Broxigan

Meeting with the Shadow

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The night came and went quickly and Broxigan spoke not a word to Evanthe from dusk till dawn the next day, sitting quietly in the bunk he rented until it was time to head out and meet his potential help. The night was filled with no sleep, as was the norm lately. And the hustle and bustle of the small goblin port provided the orc with a bit of entertainment to break the silence, at least. He sat there on the bed, leaning back against the wall, his eyes closed as he tried to fight the inner turmoil that was raging inside of him. If anyone spoke a word to him, he didn’t notice.

He muttered ancient hymns he had picked up in hopes of calming the elements. Recited prayers from the books of the Light he had skimmed through and even plead to any other creature not of this world to listen and help. And nothing returned. Nothing but the usual banter.

And when the sun began to set once again, Broxigan finally stirred, groaning and yawning as he reluctantly pulled himself out of the bed and proceeded to gather his belongings.He packed away what few possessions he brought with him, threw on the light leathers he wore and topped it all off with his tattered cloak, pulling it tight around his form, pulling the hood over, shadowing most of his features. He then went down below, paid the innkeeper for both his and Evanthe’s stay. The orc then trudged out the front of the inn and waited for the elf to follow. the air was still thick and humid from the rain the day before, and the temperature was no help.

When he heard he footsteps, he smiled some.

“Thanks Evanthe, again. Really...” He paused a short moment then swallowed tightly, “Let’s head on out.” Vee climbed out from the orc’s pouch, scurried up the cloak to rest on his shoulder, letting out a chitter.

Even out here, in the middle of the Barrens, the voices screamed. It was as if no matter where the orc went, they would follow. It was becoming more obvious that it may not be specific locations that set them off, but infact, himself. He winced as he blindly lead Evanthe out into the middle of the wildlands, Vee beeping and chittering softly to Broxigan, the orc occasionally changing direction sharply or taking a moment to pause, talk things over with the squirrel and continue on. The shadows of the night quickly crept upon the plains, the only source of light being the stars that hung lifelessly above and the White Lady looming over all.

The duo arrived nearly an hour earlier than the applicant provided, nearly half an hour north of Taurajo was requested. “Well, here we are, I suppose, so long as Vee is correct,” Broxigan said as he turned to face Evanthe, reaching up to scratch at his cheek some. “About half an hour north of Camp Taurajo. Do you see anyone, Eva?” A light breeze blew across the plains, the orc pulling his cloak tighter around himself as he shivered.

Something felt off. Something wasn’t right. Even above the constant bickering that raged in his mind, something told him this was a bad idea. But the orc pushed the thoughts away. Shoved them to the dark recesses of his mind. Nothing would turn him away now. Not with Evanthe here. Not when someone could provide an answer and solution. Broxigan would achieve his goal at any coast:

Peace and quiet.

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"Mmm, not yet, no." Evanthe scanned the horizon; the faint glow of the moon in its star-strewn sky provided precious little illumination. The delicate breeze swished through the savanna grass, sending a shiver down the elf's spine. Somewhere in the distance a pack of hyenas cackled.

She spoke the power word for shielding, her low voice carrying along the breeze deep into the night. A circle of protective magic enveloped her. She repeated the spell, cloaking the orc with the magic's sheltering shimmer.

The elf paced a slow, tight circle around Broxigan, eyes ever alert, keeping watch.

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The leathery flesh of Sabachthan's reconstructed jaw twisted in a grotesque smile as he watched from the shadows. His own Shadows folded him into the dark fabric of the nightscape -- enough at least to conceal him from these two, their skill sets such as they were. For neither had shown any sign of spotting him, crouched as he was in the tall grass, nor did they seem to have consciously perceived the swiftly enveloping circle of Shadow creeping through the grass as anything other than a soft, innocuous breeze.

Though the gathering threat had obviously set them on edge. Sabachthan could hear Evanthe's Word of Power from his hiding place. It was one he knew well. Some Power Words required a balance in order to tap from their magic. This particular one weakened the recipient's soul, barring any further protection for a short time after lest the magics rend the soul apart.

In other words, it was Sabachthan's opportunity. He would allow the encircling Shadow to overwhelm the two, asphyxiating the orc, merely silencing the elf to keep her out of his way as he dispelled the orc's shield and attacked him at his feeblest point: his mind.

In former times he might have troubled himself to subdue his victim long enough to have him recognize and tremble before the might of his revenge, but such silly prides no longer guided his actions. It mattered not that the resultant shell of a beast with mush for brains would never know who ended him; it merely mattered that Sabachthan knew.

