haven’t we? Nightmares always have an end.” “This one hasn’t ended long enough for me to believe it is real.” She hugged her arms and rubbed them roughly. The sleeves on her gown were worn and tattered. He had offered to buy her a new one, but never had. “We will make it together,” he replied. He wanted that to be true. He needed that to be true. “Everyone I’ve made it with so far is dead.” “Your sister…” “Is gone. She left yesterday. She bought a fishing boat and made for Purgation Isle. She’ll never be able to come back. She probably won’t survive long enough to try.” Parigan’s shoulders slumped in defeat. Christa was gone. The last person who could get through to her. Why had she left? It had been a year, nearly, since their mother had passed away. Why choose now to leave? The Scourge had only gotten worse, and no contact from the outside had made it in. That my father is willing to share with me, that is. “Did she say why?” “It doesn’t matter. It hasn’t mattered for years now.” “It’s about your father, isn’t it?” She tightened her grip on her shoulders until her knuckles turned white. He stepped forward and held her tightly. She didn’t resist or pull away, and he took that as a good sign. He hoped it was. “It’s all gone. Why can’t she understand it?” “Some people need something to hold on to.” He held her close, but she didn’t hold him back. “There’s nothing left to hold on to. It’s all ashes and bones now. Gilneas may as well be all that’s left, and there’s nothing for me here.” “I’m still here.” He turned her face gently so she would look at him. Her eyes were dry, but her face was pale. “I am. And I’m not going anywhere.” That night, she disappeared. He awoke to find a note where her head should have rested. She told him not to go looking for her. He crumpled the letter and threw on his coat and boots. *** Shanoris gasped and awoke suddenly, disturbed from her dream. From his dream, she thought silently. Felsoul Hold’s dwindling supply of portals crackled nearby, and she felt the presences of demons approaching her location. That was what had awoken her from the dead man’s dream. She had already searched for evidence of the witch’s revival, and found nothing. The sarcophagus was gone, as well. The Illidari had already seen to its removal, but the last she heard it had yet to be destroyed. That thing is dangerous, but it may have some use as of yet. I’ll check Marduum and the sarcophagus next. She meant to leave, but she felt compelled to stay. Parigan’s grave was marked by a badly rusted sword that had been broken jaggedly in half by a savage blow. She had witnessed it personally, felt every felling of the demon’s hammer in her core as if it were her the beast had slain. His last words echoed in her mind. “Brin, I lo—love you—“ Shanoris may have stood against Brinnea in the past, but what the witch had done to her was beyond cruel. And she took my sister from me. We both have enough reason to want her dead forever. The demons came on her suddenly, emerging from the shadows as if they had the element of surprise. She proved they were wrong. Moving faster than the untrained eye could even see, she sliced her way through felhounds and Felguards like scissors through silk. At the end, her rage and demonic spirit boiled over, bursting through the uncovered crevices of her eye sockets. Nothing remained of the demons save for ashes. The grave marker had fallen over in the scuffle. Shanoris returned it to its rightful position, but then noticed something she hadn’t sensed before lying buried in the dirt. She dug it up with a strong hand and felt its surface, clearing it of dirt as she did. It was a ring. She detected moonstone and silver, badly tarnished. Words were engraved in it, and she could feel the indents enough to read it. Words may leave on wind, but love is forever. A wind licked at Shanoris’ cloak. She felt his presence still writhing in the tainted dirt, too tired and fragmented to be pieced back together or take form. She made a promise to the grave that she would see his remains taken to a proper burial site. But then it dawned on her she had no idea where he would want to be at rest. She would have to ask Brinnea, but there was no way to speak with her now. Sighing, she made another promise. “I’m going to regret this, aren’t I?” she asked the dirt. Parigan’s spirit was silent, but silence speaks volumes to a demon hunter.
  22. The wedding director, whom Shokkra had somehow identified, appeared to be fawning over a bard at the edge of the dance floor, an area where some additional mingling was happening. At least Aaren guessed the person the director was fawning over was a bard because of the heavy instrument case slung over her shoulder. Both were Nightborne, and exceptionally good-looking ones. If you liked that type. Aaren watched for awhile, until the two parted ways, and the director turned to look over the dance floor. The bride and the groom were taking their turn in a carefully choreographed piece with artfully romantic string music played by a host of other bards who were set up on the stage at the back of the room. The stage was almost unnoticeable, a small raised area about half-height to and directly across from the lofted banquet area, above the doorway everyone had come in through from the ceremony, but Aaren paid attention to such things. The director’s name was Laerye, or so Shokkra had told her. She had long hair arranged in three braids, looped elaborately. And she watched the bridal couple. Since Aaren was observing closely, she noticed that when the dance ended, the bride shot the director a strange glance before announcing she was going to go freshen up and departing for upstairs. It could mean anything, but it could also mean one thing. Aaren approached the director after that and offered one of the glasses of sparkling wine. “You’ve certainly outdone yourself. A beautiful union and ceremony. You are the director, yes? I am looking to begin planning my own wedding.” Laerye, the director, chuckled as she let her gaze drift lazily over the priestess. She took the offered glass and drank. “Shame to see one like you settling down,” she said. “Oh, I never settle, down or otherwise,” Aaren replied. “But there are reasons to get married besides that, no? I’m sure this bride and groom are similar in that way.” Laerye’s mouth twisted. “Of course,” she said. “Nobility.” She tossed back the rest of the glass then looked Aaren up and down again, this time with a more jaded, if still shameless, kind of eye, as she put her glass down on a nearby surface. “Would you care for a dance? The floor seems to have cleared up for a few more couples.” Aaren took a last sip of her glass and set it aside. She offered her hand with a smile. “That would be lovely, dear.” Laerye effortlessly took the lead as they stepped out onto the floor, joined by several others as the music began again. A waltz was a waltz in any culture and Aaren moved nimbly enough to more than keep up. Laerye’s lips curved in approval. “It’s good to see our distant cousins still know how to dance,” she says. “I’d