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About Qabian

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  1. Artist doing commissions

    Got this fun $20 portrait today and seems like the artist's gonna have commissions for 'em open for a little while if there's interest~ Shithowdy on the tumbls.
  2. Keeping Secrets

    Qabian stepped into Shattrath, his brow pre-emptively raised as he approached the girl's form, slumped awkwardly up against a wall not far from where he teleported in, as though she were simply drunk. He hadn't thought they would actually catch the girl. She had been so slippery up to this point, he just assumed she would get away again. Now that he had her, he wasn't entirely sure what to do with her. His mission was simply to torment, hurt, terrorize, not acquire, not dismember. He considered thoughtfully. Dismemberment would fill all of the above categories. Qabian shook his head entirely to himself, then nodded at the rough looking Pandaren. "Pack her up." "Sir?" The Pandaren seemed confused. "Don't you have a... crate or something? I need her shipped to Tirisfal." Qabian held up a hand as the Pandaren shrugged helplessly. "Nevermind. Just stand guard a few minutes. I'll set it up. Good work. I'll double the pay, as agreed." The Pandaren nodded and leaned back against the wall. ~~ Just inside the Grim guild hall, Qabian awkwardly shoves a decent-sized wooden crate off a floating disc onto the floor with a heavy thud. He stops the first person who passes and says, "Is Syreena around? Bring her here if she is. Now." Though the crate is perfectly still, it makes a soft shuffling sound. Some time later, Syreena arrives. Her steps are shuffling and staggered, and she's grinning as she plays tug-of-war with Ber and Rabble as she comes in. "No fair, Rabble. You have three heads to pull it with!" Qabian straightens up as she enters. "Syreena. Delivery for you. I could continue my campaign, but thought you might want to offer your opinion before I drop this into Brightwater and see how long it takes the bubbles to stop,” he says, knocking on the top of the crate with his knuckles. The little rogue leaves the tug toy to the undead worg and hydra and turns to the crate as a muffled noise comes in protest at Qabian's words. "What is it?" she asks, looking to the mage. Qabian lifts the top of the crate by one corner and bows with a ridiculous flourish. "Someone you know." Inside, a human girl is bound and gagged, conscious but groggy, and not particularly otherwise harmed, except perhaps slightly bruised due to no one particularly attempting to be careful with the crate at any point. "The opportunity presented itself." Syreena tilts her head curiously, stepping away from her pets to peer into the crate. After some initial surprise, a cruel grin twists her patchwork stitched features. She reaches into the box with a dagger, placing the tip of the blade under the girl's chin to make her lift her head. "Well, well, if it isn't the Professor's little pet," she croons wickedly. "And how are those sick and twisted friends of yours doing these days, hm?" Anee blinks slowly, still groggy, and makes weak muffled noises behind her gag. Syreena moves her blade to cut a lock of the human's red hair, and then bashes her in the side of the head with the hilt of her dagger in her fist. As the girls slumps further into her box, the Shadowblade looks back at Qabian. "Now what to do with her....." she says with a grin, twirling the lock of hair between her fingers. "I know this wasn't part of your... request. I can set her loose, chase her down again, if you like, keep the game going, although she did manage to go underground for quite some time and may do that again. I do wonder where she would go. She must be learning that nowhere is safe forever and that everyone she turns to for help is likely to be killed or worse. Setting her free, perhaps with one less limb, may be the worst thing we could do to her." Qabian smirks. "But given just how vulnerable she is at this precise moment, I considered you might have other ideas." Reaching down to pet the girl's hair, Syreena tilts her head as she considers. "Well, I do owe a gift to a particular someone who likes making....'projects'....out of people." Qabian raises an eyebrow. To be fair, that could probably describe several Grim, but he decides against inquiring about who she means. “As you wish,” he says. “Just let me know if she ends up finished with this world. Then I’ll shift my focus to murdering those friends of hers that I’ve left simply wishing they were dead.” "She won't be around long enough for you to worry about again." A pause, and then she grins. "Unless you want to play with her some more first. Or you can get her friends." Her golden eyes narrow as she traces a finger along the unconscious girl's ear. "If you find any of her friends from the Eternal Aegis, I'd consider it a personal favor if they suffer horribly before you murder them." Qabian laughs. "All I want is the fire, for her or any of them. I'll be sure to let them know any screaming they're granted the opportunity to do is a gift from a friend and they're oh so lucky to get the chance. Will you need help with the crate?" "Can you have it delivered to Andorhal?" she asks, withdrawing her hand and closing the lid again. "Absolutely." Qabian rolls the disc he'd used earlier off a nearby wall. He jams the edge of the disc under the crate and begins kicking it. It's all very crude for someone who's usually so pretentious. "I can take it myself. Will there be someone waiting? Though I doubt there are many in Andorhal who would give it much thought if I just leave it in a corner, even with the sounds." She tilts her head again, eyeing him closely before finally answering. "The alchemy lab there sometimes receives packages for me... Thank you. I owe you," she adds. He grins horribly as he kicks the edge of the disc and it begins to float, carrying the crate a foot or so off the ground. "Don't thank me. After all, helping you helps me. I'm hardly being that generous," he says in a tone that's less than serious. "But I will remember that you owe me." He flicks the floating crate lightly with one hand and he follows behind as the disc carries it away. The little rogue watches him leave. She's pleased that the girl can no longer cause any trouble for her, but at the same time, she's not thrilled about being in a debt to an elf. However, at the same time, in her experience, people she owed favors to rarely called them in. Turning away, she goes off to finish her business in the guild hall so she can soon head out to Andorhal.
  3. Server merge speculation

    I assumed merging 5 servers would be ridiculously unwieldy, but apparently they already did it a whole bunch and I just never bothered to notice before, so... bring it on. It'll be interesting to see how it all shakes out. I'd prefer to at least have two RP-PvP server options just for the sake of choice, and the logical consequence of that would be ED vs all the others. But suddenly becoming an actually large-sized server with the addition of ED as well could have some interesting effects. Although I don't know that ED's small enough that they'd honestly consider adding any amount to it at all, unless they're planning on very dramatically reducing the total number of separate servers. Based on realmpop, the 5 not-ED realms combined would have about 400k population. ED on its own has 672k. If they merged all 6 of us, we'd be bigger than the current highest pop server, not by too too much, but those guys do run into character creation restrictions at peak time, so I don't think they'd be up for that unless they're making other really big changes at the same time.
  4. Writing Contest: Race Bending

    Thank you for running this! Love prompts so much.
  5. Time Shattered

    Amusing how few Grim have any sense of irony. Peace through war? Makes complete sense to them. And the Horde? The Horde doesn't even know what it is one year to the next. How many of us were allies of the humans a mere decade ago? How many of us were simply humans a mere decade ago? How many of us are still allies of kaldorei? But that's what we're protecting? This amorphous mass of peoples without any real identity of its own? Of course, what we seek is an everlasting peace for the Horde. What else would it be? The removal of all enemies and obstacles so that we can finally sleep uninterrupted. That's what the Grim professes to want more than anything else the universe holds. Sweet, deep sleep. I hate sleep. Memory and dream slice like a fan of knives. It is only in the center of the hurricane that thoughts go quiet. Create, create destruction, create destruction without cease, and at its core, there is the only peace worth seeking. As the Pandaren translated for me, the only peace we ever find is in chasing the dragon. The peace of calm sleep is stasis. Stasis is death. If we ever actually won, we wouldn't even have the luxury of undeath. We would be the cold stone lords of a world of ice. You want peace through annihilation? Walk into the fire. You'll find it. For those who want something more than mere peace, there is an eternal supply of fuel for that fire. Burn it all down. When there's nothing left but ash? There's your peace. Overlooked seeds will grow, and we'll burn the new forest, too. Not sure what brought Aquizit to his senses, but he's far better off. He had multiple opportunities to make a new bad impression, but somehow avoided doing so. We'll see how long that lasts.
  6. Time Shattered

