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Qabian

Playing with Fire

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Qabian stood in the shadows beneath a tree across the square from Stormwind’s orphanage, watching the soft yellow light in its windows keep the night from slipping completely into darkness. Wearing a heavily hooded cloak that hid his ears and pulled low enough over his face to shade the glow from his eyes, he could have been any ordinary human citizen that hadn’t needed to deftly avoid gryphon rider patrols to access the city.

The time of year and other things had compelled the mage to spend time considering the Grim’s overall policies on enemy non-combatants. Generally, those policies seemed to be “no one cares.” In reality, any given Grim could hold any idea somewhere between “it’s best to destroy the enemy in their cradles before they get the opportunity to become a problem” and “none of them are innocent, but fighting babies is dishonorable.” Most seemed to lean toward the former, as did Qabian.

But for the mage, the issue was not as simple as a policy. There were reasons, none of them rational, why all this talk of children sparked his anger. Orphans should have the good sense to die alongside their parents. Propagating youth into this world was irresponsible and everyone who did so should be reminded of that as frequently and harshly as possible. Any of a dozen other nonsensical pronouncements that excused or even encouraged destroying those who most needed protection.

His aversion to children was far more deep-seated than simple proselytizing, but each time Qabian’s thoughts threatened to dwell on the true reasons for his rage, he redirected the emotion into action rather than let honesty and introspection lead to anything more subtle than burning buildings. His hands itched and he flexed his fingers as he tried to decide exactly what actions he would take.

It wouldn’t be the first time the Grim had torched this building. They did so fairly regularly. In fact, they had done it together a matter of months ago. Qabian never learned if there were any actual casualties as a result of such actions. He doubted it. If a stampede of Alliance boots trampled through Orgrimmar, he was fairly certain the orphanage could be warned and the children spirited away to some underground hiding place until the danger passed. Expecting the Alliance couldn’t do the same for their children seemed shortsighted, even if he made a point never to overestimate human intelligence. 

He even remembered attacking the institution several times alone during his early days in the Grim, but it was usually just a side stop on a destructive rampage of his own making.

But on this occasion, it was the sole reason he was in Stormwind at all.

The door to the orphanage creaked open, allowing a beam of light to fall across Qabian’s hooded form. The matron stepped out and set something loose on the step, a small creature, perhaps a mouse, no doubt some child’s pet not hidden stealthily enough from the authorities at bedtime and turned out into the danger of the city. The blood elf in the shadows seized the opportunity.

He blinked across the short span of the square, grabbed the woman, one arm across her face to stifle screams, then pushed her roughly back inside the building and kicked the door closed behind him. A dozen shocked children in various states of preparing for bed stared at their frantically struggling caregiver and the cloaked man that held her.

The matron bit down on his arm. An expected reaction, the mage didn't flinch, but he did burst into flames, then so did she. The children screamed and the chaos began in earnest. The matron’s blazing body collapsed to the floor at Qabian's feet.

The spectre of flame that was a mage under combustion fired a blast at the nearest child. The child ducked under the bed which immediately went up in flames itself. Sparks leapt from the burning bed to loose sheets nearby catching the next bed on fire as the conflagration quickly spread.

Most of the children, seemingly well-trained for such villainy, rushed to the far corner of the room where a panel of the wall slid away. Qabian stalked forward. Crackling ice spread across the floor, ensnaring the ankles of three of the running children. He grabbed the nearest by the wrist when suddenly the door creaked open behind him. Qabian spun around and his hood slipped back.

There shouldn't have been time for help to arrive yet. The night matron was a smoldering pile of nothing. The children hadn't escaped yet. The screams should have been muffled by the enclosed location. Who could have sent help already?

“Matron, it seems one of your young charges thought to go exploring--” A strong but gentle voice explained as the door slowly swung open to reveal a knight in armor, looking down at a little girl whose small hand disappeared in his gauntleted grip. The knight gasped as he took in the scene of chaos and destruction, and immediately pushed the little girl behind him protectively.

The flames enveloping Qabian’s body died away, revealing a highly unpleasant grin of recognition on his elven face.

“You!” the knight shouted.

“Expecting someone else?” Qabian tossed the child he had grabbed at the knight for a moment's distraction, then blinked into the middle of the group of children gathered around their escape route, causing them to shriek and scatter around the burning room.

