The Hammer of Retribution

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The initial attack had been easy; she simply trailed her target from one of the many forts littering the snowy landscape, then found a suitable ambush point as they went about their business. The first shot was easy - the first several, really. She was hard-pressed now, however. This wasn't some wild beast or berserker orc; this was a trained and powerful hero of the Horde she was facing.

Her bow was reinforced to serve well enough to parry. Blocking a swipe from her foe, she slipped a hand to her belt and pulled off an explosive. Dropping it at her feet, she launched herself backwards as the detonation blossomed. Unfortunately, the blast caught her at a bad angle and her back slammed into a tree several yards away, knocking the breath from her lungs and stealing her advantage.

Wobbling unsteadily, Saphiara rose to her feet, gasping for air as she brought her nocked arrow to her cheek, aiming at her dazed foe...


Elphorus paced the length of the room, his tail flicking as he watched his mistress prepare herself. The tiger was unsettled, disturbed by the raw emotion passed along the empathic bond between hunter and companion. It growled, the rumble in its throat finally drawing the attention of the woman at her workbench.

"I am determined to do this, Elphorus. The blood debt must be paid."

The emotions stirred memory within the tiger. It knew it was not the first of its name. There had been another noble tiger before him, one whose death was tied into the pain his mistress was feeling. There was another as well, not a tiger but one of his mistress's kind. The death of that one was not related, but the emotions of its passing remained intwined with the agony radiating from the woman. That Elphorus had been a lifemate, as it understood the concept.

"They abandoned us when we needed them the most. They ran, and they hid. They saved their own skin rather than stand against the darkness until their dying breath." Her eyes glanced at the wall where several pieces of purple cloth hung, each bearing gold embroidery as well as dark red stains.

The tiger's ears flattened, and it whined as its animal mind, expanded by the bond forged between it and its mistress, struggled with the discord between loyalty to her commands and loyalty to her beliefs. She was acting against her own values, and it longed to return clarity and purity to her wounded spirit.

She finished her packing, her quiver full and belt pouches loaded with various tricks and weapons. She stood, grabbing her bow from its rack and testing the pull. "Come, Elphorus. The hunt begins."

The tiger grumbled deep in its throat, frustrated by the lack of awareness its mistress had for its distress. She was consumed by her pain, unable to recognize the peril of the path she walked. It would not abandon her, however. It would stand beside her, serving her as best it could while preventing her from crossing a line she could not return from.

As Saphiara mounted her wolf, securing herself in the saddle, Elphorus paced nearby. Once she was ready, the two took off into the wilderness, seeking their first prey. All it could hope was that the hunt could cure his mistress, instead of driving her deeper into madness.

[This story is open to current and former members of Sanctuary who were absent during Cataclysm/Pandaria, or who left the guild sometime after the fall of the Lich King.]

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This whole Draenor thing was kind of a drag.

The only reason Filora had remerged into the active workforce, as it were, was that she ran out of money. She’d gotten by fine for a few years without having to do much, but eventually she was forced to find some way to sustain herself. While she didn’t need a high lifestyle, she needed a room at an inn and food on a plate. That she didn’t have to clean or cook, respectively.

After Sanctuary proceeded to get itself into a whole lot of trouble she wanted no part of, she’d left their banner and joined Borrowed Time, the ragtag group of adventurers Xaraphyne, Fhenrir, Zuffid, and a few others she knew were in. But that guild had become inactive, and although Xara and Fhenrir eventually came back, what Xara had said of the Grim had piqued Filora’s interest. A group that large promised stability and would probably be someplace where a half-assed healer could skate by easily.

Of course, it didn’t turn out that simple. They had all their trials and tests and ways she had to prove herself. And they paid far more attention to her than she would have liked. But things were working out, so she thought she’d be able to settle back fairly soon. Or at least, so much as she could with this whole Draenor thing happening. Now there was actual work to be done, and Filora wasn’t pleased by it.

She finished loading the packs on her talbuk and mounted up. She’d stopped by Fhenrir’s garrison to reprovision before she headed into Gorgrond. It would be good to get out of this damned snow, she thought as she set out, though thick, murky jungle wasn’t much fun either. Come to think of it, most of the outdoors sucked in some way. But the list of tasks ahead of her was long, and she was well behind her guildmates and other associates by this point in both accomplishments and training.

A cold wind blew under her cloak and she scowled, grabbing it and pulling it closer around her as she rode on. A storm was coming in, and she didn’t want to be caught by it, but she didn’t think she’d make it to the border in time. Her instincts proved true as she was forced to stop and seek shelter in the lee of a cliff near a small grove of trees. It was a windbreak, at least.