A soft hiss flowed through Sabachthan's rotted teeth as he drew breath in expectation. The Shadow lapped at the pair's feet, beginning to boil upward where --

A shrill, alarming beeping cut through the silence of the night. Sabachthan shifted in surprise, which caused the grass under him to crackle. Some sort of machine was going bonkers on the orc's shoulder. The orc gave a little jump into the air, almost as if doing a jig. He had apparently become aware of the situation on the ground. Meanwhile, the green glow of the elf's eyes had turned and locked onto Sabachthan's location.

Sabachthan cursed the stars and everything holy, then leaped forward into a run at the both of them. The lurking Shadow launched itself upward just as he, cresting above the pair like a wave threatening to drown them. Meanwhile, Sabachthan muttered the incantations necessary to dispel the shield about the orc, while simultaneously gathering Shadow in his fist to destroy the green monkey's mind.

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The shrill, piercing cry of Broxigan's mechanical squirrel drew her attention, but it was the rough crackle of tired, dried-out grass that pinpointed their assailant's location. At first there was only shadow, but in an instant her mind teased out the foe's shape. How very oblivious she must have been, to not notice the predator lying in wait.

He leapt forward, wasting no time in his assault. Although Evanthe kept her eyes locked on him, she could see enough of Broxigan to see the glimmer of his protective shield dissipate into the darkness. That the oncoming attacker did not attempt to dispel her own shield was not lost on the elf, nor was the growing pool of shadow at his fingertips.

She spoke once more, not a power word of shielding, not with the orc's soul still weakened--but a holy word, chastising the foolish ambusher.

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The shrill of the mechanical creation caught Broxigan off guard, causing him to quite literally jump and quickly begin to spin where he stood, sharply turning his head from left to right as he prepared himself for whatever Vee had saw. Both arms reached beneath his tattered cloak, pulling out two square-ended maces, gripping them tightly as the orc crouched slightly, holding both weapons out to either side. The cloak parted off his shoulders and draped down his back, his body covered in light leathers, padded for protection from anything physical. It was the magical energies that always managed to get him.

And Broxigan was oblivious to the Shadow that consumed the area, oblivious to the sound of the crackling grass beneath the undead's feet, due mostly to his own shifting and turning about violently in hopes of thwarting off whatever was coming. Though, the shielding that Evanthe offered was somewhat familiar, it seemed to fade all too quickly, causing the orc to become a little disoriented at the situation.

The mechanical squirrel finally calmed the alarming shrill and began to chitter and beep frantically. Brox turned his attention towards where Evanthe stood, not realizing his attacker was in mid-flight, hearing unfamiliar words come from the elf.

"Evanthe!" he called out, "What is going on?!"

[so very sorry for the delay.]

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The spell landed with unerring precision, illuminating its target with a shock of disorienting light. Evanthe gasped, for in that moment she could see their attacker fully for the first time; the recognition caused icy tendrils to flow through her veins. Sabachthan. She should have known the fool would find a way to meddle in this affair.

What had Broxigan known? She couldn't imagine the orc would have deliberately courted the undead charlatan, not after his ineptitude had extracted so dear a price as the orc's eyesight. But Broxigan was weak, muddled, and apparently--tragically--gullible. She could fathom no other explanation.

A mere moment after her spell landed did Sabachthan's orb of coalesced shadow launch from his bony fingertips. It arced wide, traveling not to Broxigan, but toward the elf.

"My dear, little Sabacthan," she hissed as her protective shield absorbed the blow and shimmered away, spent.

At any other time, she might have taken great delight at what she was about to do, but any enjoyment was pushed aside by her fierce concern for the orc. Her eyes locked on Sabachthan, she began channeling a spell that would give her dominion over his mind.

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Sabachthan blinked at the tree's shape. It grew in two directions. Most like, its trunk had been split by lightning. A giant amongst the grasses and shrubs had a higher potential for heavenly destruction, after all. Retarded by lack of water, it grew gnarled and twisted--but it grew. That it grew at all was a sign of its power. Larger, more reaching, its leaves stretched up toward the sky. The White Lady shone down on the plains, giving a faint luminescence here and there amidst the grass, so that the tree's shape reached Sabachthan's eyes in dark relief, as if the tree itself were made of shadow.

Sabachthan blinked. He reached about his mind for something to hold on to. He felt a ribbon of rage. He seized it.

Sabachthan blinked and whirled to his left. The stupid orc was still blundering about in his native state of blind confusion. Evanthe's spell must have disoriented Sabachthan before his spell hit home and killed him. Sabachthan ignored the voice in his head advising him to consider her a threat to be silenced first.

He was not done with the orc.

The blast of Shadow might have ended the orc's mind immediately, but the elf's reactions had been quicker than its required preparation. Yet Sabachthan had another option to destroy the orc's mind, one that acted more slowly yet could begin in an instant.

He could see Evanthe preparing her spell. He could see the aggression in her stance. She was preparing something big.

