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Vilmah

Tomb of the Forgotten

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The weather in Stormheim was not pleasant. The vrykul that she battled with constantly seemed accustomed to the elements, but Vilmah was not particularly fond of the rain. The moisture seeped into her armor, making the clothes she wore underneath damp and cold. Her mechanical arm creaked with hidden rust that grew inside of the contraption, despite her best efforts to keep it oiled and well-maintained. With each swing of her enormous two-handed sword, the sound of metal and the feeling of chaffed damp skin made the orcess grit her teeth.

“I hate rain,” she said to herself, cleaving through a vrykul’s skull.

The humanoid went down with a wet thud, still more rain pouring down on the corpse. He had been trailing her since she’d raided his village on a mission for Sylvannas, and she had no patience for stalkers. Not today. Not in this weather. Wiping off her sword on the wet grass, she heard a groan from nearby.

“Hey, you!” Called a gruff voice from a few yards away.

Vilmah peered toward the voice. It was coming from a group of bushes. A trap? Perhaps. A reason to continue to be out in the rain? Most definitely. With an irritated sigh, she approached the caller. “What?”

Looking up toward the small warrior was another orc. He lay half-hidden in the bushes, a hand over his stomach, which Vilmah realized had been torn open. His intestines had spilled forth like a pile of thick ropes, and his lifeblood grew in a steady pool on the ground. “Heh... just my luck,” he coughed. “Another warrior. Wouldn’t happen to have a priest with you, huh?”

She knelt down beside him, grabbing uselessly for some bandages. “No… sorry. Just me.”

“Well, a fitting end,” he grunted, closing his eyes. “The glory of battle, ey warrior?”

Vilmah tried to hide her scowl. “Sure.”

“Listen…” the dying orc said quietly, his breathing slowed. “My name is Hak’gor Stonejaw. I need you to… do this for me. Take my axe,” he commanded. “Take it to Hammerfall. There’s a… a tree there. Leave it there.”

The orcess blinked, confused. “Hammerfall?” She repeated. “But why a tree?”

“No time…” Stonejaw muttered, his eyes glossing over. “Just… bring it to my son…”

There was no more talking after that. Just rain, and the smell of orcish entrails. Vilmah waited until his breathing ended, and shut the orc’s eyelids. He seemed far older than her, his skin slack and weathered. A sick feeling overcame her as felt his dead flesh, but she swallowed the nausea and took up his axe. It was heavy.

 

 

Edited by Vilmah
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Hammerfall.

It was raining when she arrived, which only managed to extend Vilmah’s already spoiled mood. The journey had been long, involved several flights on her own windrider plus a zeppelin. By the time she made it to the Arathi Highlands, she remembered why she’d been so hesitant to think about it in the first place. It was cold, it was damp, it was everything she hated.

It was home.

Edmund, her wolf, whimpered as they approached the gates. He seemed to react to Vilmah’s own emotions, though she tried to hide her feelings by wearing a helmet large enough to cover her face. The orcs and trolls guarding the outside regarded her with a wave, visibly impressed by her superior armor and weapons. In comparison, Hammerfall’s guards seemed woefully unprepared for attacks, though most of their enemies were simple ogres and a few Witherbark trolls. Inside, the small town had little to offer besides a tradesmen or two.

One of them, an orc selling cheap weapons, sat beside a row of empty cages while hammering chain maille back into place. Vilmah winced beneath her helmet. Why did they even keep those cages.

“Throm’ka,” she said to the merchant, attempting to sound casual. “I’m looking for an orc by the name of Stonejaw. Do you know him?”

The merchant looked up at her, confused. “Stonejaw? Never heard of him.”

Vilmah frowned. “His father fell in battle, in Stormheim. He asked me to bring him his axe. You’re sure you’ve never heard of him?”

The older orc shrugged. “Not since I’ve been here, and that’s since just after the third war. Though talk to Agrysha. She might know him. She’s been here since before the liberation.”

Liberation.

The word brought back a lot of memories, most of them bad. “Where can I find her?” Vilmah asked, patting her wolf as she conversed. He was visibly unhappy in this place, though not as much as his master.

“She’ll be in the hospital. Doctor. Helping to heal,” he grunted, pointing toward a wooden building.

“Dabu,” Vilmah replied, waving as she approached the building. The rain was subsiding a bit, so she took the opportunity to remove her helmet and shake out her damp purple hair.

Inside of the hospital were only a few patients; two trolls and an orc lie on bedrolls, resting from injuries. Beside one of the trolls, an older female orc knelt and wrapped bandages over the thick right wrist of a troll. Not wishing to interrupt, Vilmah stood at the door and waited. It was silent but for the slow breathing, the gentle rustling of fabric, the rain.

…I don't like it… it’s dark…..

Vilmah gasped. “What?!”

Agrysha turned to see the younger orc and narrowed her eyebrows. “Please announce yourself quietly,” she said quietly. “These warriors need rest.”

Vilmah clutched her chest, breathing heavily. It was a voice she heard, but it seemed only she heard it. The voice was quiet and young, too young to be anyone in Hammerfall. A child?

“I… sorry, I came to find someone named Agrysha?” She said quietly, approaching the other orcess.