But just before the storm hit, something else did.

Something struck her pauldron as she was reaching up to take a tent out of the mount’s pack. For a moment she was confused, thinking a rock or something had fallen from the cliff and hit her. Then the second arrow imbedded itself in her knee where there was a gap in her armor.

“Bloody fel!” she exclaimed, dropping down and looking around for the shooter. Her hands went to her knee to jerk out the offending thing and summon the Light over her wound. Her talbuk snorted and pranced on its lead as another arrow whizzed by. There, in the trees, a figure drawing back a fourth arrow. It was a bold Alliance to attack this deep in Frostfire, but the majority of them weren’t known for their intelligence. Filora pulled her shield onto her arm and blocked the next shot, then charged forward as she pulled out her mace. Another moment of concentration, and a pillar of light came crashing down on her attacker.

But hunters knew how to keep their quarry at range. And a hunter it was. Filora spotted a large feline coming for her as the figure strafed deeper into the grove of trees with a hail of shots. Filora decided it would be best to pull out all her stops right away; that way if it turned out her attacker was too powerful, she’d have the energy to get away, still. A hammer of justice came down on the feline, stunning it, and Filora charged past and swung.

As the hunter parried the strike with her bow, Filora realized two things. One, she was being attacked by a fellow member of the Horde. Two, it was someone she knew.

“What the—?” she said, falling back in surprise. But that was all the opening Saphiara needed to throw something down, and the resultant explosion knocked them both back. It sent Filora tumbling, losing her shield but keeping ahold of her mace. Dazed and battered, she picked herself up as she looked around to try to figure out where Saphiara was. It only took her a moment, but that was long enough.

The gold and purple tabard stood out against the whitening background where the storm advanced on them. The next arrow was already trained on her. Filora raised her hands, letting the mace thud to the frozen ground at her feet where she knelt.

“Whoa now,” she said. “Saphiara! What the fel are you doing? It’s me, Filora!”

She couldn’t even fathom why Saphiara had attacked. It had been in deadly earnest; definitely no prank. Especially not with that look on her face. And when had she become a hunter, anyway? Had she completely lost it? It seemed a serious possibility at that moment.

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"I know precisely who you are, gwareth."

Her first shot hit the gauntlet of Filora's shield arm, the force sending her arm out wide. A second shot struck her mace, sending it skidding several feet away. Elphorus, recovered from the stunning effect of the paladin's spell, lept to grasp Filora's shield arm and held it immoble - but the tiger, torn between loyalty and justice, refused to apply its crushing jaws to cause further harm.

The third shot followed swiftly after, taking Filora in the shoulder at the exposed joint. "You are faithless. You are a coward, lacking the fortitude to stand by those who named you friend. I name you gwareth, and claim my blood debt."

Saphiara pushed her right gauntlet forward, and the launcher mounted on its back thumped as another sphere bounced to a rest at Filora's feet. Elphorus released her arm and leapt away as the bomb detonated, sending a shockwave reverberating through the hills.

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Any other time, there wouldn't have been a second thought needed. Filora was no stranger to saving her own skin, and as a paladin, she certainly had the means to. But she just couldn't believe Saphiara meant her real harm. Filora hadn't done anything -- she was still a member of the Horde -- and Saphiara still wore that tabard, the one that didn't even countenance attacking Alliance. By the time Saphiara's words sank in, it was too late. The flurry of arrows when her hands were raised in surrender stunned her, and, reflexively pulling back on the grip on her arm, Filora fell when it was suddenly released. She didn't even see the bomb.

The explosion kicked up a vast amount of snow; as it began to settle, the storm swept in to start laying its thick and heavy blanket of white over the scene. There was a glimmer of light, and then it was gone.

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She knew the burst of light. She knew the smell it left, the rush of air it caused as the vacuum was filled. So she knew, as she ran forward and kicked at the snowdrift, that there would be nothing but more snow beneath. Saphiara's fists clenched, her rage building until she finally screamed in impotent rage at the empty sky. The paladin had escaped.

It didn't occur to her that she had accomplished her goal. She had never chosen to kill, and yet her bloodlust was up and she wanted more. There was no rational behind the rage, no sense of lost potential or failure. There was only the desire to inflict more of the pain upon those who had failed to protect her and hers from the pain they had suffered.

Footsteps echoed in the canyon. Someone was approaching. She had no friends, so it left few who were not enemies. Glaring one last hateful stare at the bloodied, blackened snow, Saphiara turned and vanished. No tracks were left to mark her passing.

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The shop chime rang once, announcing the presence of a visitor despite the drawn shades and the sign on the door that he always hung up at the end of the day. He leaned backward from his counting desk, the better to yell into the store's main room. "Day's over and I'm closed! Come back tomorrow." Sighing, he returned to accounting for every copper of his wealth.

