Khorvis

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  1. [[ This is going to be postponed until the Fall. I didn't take the time to drum up enough support to make this successful right now. ]]
  2. Hey big grats, Q!
  3. As the winter's blanket receded, melting into the Telaari Basin, dreaming glories poked their heads from beneath Nagrand's plains. Clefthooves in heat, talbuks rutting, spring had arrived, and the green grasses made their annual pilgrimage up towards the Red World's sun. The winds gusting off the Twisting Nether whistled past the holy mountain of Oshu'gun, carrying the promise of change and renewal over the barrier hills into the hovels and sanctums of Shattrath City. A rogue breeze slipped through one of the portals to Orgrimmar and rattled the parchment of a freshly printed flyer hanging from a tentpost within the Cleft of Shadow. It reads: Clans and guilds of the Horde do be called to meet upon the plains of Nagrand! A Kosh'harg will be held about the Ring of Trials at the middle of the coming month and her equinox! With feasting and drink, this sacred gathering do be a time of peace and honor. Games will be held to boast the strength of our comrades. Tales will be retold to remember the valor of those who did come before us. Honor will be heaped upon those who did depart from us too soon. The old ways call on us to unite as one and look to the future. The Horde must know for what it fights! The poster is signed with a sigil stamped in red incarnadine ink, bearing the image of Blackrock Spire, the Grim skull, and the Lash. The wind swirls and dissipates, but leaves behind the heady scent of grasses. [[OOC: This is an event for all Horde! The Kosh'harg is an old tradition from the orcish clans of Draenor, before the intrusion of the Burning Legion. It is meant to be a great large festival, where all Clans come to meet in peace. No weapons are drawn in anger (aside from friendly duels) and all are invited to celebrate their commonality. Traditionally, this was a time for discussing trade and oaths, settling disagreements, and retelling stories. It was always held near Oshu'gun in Nagrand. I would very much like for us as a roleplay community to honor this tradition. The Kosh'harg has been executed successfully on other servers, and I think that it could be a lot of fun! We are not all orcs, but our various guilds form many different 'clans'. This would be a chance to interact freely outside of the usual 'tavern' RP setting. It would also need some structure. I am envisioning a series of events through a night. An opening benediction. Feasting and chatter. A dueling tournament. A storytelling contest. A closing ceremony. Nothing is yet set in stone, because I am coming here to listen to ideas! Here's a basic TL;DR: Who: Everyone's invited! (Hordeside) What: Large Horde festival Where: Ring of Trials, Nagrand, Outland When: Wednesday night in middle of April - 12th or 19th, 8pm server If you or your guild wants to participate, post here or send me a PM. The goal is to get a big turnout, so the more the merrier! ]]
  4. Chapter One - The Southfury Part One Khorvis slid down from the back of the war wolf, wincing and bending over a fist clutched to his stomach. The old wound given to him by that Sanctuary wench throbbed and ached after the tumultuous galloping across Orgrimmar's western bridge. Up the edgewaters of the Southfury the party had raced at a breakneck pace, chasing the slobbering jowls of their new lupine companion. Only after a mad league did Shmuggles relent, stopping to pant and gorge himself upon river water. The aged orc glanced quizzically at the Blackrock dagger hanging from his belt, the same blade with which Shokkra had tickled his gut. He could have sworn to the ancestors that the woman had stolen it from him. One day he would need to interrogate Boneslave as to how the putrid knight came to repossess the dagger. For now, Khorvis was content to pat the wolf's mane and catch his breath. "I do think we will call you Mash'rogahn, boy." Khorvis felt the shoulder muscles of his mount flex with pride. "Willful Heart, which you clearly do own." The warrior's right gauntlet clenched in a fistful of fur. The Hand of Ashran was a vise and before Mash'rogahn could react, Khorvis shoved the wolf's entire head beneath the river's current. Great thrashing and gurgled howls shook the embankment, but the orc was as immovable as an ancient knotty ironwood. Mai'kull's voidcaller darted to and fro in a dash of worry, uncertain of what this mad orc was trying to do, but Edgar only stood stupidly with his mouth agape, admiring the strength of his master. "You must learn who do be the alpha of this pack," Khorvis growled as the scrambling of paws grew more frantic. The water was frothing with silt as Rogahn's snout dug into the riverbed. "If you do wish to be fed and rest your head within my den, you would do best to acknowledge your place, runt!" As the air ran out in the wolf's lungs, a realization came to the fore, along with a shiver and then the touching of a grey belly to the earth with bent legs. The Hand released. Mash'rogahn wrenched his soaking head from the Southfury and laid down before Khorvis. Whimpering and heaving out no small amount of riverwater and mud, the war wolf kept his snout to the earth and looked up at the orc through his great big sapphire eyes. Khorvis did not fail to notice that the beast's tail continued to wag, belying any masquerade at hurt. "There now," he said almost gently, as if he had not just nearly drowned the animal. "Did that be so bloody hard?" Khorvis stood up, letting the wolf's sweat and river's muck drip from his mechanical prosthetic. "What do you say we all enjoy a calm walk to the North... aye, Bes'thra‽" He shouted at the old kodo which was just now catching up. The burdened matriarch displayed a lack of enthusiasm for her new role and could only muster a decidedly annoyed grunt as she passed the party. The Southfury River churned between the barrier cliffs of Orgrimmar and the Mor'shan Ramparts as it had since the Sundering. An'she's afternoon rays played along the spray of the rapids which misted the water-worn rocks. Lichen clung to the shaded areas, tinting the shadows green. Where the banks had withstood the pressure, rough granite provided purchase for gnarled cedars and spruces to thrive. Khorvis let his gloveless left hand run over their furrowed bark, enjoying the familiarity of the terrain and the closeness to nature. The little spaces caught his attention, the small crevices where life took root and tiny rodents burrowed. For a moment, Khorvis had the odd sensation of seeing through his empty eye - not viewing the living world as it was, but as if time were quickly passing. The life cycles of the lizards sunning themselves upon the warm rocks, their skin curling away and leaving behind sun-bleached bones. Embankments fell away into the waters below, carrying with them pines which quickly shed yellowing, dead needles mid-plunge. An aged Tauren paddled down the river in a roughly hewn canoe, a young Brave standing at the craft's bow. As the Brave turned, the Elder had lain against the stern and ceased breathing. The Brave, now turning grey and frail, cast a white linen cloth over the bones of his ancestor. They both disappeared behind a rapid. Fiercely blinking, Khorvis dispelled the image, and the world righted itself into the lazy afternoon through which the little caravan meandered. These visions were becoming more common ever since his return from the Shadowlands. Uncertain of their origin, though he suspected the infection of his eye wound, Bloodstar made a mental note to bring it to the attention of the next Elder with whom he spoke. For now, the river babbled along mundanely. Part Two It occurred to Khorvis that his troop neared the ruins of the ill-fated brewery that he had abandoned some years ago. After crossing an aged stone bridge, likely of Kaldorei make, to the Azsharan side, they slowed their pace. Khorvis listened closely to the woodland sounds and scanned the bases of the pines. Edgar flanked to the right, wraithwalking between each elongated shadow. Above the warbling of the swallowlings and the swishing of the river, sarcastic laughter could be heard between what sounded like two orcs. Entering the brewery site's main clearing, the party came to the wide dilapidated and overgrown foundation, once intended to support the sizable facility's main building. Between the weather-worn granite blocks quarried from the nearby cliffs crackled a small campfire. A gnarled orc hunched on a log, prodding the pitiful embers with a metal rod. Scarred across the face with a nasty burn that had failed to heal properly, Grik'nish spat into the weeds through a twisted snarl. Once a dark shaman loyal to the fallen Warchief Hellscream, the fugitive orc appeared to have fallen upon hard times, if the gauntness of his face and state of his armor were of any indication. A clatter of logs punctuated the precarious mood of the clearing. Towering eight feet tall and helmetless, Oggok Ug’throk stared imposingly at Khorvis and his company, having dropped his armful of kindling. Grik'nish's head snapped up at the noise, his feral black eyes narrowing at the sight of strangers. "Nish. Company," Ug'throk bellowed in his deep bass. The dark shaman was already getting to his feet, cursing and scrambling for his cudgel. "Who in the name of Thrall's hairless nads... did they track us from Ogrimma-!" "Bloodstar?!" wailed Grik'nish. Khorvis had come to a halt, leading Mash'rogahn by the harness. Huffing and shaking her tusks, Bes'thra paused at the side, her shadow covering a skittish voidcaller. The Lasher curled the edge of his lip in a grunt that exposed both a tusk and a sickening sense of disgust for his find, as when one lifts a stone to reveal a colony of venomous centipedes. Beyond the guttural bark and a pair of crossed arms, Khorvis provided no other reply. A sucking of mud resounded from Grik'nish's boot clomping forward in the residue of spring's melt before the orc halted with hesitation. He glanced at his oversized partner and made a hasty motion. "Well. Ain't