Agrysha stood from her patient and addressed Vilmah cautiously. “I am she. Can we take this outside?”

The two females walked out of the hospital quietly, and closed the door behind them. Outside, the air was damp after the rain. The sun was beginning to warm the ground, causing mist to rise. Vilmah cleared her throat. “I uh… sorry. My name is Vilmah, and I’m looking for someone named Stonejaw. I was told you might know where he is?”

Agrysha knit her eyebrows in thought. “That is a familiar name. Who is he?”

“I’m not sure, he’s the son of a warrior who fell in battle. He asked that his axe,” she pointed to the weapon on her back. “Be brought to a tree? In Hammerfall? I thought that was weird.”

“A tree?” The orcess repeated. “I know the tree. I planted it myself. Come, I’ll show you.”

Vilmah followed Agrysha outside of Hammerfall’s walls. Edmund walked beside his master, the grey wolf calming at her touch. She scratched between his ears every so often, just to keep their connection calm. She needed him as much as he needed her in that regard. Eventually, they came to a small clearing, where a tree stood alone. Agrysha indicated toward the trunk.

“This is it,” the orcess announced sadly. “This is the Tree of the Forgotten.”

It wasn’t a particularly large or impressive tree. There were no intricate carvings, nothing to set it apart from the rest. Vilmah approached it apprehensively. “I’ve never heard of it. What is it exactly?”

Agrysha shrugged. “Just a memorial. I planted it myself, for my sister, and for the rest.”

Vilmah blinked. “The rest?”

…can we go out now….

A cold sweat broke out on Vilmah’s skin. She felt her hands become clammy with the sound of a child’s voice in her ears. “Did you hear that!?”

“Hear what?”

“A… a voice…” she answered, looking around the tree. Edmund whimpered sympathetically. “I heard it… but what, what is this a memorial for? The rest of what?”

Agrysha pointed toward Hammerfall. “During the liberation, there were many lives lost. Not just Doomhammer, but those who could not defend themselves. My sister amongst them. She was a shaman, but had no great skills. She and a few others, mostly children, fell during the fight. I planted this tree because… well, I don’t know. I’m not the spiritual type, but shamans commune with nature, right? I thought a tree would help me to remember her. Perhaps this Stonejaw’s son was one of those who were lost.”

Vilmah felt her stomach turn. During the liberation, she was old enough to only remember a few things, mostly Thrall. His presence shone brightly amongst the battle and blood, and though she remembered her mother dying in an effort to bring Vilmah to freedom, she could not recall any other children.

“…I didn’t know there were other children,” she said, feeling more than a little guilty. “I’m sorry for your sister.”

Agrysha shook her head. “Don’t be sorry. Casualties happen in battle. Though we lost many, we gained our freedom. Go on, bring the axe to the tree. I don’t know how this spirit business works, but maybe the Stonejaws can be together.”

Vilmah took the axe from her back and sunk the handle into the ground at the base of the tree. It stood straight, looking eerily like a grave marker.

…father?

“What was that??” Vilmah said, looking toward Agrysha. “You can’t possibly tell me you didn’t hear that??”

Agrysha looked at Vilmah skeptically. “I think you must be hearing things, warrior. How long were you in battle?”

The younger orc rubbed her forehead. “All my life.”

“Well, like I said. I’m not the spiritual type. If you’re hearing voices, maybe you should speak with someone who is. Maybe the earth is trying to talk to you.”

“I very much doubt it,” Vilmah grumbled, staring at the axe.

“Then maybe,” Agrysha said as she turned from the tree. “You’re just hearing things. Either way, I’d be careful if I were you. A good warrior may not be able to hear the earth, but they can hear emotions. That’s what makes them good at what they do, they can read people, control themselves. There’s a lot of pain in Hammerfall. Maybe that’s what you’re hearing.”

The warrior took a step toward the tree and stared. “Maybe it is.”

The mist continued to rise as the heat of the morning sun swelled. Somewhere nearby, a troll fought an orc to the death. Vilmah felt her wolf nuzzle her hand, and the smell of wet grass permeated through the air.

…I want to go home…

Edited by Vilmah

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A few hours had passed since Garinth had received the call through his hearthstone.  While he had no idea what he was flying into, there had been little in the way of urgency in his former commander's voice.  Likewise, if she'd needed martial assistance the shaman was almost entirely certain that she wouldn't have singled him out for aid.  Rather than dwell on the matter, he'd taken the long windrider trip to actually clear his mind.  It was a luxury he'd not had since traveling to the Broken Isles, and one he was not likely to get again any time soon.  It wasn't until his mount began the slow decent towards the former interment camp the half-orc even realized how close they were.

The pair drew into the rustic outpost with only strange looks for fanfare, with the windrider moving into a quick flapping hover before plummeting to the wooden platform that served as the landing pad.  Garinth paid little mind to the resident beastmaster's stare as he dismounted, as no doubt the sight of such a well armed half-orc was not something the larger male was accustomed to seeing.  The shaman passed over the necessary coins and reins.