After a few moments, he realized that he hadn't heard the chime a second time, which would have indicated his customer's departure. Grumbling to himself, he leaned backwards again and yelled a bit louder. "Dobson's Fine Wares is closed for the day! We open at 10 tomorrow!" He waited a few more seconds, then growled under his breath as he pushed himself to his feet and stomped into the showroom.

"Look, I appreciate that you're eager for some of my wares, but I'm terribly busy right now and can't spare the time to --" He froze as he turned the corner and found his forehead suddenly pressed into the rather large barrel of a rifle.

"Charles Dobson. Current occupation, proprietor of Dobson's Fine Wares of Undercity." The elf behind the rifle was glaring at him coldly, with just a glint of madness in her eyes.

Dobson raised his arms above his head very slowly. "Look... I admit that I'm not the most honest of merchants. Did something from your family end up here? I'm sure we can come to some sort of arrangement..."

The elf angled her rifle to the side, forcing his head to move to the side as well. She pointed, and his eyes followed to rest upon a chair for sale; the design was orcish, mostly wood with purple fabric on the seat and backrest. A golden hammer was embroidered upon the back. He started to tremble slightly. "Fine. No arrangements. It's yours, just --"

"Former occupation - janitor. Tell me, Mister Dobson. How precisely does a simple janitor end up owning a fine goods shop after only being out of the grave for a year?"

Dobson's trembling started to worsen. "I was able to get hold of my family's money from Stormwind! We were quite rich, you see, and --" The blow from the rifle butt came so fast that he didn't even notice her move. He fell back and collided with the wall, gasping in both shock and pain.

"Marrianne Dobson, seamstress. Died during the sacking of Stormwind. Andrew Dobson, pauper. Died during a drunken bar brawl when his son was but three years old. Charles Dobson, orphaned and evacuated to Lordaeron during the sacking of Stormwind."

The Forsaken's eyes widened. " could you possibly know?"

"Sanctuary has many contacts within the Alliance." She shifted into the light ever so slightly, letting him catch a glimpse of a tabard matching the upholstery of the chair. "Of course, since you were employed by Sanctuary as a janitor in the guild hall, I am certain you already knew that."

He chuckled nervously. "Well, of course, but everybody did! You can't blame me for the Kor'kron shutting you down!"

She tossed a file folder at his feet. The front bore his name, and inside were copies of documents he had stolen during his nighttime cleanings of the hall. "You were - and are - a known thief, Mister Dobson. As it turns out, you are also a collaborator. If you had stolen these documents out of a sense of duty or loyalty to the Warchief, I may have been prepared to overlook you. Duty, I can forgive. You, however, sold our lives for gold. That will not be forgiven."

She turned the rifle on him again, and he recoiled in terror. "Please! All my life, I was poor and wretched! They gave me a chance to have a real life! I couldn't stand cleaning anymore!"

The elf glared at him for a moment, then shrugged and shouldered her rifle. "I will allow you to live with your guilt." She grabbed the chair and pulled it behind her as she stepped through the door. Dobson clutched his chest and breathed a sigh of relief.

The explosion rocked Undercity a minute later.

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The piles of summons were growing larger by the day.

Steinburg organized them neatly, in their envelopes. He placed them in stacks on Vicailde's great desk, once used to organize plans for war. A family heirloom, carved from the whitest wood and engraved with images of the Sin'dorei and their precious sunwell. One of it's legs would have cost a fortune on the black market, as far as Steinburg could tell. He admired the desk daily, every time he placed another envelope with his mistress' name on it, requesting that she arrive with the Horde in this new Draenor to fight the Iron Horde.

He only read one.

"She'll be back soon," the Forsaken told his charge, a Sin'dorei child with bright red eyes and black hair. He didn't seem to notice the distress in Steinburg's face, though the difficulty was likely due to his decay.


Ninorra had quite enough of Pandaria. It was the most likely place to look for her husband, who's last contact with her had been in the form of a letter. When she arrived, Pandaria was still being explored and, in many cases, exploited by both the Horde and Alliance. She went there specifically with a purpose; to find her husband, or whoever had assigned him. She found that the Horde's military was not only tight-lipped, but tight-assed as well. Nobody would speak to her, a Warlock, with trust in their eyes. When she tried to reason with their military, they requested that she join them in the fight.

She wasn't particularly interested in that fight. Not anymore.

Miss Ninorra, came a voice from her hearthstone, as she changed her shoes inside of a small Pandaren tavern. Another letter came for you, ma'am.