this a fancy surprise." The screechy worm spat again, this time with unnecessary emphasis. "Last we did see your nasty arse, it was covered in rotter guts while you lost your damn mind!" Despite his brave words, the shaman's only remaining ear laid back against the thinning hair of his skull. Oggok tried to mirror 'Nish's obscene smile but only managed to look like a fool as he flanked the Grim warrior. "Zug zug, boss. We thought you was gonna be a deader too." The giant kept his hands raised, purposefully showing that they were empty. It would matter little - those huge paws could crush a Halfhill melon as quick as an eggshell. "Aye, I did be dead, gone, and returned. No thanks to the two of you fools," riddled Khorvis. "Seeing how you both do still be dirtgrubbing and drawing breath, you might count yourselves fortunate that I do not flay you both on the spot for your cowardice." The warrior patted the dagger at his belt. "I do think it would be best if you moved along..." His two boots were planted squarely apart. Grik'nish had a brow covered in sweat as he waved his hands and tried to placate his surprise guest. "No! ...No reason to be so pussin' hasty, brother!" The wind began to pick up, whipping the tops of Azshara's pines. "We just ah - was thinkin' about that payment you promised! Remember the gold you said you set aside for the Tirisfal job?" The grin plastered on the orc's face was about as real as the palm tree in Everlook's tavern - the eyes were always a giveaway. Oggok Ug’throk charged first. The huge orc would have crashed into Khorvis had Edgar not taken that moment to shadowstep above the melee and drop before Ug'throk's face with a gap-toothed grin that sent the pair cartwheeling past Bes'thra in a tumble of bones and muscle. Bloodstar's sidestep also avoided a windshear flung by Grik'nish that split a fir tree some few paces to the rear. Khorvis huffed and drew his Blackrock dagger, set to gut the upstart shaman on the spot. "Stupid choice, you goatsucking peon. You forget your place - and the second chance I did give yoUR-!" His taunt was cut off as his chin clipped the earth. Ropey roots shot out of the ground and snaked their way around Khorvis's ankles, trapping him prostrate and defenseless. No matter how hard he struggled, the tendrils only constricted more tightly, wrapping upwards and threatening to cut off his windpipe. A baleful cackle arose from the throat of his adversary. "Not so tough without your whip, are ya 'Griiiiiiimey'!" Grik'nish licked his lips and stalked towards a Khorvis that was gasping for breath. The mace smacked menacingly in the shaman's palm. "No, as much as I wish I could make ya suffer, you're just too fuckin' dangerous to let loose. Mad dog!" He giggled, raising the cudgel over his head, ready to bring it down in a crushing blow upon Bloodstar's cranium. "Mad dog! Put 'em down! Put 'em GAH-!" Grik'nish's scream was silenced as Mash'rogahn's maw collapsed around his throat. A sickening crack resounded throughout the trees as the wolf tore out the orc's larynx, spraying gouts of piping hot lifesblood across the granite foundations of the brewery. Two great paws pinned Grik'nish's shoulders to the trampled weeds as the beast shredded what remained of the orc's neck, until a triumphant snout arose clenching a limp head tenuously attached to a broken spinal column. The ropey roots dropped inanimately from Khorvis's body. He scrambled to his feet, regaining his footing while taking in the gory splendor that Rogahn was enjoying. Bloodstar had seen the most brutal of close combat between hated enemies, whether they were orcs or humans, but this primal evisceration presented a spectacle too gruesome to celebrate. Backing away, fully cognizant that the shaman was beyond anything resembling life, the Blackrock dagger and its owner sought out the grapple between Boneslave and the giant. Edgar had tried to toy with the great oaf. Slipping between the tree-shadows, the deathknight managed only to infuriate Oggok - by the time Khorvis arrived, Boneslave's neck was pinned by a bulging bicep. Edgar's hacking laughter served only to disguise his Master's approach. Khorvis dug the fingerpads of the Hand of Ashran into Oggok's eye sockets and yanked the orc's head backwards. "I do think you should have kept running, coward." Unceremoniously, the Lasher dragged his dagger across the Kor'kron's neck. The skin split and forth spilled a river of what Bloodstar should have undammed several years prior. Oggok Ug’throk's head slumped forwards, taking with it the vengeance of untold innocent lives. Wiping the gore upon his leathers, Khorvis let his gaze sweep over the unsteady ensemble of limbs called Boneslave before attending his new mount. Mash'rogahn was licking his chops gleefully. A stark contrast could be drawn between the spray of red ichor decorating the worg's silver mane, yet Khorvis could only feel a sense of relief at seeing the living health of his newly adopted brother. "Mash'rogahn, you do have a warrior's spirit within those foolish bones," Khorvis muttered as he scooped the sweetmeats from Grik'nish's shattered skull. Upon the wolf's panting snout and brow he painted the orcish runes of strength and alacrity. "This day we together we have charged into battle. Let this be your Om'riggor." Were Khorvis a more sentimental orc, he might have embraced the wolf. Instead, Azsharan sunset would be content to sparkle in his wet eyes.
  5. [[ The next, less dour, chapter following Grief. ]] The zeppelin flight from Tirisfal to Orgrimmar had left Khorvis covered from head to toe in kodo vomit. Bes'thra, the orc's trusty mount for the many campaigns since the Horde landed upon Kalimdor's shores, was having none of the early spring turbulence patterns that gusted 'round the Maelstrom. Despite Khorvis's best efforts to placate the wailing beast, wave after wave of partially digested dehydrated dwarf meat (as was her favorite) splashed through the Thundercaller's hold. Considering the unruly headwind and the extended trip, Khorvis emerged from the Skyway's lift in a mood foul enough to sour springwater. The Voidcaller which had lingered about the Harbinger since his return from the Shadowlands ghosted beside Edgar, who scampered by his master's side with Bes'thra in sickly tow, making pitiful soothing motions only to be swatted at by a meaty fist. "Stop it! Just bloody stop!" the orc yelled, completely losing his temper. "I just do need a moment to think! Hands to yourselves!" Boneslave recoiled in fear, retreating to Bes'thra to check the kodo's harness and straps which secured the majority of his master's worldly possessions. Given the age and condition of the creature, it was unlikely that she was any longer suited for combat. A beast of burden and the caravan would be her retirement. Khorvis watched the elevator ascend away and sniffed the air of Durotar. Chilly, and with the same sweaty musk that soaked the old timbers of the capital, albeit quieter now that the bulk of the war machine was engaged on the Broken Isles. A few peddlers wheeled their carts down the path into The Drag. A rogue wind blew a whirlwind of dust along the same road, and Khorvis, giving in to what was either habit or instinct, followed. The early morning sounds of Orgrimmar's less desirable quarter were familiar to the orc. The clanging of the scrapper's hammer, irregular in the haze of a hangover. A shouted quarrel between a domineering warrioress and her browbeaten mate. The leather hawker's barking, overselling what were clearly the under-tanned hides of sickly gazelles. All of these noises harangued over the constant creak of the shade sails which hung at the canyon's crest. Ignoring the wastrels, Khorvis marched onward along the curving path. These cretins that holed up in Orgrimmar's cliffsides were to him nothing but cowards. The aged and the children were to be forgiven, for they would only be dead weight in the war against the Legion, but many of those still rotting in The Drag were orcs, trolls, and goblins in their prime. In his life before the Grim, Khorvis would have been counted among them, were it not for the wise urging of a wily troll. Their selfish stench now disgusted the veteran. The caravan and the gust of wind came to a stop at a small pool near Nogg's machine shop. With the spreading of tiny waves and fleeing muddy crawfish, the dustdevil subsided, leaving the orc and his band without a guide. Edgar led Bes'thra to the water's edge with an uncanny gentleness to let the kodo drink her fill. Harumphing, Khorvis sat his own self down upon the dock to consider his next move. The Voidcaller - Khorvis would need to designate a name for the minion if it refused to depart - caught up with the party, its arms overflowing with scrolls and inks. Clearly it had been to the Mighty Pen to patron the great scribe, Zilzibin Drumlore, to procure what the elemental assumed its old master would require. Khorvis only grunted and gestured towards Bes'thra. Drumlore would likely be sending a blighted invoice for the lot, but he had too little energy to scold the shadowling. Instead, Khorvis gazed into the pool and thought back to the words he had exchanged recently with Elder Duskheron... The Taureness sat at the Filthy Animal's bar, nursing some Vry'kul-brewed swill. She explained her understanding of her relationship with the elements. "They are your guide. I let the waters mend our comrades, as that is what their blood is mostly made of." She seemed thoughtful. "Though I suppose there is a little bit of each element within us. The air of our breath, the earth in our bones. And the fire in our hearts." Khorvis seemed skeptical. "You call them guides, these elementals. Why not command them properly as subordinates? Would this not be more efficient in battle?" Elder Duskheron chided the orc, explaining, "Do you not trust your axe in battle, that your swing will be true thanks to training? Time. Practice. Patience. With these things, you will grow into your own power." The truth of it dawned upon the orc in a flurry. "Ah, I do think I now see. The blademaster trusts in his sword when it do be cared for. When he knows