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Eclipse: Shadows Held Dear

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Malhavik wouldn't be happy that she'd left. It apparently hadn't occurred to him to lock her up, considering that for months she'd been able to simply come and go anywhere and anytime she wished, but it probably would have occurred to him eventually now that her powers were gone. Or maybe he had just assumed she would be too shocked and insecure about her unexpected weakness to leave the sphere of his protection.

That might have been true, once.

It had only been three months, and though she'd gotten used to the incredible strength and speed, the shadows that bent to her will, the ability to step in and out the twilight, she found she didn't much miss the abilities Accalia had bestowed. Power had never suited her.

While the mark on her right hand was dormant now, the nearly-overlapping circles no longer glowing amber, the demonic rune on her left hand still shone with fel. She rubbed it absently over her glove as she entered Undercity.

There, the first thing she did was acquire a hooded cloak to pull over her features. Old habits returned as she kept to the fringes to avoid attracting attention. But it wasn't fear and bitterness that made her do so now; only practicality. She didn't care what anyone thought of her anymore. She just wanted to get where she was going.

She headed south.

But when she neared Stormwind, hours later, she could tell he wasn't there. Even without the mark, she knew she could feel him. It had never been that that had connected them. Without the mark to amplify her powers, however, she couldn't even tell what direction he was in.

Standing outside the gates, she gazed at the sky as she tried to decide what to do. It was still early in the day; Malhavik wouldn't be looking for her yet. She had some time; but not an indefinite amount.

Where would he have gone?

She remembered the docks; him coming to her rescue when the crusaders would have won. Of course he would have come looking for her when he sensed she was in trouble.

She boarded the ship to Darnassus. From there, it was a short trip back to Moonglade.

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She found him outside of the town. She knew he was there even before he released the shadows, pulling his hood down and shaking his head lightly. He knew she was there, too. "Hey there V," Tirien said.

He stepped forward at the same time she did; then they both paused. Then she dashed forward and threw her arms around his neck. He kept his balance, smiling. "You alright?" he asked.

She buried her face against his neck, hugging him tightly and not speaking. To finally be able to touch him meant more than anything.

"Uh... Hi?" he said. He put his hands on her arms and drew her back with gentle ease. "I felt something... change and got worried. Y' seem fine but..." He looked over her a moment. "Ya felt... weaker, somehow, but ya don't really—"

She kept her hands on his arms, not wanting to let him go. "It's gone," she said.

"What's gone?"

"The curse." She took off her gloves and raised her right hand to show it to him. The mark was inert, no longer glowing. He looked at it closely, taking her hand in his to examine it. "Huh. Well I'll be." He looked back to her. "How'd it happen?"

She smiled, shaking her head. "It doesn't matter." She slid her other hand up his arm as he let go.

He smiled a little awkwardly. "So that means Accalia's... gone?"

She paused, reminded of the encroaching Eclipse. "No," she said quietly. "She's still coming. In six days."

Tirien looked understandably concerned at that, but smiled with a sense of relief. "Well, she ain't botherin' you no more."

"No. I'm free." Except that she wasn't. Her soul was still bound. And although Malhavik intended to remove the seal, he still held the soulstone. "Partly..." she said.

Tirien nodded. "Still got what's left. Still though, one down, one t' go, right?"

"Yes... and... I think he's still going to remove the seal..." She looked down at her left hand, where the purple rune still glowed. Tirien reached for that hand and she let him examine that too. It felt nice to just hand her hand in his, she didn't even care what he was looking for. "I didn't know if I'd see you again," she said.

He winced a little and rubbed his temples, letting go of her hand. He nodded. "Yeah well, ya can't be rid'a me that easy." He grinned, hand covering the upper half of his face. "Stubborn, ya know."

"Headache?" she asked with concern. She raised her hand over his, summoning the Light. It still ached to use it, but she ignored the pain. "...Is he bothering you?" she asked in a lower voice.

He nodded silently. Gently, she applied the Light. He pressed her palm to his temple and looked a little relieved. "I just ain't used t' usin' it is all."

"Using what?" she asked distractedly.

Tirien opened an eye and smiled playfully at her. It made her heart skip a beat. "Fel," he said. "By all rights what I got brewin' in me is mine. Jus' that Hunter wants t' be th' one in control, y'know?"

Her distraction made it hard to parse his words for a few moments. When she did, she was taken aback. "The... fel? You're using the fel?"