She sighed heavily and grabbed the hearthstone. Having been away from home for so long, she felt both homesick and irritated. The letters from the Horde were piling up, requesting that she return to the fight, help them push back the Iron Horde, explore Draenor... all of the things that she might have had interest in, back when she and Vicailde fought together with Sanctuary. Before their guild was burnt and torn apart, their safe haven trampled beneath orcish feet. Things may have improved recently with the rise of Vol'jin as warchief, but it would never be the same.

"Let me guess," she sighed, speaking into the stone. "They say I would be a great help in Draenor? That I would be bringing glory to the Horde? All of that nonsense?"

Well, ma'am, I wouldn't have opened it, but... it says that you might want to try Draenor. This... Commander Tho'rokka, she says that she might have heard of him being stationed there.

It was probably a trick. Some kind of horrible scheme to get her into Draenor, to lend her staff to the orcs despite their severe distrust of both elves and warlocks. They were likely using her, but...

Also, ma'am, Steinburg continued. It seems that Sanctuary has a new leader, and many of the old members have returned. Miss Vilmah sent a single letter. She does not pry, but, she asks if you would like to return.

Ninorra's stomach churned. The possibility that Vicailde might be fighting somewhere in Draenor weighed on her heart, but the idea that Sanctuary was somehow reaching through the rubble toward the light seemed damned near impossible.

"Thank you, Steinburg. Give my boy a kiss for me, will you?" She sighed, shaking the pebbles from her boots. "It looks like I'm going to Draenor."

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One of the most difficult lessons Saphiara had learned while training under her husband was forging the bond between hunter and beast. Various hunters had their own techniques - domination, mutual respect, or embracing the beast within were all common methods. Saphiara eventually discovered that her bonds with certain beasts mirrored her relationships with certain individuals. Her husband had been reflected in the close bond with the protective tiger Elphorus, while a reckless and daring wolf named Falore represented her own self-image.

This was why she now fought alongside a snowy-white singing owl named Ivory, which had grown particularly close to the individual it represented. However, with Elphorus growing increasingly unwilling to participate in the hunts, she was paying especially close attention to the emotions she allowed to cross the bond. If Ivory began to suspect she was being used to track down Ninorra, she would almost certainly rebel against the commands given to her.

That would happen anyways once the confrontation took place, but that matter could wait. For now, while Saphiara waited for some sign of her prey to pop up, she continued to eliminate other enemies.

The Barrens still held a few pockets of holdouts from the "True" Horde, mainly hard-headed younger orcs with more courage than sense, along with the goblin mercenaries who seemed driven to drain every last remaining copper from the final Hellscream loyalists before bolting back to Ratchet. Between the uneasy cease-fire with the Alliance and the drain on military assets caused by Draenor, the Warchief seemed unwilling to mobilize in enough strength to wipe out the remnants once and for all. Containment seemed to have been determined as sufficient.

Or perhaps, thought Saphiara grimly as she stared down from her mountaintop, Vol'jin was hoping that the death of their idol would finally bring some sense back to these holdouts. It was only logical; the Horde, and the orcs in particular, had nearly wiped out a generation in the brutal string of endless wars that had cumulated in the Siege of Orgrimmar. Every life that could be spared was a potential contributor to rebuilding for the next generation.

However, Saphiara had to think that Vol'jin would agree - the next generation would be better off with a few less parents like these.

The group called itself the Reavers of the Shattered Earth. An absurd name, but they were none the less dangerous for it. Few remained now, of the dozen or so that had pursued Saphiara's Sanctuary team fleeing Orgrimmar. They had taken a sadistic glee in their task, inflicting as much pain and anguish upon the refugees. Five of the Reavers had fallen during that running battle across the Barrens, but so had three Sanctuary members - Esemeli, Korgond, and Melos. She still didn't know where they were buried.

Though several dozen yards above their camp, Saphiara could pick out several faces she recognized from that group. It seemed four of her targets had survived the civil war, joined by a few random others. She had spotted the shaman who commanded the Reavers - Tor'konon Earthshatter, who had likely taken his name for himself instead of receiving it from others as was orcish custom. His second-in-command was a bully who styled herself a blademaster, but lacked the focus and skill of a true master. A rogue and a warlock rounded out the survivors of the original group.

The Reavers had chosen their campsite rather well; two perpendicular rock walls provided natural route control, while the tree canopy prevented an aerial assault. In their arrogance, however, they had failed to account for a lone sniper. They had grown lazy and complacent, settling for a life as lowly outlaws. Meanwhile, Saphiara had only grown stronger.