    I am no noble. Such an amusing criticism. I can understand the misconception, and I feel no need to correct it publicly. I carry myself as they do. I work alongside them. I was educated with them. I grew up around them. I idolized them when I was young enough not to understand where their power and prestige truly came from. I even murdered and schemed my way to a title that I no longer use, but which I suppose, theoretically, I still have claim to, so I suppose, on a technicality, the criticism is correct. But my family, whose name I have abandoned for one with no history, had no money, none whatsoever. Our money and our status were lost at least two if not three generations earlier. My family sold their children to the church, to the schools, to the military, always in desperate hope of regaining what their ancestors had squandered. Those children were handed nothing, were born to nothing, received nothing by inheritance. Whatever they have, their titles or status, their wealth, their power, they have earned through their work, their intellect, their determination. We are our own small meritocracy in a sea of displaced monarchy. My family lost everything. And now they're just gone. Because I am the only one who survived, and I abandoned them and their name entirely. If I have any claim to nobility, it is mine and mine alone.
  7. Time Shattered

    Now I have a decision to make. An opportunity arises. I don't remember the discussion well. Khorvis and Syreena, Lupinum, I think, commiserating about how Sanctuary gets away with great injustices and no punishment, how everyone seems to have forgotten what they did. I wasn't even there for whatever it is they did. Torture, I gather. Which is beyond hilarious. They always had such pretense for heroics. But yes, torture is fine. Torture away. Provide me with hours of laughter. But I knew from the first I heard of them that the violet and gold were a ridiculous farce, so bringing them to their knees was always somewhere on the to-do list. Unfortunately, that list was always full of other things, still is, and they were never important enough to be far from the bottom. Perhaps most of us have forgotten, or were not there to experience their sins, as I was not. Perhaps my comrades are correct. No one is going to do anything. No one is even considering doing anything. Except, curiously, me. I interject with my situation, my considerations, that I came to entirely without any prodding from the Mandate. Someone presents the idea of turning the child to my side, as if that weren't my intention from the moment I learned he'd somehow managed to survive this long. Well, other than the initial intention to have him blow himself up by teaching him magic he couldn't control. That didn't work. But turning someone to your side is not something that can be done overnight or through sheer force of will. You cannot simply force someone to agree with something that has been taught to them as fundamentally against their nature, at least not in a way that cannot be easily broken. Turning someone to my side is not something I ever do. Murder is so much simpler. I have, on occasion, reached out to those who have not yet chosen a side and made my case. But to try to take someone from the light into the darkness? That is so much effort for so little reward. It requires cajoling and convincing. It involves drawn out plots and schemes that cannot be accomplished efficiently or they fall apart simply by virtue of moving too quickly. One piece at a time. Slowly. Birds, small animals, larger animals, lesser beings, obvious villains, then the apparently innocent, until eventually, someday, everything becomes the target it should be. This drawing out is not in my nature. At all. I tried to skip steps, but this is a process that cannot be forced if there is any hope of success. I can easily cajole and convince those who are weak to certain wants and needs, money, murder, things that seem desperately out of reach but can in fact be acquired easily. But what do I have that a child wants? Apparently, knowledge. So I share that. Already, I've had more success than I ever expected. The boy is my apprentice, after all, not that I ever wanted an apprentice, ever, but his parents are... somehow accepting of this? I have not pressed them regarding why that is and I will not. I assume he simply has them more obedient to his desires than he is to theirs, as is the way of children who become too precious. I should know. He has already begun to break their rules at my request. It is a process that takes time, I tell the others. How do I get anyone who follows people like that to instead follow someone like me? And any time I spend engaging in that endeavor risks them trying to play the game in reverse against me. However entirely certain I am that such a thing is a losing proposition for them, even the idea of fair play is unpleasant. I present the situation. My companions give up easily. Just kill him. Just kill the kid. Why don't you just kill it? Well, yes, that's an option. It would not hurt Sanctuary, though. It would hurt only his mother. I'm not sure his father even has emotions. The pain would be brief and restricted. The rest of Sanctuary would comfort her in her mourning. I would become the villain I already am. Too easy. Insufficient reward. There were other plots, other people who needed to die in pain, other reasons to try to manipulate the child to manipulate his parents to manipulate their friends, but it has almost all fallen to the decay of complexity. The longer this debacle draws out, the more appealing the easiest option looks. However, through pure chance, through an unexpected occasion for honesty, I am also closer to gaining the child's trust than I have been thus far. If I continue to bide my time, to act in gentle ways they do not expect, occasionally, when it is natural to do so and not suspicious, perhaps the future will hold the key to using him to dismantle them entirely. The child has also given me an unexpected gift. Most of my memory has been mangled, but the moment his mother assaulted me, a brief point in time from before bronze interference, now stands out with a clarity I had believed impossible to achieve. Simply being able to see that moment so clearly has given me valuable insight into the self that was very nearly devoured by dragons. There are other memories crystallizing. The statues of Azshara. The blood I spilled before them in my search for answers. The endless horizon line. Are there ways to reveal other memories like this? Is that even something I want? No, it isn't. It is no gift. It is a curse. And yet, there's something brilliant in that particular memory, my hands at her throat, the anger in her song, the words we shouted at each other, such rage, such vitriol, the pain I suffered that day, the pain I caused that day. Its clarity is a gem once entirely lost, now found again. She was pregnant with him. I nearly killed him then, before he was even born. Amusing. Disappointing. There is something else that is concerning. I have a weakness. It arises so rarely that it is just as rarely a problem, but the boy has touched on it. When someone is genuinely interested in me and my words, and are not themselves entirely repugnant, I am easily convinced to share my thoughts, even to overshare to the point of considerable risk. That never ends well for me. Apparently simply knowing a weakness exists is not enough to prevent it. I should take more care. So here I am at this crossroads. I can kill him, or rather, have him kill himself, because he wants power so badly, he'll no doubt choose the most dangerous targets in range. Even better, I may have the chance to make it look like whatever accident befalls him is his mother's fault. Does no damage at all to their organization, but it would certainly be satisfying for me personally. Or I can take the gamble on another opportunity to do something far, far worse, far more entertaining, perhaps even far more useful down the road. If he does live through this venture, they will all have no choice but to trust me more than they do now. As I consider this crossroads, I cannot help but wonder how much time can you bide before you realize that you have spent all of it only working against yourself, that your scheme will never truly conclude? When is it time to stop scheming and simply drop the blade? Usually, my schemes have the blade worked in. Its fall is inevitable and it does not wait for long. Not this time. This plan has been different from the start. I don't convince people. I kill them, or I offer them the blade with which to kill themselves. This is not the first time I've considered ending this whole charade. I have a decision to make. This is not my style. It is making me extremely uncomfortable.
  8. Spelling Trouble