go so far as to say we’d perfected it,” Aaren said, with disguising blandness meant to be seen right through, which Laerye did. The director grinned in approval. “So do you want help with your wedding? Or something before that?” Laerye said. Several minutes later, Laerye had gotten them past the guards and into a room on the upper level. Aaren paused inside the doorway as Laerye moved over to the mantle for a glass decanter. “Now what would Celene think of this?” Aaren said daringly. Laerye snorted. “You’ve heard of how she dumped me to marry Gaspard, then? She’d be in a tizzy if she heard about me sneaking up here with a blood elf in the middle of her wedding.” She smirked as she poured them two glasses. Aaren stepped inside, letting the door close behind her. “But what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her,” Laerye concluded, holding one of the glasses out. Aaren moved forward to take the glass, cupping it in both hands. It smelled of peat, like the stuff Juli drank. “What else doesn’t she know?” Aaren inquired. Laerye stepped up to Aaren, touching her glass to the other woman’s with a soft clink. “A lot of things,” she said, and drank. Aaren followed suit. The stuff was bitter, but she was used to it. “Since I’m just going to be a one-night stand, you should tell me, and I’ll tell you a secret,” Aaren said. Laerye looked at her speculatively. “Is there something I should tell you?” she says. “Or are you better off not knowing, too?” “I’m sure I could handle anything you’re capable of doing,” Aaren said, drinking some more from the glass. Laerye’s lips parted in a grin. “I wouldn’t be so sure.” The booze was starting to hit Aaren, and it was hitting hard. Too hard, actually. “Shit,” she muttered. “I like your style, beautiful, so I’ll leave you alive. But you can’t be allowed to interfere with tonight.” The glass dropped out of Aaren’s hand, hitting the carpet with a thunk, and she almost followed suit except that Laerye caught her. As darkness swallowed her, she heard Laerye say, “Such a shame, you seemed like such fun…”
  23. Sitting through the ceremony while trying to keep Mardalius and Sorel focused on the Karthok threat and not each other had not been fun. Once the ceremony was over, the three of them had decided to split up. Julilee would go up to the banquet area, Sorel would stay down in the ballroom area, and Mardalius would go out to the gardens which was another designated milling area for guests during the reception. Julilee wasn’t sure where Shokkra and Aaren had disappeared to in the crowd, but was sure they’d be keeping their eyes open as well. Julilee took a glass of sparkling drink that one of the attendants pressed on her, but didn’t drink from it. She wanted to keep her senses completely sharp. She glanced at the impressive spread of food with the gorgeous cake centerpiece, but didn’t help herself to that either. She didn’t have much of an appetite, and kept her gaze roaming over the other guests. A Nightborne man with a drink in either hand happened to be nearby. He had small spectacles on his nose and seemed to be at a bit of a loss. As they noticed each other, it became required to acknowledge each other. “Good evening, m’lady,” he said generously. “Did I hear from the herald that you were a Commander? There seem to be a few in attendance tonight.” “Yes, of Sanctuary, a guild of the Horde,” Julilee responded. She fiddled with her drink. “Julilee Liene.” “Haronne du Wistelin. It is a pleasure. I have heard the tale of Sanctuary’s saving of Shal’Aran. Is it true one of yours rode a beast into the sky to allow a mana bomb to explode harmlessly?” That made Juli smile, with pride. “Yes, Arahe is her name. She barely survived, and her wyvern too.” “Very noble, as matches what I have heard of Sanctuary,” he said. “My date is a member of another noble guild, Twilight Empire…” That got her attention. Hearing that was more than welcome news. “Who are they? Where are they?” she asked immediately. “Errr…” he said, taken aback. “Her name is Jaelantia. You are familiar with Twilight Empire, then? Hopefully not in an adverse capacity? They are of that Alliance faction…” “Not adverse at all,” Julilee assured him. “Sanctuary and Twilight are fast allies. I’d like to introduce myself to her… I assume she’ll be along shortly?” She noted the two drinks he was carrying. “One can hope,” he said with a weak chuckle, casting his gaze over the crowd. There was a dark-skinned human man standing nearby who seemed to be waiting for something, but who appeared to have taken an interest in their dialogue. Having obviously noticed him in return, Julilee felt obligated to include him in the conversation. “Hello,” she said at a diplomatic minimum. He grunted with vague discomfort. “Evening. Uh, fine dress you have there.” The clumsy compliment amused Julilee a little. A certain lack of eloquence was refreshing in situations like these. “Thank you.” “I heard you mention the Twilight Empire. As it happened, I’m a member myself. Fairly new. But, still a member.” His words were awkward, a bit stumbling, but sharpened her interest considerably nonetheless. “Oh, are you?” Julilee said. “What brings you here?” If there was more than one Twilight Empire person here, perhaps they’d been warned of a threat, as well. Reuvan would have been wise to not count on Sanctuary coming. They almost hadn’t, after all. “Invitation,” the man grunted, then sought to clarify in embarrassment. “I mean, I was invited. By a friend of… one of the families.” “Ah, I see,” Julilee said. She was about to introduce herself, but Haronne perked up then. He had spotted a set of polished horns above the crowd. “Ah, there she is! Jaelantia!” “I apologize, Haronne, I… ah, who is this?” the draenei said as she arrived. She looked at Julilee, then the human man. “Julilee Liene, Commander of Sanctuary,” Julilee introduced herself. “I understand you’re a member of Twilight Empire as well?” Jaelantia seemed to follow what Julilee meant by the ‘as well’, glancing toward the human man with a smile and a hint of recognition. “Sanctuary,” she repeated. “Ah, yes, I am! I am Jaelantia of the Twilight Empire… Good, Sanjay, there are a few of us here tonight, it seems.” “I wasn’t expecting to see a draenei tonight. I wasn’t sure if your kind celebrated marriages, what with the lack of surnames and all,” the human man, Sanjay, said. He looked like he regretted his words immediately. Jaelantia didn’t seem offended; in fact, she might have stifled a laugh. Haronne offered her one of the drinks and she took it. “Ah, thank you so much, Haronne.” She put the wine to her lips and drank politely before turning back to Juli. “Coincidentally – I needed to speak with you, a moment, Julilee. There is a demon hunter here who is also of our order. She urgently would like to make your acquaintance.” She frowned as she said this, seemingly signifying the seriousness of this urgent need. “I would love to,” Julilee said firmly. Haronne looked back and forth between the two females, obviously figuring out that something was going on, and beginning to look