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About RiktheRed21

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  1. Brinnea Velmon was a commoner in the human kingdom of Lordaeron in the years leading up to its destruction. She grew up on stories of the kingdom’s brave defenders and their exploits in the Second War, both in Azeroth and in the Draenor Outlands. She craved tales of her father’s magical prowess, and was thrilled at the idea that one day that power would be hers. But that all fell apart when the Scourge came. She lived long enough to get a taste of her own family – a husband and newborn daughter – and then the undead took her away to be reshaped as a death knight. Her choosing was a mistake – she was destined for an afterlife as a mindless ghoul for the Scourge army, but somehow, she ended up in the wrong pile. She was a gentle, kind spirit with dreams and goals. She had few ambitions, but she clung to those few like a fish to a hook. She refused to give up on them even after her transformation. This is not her story. *** Briseidis Val’roya smoothed a strand of her ghostly white hair over a long, pointed ear as she placed the last stitch in a rug she’d spent the past two months working at. She had lost faith a few times that she would ever get it right, but at last it was in a condition she was proud of. Bright blue eyes lighting up with excitement, she sprang up and ran to her master’s station. She leaned over the table, her pale grey sleeves brushing the tapestry the man was busying himself weaving. “Master Thaelos, I finished it!” she announced, “You were right all along, it was the thread, not the material.” Thaelos Silkblood looked up and lowered his half-moon spectacles to look at her. He regarded her with a knowing smile that said to her ‘Of course I was right, silly girl. I’ve been making better rugs than that for hundreds of years.’ “Well done, Apprentice,” he said instead, kindly, “You’ll be replacing me in no time.” Briseidis smiled, pleased at her master’s kind words. He always knew what to say to make her smile. She thought he could weave smiles better than tapestries, at least until she took a look at one of his masterworks. It didn’t take long for her to change her mind. Reani, the other apprentice, burst into the shop suddenly. She carried a roll of fine parchment in her hand and a satisfied smile on her face. She was a pretty girl, Briseidis had to admit. Her short-cropped blonde hair caught the light like goldenweave and bobbed as she ran like a fine, flowing robe. When she spoke, her voice sounded smooth as silk: “Master, the harbormaster has agreed to your request! We’ll be receiving regular shipments of mageweave, just as you wanted.” The master’s kind smile grew at the news, but Briseidis’ excitement wavered. Securing trade was Reani’s domain where Bris handled manufacturing. She mostly stitched together what the master was too busy to concern himself over – menial things such as stockings and undergarments, gloves and cloth linings for boots, sometimes a few simple cloaks and robes. But what the master lacked was a good instinct for requisitions. Reani had that, as Thaelos’ wife once had, before she left him and his business to start a new one with a different man. Bris tried not to feel envious of Reani, but she was an asset. Bris was merely a charity case. “Fine work as usual, Apprentice,” the master said to Reani. “Let me take a look at the agreement. We have much to discuss, my dear, but first we should toast this success. Briseidis, please go downstairs and get me the bottle. No deal is truly complete until it has been concluded with a glass of wine.” He and the other apprentice began discussing business Bris did not entirely understand. The white-haired girl made her way downstairs wordlessly, hoping that silence would mask her disappointment. The brand-new rug was forgotten. *** Briseidis sat at the same table she always did, in the same tavern they had always visited together. She held an undisturbed drink in her hand – the master’s favorite vintage. Her icy blue eyes regarded the deep, wine red color without a hint of emotion. Then the goblin entered the room, looking nervous and fidgeting with a small roll of paper between his stubby green fingers. He took a seat without ever meeting Bris’s cold gaze. “Did anyone follow you?” she asked, staring at him without blinking. The goblin was sweating through his embroidered black robe as if he were running through a desert. He replied, his voice barely above a muttered whisper, “Nobody. I don’t think…I don’t think she suspects.” “I’m not paying you to think, I’m paying you to know. This won’t work without certainties.” Briseidis tapped a finger on the glass she held. Small chips of icy formed on the edge of the transparent surface. The goblin’s fidgeting sped under her unflinching watch. “What can you promise me, Kozlok?” He cleared his throat and handed over the small scroll. She took it under her hand but didn’t pick it up. “She’ll be there, at that time, expecting another shipment from me. It was a good deal, you understand me? I would never think of breaking a contract if you hadn’t made such a…lucrative offer. Where did you get that much coin, anyhow? You running a business?” She smirked at the goblin, and replied simply, “Inheritance.” She stood and placed the drink down on the table, the glass slightly chilled but untouched by her lips. The goblin watched her now that her eyes were cast at the note in her palm. “So, when do I get the money?” he asked nervously, “I expected you to bring it here, or at least give me an I-owe-you statement.” “You’ll get it when I say you will,” she answered curtly, returning to staring at him harshly. “If she gets a hint of what I’ve planned, this whole arrangement is off. You won’t see a single copper.” The goblin smacked his lips, trying to work up the courage to argue. He finally said, “What if you just make a mistake? Then I get nothing and my business is put at risk. I need some kind of assurance or something.” “Your assurance is my word, which I never go back on. As for mistakes, I never make mistakes. Not anymore. You’ve seen me in action.” The goblin nodded, still not meeting her eyes directly. She started to walk out, unwrapping the scroll. He called after her softly. “So, what’s with the wine? You didn’t take a sip.” “A wise man once said that every good deal should be concluded with a glass of wine.” She turned around and walked out, reading the note in her hand. Sunsail Anchorage by the docks Midday Tomorrow Two guards She wears a red sash across her eyes Bris rolled the note up and stored it in her pocket. Just one more day until it was over. *** Reani and Briseidis sat across from each other by a campfire. Theirs was one of many that dotted the dark landscape in the ruins of the city they once called home. Reani spoke first, bitterness prevalent in her voice, “They took our home from us, Bris. You know it has to be done. The Prince is doing what is best for us.” Bris didn’t look at her, hiding away her eyes by looking at the dark, dead ground. “The fel is dangerous, Reani,” she muttered tiredly. “We shouldn’t use it so lightly. It can change us. You’ve seen what it can do to people.” “We aren’t using it lightly, fool girl!” the other apprentice spat back at her, “It’s our only option! Don’t you want to fight back against those mindless freaks that took our home? That took Master Thaelos?” Bris would have wiped the tears from her face, but since losing the Sunwell, she barely had the strength left to do much of anything. She hardly ate or moved all day unless the Prince decided their camp needed to relocate. She knew Reani had already started tapping into the fel magics some of the mages had been showing to the elves. The blonde girl’s normally blue eyes were starting to look greener every day. Bris replied, her mind growing foggy as she did, “I just…don’t want us to…lose who we are. I only want Silvermoon…to remain as beautiful as it is in my dreams.” She started nodding off. Reani sighed and moved to her side of the fire, wrapping a blanket around her friend tightly. “That is all that’s left of that Silvermoon, sweet sister. Only dreams.” *** Briseidis watched Reani and her two Broken guards exit a portal by the docks, just as the note had said they would. The sun shone high overhead, just as she expected. When this was over, the goblin would get his money, and it would all finally be over. She drew her curved saber and stepped out, pale white armor glittering in the sunlight. The first Broken draenei shouted out as he spotted her. His weapon was drawn by the time she death-gripped him off his feet. He slid to a stop before her, lying on his back. Her saber pierced his heart and froze him inside out. Reani gaped at her angrily, a red sash over her eyeless sockets, glowing with a fel green tint. Briseidis yanked her blade from the dead Broken’s chest and pointed the curved tip at the second guard at Reani’s side. White frost splashed across the demon hunter’s side as she sidestepped away from her guard. The Broken gasped desperately, trying in vain to catch a breath. Bris knew it was pointless, that his lungs were frozen straight through. It wasn’t the first time she’d killed that way. Reani’s glaives were in her hands. She lunged forward with a wordless, savage shout on her lips. Bris expected that. Reani always lunged first, and asked questions after cutting the foe to bits. The first glaive glanced off the edge of her saber expertly. The second swung short of her gorget, slicing air like shearing a sheet of cloth. Reani growled, bearing teeth like a wolf’s fangs at the woman who was once her friend. “You thief! Betrayer!” the blonde, horned elf screamed as she slashed and ducked, weaving about Bris like a dancer doing her steps. The blue-eyed knight countered with steady steps, not as graceful or quick, but just as expertly practiced. Saber and glaive met with the clash and shriek of metal on metal. “You stole the money! You plotted against me! Tell me why!” Briseidis said nothing. She was busy watching for her opening. Reani made a wild cut to clear distance. Then, her red sashed face glowed with a deadly fel heat. Green flames erupted from her face, directed at Bris. All the while, the demon hunter shouted at the top of her lungs, “TELL ME WHY!” Briseidis surrounded herself with a shell of green runes. The flames died on contact, but her body’s power grew. Green fire cooled to blue frost. Bris had found her opening. She lunged through Reani’s flames and sliced at the woman’s gut. Her saber sang like a winter breeze, cutting through leather, skin, and guts. When the flames had died out completely, Reani was kneeling, her glaives fallen to the ground as she clutched her glistening red cut desperately. But Bris didn’t stop now. She could see Reani sliding a hand towards a dagger hung on the back of her belt. The blue-eyed elf aimed a cut at the back of the demon hunter’s neck. The impact was held back from full-strength; she didn’t want to kill her too quickly. Instead of snipping off her head, she cracked her vertebrae. She would be alive a little while longer as the frost fever quickly spread across her spine. Reani fell to the ground, paralyzed. Bris kicked her so she would face straight up towards the high noon sun. She looked down at the bleeding woman. White frost stole the color from her neck, and quickly snaked its way across the rest of her body. The green glow was dying out in her eyeless face. The red sash had been burned straight through, revealing empty holes in the blonde woman’s head. “Why?” she managed to croak as frost choked the breath from her throat. Bris wondered how she could explain it all. Explain why she had stolen their master’s inheritance and used it to plot Reani’s demise. Why after her friend had reappeared from years of imprisonment by the Wardens, she had been unable to face her until now. Should she explain that she couldn’t trust the Illidari who claimed to be protectors of Azeroth? Should she explain how she had always felt jealous of Reani for getting the master’s close attention, and all of his inheritance? How after she had fought and bled to protect the blood elves, and Reani had betrayed her and their home both to follow Illidan, an outsider and a betrayer? She said none of those things. She knew not a word of it would make a difference to the dying woman she had once called friend. There was only one thing she could say before she drove her sword down into the demon hunter’s heart and snuffed that green flame out forever. “For Silvermoon.”