    A message arrived for Damian by the usual means by which Qabian arranged their lessons. Young Master Bloodstone, No doubt you have considered that your response to my last lesson has severely disappointed me, as it has indeed. However, I have also considered that perhaps my lack of experience as an instructor had me approach the lesson with a less than optimal methodology. Perhaps there are other ways I can impart the message with more success. We should meet, if not for further instruction, at least to discuss how or if we shall move forward. Your parents may accompany you if you wish, but I urge you to make that decision on your own, and not merely because one or the other may insist upon it, given the circumstances. ~Magister Qabian (there is a scratched out A here) Grimfire A day after the letter was sent, Damian arrived at the Ledgermain. He was once again wearing his apprentice clothes and the same satchel slung over one shoulder. He had a calm expression and stood opposite of Qabian to bow his head obediently. "Sir." Qabian smiled, and it was almost genuine. Almost. He motioned for the boy to sit in the nearest chair. "I wasn't certain you would be allowed," Qabian said, the smile twisting immediately into his usual unpleasant grin. "My mother said that I learned a lesson. The Commander didn't like that I was training with you, but since I have my parents' permission, it didn't really matter." He sat down opposite of the magister and folded both hands on the table. Qabian sat across from the boy and mirrored his folded hands. "The Commander? What Commander?" "Commander Julilee of Sanctuary," Damian answered easily. Qabian raised an eyebrow for a moment, then nodded. "Ah. You took the human to them and needed to give an explanation? How is the man, by the way?" "He's fine. He was really confused. I think he thought you chose him for some specific reason, but, I didn't know if that was true." He shrugged. "I just didn't think it would be very interesting or creative to pick the two choices you gave me, especially when you brought me down there to break rules in the first place." Qabian lifted one of his folded hands to his chin. "Is that what you thought I was doing? Have you considered other possibilities?" "Yes," Damian said quickly. "You may have just wanted me to kill someone. Or to see me fail. I think you're entertained by the idea of making me into a murderer." "Ah, it was the first of those," Qabian confirmed. "I never for a moment thought you would fail, but there are good reasons for a mage to be comfortable with murder. How many innocents do you think Khadgar has had to kill to get where he is, hm?" "I don't mind killing, sir," Damian said with a shrug. "I know I'll have to. My mother and father do, because it's an important need for the Horde. But it would have been too easy to just take one of your choices. If I'm going to kill someone, I want it to be for a better reason." Qabian nodded, seeming to calmly accept the boy's explanation. "You are correct that simply following my instruction would not have showed any creativity, and while I was not attempting to impart that, neither is the goal of any of... this," Qabian waved a hand, "to create a mindlessly obedient thrall. So be it. You made your decision, and you made it thoughtfully. You did what you believed was best and learned from it what you could. That certainly has its merits. "My original thought," the mage continued, "had been to start the process of becoming accustomed to murder with the easiest of targets, one that cannot move, cannot fight back, but is large enough and mindful enough to require at least a little effort on your part, and one that would mean you need to consider what you have done after the lesson is over. However, I did not consider how the source of the target might influence your actions. I did have a reason for selecting that man, but I doubt it is one he would have understood even if he knew it. You may want to avoid meeting him again in the future." Damian cocked his head to one side. He seemed rather curious, now. "Why?" Qabian smiled again, but there wasn't anything genuine about it this time. "I'm sure you will be fine. After all, you are his savior. But I'm quite certain his first priority will be to convince you to lead him to me." "What, for revenge?" The boy asked with a raised eyebrow. "Did you do something else to him?" "I have done nothing to him. Directly." Qabian grinned horribly. "Just as he has done nothing to me. Directly. An eye for an eye is always entertaining. But if you do bring him to me, I don't think he'll come out of it well, and better he lives for a long, long time, don't you think?" Again, Damian shrugged. "I guess. I don't really care either way. I was just trying to make things interesting." "You've certainly succeeded in doing that for the human, at least." Qabian mirrored the boy's shrug. "Back to the truly relevant, I believe I've already asked this, but it seems the time has come to ask you again before I charge ahead with more possibly misguided plans, is there anything particular you want me to teach you or teach you about?" "Yes," Damian answered quickly, sitting up straighter. "I want to know how to create larger and more powerful explosions. My fire making skills are limited. I wouldn't have been able to incinerate that human if I wanted to, and I'd like to fix that." Qabian looked the boy up and down, considering thoughtfully. "There are endless texts of ever increasing complexity that will help with this goal, and I will send you a few more, but of course, that will not be quick and understanding theory only goes so far without the reflexes honed beneath it. The most effective process will be practice, hundreds of hours of practice, under guidance to correct errors, of course. That can be done to a degree with target dummies, and you and I will spend some time doing that as well, but it is tedious at best. I am thinking we should start to travel. Your mother may accompany us, as she deems it necessary. What do you think?" Damian frowned a little. "..she would agree to that, but.. are you two going to have a problem getting along? I don't want there being any kind of.. issues," he said with a twist in his mouth. "I know you two don't see each other as friends." Qabian smirked. "Is that so? I was under the impression she did think I was a friend, or at least... an amiable acquaintance, enough not to interfere with her son's interaction with me." He shrugged. "For my own part, I have no friends, none whatsoever, and that is the best and perhaps only way to approach the world effectively, so in that sense, your mother is no different than anyone else. It's true that most of the people I work with regularly have not assaulted me the way your mother has, but some of them have." He lifted a hand to his cropped ear. "And we work together nonetheless, even quite well at times. I certainly have no intention of putting your mother in harm's way, and I expect she will not interfere with us unless she suspects you are in direct danger, which we will of course do our best to avoid. That being said, your mother and I have little in common, and a great deal in conflict, which is why I have been reticent to accept her rules. Do you believe overcoming that for the sake of your education will be too difficult?" "I don't," he answered calmly, then paused. " mother assaulted you?" Qabian nodded, resting his elbows on the table and steepling his fingers. "Mm. It was many years ago. Before you were born. Perhaps she was even pregnant with you at the time. I have no idea. I'm not sure that she ever had the intent to harm me. She was not a member of Sanctuary then, though your father was. She was... affected by something, and even if she hadn't been, it's unlikely she understood just how much damage her actions caused. In the end, what she did was severe enough that her intent was irrelevant. I cut off all contact with her at that time. Until quite recently, actually." Damian pursed his lips in thought, processing the information and carefully storing it away. "My mother can do things with the fel that are a lot more powerful than I've read about other warlocks doing, but it comes with a price. I didn't want to do what she did. My father doesn't like the limitations of the Light either, but he can fight better than anyone. I want to be able to use both disciplines. I want to be a battle mage." "Yes. Your mother was not the only warlock with horrifyingly unpleasant powers that decided to take them out on me for unfathomable reasons. But it was also ultimately warlocks that repaired the damage they did. That's how warlocks work, always fighting fire only with fire and never with ice, always so indirect in their tactics." Qabian shifted his position in his chair, leaning forward. "If you truly wish to be a battlemage, then you will need to kill and kill often. I'm sure you understand that, but you must also understand that many innocents will die at your hands, whether or not that is your intent. You can attempt to let some sort of morality guide your overall actions, but you will eventually need to overcome your status as a murderer before it breaks you. In this line of work, collateral damage is unavoidable. However, perhaps it can be avoided for today. If there's one thing you have available to you, it is time, hm?" "For now," Damian agreed, studying Qabian's face. "I have time to figure it out. Killing doesn't bother me. Both if my parents do it. Sanctuary does it. I just want to do it for a reason, because I know that every action has a reaction, and if I'm going to take action I want to reduce the amount of harmful reactions." "That's life. Life is nothing but harmful reactions. If you play it right, yours are stronger." Qabian grinned briefly, then put a hand to his chin, thoughtful again. "Do you have a reason now? Why do you want to fight? Why do you want to be a battlemage?" "I want to have the strength to defend myself in more ways than one," Damian explained carefully. "I want to use a sword like my father, but I want to be as skilled and knowledgeable of the arcane as possible, too. I want power, in both my mind and in my hands." "Self-improvement is the only goal worth having," Qabian said with a tone of agreement. "Minimizing backlash while seeking that goal is sensible, but sometimes the backlash is itself the greatest training you could ask for." The mage smirked. "Perhaps you will find, as I did, that once you have enough control over magic, the sword is useless to you. However, that doesn't stop me from practicing with the foil for simple relaxation and entertainment," he mused idly, looking off into the middle distance with a bemused smile for a moment before returning his attention to the boy before him. "Is there somewhere you would particularly like to go first?" Damian's red eyes drifted toward the ceiling as he considered the question. He seemed to have a strong grasp of how dangerous the situation could become if he chose poorly and took his time before selecting. "..yes," he said finally, turning his gaze back to Qabian. "I want to go to Suramar. I've heard of the Shal'dorei who let their city fall into the hands of the Legion, and terrorize those who don't agree. They should be punished." Qabian smoothly sat up straighter when the boy said the city's name. The mage's expression brightened with real interest, and he seemed significantly, if briefly, impressed by the boy's choice. But as Damian explained why he wanted to go there, Qabian couldn't help but slide back into his chair, chuckling and shaking his head. "The Shal'dorei. Oh, young master. It seems you have no idea what they are to us, to our people. I'm happy to take you there, and even to help you punish them if you so desire, but they are so much more than you apparently understand. Has someone told you stories of the present without the past?" "I read about them. I understand their significance, and their history. But," Damian frowned a little deeper. "To think that the Legion would actually make a deal with them that wouldn't backfire.. that's stupid. It not only backfired, but it cost them thousands of lives." "You are not wrong, especially in the knowledge that deals with the Legion never end well," Qabian responded, leaning back as he comfortably expanded on his own thoughts, giving the closest thing to a sermon someone like him is capable of doing. "But the Shal'dorei knew that very well. They have been unable to forget that for ten thousand years. In the case of the Shal'dorei, their deal was not one of lust for power, but one of meager survival, of anything being better than utter extinction. They lost thousands of lives, yes, but that was the price they were willing to pay for the continued existence, in any form at all, of thousands more. "We made a very similar deal once, our people. It's why most of our eyes are fel-touched, rather than arcane pure. And truly, they are us. They are those of us who never had to separate from idiots who refused to use magic. They would have lived alongside us under the sun, drawing on the Sunwell, had they not been trapped by the flow of tides and the splitting earth, had they not lost the skies entirely. They are those of us who were abandoned to the best protections they could devise, as we were once. Ten thousand years, doing the same things we did, studying the same magic we studied, drawing from the same ley lines we drew from, but while we could walk all of this world any time we wished to leave our protections, they were trapped forever in a single skyless city. "And it is important to note, neither the Legion nor the leadership of the Shal'dorei that were willing to make the deal to survive have succeeded, just as the Legion never succeeded in taking us, despite Kael'thas' errors. The Shal'dorei's eyes are not green, not yet. Thanks to the help of their brothers who have spent the last ten thousand years under the sun, their brothers who were decimated by the error of sharing magic with humans, thanks to our help, the Shal'dorei remain arcane pure. They are the version of us that did not make our mistakes. They are the version of us that we have rescued from following in our broken footsteps." Qabian gave the boy a very strange look. There was something serene in his usually arrogant expression. He followed the strange look with a strange question. "Have you ever prayed?" Damian blinked at the question. It seemed to come from nowhere, and he appeared to have trouble considering it fully. "I.. no," he answered honestly, shaking his head. "My father.. he isn't religious. He's not that sort of paladin, and I don't think he ever wanted to be. My mother.. well, no. No, I've never prayed. Why?" Qabian smiled and it was honest and real. That in itself was strange bordering on disturbing. Something about this subject matter shifted the mage's mental space entirely. "That's surprisingly refreshing about your parents. I'm sure you can gather that I'm rather similar. Piety has never mattered and never will matter to me. But there was a time, when Kael'thas was still alive but everything had gone wrong for our people, when almost everyone I knew was dead, a time when I was losing my grip on my self, that I became certain there were more answers out there. I would go to the horizon, and for lack of a better word for what I was doing, I would pray. I would pray to the horizon itself for answers about what had happened to us, what had really happened and where we were going. I was completely convinced the horizon was hiding something from me about who we really were, about who I really was. I did that almost every day for... years. In retrospect, it's only when I stopped looking to the horizon for answers that I truly lost myself. But when the Legion returned this time, something brought me back. I'm rather convinced it was the horizon, because the Shal'dorei? They are the answer to all those lost hours, to all the questions I once asked no one at all." Again, Damian's brow furrowed. He never heard Qabian speak so calmly about himself, least of all about something so personal. He considered the possibility that it could be a trick of some kind, a way to lure him into a false sense of security. Qabian knew, after all, that Damian did not want to be spoken to like a child. Displaying a willingness to speak to him so frankly would be a simple way to earn his faith. But Damian felt no urge to trust the magister just yet. "I've read about the Light, and people's faith. The Scarlet Crusade wielded the Light as easily as any paladin, and it wasn't because it was a force of good. It's because the Light is a force of will, and someone with a will powerful enough to wield it can. That's why my father does. He understands that faith in yourself is the most important kind of faith you have, and anything else is just a mask you wear. Why are the Shal'dorei the answer to your questions?" The boy's respectful listening and thoughtful responses left Qabian disinclined to put an end to the true confessions of a grown ass adult to a school-age boy. "That's the thing. I was mainly asking 'what happened to us?' We, our people, were going through hell, had passed through hell and come out the other side. While I was trying to convince myself that we were coming out of it stronger, the evidence repeatedly being thrust in my face was that we were degenerating. We were becoming worthless decadents, desperately dependent on others not just for repairing the damage but for surviving at all. Qabian traced symbols on the table top with one fingertip as he leaned back in the chair, continuing, "But any student of history knew this had all happened before. Our people had gone through hell before, ten thousand years ago. So I started asking what happened to us then? Maybe the answers to how to come out of all of this stronger lay in who had come out of adversity stronger ten thousand years ago. Yes, the true elves crossed the ocean and left the dirt grovellers to their dirt, but I knew the story, perhaps just a legend, that Azshara had sunk her city. That meant the truest of elves, the ones strongest in magic, the wisest and most intelligent, ended up beneath the waves. So what happened to us?" "You mean the Naga?" Damian asked with a flick of a long white eyebrow. "Even if they were the wisest and most intelligent once, the Naga are weak now. They're a shadow of what they used to be. We could be a shadow of ourselves too if we let ourselves get caught up in bad deals. Grand Magistrix Elisande saw a future for her people only if she worked with the Legion. Well, that probably would work for a time, but not forever. Bad deals come back at you in the end. Queen Azshara doomed those true elves. We were almost doomed too, but I think we have enough examples to know what a bad deal looks like, now." His red eyes turned to the table for a moment. "I think so, anyway." Qabian smiled genuinely, again. "You are correct. Azshara made her deal out of a combination of ignorance and lust. Elisande made her deal out of desperation. But neither deal could ever turn out well. The answer to my questions, back