a little put out. Jaelantia drank deeply of the wine, then leaned in to Haronne and spoke in a quiet, reassuring tone, her words not quite audible to the others. Then she gently pressed her lips to his cheek and smiled. Haronne flushed. “Of course,” he murmured back. “Just let me know how I may be of assistance…” “You have done me a world of favors by bringing me here in the first place, Haronne. I promise I will be back soon.” Jaelantia set the empty glass on the refreshment table, and turned back to Julilee. “I think she is here, in the ballroom as well. We should join with her as soon as we can. Would you like to accompany us?” she asked Sanjay. Sanjay looked almost torn. “I am waiting on my dance partner. She’s speaking with some friends, but she’s expecting me to stay where I am. I’d rather not force her to search for me.” He turned to Julilee and said, “My name is Sanjay, by the way. It was… good to meet you, Julilee.” “I suppose I’ll head to the gardens, then,” Haronne said, with almost-concealed disappointment. He hesitated a bare moment longer, then departed. “This is important,” Julilee said to Sanjay. She lowered her voice. “There is a threat to this wedding.” Sanjay frowned. “What sort of threat?” he said distractedly. It wasn’t the level of cooperation Julilee was hoping for from a member of Twilight Empire. She glanced at Jaelantia, who was frowning. “A threat on someone’s life,” Jaelantia said. “We have a duty to act.” It seemed Twilight Empire did know something of the threat, although Julilee didn’t know the circuitous route that information had followed. She was about to say something herself when Sorel arrived with a demon hunter, or more accurately, the demon hunter did with him in tow. “Liene, Hervor here was looking for you,” he said by way of introduction. Julilee had noticed the demon hunter during the ceremony, looking around suspiciously, and seated next to Reuvan. It made sense, now. She looked up at the demon hunter, Hervor, who was considerably taller than she, and nodded. “Is this everyone from Twilight Empire who’s here?” she asked. “We should speak.” “No, we have one more,” Hervor said. “Niala, an arcanist and beast master… Though I don’t believe she brought any of her animal friends tonight. I heard Sanctuary is here to stop an assassination plot. We’re ready to give our full cooperation.” Julilee glanced around. It was a risk speaking to them like this. She had to act casual, and the best way to do that at the moment seemed to be to take a sip of her drink. It was stronger than she expected and she grimaced in regret before speaking quietly. “Yes. Sanctuary is tracking a nefarious criminal named Karthok, and sources indicated he had taken an interest in disrupting this event. Unfortunately, no specifics were discovered. I tried alerting them…” She sighed. “They refused to believe he was a significant enough threat to warrant canceling, or even much worry.” She was quiet for a moment, looking down into her drink as she considered what else to say, then spoke even more quietly. “Karthok has killed two Sanctuary members and is meddling with the Legion, and a mad Ancient bent on destroying all life on Azeroth.” Jaelantia’s frown deepened. “So there is a possible agent of the Burning Legion who seeks to disrupt the harmony this union represents.” “Liene reached out to my order to aid them in dealing with this madman, but so far he has not extended his wrath our way,” Sorel said. “Well, it’s a good thing we all found each other then,” Hervor said. She took a drink from an attendant who came by and waited until he had departed before continuing. “If he’s meddled with fel power, my Sight may prove useful. Any idea why this event would interest him? Is there someone of note here?” “He sows chaos, dissent, and despair wherever he can,” Julilee said. “He simply enjoys it, and it makes everyone and everything easier for him to work with. Stirring up unrest in Suramar of any kind with the Legion right over our heads would be right up his alley.” Hervor’s brow twitched. “So everyone here is at risk…” The idea seemed to bother her immensely. “It’s certainly harder if there’s no clear motive. We’ll have to spread our net as wide as we can.” “Exactly,” Julilee said. “We shouldn’t speak long. I’m doubtlessly being watched, as are the three I brought with me.” “I’ve been watching for traps and illusions all night already,” Sorel said with simmering frustration. “So far I’ve not picked up on anything.” Sanjay seemed tense, but distracted. He drifted back from the group. “I am sorry, but I’m afraid I cannot be of much help. I cannot disappoint my companion.” Abruptly, a night elf in purple and sky-blue robes appeared. She grabbed Hervor’s hand, beckoning her. “You need to come check this out, it’s hilarious,” she exclaimed. “Jaelantia, you too.” Hervor gave the newcomer a sour look. “I’m not quite in the mood for comedy, Niala…” Jaelantia was looking toward Sanjay, whose date, a Nightborne female, had arrived and was giggling at him. “If you see anything, please try and let one of us know as soon as possible,” she said to him. Sanjay didn’t respond as he and his date walked off. Julilee looked back at the group as Niala let out a light chuckle and looked Hervor dead in the fireorbs. “Seriously. You’ll love it. I know it. Come on. Come take a look. You’ll love it, I’m sure.” Jaelantia, who had been frowning, opened her eyes wide in sudden comprehension. “Go see whatever it is. Tell me about it. I love a good laugh.” Juli would have stayed to figure out what was going on, but just then Aaren arrived. They couldn’t all afford to be seen talking together. “Nice meeting you,” Julilee said loudly, and moved away, bringing Aaren with her. “They’re all allies,” she said to the priestess once they were in a different part of the banquet area. It had grown much noisier as more of the guests partook of food and drink, and easier for them to talk. “Twilight Empire. They’ve been alerted. One from Night Vanguard, too, another ally.” Sorel, seemingly abandoned, had petulantly moved off somewhere. Aaren took a deep breath. “I can try pressing the director for information, or do we have another plan?” Julilee considered. “The director should know everyone here. Especially the bride and groom. It’s their wedding; they must be significant. So that’s a good idea. Can you find out what you can about them?” Then, something else occurred to her, along with a wave of foreboding. “…Have you seen Shokkra lately?” Aaren nodded and turned. “She said she would chat up the crowd, pointed the director out to me.” She gestured in a direction. “Do you want me to find her first?” “No, I will. Let me know if you find out anything that seems important.” They two parted ways, Aaren scooping up two glasses of wine as she went. An attendant stopped Juli. “Refill, m’lady?” he asked. Juli realized she had drained her glass at some point, and reluctantly allowed it to be replaced. Need to pay more attention… she thought. There were going to be a great many things to pay attention to, and she couldn’t afford to miss any.