"I'm looking for someone," he said somewhat tersely.  Despite the silence he received, it got the attention he wanted.  "Orc warrior, about this tall," Garinth said, holding a hand up to about his shoulder, "Well armored, mechanical arm.  Goes by Vilmah.  Seen her?"

"Someone like that was around earlier,"  the beastmaster responded dryly, turning to lead the wyvern towards the pens, "Check the hospital."

Garinth frowned, but said nothing.  There was something not quite right in the air, more than just the dreary atmosphere that Arathi could inspire on its own.  Still, as he turned and began the slow march towards Hammerfall's clinic he found he could not put his finger on what the cause was.  His head swiveled as he walked, trying to pick out the source but to no avail.  Steeling his visage, he pulled his cloak tighter around him.

For his efforts Garinth found little reward.  Vilmah was not in the hospital, but had been seen leaving a few hours prior.  That put it somewhere around the time he'd received the call.  Moving back outside, the shaman rummaged around in a belt pouch until he found what he was looking for.  "I'm here Vilmah," he said into the hearthstone, "Where do you need me?"

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The sudden buzzing in her hearthstone surprised Vilmah. She hadn't moved from her place near the tree for some time, the strange voices in her head came and went with the wind. Recognizing the voice as Garinth, she grabbed the stone and spoke into it, unease in her voice.

"Southeast. Head Southeast from the walls until you see a... tree. I'm with my wolf."

Edmund had curled up beside Vilmah's feet protectively, his tail twitching every few minutes.

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"Got it," Garinth sait into the stone, and then stowed it away where he'd found it.  Immediately, he headed for the gates and set off in the direction he'd been directed.  The shaman hadn't brought his frostwolf with him, much as it irked the beast to be stabled.  For the time being, that meant he was traveling by foot.  Luckily, he spotted the landmark she'd given him and was able to make his way quickly.

"Aka'magosh," he called once he was close enough to call to her.  There didn't seem to be anything wrong, but the feeling of unease hadn't subsided since leaving the walls of the settlement.  His eyes shifted between the tree and the orc warrior.  "Something going on here?"  

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"Definitely," Vilmah replied uneasily. Edmund approached Garinth carefully and sniffed at the half-orc. His scent didn't seem to bother the enormous animal, but it did pique his curiousity. His wet black nose went from Garinth's feet to his legs to his groin to his chest until he was standing on his hind legs and sniffing at Garinth's hair. "Ed!" Vilmah said with surprise. "Down, boy! Get down! Sorry about that. He's not usually so nosy.."

The wolf went down without argument, but continued to stare at Garinth with expressive brown eyes. Vilmah pointed toward the tree, where an axe had been placed handle-side-down into the ground. It was a fairly average tree, brown trunk, green leaves, but something about it felt off. As if it weren't supposed to be there.

"Anyway, the reason I called you over," she said while removing her helmet. "I was asked to bring that axe here by a dying warrior in Stormheim. He said he wanted me to bring it to his son. It seems his son was one of those lost during the liberation of Hammerfall. I actually didn't really know there were many lost during the liberation, I was pretty young myself at the time and it's not something I like to think about.. but anyway, you know I'm not exactly gifted with spirits or listening to spirits or any of that stuff. Yet for some reason, whenever I come here I feel terrible and now I'm starting to hear voices. What I'm trying to say is..."

She looked around to make sure they were alone.

"Could you check this place out? See if something weird is going on? I just want to know if I'm going crazy or not."

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Garinth's demeanor shifted somewhat as Edmund approached, smiling at the wolf and reaching out a hand to allow him to catch his scent.  It was not a unfamiliar experience, though among Frostwolves such attention was usually directed towards other wolves.  Without Grey-wind at hand, but still obviously smelling strongly of his companion, Garinth was hardly surprised at the interest he received.

"It's alright," the half-orc said with a chuckle as Vilmah called the wolf off, "He probably just smells Grey-wind." As if to make his point, Garinth pulled a white hair from between the links of mail on his forearm.  He cast the hair aside quickly as Vilmah began to speak, and crossed his arms over his chest.  The shaman listened in silence, nodding periodically and glancing at the tree when it was indicated.  The shaman had been young during the liberation, and had only even visited Hammerfall in the aftermath of the battle that had occurred there.  So young that he hardly remembered it.

As the conclusion of the warrior's explanation though, the shaman raised an eyebrow.  More concern than skepticism crept into his expression though, uncertain what it would mean for her if there wasn't a spiritual explanation for what was happening.

"Sure," the shaman said with a nod, "Just give me a moment."  He forced himself to relax then, readying himself for the process as he walked past Vilmah to the base of the tree.  In truth, Garinth had only recently begun even to attempt to channel and speak with the spirits of the past.  It was not an ordeal that was the same every time it was repeated, but at least the beginning had always been the same.  The shaman placed his palm on the tree, chanting under his breath as he opened his mind to the elements and spirits.  As the strange calm came over him, his eyes clouded and his mouth snapped shut.

As he had begun to learn to do with the spirit of his father, he sought out a connection.  Not for an ancestor, but for something lingering nearby.  Anything that might be looking to connect with the mortal world.  As silence stretched into the air around them, Garinth found something.  Suddenly, his grip on the tree tightened, and the half-orc gave an unnatural twitching shudder as something took place.  