"Yeah. I figure I might be able t' do somethin' about that seal if I ... Uh... I don't know, throw enough at it?" He shrugged ineptly.

She remembered the moment. The power Malhavik had funneled into her should have been enough to kill her... but instead the dormant channel to Accalia had opened, turning Vionora into a conduit. The resultant explosion of power as Accalia released her curse into the mortal realm had seared the seal into Vionora's very soul, ensuring only an equivalent amount of power could remove it. An amount of power that without an equivalent event to absorb it would surely kill her.

"There's only one way it can be removed," she said.

"Oh? Well dang. How?" he asked.

She hesitated. "You won't like it."

Tirien arced a brow and gave her a skeptical look. "Ya once told me I was better off killin' ya 'cause'a Accalia. Hit me. I can take it."

She bit her lip. "When Accalia comes... that's the only moment... if she can take the backlash of all the power necessary to remove it."

"Uh huh. An' who told ya this?"

That gave her pause. "Malhavik," she said.

Tirien rolled his eyes. "How's he so sure that's th' only option?"

"He's the one who put the seal on me..." she said dubiously.

"Tch," he scoffed. She blinked. "Plenty'a spells have been undone by others." He was gripping his left hand at his side. "Hell, I've undone more'n I can recall."

"Well... he's going to do it, anyway..."

He relaxed his hand. "What's it entail?"

"I don't know," she admitted.

"Ya don't even know th' outcome? Risks?" He looked concerned.

She knew there was a risk. A very big one. "He's not sure I'm strong enough to survive it..."

He sighed and looked off into the forest, searching the tree line for something as he thought. Vionora came to the understanding that she didn't know when she'd realized it, but she knew it now as she gazed on his face.

"Tirien," Vionora said. She put her hand on his chest, and his attention returned to her.

"Mm?" he said.

"Are you ready?" she asked.

He looked at her. "That's a broad question, Vionora."

"I wasn't asking you."

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She summoned as much Light as she could into him. Hunter stiffened, caught off-guard and unawares, but responded with a surge of fel that made her gasp. His hand on her arm tightened and locked as a leer came to his face. "You're getting good at finding me out."

Her hand fisted in his tunic. "Tirien... fight him..." She summoned more Light. This time, he was expecting it, and absorbed it easily. Her remaining powers were useless against him; he was too powerful.

"My offer still stands, you know," he said, conversationally.

Her eyes narrowed, and she tried to shove him, but he held on. No longer was she superhumanly strong; she was just a middling priestess tainted by the fel. "I don't care if I only have six days left in this world. I'm not giving them up," she said.

Hunter closed in, bringing his face inches from hers. "Who says you have to die?"

"W-what?" she stammered.

He inhaled deeply. "Ah... I can sense it on you." He smiled. "That clever warlock..."

She flushed and tried to pull back. "What are you talking about?"

He forced her toward the tree they were standing beside, pinning her there and slamming his hand to the bark beside her head. "My dear, how many have you had?"

She stared at him in shock.

"Do you sense their memories? Their thoughts? Their final emotions as they died?"

"W-what?" she said again.

Hunter grinned, exhilarated. "The souls."

Vionora raised her free hand toward her throat, remembering the first time Malhavik had tried to feed her a soul. It hadn't worked, then, with the seal. But then he had bound her soul to a soulstone. Then after she had lost the curse, she had been starving to death from lack of energy, and he had used the soulstone to do so successfully. It had just been a shard, but it had been enough to restore her. She dropped her hand. "That's not... It's not..."

"Do you feel stronger? Empowered? Tell me, elf, how was your first soul?"

She closed her eyes, hard. She hadn't wanted it. But Malhavik had done it. "It wasn't my choice," she said.

Hunter chuckled. "Oh... neither was mine. It was that or death. It made my first... bittersweet?" He reflected. She opened her eyes and gazed at him, seeing Hunter's cruelty on Tirien's features. "I still savor it," he said finally. "None after can compare."

"Why are you telling me this..." she said.

He grinned. Between blinks, his eyes shifted to empty void then back to normal. "Because. The more you feed, the stronger you become."

"But your two sons are still enough to hold you back," she said.

He frowned and slammed her against the tree. She made a small sound, her knees weakening, but caught herself. "They will NOT win," Hunter growled.