He did not care.

Sabachthan extended his arm toward the pair, a concentration of Void-tinged arcane shooting out from his palm and arcing like lightning to the orc's skull. Sabachthan continued to channel the energy, wave after wave slicing into whatever little grey matter might lay within that skull. Only several seconds more and he would --

The White Lady shone down on three figures standing amidst the stark landscape. Two, an elf and a corpse of a man, stood still as statues, their glowing eyes as sightless as the knotholes on the nearby bifurcated tree, their unmoving lips as silent as the night's secrets. The third thrashed about in pain and confusion as an unliving wall of Shadow crashed down upon him.

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Broxigan felt his heart sink into his stomach as he heard Evanthe. The name stung in his ears as he turned to face Evanthe's voice, stunned, shocked. It couldn't be...why would it? Sabachthan? THE Sabachthan? The same one who...

Confusion wrapped around the orc's already muddled mind. He never forgot about those times, the days with the Ghants, Malorii, his time at Melor Danashj. But the feelings of those times, those were buried. And for good reason. But what was once locked away flooded back all at once. Broxigan looked around him blindly.

But whatever was on his mind, whatever he was about to say, it was interrupted. In the light of the Pale Lady, the orc collapsed beneath a sudden weight. All he knew was it was something beyond his knowledge. It wasn't something he could grab, but the weight slammed to orc down to his knees, dropping both maces and digging his calloused hands into the dry earth of the Barrens. The orc clenched his teeth and screamed out in pain. He could feel all sense of life around him fading beneath that wall of Shadow.

He opened his mouth to speak but all that slipped out was a painful scream as the Shadow pushed harder into the orc, tendrils of dark energy penetrating seamlessly through his skin, wracking his brain, his emotions. Pain shot through every nerve in his body. And it wasn't long before his arms gave out beneath him, his forehead slamming into the dry earth as he closed he eyes, groaning and crying out in pain from the Shadow.

"Help..." was the only thought he could manage to muster out of the confusion.

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[some more thoughts in the dark.]

As the wave of Shadow suffocated the spirit and squashed the mind and wracked the body of the orc, a tendril broke off and wound its way up one of the catatonic elf's legs. Swollen and pulsing like an engorged leech, the Shadow slid up and around Evanthe's slender frame and neck and pushed into her mouth.

And so the only response to the orc's plea came in the voice of Sabachthan Pendazr.

"'Help'?" he sneered. His dead feet crunched quickly over the dead grass. "It was exactly such a request that precipitated this night. Twice over! 'Help'!" He kicked the orc in the side as the Shadow continued to roil about his body. "Your indiscriminate acceptance of help has been your very downfall. To think that such a pathetic being has caused me this much trouble! Suffer and die, wretch. There is no help for you now."

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So focused was she on casting that the tendril of shadow snaking around her body wasn't noticed until it rushed into her mouth and down her throat, stilling her voice and smothering her inchoate incantation.

She stared at Sabachthan through narrowed eyes, impotently watching as he ran to where Broxigan lay writhing in the savannah grass. Her spell was cut short, yes, but not before she was given a glimpse of the chaos inside the rotting corpse's mind. His thoughts, nearly incoherent ramblings, as if there were multiple conciousnesses bickering and vying for control. He was clearly mad.

The sound of him taunting Broxigan shook her from her contemplation. The shadow had not yet released its hold on her voice, but she was not frozen in place by anything other than her own disbelief and bewilderment. Evanthe grabbed the hilt of the dagger she kept looped in her belt and pulled it free.

Her lips curled into a sneer as she lunged forward, thrusting the blade at Sabachthan's side.

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The blade sliced easily through Sabachthan's robes and undead skin, sliding between his ribs fully to the hilt. The undead priest's right hand dropped instinctively to the wound, but latched onto Evanthe's wrist instead.

Then his yellow-burning eyes swiveled to the elf. His left arm shot out and took the elf by her thin neck, his bony fingers now also choking physically where only Shadow had been choking before. He brought his baleful expression close to Evanthe's face, his lips parted in a feral growl as his words hissed over rotted teeth.

"Can you not see that I am currently indisposed?!"

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She could not respond even if she wanted to; his bony fingers squeezed tighter against her neck. A tide of panic seeped out from primal recesses and gripped her mind as she fought for breath, but even so, a higher, more cognizant component of her consciousness relished that she had his attention. Evanthe could only hope the muddled orc would somehow have the strength--the awareness--to take advantage of Sabachthan's lapse in attention.

She twisted her hand as much as his grip on her wrist would allow, gripping tightly the hilt of her dagger, enlarging the wound. At the same time she clawed at his face with her free hand, aiming for the bit of rotting skin underneath his preternaturally glowing eyes.

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