"Hello?" asked the half-orc in a voice that was distinctly not his.  A child's voice at best, and female.  There was a strange quality to it, as though it were through a wall or across a long distance.  "Who's there?"

Edited by Garinth

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Stay back.

It was a female's voice, but not a child. She was an adult, strong and resilient, and her voice commanded respect.

I will not let you harm them!

As if to make her point clear, the ground shifted. It began with a gentle rumbling, but soon grew into a full-on earthquake. The tree swayed from side to side, reacting to the earth's shaking and parted with some of it's leaves. Vilmah grabbed Garinth by the cape and pulled him away from the tree, in defense of any branches that might fall and knock them both to oblivion. After a few moments, the rumbling stopped, leaving leaves and a few dead branches on the ground. Tears had appeared in the wild grass, as if the ground itself were cracked. Breathing heavily, Vilmah rubbed her temples. Her heart was pounding hard enough that she was sure one could hear it a mile away.

"Did you hear that??" She asked frantically, looking around for the source of the voice. "It wasn't just me, right? You heard it. Tell me you heard it!"

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Garinth tumbled backwards, going limp as his conscious came back to the fore.  The sudden jerking had broken off his connection with the spirit abruptly, and it took the shaman a long moment to come to his senses.  Still dazed, the half-orc groaned as the earth shook beneath him but failed to bring his focus to bear until after it had abated.  It was Vilmah's frantic questions that managed to cut through the fog he'd been left in, causing the half-orc to shake his head.

"It's alright," he said in a strained attempt at a soothing voice, "You're not hearing things."  Garinth didn't say that he hadn't heard whatever other voices had been issued, but she was already starting to panic.  "Just give me a moment, that was...not what I expected."  The shaman righted himself fully as he spoke, rolling into a sitting position before rubbing his temples.  There was a headache beginning to bud just behind his eyes, and it took a moment to soothe the sensation.

"There's something nearby," he started, "I'm not sure.  A cave, maybe?"  Garinth raised his hand and pointed in the direction that he'd felt the connection coming from.  After a long moment, his hand dropped from his face and he gave her a concerned look. "Look, I don't know if you want to investigate this further but we'll need to be careful if you want to continue investigating.  The spirits are..uneasy."  The shaman frowned, still recovering from the echoes of emotion that had been sent through him during the brief connection.

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"Spirits.." She repeated, both confused and angry. Edmund whimpered sympathetically and nuzzled his master until her breathing calmed. The voices seemed to mimic her own emotions, though she had no idea why. Standing up slowly, Vilmah looked over the damage. It wasn't like any earthquake she'd ever been in, the aftershocks echoed more in her head than in the ground itself. Rubbing her temples, she looked carefully at Garinth. The desire to leave was strong, and truthfully the entire homecoming experience had been, so far, not something she wanted to repeat. "..well, to tell you the truth, I don't. I'd rather leave."

Edmund nosed toward the tree, sniffing at fallen leaves and branches. He steadied in on a crack in the ground that seemed to lead in another direction and looked back at the two orcs. A squirrel ran past the wolf in terror.

"...but I also think if we don't I'm going to regret it," the orc sighed, angry with herself. "I hate leaving loose ends, and I can't shake the feeling that someone is in need of help. Sorry to drag you into it."

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Garinth studied the orc warrior as she spoke, the concern not ebbing from his features.  He had a feeling he knew where the conversation was going before he'd even asked the question, but hadn't expected the twist Vilmah had managed to be able to get there.  Garinth didn't argue with the conclusion, even if the warrior left he felt obligated to stay and do something about the issue.  He stood and dusted himself off and surveyed the ground where the wrathful spirit had lashed out.

"A shaman or a priest was going to have to deal with this at some point Vilmah,"  he said calmly, "Stumbling into this sort of thing blind is a good way to lose your sanity, or wind up dead." A sigh escaped him as he started to walk in the direction he'd felt the spirits, trusting that she'd follow behind.  As he walked, the half-orc mused over what would have caused her to hear the voices to begin with, but quickly became uncertain with how to broach the subject with her.  

"I know it's not really my place to pry, but is everything alright, Vilmah?"  He finally asked without looking at her, "I know we haven't discussed much about the last eight years, but they don't seem to have treated you as well as they did me."  It was an odd enough statement to begin with, given the circumstances.  Before his self-imposed exile Garinth hadn't even been able to see, and Vilmah's form had been whole.  Now his malady, if it could be called that, had been remedied and the once plucky commander he'd known was down one fleshy arm and a great deal of her old energy.  Garinth was glad to be of help, but the reunion had been strange for a number of reasons, not the least of which because of the image she'd managed to paint of herself in his mind all those years ago.  She seemed...somehow smaller now.

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The question itself set Vilmah's already hightened state of awareness on edge. It had been a while since anyone actually asked about her well-being, mostly since she attempted to keep things to herself. In this case, it was more difficult, and the idea that he could see that there was a problem deepend her discomfort.