then, however, seemed to be the Naga. You are right. They are weak. They have degenerated. But nevertheless, they had survived. I became..." The mage stared off into the middle distance. "I became almost obsessed with the Naga and Azshara, with learning exactly how they had survived, not necessarily because I thought we needed to repeat the process. That would be ludicrous. But I thought, hoped, prayed perhaps, that there would at least be answers there that we could use, suggestions of where their path turned away that we could avoid, but also hidden secrets to survival in strength." He took a deep breath before continuing. "I knew there were... implications that Azshara and the Naga have the shape they have because they have been influenced by the Old Gods. At the time, that seemed like a mere theory, but something... something..." Qabian's expression darkened. "Something happened that proved it for me. Many if not most of my memories are broken, fragmented. The proof I found, I've since lost it, but I remember the feeling, the sensation of despair upon being presented with incontrovertible evidence that Azshara was the way she is, and the Naga are the way they are, because of Old God influence. I can't force that knowledge on anyone else, not remembering how I found it, but the strength of my conviction on it remains. And that was not the answer I wanted. The Old Gods, like the Legion, would never give us strength, hm? They would only bring us to ruin." "So then what is it you want to know from the Shal'dorei?" Damian asked, scooting forward in his chair a little. The boy seemed curious about Qabian's story, but still maintained his skepticism. "The Old Gods won't help us. Like you said, they would never give us strength. Whatever strength we need, we have to take. Like with the Light. It's in us, isn't it? We have the power, we just have to have the will?" The boy's reflective curiosity seemed to give Qabian a soft sort of joy, something he certainly hadn't experienced within recent memory, if ever in his life. "Mm, in a sense. Having the will and what's within are not always enough to keep a people from being destroyed. What's within could not help us against the Scourge, and we had a great deal of power then, a great deal more power than we have now. But I don't have any questions for the Shal'dorei. The Shal'dorei are themselves the answers. "You see," Qabian sat forward as he continued, "I turned away from the horizon then. Other things took my attention, other things far less deserving, but I held onto a hope, a small, unlikely, desperate hope that the Naga were not the only ones who survived the Sundering, and that somewhere out there, we could still find the answers to how to survive with power and grace, and without ever sacrificing ourselves or becoming subservient to someone or something else. I even travelled here, years ago, but it was far more dangerous then, and I did not get nearly as far as we've gotten with the full force of the Horde. "And then... we found them. And I was right all along. Some small community of us did survive. Ten thousand years ago, the most powerful and wisest and most intelligent of us found a way to protect themselves against everything, against the Legion, against Azshara, against the Sundering itself. The details lie, of course, in the Nightwell, but the details are unimportant. The proof is in the people themselves. We can survive anything, anything at all. We are impossible to kill. And we can survive with our magic fully intact. "The Shal'dorei are the ultimate evidence of elven self-sufficiency. Our world shattered. It shattered!" Qabian's voice took on an enthusiasm that he didn't let his posture otherwise betray. "And they lived, without any help from demons or any other bullshit. So can we. Ultimately, we don't need the Horde. We don't need anyone. We choose to work with who we choose to work with, but that is our choice, not our need, because we are survivors. No matter how desperate things get, we will always survive, and those of us who can will survive with our strength and our identities intact. The Shal'dorei did it. So can we. They are the proof." Again, Damian was careful not to allow himself to be caught up into Qabian's enthusiasm. This could easily have been a test, a way for him to gauge how gullible he was. It would have been a good trick, after all. Pretend to confide in him, tell him a story, create a false sense of security and then draw him into a situation he could not get out of. Qabian was not a good person, he knew this. He killed children. He killed innocent people, just to make a point. He would kill Damian if he thought it entertaining, that much the boy knew. However, here and now, he felt a certain kinship with the mage. Maybe it was his curious nature, or his need to find answers, but he felt that, at least now, Qabian was being truthful. That amount of trust was not something Damian wouldn't appreciate. "So they're proof that we can be self sufficient. But they're also different from us," he added. "We're not exactly the same, are we? The Sin'dorei have to do things our own way, but maybe we can learn from them." Qabian nodded. He was so caught up in having the opportunity to express himself and having a willing audience to hear the things he had dwelled on for so long that he was wilfully ignoring what he knew the future ultimately held for the individual listening. For the moment, it was enough for Qabian just to talk through the hope and the faith he had found, the things that formed and shaped the very core of himself and the world around him, things he had lost for a time but then found such intensity in their rediscovery. "They are different from us. Our two peoples, separated for so long, have lived through very different things, but we have lived. And at the core of us, within the magic that powers us, we are the same, so we can take lessons from each other. Our version of the Nightwell was destroyed, and we made do with whatever we could find, including the fel, and some of us gave in to the Legion. Our leadership gave in to the Legion, just as Elisande was about to do. Now our Sunwell is twisted, it is Arcane, but infused with the Light. The Shal'dorei, to survive, had to do the same to their Nightwell, twisted its Arcane purity, infused it with Nature. But who controls the Shal'dorei now? Not the Legion. Not the Dragons. Just themselves. We may have stolen the Legion's power for a time, but who controls us now? Not the Legion. Not the Naaru. Not the Light. Not even the Horde. Just ourselves. We are who we are, and that is valuable. That is important." "I guess we are similar, in that way," Damian said quietly, thoughtfully. "I've never met other elves, really. Other kinds. The Kaldorei or the Shal'dorei. I've seen Naga, but they were weak. Do you think.. I know half-elves exist. I know there are hybirds, people with a Kaldorei mother and Sin'dorei father.. do you think that sort of thing.. does it make those hybrids more powerful? Or weaker? Can they even breed?" Qabian frowned, his taste for the subject clearly and dramatically changing. "They can fuck. That much is certain." He certainly had no qualms about using that kind of language in front of a child in public. "Whether or not they can have viable offspring from such a union I would consider highly questionable. The child may be gifted a quirk that makes them more physically powerful, or perhaps even more magically powerful, but without fail they will be mentally degenerate or deranged, on account of their parents being complete idiots." He also had no qualms about letting his biases show. "There are other ways to combine the attributes of two creatures in attempts to make them stronger, methods like cultists and the RAS use. That would likely give you more success: no random chance, the opportunity to cut out the worst of both parents, the ability to incinerate failed results. I understand the human concept of staying too close to family lines producing rotten children, but there is no evidence that applies to elves. The Shal'dorei have been closed in for how long? Their magic is if anything greater than ours, their mental acuity is impeccable, and those of them who choose to engage physically are perfectly formidable. Our... half-breeds outside our race inevitably improve on the partner and corrupt us. Kaldorei unions are similar, given how long they have been without the arcane. Shal'dorei unions... I suppose we will see whether or not those are even possible. I expect they will be, but will not work out well. Neither of our people are particularly welcoming of such things, which, as I said, requires the parents to be idiots, but it will be interesting to see. Unless, of course, the Legion finally succeeds in destroying us all." Qabian grinned. Damian's face didn't react to the cursing. Despite his mother's efforts to curb his habits, Damian's father cursed like any other man tempered by the military. He heard every curseword available to the Sin'dorei by the time he was three. He heard new ones when he started school, adopted from other races of the Horde. "Do you have any children, sir?" He asked, despite assuming the answer was no. "There's a lot of pressure for our people to breed." Qabian scowled, definitely back to his usual self, and his ranting turned ugly. "Who told you that? Your mother? It's garbage. There is no pressure on us to breed. People have been putting sex as a priority out of desperate need for physical comfort after what happened, but it is no priority. We have no need of numbers. We have need of quality, and the survival of the fittest will provide that all on its own. Numbers will just dilute us. If blood elves could stop sticking their dick in crazy for half a second, maybe they could concentrate on issues of actual importance, like correcting the egregious error we made with the humans. The Shal'dorei are proof of that, too. We do not. Need. Numbers." Qabian clenched his fists on the tabletop. "No. I do not have children. And I never will." Qabian let his fists relax and laid his palms flat as he forced himself to breathe calmly. "At any rate, the Legion have no more abandoned their hold on Suramar than they have on the Tomb itself. And there was and always will be a contingent of any people who are happy to trade their freedom for power, so there are plenty down there to punish for their continued demonic support, if you're still so inclined," Qabian changed the subject. For the first time since Damian started working with Qabian, the boy smiled. At first it was just a smirk as he watched the magister's body language shift, from discomfort to anger, all within a few moments at the mere mention of children. By the time he got back to Suramar, he was holding back laughter. Certainly, he learned a lesson there. "I am," he said eagerly, dimples in his perfect round cheeks. Were it not for his red eyes, the wooly haired child would have appeared perfectly angelic. "I'm inclined to learn how to kill. I know my mother won't have any objection, either. I can let her know once I get back. We can all go together," he said before adding with an even more amused grin. While Qabian raged, he didn't notice the boy's change in expression, but as the mage calmed down, he raised an eyebrow curiously. The boy had absolutely hit a nerve, but Qabian was comfortable enough with others being aware of that particular sensitivity. He kept the real reasons for it close. For most of those Qabian interacted with, it meant they avoided bringing up the subject of children. He suspected for Damian, the boy would only be encouraged to needle, but Qabian considered it was unlikely he would be taken nearly as off-guard in the future. The time for openness and emotion was clearly over. Qabian returned the boy's amusement with calm, smirking sarcasm. "Wonderful. If you like, before we indulge in murder, we can use illusions to explore the city proper. Prepare a picnic. Visit the zoo. Pretend we're just an ordinary family enjoying a day. I'm sure your father will love that idea." Damian finally started laughing. Though well kept, a few of his baby teeth had recently gone missing, and it made his otherwise sweet smile into a somewhat disturbing collection of jagged white pebbles. "You think so?" He asked with that same terrible grin. "My father is very jealous. If you actually wanted to anger him, it wouldn't take much. He hates it when men pay my mother any kind of attention, but what he really hates is when she gives them attention back. I don't think that will happen, sir." The mirth was still in Damian's face, even as the grin faded. "I don't think it would amuse you to put that much effort into just making my father angry. I think it would be too much work, and besides. My mother doesn't like men like you," he stifled his laughter again. "And you certainly aren't interested in her. You two could wind up naked in a pond and it wouldn't make a difference to anyone involved. It's kind of funny, really. Like you said, you're not interested in 'sticking your dick in crazy'." Qabian grinned his unpleasant, completely normal-for-him grin. "You are absolutely correct yet again, of course. Far too much work for no reward whatsoever. To be honest, I assumed your father wouldn't care. He was never interesting enough, and he's spent just enough time around me to know I'm not that kind of threat." Qabian shrugged. "Better for us in the end, especially if you actually wanted a picnic." He chuckled, shaking his head at the absurdity of the idea. "While I'm being so very honest," Qabian continued. "I had initially thought we would start with simple tourism, or as far as combat was concerned, with something... smaller, more predictable, murlocs, maybe kobolds. Misguided Nightborne and city-controlling demons are far from easy targets. But if you're intent on destruction, I'm sure your mother and I can handle the greater dangers while you judge how to best get in your practicing, hm?" "I'd like to see the rest of the Broken Isles," Damian said honestly, lowering his eyes to the table. He considered his next question for a moment. "What is your favorite part of the broken isles? Is it Suramar? Or something else? I heard about the city of elves doomed to walk as ghosts because Prince Farondis wouldn't obey the Queen Azshara. I'd like to see them, I think. And the Naga who keep attacking them. I heard he was very brave, but very foolish. But I also heard he fought Azshara herself. To be dead and be able to do that, he must be very powerful or she must have been holding back. Maybe it was an illusion.. either way, to actually see Queen Azshara herself must have been incredible. I'd like to meet the Prince, and see Nar'thalas Academy." Qabian watched the boy carefully as he spoke. Qabian found himself suddenly conscious of his own vulnerability, shared interest leading to confessed secrets, a weakness that had been exploited before, but what power did a child have to actually take advantage of that? Even if he shared it with his mother, there was no risk. Still, Qabian decided to be more careful. He kept his tone and expression calm and measured. "There is nothing like Suramar anywhere. It is one of the few places on this world worth the stone it was carved from. At least it will be, once the demons are gone. Azsuna is... a history lesson, but it is not alive the way Suramar is. Given Suramar's continued existence, it's difficult to believe that Farondis' choice was correct. It seems there was a third option, hm? I'm also inclined to believe what he fought was an illusion, but the Prince's spirit did have ten thousand years to perfect the few spells he remembers." Qabian smirked. "If you really want to see Queen Azshara, you could ask the Bronze really nicely. They tend to leave convenient timeways in their wake. Worthless for accomplishing anything, but excellent for learning from the most immersive of textbooks." "Or dying," Damian suggested. That Qabian either wanted him dead or wouldn't mind if he died wasn't lost on him. The way he grinned always seemed to remind him of a predator. "Which I'm pretty sure you'd be entertained by. I'd rather live a long time, sir. There are a lot of things I want to see, and you can't do that when you're dead. Unless you're Forsaken or a Death Knight or something.. but those aren't exactly options. I think I'll be happy meeting Prince Farondis. I've never met someone ten thousand years old." "If I wanted you dead, young master, you'd be dead," Qabian said, quiet and serious. "You've stepped through portals I've made and come out perfectly safe. Down in the Underbelly, nothing was stopping me from killing that man, and nothing was stopping me from killing you. The Bronze, however... Mm, perhaps not. They've bested me before. But if you wish to meet Farondis, that can be arranged. Discuss it with your mother. As she'll have to accompany us no matter what, you're certainly free to choose wherever you wish to go without fear." "Sir, I have no illusions to the idea that you could kill me whenever you wanted," Damian said carefully. "And I appreciate you showing me as much as you have. I know you don't think much of me, or anyone else for that matter, but I'll be honest," he tried to look hopeful. "I hope I can surprise you. My mother thinks you're very dangerous. I do, too. So I think that if I can survive being the student of someone as dangerous as you are, who has no qualms about killing someone like me, maybe it will mean something. It would definitely mean something to me." Qabian placed his hands together, pressing his fingers to his lips as he stared at the child. The mage was fighting an urge for honesty. Honesty weaponized could be delicious, but it didn't seem right at that moment. It couldn't do enough damage. "Perhaps. I have my own reasons for continuing this," he said, when he finally spoke again, "and guaranteeing your survival is not among them, so that is up to you, and to your mother's interference, I suppose. What good you can take from succeeding in that is entirely yours. But my reasons to do this are continually countered by quite compelling reasons not to, so that can be a difficult balance to maintain. For now, I'm rather pleased that your so-called Commander dislikes this, and yet it continues. For now, we'll see how it goes, hm? If you want to go to Suramar and help your mother and I wreak havoc, we'll do that. If you want to start with something safer, we can do that instead." "I'm interested in havoc, sir," Damian said honestly, then gave an excited grin. "But the rest of it, too. My mother hasn't shown me the new things she's learned to do, recently. I'm curious to see that, too, and how it compares to the magic I'm learning. I can go to her now and tell her about the plan if that's alright with you, sir?" Qabian sat back, smirking slightly. "Mm, perhaps we should put in an hour or two at the target dummies before I send you back to her?" "Yes sir," Damian said enthusiastically, his ears perking. "I'd appreciate that." Qabian pushed his chair back and dusted off his pristine robes. "All right then."
  9. Spelling Trouble