"Tirien," Vionora said.

His right hand trembled, his grip weakening. With a hiss, he grit his teeth. She looked down at at his hand, then back up at him.

"Do you have any idea how stubborn he is?" she asked.

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Once more, she summoned the Light. It burned now, but she didn't care, heedlessly striking at Hunter with everything she could. He reeled, sinking down to his knees. She was drawn down with him.

"I will NOT left you WIN!" he snarled, and his fel power surged toward her again. It scattered the Light she held and flowed over her like a noxious wave, making her shudder with revulsion.

"Tirien... don't give up..." she managed.

His hand came up to grasp her throat and silence her. His eyes glinted with a fiery green fel, flecks of it seething from the corners. She closed her hand around his wrist uselessly as his grip tightened. He hissed, "If you offer nothing but resistance, then I shall be rid of y—"

Hunter froze. Then he looked down. When his grip slackened, Vionora was able to look down as well, and saw his left hand had imbedded one of his own daggers in his gut, halfway down the blade. His skin paled, and he looked past her, then slumped to the side.

"Tirien!" She tried to catch him, but he hit the ground. She leaned over him, putting her hand on his shoulder and seeing that his condition was deteriorating with stunning swiftness. Taking the dagger's hilt, she pulled it out and dropped it, then put her hands over the wound to summon the Light once more. She felt the virulent poison coursing through his veins and faltered as the Light slipped out from her reach. She had exhausted herself.

One of his hands made a weak motion toward the pack on his belt. He attempted to speak. "Pa—tid—te." His eyes rolled to the back of his head.

Vi fumbled at the pack, finding a series of small vials within. Antidotes. They were marked with different symbols. She looked back up at him. "Tirien, help me," she said. "Which one?"

His skin was clammy with sweat and he had almost stopped breathing. Vionora put down the vials to place her hands over his chest and try to draw on the Light again, ignoring the personal cost to herself. She felt an eerie, dispassionate calm. When it seemed he was restored enough to last a little longer, she looked at the vials again with trembling hands, trying to decipher the symbols. Then she saw his hand twitching, pointing toward the dagger. She looked at the blade, and saw that a symbol on the hilt matched one of the vials. She dropped the others, unstoppered the antidote, and administered it to him.

His color returned somewhat, and his breathing evened, though it remained labored. Vionora sat back a little, watching him. His eyes opened to slits and his head lulled in her direction. "Gonna... Need some... Help here?" he said weakly.

She laid her hand on his face. "I can't do much," she said honestly.

He gave a weak laugh and let his head roll back. She moved her hand to cup his head, resting her other hand on his shoulder. Still she watched him carefully.

He patted around his other pack slowly, thoroughly, careful to not spill the contents. From within he pulled out a red vial, and then his arm dropped to his side, vial resting in his open palm. The effort looked to be great, just for that.

"What is that?" she asked uncertainly.

He smiled. "Vita-bits... Help me wi—" He slacked off before recovering again. "With it?"

He started to lift his arm again, but she reached out and held it down. "No," she said.

It was too dangerous. If it was still Hunter in control, and he recovered his strength... He looked at her, confused. "It's m..." He unfocused a moment. "It's me, V. It'll help."

"How can I be sure?" she asked quietly.

Her words cut him deeper than the dagger had. His eyes misted up and he tried to form a response, but couldn't get anything out other than ragged breaths.

She moved her hand to the vial to help him open it, but he just clenched his jaw, his features tightening. "Tirien..." she said.

He couldn't dry his face with how weak he was. "Ya can't... Ya can't, V. An' that scares me."

Her heart ached, but she was still possessed by the calm from earlier. "I'm too afraid of seeing what I want to see, Tirien," she said. The words hurt with the truth in them. "It's not him fooling me. It's me fooling me."

"I trust you," he whispered. He lifted his hand, and she clasped it.

"I know," she said, and leaned down and kissed him.

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She helped him get to the town. The druids were hostile at first when they sighted her, but seeing the wounded rogue she was supporting and obviously trying to help made them pause. It also quickly became apparent that she was no longer marked and presented no threat. Tirien was given to the care of the healers and Vionora was allowed to stay, under guard.

They spent some time there in Moonglade together after he'd recovered, but Vionora knew she couldn't stay with him forever. Malhavik would be looking for her. She would have to return.

She saw Tirien one more time before the Eclipse.

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