  24. It had been a lovely ceremony, but Jaelantia was quite ready for it to be over by the time the last of the wedding party had finally retreated back down the aisle. The party was apparently headed to another part of the grounds to partake in the newest wedding fad – goblin photography – while the rest of the guests would be shepherded into the ballroom. She clapped politely and endured until she could finally stand up and join the throng headed inside. The draenei paladin was more suited to the field than the social scene, though she could comport herself well enough, and itched to get on with things. It didn’t help that folks had seemed strangely tense before and during the ceremony. She had seen the short-haired blood elf haul the night elf off to the side in the courtyard for some sort of urgent conversation. Then, there had been several people seemingly looking around warily during the ceremony itself. Those same two elves, plus a demon hunter in the back, and another two blood elves and an orc too. All of them non-Nightborne, but their actions seemed more than just a discomfort born from a possible feeling of being out of place. Yet they made such a strange combination of individuals. Jaelantia couldn’t figure out what it meant, if anything, and it bothered her. The tension made her arm act up, a cramp running through her shoulder. She winced and rubbed it absently. Unfortunately, her very attentive date noticed. “Are you injured?” he asked with concern. Haronne du Wistelin was a Nightborne fellow of that middling elven age, neither old nor young. He had long hair tied back in a ponytail and wore small spectacles on his nose, giving him a scholarly appearance. His fine dark vest and pants with bowtie over a white shirt complemented Jaelantia’s own attire, which was an elaborate white dress with gold and blue trim. Her lower legs and hooves were wrapped in fine ribbon, and long white gloves covered both arms up to the shoulder, where the dress covered the remainder. Her hair was drawn up, bunched behind her head, and then allowed to cascade the rest of the way over her shoulders. Even her horns had been polished. It had been a lot of effort, and she wasn’t sure it was going to be worth it at this rate. “No, no, I am fine,” she said. “It is… simply a war wound which has been left slightly tender. Sometimes it flares up when the atmospheric pressure changes.” Or a host of other reasons, she thought to herself, but she left it at that. “It is no concern. Just a mild cramp.” “Ah, my aunt has a marvelous tincture for aches, or so she claims,” Haronne said. “I’ll have to send you some.” “That would be most appreciated,” she lied, turning her attention to the fore of the gathering. They were about to enter the ballroom/banquet hall. “Would you be willing to fetch us both a drink when we get inside?” she asked. “I would like to find a mirror and ensure my hair is the way I left it when we arrived.” “Absolutely,” Haronne said. She let go of his arm as they stepped inside. Immediately through the doors at the rear of the manor was the grand ballroom, extravagant to the extreme. Furnished with only the most expensive of materials, the room had been colored in shades of blue and hints of gold, rich drapes ensconcing the windows that showcased Suramar’s nobility in stained glass. A grand staircase landed on both ends of the ballroom floor that moved up to a lofted upper level where the guests could gossip and comment on the intrigue delivered to them. Guards were at all the doors, carrying traditional dress blades, while not another weapon was in sight. The lower floor appeared reserved for dancing, while the upper lofted area held room for socializing, as well as tables full of exotic and delectable food. Servants circulated, offering guests sparkling drinks. As they entered, a herald by the door holding a long scroll announced their names. “Archivist Haronne du Wistelin and escort Jaelantia!” More ready than ever to escape, Jaelantia looked around and spied a doorway to one side that looked promising. However, as she moved away, she noticed someone nearby. It was the demon hunter she’d seen looking around warily during the ceremony. Instinct made Jaelantia act. She approached and gently touched the demon hunter’s shoulder. “Excuse me,” she pardoned herself. “It was a lovely ceremony, was it not?” She smiled warmly, trying to keep worry from her eyes. Unfortunately, she had not quite lost Haronne. The man had started to move away, only to pause when Jaelantia stopped to strike up a conversation. He hovered nearby politely, not wanting to rudely leave as small talk was being exchanged. However, he leaned back ever so slightly from the demon hunter, despite his efforts to be polite. It was only to be expected, considering his people’s recent trauma at the hands of the Legion, Jaelantia supposed. However, she didn’t have much opportunity to reflect on such things, as the demon hunter all but jumped at her touch and whipped around to face her. “Yes it… It was…” The demon hunter let out a breath. “I apologize for being short, but was there something you needed?” Jaelantia frowned and shook her head. “No, I am sorry to bother you. I thought perhaps I recognized you,” she lied again. She couldn’t keep the concern entirely off her face. “I simply wanted to remark on what a lovely ceremony it was… that everything seemed to go well? And nothing was out of place?” She forced a smile again. “…Y…Yes, I supp—” Just then, the crier announced another name. “Julilee Liene, Commander of Sanctuary!” It was the short-haired blood elf who had hauled the night elf off for a hurried conversation earlier who had entered. The demon hunter’s attention snapped that way. “They rehearsed it for weeks, or so I understand,” Haronne chuckled, oblivious. “Hervor!” said a night elf who approached in pretty purple and cerulean regalia right at that moment. “You’ve changed… when did you get the uh… fel stuff?” The demon hunter, Hervor’s, attention was forced back to the immediate vicinity. “…Ah! Niala! I’m glad to see another member of the Empire… Listen, I’ll tell you all about it, but first I need to find some members of Sanctuary…” She stepped closer to the other night elf and whispered something to her. Jaelantia started. “Another member of the – ah, of course! We haven’t met after all, but I’ve heard your name. I am Jaelantia, also of the… Empire…” Her expression sank again as the more private exchange carried on. Something really was going on. Haronne looked back and forth between the two whispering and Jaelantia. He cleared his throat slightly. “Associates of yours?” he asked. Jaelantia smiled apologetically at Haronne. “Oh, forgive me, Haronne. We seem to be comrades under the same banner… I did not expect to find any here.” Hervor’s ears perked up as she looked back toward Jaelantia. “Seems I have more allies here than I thought. Come with me…” She grabbed both Jaelantia and Niala by the wrist and began walking off to the side with them. “Err, I’ll go fetch our drinks,” Haronne offered as he was left behind. “J-Just girl talk,” Jaelantia explained as was pulled away. “I will rejoin you shortly!” Once they had moved away from the entrance and the bulk of the crowd, Niala said, “I knew something was wrong the moment the guards wouldn’t even let me have my staff to help conjure all the arcwine and the cake. No one bans magic in a city of mages unless they’re trying to kill the mage. I might just be paranoid, but from the moment I entered, it felt off.” “Is something truly amiss, then?” Jaelantia whispered. Hervor let go of their wrists. “I don’t know if they’re aiming to kill any mages, Niala. It sounds more like the newlyweds. Why else choose a wedding? That’s just speculation, but I’ve been given a disturbing tip that something dangerous may indeed be going down here.” The demon hunter folded her arms, one black claw scratching a bit at her skin. “Apparently it’s the reason a group called Sanctuary is here. I think we should find them, hook up with them, and help solve this little issue before anyone gets hurt.” Jaelantia sighed. “So there is a danger here, possibly blended into the rest of the guests, or the wedding party itself – but they are waiting until after the ceremony? Perhaps it is somebody