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[[ A continuation from the finale of Dark Star Rising. ]] The old wooden door of the Gallow's End Tavern swung open with that same familiar creak. The last billows of the squall that had crashed into the Northern coast of Tirisfal whipped into the inn behind the trudging form of Khorvis Bloodstar until he pressed the door shut with a tired grunt. Brill had been only a short march from the Whispering Forests, and the old orc had needed some time and space to clear his head. Exhausted as he was, Khorvis did not fail to notice the guarded looks that the patrons and staff gave the newcomer. It had been nearly a year since the chaos he had caused while under the influence of Mannoroth's blood, but the citizens of Brill were unlikely so quickly forget. Fortunately for him, the immediate presence of the Grim Halls and the restorative work of the Mandate upon the Glades would likely prevent a stealthy dagger in his spine. Saddling up upon an empty stool, Khorvis rested his elbows upon the bar and cradled his forehead in his hands. The damage to his mechanical left eye had ceased sparking and twitching, but the gaping hole still ached. Another piece of him missing, lost to the Shadowlands. He had departed the ritual circle quickly after reassuring Lilliana that he was fine. The troll woman could exhibit such motherly tendencies, but Khorvis had been in no mood for it. The sight of Theira's corpse and the knowledge of what they had locked behind the closing gate had been simply too much for the warrior's heart. A tersely bitten thanks, an embrace or two, a stone-faced salute, and off Bloodstar wandered through the pines - anywhere, just away from that still Tauren and the odd flower that had sprouted from her chest. At first he had angled to the Northeast, towards the Grim Halls overlooking the North Sea, but the night and the elements slowly altered his course towards Brill. The entire debacle would require some explaining, and he was not in the right state of mind to confront Commander Stonespire. Not yet. A smart warchief knew he must fight on solid ground, on terrain of his choosing. The Commander was a hard, unfeeling plinth of stone. If Khorvis wanted to escape that encounter with his hide, he would need a clear mind. So the Inquisitor found himself staring at the worn wood of the Gallow's End bar. A rough clay mug of mulled wine was pushed between his elbows. Looking up, Khorvis gave Innkeeper Renee a lukewarm smile that failed to touch his tusks. The woman returned the look with a curt nod and swept away, her tattered skirts hissing over the stone floor like a worn straw broom. It was amazing that after all these years, Miss Lauer still kept the Gallow's End running at its efficient, if rickety, pace. Truly a stalwart and indispensable member of the Horde. The thought brought him back to recent events. Theira. Mai'kull. Why had they sacrificed themselves for him? The fools! Both were important pillars of the Horde, necessary for the war against the Legion. Against the Alliance! It was such a bloody waste... Khorvis was long past his prime. The gut wound delivered by Shokkrah and the mess of his eye ached in tandem, echoing the testament. These were dangerous times, when the Horde and the Mandate required every able body to muster. Damn those addled Mad! The bar shook under the blow of Khorvis's clenched fist. Fortunately for the inn, he was unarmored, only clad in leather, though the patrons cast souring glares at the Lasher. He offered them a grumpy, conciliatory wave, returning to his drink. Taking a long swig, he let the burning wine ride down his raw throat and set the mug down. Excess liquid dripped from his beard and jowls, splashing onto the waxed counter. The deep crimson hue caught the orc's eye. He could think only of the Matron, her broken and bloody body still in the grass of the Whispering Forest's floor. His own blood had mingled with the druidess's as he had wept above her corpse. Fate was cruel. Khorvis had allowed himself very few fantasies over the years since crossing the Dark Portal. The notion of a mate, nevermind a family, was for him always a forbidden prospect, a foolish dalliance that would have only left him weak and vulnerable. It was only later in life that cracks had begun to show in that armor, and not until he had encountered the Matron of Rutilus Luna. They had never expressed any oaths or commitments, beyond the professional pact between The Grim and the Rutilans upon Thunder Bluff. Only a mutual understanding of shared sacrifice. Of a similar wish for a more peaceful world. A glance here, in the lull of battle. A hand held there, at dusk above the Gurubashi Arena. Khorvis had never let the wish touch his tongue, for fear of the inevitable. That dream had died in the Shadowlands. He took another gulp of the wine, his throat choking up under the emotional duress, and nearly spat out his drink into the hearth. Coughing and hacking, the orc wiped away at