that the smith worked his forge in earnest and tempered an honest blade." Khorvis went on to describe the leadership methods of Warchief Doomhammer during the Second War, and Duskheron cordially nodded along, her muzzle smiling behind her mug of ale. The night drifted on, the two exchanging thoughts on the nature of command, until they were both summoned to the Nighthold, to serve the Mandate. Khorvis's reverie was disturbed, as was the pool's stillness, by a great splashing. A quaking goblin was screaming with both hands outstretched. Her palms were ripped and bleeding, the culprit being immediately obvious having flounced into the small body of water after tearing the reins away from his handler. A massive war wolf thrashed and shook in the weedy waters, spraying all of the onlookers with scummy waves. The Kor'kron of Garrosh Hellscream had been cruel masters, bedecking the proudest of wolves with armor that would break the backs of lesser creatures. A great many of the beasts had needed to be put down at the close of the Siege, so abused had they been by the traitor Warchief's dark shaman. Not this specimen. Unruly and full of vigor, the wolf howled and stared a direct challenge at the soaking Bloodstar. Its grey coat glistened in the morning light of An'she, filtered through the massive tree at The Drag's center. Fully armored in the bone raiment of the Kor'kron, the alpha presented a fearsome visage. Khorvis was no stranger to the training of these murderous mounts. An overzealous flog could whip itself to a nub against such a proud beast, while a timid hand would be torn from its owner's limb in a snapping second. This one required a firm hand to guide it. To direct its vicious nature into a strategic outlet. He approached, palm outstretched unyieldingly. Willful Heart, or Mash'rogahn as Khorvis would take to calling the worg in the days that followed, inched forward to sniff the orc's flesh. It was in that instant, soaked in pond scum and rank with kodo vomit beneath the shade sails of The Drag, that a powerful connection was awoken between Bloodstar and the wolf. It stretched back in time, to the early days of the Horde, a commitment to principles of loyalty and honor, bound in blood and an indescribable lust for the wild reaches of one's nature. In the present, the gobliness continued screaming at the vile-drenched orc who was stealing her prized worg. "BLAHHH!!! What do you think you're doing, you lout!" She tucked her lacerated palms beneath her armpits and hopped up and down in a fury. "If you wanna canoodle this blasted fleabag, you can dang well pay for him!" The handler had obviously had enough of caring for the war mount, given the state of her agitation. "But I won't part with Shmuggles for cheap...!" Khorvis, his fingers already in 'Shmuggle's' mane, scratching the great worg's neck, considered the beast. Bes'thra was past her prime, the journey across the Great Sea had made quite clear. He would require a proper mount to continue his journey - whatever the fel The Commander had meant - and the coincidence of an encounter with such a wolf beggared belief. "I will take him." Bloodstar responded succinctly. Edgar sent the goblin handler on her way with a pouch of gold coins that left the woman blessedly speechless. Shmuggles pawed cheerfully in the pool with his gigantic pads while Khorvis adjusted his harness. He paid careful attention to the worg's movements, accepting that the spirits had brought to him so obvious a furry guide. "Water it do be, then... Shmuggles...hrmph." Khorvis growled under his breath as he mounted the worg. "We do need to amend this name of yours. It do be an embarrassment." Shmuggles only whined in response, his coat bristling. He had grown thoroughly bored with The Drag and was ready to explore other paths. "Right you do be. If there do be one place that I know to find strange spirits, it do be the headwaters of the Southfury RivE-!" Without Khorvis finishing his sentence, the Kor'kron war wolf charged off towards the Western bridge. "Gah!" Bloodstar exclaimed as Edgar and the rest struggled to keep pace. "A willful heart you do have!"
  6. Thanks, Kexti. Submitted, and I second a merge with LVM.
  7. He had never before noticed how very overbearing the cloisters of the Grim Halls felt. The curved ceilings hung so low, pressing down upon Khorvis's spirit like a vice. As the passageways stretched on, they seemed to narrow to a thin crevasse through which he would need to wriggle... then get stuck... wedged in a dark cave... Khorvis shook his head and dispelled the image. Sucking in a deep, musty breath through his nostrils, he snatched a lit torch from a nearby sconce and marched onward. It was a foolish notion, for the Grim Halls had now been his sanctum for many years. He knew the twisting and multitudinous corridors as well as any - this was a den of allies. The wing through which habit forced his stride brought the orc before a tall wooden door. A few burn marks were hidden by a new placard of etched brass. "High Inquisitor Ruuki the Reborn" Yes, his nightmarish jaunt through the Shadowlands had mirrored something of the truth. Cracking the door open, Khorvis peered inside to confirm that the office of the High Inquisitor was indeed remodeled after the Tauren woman's tastes. The only familiar items were the old bookcase that hid the passage to the tower and the Desk of Resolve. There was no sign of Khorvis's trophies and keepsakes - likely the stewards had absconded with the artifacts to storage in the Lasher's own quarters. A creaking of leather and a bony rasp upon his calf spun the Harbinger with a start and an un-orcly yelp. Recoiling in fear upon all fours crouched the decaying knight, Edgar Hornridge. The pathetic Forsaken whimpered in the shadow of his Master like a beaten hound edging away from a coiled belt. Khorvis let out a long exhale, his wits rattled, and held out his hand, palm facing up. "Come, Boneslave." The servant scampered forward, every trace of fear evaporating from his dour face to be replaced by unbound joy. "Edgar found Master!" exclaimed Boneslave as he licked and slobbered ichor over Khorvis's palm. "Through Shadow-" he gurgled "-and sad months..." A pool of excrement was growing beneath both the orc's outstretched palm and the knight's own rusted boots. Perhaps this reunion had produced far too much excitement within the patchwork heart of Edgar. "Bah!" cursed Khorvis, and he shook both his hand and boots of slickness. "You mad corpse! Come with me, we do have work to be about." The orc stomped and clomped his way from the wing of the Inquisition, past the arcades of Supplicant quarters and stairways that led to deeper dungeons, through the central Great Hall. The long banquet tables had been righted and the saloon repaired since that fateful night of battle that had whisked Khorvis away to the Shadowlands. Now the benches sat in orderly rows and the great Arcane Clock that hung from the rafters ticked with masterful precision. Still, he glanced up into the shadows of the massive oaken beams that supported the cathedraled ceiling. Did the voidlings yet lurk, lairing in wait? Was he a careless tick of watchlessness away from another eon of imprisonment? The pair wasted no time making their way through the Great Hall and down the corridors housing the rank and file proper, arriving at the private quarters of Harbinger Bloodstar. Fumbling through the pockets of his leathers, Khorvis managed to produce an old skeleton key and unlocked the door with a rusty creak. Aging trophies adorned the walls, each heavy with a thick coat of dust. A tattered banner of the old Horde here. A shattered Lordaeron lance there. What appeared to be a swatch sewn of dwarven scalps. A carefully carved wooden figurine of an orc, bearing the mark of Isadore. The trinkets numbered many, but were dwarfed by a mound of furs piled at the center of the chamber. Buzzing still with flies in the reek of old sweat and drool, Khorvis's bed beckoned with the lure of dreamless slumber to an utterly exhausted orc. He brushed past the skins restlessly, meandering among all of the possessions that reminded him of his long life. Inextricably he was drawn to the armor stand, upon which hung his darkened platemail. Khorvis ran his fleshy left hand along the armor's hard lines, admiring the craftsmanship of Ruuki. The woman had faithfully reproduced the onslaught armor the Horde had worn in the Outland campaign against the Legion. The spikes bore the aggressive runeplating he remembered from those years, which had served him faithfully in service to Warchief Thrall's new Horde. Khorvis's hand dropped away, letting one of the leather straps dangle unclasped. The armor now seemed to him as much a relic as that of Edgar's. He had need not worn it within the Shadowlands to have come to his current realization. For this was the third time that his martial strength had failed in the face of an otherwordly foe. First in the caverns of ice beneath the Lich King's Citadel, trapped for months in a freezing stasis. Again, snared by the lure of the fel, wandering the halls of Acherontia's soul gem. And finally this cowardly flight through the Shadowlands. Ice, fel, and shadow. Each time, more of his comrades were thrust into greater danger. The chamber rang loudly with the clatter of metal as Khorvis shoved over the armor stand. "Enough!" the orc howled. There had to be a better way. A more strategic way to serve the Mandate. He was tired of being taken advantage of by outside forces. Tired of being outsmarted and outflanked. Khorvis had sworn himself, flesh and spirit, to defend the mad project that was the Horde. The Mandate was the weapon to accomplish this feat. He had recruited and trained dozens of Supplicants and Reapers, and yet he was useless to them if he was ensorcelled by the very enemy that they threw themselves against. "Gather all of our belongings, Boneslave." Khorvis had lowered his hands from his face. He stared as his fists unclenched, one of green flesh, the other a simulacrum in gears and titansteel. "These Halls do be too constricting. We must seek out the Elders as the Commander did order."