  2. Lie - Die - Sanctify

    Leon approached the village from the north, mounted on his warhorse. They watched him as he rode into the parameter with skeptical eyes and tight grips on their spears and hatchets. The tusked, toothy faces glaring at him as he followed his guides deeper into the village set him ill at ease. Savages, all of them. Not a scrap of silk or even wool. Leather and linen as far as the eye can see. Oh, and the stench! The knight tried his hardest not to react to the smell of rotting fish meat and whatever else polluted the air. Trolls wouldn’t have been my first choice, but thank the Light Lord Walden didn’t send me to the ogres. I would have slit my own throat and be done with it! His guides sprayed some Zandali dialect at him that he obviously didn’t understand. The trolless translator wearing a collar around her neck interpreted the command in the Common tongue: “She asks that you remove yourself from your horse and follow her into the caves.” The caves in question were gloomy and humid. A horrid air flowed from within, setting Leo to sweltering under the summer sun. He hoped it would at least be cooler inside. Better wet and cool than wet and hot. The knight began to dismount, and replied to the translator, “It’s ‘dismount,’ woman. Not ‘remove myself from my horse,’ that sounds ridiculous and takes too long to say. ‘Dismount.’” The translator bowed her head, though it made her no less tall in comparison to the human, who stood a solid head’s length below her. “I apologize, lordship. She asks that you – dismount – and…” “And follow into the caves, yes. I understand,” the knight interjected, waving his hand impatiently. “Please, tell the huntress to take good care of my steed. Feed her well, brush her down, and try not to eat the damn thing, she was expensive.” The translator blinked, trying to think of the words quickly, then she spoke Zandali to the huntress in a polite manner. The huntress laughed boisterously, rousing a hearty chuckle from her spear-wielding posse. She spoke a quick line of her native tongue and a troll split from the group to take the knight’s horse elsewhere. The huntress urged him to follow once more. The caves were even more humid than Leon had anticipated, though fortunately it was cooler than the outside, sunny air. If I sweat any more than I already have, I’ll rust my armor, he thought to himself bitterly. The huntress spoke to the knight, and the translator relayed the message attentively, “In these caves, we train our young from birth to learn the hunt. They receive their markings, spears, and clothes by proving themselves in the wild.” Leon looked around at the scene. The young trolls, no older than ten, were all naked and unmarked as the adult hunters all were. They ran around, fighting one another or mimicking a hunt with sticks instead of spears. The children older than ten were all lightly clothed in small bits of leather or linen loincloths. They carried spears made of wood and stone. The young adults wore the bulk of the armor from what he could gather. Leather covered their vital parts, but left their arms, necks, heads, and of course, their feet all exposed. Among them, some carried stone axes, polished wooden clubs, leather straps fitted with raptor claws or old troll tusks, a few had rudimentary bows, but the vast majority were armed with crude spears. The older trolls, more seasoned in combat by the looks of their scarred bodies and many tattoos, were practicing some strange battle tactics in a patch of dirt by a pool of spring water. They wore cloaks and hoods that covered their whole bodies with grass, and when they lay flat along the ground, they appeared – impressively enough – as ordinary patches of vegetation. They were drilling a crawl that looked almost like ordinary grass moving in the wind. Leon noted that as a potential asset. Many other adults were engaged in other sorts of activities. Out in the open, most by the pools filled from the ceiling streams, unclothed trolls copulated loudly and violently. Leon was intrigued. He had never been with a tolless before. Their bodies were lithe, tall, and strong. Rugged and unkempt, they dominated males just as much as the men dominated them. He also noticed their ornaments, both dressing the environment and the trolls’ own bodies. Most were either carved wood or bones. Many of the older, more battle-hardened trolls wore jewelry with human or orc body parts wreathed together. He noticed several pink and green ears, severed tongues, shriveled eyes and heads, fingers and toes, and one imposing warrior wore enough bones to count for a full suit of armor. The fetishes and totems scattered about or in the hands of shamans carving them were made of wood and bone. All of them had faces shaped into them. Some of them had rotting pieces of corpses scattered around them or attached with wooden stakes or twine. He noticed back at the entrance a pair of totems with two arms and legs each, a human and an orc head dressed with a mask on either of them, and a torso strung up by dark, withered-looking entrails. It repulsed Leon, those corpses strung up like scarecrows, but it also intrigued him. This is what awaits our foes, after all. “Those that do not return from a hunt feed the birds, which in turn are hunted. That way, the spirits of the Witherbark Tribe never fail. The Witherbark may lose many warriors in battle, but they always get their revenge.” The translator’s eyes dropped sadly at the last part. Leon ran his gaze across the collar around her neck. A war slave, is she? She seems to belong more to a jungle tribe than a forest tribe. Leon noticed that they were following a pathway marked by tapestries shaped like spiderwebs. He inquired as to their purpose. In response, the huntress’ words were translated, “The Witherbark bow to the Loa of Shandra, the spider queen. These tapestries mark the tunnels that only those of the chieftain’s family or invited guests may enter. Those who come uninvited will be cursed by the Loa for all time.” Leon forced himself not to scoff disrespectfully. Loa curses? As if this failing tribe could muster up the power to affect me. The group now stood before a dais with a chair crafted out of bones and leather resting atop it. The dais overlooked all of the Witherbark Cave. A pair of pillars made of stone flanked the dais on either side, along with a pair of torches, casting an eerie light on the large troll seated on the throne of bones. The huntress guide fell to her knees and bowed low to the man in the chair. She chanted in Zandali, and her chant was answered by the voices of the other hunters. The translator urged Leon follow their lead and bow. He reluctantly did so, noticing he was now completely surrounded by spear-wielding hunters and watched closely by the chieftain’s guards. The chief barked something in his tongue and the group stood. The translator was urged to move forward and stand beside the dais to speak for the chief. Leon was announced by the huntress, then the chief responded loudly. He must have had the largest pair of lungs of anyone Leon had ever met. The translator spoke like a mouse in comparison, “The Mighty Majin’ba welcomes you to the Witherbark Caves. He wonders why a human would have the courage to face him so directly and ask that he lend the Tribe to his cause, a human cause.” The seated troll scratched his chin pensively at Leon. The troll was huge: if standing he would have been easily over eight feet tall, a full foot taller than any other troll Leon had seen in the tribe. And he was far from lean as many trolls were. His muscles rippled and veins popped in both arm and leg. His body was largely uncovered, though he wore leather armor across his abdomen and a raptor skin across one shoulder with fangs and claws jutting out of the pauldron. He wore a massive necklace across his chest with countless trophies from his hunts. Leon noticed human and orc teeth, raptor and buzzard talons, and a large purple jewel set in the heart of the amulet. That necklace must have been worth more than anything else the tribe owned. But even more impressive was the weapon lying along the man’s lap. It appeared to be a blade of sorts, but shaped large and flat like a club. Along the edges of the wooden “blade,” jagged bits of obsidian were set like razor-sharp teeth. In the wood, a scene depicting hunting, spiders, and skulls crushed under a large foot were carved. Leon replied to the chief’s inquiry respectfully, as the troll seemed the type to be angered easily, “Honorable Chieftain, I humbly thank you for accepting me into your fearsome domain.” The translator spoke his words in Zandali as he went on, “I was also very glad when our messengers returned with word of your interest in our plans. The Knights of the Silver Hand are always open to accepting new allies into the fold. There are many enemies we share in common. However, today I am not here to ask you to pledge yourselves to our order and offer undying loyalty. No, you deserve better than a demand for service. Instead, I come before you to ask of you, oh mighty warrior, to help us help you help us all.” When the slave troll translated the phrase, the chief and many of the gathered hunters gave Leon a confused look on the brink of anger. The chief’s brusque words were translated, “The Great Chieftain demands you cease the flattery and confusing words and get to your point.” Leon took a deep breath, calming his nerves, and cleared his throat. He extended his arms outward and spoke again, “Honorable Chieftain, too long have you and your people been oppressed under the thumb of knights and Horde warriors. Too long have you stood by while the world surpassed you in greatness. Too long have you stalked the shadows only dreaming at achieving the vastness of the once mighty Zandalari Empire. What you have here is mere trash before the greatness of an empire. And that is what I offer you today, Mighty Chief! The chance to claim an empire for yourself!” He paused, waiting for the seated troll to decide the merit of his words. “The Grand Chieftain wonders how you are to grant the Witherbark an empire. He also expresses his distaste at the thought of receiving the power as a gift from a human, let alone a knight of an order long known to oppose his claim to the land. The Witherbark do not trade and do not receive gifts from old enemies. What they earn they earn through right of conquest and strength.” The chief finished his last line by thumping his surprisingly solid throne with a fist. Leon grinned. It was all playing out according to plan. “Honorable, Wise Chieftain. You are right. Conquest is the only true path to glory. Even a pious knight such as myself know it to be true. That is why I extend an invitation to join in a conquest already under way. As we speak, my enemies conspire to oppose me and my Order from their home in the south. Greenwarden’s Grove, a sanctuary for elven cowards, stands defiantly against myself and my allies. I have no use for the Grove itself, but its defenders must be punished for their blasphemy. They conspire with your enemies as well! The Knights of the Ebon Blade butchered your former Chieftess, Ojin’ba, in Stromguarde. Not only did this show a horrendous dishonor by underhanded tactics, it also removed your last foothold in the once great fortress. But, if you ally yourself with us, we will aid in your reconquest of the fallen city, and we will leave you to spread your tribe to the Wetlands, starting with the Grove. You may make use of the land as you see fit. All I ask is you pledge yourself to the right cause. Your own. Do what will make your people strong again!” The chieftain sat in silence a long while. He had stopped scratching his chin and started rubbing the jewel at his chest fondly when the knight had mentioned Ojin’ba. Leon wondered if the jewel might have been a gift from his former mate, who had led the Witherbark’s efforts in Stromguarde earlier that year. The entire cave seemed to have drawn quiet when Leon’s words had been fully translated. At long last, the chief stood from his throne, hefting his brutish weapon from his lap. He walked close to Leon, hunching over to gaze the knight in the face with his dark green eyes. He spoke a word, and Leon tensed, the troll’s weapon close to his face. Then the translator said, “Yes.” The chief tore his gaze away from Leon and spoke to his people. The translator drew closer to Leon to be heard over the Chief’s roar, “To my people, I promised this: we will slay our foes to the south, we will hunt them down like prey, we will impale them on our totems and leave their dismembered corpses to fry under the sun and be eaten by the bugs! We will build an empire to rival the Zandalari! A spear, we shall be, for the Loa to strike at their foes! This Greenwarden’s Grove will fall to us and these Knights of the Silver Hand! It shall be a new home for out tribe, one through which we will extend our reach as we once did from our home, Shandra’alar! Our empire will spread! Our numbers will grow! Our warriors will taste the blood of our foes! And at long last, we will have Stromguarde, the defiant human castle, to do with as we please! Then we shall reap our vengeance as is the way of Shandra! The Knights of the Ebon Blade will fall so that Ojin’ba’s spirit may forever hunt alongside our warriors! This I swear before the Loa! This I swear before you! For I am Majin’ba! I am death itself!” By now the cave was alive with the warcries of the trolls. Spears shook, long limbs waved rhythmically. War dances were employed to honor the vow of the chieftain. From below, drums were beat and the traditional troll flute was played to echo along the walls of the cave. Voices lit up in the midst of the tribe’s music, singing Zandali rhymes to the Loa. The slave translated the chorus the huntress led the people in singing, “We sing this song so that it may be heard in the realm of the spirit. We sing this song so that our enemies may hear it and tremble.” For a brief moment, Leon truly believed that far to the south, the Night Vanguard heard their death singing to them