Ivory swooped low, her song drawing the camp's eyes towards her. Saphiara could see the grin on Earthshatter's face as he lifted his arms, preparing to blast the owl from the sky with a burst of conjured lava. He turned, facing Ivory as he began the somatic gestures for his spell - and an arrow buried itself in the back of his head. The Reavers instantly scattered. The "blademaster" was the first to flee, shoving her minions out of the way to get out of the camp.

Saphiara grinned as the orc triggered the bomb placed at the most likely point of escape. While the concussive blast sent orcs - and pieces thereof - flying in all directions, she nocked another arrow and selected her next kill. Ivory joined in, blood splattering her white feathers as her claws raked at the terrified survivors.

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"You failed us."

She felt small, like a child again. They surrounded her, towering over her, their eyes accusing as they pointed down and declared her guilty.

"I fought so hard. There were too many. I could not save you."

Kor'gond's icy blue eyes bored into her. "Then you should have died with honor. Instead, you cowered in caves. You groveled in the dirt for food like some lowly beast."

She shook her head. "No. If I had died, Sanctuary would have died with me. I could not let it end that way."

The mage, Melos, was next. His eyes burned with hate like the fires he commanded. "Better it end that way, fighting to the last, than for us to have died simply to allow you to live."

"You do not understand. Someone had to carry the message forward. More of us were out there. More of us survived!"

Garnnette's vivid green eyes pierced her with their accusation. "Were dey truly a' Sanctuary? We stood firm 'side ya when de walls closed in. Dose othahs ran like rats off a sinkin' ship. Yer duty was ta us, not ta dem."

"My duty was to peace! We all knew the risks, and accepted it. You all died serving the greater cause. I would have gladly given my life as well, if it would have purpose!"

The priestess Esemeli glowed like an angelic being, her holy radiance searing Saphiara with her judgment. "Your life is ours now, Saphiara Sunspell. Your duty lies not with the living. There are others who flock to the new banner; let them do as they will. Your duty is to the dead. You shall serve as our hand of vengeance."

She fell to her knees, submitting to the sentence of the ghosts as another took his place in the circle around her. "I accept my penance. What shall you have me do?"

The new arrival lifted his hood, revealing the ghastly remains of her husband Elphorus. "Kill those who have wronged us. Destroy those you once fought beside, Saphiara. After all, that is what you do best."

Saphiara woke with a scream, her bedroll drenched in sweat. She curled up in a ball of her side, the sounds of her sobbing echoing off the walls of her hiding spot. Only the tiger Elphorus remained to watch over her.

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She knelt by the stream, washing her face and trying to snap herself out of whatever kind of affliction was keeping her from sleep. It had been weeks now since the nightmares began, causing her to catch perhaps two or three fitful ours of rest at best. All that kept her going at this point was her mission.

She held the dagger in her right hand, and reached up to her ponytail with her left. She pulled her head back, staring up at the sky. With the threats to the region largely pacified after the campaign, the sky seemed to have cleared some from its perpetual twilight - still though, it was unnaturally dusky here.

One slice, and the job was done. She had sharpened her knife to do the job quickly.

She placed the severed lock of hair to the side, and her tabard joined it soon after. The disguise would by no means be perfect, but every method she could use to hide her identity could provide a few valuable seconds of doubt and allow her to escape. The number of individuals searching for her was growing by the day - Grim, Sanctuary, Garrosh loyalists, even a few agents of the Warchief - and she could ill afford to be caught. Punishment aside, capture would end her campaign for justice.

She had already paid an ethereal to cast spells upon her armor and weapons, transmogrifying them into new and unfamiliar designs. More changes were required however, and so she dipped her hands into the mixture of crushed berries and other plants she had concocted. Slowly, the dye darkened her hair, and Saphiara used the clear surface of the water as a mirror to examine the effect. Her hair was now as dark as a raven.

She scowled. Her hair was now as dark as her former sister's.

Saphiara grabbed her bow and jumped to her feet. It was time to resume the hunt. With a sharp whistle to summon Ivory from the nearby tree where she rested, the huntress mounted up and rode off towards her next target.

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"I thank you for seeing me, great Xanscilathampos. Tales of your wisdom and knowledge have come to me from across the sea." Saphiara bowed deeply.

The bronze dragon waved one of its paws dismissively. "Enough of the tiresome groveling. I am not some black dragon who plays with its prey, seeking to satisfy its ego. You offer opportunity to discuss matters of interest to me, and for that I should be thanking you. Please, be seated and make yourself comfortable."

Saphiara looked behind herself and selected a cushion for her seat. She placed her bow and pack to the side, but near enough to grab should they be needed. "I shall get to the heart of the matter then. I wonder if you could tell me more of the nature of parallel timelines."