    In the hours that followed, the nondescript human man's pregnant wife and infant daughter received a letter from their missing husband and father urging them to go stay with the wife's parents in Westfall for their own safety. All of them were found murdered shortly after their arrival and the house ransacked, apparently by bandits. The man's ailing mother was found floating face down in the Stormwind canals. She was getting on in years. Perhaps she simply lost her way in the dark. The man's small bakery in Dalaran that he'd painstakingly built over a decade suffered a fire that gutted the interior. An investigation pointed to the fire originating with the oven, but several failsafes, including two magical ones, had failed to activate. The man's twin brother and young nephew, knight and squire respectively, were ambushed in the field while they made camp with their regiment. No other soldiers were harmed and no one heard or saw anything untoward over the night, despite regular patrols, but their bodies were found charred in the ashes of their tent the next morning. ~~ Qabian stood outside the burnt husk of the bakery, his arms folded across his chest as he observed the scene. A disappointed patron came by and stood next to the mage. "So sad, isn't it? We're still not sure what happened to him," the stranger said, trying to find common ground in a time of tragedy. "Indeed," Qabian answered, as though he actually cared. "What a shame. Continuing to live when everything one once lived for is lost can be enough to make a man crave death, hm?" The stranger stared at the mage, eyes wide, clearly concerned by the blood elf's words. Qabian simply turned and walked away, laughing.
  10. ((I didn't originally post a description of the base character because of a failure of reading comprehension. But! For the sake of posterity, I'm editing it in now, long after contest closes~)) Qabian Grimfire is an arrogant, narcissist, criminal, murderer of a blood elf fire mage. He is a Magister of Silvermoon who works proudly alongside The Grim in their mission for Peace through Annihilation, though it's no secret he's in it for the Annihilation, not the Peace. Most importantly, he never, ever apologizes. This is not his story. ~~~~ When Caleb Goldwater woke up in the pillory, the first thing he felt was relief. The fight was finally over. He had lost, and yet, he lived. “You’ll be fine,” a voice behind him said. He barked a laugh. He couldn't turn to see who spoke, and he didn't recognize the slight foreign accent. “You think this is fine?” “Of course. You will learn to control it.” A night elf woman in green and brown robes stepped out in front of him. “Control?” he growled. “You speak as though you haven't seen what this does. There is no control.” She reached out a hand and lifted his chin. He turned away from her as best he could within his restraints. “You’ve seen too much,” she said. “That passes as insight where you’re from?” he snapped. “You do not need to be afraid,” she continued, unfazed. “I fear nothing. Least of all you,” he snarled. “Good.” She smiled at him, sweetly, pityingly. “Let me show you.” For some time after, all he felt was pain. === In the weeks before the Cataclysm, Caleb’s family had fallen prey to the violence, one by one. His older brother was killed in an organized skirmish. The entire patrol had been overwhelmed by the frenzy of a single beast. His younger brother was dragged off into the night. They met again much later, and Caleb did not hesitate to put down the boy with whom he had once spent every evening telling tall tales. When his father became ill, bitten on the way home from trying to scavenge rations, the old man begged his surviving son to kill him. Caleb’s mother fought to save the man she loved. Their son killed them both. Perhaps there was mercy in granting the father's request over the protests of the mother, but ultimately the actions were practical ones prioritizing survival, of his people, yes, but primarily of himself. === As a child, Caleb had been a bit cold, standoffish, standing to one side and watching while his brothers played. As he came to understand Gilnean class dynamics, he slowly believed his middle class birth was immensely unfair, a disservice to his clearly superior intellect. He learned to read at a small schoolhouse alongside three other children who weren’t related to him, and immediately developed a habit of stealing books. Caleb’s parents would find the ill-gotten goods in his room and demand he return them, but that didn’t deter him from continuing to steal. He simply treated the entire town as his personal library. The day he stole from a small tower in the woods, his life changed for what he believed to be the better. The tome he pocketed revealed secrets of basic magic, and when he returned it, as he parents forced him to do, the wizard who lived in the tower offered to take young Caleb as an apprentice. The wizard’s meager, wild residence hid the fact that the man was welcomed in the great homes of nobles and royalty. The portals within led to the places Caleb believed the world owed to him. While he was ordered to keep his new life a secret from his family and the village, he spent his days nearly on an even footing with princes, as his patron was beloved for his skill in combat, his eloquent speeches, and startlingly beautiful demonstrations of magic. The wizard was requested to attend or perform at scores of gatherings, and of course always welcome to bring his surprisingly precocious young apprentice. Caleb was content in his double life, pretending he was poor yet providing for his family each night, improving his knowledge and dancing with dilettantes all day. Magic opened the world for him. When the beasts came, Caleb fought them with the magic he had learned and he fought them well, but in the end, as they always do, they overwhelmed. === The next time Caleb woke, he found himself in a soft bed. The stretched flesh, the alien warmth of fur, the agony in his limbs, the fury that burned at his brain, it was all absent. Everything was as cold and smooth as it had always been. If he hadn't been living the nightmare for so long, he might have actually thought it was a dream. The night elf who had spoken to him earlier sat at his bedside. “I told you that you would be fine.” He said nothing and turned away from her. “Are you angry?” “No.” There was a long silence between them. “Come outside,” she said. “Wear the clothing here.” He felt her pat the foot of the bed, heard the motion of her chair on the floor, then the door closing behind her. He wasn't particularly prompt, but did as she asked. He emerged wearing the familiar plain robes of his apprenticeship to find her standing with her back to him outside the small house in the woods. If they were the woods he knew, it was a part of them he had never seen before. He said nothing. Suddenly, she turned and slapped him. He put his hand to his cheek as it began to redden, but maintained his silence, showing his lack of understanding solely by the curve of his brow. “Fight me,” she said. “Why would I do that?” he asked. “You're not one of them. I am.” “Yes,” she said, and stretched out an arm. Searing starlight wracked his body and he stumbled backward. “W-What--” “Fight or die!” she shouted, raising her arms again. Instinct took over. With a gesture of his own, he silenced her spell mid-cast and followed up with a wave of fire of his own. As he did, he dropped to his knees, screaming in pain as his body shifted back to the bestial form that had landed him in the pillory. “Good,” she said. Her body glittered green as the damage from his magic repaired itself. “Now change back.” He snarled. “No,” she instructed. “To return to your true form, you must harness the beast within. Leash him to your will. Find the calm that drives his fury.” He stared at her, but if he was attempting to do as she asked, it was difficult to tell. “You may find peace among the trees,” she said, putting a hand on his thick, curving back and directing him toward the woods. He moved with her as she guided him, and he did find the peace there. He stared down at his own body with analytical curiosity as the bestial aspects he had taken on slid away, revealing the human beneath. “This...” He held out a hand, a flickering flame travelling across his very human, pink fingertips. “This is no longer my true form,” he said. The night elf tilted her head. “It is the one you were born with.” “The man who was born was slain by the wolf.” She shook her head. “No. Now they are one. They are in balance.” He turned to face her with a slow smirk. He offered her his hand in a manner that would ordinarily be considered friendly, but was somehow off. She reached out to take his hand warily. He grabbed her forearm and pulled her toward him. “Now it is your turn to fight or die,” he whispered in her ear. He pressed a hand to her chest and a blast of flame slammed her backward, tearing her from his grip as she crashed against a tree trunk. The wolf took over, but the agony from the shifting was brief. As the night elf struggled to her feet, shimmering with healing magic, Caleb gestured with a dark claw, silencing her spell mid-cast. He brought his massive, gnarled, hairy hands together and fire descended from the sky over the woman’s head. He stepped towards her, throwing fire with each step. Her skin turned to bark, but whatever defenses she was trying to put in place were too late. She shrieked as her body succumbed to the flames. He leaned over her fallen form, snuffling at the ashes. “The man is dead,” he growled. “Thank you for the gift of allowing me to kill him myself. You are the first to underestimate me, and will not be the last.” He loped off into the woods. The howling that rose to the moon that night was accompanied by billowing smoke as the forest burned.
  11. Old RP Thread Restoration?