  3. Lie - Die - Sanctify

    Christa raced through the dark blue-tinged woods with Charlotte in her arms. Her only thought was to get the girl out of harm’s way. If Brinnea survived the battle that was inevitable, they would find each other later. The girl in her arms wriggled and shouted, making the journey rather difficult. “Let go of me or I’ll burn your face off!” she shouted, little fists pounding at Christa’s breastplate. “Stop that! I’m trying to save you, girl,” the knight replied. “I don’t know you! Mama says never to trust strangers!” “I knew your mother years ago. She’s in for a rough fight back there, and I don’t know if she’ll make it out alright. I have to make sure they don’t hurt you.” “My mother never loses! She’ll come and find us and she’ll hurt you!” With a flash of arcane light, the girl vanished from Christa’s arms. The paladin gasped and began to panic, whirling around trying to spot her in the dark. “Charlotte! Charlotte, wait!” she shouted after the girl. No response. She growled angrily and kicked a tree stump. An arrow landed beside her foot. Jumping backwards, she tore her sword from its sheath and took on a defensive stance. “Don’t be foolish, Knight of the Silver Hand,” a voice echoed all around, its source invisible. “You could never see my arrow coming, much less stop it from penetrating your skull. Put the sword down.” Christa cursed and did as she was bid. “Who are you?” she called out into the dark, “What do you want?” A figure dressed all in black, from his hat to his long overcoat all the way down to his leather boots, appeared to her side with a black arrow drawn on his black bow. All she could see of the man’s face were his grim, unamused blue eyes. He kicked her sword far out of reach. “It’s not about what he wants,” a second voice said, its source appearing just behind the paladin. He was dressed in the outfit of a Gilnean noble, and carried a rifle and a very long knife. “It’s about what’s best for the girl.” The snap of a branch drew Christa’s attention up to the top of a nearby tree. In it sat a man wearing a brown vest partially concealing a pair of pistols. He held a machete in one hand, and Charlotte’s bright red hair in the other. The girl’s throat was threatened by the edge of the long blade, forcing her to stay still. Christa scowled at the nobleman. “Let her go, now!” The nobleman laughed with amusement. “You don’t give commands, girl. I am a lord of Gilneas, and you are just some fat, upstart bitch who tried to steal my new ward. Normally for stealing I would only take a hand, but in this case, you stole a noble lady who is quite valuable to me. I will take your head for that, and leave the rest for the crows.” He snapped his fingers and more men appeared in the shadows from all around. Christa couldn’t count them all, but many of them carried rifles aimed at her. The lord stepped forward and aimed his rifle at her leg. “You make a move and I make your death slow.” He leveled his knife to her throat. A lance flew through the hand that held it. The lord screamed in pain, and his rifle went off. But it was off-target and hit the ground beside Christa’s leg instead. Instinctively, Christa threw a protective shield around her, just as the black-garbed man’s arrow flew at her head. Gunshots rang out in the night, some aimed at her and others elsewhere. She didn’t stop long enough to see where. Christa raced towards her sword, and scooped it up in a swift motion. The man in black was aiming at her again, but before he could take a shot, a death charger screamed its way right over him. He was thrown to the ground violently, and stopped moving. The lord with the spear through his arm was shouting at his men to stop whoever was attacking, but with all the gunfire, Christa couldn’t hear what exactly he said. She formed a hammer of light in her left hand and hurled it at the man in the tree. He took the blow to the chest and slipped off the branch into the foliage below. Charlotte blinked out of existence and reappeared beside Christa. The paladin took the girl around her arm protectively. “Do you believe me now, girl?” “Yes,” the girl replied with a smile. “But I was right too. Mama’s here!” Christa grimaced at the sight across the clearing. Brinnea certainly was here, and she came with a vengeance. She rode through the line of gunmen, her sword and knife flashing deadly blue arcs wherever she rode. Blood flew faster than the gunshots, and soon the Gilneans were routed. The lord had been helped onto a horse by two of his men and rode off into the night. The man in black remained unconscious on the ground. Christa checked for the brown-vested man and found he’d disappeared as well. Gone just as quickly as they arrived, she thought sourly. Brinnea rode over to Christa and the girl, her armor, horse, and blades equally stained with blood. She looked no worse for wear: her armor was dented in a few spots where gunshots had ricocheted off, but no hits had landed directly. She was an expert rider, just as Christa remembered. The death knight glowered down at her, blade still in hand. “Release my daughter, Silver Knight, or I’ll cut your arms off and beat you to death with them.” Christa let Charlotte go, and the girl ran to the horse, hugging it happily. “Hey, Sparklehoof! I’m glad you showed up, boy!” The girl stroked the undead horse as if it were a pet dog. Christa gave her a confused look, but said nothing of it. “I didn’t take her to hurt her, Brinnea. I was trying to keep her from harm. The other knights were using her to lure you into a trap, but it seems to have backfired on them. They expected to use those other paladins in the village to bolster their numbers, but you arrived just as the Ebon Blade did, seeking justice for their order.” Brinnea eyed Christa carefully, a hint of recognition and much sternness written across her scarred face. It was difficult to see, but Christa could tell it was the same face as the little girl she had known. It was masked by a stony expression and a scarred exterior, but she could sense the warmth of old lingering within. The death knight replied, “It didn’t matter how many there were. Their fate would have been the same. Pawns for Lord Walden’s game, perhaps, but dead pawns when I was done with them. You are no exception. You took part in my daughter’s kidnapping, did you not?” “I did, but I had no choice,” Christa replied truthfully. She had taken a vow to obey the orders of her superiors, so she did. “Then there isn’t much left to say, is there? You put Charlotte’s life at risk, so yours is forfeit. Take up your sword if you wish, it will not save you.” Brinnea kicked and her death charger trotted forward. Charlotte cried out, “Wait, mama!” and the charger was halted. “She said she was trying to help, mama! Don’t hurt her. She says she knew you, too.” The girl clung to the side of the horse’s saddle, beseeching her mother. Christa drove her sword into the dirt. “The girl speaks truly. You may not recognize me, but I sure as fel recognize you, little sister. I’m the same Christa Velmon who carried you from Andorhal to Gilneas. I’ve been hoping to find you ever since the Wall fell, and now we finally meet.” *** Leon grunted and groaned all the way back to Windrunner Village. He had hidden among the trees until the others had all cleared out, all the while healing and bandaging the wound in his knee. It still stung like a hot poker was jabbed under his kneecap, but he pressed himself to limp forward all the same. Nalysia’s plan had failed spectacularly. All the knights in their party were dead now, except for him. Well, myself and Christa, and the draenei bitch, I suppose. I’ll deal with both of them shortly, though. He had suspected Christa would turn against them from the start, but Nalysia didn’t bother dealing with it. The dumb tauren bitch just wanted to get the whole thing over with, as if it were some chore. She thought the whole thing was beneath her, like it was grunt work. Her pride had blinded her to how dangerous the game was. Leon had seen it all, and that’s why he was still alive, and the rest were all dead. He returned to the camp to find all the squires dead, stuck to the ground with their spears stuck through their backs. Leon cursed. On top of everything he had to deal with today, he also had to make his own dinner. There was no way that tasty-looking deer was anywhere near warm by now. I wonder who killed them? Some cutthroat happening to pass this way? The local militia? But he saw no signs of tacks leading into the camp. Those Blood Knights had never bothered to check the whole village for anyone else before parading themselves back to Silvermoon. Then he noticed bloody prints in the shape of hooves leading around the nearest hut. Something wrapped around Leon’s neck and pulled taut. He choked, yelling with effort to try and pry the garrote off his neck, but it remained fast on him. A voice shouted in his ear, “You are no knight! You are just a brigand in fancy armor! A savage rapist! I’ll tear your Light-damned head off!” Velbina shouted, applying all her strength to strangling the man with what he supposed was an old silk curtain or something. I will not die here, he thought to himself as his vision went blurry. I will not die in some Light forsaken elf ruin strangled by a blue goat woman! He kicked hard, shoving her backwards. They fell onto something, and she screamed. Her grip loosened. He fell forward, coughing raggedly and gasping for air. Slowly, his vision returned and he could take long, but non-ragged breaths again. He looked back at Velbina. The draenei had fallen backwards through one of the spears stuck straight out of a squire’s belly. Her body fell down through the spear slowly, oozing blue blood out of her intestines. She was still alive, and screaming at the top of her lungs. Leon sighed, and drew his sword. “Will…you…shut up!” he shouted between heavy breaths. He shoved his sword through her chest so he would collapse a lung. She continued bleeding to death slowly when he withdrew the blade, but now she couldn’t get enough air to scream. Only enough to gasp and sputter as she drowned in blood spewing from her mouth. “Much better,” he remarked while cleaning his blade casually. Then he sheathed it and trotted off to find himself something to eat. Maybe I will get a decent meal, after all
  4. Lie - Die - Sanctify