The bronze sighed, a great rumbling that rattled the walls of the cave in which they sat. "You must know, before I start, that our exploration into such matters is rather new. In the past, Nozdormu enforced the viability of only one timeline - our own. This is why the threat of the Infinite Dragonflight was so dire, as they wished to create alternate timelines for their own purposes."

"With the End Times averted, and the future occupied by the Infinite Dragons wiped away, the risk of causing that prophecy to unfold through chronological interference has disappeared."

Xanscilathampos nodded. "Exactly, and the removal of that risk has caused many of my kind to gain an interest in potential futures. An edict against such experimentation was once in place by our father, but with his withdrawal from the world once again many of the flight have grown bold. Unfortunately, the loss of the Aspect of Time means that we no longer have the ability to view the consequences of our actions until it is too late."

"Leading to an explosion in the number of viable timelines as rogue dragons experiment with their own theories."

"Precisely. With our father gone, many of the younger members of the flight have embraced their own hubris and decided upon meddling."

Saphiara took a deep breath. This was the reason why she had travelled all this way. "Including you?"

Did dragons smile? She thought this one might be smiling, but their reptilian features made it hard to determine. "Consider me a... dabbler. I have not grown so bold as to walk the timeways myself but... well, I certainly have a few theories."

"Theories you are willing to share?"

"Perhaps. If the cause is right." the dragon leaned her head down, coming as close to eye level with the vastly smaller elf as was possible. "Tell me, Saphiara Sunspell, what drives you to walk the timelines? Reality itself is your enemy in this endeavor, as it fights very hard against violation."

Saphiara closed her eyes, envisioning her driving purpose. It was her only driving purpose now. Vengeance was her pursuit while waiting for opportunity to appear, but now... here opportunity was, and if she succeeded, vengeance would no longer be needed. "I made a vast mistake in my past. I have yet to determine exactly how best to correct this mistake, but I will shatter time itself to restore the balance I have destroyed."

The bronze thought for a long moment. "I have long studied the theoretical of what you desire, but long feared the practical application of my studies." She waved her paw, and a large book appeared in midair. It floated down to Saphiara's waiting arms, shrinking down to a manageable size as it descended. "I grant you the notes of my many years of insight into the nature of time. The only payment I ask in exchange is that you keep me informed of your progress."

Saphiara flipped through the book briefly, wondering at the images and formulae inscribed within before setting it gingerly within her pack. "I accept your bargain. You have my thanks, Xanscilathampos. This information may unlock the secrets I need to undo my past."

"So it may, but heed my warning, huntress. Even the smallest change in the timeline can cause massive repercussions down the river of time. The addition or subtraction of even the most unnoticeable individual could alter the entire essence of the future."

"I understand, and will tread lightly." Saphiara bowed once again, and made her way back through the cave to the surface. Night had fallen; under the cover of darkness, she rode for the coast.

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Ninorra wasn't exactly the type to enjoy fighting. Not the way they did it on Draenor.

Here, they expected her to "rough it". At least back on Azeroth, she might be able to go home and take a long recuperating bath. Here, the only bath she had to look forward to was a single-person wooden tub in her quarters, in a garrison tended to be the stupidest orcs money could buy. Yet as much as she detested her situation, she still found herself looking forward to her end-of-the-day bath, where she might tackle her hair with expensive oils and hum a song she couldn't quite get out of her head.

No sign of life did flicker

In floods of tears she cried

All hope's lost it can't be undone

They're wasted and gone

The ogres in front of her burst into flames and ran screaming, trying to figure out why their flesh was being incinerated. A few yards away, Ninorra sang the song to herself, four imps at her feet sending fireballs into the ogre camp. There was a distracted look in her face, as if she knew that something wasn't quite right.. but then, what was?

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Saphiara stalked along the ridgeline above the ogre camp, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. As predicted, Ivory had proven adept at finding her humanoid counterpart - and had balked at being part of the attack.

No matter. Falore was gone, and so she would operate on her own. Saphiara pulled the half-mask over her face, trusting in the changes to her hair to protect her identity, and took her aim. Her sister had just dropped the last ogre in the area, providing enough clear space to strike.

As Ninorra watched the last ogre collapse in a burning heap, a white owl perched upon a nearby tree, her song joining in the melody being sung by the elf. Meanwhile, a small metallic sphere bounced to the ground from above, rolling to a stop at the warlock's feet - and detonated.

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"Shiny!" Cackled one of the imps, swinging one of his legs to kick the metallic sphere at Ninorra's feet. That was all the warlock knew of what was about to happen, an explosion that sent her flying backwards and into a tree. Her back thudded violently against the wood, causing leaves and sticks to come tumbling down on top of her.