The knight gently caught the flung child and set it gently to the side. “Everyone! Out the front door!” he bellowed. “I’ll take care of this.”

Qabian laughed as the children rushed to obey. “Of course you will. Think you can actually kill me this time, Cavanaugh?” The blood elf spat the knight’s name.

A hammer of light slammed down onto the mage, stunning him. He knew it was coming and that he’d have to wait it out.

Cavanaugh calmly crossed the room toward the mage, pushing a burning chair to one side to clear a path for the fleeing orphans. He grabbed the dazed mage by the throat, lifting him off his feet, crushing the life out of him. “I know I can, Grim.”

Qabian’s eyes turned upward and he felt consciousness slipping away. He willed himself to focus on his attacker as the hammer’s effects diminished. Another slight crackle was heard before a loud snap as Cavanaugh’s grip was knocked away and the mage was encased in a massive block of ice. “You can't hide in there for long, felspawn.” Cavanaugh snarled.

“Help!” cried a tiny voice amidst the roar of the fire. The first child that had dodged Qabian's attack was pinned under the flaming furniture that had initially saved his life. A little girl was pulling on his arm, futilely trying to free him before the mass of fire and char collapsed on both of them.

Cavanaugh hesitated a moment, weighing those two children's lives against the dozens or hundreds that would be saved if the blood elf could be permanently ended right then.

The hesitation was enough for the mage. The ice block shimmered away and Qabian blinked to the exit. “Better luck next time, hero.”

Cavanaugh quickly freed the child and dashed to the door, holding the boy in his arms. The little girl rescuer hid behind the knight's strong form in the doorway. Cavanaugh sighed. The elf was long gone.

“The bad guy just vanished! Disappeared! Poof!” said one of the orphans that had gathered in the square.

“Do not concern yourself with that, little one,” Cavanaugh said, kneeling as he made certain each of the children was all right. A patrol was already approaching from the cathedral.

“Why did he attack us, Sir?” another small voice piped up.

“Because there are evil monsters, ones that wish to do only harm. You are safe now, and I will stay close to make sure you are safe, Light willing.”

“Will he come back?”

Cavanaugh smiled at the child and patted his head. “Don't worry. I will catch him. And I will make sure he gets what he deserves.”

“Easier said than done, friend,” Qabian murmured from his hiding place around the corner, the last word intoned like a slur before he teleported away.

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“You! You’re under arrest,” Cavanaugh marched into the Legerdemain lounge, pointing an accusing finger at one of the patrons who was sitting at the bar, sipping at a steaming mug.
 
The handful of people in the establishment looked around. A few of them got up to leave. Qabian turned just his head, slowly raising an eyebrow at the commotion without lowering his mug. 
 
Cavanaugh slammed a gauntleted fist on the bar next to the blood elf. “Now.”
 
Qabian finally put down his coffee then lifted his hands in front of him, palms out, otherwise relaxed. “By you?” Qabian asked.
 
“Yes, by me. Get up.”
 
“You think this is Stormwind?” Qabian spoke slowly, plying that thick accent of his over the Common words. “You have no power here. I lived here when your father was a child. This is my city.”
 
“The Council will see the truth,” Cavanaugh growled. “Get up,” he commanded a second time.
 
Qabian tilted his head, then gave Cavanaugh a slow grin followed by a shrug, just as slow with a dramatic twist of the wrist. “You have such faith. Let us see.” He stood, again slow and calm, brushing non-existent dust from his robes. “But answer this: Why?”
 
Cavanaugh took a deep breath, folding his arms across his unmistakeable white and red tabard. “Do not toy with me, mage.”
 
Qabian held his arms to either side in a gesture of innocence, but the smirk on his face showed only arrogance. “As you wish.”
 
Qabian walked out into the street at a relaxed saunter, his hands clasped behind his back, his face turned up to smile at the sparkling tower of the Violet Spire. Cavanaugh followed behind, armor clanking with each frustrated step. “Move faster, mage.”
 
“Why hurry? A few more minutes delayed justice?” Qabian said, but picked up the pace nonetheless.
 
In the foyer of the Spire, the Council were conspicuous in their absence. A human woman in thick glasses and a Kirin Tor tabard stepped forward. “Sir Cavanaugh. Magister. May I be of assistance?”
 