"I'm not okay," she admitted immediately. "I'm not going to deny it and I'm not going to ask for sympathy. I did a lot of stupid things when I was younger; put my trust in the wrong people, had faith in those who didn't deserve it.. I paid for my optimism. I lost my arm and my guild in the process. During Garrosh's reign of idiocy, Nojinbu and I were exiled from the Horde. I had to keep myself hidden, because honestly, how many growth stunted one armed orcs are there?"

Following Garinth on the strange winding path, she kept a hand on Edmund to ground herself.

"It's not easy hiding like that, especially when you still have to fight every day. I did a lot of killing and I'm not proud of any of it. After Garrosh, we were able to come back but now I can't seem to shake this feeling.. like they're still after me. I was right, too. Just the other day some Kor'kron leftover tried to kill me. I was lucky he wasn't much in the way of skills because I put him down, but that sort of thing just goes to show you how bad it's gotten. I can't go anywhere without someone after my blood. I don't think I ever will."

Vilmah found her mouth going dry the longer she talked. Whether it was the subject or the strange presence in the air, she couldn't tell. Either way, her voice became shakier the closer they came to a rock formation in the hills nearby.

"And you know what's strange about it, Garinth? I used to hate killing and fighting. I used to stand in the front line to take the brunt of it from everyone else because I hated doing the damage myself. Now, after having to do it for so long, that's all I want to do. I can't help myself, anymore. And it feels so natural that I don't even really know who I am, anymore."

The two orcs came upon a pile of stones. They seemed to have been there for many years, with moss and plants growing through the cracks. A sapling bridged the gap between the largest stones in the middle, bearing faded flowers that fell to the ground as they approached. Vilmah licked her dry lips and wiped her clammy palms down the sides of her armor. A tightness wound inside of her stomach that felt like a combination of dread and rage.

"Long story short, I'm not okay. Sorry to talk your ear off."

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As Vilmah's story was woven around him, a small voice whispered that he should have felt guilty for not being around when Sanctuary might have used him.  That he might have helped.  It was a dream at best, that much he knew for certain.  The power of hindsight colored what he could have been capable as much as it did his vision of the former commander.  The truth was, at that time he was as useless as those who judged him on his race thought him to be.  Perhaps even more so.  It had taken years of healing, the least of it physical to get him back to steady ground.  All the same, the knowledge hardly made him feel any better about what happened.

"You can come back from it, you know,"  He said after they'd they came to a halt, "There's always that opportunity."  Despite the statement that she didn't desire any, sympathy was clearly evident in his features.  "I'm not saying it will just happen in a heartbeat.  It takes work, and a lot of it."  There was a pause as he considered where to explain, "Speaking from experience, I will say this though... all of the talking you have to do, all the slow healing, and the work...it's worth it.  And that has nothing to do with getting my sight back."  He gave the smaller orc an even look then, showing that he'd meant every bit of what he'd said.

"And, I know it might not seem relevant to this, but you have to understand how these things work."  Garinth's arms crossed back over his chest then, and he moved a few paces further away from the rock pile.  "Restless spirits often feed off of negative emotion.  If there's a chance to bring them peace, we can't try to open a connection loaded up with fear or anger.  Good shaman go into these rituals with clear heads, not giving them anything to latch onto and hurt us with.  There are some that build up a bulwark of one emotion or another, but there's always a chance that there's a chink somewhere in that armor."

"And to hear them without any training," Garinth started after taking a deep breath, his attention on the pile of stones, "it usually means that either these spirits are very powerful, or that on some instinctual level you're relating to the emotions they felt when they passed."

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Vilmah rubbed her forehead, willing herself to take in Garinth's wisdom and not fight it. Typically, spirits could be dealt with on a more metaphysical level; find a way to solidify them and kill them as if they were alive. This was different, and though she couldn't see them she trusted in the shaman's knowledge.

"So I'm not just being followed, I'm being haunted," she said with a forced smile, attempting to bring some humor to the situation. "You're probably right. I probably could come back from this, but the truth is that I'm not sure I want to. I don't want to be the same warrior who made all those mistakes because she trusted too much. I refuse to get people hurt again. If something happens to me, so be it, but I won't drag the guild down with me for being stupid. Not again." After a few seconds, her voice lowered and she looked at the half-orc apologetically. "I'm sorry, Garinth. I've been so selfish since I came back. I didn't even stop to consider what happened to you, or how your eyesight returned."

The orcess took a deep breath, willing calm into her chest. There was something telling her to go back, to stop walking toward the rock formation. It seemed to permeate through the ground.

"If you don't want to talk about it, that's fine, but I'm glad it did. You seem a lot more confident than you were, before. Whatever happened to you, I hope it wasn't bad. The Horde, and especially Sanctuary, we're lucky to have you."

You will not harm them!

The voice returned, angry as ever, screaming with the kind of rage that could be felt in one's bones. Vilmah put her hands over her ears, as if she could muffle the sounds, but quickly realized that she was beeing foolish.

Don't come any closer! I am warning you!!

"Speaking of which.." She said between clenched teeth, as the ground beneath them once again shifted. "I think we might have found the source of our headache."