  8. Khorvis went by foot from Brill to the gates of Lordaeron City. The road was one of the few still paved in Tirisfal, seeing much traffic between the Undercity and the zeppelin towers. With the Dark Lady having taken the mantle of Warchief, the count of couriers and deathguards had more than doubled in their frantic work to secure the necessary machinery of the Horde's bureaucracy. The orc ignored them all as he made his way up the hill and through the crumbling outer wall. --- Sleep had evaded him during the remainder of the night, despite how fatigued he felt. His meager cot on the second floor of the Gallow's End Tavern did not help his pain of his wounds, but the bruises were a distant second to the hauntings. If Khorvis shut his eye, that horrid image of Theira's spirit lifting from her corpse stared back at him. When he snapped his eyelid open, the creaking of the old tavern seemed to fool his periphery into seeing things. A quick movement behind the dresser. A scuttling at his bedside. More than once he got out of his covers to inspect the room, but of course there were only ordinary shadows. It was not until An'she began to pierce her rays through the gloom of the Glades that complete and utter exhaustion claimed the warrior. An unconscious and dreamless slumber lasted through the morning and afternoon, to end with a sore and stiff awakening. Khorvis glared out the window and saw that it was already evening. An icy ball sagged in the pit of his stomach. Nearly time to confront the Commander. Before setting out, Khorvis took a seat at the Tavern's tables on the first floor. He forced down a late meal of cold venison, oblivious to the greenish hue of the flesh, and flagon of flat ale. As the chunks of raw flesh tumbled down his maw, a familiar elemental wisped into the dining room, flanked by indigo lanterns... --- The Inquisition was a curious thing. Forged in the wartorn years spent in the harsh wastes of Northrend, the first Inquisitors of The Grim were merely of average rank, but fanatical beyond measure. They sought to weed out from the droves of Horde, that had flocked to the battle against the Lich King, the most bloodthirsty and like-minded killers. In the years since, the Inquisition had evolved into a more formal institution, replete with codified trials and many arcane traditions. Some would claim that present-day Inquisitors worshiped banners and medals more than the original mission, but none could deny their commitment to the Mandate. Gathered upon the ancient staircases of the inner courtyard of the ruins of Lordaeron, High Inquisitor Ruuki held court among her Dreadweavers and attending Supplicants. Standing to the side, Commader Awatu Stonespire observed the reports and instructions with his usual stoicism. Inquisitor Kiannis was concluding his conversation with the Supplicant Chumbus. "If you have any troubles, contact me and I will assist you." As the ranger dismissed the warlock, Khorvis approached the dais with Mai'kull's voidcaller in tow. He peered up at Awatu, and for a brief moment, the scene flickered. The impression of gibbets, ethereal and decorated with the hanging corpses of pinkskins, manifested behind the Inquisitors. A raven fluttered from a crossbeam of the gallows and settled to perch upon the pauldron of The Commander. Khorvis closed his eye and took a deep breath, gathering his wits. A quiet hush came upon the assembly, and when he opened his eye, he found the lot staring back. The gallows had disappeared. "Commander Stonespire," Khorvis intoned without a hint of emotion. A look of surprise had come over Ruuki's face, one that few in the Grim had ever seen: utter shock with a mix of something between relief and disbelief. It didn't last long. Awatu spoke first, eyeing Khorvis up and down. "Lasher? You have been... missing, as of late." Khorvis winced, placing a hand to his stomach. A moment of nausea passed over his face, but he squared away and trod up the stairs to the Tauren who was now looking at the voidcaller. "By the look of the seasons... aye, I do seem to have been gone for some time," the orc responded. "Many moons indeed." The Commander spoke carefully, betraying nothing with his inflections. Even as the elf Baal'themar emerged from the shadows at Khorvis's side, he only raised an eyebrow. "I do come with a foul report," barked the orc. "And submit my flesh to the judgement of the Mandate." Khorvis gestured at the voidcaller. "A minion of the late Reaper Mai'kull." "Late? Executioner was his title," spoke Inquisitor Kiannis. He stared down his nose at the orc haughtily, to be caught by a look of disappointment from Baal'themar. Ignoring the tone of the ranger's voice, Khorvis motioned to the voidcaller, which set before the Commander a burnt facemask. Next to it was placed a hearthstone, an orb of the sin'dorei... and Mai'kull's guild 'tabard', in fact an over-sized Tauren's tabard fashioned into a cape, now folded. Kiannis fought back a scowl as the realization set in. "I take it he has fallen, then?" Awatu was eyeing the remnants. "Yea, dead." Lilliana deadpanned to both her boss and Kiannis. Khorvis grunted, the events still raw upon his nerves. "Aye, Commander. I did be... lost, in a place of shadows. The Rea- Executioner- found me. He did sacrifice everything." Brushing his palm away, the voidcaller faded, its work done. With an emotionless stare, Awatu looked back up at Khovis. "Unfortunate. But at least his... sacrifice was not without some success. Your presence seems to indicate as much." Khorvis could not help but hear some note of mocking in his superior's words. Imagined or not, it rankled, but the warrior continued his report. "There do be more." Lilliana had resisted the urge to go charging at Khorvis when he had appeared... to her credit she did a very good job remaining controlled. She did now look at him fiercely, while Awatu exhibited all of the emotion of a rock. A rare example of the orc's sealed emotions came to the forefront as Khorvis choked up for a moment. It was a titanic inner struggle to speak the words aloud. He had sworn to himself the night before that he deserved his fate, and that he would continue on as the warrior he was bred to be. It was too much. He broke down and knelt before the Commander. "The Matron of Rutilus Luna, Theira Oaksong... she also do be departed." Khorvis sobbed, tears running freely before the Grim. Knitting together his eyebrows, Awatu echoed himself. "Also unfortunate." Rather blankly, Kiannis stared at the orc who had once blown out his own kneecap. A small touch of anger pulled at the side of his mouth an nose- yet he remained silent. Not so for the High Inquisitor. Ruuki stormed down the stairs towards the battered orc, her nostrils flaring in rage. Grabbing Khorvis by whatever vest he's wearing, she hauled him up to his feet with a ferocious yank. "The BLOODY HELL have you been, you twice damned son of a pig?!" Her howl sent Lilliana backing up, almost as if to use Awatu as a shield to hide behind. Even the Supplicant Somdot stood up straighter, realizing that there was some intence energry in the air. Certainly not the time to be a clown. Awatu only watched the exchange. Khorvis, his face and tusks wet with tears, growled right back at Ruuki. "The fel would you know, you useless woman! I did be locked in the shadows, chased by goatsucking horrors!" His feet nearly dangled as he was held up. Lilliana could not help but scold with a yelp. "Khorvis!!!" Supplicant Chumbus gasped while Somdot glanced at Kiannis with wide open eyes and tight lips. The ranger returned the look only momentarily. His face was a mixture of emotion - rage predominantly, and a gritted frown. Snarling, Ruuki tightened her grip. Now Khorvis did truly hang above the stones. "Quit BITCHING like a spoiled little human BRAT!" she screamed. "If they died saving your sorry hide, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!" The Lasher shoved Ruuki away and peeled off one of his bracers, one of the last metal armaments on his person. He held it aloft and shouted, "Do you remember forging these, Inquisitor? A lot of bloody good it did! There do be things in the dark, things that strength of arms do have NO purchase against!" Ruuki's tone descended from a yell to a quiet sort of threat. "Does that mean you're going to hide and pray they go away? Because you know as well as the rest of us that there is NO peace, not when the Mandate still commands us." Throughout the entire tense exchange between the two High Inquisitors, Kiannis and Baal'themar conducted their own confrontation. The ranger stared down the rogue. "Put the blades away. This is not the time." Baal'themar grined slyly at Kiannis. "If this turns ugly, you're the first," he said, following with a wink. "It will not." "We will see." Somdot slighted raised his head to stare at Baal'themar while Chumbus adjusted his tie. Over the quibbling elves, Ruuki continued her diatribe. "A sword is just sharpened steel, and armor bits of metal and leather. But it does no one any good if there's no damned heart or fire in your soul to back them up." Khorvis threw the bracer down on the ground and shook his head. "I did not come here to argue with you, Ruuki the Reborn. I did return to the Mandate, my home, to submit my failure to the Commander's judgement." Ruuki raised a clenched fist as if ready to sock him, but she restrained herself, fully clad while he was only in leathers. Instead, she turned and stalked several paces off. Seeking to soothe the situation, Lilliana moved over to Baal'themar and whatever he hell he thought he was doing with his weapons. The elf blushed at his previous Inquisitor. The woman must have put some thought into Baal'themar's head, for she looked away and faced Khorvis and Awatu, now that Ruuki had let go. Kiannis found it an appropriate time to pull one of his skunky cigars and press a lit pebble into it. His gaze lingered on Khorvis. Walking over to Kiannis, Somdot whispered, "Any chance you've got a spare one of those bad boys?" The elf did a quick double take, then absently fingered a blunt out to the Pandaren. He left Somdot to find his own spark. "I have fire," the monk said in thanks, nodding. Khorvis glanced to his right, surprised to see the elf Baal'themar. "Stay your blades, brother. I do be here of my own will." His words were punctuated by a sneeze from Chumbus's imp Laznik, who failed to cover his mouth. It's owner only tilted his head. "I know," retorted the elf, "but then... the Grim have a nice habit of chewing up and spitting out people. I'll not see that happen to you, Khorvis." Awatu snorted. "Not after the hell we went through to get your old ass back here." Lilliana placed a gloved hand on Baal'themar's arm. "He's