    Sister Freida had been an orphan matron for half of her life now. She had started an orphanage in Ironforge many years ago before she realized her aid was needed elsewhere. After that, she had moved to Lordaeron to safeguard the children made orphans by the Scourge War. Of all the children Freida had ever taken in, Charlotte was by far the most energetic. Now she lived in Thelsamar, watching over the child full-time for Brinnea Velmon. The old dwarf paladin could not keep up with the child’s energy anymore. Somehow, late in the night, Charlotte had collapsed from exhaustion and had gone to sleep in her bed. Freida was just tucking her in when she noticed a pair of yellow eyes staring at her from the corner. She jumped, frightened, but it was just Brinnea’s other child, August. The boy had been raised by worgen during his younger years, so he acted much like a wild dog rather than a normal human boy. He was unnervingly quiet, and could move fast when he wanted. He often spooked Freida in the dark with his unnatural stealth. “August!” she chided quietly, so as not to wake Charlotte, “You nearly gave me a heart attack! Shouldn’t you be in bed?” “I don’t sleep much,” the boy said simply. He had not learned the Common tongue until this year, so he often said little if he said anything at all. “Trouble sleeping, boy?” she asked sweetly. “I could brew you a lemon tea that would help you with nightmares, if that’s the sort of trouble you’re having. I know how much you like my lemon tea!” The scruffy boy smiled and nodded. She ruffled his hair affectionately and set to work on the tea. There was a storm out tonight. Thunder boomed and rainfall echoed on the hilltop the hovel was built into. The weather didn’t bother Freida much, but August seemed frightened of the sounds. He shrunk into a corner away from the fire, shivering each time the thunder pealed outside. Freida waved him over to her side. “Come sit by the fire, August. It’s far too dim over there.” The boy did not budge. The dwarf sighed, set a kettle of water over the fire, and walked over, sitting down beside the boy. “It’s only a storm, boy. Nothing to be scared about.” A loud boom sounded just outside the door. August yelped and shrunk his head into his arms, trembling. Freida regarded the front door with confusion. Am I imagining things, or did someone just bang against the door? Another bolt of lightning let off a loud boom, and she shook off the feeling. “That one was a bit close, huh? Not to worry, child. We’ll be alright.” Another boom broke the door off its hinges. Freida gasped and stood between the dark silhouette at the entrance and the children. August shouted and tried to dig himself further into the dark corner. Charlotte was stirring in bed, rubbing her eyes. She saw Freida grabbing her hammer and muttered sleepily, “Wha—what’s going on? Sissy Freida?” The silhouette at the door entered the house, walking down the dwarven stairs and leaning to avoid hitting its head on the low-cut ceiling. It was a tauren woman, dressed in a Sunwalker’s regalia and armor. Sister Freida took up her hammer warningly. Then another figure entered the hovel. And another. And another. Soon, the room was filled from one wall to the other with paladins baring weapons. Frieda kept up a brave face. She had faced odds such as these and survived, she was sure of it. That was a long time ago, though. She mustered up all her bravery and said, “What do you knights think you’re doing, breaking into a private residence in the middle of the night?” The tauren gestured lazily at the dwarf’s weapon. “Put that down. You’re outnumbered, we could bury you before you ever had a chance to hurt one of us. We’re here for the girl.” The tauren pointed at Charlotte, who was now fully awake, and stood on the bed in her pajamas. “You’re bad people, aren’t you?” the five year-old questioned harshly. “Mama said if bad people ever tried to take me, I should do this!” She cast a fireball that flopped on the floor at the tauren’s hooves. The two men in the group laughed. Frieda gestured for Charlotte to stay behind her. “No, child! Don’t do anything reckless!” “Oh, I like her spunk,” the human knight said with a cocky grin. “Can I have her after we kill the dwarf bitch? I haven’t had one that young in a long time.” “No, Leon, you great big pervert,” the group’s dwarf said with a slap to the man’s back. “We’re not to harm the girl. Orders are orders.” “Indeed. Take the girl, no harming her,” the tauren said, drawing closer to Frieda. The old dwarf was backed up almost to the bedside. “And the dwarf? Surely we don’t need her,” the elf of the group said, clearly bored. “Kill the old woman, but spare the boy. He’ll send the death knight a message for us.” With that, they were on Frieda. Her old instincts kicked in quickly. She threw a shield of light up around her just as two swords aimed at her neck fell low. With both the elf and the human guarding low, she aimed high. Her hammer crumpled the elf’s breastplate like it was made of tin and sent him falling over on his backside. He gasped loudly, his lungs crushed by the weight of the swing. Frieda growled as her shield dropped, and blocked a vicious high swing made by the man, Leon. The human aimed high again and again, forcing her to compensate for her height by blocking high. His strikes led her away from the bed, leaving the dwarf woman and the tauren to seize Charlotte and August, who both struggled to break free, futilely. Leon’s blade fell from up high, and Frieda tried to block again. But her old arms had grown tired and slow. Leon severed her right hand at the wrist. Blood squirted across the room violently, and the old dwarf paladin fell to one knee, her hammer fallen to the ground. She screamed as pain wracked her body from her bloody stump. Leon kicked her hammer away before she could grab it again. Shivering from the pain, Frieda’s last sight of the children as they were taken out into the storm was fuzzy. She saw August’s terrified yellow eyes looking at her with fear, and heard Charlotte’s loud yells as the knights failed to gag her properly. Tears streamed down Frieda’s face, mingling with blood from her spurting fountain of a stump. She wept not because she was about to die, but because she had failed the children she was sworn to protect. For the first, and last time in her life, she had failed them. “Nighty night, old hag,” were the last words Frieda heard before Leon’s sword chopped her head off.
  5. Lie - Die - Sanctify

    Sagito and Velbina spent the ride south in silence. Sagito rubbed his sore cheek and stared at her as she rode further and further ahead of him. Every time he felt like saying something, he felt the sting in his cheek grow hotter. Plus, his chest seemed to pinched by some errant pain. The only sound to break the silence was his ragged coughing and the sound of water flowing down his gullet. The two draenei met with their fellow knights on the Arathi highroad as the sun began to set. Velbina hurried to throwing the provisions down for the squires to set up for dinner while Sagito embraced his old friend Baladar. “I am glad we found each other before dark, my elven friend!” Baladar smiled cockily. “You doubted my sense of direction? Our whole company would be on the wrong side of the Gap if the tauren was still leading.” Nalysia shook her head. “You easterners and your roads. This whole continent is damned confusing.” Leon winked at Velbina as she set down a sack of potatoes. “You and our boy have a nice night up north, Velby? I almost missed you two lovebirds after you left. The night elves are depressing as all fel.” Velbina glowered at Leon and tossed a kettle at his boot before storming off. Leon yelped and shouted after her, “Bitch! Watch where you toss shit at me!” He turned to Sagito and barked, “What’s her problem?” The draenei man rubbed his bruised cheek again. “We, uh…didn’t have such a great night.” Clea scoffed, undoing her breastplate with a sigh. “I told you, didn’t I? I told you marrying a fellow knight was a stupid, stupid, stupid idea.” Sagito bristled at the dwarf. “I am an impulsive man. I follow my passions. She just…didn’t understand--,” he was cut off by a long string of coughs. Baladar cocked his head at his friend. “You doing alright, Sagito? That cough sounds nasty.” “I’m…I’m fine. It’s just a…a tickle in my throat,” he reassured between loud hacks. He chugged more water from his skin, but he couldn’t hold it down. He threw it all back up, bluer than before. Azure blood poured from his mouth and nose. Baladar’s eyes widened as blue blood leaked from his friend’s eyes and ears as well. “Sagito!” he shouted despairingly. The draenei fell to the ground, and the other knights raced in to stand around him. Christa shoved Baladar out of the way and channeled the Light into Sagito’s chest and throat. She grimaced. “Poison. He’s ingested poison,” she reported with melancholy. “Can you save him? Can I save him? I can heal as well, I could burn the toxins out!” Baladar was nearly hyperventilating as bad as Sagito was drowning in blood. The other knights were silent. Velbina was off away from the others, hands on her mouth in shock. Sagito’s chest stopped moving. The blood stopped flowing. Christa stopped channeling her healing spell and stood. “He’s gone.” She walked off, flicking blue blood off her gauntlets. Baladar stared at his friend’s corpse as the other knights murmured amongst themselves. An uncomfortable quiet settled over the camp. It was broken when Leon glanced over at Velbina, who still stood with her hands over her mouth. Tears were forming in her bright eyes. Leon sucked air through his teeth, nodded to himself and walked over to the draenei women with a smile on his face. “Well, only one proper course of action here.” He punched Velbina in the gut as hard as he could. She doubled over, gasping and clutching at her midsection. Leon didn’t let up. He kicked her with his metal boot again and again, in the chest, arms, abdomen, legs, and face. She screamed and begged for mercy, but he kept kicking. The other knights did nothing. “You poisoned him, huh? You got in a little argument so you slipped poison in his water?! You stupid blue bitch. I’ll show you what the punishment is for killing your man!” He slipped his knife out of its sheath. It was a long, clean, polished blade with a hilt made of solid gold shaped like an elf woman’s body. He grabbed Velbina by the horn and yanked her head up so her throat was shown bare. He held the long blade’s edge against her throat. “Wait!” Baladar shouted, walking towards with his hands raised. “Don’t kill her. Don’t.” Leon looked at him with an unimpressed expression. The blood elf looked at the draenei, his face twisted with grief. “Sagito was my friend. He fought at my side in Shattrath, and came to Azeroth with me when I asked him. He’s always been dedicated and loving. He was the best sort of man who ever lived.” His eyes were downcast and he lowered his hands. He shouted and delivered a punch that broke the draenei’s nose. She yelped and wailed in pain. Leon grinned widely. “You killed my friend! You don’t get to die slow, you harlot! First, I will honor my friend’s memory by having my way with you. Then it’ll be Leon’s turn, then whoever else here wants a go at you before I take you again! Whenever I get bored of you, that’s when you’ll get the death you deserve.” Velbina screamed and begged them not to, but it didn’t deter them. She pleaded for the others to help her, but they all looked the other way, pretending nothing was happening. Christa washed blood off her hands and took up a shovel. While the men defiled the accused woman, Christa dug a grave and buried the dead man. Every scream she heard set her teeth to grinding against one another and her fingers to tense against the wooden shaft of the shovel until her hands turned whiter than fresh snow. The screaming didn’t stop until Sagito was buried, the sun had set, and Christa had eaten and set her bedroll. Then Leon and Baladar returned to camp with the draenei woman in chains. She looked at Christa, and Christa looked back. The girl looked broken and battered. Her eyes showed little life. Christa frowned at her sadly and turned over in her bedroll. She tried to fight the feeling, but no amount of looking away could get the image out of her head. Tears rolled down her cheeks, but no one heard her cry.