    Yeah, when I redid my bio, I had to search the title of each story and plug in the new URLs to get the correct links. Old links were all broken, but the actual content was all still there to be searched.
  12. Keeping Secrets

    Espionage is never simple. Whatever you are trying to get from your enemies, someone on your side is simply waiting for an opportunity to give to them. Back when Kael'thas was still a force to be reckoned with, Qabian played the double agent game consistently and not always smoothly, but he recognized early which side was going to win, and he refused to go down with the ship. With the current state of the Horde, there were many and more who would like to see Sylvanas knocked off her pedestal, but Qabian was not one of them. He had his issues with her, but compared to his issues with Thrall and Garrosh, they were minimal. His days of playing the Horde against itself were at least temporarily over. He did, however, have enough experience to realize that whatever was happening on his side would be mirrored on the other. For the moment, the easiest of his enemy to exploit were the Dark Irons. There would always be those who, while following their queen as faithfully as they could, wouldn't be able to resist sticking it to their old enemies whenever the opportunity arose. Now that there were some Dark Irons skulking around the Kirin Tor hoping to help fight demons, they were also relatively easy to contact. In exchange for whatever they needed that he had the ability to provide, usually murder easily traced to someone other than the person who ordered it, Qabian had a small number of Alliance mages willing to work for him. However, after the past several weeks, Qabian was getting seriously tired of seeing dwarves. Yes, they'd done everything he asked, even after he went to check their reports himself after the third false sighting, but every time he met with them and they gave their collective shrugs he had to resist the urge to just burn them all to ash. He was sure they could sense it in him, but they all seemed perfectly content to keep draining him of resources as long as he was willing to offer. Qabian began to wonder if he wasn't being played. Qabian burst into his room in Silvermoon and tossed his blade to one side with a clatter. Unrolled on top of his desk was a crude map of Azeroth, details unnecessary for its purpose. Red ink Xs were scattered across Alliance-controlled locations. Qabian snatched up a quill, dipped it in something, and slashed a new red X over what would have been Nethergarde Keep. He dropped the quill haphazardly and began to pace about the small room. His hunt for the girl had been concerned with covering as wide an area as shallow as possible, just scouting for sightings, not precise locations or hideouts. He was fairly certain she wouldn't be audacious enough to hide anywhere neutral or Horde controlled, which reduced the search area considerably. The Isles themselves were well covered. But all the while he pulled the puppet strings of another plot, his dwarves continued to turn up more and more nothing. He tapped the map as he passed by it in his pacing. "If I were trying to hide..." He muttered to himself, then amended his thought. "If I were a scared human girl trying to hide, and not in any of the places I've already looked. Hmm, Pandaria or Outland?" ~~ Allerian Stronghold was in flames behind Qabian when the goblin tracked him down with the message. The light from the fires lit the page as he read the jagged dwarvish words. "She's been spotted in the Shrine of Seven Stars. I'm confident it's her this time. She will be difficult to get to, though. She does not seem to leave. -K" A horrible grin stretched across Qabian's face. The location was more than enough. He opened a portal to Undercity. It was time to prepare Anee's next package.
  13. Keeping Secrets