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Garinth listened to Vilmah with an expression of more serious concern, frowning as she turned the blame for things onto herself.  He went so far as to open his mouth to protest as she attempted to apologize, but stopped himself and let the orc warrior finish.  He'd come to peace with what he'd been and what had happened during his absence, it wasn't something that he was concerned about telling old comrades about one way or the other.  What he was concerned about, was making sure that neither of them got injured during this endeavor, and that his former commander started to take her own well being more seriously.

His attention was drawn to her sharply when she covered her ears however, drawing a confused look out of the half-orc.  The shaman was given only the briefest of warnings before the tremors started, as the strain echoed through his connection to the elements.  Unlike before, he was fully alert though and able to react.  The foreign nature of the assault made it all the easier to make his call to the earth however, and as he dropped a thrusting palm to the ground he received a ready response.  One final shockwave reverberated through the earth around them and then there was quiet.  Almost immediately, Garinth felt something pushing back against him, forcing the shaman to maintain his attention on the call.

"So it would seem,"  he said once things reached a sort of equilibrium.  Holding the call steady with his mind, he glanced up to the warrior to see how she was doing, "Listen Vilmah.  What happened to me doesn't matter.  Coming back does not mean being the same person.  Even that's what you wanted, life doesn't work that way.  We change, that's all there is."  He swallowed hard as the power opposite his seemed to rally, looking down to refocus his concentration.  "You won't make the same mistakes again because you've learned from them, and you didn't drag Sanctuary into anything with Garrosh.  It doesn't matter if you don't like admitting it, it was forced upon you.  On everyone who was still around."

"Coming back also doesn't mean you have to like killing, or be constantly scared for your own safety."  The half-orc grunted, and called to the elements with a far greater request.  The response was immediate, giving him dominion over the small area the spirits held sway over and significantly easing his struggle and the strain in his voice.  "Sanctuary is still there for you, if and when you need it. Neither you, nor Garrosh, nor the Kor'kron killed it.  You're not giving orders anymore either, so those that show up for you are there of their own free will.  What is really selfish is taking away their ability to choose to do so."  He paused for a moment, and then spoke again in a somewhat strained voice. 

"And...not to be an ass, but I would appreciate it though if you took a few steps away from the cairn.  I think it's you they're reacting to."

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"This is exactly what I'm talking about.." she said in a low voice, stepping away from the rock formation in front of them. "You think I'm scared for my own safety? That's the last thing I'm worried about. What worries me is exactly what's happening right now. I'm like a lure for trouble, and it only hurts other people. I shouldn't have called you here, and for that I apologize."

Another tremor ran through the ground. Reaching behind her, Vilmah grabbed the enormous two-handed sword on her back. It appeared almost light in her hands, if not for the difference in strength between the mechanical one and the real thing. Giving it a few test swings, she pointed toward the rocks.

"Thanks for leading me here, but I think whatever is causing this trouble is in there. So I'm going to knock down those rocks, find what's inside, and put an end to it the old fashioned way. Sorry to call you all this way, but it's probably safer if you leave before I start breaking this thing down."

Before Vilmah had a chance to make good on her threat however, the ground beneath them cracked. With an angry snarl, the orcess ran for the rock formation and swung her weapon at the rocks in a massive cleave. The rocks shattered, but it didn't stop the tremors. Rather, the tremors became worse, and with them the voice returned.

I told you I won't let you have them!

"Who are you?!" Vilmah shouted at no one, as the ground behind her opened.

No one answered but the earth itself, which opened large enough to swallow both orcs whole.

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The half-orc's teeth ground as Vilmah spoke, frustrated with how the woman was taking things.  How she managed to bury her head in the sand about the issue was beyond him.  It had likely taken years of work to construct such an image of herself, and now really wasn't the time to be trying to deal with it.  The moment the thought crossed his mind though, was the moment everything fell apart.  He was no longer calm, and the frustration he felt was all the opening the spirit needed to wrest control from him.  Beaten back twice already, it returned with a vengeance beyond what Garinth could quickly repair.  In his panic, he wasn't listening to Vilmah.  He didn't see her charge until it was too late.

"Vilmah stop!" he shouted, but it was too late.  She cried out, and the earth devoured them both.

-----------------

Garinth awoke with a start to total darkness.  Panic threatened to set in on him for a moment, but he steadied himself with a few deep breaths.  Nothing hurt aside from his rear, and he could move relatively freely.  The ground beneath him was hard stone beneath the shallow layer of dirt that had come with them, rough and unworked.  The air was stale and damp, leaving the shaman with an uneasy feeling.  Rather than linger longer in the darkness, he groaned gingerly sat up, holding up a hand to insure that his head didn't strike a low ceiling.

"Vilmah?"  he asked with what calm he could summon, "Are you dead?"

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Well, I guess I'm dead. 

Vilmah opened her eyes to complete and total darkness. She expected that this was what death would be like; the absence of light, of sound. Unfortunately, there was no absence of smell, and the air was repugnant. Nor was there an absence of pain, which radiated from her missing arm toward her spine. She reached for the appendage and found that her mechanical limb had come loose, and hung limp from the connective straps at her chest. Testing it, she found that only two of her fingers responded.

"Shit. Still alive." Her voice echoed.