already within the manor itself. Whatever the case… we must combine our efforts, as you said.” Niala nodded once to Hervor, speaking for clarification. “I meant any of the guests. Most of them are mages. That’s all I meant. I’ll keep an eye out. Just...” A second copy of Niala walked up to the group, smiling at the two. “Don’t get worried when you see two of me. They are both me. I’ll look about the party. Long story. Magic involving my soul. Doesn’t seem to be blocked here.” Hervor nodded, seemingly accepting this without question. “Sanctuary may know more about what’s going on. I heard the commander’s name, Julilee. I’m going to go search for her… I caught a glance just before she went out of sight. I suppose of the three of us, I’ll be the easiest to pick out of a crowd… Come to me if you find out anything, okay?” “You may be the first to draw attention from our possible assassin, I hate to say,” Jaelantia said. “I will keep my eyes peeled and let you know the moment I find something. They did not make me surrender my guildstone, after all.” “I’d rather they come after me. I’m quite a bit hardier than I used to be.” Hervor cracked her knuckles, the light of her eyes flaring up, then looked to one of the Nialas. “I’ll be in the ballroom. Perhaps each of you should take another area... I’ll let you figure it out. For now, I need to get back right away… Good luck.” With that, she turned, and moved quite speedily back toward the entrance where Julilee had been. Jaelantia turned to the Nialas. “Well… I will see if I can enter the upper level of the manor. The two… or however many… of you, perhaps keep an eye in other areas as well.” With that, she turned toward the doorway which looked like it led to the upper levels. The two Nialas walked off in separate directions, wading into the crowd a ways before one of her copies veered back off to the kitchen. The other exited the room headed toward what looked like the foyer at the front of the manor. Unfortunately, Jaelantia was denied entry to the upper levels. “Wedding party only, ma’am,” the guards said. “Guests may refresh themselves in the designated area by the banquet.” Not having any other particular ideas, Jaelantia went up to the banquet area as directed. Of course, who should be encounter there but… “Ah, there she is! Jaelantia!” came Haronne’s voice. Jaelantia stifled a sigh and turned toward her date, only to find him standing with the short-haired blood elf – Julilee.
  25. Niala was directed to enter the manor and take the stairs down to the servants’ level as the rest of the guests began heading toward the ceremony. She had a lot of work to do before it ended, but she didn’t intend to miss it. The kitchens proved to be hustling and bustling as the main courses were being prepared, timed to be done as the ceremony ended. There was shouting and a couple of fires at this point. Niala surveyed it all and peered around, trying to find the head chef. Just then, a burly Nightborne in a stained chef’s apron with short-style hair threw a dirty pot at a scurrying servant and shouted, “WHERE’S THE LAMB SAUCE?!” It seemed to signify some sort of authority, so Niala approached hastily. “Pardon. I’m supplying the arcwine and the cake. Are there any powerful foci I can use? If not, I need about a twelve-foot square area for preparation. Please keep staff away from it. The guards refused to let me bring my staff in to focus my magic, so unless we have a powerful focus, it will be dangerous. Hurry or they won’t have their cake by the end of the ceremony!” The burly elf looked Niala up and down. “You’re the cake and arcwine provider? Take that rat bastard’s spot, whose meat was so rare, I COULD’VE USED IT AS A PILLAR OF CREATION!” He pointed to the station in the corner which had been quickly vacated by the pot-struck elf. Niala took her spot at the station without further ado and set to work. With a muttered word of power, a light blue wall of energy formed around the area. The arcane protective field would ensure that she could call upon massive amounts of energy without it splashing onto anyone else. Next, she formed energy into a needle-like spire, and thrust it downward. From it, mana began to well, drawn up from the leylines that ran underneath the estate. When she had gathered enough and it thoroughly permeated the space inside the field, she spun it into use. Instantly, she became a blur of motion, such that there appeared to be no less than three of her within the field, making an assembly line of wine. One was busy conjuring, the other was filling up bottles, and the last was popping out of the barrier to place them on a long empty table by the doorway leading up to the ballroom. In this fashion she conjured several dozens of bottles of arcwine in just a few, though very long-seeming, minutes. Throughout, the kitchen staff moved around Niala’s production line, swiveling and limboing underneath the bottles with platters of food destined for upstairs. The head chef continued shouting obscenities at the servants and cooking up a storm of entrees and appetizers the world had never seen nor would see ever again. And nearby, a blood elf that was handling the regular wines paused to study her movements and magic interestedly. Once she was done with the arcwine, Niala shifted tacks to start working on the cake. She’d already had the perfect image in her mind from as soon as she’d been invited to contribute to the catering, and now it was time to call it into existence. Mana was conjured into the base of the cake, the softest, purest-white, cloud-like matter, which she built up into several narrowing stacks. Though every layer was made with care and exacting precision, she continued to move at lightning speed so that in all but moments she was moving onto the next step. Silk-like layers of frosting began to wrap themselves around the cake, ribbons of smooth white, followed by additional layers of the same with added patterns and textures. Next came innumerable sparkling crystals of edible mana that arranged themselves in elaborate and meticulous patterns as Niala’s form blurred around all sides of the cake. This part took the longest, as each crystal had to be placed individually. As this went on, one of Niala’s forms stepped outside the barrier, and spoke almost confusedly. “I… uhm… Sorry… Doing… a lot at once… Uh… I’ll be… spacing out in the corner. Let me know if you…” She paused for a short moment to collect her thoughts. “…want help with anything else… from that me. In there.” The blood elf who’d been watching her looked to the head chef, who simply nodded and wiped his brow with a cloth before turning back to his staff to bellow instructions. Niala continued working on the cake until at last the glimmering confection was done. The welling of mana within the barrier was dispelled back into the leylines below, carefully, the spire removed, and finally the barrier came down, to reveal an exhausted but pleased looking mage. “Uuuugh… That took ages.” She slumped with a slight groan, then got up and started looking around for the head chef. Oddly, the second her remained outside the barrier, though it stared absently at nothing. Finding the head chef again, the active Niala said, “Do we have some people to carry the cake up? We’ll need at least six to lift it.” The head chef waved a hand and no less than six staff rushed over to pick up the cake by the crystal platter it rested upon and start bringing it upstairs. “By Elune’s neckbeard that was a damned farce of a cook,” the head chef commented, still occupied with the lamb sauce incident though it had been hours ago for Niala. “Luckily, of course, they had me.” He flipped the towel over his shoulder. “Shouldn’t need you again, at least until the ceremonial wine later if you’d like to help with that.” The blood elf glanced toward them again before moving on to attend to his duties. The other Niala sat down slowly in the corner. The active Niala nodded once to the head chef and smiled. “Sounds good. I’ll be amongst the crowd, yeah? Shouldn’t be too hard to spot me with clothes like these.” With that, she made her way out of the kitchen and headed upstairs, leaving the other her downstairs. There was a ceremony to catch… but she wanted to keep an eye on things down here, too.