fine, Baal'themar." She did happen to whisper silently into Baal'themar's head... something else, so that no one else might hear her. Pointedly ignoring the elf, Commander Stonespire roved over the orc's form with his gaze. "So then. What grievous failure have you brought to the feet of the Mandate?" Lilliana was unable to stop herself from getting right in the way between the tauren and the orc. "He hasn't failed at all!!! He's like... totally being a super dumbass, Awatu!" Khorvis brushed away the trolless's defensive screen - "Kodotits, woman..." - and stuck out his chin, as if begging to be struck. "I did leave you and The Grim without a High Inquisitor for months. A dead Reaper due to my bloody carelessness-" "Executioner," Kiannis interjected, to be countered with a baleful glare. "The Maleficar was risen in your absence." Lilliana piped up again. "Eh uh... there is one right there." She pointed to Ruuki, the current High Inquisitor. "And like... people die. All. the. time." "Ream my arse with a vry'kull pike," Khorvis muttered at the quibbling. "Wait, what?! Ruuki did be raised to High Inquisitor?" The warrior was incredulous. Her arms crossed and entire body tensed, Ruuki stood stoically with her rage reined. "Indeed she has," intoned the Commander, glancing backwards at Ruuki. Khorvis grunted, some of the flame being taken out of his sails. "You did think me dead," he breathed. "I thought you missing. Perhaps stuck between crates upon a Booty Bay pirate vessel," cracked Awatu in a rare taunt. Ruuki ameliorated, "It was the only explanation we could fathom. We all knew damned well you were no deserter, especially not with the Legion's invasion so fresh." "Unlike others," stated the Inquisitor Kiannis in the direction of Baal'themar. The rogue grinned. "More loyal than you. Didn't see you fighting to save a brother, Kiannis." The ranger bristled at Baal'themar's words, but was not goaded into a rebuttal. He glowered, before turning his attention back to Khorvis. "The Inquisition required direction. And so, it was given," Awatu stated matter-of-factly. Khorvis tugged at his goatee with no little annoyance, but looked again to Ruuki with appraising eye. "Aye. May be she do be fit for the rank." The wheels could visibly be seen turning in the old orc's head, working overtime. The facts laid upon the figurative table, Awatu continued to humor Khorvis. "So... you come seeking penance?" "I did swear my flesh and spirit to the Mandate, Commander." Khorvis was resolute in his guilt. "You do be in your rights to end the former. The latter does remain bound, whatever your words." Glowering at anyone but herself, Lilliana still seemed relieved to see Khorvis present that night. That relief melted into horror at the warrior's suggestion. She looked to Awatu plaintively. Awatu gave Khorvis a once-over. "I fear that any further... physical punishment would leave us with only your spirit." In moment of oddity, The Commander appeared to exhibit a profound insight. "Do you sleep well, or are you assaulted by night-terrors?" The assembly displayed their curiosity or disbelief in varying ways, from snorts, to quirked eyebrows. In the intensity of the exchange between The Commander and the former High Inquisitor, Somdot, calmed and relaxed by the blunt obtained from Kiannis, walked over to Baal'themar and scanned him up and down. "I'm not sure what to think of you sir..." Chumbus remained motionless while Laznik started to sneak off. "Think nothing, Somdot," Baal'themar soothed. Khorvis looked at Awatu strangely, as if he recognized the Tauren's foresight. Awatu made no indication of his awareness, simply awaiting a response. "No terrors," spoke the orc. "No, Commander, they did cease once Lilliana, Baal'themar, and the rest evacuated me from... whatever land of shadows that did be." He continued, unable to stop himself due to the uncanny inquiry. "But last night, at the Gallow's End, I did see spirits. Strange that you should mention this." Awatu furrowed his brow in thought. "Curious. At any rate, I could find your... hauntings to be... suitable punishment. Sleepless nights and waking screams." Lilliana was peering at Khorvis wondering what kind of spirits he was talking about. She couldn't hide the quick glare that crossed her face. Whether it was over Awatu's ruling or Khorvis's suffering now that he was back in this world, it was unclear. Ruuki was only scowling. Kiannis gave Awatu a surprised look. "You saw him sobbing. Is this the same orc we once knew?" Of course, Baal'themar's countenance mirrored his defense of Khorvis. "More a man than you will ever be," the Rutilan snarked. Chumbus inched closer to the edge of the ledge, the temper of the meeting pushing him away. "The edges of eternity change us all. It is Khorvis..." The sunwalker narrowed his eyes, as if attempting to look through the Lasher. "... but different. Something is different." Kiannis pivoted his head only slightly with gritted teeth, squinting at the Commander. He nodded solemnly in acquiescence. "He would not be the first Grim to find a new calling," offered Ruuki Khorvis was growling under all of the scrutiny. "You may command my blades, Stonespire, but you do not own my dreams." Now that he return seemed accepted by The Grim, his usual thorniness was peeking through. "I did say that there do be terrors that steel is no ward against. For the Mandate, I will see to it that I do find a new weapon." "I do not command your dreams, no," advised Awatu, "But you will find that you do not command them either." Glancing upwards, the tauren was far away from his normal stony self. "The dream-realm of the spirits is... beyond us." Khorvis seemed unsure of these words, his freshly ruined eyepiece a testament to the power of nightmares. Kiannis had noticed the activity of Laznik and pointed to Somdot. "Investigate that imp," he ordered. Chumbus remained motionless while the imp eyed Somdot suspiciously. Noticing that Laznik was urinating in the bushes, Chumbus became frustrated and dismissed his minion. "Answer me this, Khorvis." Ruuki was growing philosophically bored. "Does the Mandate still call to your heart and soul?" The woman's question dug at the crux of the issue, with regards to the Mandate and the Inquisition. Turning to the new High Inquisitor, Khorvis retorted, "I could have gone running like a child to Orgrimmar and hid beneath Sylvanna's skirts. I do be here, woman. What else would you ask of me?" "Then whether you wiggle your fingers, wield a blade, or shoot a gun, you are still a Grim." The Reborn turned the instructive nature that Khorvis had instilled into her against the orc. "I think perhaps you should work among the Supplicants as you seek out what may be a new path for you to walk." The woman was immensely pleased with herself. The Lasher was having none of it. "I did be making macaroni art out of dwarf cocks when you did be a calf, 'High Inquisitor.' I do be no Supplicant." He looked at Awatu and spoke forcefully. "As you say, Commander. What do be my rank? If I am to be of any use to the front." Ruuki shruged one shoulder, a wicked smirk on her face as she looked to Awatu. "The decision of course is yours, Commander. I was merely offering my input." "Um... Dwarf cocks... that sounds fun!" A strange interjection from Somdot earned about as much surprise as Khorvis's usual rants. The bickering evoked a tired but satisfied sense of completion from Baal'themar. The talk of pointless ranks and titles finally bored the elf. "Good to have you back, brother. I'll leave you Grim to talk about... Grim matters." He patted Khorvis's shoulder and gave a brief salute to both the orc and Lilliana. Somdot did his best to reciprocate while Khorvis could only offer a grunted thanks. Kiannis refused to back down from Ruuki's suggestion. "And I was a man before you were but a twinkle in the eye of your father. Age is of no issue, Khorvis. I suggest you speak to the High Inquisitor with... some respect." The elf had a glint in his eye that hearkened back to their initial duel at the Crossroads, which ended in a special amount of agony for the ranger. "Your new High Inquisitor keeps a loose leash on her dogs, Commander." Khorvis bluntly ignored the ranger and stared straight at the tauren with a clenched jaw. Awatu grinned... just slightly. "But a harder pull can have lasting impressions." "A taste of the Lash did many Supplicants some good. My question still stands. If I am to be of use to the Mandate, what the felsucking Illidari tentacle do be my rank?!" Supplicant Chumbus pondered the meaning of "Felsucking Illidari Tentacle" while Awatu responded. "That depends. The only rank of consequence to yourself would be that of a Supplicant. You could remain a Harbinger, and it would be as if nothing had happened. But that seems... unjust." "I vote we shoot him in the knee," Kiannis posited. Ruuki reached out and smacked her subordinate upside his head for that inane suggestion. Whacked, Kiannis tenderly rubbed at his domepiece, looking to his left sullenly. Ruuki gave Kiannis a warning look that spoke volumes before returning her attention to Khorvis. The elf held his tongue, but kept that same unpleasant glare focused upon the orc. "You appear before us, a sobbing babe, and now you give an Irredeemable colorful language and attitude." Awatu was becoming more incensed than before. "If i were to recall, the -LAST- High Inquisitor to take that abuse would have been much more... outgoing with his punishments." Gritting his tusks, Khorvis said nothing to the contrary. "I do serve at the pleasure of the Commander..." "And now you speak of the Lash as if it is some prized relic. I recall the bite of the Lash, that wretched tool that you allowed it to become." Awatu leaned forward, his height becoming a tool of the interrogation. "So, tell me, what good are you to the Mandate if your first orders of subservience is resistance?" The entire back and forth of the evening brought Khorvis into his element. He relaxed his shoulders, shifting into the familiar rote of the Inquisition. "Supplicants do be taught that they do be nothing before the Mandate. We do be forged as weapons through the Inquisition. I do be a weapon of the Mandate." He held his stance wide, despite the bleeding of a few wounds from the last night's debacle. The blood seeped through his brawler's wraps. Awatu straightened himself. "Good answer. I do not believe you require remedial training... You are molded into a weapon. But you do require refinement. The Inquisition is a tool for determining who is and is not Grim. I believe you are Grim, therefore you should not be subjected to relearning what you already know. But something is needed..." He pondered for a moment. "Weapons dull and