Sitting up, the orcess used her good hand to rub her head. It throbbed like someone had struck her repeatedly with a hammer, which was a fairly common occurrence. Looking around for some kind of light, she cleared her throat.

"...hello?"

Again, her voice echoed. She stood and waited for something, anything, to indicate an exit. No breeze met her skin or lifted a hair from her head. The air felt stagnant and damp. 

Just stay here, came a familiar voice. It was calmer, now, and completely filled the chamber. Stay here, we'll be safe.

Vilmah looked for the source of the voice, but still saw nothing. She felt her skin prickle with goosebumps and reached out with her one good arm to find something, anything.

"Who are you??" She asked frantically, her voice echoing itself repeatedly. "What are you? What did you do with Garinth??"

You're both safe, now, the voice answered soothingly, gently. They can't find us, here

"Garinth!!" The orcess shouted, panic in her voice. "Garinth, can you hear me?? Garinth!!"

Her heart was pounding loud enough that she could feel it between her ears. Clutching her head with one hand, Vilmah tried to calm herself but found the darkness envelop her. You did it again, gods damn it, she thought to herself. And you dragged someone else down with you.

 

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Silence was all that greeted him.  Like clockwork, he began turning on his defense mechanisms.  A deep breath filled his lungs, and then was slowly expelled.  Fear and panic were poison, the slow death sentence the mind placed on itself.  Their place lay in getting out of a situation before it happened, not once a thing was done.  The shaman took another deep breath and focused on the feeling of the air moving through his nostrils, the basic functions he needed just to exist.  The effort began slowly to push all other thoughts, all emotion from his mind.  It was not an instant process, but like a tree breaks apart a stone over years the shaman gradually eroded the threats he posed to himself.

Once his mind was finally clear, he shifted to his knees and place his palm on the stone beneath him.  His ears strained for any hint of the orc warrior, but he heard no breathing and no heartbeat but his own.  The easy task completed, softly and without fear or anger, he called out to the elements.  The darkness was not his enemy.  The words of his mentor, the Farseer Marg Firesong rang in his ears, 'Your lack of sight is merely an obstacle to be overcome.  You merely need to ask for the aid to find your way.'  The earth responded with gentle care, filling his inner eye with a vision of the cavern he'd fallen into.  Vilmah was not with him, likely on the other side of the tumble of rock and dirt that had come with them from above.  Cracks in the stone above made the surface weak, but allowed some air in.  If nothing else, he would not suffocate.

I know you, said a small feminine voice.  The words snapped Garinth's eyes open, breaking off his connection with the stone.  Nothing had changed in the room. You reached out to me before.  Who are you?

"My name is Garinth," said the shaman, as understanding slowly dawned on him.

You're strange Garinth, said the little voice, aren't you afraid of the bad men?

"No, child," Garinth said with sympathy in his voice, "I am only worried about my friend.  Have you seen her?"

She's safe.  There was silence then, but the half-orc waited for the child to speak all the same. Hey...why aren't you scared? They're going to hurt us if they find us.

"Because I know my worst enemy is here,"  The shaman said with a soft smile, his hand raising to tap at his heart.  "It wasn't easy, but I learned how to fight him.  No one and nothing else can do as much harm."

I don't get it. The voice trailed off then, How does that make you safe from the bad men?

"It doesn't.  There will always be bad men little one, but who they are and what they do will pass."  Garinth shifted, knowing he had enough room to stand.  With care, he shuffled over to where he knew the rock and debris pile to be, and began the slow process of moving the stone.  "All that I need is the strength to know that that is true.  To trust in the Elements.  The Light.  To really believe it, and stand in front of the people who don't...or can't."

Garinth waited, but the voice didn't return.  The only sound in the cavern was the clinking of his mail, his own heavy breathing and the echoing thuds of the rocks hitting the floor behind him.

Edited by Garinth

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Heavy breathing, panic, pounding heartbeat. It was so loud she couldn't focus, and the enveloping darkness had Vilmah in it's grasp. She could even swear the air was growing thinner with each breath, as if every moment brought her closer to suffocation. Somewhere, she imagined, Garinth was buried alive. Somewhere, she'd caused the death of another ally. Somewhere someone suffered, and she could do nothing to stop it. The guild was as heavy as the darkness. She thought back on what he said.

What happened to me doesn't matter.  "But it does.." She said to herself. "It was my fault. It's always my fault. Even if we come back.."

His voice echoed clearly in her mind. Coming back does not mean being the same person.  

Her mouth was dry.

Even that's what you wanted, life doesn't work that way.

Deep breaths. This is not the way for a warrior to behave. This is ridiculous. This is petulent fear, the kind she attempted to abandon long ago, back when every other moment was rescue or be rescued. "Knock it off," she told herself, gripping her one fist. "Get ahold of yourself."

With each breath the tightness in her stomach loosened. Vilmah reached toward her chest and felt her own heartbeat, grounding herself. She was alive, and if that was true, Garinth probably was as well. There was still time, but she had to know where she was and why she was here. It was the only way.

"...hello?" She said finally, settling in on the sound of her own voice. It echoed enough that she realized that this was a cave. "You brought me down here. Please, who are you?"