  6. Lie - Die - Sanctify

    A knock at a door. The door opens, revealing a lanky, gaunt man with a bruised face and a downtrodden look. “Gunter Merrygrim, I presume?” Leon the Wit asks, already knowing the answer. He held a friendly smile on his face. “Aye, indeed sir,” Gunter replied with a shaky voice, “You must be with the Silver Hand, judging by the look of you. Are you here about…the death knight?” Leon nodded. “Right, you better come in, then. I was hoping someone like you would show up soon. I’m afraid she might come back and kill me!” Leon entered the lanky man’s dreary estate with a musty taste in his mouth. Surwich was by the sea, a colonial town constructed by Gilnean refugees during the Cataclysm. Leon hated the smell of the sea, and the taste of seafood, and people who lived off the sea. He couldn’t understand why Nalysia would want to send him in to question witnesses, but the tauren had been adamant in her position. ‘You’re a friendly human face, not likely to arouse suspicion. Would you rather me send the blind goblin? He’d probably do a better job than you anyway.’ What he thought she should do he kept to himself. Mostly. He had let slip a comment about marrying the goblin since she seemed to like him so much. Why couldn’t she just send Christa? He thought bitterly, still keeping up a genial look as the lanky man allowed him to sit at his tiny table. At least she has experience dealing with…these people. “Mister Merrygrim, I understand based on what the mayor told me that you were recently taken captive by a force of Naga,” Leon began. “And that a group of private militants assaulted the camp and freed you all?” The Gilnean nodded. “Horrid times for us in Surwich. The Naga came out of nowhere! Swooped in during the night and made off with our fishing supplies. A few of us men tracked them down the coast a ways, and they ambushed us, clapped us in irons, and forced us into the mines for weeks! I thought I’d never see home again.” “Gunter, who’s this then? Is he one of them folks what saved you from the fishmen?” A plump woman with greying curls and an aproned dress strolled out from what appeared to be the only other room in the house with a puzzled expression on her face. Leon raised his eyebrows in mock-surprise and pointed between the lady and Gunter. “Is this the misses?” he asked with a false tone of interest, “She is a beauty, my friend. Name’s Leon, I’m with the Silver Hand.” He introduced himself to the woman pleasantly, offering her a kiss on the hand. She seemed perplexed. Gunter fidgeted when Leon spent just a little too long with introductions. “Well, eh, it’s a pleasure to meet you, sir. I must say, I did not expect to find a knight in my home tonight!” she fussed with her hair, acting stupid and flustered. Leon could feel his distaste growing, but he forced himself to keep smiling. “Right, Margret,” Gunter said suddenly, “You go on to bed. I’m just answering some of the young man’s questions is all. I’ll be in soon, love.” As Margret padded off in her slippers she gave Leon a starry-eyed look as if she were trying to be flirtatious. Leon wanted to roll his eyes. As if a peasant like her deserves the attention of a noble knight! “Returning to the matter at hand,” Leon said, taking a seat, “What happened the day you and the other men were released?” “Oh, it was frightening! A gunshot echoed off the hills, then another and another. A pair of the Naga slithered off to see what was happening and then a pair of warriors in plate, a woman and an elf, charged into the camp and took on the rest. Before I knew what was happening, the snakemen were all dead and some explosion went off in the hills. Then two more of these folks showed up, and a pair of them were wearing blue tabards with a white bird of some sort stitched on.” “A white bird on a blue field, eh? I’ll make a note of that,” Leon interjected with all the politeness he could muster. His interest in the conversation was quickly wavering. “Yes, I’m sure it will be useful to you. Anyways, the woman I recognized quickly. I’d known her once, long time ago back in Gilneas before the fall. Only, she’d been carried off by the Scourge before and no one had seen her for years! But my brother, a soldier type, he wrote letters from the front in the Isles and told me all about how the Lady Commander he worked under had this grudge against a death knight with the same name as this woman!” “A fascinating tale, to be sure.” “Right? Well, here’s where it gets melancholy-like. My brother died in the Isles. His whole camp got overrun the way the letter told it. I found out later from the mayor that she was responsible for it. That death knight woman I knew from way back. She’d gone after Lady Blackmane – the Lady Commander my brother fought for – and ended up getting the rest killed because of it. Damn wench. I knew I recognized her that day, but she denied it. A liar and a murderer, that’s what she is! You gotta bring her down before she does worse! I got my family to think about: my wife in the next room and my kids upstairs. We don’t stand a chance if she comes back!” “Not to worry on that front, Mister Merrygrim,” Leon said with a smile. “My fellow knights and I are working on bringing her down. I just need to know, what was this woman’s name?” Gunter Merrygrim grimaced. “Not right to say the name of a condemned woman in a man’s own house. It’s damned bad luck!” Leon banged his armored fist into the table, losing his patience. “Say the name! Please…I need to find her and I don’t have much time. She could strike any day now with the way the Ebon Blade have been acting lately. You’re my best hope of saving lives, Mister Merrygrim.” His face pale from fright, suddenly seeing a veiled threat behind the knight’s eyes, Gunter replied nervously again, “Brinnea Velmon. That’s her name. She and her mother and sister used to visit my fish stand in Gilneas City. It was years ago, but she was a loyal customer, right up to the day of her wedding.” Leon calmed down some, unclenching his fist and adding some warmth to his callous smile. “See, that wasn’t so bad, was it? No bad luck here, paladin’s honor! But before I take off after this ‘Brinnea Velmon,’ was there anything else she might have said or done that stood out to you? The name of a place, perhaps?” “Well, nothing like that, no. But she did say who we should thank for saving us. She said it was the ‘Night Vanguard,’ I think. Yes, that was it! Night Vanguard.” Leon noted the name. Probably a militant guild of some sort. Nalysia would sort it out. Leon wasn’t interested in that sort of work. He stood from the peasant’s table and invited the man to do the same. “Well, it was lovely meeting you, Mister Merrygrim. You have a lovely home and an even lovelier wife.” He took the man’s hand and shook it vigorously. Gunter Merrygrim looked uncomfortable, but forced himself to smile. “Er, likewise. I do hope you get her in time. I’d hate to see more families suffer for that witch’s crimes.” “Oh, no other families have to suffer at all. Tonight, you made sure of that.” Leon smiled the most genuine smile he could. “Because you’re gonna get us the leverage we need to start ourselves a little witch-hunt!” Gunter looked confused. A knife slid from a leather sheath with a light scrape. A squelching noise followed, and with it a gasp as air was forced from Mister Merrygrim’s lungs. The peasant man collapsed onto the ground, choking as blood poured from his mouth. Leon admired the bloody spot in the man’s shirt, right in his asophagus. The man managed to choke out one final word, “Why?” “Why? Because Brinnea Velmon broke into your house and killed you and your family. At least, that’s what the mayor will assume with he eventually finds you. Once the Gilnean royal army hears about this incident, we swoop in and play enforcer on their behalf. Win-win. Well, not for you, but who cares? You’re just a fish merchant.” Merrygrim gurgled, still clinging to life. Leon was undoing his belt. As he walked past the bleeding man, a bloody hand grabbed his boot weakly. “What is it? Oh, you’re hoping I’ll spare your family, of course. No can do, I’m afraid. Just following orders. Oh, but I’ll make sure your wife’s last moments are the greatest of her life!” *** Nalysia scraped dirt with her hoof impatiently, waiting for Leon to return. When he finally did, he carried that same smug look on his face. She hoped he was satisfied enough not to give her any backchat this time. She greeted him simply, “You get what we came for?” “Oh yeah, the Gilneans will hear about this before too long. And I got the name of the one we’re looking for.” Christa was fully attentive now. Leon flashed her a sadistic smile. “Brinnea Velmon. We have a winner, folks! Somebody give me some money!"
  7. A Blue Book with a Red Rose Pin

    July 19 The road away from home was long and arduous. Lordaeron was in a state of panic even then, before it was discovered Andorhal was the source of the misery. Fitting, really, that my place of birth was also the distribution center for the grain that brought a kingdom to its knees. The Cult of the Damned and its undead minions patrolled the wilderness between Andorhal and the capital, preying on any they felt confident enough to handle. One necromancer and his ghouls ambushed my mother, sister, and I in the night. Somehow Mother managed to fend them all off, but the necromancer threatened to end my life with a deadly spell. Mother shielded me with her body, and I thought she was gone then and there. It was the first time I felt the striking pain of true loss. Christa killed the necromancer after that. She barreled into his leg, toppling him onto the ground, then bashed his head with a rock until he stopped twitching. I don't know where she found the strength to protect us that way, and I regret I never got to thank her for it. Mother survived, but the spell had lasting effects. Too much pressure on her heart lead to lightheadedness or fainting. There wasn't much we could do for her, and she still had to look out for us. Christa stepped up to help fend for us after that. She never complained about working again. I think she wanted to make Mother really proud of her, and couldn't stand to see her suffering so much to protect us. All I could do was whimper. I thank the Light every day Charlotte didn't turn out like me. It was a long journey, but we did make it to the capital alive, all of us. I don't know how long it took after that before Prince Arthas returned to murder his own father. All I remember of those times was some church where refugees were cared for. We stayed there for the entire duration from what I can remember. I had a birthday during our stay, I think. Nine years old and I had already seen a man die, and almost lost my mother. It still wasn't enough to harden my heart to the world. I was soft, weak, and a burden on those around me. Just another victim of this sadistic world we live in. I remember seeing the prince walk through the city with Mother and Christa. We felt so uplifted at his return, only to have our hope crushed in one fell swoop. The chaos the city fell into when it was overrun nearly spelled out our end again. Mother saved us. She took us south through Silverpine, but no matter how far we ran, the Scourge still hounded us and other refugees. Gilneas' border was still open to us then, and gave us safe harbor. I remember not being able to sleep at well for a long time after that. I lay in bed every night, thinking they would come for us again. It didn't matter that we were in the city, surrounded by soldiers at all times and that the fighting was far off to the north. I didn't feel safe anymore, not after Lordaeron. After Arthas. Not until I met Parigan.