    Qabian paced back and forth in his small apartment in Silvermoon. It was taking much too long to hear about the effects of his latest scheme. It must have gone awry. The human was more careful than Qabian had expected, more professional perhaps. Syreena had been asking about it, but he had nothing to tell her. He didn't mind telling her that he had done something and it hadn't gone as planned, but not having the details of why or how was frustrating. It was time to move on. He stopped at his desk and penned a quick letter. -- Several days later, as Daerek was moving through Dalaran in the early evening, three dark, burly figures suddenly leapt out of the alley between the Violet Citadel and the magic shop and grabbed the mage. One of them grabbed his arms. Another covered his mouth and nose with a big green hand. Another yanked a dark sack down over Daerek's head as they dragged him back down the alley. They didn't let him breathe again until he stopped struggling. When Daerek came to, he found himself on his knees with his hands tied behind his back. Beneath his knees, he could feel wood flooring, but it wobbled a little, as though floating on top of water. Someone removed the bag from his head and he blinked as his eyes adjusted to the light, which was mercifully dim, though the source was not apparent. He was in a room not unlike the Underbelly's black market, but devoid of any furnishings but a small table. A slim Forsaken woman in an out-of-place black satin pantsuit and high heels sat on the table, swinging crossed legs back and forth. "Good morning," she said, in a somewhat gravelly voice with a sing-song tone, stretching out the black cloth of the sack that had been over his head. Daerek craned his neck to look around. There was no noticeable exit, and an ominous looking orc dressed in black leather stood silently in the shadows. "We're going to ask you some questions today," the woman said, hopping off the table. Her metal lower jaw clacked slightly with each word she spoke. She turned and faced away from him, busying herself with something on the table. "Well, just one, really." She winked one of her glowing yellow eyes at him over her shoulder as she pulled on a pair of black rubber-looking gloves. Her bone fingertips tore right through them, so it seemed as though the only reason she put them on was to make the snapping sound against her wrists. She approached him with what looked like a pair of pliers in one hand, snapping them toward him. As she moved away from the table, he could just see the full set of ominous looking tools she had rolled out on its top. She crouched in front of him and placed the pliers against his face. "Where's Anee?" Daerek glared at her, but said nothing. "Oooh," she crooned. She may have been smiling, but it would have been impossible to tell with that much metal being part of her face. "I love when they fight it. Whenever they fight, I get to add to my collection." She snapped the pliers right in front of his nose. "I know who you work for," Daerek said, unimpressed by her threats. "Do you?" she said, crooking her head delightedly. "So do I. She's so shiny and useful. Her name is Gold and you can take her anywhere." She cackled, then stalked around behind him and leaned down over him as she placed the mouth of the pliers around his pinky finger. "Care to reconsider answering the question? Where is Anee?" Daerek kept his mouth firmly shut. The snap of the small bone reverberated up his arm to the base of his skull. He bit down on the inside of his lip to keep himself from screaming, but a grimace of pain crossed his face. She leaned further over him, two bone fingertips under his chin to tilt his face up to hers. "Lovely," she said. "But we're just getting started. Where's the girl?" When the second bone snapped, he couldn't hold back a reaction to the pain. ~~ The orc yanked Daerek's head from the water by his hair and the human gasped for air. "The girl?" the dead woman hissed. "I told you," Daerek grunted, his voice hoarse and as flat as it had been once the real pain had started. She hadn't broken him yet. He wouldn't let her. He'd survived worse. "I don't know. She just left." "Fine. We're done here." The woman made a gesture and the orc dropped Daerek to the wooden floor where the young man groaned quietly and rolled onto his back. The results of the past few hours were far from pleasant. Several of his fingers had been broken. One of his arms and a kneecap were massively swollen, shattered by the swung weights that had battered the bones. The other arm had pieces of skin sticking up from where they'd been tugged and peeled back. Both his shoulders had been torn from their sockets. There was a collar around his neck with inward facing spikes, hiding small round burn marks and a brand that looked like the Horde symbol on one side of his neck. His face was left curiously unmarred, but was slick with water after several threats of drowning, including one that required resuscitation. The woman stepped to one side of the small room and held a hand to her ear as she spoke. Her voice was quiet, but audible. "Nothing," she said. "I believe he may actually not know, but I'd need more time to be sure." A pause. "Three days. Starvation, loud noise, keep the lights on-- Yes, sir." She stepped back across the room to where Daerek lay, her stance and tone of voice betrayed her disappointment. She leaned down over him, peering into his face. He winced when she brushed a wet hair off his forehead. "Lucky you," she said. "He found her. You're not needed anymore." Suspicion crossed Daerek's face, his eyes narrowing. "I thought you worked for Gold," he muttered. She laughed lightly. "Someone has to hand her over." "You gonna kill me now?" "No, sweetie." She stood and gestured for the orc. "That's not my job." She tugged the black bag back over Daerek's head, then the orc slung the the young man roughly over his shoulder. "Dump him outside Findle's. Someone from the Uncrowned will trip over him," the dead woman's voice said. The orc grunted in response. There was a sharp pain at the back of Daerek's head, a single note in the symphony of pain he was feeling, and then everything went dark and, for a time, he felt nothing at all.
  14. Time Shattered