  26. Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts: The Suramar Wedding

    This was a mistake, the monk thought as he tugged uncomfortably at the tight sleeves and collar of his dinner jacket. He hadn’t worn it in years, and when last he’d donned the formal attire, he’d been a much smaller man. Sanjay looked around at the ceremonial area and the ornate chairs set along the sides of the fancily-laced carpet and wondered where the person who had invited him was. I should have just run away. There’s no telling what she’ll make me do this time. The monk’s shaved, darkly-toned head barely reached up to the chins of most of the elven guests at this event. He’d have a hard time finding her in the crowd. Without warning, Sanjay was pulled to a seat in the middling section. An elven woman smiled at him knowingly, her pale blue skin lacking any wrinkle or hint of what she was thinking upon its surface. Her brilliant eyes regarded him with recognition and a distinct impression of humor. “Hello, my Redjay,” she said sweetly. “It is good to see you again.” Sanjay’s heart skipped a beat without his permission. “Nyomi,” he muttered, “I got your invitation. I don’t know what compelled me to come.” “I do,” she replied. He felt an itch of discomfort as he took his seat beside her. Nyomi put a hand on Sanjay’s leg. He tensed and tugged at his black, unkempt beard in annoyance, but felt powerless to stop her. His voice was hushed and strained. “Why did you invite me here? Just to torment me?” She laughed quietly. “You know me. I never go anywhere without a strong man to protect me.” Sanjay wished he had one to protect him. Or a woman. I wonder if her charms work on them as well? The wedding party entered. There were no less than ten couples who came down the aisle, with several flower girls and boys sprinkled in between. Once that was done, the music swelled to a crescendo, and a Nightborne man, presumably the groom, announced as Gaspard du Chalons, emerged alone. His wedding suit was as much a statement as he himself was, a mix of armor and military dress with the fur of a Llothien Prowler draped across his shoulder. His hair was cut short in a military style and his face clean shaven. Sanjay had seen a thousand men just like him. A thousand men, and one, he thought bitterly. He tried to drown the unwelcome memories as they flooded back, but only succeeded in annoying himself further. Gaspard swaggered his way down the aisle and took his position at the center of the dais, turning to await the last arrival. The music fell very, very, softly, then swelled even more dramatically, and the bride, Celene Valmont, made her appearance. Her wedding dress was beyond over the top, a shocking construction of arcane material and white lace that somehow managed to leave most of her legs bare. She sashayed down the aisle with a sly, shy smile, very aware of her status as the center of attention. The groom smiled broadly at her. “Do you think the bride is beautiful, my dear Jay?” Nyomi asked the monk, her grip tightening around his thigh. Yes, far more than you, he wanted to say. “Would my answer even matter, Nyomi?” he replied instead. “Either way, you’ll get the answer you want to hear. How can you know if it’s the truth?” “Who cares about truth when you can get exactly what you want?” She smiled at him again, looking as content as could be. Sanjay started to wonder which was worse – thoughts of his past, or of the woman whose clutches he had fallen into. Gaspard took Celene’s hand as she reached the dais. Celene tittered nervously. They turned to the man from the podium, who had emerged to stand before them, holding a great tome. Only, he proved not to be holding it as it kept itself suspended in midair as he flipped through the pages, slowly and deliberately, looking for the right passage to read from. Sanjay noticed many within the crowd shifting about nervously. The monk could have felt the tension hanging in the air even if he had not been sensitive to the spiritual energy around him. Some in the crowd – most of them suspiciously non-Nightbourne – seemed to be about ready to leap out of their seats as if at any minute the bride and groom would exchange knives in the heart instead of vows, rings, and a kiss. The minutes crawled by, and Sanjay’s increasing anxiety – a combination of the crowd around him, the memories plaguing him, and the woman clawing at his inner thigh with a sense of indecent ownership – ascended to as high a crescendo as the music had moments ago. Minutes passed to hours, or so it seemed to the monk. So many amongst the crowd awaited something to happen, and yet, as time crawled by.... nothing did. At long, long last, the bride and groom leaned in, about to kiss. Sanjay thought his heart would stop. If only it were the romance that was getting to me. And then it was over. The crowd burst into applause and strange flashes filled the hall as some contraption that seemed goblin in origin was displayed a few feet from the dais. Sanjay thought he remembered mention of “photographs” being taken as he had entered the area earlier. It was far from something he understood, however. The wedding party began filing out, the bride and groom first, followed by the ten couples, children, and officiator. They took an even longer time exiting than they had entering. Nyomi spoke in Sanjay’s ear as the din in the hall grew less and less reverently hushed. “A sterling ceremony, wouldn’t you agree? I told you when you saved me from those Legion interrogators that your valiant service would be rewarded. If this is unsatisfactory to you, I am more than happy to bring you to more such events.” The monk could feel her burning smile in his back as he shuffled out into the aisle awkwardly, flanked on all sides by tall bluish people. If I had known what sort of reward I would get for saving you, would I have still done it? he wondered to himself in sullen silence. He didn’t bother replying to her question. It was much too loud for him to want to try, and he knew he wouldn’t have a choice in the matter anyway. If she wanted him to go somewhere, all it would take was one puff of her dust. By the time the couple reached the ballroom, many guests were already filing about, talking to one another about gossip, politics, and other ceremonies they had been involved with. “The du Monticlaria wedding had a much better officiary,” one guest said off to Sanjay’s right. Another mentioned a better ballroom at another wedding entirely. Sanjay tried to drown out the voices the way he had been taught in meditation. That didn’t last long. Nyomi turned him to face her, and she drew that infernal dust to blow in his face. A short bout of coughing later, and Sanjay’s mind was altered entirely. Thoughts of his soiled past, odd marriage customs, and goblin technology faded away until all that was left in his mind’s eye was her – Nyomi. His love. “I would love to dance the night away,” she said. And it was all he wanted, as well. “Would you accompany me, my Jay?” “Anything for you, my lady."