break. You require refinement, sharpening, and repair. You will remain a Harbinger, but you will seek the guidance of our Seers." Khorvis raised both eyebrows. His eyepatch dropped and revealed his ruined eyepiece. "The Seers?" "Duskheron, Kharzak, Daxxum, and Kharthak." Ruuki inclined her head in approval of the decision. Somdot picked up the cigar that Kiannis had given him, with only a few pulls taken from it, and sat next to Lilliana. He lit up. "Perhaps they can aid you with your... hauntings," Awatu explained. "And once you are able to sleep a full night's rest, I believe your penance will have been served." "A strange request," Khorvis pondered. "But I do value the wisdom of our Elders." Awatu looked around, his eyes focusing on distant objects. "You will see." "As you say, Commander. If it do be necessary for the Mandate, I will even tame the elements!" Khorvis laughed at what he considered a foolish boast, not recognizing the portent in his own words. Awatu did not share such mirth. At the same moment, another party of Grim came wandering through the courtyard, fresh from the bowels of the Undercity. Kurg and Fanyare, as different from each other as they were both fiercely Grim, approached the Inquisition. Qabian trailed the duo, observing, with Ul'rezaj in tandem. "Heya guys!" blurted out the Sunwalker Kurg. Somdot returned the greeting with a jovial wave. "What up, Brother!" Ruuki scowled at was she now considered fools. Kurg smiled wide at Somdot and popped him in the shoulder. Glancing over at Khorvis, almost unrecognizable without his armaments, and seeing the serious mood, he quieted down. Fanyare only wondered what pit the orc had crawled out of this time. Khorvis dropped his grin at Awatu's stoic face, remembering how close he came to losing his hide. The Commander continued with an edge of warning in his tone. "This shoulder also help teach you the importance of respect to the Irredeemables and Dreadweavers." The orc winced. He recalled the events of Tanaan and how he had nearly torn the neck out of that Sunwalker... but he pushed the memory away. Awatu watched Khorvis for a moment, then turned to Ruuki. "What other business does the Inquisition have this evening?" "I do feel whole again, to be back among my brothers and sisters. I..." The Lasher attempted to salvage his pride, but trailed off as the Grim's guildmaster moved on to other matters. Khorvis felt the dismissal, and it burned. He took his place in the ranks of the assembly alongside a smirking Qabian. "None else, Commander. Unless the Supplicants have something to add?" Ruuki inspected her charges, but none had any words of importance. "Then this night is sealed to the Mandate." Awatu nodded his head under the cacophony of "Peace Through Annihilation" that ululated from the throats of the fanatics. Khorvis made in the air the orcish rune for 'peace' as the assembly dispersed. Narrowing his eyes at the orc, Kiannis pressed a fist against his own chest in a casual salute. "It is good of you to return." Khorvis managed to grunt "Dabu, Dreadweaver," through a wall of phlegm. The elf nodded once, and departed through a portal of Qabian's making. Watching the Inquisitor fade away, Khorvis voiced his annoyance. "I do swear to the spirits, I should have shot out both of that cocky ranger's knees." "Perhaps the lash would be best turned into a leash, Khorvis." Fanyare goaded the old warrior. "You keep wandering off causing trouble." Khorvis responded with a deep growl, but reined in his temper in front of the Commander. Awatu was diplomatic. "If we shot the knees from everyone we did not like, the The Grim would be a bunch of cripples." Qabian grinned at this morbid pragmatism, but Ul'rezaj was less metaphorical. "De Grim be on fundamentally good terms wit' each otha, so fah as ahm concerned." The Commander was in agreement with the troll. "For the most part, but disagreements and squabbles arise at times." Wasting no time, Khorvis laid out the facts. "I do have two tasks before me. Speak with the Elders. But first, find some fresh bandages." He offered Awatu a respectful salute. "Commander." Awatu nodded. "Lasher." The orc once feared as High Inquisitor of The Grim, now demoted to the rank of Harbinger, slapped his hearthstone hard enough for his palm to sting. The way back to the Grim Halls pulled him through, to a home he had just fled and yet had not seen in many months.
  9. [[ A continuation from the finale of Dark Star Rising. ]] The old wooden door of the Gallow's End Tavern swung open with that same familiar creak. The last billows of the squall that had crashed into the Northern coast of Tirisfal whipped into the inn behind the trudging form of Khorvis Bloodstar until he pressed the door shut with a tired grunt. Brill had been only a short march from the Whispering Forests, and the old orc had needed some time and space to clear his head. Exhausted as he was, Khorvis did not fail to notice the guarded looks that the patrons and staff gave the newcomer. It had been nearly a year since the chaos he had caused while under the influence of Mannoroth's blood, but the citizens of Brill were unlikely so quickly forget. Fortunately for him, the immediate presence of the Grim Halls and the restorative work of the Mandate upon the Glades would likely prevent a stealthy dagger in his spine. Saddling up upon an empty stool, Khorvis rested his elbows upon the bar and cradled his forehead in his hands. The damage to his mechanical left eye had ceased sparking and twitching, but the gaping hole still ached. Another piece of him missing, lost to the Shadowlands. He had departed the ritual circle quickly after reassuring Lilliana that he was fine. The troll woman could exhibit such motherly tendencies, but Khorvis had been in no mood for it. The sight of Theira's corpse and the knowledge of what they had locked behind the closing gate had been simply too much for the warrior's heart. A tersely bitten thanks, an embrace or two, a stone-faced salute, and off Bloodstar wandered through the pines - anywhere, just away from that still Tauren and the odd flower that had sprouted from her chest. At first he had angled to the Northeast, towards the Grim Halls overlooking the North Sea, but the night and the elements slowly altered his course towards Brill. The entire debacle would require some explaining, and he was not in the right state of mind to confront Commander Stonespire. Not yet. A smart warchief knew he must fight on solid ground, on terrain of his choosing. The Commander was a hard, unfeeling plinth of stone. If Khorvis wanted to escape that encounter with his hide, he would need a clear mind. So the Inquisitor found himself staring at the worn wood of the Gallow's End bar. A rough clay mug of mulled wine was pushed between his elbows. Looking up, Khorvis gave Innkeeper Renee a lukewarm smile that failed to touch his tusks. The woman returned the look with a curt nod and swept away, her tattered skirts hissing over the stone floor like a worn straw broom. It was amazing that after all these years, Miss Lauer still kept the Gallow's End running at its efficient, if rickety, pace. Truly a stalwart and indispensable member of the Horde. The thought brought him back to recent events. Theira. Mai'kull. Why had they sacrificed themselves for him? The fools! Both were important pillars of the Horde, necessary for the war against the Legion. Against the Alliance! It was such a bloody waste... Khorvis was long past his prime. The gut wound delivered by Shokkrah and the mess of his eye ached in tandem, echoing the testament. These were dangerous times, when the Horde and the Mandate required every able body to muster. Damn those addled Mad! The bar shook under the blow of Khorvis's clenched fist. Fortunately for the inn, he was unarmored, only clad in leather, though the patrons cast souring glares at the Lasher. He offered them a grumpy, conciliatory wave, returning to his drink. Taking a long swig, he let the burning wine ride down his raw throat and set the mug down. Excess liquid dripped from his beard and jowls, splashing onto the waxed counter. The deep crimson hue caught the orc's eye. He could think only of the Matron, her broken and bloody body still in the grass of the Whispering Forest's floor. His own blood had mingled with the druidess's as he had wept above her corpse. Fate was cruel. Khorvis had allowed himself very few fantasies over the years since crossing the Dark Portal. The notion of a mate, nevermind a family, was for him always a forbidden prospect, a foolish dalliance that would have only left him weak and vulnerable. It was only later in life that cracks had begun to show in that armor, and not until he had encountered the Matron of Rutilus Luna. They had never expressed any oaths or commitments, beyond the professional pact between The Grim and the Rutilans upon Thunder Bluff. Only a mutual understanding of shared sacrifice. Of a similar wish for a more peaceful world. A glance here, in the lull of battle. A hand held there, at dusk above the Gurubashi Arena. Khorvis had never let the wish touch his tongue, for fear of the inevitable. That dream had died in the Shadowlands. He took another gulp of the wine, his throat choking up under the emotional duress, and nearly spat out his drink into the hearth. Coughing and hacking, the orc wiped away at his beard with the back of his wrist. He should have expected no less. Khorvis was not a mortal made for anything but warfare. Born behind catapults firing upon Shattrath and suckled upon the blood of draenei, Bloodstar was bred to orchestrate death. He was tailored for the Mandate. Bury those foolish fantasies down deep where they could never emerge. Staring morbidly about the tavern, Khorvis noticed several trophies donated by The Grim. A broken stormhammer hung above a sidetable. To the left of the liquor stores were encased in a dusty cabinet several medals for honor upon the Battlegrounds. And over the hearth was mounted the head of doomguard, its ebon horns spanning at least as wide as a prone human. Khorvis would need to report the death of Reaper Mai'kull. The mage had shown exceptional valor in the face of overwhelming odds. His name would enter the rolls with distinguished heroism. A final Grim trinket caught the warrior's eye. A pamphlet advertising the Mandate, nailed to a post in the center of the tavern. The next gathering was soon, here in Tirisfal. Clearly his subordinates were carrying on with the good work of the Inquisition, though Khorvis had had little reason to doubt Ruuki. In his mind, it was settled. The High Inquisitor would return to the Grim the following night, at the Inquisition, and hopefully buttressed from the wrath of Commander Stonespire.