Her imps had flown back as well, but their bodies were too frail to withstand the explosion. Most of them disappeared in a cloud of smoke, but one lingered behind, coughing violently.

Ninorra shook her head dizzily and stood, reaching for her staff, eyes glowing red with irritation. Bruises were already swelling on her back and shoulders, and there would be no one around to rub them out.

"That.." She grumbled, summoning her wrathguard. The remaining imp disappeared, only to be replaced by an enormous demon. "..was a mistake."

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Saphiara bit back a retort - to avoid having her voice recognized, but also because this was business. No banter, no confidence, not even any righteousness. It was her mission, nothing else.

A faint clunk sounded in the launcher on her gauntlet as the mechanism reloaded. When the wrathguard manifested onto the material plane, she fired again. This time, the grenade exploded in a shower of gel, covering the demon. A moment later, the gel's exposure to the air caused a chemical reaction that froze the demon in its tracks.

However, the warlock was still supported by an ally - Ivory had taken off again with a screech when Ninorra had slammed into her perch. Saphiara aimed for her next shot, intending to hit the caster in the arm to disrupt her casting ability. Suddenly, her view was blocked by a flurry of white feathers.

Ivory was now directly interferring with Saphiara's fight.

Angrily, the huntress reached out, empathically ordering the owl to flee. There was no response; it was as if the bond had been severed. Ivory was fully resisting Saphiara's control.

She should have known better; she'd known the owl was particularly attached to Ninorra, and had taken advantage of that fact, but had never imagined that it would - or even could - rebel against its mistress.

She cursed under her breath, but couldn't bring herself to shoot the owl. Instead, she activated the rockets built into her boots, using the extra momentum to leap over the canyon to the opposite wall and seek a better shot

Ivory refused to abandon her charge, however, circling Ninorra and flapping her wings to present as large an obstacle as possible.

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Ninorra screamed, waving her arms as the commotion surrounded her. Everything was too loud, too fast, too confusing, until she suddenly realized that a bird was in front of her. Taking shots?

"What in the..."

The bird was familiar. Of course!

"Ivory!" She said loudly, almost happily but more relieved. "Saphiara must be nearby.. Saphi! Saphi dear, where are you??"

Ninorra stood up, summoning flames to send toward her assailant. She build a good momentum and threw them toward whoever was firing, sweat on her forehead. Whoever was out there was out for blood.

"Saphi!!" She yelled. "Are you there?? We are under attack!"

The wrathguard grunted beneath the goo, it's movements slowed to a snail's pace. "M...aaaaa....steeeeeer...."

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The huntress fired at Ivory, the arrow exploding in a concussive blast that sent the owl fluttering to the ground in a daze. Buffeted by flame, with little room to maneuver, Saphiara slid down the embankment to the canyon floor, letting the autolauncher in her bow pepper the warlock with arrows.

She advanced, drawing, nocking, and firing at a steady, almost angry pace. Hatred was in her eyes, and she wanted blood. She wanted pain. Most of all, she simply wanted to scream and unleash the agony inside herself.

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"Oh no!" The warlock shouted, using her staff to block what arrows she could as Ninorra ran for the bird. She managed to beat a few of them off with the wide stone at one end, but several hit true and sunk deep into the meat of her shoulders.

Without thinking, she scooped up the bird and flung as much soul fire as she could muster toward her assailant.

"How dare you!!" She screamed, launching enough flames to burn a searing line toward her enemy. "She's just a bird!!"

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The flames bit deep, and with the injuries Saphiara had already suffered at Aerie Peak, she was hardly in the shape for this fight. She staggered, fighting to maintain consciousness as her vision swam.

She dropped to one knee, steadying her shot and gritting her teeth to shut out the pain. She fired, imbuing the shot with some of the arcane energy stored in her body. The effort left her gasping, trembling to stand once.

Saphiara suddenly realized her mistake. She had pushed herself too far in this drive for one more act of vengeance, and had risked failing to complete her other mission in the process. She reached for a device from her belt, preparing to activate her cloak and slip away before her injuries became debilitating.

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Ninorra raised her staff, it's energy blocking enough of the arcane energy that she could retaliate. He or she was weak, now. On one knee, with ragged breathing, the creature was clearly suffering. With a hurl of her staff, she threw a corrupting spell of shadow magic at her target.

"Take that, you son of a bitch," the warlock spat through grit teeth, cradling Ivory in her free arm. Her staff quickly lit once more, red and burning with hatred before hurling a fireball toward whoever had shot the arrows. "And burn in hellfire!"

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Saphiara cried out in an involuntary gasp of pain as the shadow magic invaded her mind and body, sending her into a seizure that caused her to drop the cloak remote. The box went sliding away over the icy ground, out of reach. She flicked out her right gauntlet, launching another explosive.