Cavanaugh bowed low. “If it please, madam, this man is a murderer. I request his extradition to Stormwind.”
 
The woman dipped her head, looking over the top of her glasses at the two men, then sighed. “Perhaps we should have this discussion somewhere more discreet.” She led them up the main stairs to one of the parlors. Closing the door behind them, she looked pointedly at Cavanaugh. “What has he done this time?”
 
Come now, Redgrave. You’d take his word over mine? You know me,” Qabian interrupted in Thalassian.
 
“Yes, I do, Amberlight. That's precisely why I'd take anyone's word over yours.”
 
Cavanaugh cleared his throat. “He murdered the night matron of the Cathedral Square Orphanage in cold blood.”
 
“He lies. I was nowhere near Stormwind,” Qabian snapped. The encounter wasn't going quite as he'd expected.
 
Redgrave took off her glasses and began to clean them. “You have an alibi?”
 
“Of course. I was in Suramar.”
 
Cavanaugh snarled. “I saw you with my own eyes, fiend.”
 
“Prove it!” Qabian spat back.
 
“Then you can present your alibi in Stormwind,” Redgrave suggested.
 
“Is -- Is that a joke?” Qabian stammered, his Common suddenly fluent and accent free. “You must be joking. Stormwind has never treated my people fairly and is unlikely to hear shal’dorei truth over the lies of one of their own sons. If I must be forced to present evidence of my innocence, let me present it in Silvermoon where at least my head will still be attached to my shoulders by the time I'm heard.”
 
“Nonsense,” said Redgrave, waving a hand. “The alleged crime was in Stormwind. They will hear the evidence.”
 
Qabian scowled. “I see Jaina still runs the Kirin Tor,” he said in Thalassian.
 
“Careful, Amberlight,” Redgrave warned.
 
“That's not my name. And you can't simply interfere in my work with the Tirisgarde. Have Modera play my shadow again at least until my projects are complete,” Qabian suggested, a note of desperation edging into his voice. There were few things that mattered to him, but his own survival was one of them.
 
“Don't tell me what to do, Magister.” Redgrave stomped a heel. “You will go to Stormwind, and the Kirin Tor will send an advisor to ensure you have your say. Will you do this willingly, or must you be forced?”
 
Cavanaugh watched the exchange in grim but polite silence.
 
Qabian hesitated to answer. He took a few steps backward. His expression shifted from panic to rage, then to cold determination. “Fine,” he said finally.
 
Redgrave stepped forward, closing the space he’d made between them. “Your arm.”
 
Qabian obeyed, but said quietly, “You’ll regret this.”
 
“I sincerely hope that’s not a threat, Magister,” Redgrave said as she closed two halves of a thin gold band around his wrist.
 
“You’ll find out, won't you?” Qabian muttered.
 
The woman turned to Cavanaugh and handed him a small golden key. “He won’t be able to cast spells while the band is locked. I entrust you’ll be able to handle him otherwise.”
 
Cavanaugh took the key and bowed low. “Of course, madam.”

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Qabian scowled, his whole body tensed while a disturbingly fit, older human woman wearing plate and chain under a Stormwind city tabard ran her hands down his bare legs. He wanted nothing more than to obliterate her with a meteor and spit in the ash cloud left behind, but a slim gold band around his wrist -- the only thing other than a plain undergarment he was still wearing -- kept him from doing anything of the sort. He’d already elbowed his way free of one of the male guards and a growing bruise below Qabian’s left eye was all he had to show for it. The mage wasn’t feeble, unhealthy, or unfit himself, but without magic or weapons to speak of, dexterity only had so much value.
 
It wasn’t the first time he’d been in prison. He could remember a time when it seemed he was in and out of some lockup or another every few months. It wasn’t even the first time he’d been imprisoned by humans in a mostly human city, but past experience was doing little to calm him, and that time, he had been far from alone.
 
There had been little action between the tower and the Stockade, where Qabian was unceremoniously dumped on the guards who immediately set about stripping him of everything, both valuable and valueless -- all of which, including his robes and tabard, as far as Qabian was concerned, was given up for lost. His habit of keeping most important items on his person would hurt, but he had no intention of staying in the Stockade, and his priority was freedom, not wasting time or opportunity wandering around searching for his gear.
 