  10. One of my biggest issues with writing is varying sentence structure. I find that it is where I am least creative and constantly worry that my prose will bore the reader, or unsuspend their disbelief. Example: Hurriedly through the hailstorm, the party ran afoul of a towering yeti. Alternatively: The party ran afoul of a towering yeti while hurrying through the hailstorm. I try to switch up my subject / verb / object order sentence by sentence to create some sort of fluidity, but there always comes a point where I feel as if I'm repeating myself. I'm starting to wonder if I spend too much time describing environments and actions and fail to include dialogue (internal and external). Maybe I need more exposition on history or interpersonal stuff. Does anyone else have this issue? How do you correct it?
  11. [[ Some brutal metal for Mai'kull ]] "Matron!" Khorvis howled as the dust of the explosion began to settle, much of it still hanging in the silent air. He had seen her valiant sacrifice and tumbling form thrown from the voidlord just before the blast and the ringing in his ears started. Staggering to his feet, the orc shook his head and took two steps towards the scene of the druidess's fall before his boots gave out beneath him and his jaw connected with the chamber floor with a painful click! The wraithlings had descended from the ceiling and were swarming the pool. Two of the freaks had tackled Khorvis's legs and their claws ripped into his flesh. Not far away, Baal'themar slashed and flung away his own assailants, barely escaping their shadowy embrace. "Get! Off! Of! Me!" Khorvis roared and kicked at the darkness. "You black goatsuckers! I'll have your- GAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!" The wail escaped the warrior's mouth as a shadowfiend's dagger-like claw stabbed into the delicate machinery of his engineered eye. The complex circuits and ornate housing crunched, ruining Harbinger Bloodscream's masterpiece in a shower of sparks. Khorvis squirmed and screamed, overwhelmed by a mounting pile of wraiths until a booming snarl accompanied the shattering of rubble. A massive grizzly lunged from beneath a stone pile and tore at the fiends with a broad swipe from her paw. They fell in a wave, shredded and mangled by sickle-like claws. Skittering and screeching, the voidlings recoiled away from the pool. The fury of Theira Oaksong drove back the tide of shadow in the very last moment before her strength gave out completely. A broken and bleeding tauren fell unconsciously as the elf Baal'themar raced to catch the woman. She hung limp in the rogue's arms - the man turned to Khorvis and barked an unaccustomed order to his erstwhile-superior: "There is no more time! We must retreat at once!" "Then stop da whimperin' an' get ya arses up 'ere, stone-blind fools!" Tahzani retorted from the entry ledge, framed by a glowing portal. Its twin arose some few feet from the party near the pool, finally revealing the conjuration that the warlock had been brewing throughout the battle. Baal'themar grunted as he slung the dead-weight of his commander over his shoulders. The Lasher struggled to his feet, clutching his thrice-ruined eye, and stumbled after the elf with the aid of his servant, Edgar. As a unit, they were whisked to the waiting side of the two trolls. Not a moment after the demonic gateway shuttered, the horde of shadow wraiths mustered and swarmed towards the tunnel. Lilliana flung a bolt of Light at the cresting wave of shadow and screamed, "RUN!" --- Mai'kull had taken only two strides down the tunnel within the Shadowlands before Lilliana's blood-curdling scream echoed up to his ears. Trouble. Now! His loping gait rounded a bend before stopping short at the sight racing towards him. A party of six - including the late High Inquisitor! - ran up the passage, hounded by what could only be described as a swirling tsunami of blackness crashing over floor, wall, and ceiling. Hundreds, thousands of void-wrought horrors gave chase to the mage's comrades. An army of the Shadow stretched far and away, without number. He reached into his satchel, gripping an ancient scroll. The wrinkled parchment pressed with familiarity against the forsaken's fingertips. These were the words that mapped the foundations of his arcane powers. Years unremembered in training and devotion, culminating in this very instant. It was a small comfort, the tactile sensation of something so commonplace. A base affront before the ephemeral foe. Mai'kull flung the parchment forward as it unfurled, lying flat and suspended in the air. Baal'themar heaving, Theira in luggage, Tahzani sprinting, Khorvis in agony, Lilliana waving wildly at the mage, Storm linked through in horror, and Edgar bounding at heels, all fled past Mai'kull in a cacophony of warnings. Their words washed over him, for his concentration had long left worry of his own flesh. The Dark Parchment hung only a few meters between the mage and the host of the Void's oblivion, but time slowed to a crawl. The Maleficar weaved the remaining strands of arcanistry into place and settled their threads upon the geomantic inscriptions covering the scroll. The ward activated instantaneously in a shield of light that ripped apart the Dark Parchment and spread to block the tunnel. Shadow fiends flung themselves futilely at the barrier only to vaporize in blasts of golden oblivion. The swell of shadow broke upon the cliff of Mai'kull's making, his hand outstretched as if holding a bulwark of pure power. Indeed, it required every ounce of the mage's concentration to maintain the spell as the enemy horde eviscerated itself upon an arcane cliff face. The party had come to a stop, catching their breath and watching Mai'kull's devilry in awestruck horror. They screamed their urgings to abandon the tunnel and exit the portal, back unto the plane of the living. "Leave it, mage! Retreat!" goaded the elf. "Togethah, mon!" chattered the warlock. "We kin do dis!" Mai'kull turned his head, the cowl dropping away under the backblast of shielding. The hair and flesh had been seared from his skull - only face of bone stared back at his fellow Horde. Within the eye sockets dwelt a solemn resolve. Khorvis, the darkening wound in his own eye, caught the look and understood. Dozens of comrades over the course of many campaigns had displayed the same commitment upon battlefields less obtuse. There would be no return to Azeroth for Mai'kull. The mage had chosen his fate, and the end would consume him in this land of shadow and decay. Already Khorvis could sense the forsaken's spirit slipping away. The warrior turned and helped Baal'themar carry the burden of the fallen Matron. Lilliana brought both of her hands to her mouth in a silent scream. Gripping her by the shoulder, Tahzani pulled the troll through the gateway back to Tirisfal, followed by Edgar and the rest... --- The shield was giving out. Whether it was the sheer number of voidlings that threw their corpses upon the barrier or the very decrepit nature of the Shadowlands itself, the spell was draining more rapidly than Mai'kull had expected. He watched out of the corner of his eye as the last of the party passed through the gateway, to safety. A solace he would never know again - but that was to be expected. Here at the breach, he would alight the banner of the Mandate. Closing what was left of his eyelids, Mai'kull Fireweaver dropped the shield and ignited the remainder of his arcane reserves. From within, a storm of flame erupted and spread down the passageway like a sirocco, annihilating every shadow field that it touched. The impression of fiery wings unfolded from the mage's shoulderblades and- --- Edgar dove out of the portal to the Shadowlands and immediately tackled the Blackrock Dagger, ripping it out of the ground and throwing it out of the ritual circle. The gateway shuddered behind the last of the party and as it sealed shut, it released a blast of raw flame before disappearing entirely. Unable to march another step, Baal'themar and Khorvis set Theira down among the toadstools of the Whispering Forest. While the others could only stare at where once had been the portal, now a scorched patch of earth, the orc was frantic as he shook the still form of the tauren. It was through tears of a bloodied eye that Khorvis saw the spirit of Theira depart Azeroth. The Matron's back was broken. Her body, having given every last ounce of fury to protect those dear, was lifeless.
  12. Through fire and shadow, the one-eyed pair worked their daggers through the inky flesh of the voidlord. Daggers forged in the Mandate, despite Baal'themar's current tabard, struck true to their nature. Khorvis knew that of all situations, it was in combat that one's true self outed itself. The lamb would nestle and cry in fear. The wolf would show her teeth and seek the heartsblood. These were the commandments of nature, chiseled into the stone of every mortal's flesh. Fanged as they were, many of their strikes simply met smoke and ephemera - this shadowy realm twisted and contorted intent. More than once the warrior's blade clanged against the elf's, confused and disoriented in the rising smog. Simultaneously, it was becoming clearer that, despite the best efforts of Light-woven smites, rime-coated blasts, and earthen barriers, the melee was losing ground. Where one tentacle was severed, two more erupted from the flaming pool to take its place. This slow hacking at the aberration's trunks would leave the party overwhelmed. The Matron Oaksong, from her vantage, recognized the forming pattern. They were becoming the flock of sheep, boxed in and outflanked by the black wolf. It was in such a time that she knew the shepherd must act decisively. Waiting until the voidlord had turned its back again to follow the darting form of Baal'themar, Theira cast aside her staff. She drew upon the fleeting connection to Azeroth that the Shadowlands provided and shifted into her most feral, predatory form - and leapt for the shadowling's neck. Pads connected with armor plating. Claws snapped outwards and dug below, giving ideal purchase. With a terrible howl, Theira sunk her fangs into the back of the voidlord's neck. A searing race of shadow flooded her jaws, like a dam bursting and spewing forth a stagnant lake. The putrescence, far too rancid to swallow, forced her to shear away and with her bite came the upper spine of the enemy. An otherworldly shriek exploded from the many throats of the voidlord in tandem. It gyrated wildly, swinging its long arms in a frantic attempt to dislodge this most vicious assailant. One limb struck Theira squarely in the neck, sending the druid flying across the chamber to crash sideways into a stalagmite with a sickening "snap". The others clutched at the mortal wound, futilely attempting to staunch the flow of ebon heartsblood. Far too late to save itself, the voidlord thrashed in its own flaming ichor and folded in upon itself as a collapsing star in its final moments. The rapid implosion belied the deafening detonation that dropped the party to the chamber's floor. With a shiver, the wraithlings haunting the edges of the battlefield began to stir. ---- The hour was nearing its close. Reaper Mai'kull, having exhausted his patience studying the stoic horror that called itself Chaoseater, stared pointedly at the gateway to the Shadowlands. "What was taking them so long?" The mission was simple. A quick extraction. Shut the portal afterwards and seal away the shadows. So what had gone wrong? He could no longer allow this chain of events to meander its course. The Maleficar would intervene. Gathering the most potent of his dark parchments and steeling his wits, Mai'kull of the Grim pushed past the deathknight watchman and entered the Shadowlands.