Her timing, dulled by the increasing pain in her body, was horrible - she fired just as Ninorra released her spell, and the two projectiles met in midair. Saphiara was blasted off her feet, sent crashing into a rocky outcrop. The collision reopened the wound in her back, and she felt blood begin to ooze out from under her armor to drip upon the ground beneath her.

Her fingers suddenly went numb, and she struggled to keep her bow from slipping from her grasp. She suddenly became aware of a searing pain in her left arm, and realized she could no longer move that arm effectively. Her shoulder had dislocated from the impact.

She rolled onto her right side, spots swimming before her eyes. Everything was going wrong. Desperately clinging on to her anger to keep awake, she reached down to her belt and activated the teleporter housed in the clasp. A hum began to build as the device slowly began to build its charge, but it would still be nearly a minute before it would activate.

Through her blurred vision, she could see the wrathguard finally break free of the freeze grenade. Both it and its mistress stalked towards her, clearly intending to finish the failed ambush. With her one remaining good arm, she tried desperately to pull herself away and gain a few more precious seconds for the teleporter to finish priming.

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Ninorra's wrathguard was very unlike most of her demons. While they tended to have a personality, he had almost none whatsoever. The enormous demon didn't speak much, unless it had something particularly important to say. In this case, he thought that his message was very important.

"Master!" He growled, running toward the enemy. "Protect master!!"

Ninorra smiled, in spite of her injuries. Holding Ivory close, she followed the demon and sent a bolt of shadow magic flying toward the body of their foe. It would not take long to finish it, though she still wondered about her sister. Where was Saphiara? How could she allow Ivory to go off on her own without following close behind? Did she not hear the struggle?

Then it struck her.

"..oh no," she said to herself suddenly, stopping in her tracks. "Stop! Do not kill her!"

The demon heard his master, but he did not obey her. Not entirely. He leaned forward and instead brought an enormous fist toward the elf's face.

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The shadowbolt hit her, causing her muscles to clench up in spasms and leaving her helplessly prone on the frozen earth. She rolled back onto her side once again, just in time to see the massive demon looming over her.

Through the ringing in her ears, she could hear Ninorra yelling something that the demon either missed or ignored. His fist pounded down; desperately, Saphiara tried to block it with her bow. The weapon shattered, but the strike was slowed enough to allow her to twist her head away. Still, the demon's blow glanced off her temple with enough force to leave her stunned.

Saphiara felt herself flop onto her back, her shredded mask falling away from her bruised face. The demon glared down at her, but made no more moves to attack. She let her blurred gaze drift up to the clear blue sky above her.

She closed her eyes, unsure if she would be able to open them again. She felt so tired...

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Ninorra waved one of her hands, wordlessly demanding that her demon step aside. He'd already done some damage, but at the very least she could keep it from killing Saphiara.

"Stupid beast," she spat, pushing him aside as she made for the hunter on the ground.

Saphiara was stunned, and possibly unconscious, but certainly too injured to fight much longer. Ivory lay in Ninorra's curled arm, in need of immediate care. With an irritated sigh, the Warlock commanded her demon.

"Pick her up, and make sure she can't get free," she grumbled, summoning her felsteed. "We'll take her to Sanctuary's garrison. Maybe someone there can knock some sense into her."

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Some time later, Saphiara felt herself rocking rhythmically back and forth. Opening her unswollen eye, she noticed the ground passing beneath her at a rapid pace. Turning her head slightly so as not to give away her condition, she saw herself carried by the wrathguard, which was running alongside Ninorra on her felsteed. She glanced down and saw the indicator light on her belt - the teleporter was still charged.

"Put me down."

Ninorra glanced over, and a glimpse of worry crossed over her face before it became hard again. "No. I'm taking you home."

Saphiara snorted. "I do not have a home anymore."

"You know what I mean. Your home is with Sanctuary"

"LET. ME. GO!" She struggled against the demon's grip, to no avail.

"You don't hate me. Something's wrong with you. I'm taking you back so someone can knock some sense into you."

"Sense? You ABANDONED me! You left me rotting in the forests for THREE YEARS while you sat back in luxury and let the world end around you!"

"I have a family to care for, Saphi. A baby who needs his mother - and yet here I am, taking care of YOU while you scream at me about how little I care - AFTER you tried to kill me, I should note. You could have found a way to reach out to me. I would have found a way to help you. You're part of my family too."

Saphiara's finger slipped down to the button on her belt. "...I no longer have a family." With a growl, she activated the teleporter, vanishing in a flash of light that left the demon's hands empty.

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