  8. Lie - Die - Sanctify

    The muggy air of the Eastern Plaguelands hung heavily around the stalwart defenders of Light’s Hope Chapel. Seven defenders stood at the gates to the chapel grounds, their shining armor glinting dimly in the muted early morning light flittering out of the blighted sky in the east. Spears had been buried in the soft, dead ground and helmets had been set on the ends of the tall polearms as three of the knights bearing silver hand badges on their cloaks sat around a hollow, open box and a cup full of hand-crafted dice. A blood elf man spilled the dice out into the box and groaned as singular dots appears on all five. The other two – a human man and a dwarf woman – burst out laughing at their companion’s misfortune. The elf reluctantly tossed a gold coin into the other half of the hollow box, increasing the size of the pile. Two of their companions sat off to the side leaning against the mossy white-bricked wall and smoking pipes while staring off into the distance. The pair were a male and female draenei. The woman’s head was on her man’s shoulder affectionately. They seemed content with their place in the world, and grinned off at the dead landscape without a care in the world. A female tauren stood overlooking the dice game with an expression of distaste on her face. She wasn’t upset by the lack of attention or professionalism by the guards at her feet, nor the dusk to dawn watch duty they had been saddled with the past fortnight. Her feeling of disgruntled annoyance was so deep-set that her face always looked like that, no matter who she looked at or what was happening. Her arms were crossed and her hooves scraped against the old cobbled road occasionally. The last knight stood with her back against the wall on the other side of the gate from the draenei couple. Her spear remained at her side, but she remained laid-back and showed no intention of picking it up anytime soon. Her build was large for a human woman. She stood a head taller than most other women and a few stones heavier as well. Her body was round overall, not toned like a warrior woman, but weighty like a lavish noble. In any case, she had a strong presence as she stood high and overshadowed others. Her tangled auburn hair was tied back in a sprawling ponytail. The laid-back woman was the first to catch sight of the approaching figure down the road. It was still far-off – the sight lines from the Chapel went out for miles so it was nigh impossible to sneak up on it – so it only appeared as a greenish-yellow splotch on the distant landscape. The woman stood up and grabbed her spear and helm, saying to the others, “Something’s coming.” The blood elf sighed. “So I won’t get a chance to win my money back?” The dwarf woman punched him in the shoulder. “You woulda just lost more anyway, Baladar!” she said as she boxed up the dice, cup, and coin and kicked it all behind her. She and the other three knights gathered around the game took up spears and helms as well. The draenei couple took their time putting out their pipes first. The shape approached slowly, and as it grew closer, more details could be made out. The human woman noticed it was of a smaller humanoid race, possibly a gnome, goblin, or even a short dwarf. It wore a bright lime-colored cloak with yellow patches sewn into it, and carried a walking stick about the height of the average dog, paw to ear. The male human piped up loudly, “Any bets on what that thing is? I’d wager two gold it’s a leper gnome.” The tauren snorted impatiently at the man. “How about you shut up and make sure your helmet is on straight, Leon?” She scraped the ground with a hoof in annoyance. The man begrudgingly checked to see if his helmet was in fact crooked. The figure walked up to the group and raised a green hand in greetings before lifting the hood from his head. He was a goblin with a bald head, sharp yellow teeth, ears with holes bitten out of the edges, and dim green eyes. He seemed to look around the knights rather than directly at any of them. The human woman guessed he was blind. The tauren spoke curtly, “Name and business?” The goblin cackled madly for no particular reason. “Scruggs, that is his name! He is called Scruggs! Scruggs is here with information – knowledge for the brave protectors of the Light! For when poor Scruggs was lost, alone, and nearly mad, the Light saved him! So Scruggs – nice, meek Scrugges! – has gone to the bad knights’ flying house and listened closely for knowledge. He was asked to, yes he was, and so he did!” The tauren woman sighed. “Right, we were expecting your report hours ago, goblin. Did you get lost or something? No, nevermind. I don’t want to hear it. Just tell me what you came to say.” Scruggs smiled, flashing his disgusting teeth at the gathered knights. “Ah, Scruggs has quite the news! He hears that a bad knight who did bad things in the Chapel is all alone, ripe for the Light’s vengeance! A human, she was, and spotted far south by Surwich in the lands blasted by hellfire. Scruggs did good, yes he did! Didn’t he?” The tauren replied, “Yeah, sure. You did good, little guy. Let me just report to my superiors and figure out how to proceed here. Don’t go anywhere.” She stomped off into the Chapel, grumbling on her way about crazy little green men. The human woman bit her lip. Something about what Scruggs had said rubbed her the wrong way. She took off her helmet and spoke to the goblin, “Hey, Scruggs, you said it was a human woman, right? The death knight seen in Surwich? What was her name?” Scruggs cocked his head at her in confusion. “Why does it matter to the noble dame? Scruggs hears it is a bad knight, so she must be punished. Her name does not matter.” “Wait,” the female draenei said suddenly, looking at the human woman, “You don’t think it’s her do you Christa? That would be just awful!” Christa glared off at the desolate landscape, biting her lip angrily. The dwarf woman scoffed. “Why would’t matter? She’s a murderous little bint ain’t she? She’ll get what’s coming to her, Light willing.” “But Clea, it’s someone important to her!” the draenei said to the dwarf, who looked back at her with an expression of amused disbelief. “Family is family, no matter what. My grandfather is one of the Eredar, but I don’t think I could bring myself to kill him if I had to.” The male draenei put a hand around her waist protectively. “It’s alright, Velbina, you won’t have to worry about him as long as I am here.” “I know, my sweet Sagito,” she said, leaning into him. “You are the best man a girl could ask for.” They kissed deeply. Clea put her head in her palm. The other man made a mock gagging noise and pretended to puke as the draenei showed their affection. “You two are disgusting, you know that?” “Leave them be, Leon. Not even a demon invasion could put a stop to their makeout session.” The dwarf waved them off dismissively and turned back to Christa. “Honey, you can’t let that woman get the better of you. If Nalysia comes back with the news that we’ve gotta kill her, we’re gonna do it. End of story. Gotta let this one go, hon.” While the others discussed the matter, Scruggs was drawing religious symbols into the dirt just off the pathway with the end of his stick. He seemed very content as he stood there, muttering some prayer. Nalysia clomped back out of the gates. Her exasperation hadn’t cleared up since she had left. Christa looked at her, asking, “What’s the plan? Are we going after her?” Nalysia eyed her as if searching for something. Christa only seemed interested in receiving orders. “Good news and bad news. Good news is, we’re being relieved from guard duty. Command says to go to Surwich tomorrow morning and gather intelligence, see what we can find out about this woman.” “What’s the bad news?” Leon asked with a smug grin on his face. “The bad news,” Nalysia replied with a twinge of annoyance, “Is that we have to take the goblin.
  9. July 17 I haven't kept a journal since I was eight years old. I suppose that means there's a lot to write about. When overwhelmed with ideas, it's usually a good idea to go back to the beginning. For the last seventeen years I haven't felt truly at home. The only home I've ever had was in Andorhal, and I saw the state of the city only a few years ago. So that home is gone now. But it was gone long before the Scourge infested it or the Forsaken bombed it or the Alliance burned it down to stop them from spreading. My home was gone the day my mother, my sister, and I ran from it. Ran from him. I loved my father, perhaps even more than I had loved Mother. He saw a spark of something in me that his two other children apparently lacked. I loved his stories of fantasy and heroism, magic and monsters, knights and princesses. I loved seeing where he worked. His magical study was full of little wonders and knowledge. But that was before the hard times. The hard times started when we lost Owen. He was my half-brother, but I remember him only fondly. He was older than my sister and I, so he was the first to head off to war. And of course, he never came back. The good ones never seem to come back, or if they do they aren't the same -- not as good as they were. Father lost a part of himself when Owen's letter came. That piece of paper caused all the grief that has ever befallen my family, or at least that's how it seemed at the time. Father drank to forget. He drank until he couldn't remember the son he lost, or the lover he had lost before. The memory of his first love lived on in my brother, I'm sure of it. But Owen was gone, and so was she. He drank to forget they were gone, but in the process, he forgot about us as well. He lost his position as the Kirin Tor representative in Andorhal, and after that, Mother was put upon to provide for all of us. She had to somehow pull enough love from her heart to keep us all happy, Father included. There was little left for her. I couldn't imagine what kept her heart beating in the midst of it all. I couldn't then, but I can now. Father drank until he forgot us, and once he had forgotten, he had no reason to love us. He had no reason to forgive, not even for the smallest mistakes. A drunken, bitter mage and three helpless girls do not for a healthy, happy household make. He usually just hit us. Sometimes he burned Mother by accident, trying to scare her or let off steam. He never turned his magic against Christa and I. Perhaps that was a small blessing. A sign that he could still come back from where he was. It didn't matter to me then. He wasn't the same father who had tucked me into bed at night and read me happy stories. One night he tried to scare Mother with fire again, and I couldn't take it anymore. Something snapped inside me that I could never piece together again, and I cast my first spell. He was frozen against a wall, passed out in a drunken stupor. We were all gone by the time he came to. I often imagined what he must have felt like to wake up and find himself alone. When I was younger, I imagined anger and bitter rage. I was still afraid of him. As a teenager, I started to imagine sadness and sorrow. I hated and pitied him then. But as I grew, I knew exactly what he must have felt: alone and empty. By that point, I just missed him.