his beard with the back of his wrist. He should have expected no less. Khorvis was not a mortal made for anything but warfare. Born behind catapults firing upon Shattrath and suckled upon the blood of draenei, Bloodstar was bred to orchestrate death. He was tailored for the Mandate. Bury those foolish fantasies down deep where they could never emerge. Staring morbidly about the tavern, Khorvis noticed several trophies donated by The Grim. A broken stormhammer hung above a sidetable. To the left of the liquor stores were encased in a dusty cabinet several medals for honor upon the Battlegrounds. And over the hearth was mounted the head of doomguard, its ebon horns spanning at least as wide as a prone human. Khorvis would need to report the death of Reaper Mai'kull. The mage had shown exceptional valor in the face of overwhelming odds. His name would enter the rolls with distinguished heroism. A final Grim trinket caught the warrior's eye. A pamphlet advertising the Mandate, nailed to a post in the center of the tavern. The next gathering was soon, here in Tirisfal. Clearly his subordinates were carrying on with the good work of the Inquisition, though Khorvis had had little reason to doubt Ruuki. In his mind, it was settled. The High Inquisitor would return to the Grim the following night, at the Inquisition, and hopefully buttressed from the wrath of Commander Stonespire.
Theira lay sleeping face down in her private quarters with a stack of papers as a pillow. The sounds of peons shouting and the usual guilds training started to bustle outside the chambers and picked up in volume as the morning got on. The Matron groaned and began to stir as she sat up, one paper stuck to her muzzle. She reached to pull it off and then gripped her face as was customary after long nights outting. She reached for a bottle, any bottle within distance of her in search of fluid parched from the nights "activities." Theira hissed a curse "empty, empty.. oh wait.. another empty.. .. " she sighed as she examined bottles of spent Cenarion Spirits with squinted eyes. She leaned back into her arm chair basking in her hang over. She began to count the rays of light that seeped in from the leathery window covers. The specs of dust carelessly floating between the rays was captivating, almost therapeutic to watch. The dance of something so small and insignificant yet still so - *SMASH* The sound of a jar breaking on the floor had her nearly jump out of her hide as she looked to Agar who had begun bringing in soil from outside. The treant whom she helped rear was now mobile and had pretty well the run of her lodgings. Theira boggled at the Treant as it paced in and out with a new load of dirt to dump onto the floor making a mound for itself to root into. She had thought to scold the thing but decided the task was for later, for a much more awake less hung-over Theira to deal with. Instead the Matron sat back up at her desk shifting through papers to try and find herself a pack of cigarettes. While she searched through the messy and chaotic desk of unfiled reports and applications she came across an old letter she had received. It was from Khorvis of The Grim, dated back from the night he bought her from auction. She ran her fingers through her mane and stood up to reread the letter. She walked over to her window at a slow pace while reading it a half frown formed on her maw as she muttered "Khorvis.. " Recalling what news of the orc she'd received at cantina her concern prevalent. Once at the window Theira opened the leathery flaps to let the sunlight in to Agars delight. The treant applauded with the sunlight as the druid turned from it and groaned her headache fully formed now. She regarded the letter and began to pace soon shoving it into her belt back and rushing to a cabinet to pull some old scrolls from it. She laid one large scroll down on the mess of her desk and unfurled it. Theira studied the chart reaching for some red ink to mark on it with which she did and held up the parchment in front of her. She felt a strange sensation trickle up her spine like pins and needles as she turned the paper upside down. The sensation worsened as it made itself known in her gut to be dread. The type of panic she had felt in later months when she lost control of herself to a nightmare imp. The kind of fear that creeps into the bones when one has no control over anything around or inside of them self. The Arch Druid recalled being trapped inside her own realm and watched the Nightmare twist the dream around her and feel helpless to stop it. The Shadowlands she thought would be even less hospitable environment - and one she had little knowledge of and zero sway in. Theira shook her head breaking herself from the laps of fear and tossed the paper back down on her desk. The druids expression turned to her usual serious face as she started putting her armor on. She left Agar to make dirt angels on the floor as she went off in search of a death knight for Stormskys proposed ritual.