  27. Mardalius' Logbook

    Mardalius' reports are done in shorthand Thalassian, more notes on his actions than a proper journal. His hand is elegant and practiced, with no smears or blots. Each page is stamped with the seal of House Anterius, a stylized "A" emblazoned on a shield, and Mardalius' personal seal, a crossed sword and staff. Julilee, I will be using logbooks like this one to file my reports. The reports start at the beginning of the day you informed me I was to submit them. As instructed, I will only be reporting things that directly pertain to the mission against the Legion. Week One, Day One: Visited several shops in Dalaran seeking a tome on exceptionally long range portal theory. Found one lead. Will investigate tomorrow. Ordered 3 (three) spare battle raiments from my tailor, Dobraine. Should be finished this week. Weight training with Alinah, sparred with T'suro. Ended in draw due to inability to use magic safely in basement. Recommend outdoor sparring area for magic-based fighters Week One, Day Two: Followed lead on aforementioned tome. Purchased tome from Ethereal in Shattrath, teleported back to Dalaran. Will review tome later. Purchased rations and new staff for excursion to Argus. Remainder of day spent awaiting orders to leave. Week One, Day Three: Studied portal tome. Spoke to mages who maintain portal to the Vindicaar. Should be able to replicate portal, if needed. Will require great deal of magical energy. Will plan extra rationing. Week One, Day Four: Attended a wedding in Suramar, per your orders, to stop an assassination plot by Karthok. Took on an illusion of a guardsman, rescued Cmdr. Sorel Crescentsong from himself, and assisted with stopping the assassins. Returned to guildhouse and received treatment for wounds received. If more information is needed, will provide in person. Week One, Day Five: Tested ability to open portals from Argus to Azeroth. Test successful, but very draining. Spent remainder of day recovering strength. Week One, Day Six: Still recovering from portal test. Slept late, ate plentifully. Picked up spare battle raiments from Dobraine, packed in rucksack with rations. Week One, Day Seven: Final preparations for Argus. Received orders to gather and leave with warband. Performed final inventory.
  28. Full Name: Mardalius Anterius Nicknames: Mardy Date of Birth: April 14 Age: 23 Race: Half Thalassian, Half Human Gender: Male Hair: Fire Red Skin: Pale Eyes: Sapphire Height: 6'3" Weight: 215lbs Place of residence: Sanctuary Guildhall, Dalaran City Place of Birth: Silvermoon City, Quel'thalas Known Relatives: Margoz Anterius (Human, Father), Brudicus Anterius (Human Death Knight, Grandfather), Kirsune Anterius (Quel'dorei, Mother) Religion/Philosophy: Church of the Holy Light Occupation: Battlemage Group/Guild affiliation: Sanctuary Likes: Books, Dislikes: Wasting time, fatty foods, senseless discrimination. Favorite Food: Garden salad with grilled chicken, nuts, tomatoes, and a light dressing, served with a side of fresh fruit. Favorite Drinks: Fizzy fruit punch wine, cinnamon whiskey. Favorite Colors: Purple and silver. Weapons of Choice: Hand-and-a-half sword with an arcane focus in the pommel paired with a staff. Hobbies: Playing the lute, research, reading, weight training, sparring. Physical Features: Well toned muscle, leans towards his elven heritage. Special Abilities: Talented in Frost and Fire magic, exceptional swordsman. Positive Personality Traits: Intelligent, kind, determined. Negative Personality Traits: Reckless, emotional, socially awkward. Misc. Quirks: Claustrophobic History: Mardalius was an accident. His parents never planned on having children, and when he was born, Margoz had to beg Kirsune to help raise him. Given that Margoz was away soldiering often, this lead to nearly a decade of emotional abuse and attempts to abandon Mardalius or adopt him out, all of which were foiled by Margoz. As a young boy, he was considered a freak by his peers for his "tainted blood." This lead to isolationist behavior, the effects of which can still be seen in some of his social interactions to this day. When Mardalius was ten, the Scourge marched on Quel'thalas, headed for the Sunwell. Kirsune took Mardalius and escaped by portal to Dalaran, only to leave him apprenticed to her father, an accomplished battlemage. For a decade, Mardalius trained in the arts of Frost and Fire magics as well as with the sword. His grandfather molded him into a weapon for "the wars to come," something that came in handy when Mardalius reconnected with his father at the onset of the Draenor Campaign. With the help of Margoz, Mardalius enlisted aboard The Jade Lion, under Captain Zhi Fa. The following months and years would see the father/son duo embark on several missions together, eventually leaving The Jade Lion to join other orders, finally ending in Night Vanguard with many comrades from days gone by, including one Sorel Crescentsong, who held the command. Mardalius and Sorel were always oil and water, but this new command relationship strained that to new heights, culminating in Mardalius joining the Horde organization Sanctuary, where he could be among his people. ((Portrait Courtesy of Vilmah))
  29. Hervor approached the gates with some trepidation. She felt rather out of place here. Her bright fel green glowing markings and tall horns made her an easy pick even from a distance, drawing exactly the kind of attention she didn’t want. No few stared at her as she handed her invitation to the guards. Lips pursed, she half expected to be turned away despite the document. Indeed, the guards began frowning at her excessively, and she started thinking she never should have listened to Bel and Vali… but then they stepped aside to allow her in. Silently, she bowed her head and walked past. That would doubtlessly only be the first of it. With an effort, she kept a scowl from her face. The night was young, and she wanted to see the child again, just to reaffirm in her head that she was safe and well. She glanced back once, then looked around the courtyard at all the fine, attractively dressed people. There was a surprising mix of races, no more than two-thirds present Nightborne. The rest were blood elves, humans, and night elves, and she saw at least one draenei and one orc as well. She had tried to make herself presentable for the occasion. The night elven demon hunter wore a long, very dark purple dress with small, silver accents along the top. Her long, platinum white hair was braided into a bun, with a small remainder hanging like