  10. Sanjay, The Desert Wind

    Full Name: Sanjay, Sandor Redjay Nicknames: San, Desert Wind Date of Birth: May 21 Age: 35 Race: Stormwind Human Gender: Male Sexuality: Heterosexual Hair: Black, shaved head, long beard Skin: Dark brown Eyes: Dark Brown Height: 6' Weight: 210 lbs Place of residence: The Wandering Isle Place of Birth: Redridge Known Relatives: None Religion/Philosophy: Pandaren Spirituality Occupation: Monk of the Jade Serpent, Former Military Doctor Group/Guild affiliation: Twilight Empire Enemies: The Sha, Mantid, Cultists of the Old Gods and the Black Empire Likes: Physical and spiritual exercise, the smell of incense, the sea, snakes Favorite Foods: Cinnamon ginger snap cookies Favorite Drinks: Black coffee Favorite Colors: Green Weapons of Choice: Staff, fists Dislikes: Fighting, hypermasculinity, the color red Hobbies: Researching medicine, brewing tea, mixing coffee Physical Features: Large, muscular build. Dark skin and black hair. Shaved head and long, thick beard. Dark brown eyes, thick and bushy eyebrows. Scar over right eyebrow. Multiple surgery scars at the small of his back. Special Abilities: Healing mists channeled through his staff and body. Physical excellence at its peak, as with all Pandaren monks. Spiritually in-tune, and able to commune with spirits and cleanse bodies possessed with dark spirits. Incredibly fast runner, and has high stamina to boot. Positive Personality Traits: Supportive and caring, always looking out for people even if he can’t always express his emotions clearly. Reliable and rarely loses his patience. Devoted to those he cares for. An imaginative thinker, always observant to details and finds solutions by piecing together these details into a fuller picture. Avoids jumping to conclusions, and keeps up hope by searching for new solutions even when all seems hopeless. Acts enthusiastically toward his goals, and remains loyal to his cause, working hard to achieve them. Trained in many practical skills, as is his preference. Negative Personality Traits: Humble and shy, slow to voice his own opinion. Takes criticism highly personally and tries to correct himself to extremes. Though able to take care of others, he lacks the same care for himself. Slow to change his opinion. Even if he is wrong, he never sees anything black and white enough to admit his path is completely wrong. Highly altruistic, to the point he can forgive those who want to kill him or hurt people he cares about. Sticks to his code of non-aggression to the point of absurdity. History: Born to an illustrious Stormwind military family in Redridge, Sandor Firejay was destined for a life of military service at the insistence of his father, Sandor Sr. During the conflict with the orcs of Orgrimmar, the night elves of Ashenvale called on their new Alliance partners, the humans of Stormwind. Sandor served in a battle in Ashenvale against the Warsong Raiders as a combat medic, having already shown an aptitude for medicine. During the battle, a cannonball shattered his spine, leaving him paralyzed and incapable of continuing his military service. Drifting from his disappointed family, Sandor pursued his medical degree in Stormwind, often held back by his confinement in a wheelchair. After many years of hardships and isolation, Sandor earned his doctorate. Then, he shifted his focus to repairing his body. He investigated hundreds of claims from doctors, surgeons, physicians, magical healers, and spiritualists the world over to try and repair his paralysis, but all of them proved to be unable to repair his broken back. Still dissatisfied with his life, Sandor began using his inherited wealth to pursue selfish luxury and pleasure. His father confronted him and warned him to stop wasting his life and his family’s hard-earned wealth, but Sandor told the man off angrily and bitterly. The disappointed Sandor Sr. departed, cutting his son off from the family and the remainder of his inheritance. After the mists lifted from Pandaria, Sandor half-heartedly travelled there with what was left of his wealth. Upon arriving, he found himself captivated with the beauty of the land, and enamored with the philosophy and lifestyles of the people. He spent the next few years training to repair his broken spirit, and upon lifting his downtrodden haze, he found his body responded, and he slowly regained the use of his legs, and dedicated himself to the preservation of the land that had granted his rejuvenation. He continued his training as a monk until he reached physical perfection and learned the healing arts of the serpent and crane styles. Now imbued with new power, having cleansed his spirit, restoring his body, and reaching new heights as a healer, Sandor cast aside the past that had embittered him so he would never be dragged down by it again. He cast aside all he had from his past, his possessions, his wealth, and his name. He took on the name Sanjay, and his new title of Desert Wind. With this new identity, he roamed the world to spread a philosophy of balance, peace, non-aggression, and spiritual purity.
  11. A Small Flame

    VII. Brinnea was frankly baffled that they reached the Wall without incident. No Mantid, no ambushes, and most surprisingly, no Mokdeth. Since she’d arrived in Pandaria, her luck hadn’t been this good. In all honesty, her luck had never been this good. Charlotte slept most of the way, unable to stay conscious without talking, it seemed. August kept glancing back at the road in case they were followed. Brinnea tried to keep up a brave face for the kid, but found herself taking a few chance glances herself. Brinnea took in the view of the Serpent’s Spine from a near distance, stirring Charlotte so she could get a good look. It was truly one of the world’s greatest wonders, a testament to Pandaria’s both beautiful and troubled past. During her first visit to Pandaria, the Wall had been besieged near constantly by Mantid raids, but now the massive doors were freshly repaired. They even opened widely as she rode forth and sounded the Shado’pan horn. She felt an odd surge of emotion witnessing something so grand moving at her call. The Ranger Commander Yao met her at the gatehouse, with a grim expression written across his face. Brinnea dismounted, and helped Charlotte and Colin down as well. August hopped down unaided, and took the charger’s reins dutifully. “You alone return from the excursion, Outsider?” Commander Yao questioned, barely containing his grief. Brinnea nodded sadly, and the Pandaren commander’s head drooped. “Captain Furan was among our wisest veterans. Without him, our ranks will suffer. He knew the Wastes as well as any of our number.” Brinnea sighed. “I wish I had better tidings, Commander. The captain died bravely, defending his followers.” “Tell me, Outsider, how did Furan meet his end? Did you get the chance to burn his body, lay his spirit to rest?” “The Mantid ambushed us in the wilds near Set’vess. They were young, from a new spawn. Likely looking for intruders to test their mettle. We tried to flee, but only I escaped with my life.” Brinnea saw Charlotte racing off towards the young Pandaren training with crossbows off to the side of the courtyard. August walked the charger in that direction, keeping the spirited girl within his sight. Yao replied, “Even without a full swarm, the Mantid hound our steps. You nearly completed the route, at least. Come with me, I will need a full report.” He turned and gestured for her to follow him. She did so, speaking to the children as she passed them, “Stay in the courtyard, you two. No wandering off. I’ll be back soon. Deal?” “Deal!” Charlotte cried gleefully while trying to wrestle a crossbow from a training Pandaren twice her height. August gave her an affirmative nod. Then he tugged Charlotte by the collar away from the practice session she was disrupting. Brin sighed, rubbing her head with concern. She sure is a handful. Was I this bad at her age?
  12. A Small Flame

    VI “What were you thinking? Riding off into the Dread Wastes, not even knowing where I was or what state I was in – you could have gotten hurt, or lost, or worse! And since when do you ride a horse? Let alone a deathcharger!” Brin ceased fuming long enough to glare questioningly at the girl, hands on hips and eyebrows raised expectantly. “Sissy Friede showed me,” Charlotte mumbled, her eyes downtrodden. “And Sparklehoof isn’t that different from a normal horse. He’s just cold and strong, like you, mama.” Brinnea blinked, her stern expression broken. Light, what do I say to that? she wondered to herself frantically. Though Charlotte had been born five and a half years past, Brin was still not used to being a mother. The girl had been taken care of for five years by a dwarf paladin-turned-orphan-matron named Sister Friede. Brinnea was often surprised to hear of the things the dwarf had taught Charlotte, and felt a twinge of envy at missing much of the girl’s upbringing. “Who’s Sparklehoof?” Brin questioned, trying to maintain an air of authority. The façade was slipping. “Your horse! Just look at how sparkly his hooves are; they’re like diamonds!” Charlotte’s cheerfulness returned quickly. It seemed she thought the new name and a charming smile had made Brinnea forget her anger. She was mostly correct. “I never thought to give it a name before,” Brin mused out loud. “Never really seemed alive enough to need a name.” Charlotte patted the undead steed’s leg affectionately. The worgen-spawn August was sitting in a nearby tree, watching out for any more Mantid. Brin had been concerned when taking him in that she would have to protect him as attentively as she did Charlotte, but the boy had proven rather independent, if starved for affection. August was eight years old, so he was more developed than Charlotte in some ways. When he had come along with them, however, he barely knew how to speak the Common tongue. Charlotte explained he had been raised by worgen since his human mother had been taken by the Scourge. Brin made an effort to teach him proper speech. He learned rather quickly, despite the death knight’s amateur teaching skills. The boy took his duties seriously, so Brin was in the habit of letting him help out with things she normally preferred to take care of herself. He helped with cleaning, cooking, (thankfully his nose for food was better than Brin’s – being a death knight meant she didn’t need to eat, after all), and he watched after Charlotte when Brin was busy elsewhere. Resuming her lecture, Brin turned to August first. “And why exactly did you let her come here? I told you to stay at the farm.” The boy’s unnervingly yellow eyes blinked down at her fearfully. He replied in his abrupt and uncertain manner, “Couldn’t stop her. Came along instead. Safer together, Lupa says so.” Lupa was August’s name for Brinnea. He never said why he called her that, and Charlotte had no idea either. He was right about what Brin had said, though. She warned them that if danger ever came, they would be safest together. “I suppose that is acceptable, then,” Brinnea said forgivingly. She turned to Charlotte, who seemed to think the conversation was over, and had begun brushing “Sparklehoof’s” dark fur. “I didn’t say we were done talking, young lady. Put the brush away and look at me. Now, how did you two find me? The Dread Wastes are vast, what made you come this way?” Charlotte showed Brin a red stone she had on a necklace. “We used Colin! He can sniff you out from miles away!” Brin looked skeptical. “No, really! He’s smarter than a normal dog, grandpa always said so. He ran off to find you, and we’ve been following him.” “So where is the rascal now? I haven’t seen him.” Charlotte shrugged. “He ran off earlier, but then we found you with all those bug-people. I can summon him if you want, though!” Brin assented, and the girl gleefully sang an incantation to the red stone, which flashed brightly. When the light faded, a dog apparently made of lava, wearing a sparkling blue collar, romped around in the grass at the girl’s feet. Charlotte immediately tackle-hugged Colin, giggling as the molten corgi lapped at her face affectionately. Brin was thankful at that moment for her father’s specially-made collar. Colin would joyfully melt anyone’s skin off with his fiery tongue without the warding spell it kept on him. “Well that’s one problem solved. Likely ran off chasing a varmint or something. In any case, we ought to get moving. I have to finish my mission, seeing as I’m the last one standing. We should make good time on the horse.” “Sparklehoof!” Charlotte corrected, struggling to pick Colin up off the ground. “Right. Sparklehoof.” Brinnea bent over, helping the girl ease Colin into the saddle-pouch Charlotte had insisted on buying for the dog a few weeks ago. That way, he could stay with them as they rode places. The sight of a deathcharger carrying a dog on fire must certainly look rather peculiar, but Brinnea humored the girl anyway. Colin nestled into his cozy pouch, tongue lolling from his mouth excitedly. After helping Charlotte into the saddle and calling August down from the tree, she mounted up and urged the deathcharger to begin out into the open where they could pick up some speed. “Old Da taught me a few songs for long journeys,” Charlotte said as they picked up the pace. “Want me to sing for a while? Da says I’ve got a good singing voice.” Brinnea agreed with the old farmer, but she shook her head. “Singing is for foot travel. You could bite your tongue while riding.” Charlotte nodded, a little disappointed. The boy was glancing back at the woods with great focus. Too much focus to be simple caution. Brinnea asked, “You see something, August?” “Something…green.” Brinnea swore softly. “Sissy Friede would wash your mouth out with soap for that one, mama!” Charlotte chided playfully. “Don’t talk, you’ll bite your tongue.”
  13. Brinnea Velmon

    ((More history updating, as well as a few info tweaks. News of Brinnea's death has spread far and wide.))