I brought you here for safety. The voice answered. Be calm, little one. The fight will end soon.

The fight?

"You're Agrysha's sister, aren't you?" She asked the air. "You brought the children with you to safety, right? When Thrall came?"

Yes, the voice sighed. We waited. We're still waiting. The walls, they collapsed. We waited for them to find us, and...

"They're gone," Vilmah reassured her. "The humans, they're all gone now. Thrall liberated us. Hammerfall is ours. You and the children, you can go now."

How do you know this?

Vilmah took another deep breath, remembering. "I was there. I saw what happened. I watched when Doomhammer fell, but the rest of us were free. He gave himself for us to be free, and now you can be too."

And who are you to have seen such things?

"Bloodborne," the orc said confidently. "Daughter of Bloodborne the Blackrock. He and my mother, of the Frostwolf clan, they both died as well. They are free, now. We are all free."

The voice seemed to come from closer than before. I know you. You were one of the children, and yet your mother kept you close. Those that I took with me had no mother to do this. I took them myself..

"You did what you could," Vilmah argued. "And you kept them safe. Now you can join us, above. I promise, no one will hurt them. I swear on my honor."

She paused, feeling the apprehension in the spirit.

"It wasn't your fault," she reassured the other orcess. "You protected them, and because of you, they always felt safe and loved. You were a mother to them. Now please, set them free."

Finally, light. The image of an orcess, young and thin with long ragged hair came into focus before Vilmah. Her illuminated spirit cast light against the cave, revealing it's horrors; the skeletal remains of orcs, mummified by time, their bodies tiny and malnourished. All but for one.

By your honor,  the spirit repeated, extending her arms. Beside her, a dozen smaller spirits appeared, surrounding the female orc with arms encircling her legs. I will trust in your honor, Bloodborne of the Blackrock. We will be free.  

The earth shook once more, and Vilmah fell to the ground with a hand over her head. It continued to tremble until more light illuminated the cave, dirt and rocks tumbling all around until a chasm above her opened. She lay there until the tremors stopped, though partially buried under climps of dirt and stones, her armor matted down with wet grass and soil. Above her, she could hear barking.

Edited by Vilmah

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There was a tremor in the fabric of the world around him before the physical ones began, and it was all the warning Garinth needed to back away from the tumbled barrier of stone and earth.  He curled up into a ball and waited for them to pass, doing his best to ignore the crumbling wall in front of him.  The tremors didn't last long, and somehow the shaman felt that the energy that drove the change was different than before.  There was no urgency to it, and significantly more care.  When the movements ceased, he was greeted with light, and an opening in front of him in the wall.  The half-orc scrambled to his feet to look through, and quickly spotted Vilmah in the debris.

"Hey!" he shouted, trying to make sure she was still conscious as he made his way over the now loose scree.  "Are you hurt?"

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"Only my pride..." She grumbled, picking chunks of dead plants out of her hair and in between her armor. She looked worse for wear, covered in dirt and dead leaves, a defeated expression on her face. At her side, her mechanical arm hung limp, a rattling mechanical sound whirring as if something had been disconnected. One of her metal fingers twitched unaturally. Edmund ran to his master's side enthusiastically, his tail wagging back and forth with unbridled excitement. The wolf barked at her feet a few times, jumping as if in an attempt to make her smile. Eventually, she did.

"Sorry to make such a mess of things," she said with no small amount of relief in her voice. "I figured out down there that you were right and I was being ridiculous. It's a good thing you set me straight before we fell or things might have turned out differently."

Edited by Vilmah

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Garinth visibly relaxed when Vilmah spoke about her pride, but kept himself from sighing in relief.  Things seemed to have ended well enough, even if he didn't understand at all how or why.  His brow raised as he offered her a hand up, entirely uncertain what she meant by the fact that he'd set her straight.  Had he been hit on the head in the fall, or just missed something?

"Sounds like you set yourself straight, boss."  Garinth said with an uncertain tone, "Last thing I remember is you yelling at me about it being your fault that people got hurt."  He kept his expression even as he surveyed the way out of the caves.  "If you hadn't decided to take a run at that outcrop, I would have told you that everyone chooses their own path.  I know I did, and I damn made sure no one could follow.  Not even Nomeni.  Wasn't anything you could have done even if you'd wanted to."  With a shrug, the half-orc began the short hike towards the air.  "I am glad things worked out though."

"I take it you met one of the spirits?"  he asked once he cleared the the slope.

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She scratched her scalp with her nails and nodded, visibly uncomfortable with what happened underground.

"The spirit of the lost children and their guardians were trapped, down there. Trapped by fear," she chuckled awkwardly. "I guess they felt I could relate. Before I came back here, I wasn't really the fearful type. More the unabashedly optomistic type."

Vilmah rubbed her sore left shoulder, the arm making irregular sounds.

"You set me straight because you told me the truth. It's difficult to admit that maybe everything wasn't my fault, and I don't think I'll ever get rid of the guilt.. but at least I know that I have to move on. What else can you do, right?"

She pointed toward the rocks.

"All they ever wanted was to be free. Since Garrosh has been gone, I've been free too. Why waste the gift?"

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