a ponytail. She even had a new blindfold to match the dress, with a half-veil hanging over the right side of her face to help hide her horrible, fel-pocked scars. Her replacement eye piece was newly crafted as well, gilded with some small bejeweling and a more elegant look to it. “You made quite the entry, even if you didn’t mean to,” a deep elven voice spoke from behind Hervor. It proved to belong to a tall blood elf with a portly size to match. His face was uncommonly homely for one of his race, almost pig-like. “…Yes, well… I couldn’t really help it.” Her fangs flashed as she spoke. “These markings don’t exactly turn off.” Feeling like she ought to be polite, she decided to introduce herself. “…I’m Hervor. Hervor Ironfang.” She held out a hand to shake his. The blood elf extended his heavy hand to clasp hers, shifting his leg forward awkwardly as he did so. Said leg lay in a metal brace overtop his tight and expensive clothing. “Reuvan,” he said. His voice matched his size and features. His head was bald with a five o’clock shadow where a beard could have been, his pig-like face oddly compelling with steely eyes. “What got you invited?” Hervor’s gaze drifted down to the brace for a moment before she looked back up. “When the children were being rounded up, I freed a great many of them. Apparently one was a member of this family.” She paused, before speaking again. “Does that brace cause you a great deal of trouble?” “Makes combat near impossible, and makes fucking a great deal more painful. Other than that it’s a damn good conversation starter.” Reuvan grinned, holding his hands by his sides. Hervor actually cracked a smirk at that, some tension evaporating. Speaking so frankly had that effect. “I only ask because, well… I’m a bit of a tinkerer. I couldn’t help but wonder if, with the right tools, I could make it into something more manageable. …Of course, it might not be the best idea at such a fancy affair…” She sighed, glancing around again before looking back to him. “Saving family members is a good way to get invited to parties, especially if you’re someone like you in a place like Suramar. I took a more traditional route.” “Traditional, you say? Are you a member of one of the families?” she asked. “I’m a friend of the bride. Made sure her family and this estate was kept safe during the rebellion,” he replied. “You may not be able to fight, but you’re a noble warrior in my mind if that’s the case.” Just then, the crier made his announcement, and people started moving toward the rear of the estate. “Oh… Sounds like things are starting… We’d best get going,” she said. Reuvan nodded. “Indeed.” He offered his arm. “Join me?” Hervor paused a moment. “You might get the same nasty looks I do.” “With my looks, I’ll get them anyway.” His grin had a hint of a sneer in it, this time. “Well enough.” She took the man’s arm. Walking slowly enough to be easy on his leg, they rounded the manor and came to the ceremony area in its open backyard, ringed by trees. The main stage was a dais with a large bower, with flowers elaborately arranged in profusion around it. Rows of chairs filled the area, and ushers were guiding people to either the bride or groom’s side according to cryptic reasoning. A older Nightborne fellow in robes with fluffy facial hair stood at a podium on the dais, clearing his throat to himself and inspecting his notes. He looked a little worse for wear – a recently reversed Nightfallen, no doubt. Hervor and Reuvan were both shown to the bride’s side, so they were able to sit together. Due to their reduced speed, they wound up seated more toward the back, but that was plenty fine with the demon hunter. The last thing she needed was someone muttering behind her about how distracting her marks were, or that her horns were getting in their way. Crossing her legs, she leaned back into her chair a bit and tried to ignore the stares she was getting anyway. Reuvan had gotten a gaggle of looks as well, as predicted. Reuvan grunted and shifted his leg into a more comfortable position as the last few guests got seated. “Think someone’ll die?” he said. Hervor’s brow furrowed, a confused but amused look on her face. “I certainly hope not. It’s a wedding. Why would you ask?” “Because if Sanctuary thought the threat wasn’t genuine, they wouldn’t have taken me up on my invitation. But they did. Which means tonight’s going to be a lot more exciting than you bargained for.” A serious and dour look on was on his face. All amusement vanished. “…Sanctuary? You’re being serious?” At that moment, soft music started playing from an indeterminate location. The man at the podium cleared his throat, this time louder and distinctly, and began speaking. “Marriage. Marriage is what brings us together today. Marriage, that blessed arrangement...” Reuvan held a finger up to his lips, then pointed forward. Hervor turned back toward the front, but now all her senses were on high alert, and she was tense. Her clawed fingers clutched at her dress. Sanctuary was here, and expecting serious trouble? The children… The officiator droned on. “That dream within a dream, and love, true love, forever and ever. So treasure your love…” Hervor debated with herself as the ceremony continued. She wanted to press Reuvan for information, but until she saw the girl coming up the aisle with the rest of the wedding party, she hesitated. But seeing that child, her face screwed up in concentration as she carefully deposited the flower petals exactly where she was supposed to, firmed Hervor’s resolve, even if she didn’t know exactly what to do. She leaned into Reuvan, speaking in a lower tone. “If you know something… If those kids are in danger… We have to warn someone…” Reuvan shook his head. “You’ll have more luck finding the would-be assassins. Find someone more able to help you do that, I’ll provide what information I can,” he whispered carefully. The green glow behind her blindfold and within that mechanical eye flared brighter. “Sanctuary, you said? They’re here to prevent it? Where are they?” A guest seated nearby ahemmed distinctly and glared at them. Reuvan did not respond. Hervor looked forward, noticing someone looking back her way. It was a blood elf with short dark hair near the front of the groom’s section. She wouldn’t have been more noticeable than anyone else present if she hadn’t then looked around at the rest of the crowd with just as much wariness as she had at Hervor. Sanctuary? Or one of the would-be assassins? Hervor would have to find out.
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