  14. A Small Flame

    V. She found the other rangers’ corpses later that night. It didn’t take a master tracker to see that Mantid tracks riddled the area around their final resting place. Brin could hear the insectoid wings humming not too far off. She kept moving, not stopping for anything the rest of the night. As the sun rose, hidden though it was behind the thick cloud cover that hung constantly over the Wastes, she knew she was being followed. The stench of death hovered after her, close on her heels. A death knight had a nose for such things, though Brin would have given nearly anything to be rid of the stench. It seemed to exist no matter where she went. A quarter of the way through the day, the orc made a mistake. He stepped into the open while Brin was keeping watch, awaiting his presence to draw nearer so she could get the jump on him. Mantid blood coated his leather armor, and a few roughly stitched wounds of his own glistened red in a beam of sunlight. His battleaxe had several nicks in its blade where he had forcefully parried Mantid strikes. His hatchet had been reduced to a billy club with a splintered edge. He seemed to be listening for something. Brinnea was no master of stealth or subtlety. When his back was turned to her, she charged, knowing the element of surprise wouldn’t likely turn in her favor. As expected, the orc spun to face her, battleaxe swiftly raised, broken hatchet forgotten on the ground, and a sinister grin twisting his bloodstained face. Her long sword flashed like a bolt of lightning. Blue runes ignited, leaving a trail of dazzling azure in the wake of her swing. Mokdeth was terribly predictable. He smacked her strike as if cleaving through the trunk of a tree and aimed a counterstrike at her head. She ducked under the blow and swung for his legs. She was surprised he reacted in time, leaping over her sword. He nearly clobbered her over the unprotected head before she regained her stance. “You dance well, death knight,” the orc spat, lowering his axe. To the untrained eye, he might have seemed tired and unable to continue the fight. Brin’s eyes were not untrained. “You killed the captain, pig! I will take vengeance for him and his rangers!” He scoffed. “His girth was useful for something. Not a bit of shrapnel got on me.” She roared as she thrust at his evil eye. The orc’s movement was swift and, in a way, elegant. A high thrust was pointless against that move. She had seen it used before, only by a knight’s sword. That is why she did not strike high. She feinted, and thrust her blade through the orc’s leather jerkin. Mokdeth merely grunted with displeasure at the sword in his gut. Brin cursed under her breath as she quickly drew back her blade. Fool! she chastised herself. You missed his liver, intestines, or anything really important. Leave it to Bumbling Brin to screw up a perfect feint! Growing more careful, Mokdeth stepped after Brinnea slowly, axe kept lifted in a more reliable stance. Brin aimed a few measured strikes at his feet, head, and hands. He dodged and parried them all, but did not counter. He seemed barely slowed by his wound. She pushed down her impatience and waited for an opening. That’s when she heard the Mantid’s wings rapidly approaching from behind. Rather than make a quick escape, Brin made a riskier maneuver. She cast a howling blast at Mokdeth, who sidestepped it entirely and countered. Brin parried his attack and ducked around to flank the orc, who kept up with her footwork, ready to reprise any attack she threw at him. His cocky expression faded into confusion when she sprinted off into the shadows. Brin took great pleasure in the sight of the orc frantically whirling to face the attacking Mantid who came from behind him. His surprise had cost him a wounded shoulder. She hoped he would lose his head, too. She was so caught up in her success that she never saw the insectoid that clubbed her in the side of the head. She fell head over heels into the dirt, her sword falling loose on the ground. Blood tricked down the side of her head, tickling her ear, though she could hardly feel it. A Mantid aimed a strike at her from above. She threw up her left hand to fend it off. The hungry-looking bug-man seemed surprised to hear a metallic impact when his blade hit her arm and glanced off. The leather of her glove tore, displaying the black iron hand she wore as a prosthetic. She kicked the Mantid off balance and drew her knife, plunging it into her attacker’s throat as she sprang to her feet. A second Mantid appeared. She hastily searched for her sword, but didn’t find it before she was surrounded completely. The dagger fell from her hand when she used it to block an attack. Desperately, she pulled the cord on her iron arm. The hand fell on a hinge, revealing the barrel of a cannon. Before she struck the ignition, a sword fell on her back. She felt the jagged blade slice through metal, leather, and skin. Her back grew damp. Now off-balance, her cannon shot flew with a deafening kaboom! By the time the smoke fell and the Mantid shook off their confusion, she could tell she had missed them all, sending the cannonball hurdling high in the air. Damn the luck, she thought to herself bitterly, abandoning hope. I’m sorry Charlotte. As she awaited the blade that would end her miserable undeath, something caught her eye in the near distance. A small flame. It grew rapidly, engulfing the Mantid around her before fading. Searching for the spell’s origin, she saw someone that filled her with both unparalleled happiness and infernal dread. Her five-year-old daughter, sitting high in the saddle of a deathcharger along with the wolflike boy who she called brother, spoke down to her, “Not to fear, mama! Your heroes have arrived!”
  15. A Small Flame

    IV. Brinnea spent the next week of travel saying nothing except to answer Furan’s commands. The orc proved an unfaltering pain in the ass for her specifically. Whenever he got the chance, he would throw insults her way, or challenge her abilities with offhanded comments or sarcastic mockery. She rarely said anything in return, fighting herself internally to avoid smacking him across the face for his idiocy. On the last day before their route turned homeward, he went too far. “If you weren’t a death knight, you’d be about the least threatening human I’ve ever come across,” he said with a mouthful of morning bacon slurring his speech. He gulped down the greasy meat without chewing much. “I bet your father was some pansy mage your mother took pity on. Or maybe he beat you as a runty pup. Would explain your lack of spine.” Flashes of her father rippled through her mind like waves in a storm. She remembered how he had loved her. And how the drink took that love away. She turned around to face the orc and punched him in the gut. He doubled over immediately, coughing up spittle at her feet. The rangers swooped in faster than Brinnea could believe and restrained them both. They didn’t keep Mokdeth still for long. He shook off the Pandaren and charged at the still-retrained Brinnea. He shouted, “Did I hit a nerve, pinkskin? Here, I’ll find another one!” He kicked her in the groin and laughed as she doubled over. The pain was subdued compared to what a living person would feel. That said, it hurt so much her legs went limp, leaving the rangers to hold her up where before they had had to hold her back. Before Mokdeth could follow up with another witty remark or low blow, an arrow impaled itself in his boot. It had missed his toes as far as Brin could tell; the orc reacted only by glancing sleepily at the arrow’s source. Furan stood apart from the group, calmly knocking another arrow. The expression on his face betrayed his serene demeanor, but his hands were steady and unhurried. “Everyone back in formation. Now.” The rangers released Brin as soon as she regained full use of her legs. They began to line back up to carry on down the path, and Mokdeth followed them, rubbing his core. He scoffed at Brin cockily. “Yeah, human. Fall back in line, like an obedient little zombie.” She raised her fists. “Oh, you don’t even know how to shut up, do you?” He pulled the arrow out of his boot, but didn’t move. He gave Furan a sidelong look. “You really want to get in the middle of this, Captain?” “There must be a way the two of you can work together,” the captain said with a hint of desperation touching his voice. “It cannot be this way forever. You’ll both end up dead out here if you cannot see that!” Before Brin could tell the Captain what she thought about that, one of the rangers shouted a warning. A buzzing sound rapidly approached from above, and out of the darkness from all around, buglike figures appeared, advancing at breakneck speed and bearing armor and weapons of dull amber. The Captain shouted an order than Brin couldn’t make out over the sound of beating wings. Her sword flashed into her hand, deflecting an amber blade before biting into the Mantid’s exoskeleton with a savage counterattack aimed at where a human would have a collarbone. One fell, and two more replaced it. The Pandaren rangers, human, and orc all stood together in a small circle, fighting the Mantid as they appeared. Brin thought their group had shrunk, and noticed a pair of Pandaren corpses out of the corner of her eye. Furan’s bow sat forgotten and trampled nearby. He had drawn his sword instead. Mokdeth fought like a demon, striking out with a battleaxe and a hatchet in either hand. Each blow crumpled Mantid bodies like folded paper, leaving a messy pile for the rest to scramble over. Brinnea parried, countered, and hacked her way through those that advanced on her. These Mantid were clearly not blooded given their lack of skill, but the ambush had done its work by the end. Attacks from above claimed three more rangers before the insectoids fled en masse. Six of them remained – four rangers including Furan, and Brin and Mokdeth. One of the Pandaren was badly wounded, and supported by two of her comrades. The amber blades did nasty work on the body – the spikes built into the blade made them cut unevenly, so they didn’t run deep every time. Instead, they left puncture wounds that bled more profusely than cuts, and some of the spikes even broke off inside the body to infect the bloodstream with viral infections. Brinnea knew the technique well. Too well. The ground around them was riddled with blood, bodies, and equipment. Furan gave a few quick orders, clearly expending great effort to keep himself calm. Brin gathered their dead allies for a small pyre before she heard more buzzing in the distance. “They’re regrouping,” she warned, “Sounds like there’s more than there were before. We have to get out of here, Captain.” Furan seemed torn. He looked at his fallen brothers and sisters in arms regretfully before sheathing his blade. “She’s right. There’s no time to tend to the dead. We need to get back to the Wall. Mei needs medical attention and we need to report this engagement.” Mokdeth stood before Furan before he could lead a hasty retreat. “We haven’t checked the last location, Pandaren. Are you planning on abandoning the mission due to a few casualties? Sounds like fear talking to me.” Brin took an angry step toward the orc before Furan signaled for her to halt. “We haven’t the time to finish the route, Mokdeth,” the Captain said with a level voice. “Don’t you hear the Mantid? There will be more – too many to handle. We have to get back alive.” “We? Or just you? I can hear the fear in your voice, Furan. There’s a job to do and you’re too scared to see it through. How’d a coward like you ever make it as a ranger, anyhow?” He’d gone too far. Furan struck him in the chest with an open palm. The orc collapsed onto the ground. “I sacrificed everything I cared about to get where I am today, orc!” the Captain put a foot down on Mokdeth’s throat, pinning him to the ground. Brinnea and the rangers watched on, unsure of what to do. They eyed he sky nervously as the sound of beating wings grew closer. “I have lost too many brothers and sisters to let it happen again! I refuse to be the last one standing this time, so get up and fall back to the Wall!” He released the orc just in time to be struck in the side of the head by a metal sphere. Knocked off balance, he stared blankly at the burning fuse at his feet before shouting an order to run. Brin’s eyes widened and she reached for both Mokdeth and Furan with her death grip spell to pull them to safety as the other rangers scrambled to follow their captain’s orders. She only managed to tug them partway to her, unable to pull two people so far at once. They were still well within the range of the grenade, and they both knew it. The fuse burned low. Brinnea was turning to get out of the grenade’s range, so she could only see what happened next out of the corner of her eye. Mokdeth grabbed the Pandaren by the scruff and tossed him back at the explosive. She somehow heard his hideous scream over the ear-deafening boom.