    If you want to be taken seriously, don't talk about dragons. Ever. It doesn't matter how real they are, how damaging they are to the world, how involved they are in your life, just don't. I try to mention them only in terms of deflection. Last week, they were an excuse for my staring at the doorway. In reality, I was staring at the doorway to make it look like I was waiting for someone with the idea that may leave me alone to listen. But then the so-called Messenger shows up (Of course he does. Discuss him too long and he is summoned?) and I have to bite my tongue. Do I wonder who else he rescued? No. I force myself not to wonder. It was only me, and only this me, otherwise everything I'm standing on starts to crumble. Where was he? Where do you think he was? Walking timeways? Discovering enlightenment in the line between what was and what might have been? No. He was in a pit, talking to rocks. And when the shadow of his former self takes over again, he'll go right back there. It's not reliving your life's worst moments that is the greatest torture of cyclical time. It's perpetually living new lives, making new errors, learning new lessons, and then stepping out the other side of all of them and not having the slightest idea which of them were real. Did you learn anything? Thankfully, most of them have faded. All of the time in between has faded, and a significant amount of the time before. I'm building my self on false, crumbled experiences, but I work with what I have, yes? I work with what I know. At least I don't wake up in strange bars. Who tells people they're supposed to work alongside that they're not actually people? There are certain people I'd say that to without hesitating. None of them were there. Best to keep the interrogator close enough to kill.
  15. Time Shattered

    The more things change, the more they stay the same. What a stupid platitude. And yet, the longer one lives, the more truth there seems to be in it. Also, there's nothing new under the sun. Illidan's gone out of his way to prove the first one true and the second false. Nice to see there was no redemption. Sacrificed everything, he says, and has all his little followers spouting the same. Sacrificed all the people on the world to save the rock they can no longer walk on. Hilarious. Sacrificed what? And for what exactly? Maiev and Khadgar are no doubt introducing bricks to their own faces about now, or they should be. The boy is going to be a thorn in my side. He's not that incapable, nor does he overly interfere with me, but his parents are unsurprisingly stymieing my capacity to convince him to get himself killed. I'm working on it, though. There weren't any implications. If there were, I'm the only one who made them, and I'm determined not to see them if they came from others. There's a difference between willingness to do something and actively seeking it out, hm? Sometimes there's simply no accounting for taste.