  13. "Khorvis we've come for you!" The Lasher spun in amazement and nearly took Theira's staff in the jaw. A shadow passed over him and he quickly glimpsed the bladed form of Baal'themar passing above in what could either be an incredibly brave or utterly stupid leap. The elf connected with the voidlord, twin daggers sinking deeply into the aberration's elongated neck. Khorvis felt his muscles sloughing off exhaustion and bruises as the Matron's healing magics took hold, and yet the queerness of the Shadowlands still left an emptiness gaping in the pit of his stomach. Emitting an ear-piercing wail, the voidlord thrashed and swiped at Baal'themar. One of its many limbs ripped at the ironbark shielding and nearly gored the rogue's pink flesh before Baal'themar leapt away to his comrades' side. Vile black ichor oozed from the towering shadow's wounds, splashing into the pool and darkening the tint. The voidlord moved to counterattack, but a loud crack! shattered its momentum and it stood blinking its multitudinous eyes in confusion. Lilliana's mind blast caused Khorvis to turn again with a feral grin. She responded with a mischievous wave from the tunnel's cliff edge and twirled her staff mockingly. Tahzani seemed distracted, concocting some bizarre spell, but he too gave the trio a quick nod. Boneslave scrambled up to the orc and squatted with the fevered loyalty that only a family hound displays for its long departed masters. The fast reactions of the ritual party had bought them some respite from the voidlord, but the pause would be short. Khorvis circled behind Baal'themar, still somewhat incredulous over the heroic timing, and tugged a spare dagger out of the elf's belt sheathes. "Took you bloody fools long enough!" He would have to question the lot of them over their methods of divination. Later. "But I do not look a gift kodo in her mouth." Friendships in the orc's life were few and far between. "We have dire business to be about!" Finishing his circle, he stood between the pair and the monstrosity. Khorvis raised his dagger and pointed it at the voidlord's armored chest. "You did think to trap me in this forsaken realm, you rancid excuse for the scuff of my boot polish!" Hissing and spitting, a flurry of reverberant squeals issued from the black skull. They may have been words, but in what language only the mad could discern. "Aye, aye! But the dullard that you do be, you invited the Mandate into your very rotten home!" The warrior, now armed, began his charge. "Now watch the timbers of your house fall in flames!" At the final instant before they met, Khorvis feinted left and dragged Baal'themar's dagger through the voidlord's hamstring and the blackened pool, so oiled with a skim of the otherling's blood. Storm Skychaser's elemental blessing activated and ignited the liquid in a racing expanse of flames.
  14. Edgar emerged from the shadow rift upon all fours, bounding like a blood hound. He circled the immediate hallway, crisscrossing between the legs of Baal'themar and Theira, sniffing the dusty air, before scrambling back through the portal. A pregnant silence was magnified by the muted image of the thunderstorm raging back on the other side in Tirisfal. After a few moments, Boneslave reemerged with Lilliana and Tahzani in tow, periodically spinning to make certain the two trolls followed. Satisfied that the party of five now moved as a unit, the decaying deathknight trotted down the sloping passage. The most casual of observers would see that he trailed some scent. Indeed, the foul odor of the late High Inquisitor drifted up through the complex and would be immediately apparent to the pinnacle of olfactory evolution housed in the Matron's snout. The confirmation came in a bilious rasp. "This way... quickly... The Master... ugh, Bloodstar is near!" There was no pause for assent as Bonelsave tore off into the depths. --- They came as a swam, biting and clawing as a pack of wolves snaps at hamstrings from the edges of the herd. The shadow wraiths leapt at Khorvis with no regard for their own defenses. This would be their fatal mistake. Old and injured though the warrior might have been, a cornered veteran with nothing left to lose would have been occasion for pause, at least for any mortal. Spindly bones snapped like twigs and multi-armed horrors were flung through the air like ragdolls, for Khorvis was here in the Shadowlands in the flesh. No longer did his blows sail through apparitions. Here fury swelled and erupted in a whirlwind of rage and Ogre curses. The tide of shadowfiends broke upon the orc and slowly receded into the corners and crevices of the chamber. Heaving and panting, Bloodstar wiped away whatever ectoplasmic offal had spilt from the enemy upon his muzzle. He turned, keeping his knuckles raised in a defensive posture, watching the shades roost among the stalactites. Something ever more foul was brewing... "Do that be all you can muster, shadelings?! Spectres and smoke! You do be a pitiful goatsucking lot!" Laughter nearly overcame the orc in his exhaustion, hysterics to be sure. The urge died in his throat as the wraiths quaked as one hive-minded entity then hunkered stone-still. For the first time, Khorvis took notice of the large, nearly-evaporated pool of something in which at the center of the chamber he stood. In a dimension of grey hues and eternal shadow, the liquid firmly interrupted with a virulent green glow. It lapped at the orc's feet with alien intent, promising some hidden madness or unknowable depravity. Khorvis stumbled backwards, kicking his boots to splatter away the clinging green phage, and not a moment too soon. The pool frothed and roiled madly in counterpoint to the wraiths' stillness. From the vermilion shallows emerged a black skull, elongated and wholly foreign to the bilateral symmetry of familiar Azeroth. Multiple jaws lashed on their hinges, clashing against underbitten incisors, and dozens of eye sockets gaped their bottomless shadows as the vile film slid away. Having breached the surface, the skull was followed meter by meter of armored and fleshless form. Where the wraiths had only emulated the shadows of this plane, this new monstrosity seemed to suck in the light around it, feeding off the whatever it neared. At last the beast finished extricating itself from the pool. Here, buried in the depths below Tirisfal and the Grim Halls for time out of mind, had lurked a viceroy of shadow. Khorvis faced the voidlord. --- The party had not far to travel. Mai'kull's wards had cleared the way of wraiths and the short passageways were without deceit. With two hounds hot upon the trail, the five emerged from the tunnels some several meters above the tomb's floor. From a vantage, they gazed down upon their quarry and a black skull rising from a bubbling pit of green shadow.
  15. Mai'kull stood resolute as the waves of shadow washed over his robed form. The last traces of the Voidcaller drifted upwards as the gate to the Shadowlands bisected the elemental from earth to crown. An unfortunate end for a creature who had simply desired freedom, but every one had their parts to play. Master and slave, general and grunt, each participant in this ritual must embrace their station. The sacrifice at the hands of Chaoseater spread the way for the party and to their quarry. Through the gateway, a distorted and grayscale passage was revealed bearing all of the hallmarks of Titanic design. Somewhere in that tomb retreated the late High Inquisitor, taken body and spirit into the Shadowlands. In the lull of the ritual, an ominous calm had come upon the circle. The gateway just... hung there, as did the echo of Chaoseater's final statement. The Whispering Forest was deathly silent despite the squall raging outside of the mushroom ring. Like a leypetal under glass, the gathering existed oblivious to material externalities. All attention was drawn to the center. The void-attuned pylons hummed in pitched oscillations and reacted with a split-second crack and explosions of arcane oblivion to a shifting in the inter-planar aperture. Barely afforded the transmission of their appearance, a frantic vanguard of spidery wraiths were shattered and ripped asunder as they attempted to exit the gateway. Mai'kull focused his attunement to the failure-detection system and heaved the lion's share of his mana into maintaining the wards. A rattling staccato of voidlings issued from the portal at an ever increasing pace, each meeting near-instantaneous destruction in showers of greasy ash and photo-negative vaporizations. The firs and pines of Tirisfal alighted from their undersides in flashes of white and sapphire until the entire squall seemed a stop-motion reel of images, like those designed by goblin tinkers to amuse children. After some breathless moments of arcane annihilation, the emergence of these wraiths slowed to intermittent forays and proddings, each weaker than the last. The Maleficar finally relinquished his tight rein over the wards and allowed their design to follow, affording the mage opportunity to address his companions. "The Steelborn speaks truths. You must not tarry beyond this gateway. I will remain behind to ensure that the way is clear... and that nothing undreamt escapes." The shattering of a final wraithling punctuated Mai'kull's portentious pronouncement and the onslaught ceased.

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The Twisting Nether Gazette is a role play forum for characters on the RP-PVP servers Twisting Nether and Ravenholdt.  We have been active since November of 2005, a few months after the Twisting Nether server originally went live.  Our purpose is to provide a safe and inclusive environment where role players can meet and interact with each other, and, of course, post their amazing role play stories, art, bios, and journals.

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