The woman finished manhandling him and passed him a small pile of tattered, off-white muslin from a nearby table. He grimaced, unfolding it to find a simple tunic and trousers. “I need more. A cloak.” The smooth, fluent Common he’d used to plead for himself back in the Violet Spire vanished beneath a thick accent and short sentences again.
 
The woman just shrugged. “Get dressed,” she ordered.
 
“No. Need more. A plain sheet even.” Qabian shook the pile of cloth, pinched between two fingers. “This will get me killed.”
 
“Good. Get dressed.”
 
Qabian hesitated, then complied. Someone was going to die for this. A lot of people were going to die for this. He stared at her, eyes narrowed in as blatant seething hatred as he could manage while he judged where on her person she might keep her keys for both frequent use and prevention of pickpocketing. He gingerly stepped into the frayed but clean clothing, muttering to himself in Thalassian. “I’m going to take a very long swim in the Sunwell as soon as I’m out of here.
 
The guard’s hard expression didn’t change, but she calmly informed him, “Talk like that again, and you won’t be eating this week.”
 
Qabian raised an eyebrow. “You understand?”
 
“No, but one more word and you’ll regret it.”
 
Qabian nodded, frowning as he slipped the shirt over his head.
 
The guard grabbed his arm, dragging him down a hall lit by lanterns. Qabian peered into the other cells they passed. None of the other occupants seemed to be dressed in a similarly frayed pajama set, but they did look like common rogues and bandits who had been wearing the same clothes for months. He didn’t see a single set of mage robes.
 
The guard shoved him into a surprisingly spacious cell that clanged shut behind him. The roughness was thoroughly unnecessary, but he didn’t expect any better from humans. Qabian rubbed his upper arm as he looked around. Two other figures, a large, bulky human, snoring loudly on a straw-filled mat, and a young, thin one -- not really a child, but gangly with a round, large-eyed face that made it difficult to consider him grown -- was cowering in between two other bedrolls on the damp stone floor. Qabian frowned as he judged the situation. He wondered if he was being thrown in here for a particular reason, or if humans cared that little about what they did with whoever they deemed criminal. He suspected the latter.
 
Qabian pointed at the mats. “Which is mine?” The figure didn’t answer, just stared at him, dark eyes wide with fear. Qabian raised an eyebrow, then shrugged. He grabbed the nearest mat, sat down with it over his lap, then proceeded to tear it apart.
 
“Y-you shouldn’t do that,” the boy stammered.
 
“Don’t care,” Qabian said without looking up from his work, using his teeth to pull out individual threads from the edging of the mat and the surface of thick linen.
 
“W-why are you doing that?”
 
Qabian glared at the boy. The boy shrank back against the wall. “To hide this.” Qabian pointed at his ear. “And these.” He motioned to his eyes.
 
“Oh.” The boy seemed oddly calmed by the explanation. “Where will you sleep?”
 
“On stones.”
 
“Oh.”
 
Qabian proceeded to piece together a makeshift cloak from the thick fabric of the mat. Straw was scattering everywhere, but the cell was hardly tidy enough for it to make much difference. He sewed without a needle, something he had done once before, forcing the thread through natural spaces in the weave of the fabric. The stitching, if it could be called that, would be weak, uneven, ugly, but if the knots were sturdy enough, it should hold decently. He didn’t plan to be in the Stockade long enough to wear it out. “Cold?” Qabian asked, without looking up.
 
The boy, who had been staring curiously at the mage’s hands as he worked, jumped at the sudden question. “What?”
 
Qabian paused to point at him. “You shake. Because you are cold?”
 
“No.”
 
“Fear.”
 
The boy rested his forehead on his knees. “Yes,” he said, the word muffled by his chest.
 
“My people hurt you.” It was not a question.
 
The boy looked up. “How did you know?”
 
“Obvious.” Qabian smirked at the boy. “Humans killed my parents,” Qabian lied, holding up two fingers. “Get over it.”
 
The boy hesitated a moment, chewing on his bottom lip, then asked, “Why are you here?”
 
“Betrayed. By humans.”
 
“Oh.”
 
“Happens many times.” Qabian turned back to his project. “You,” he said, tilting his head as he spoke, “I think... stealing?”
 
“How did you know?” the boy asked again.
 
Qabian tugged free another thread and laughed. “Too skinny for much else.”
 
“Oh.” The boy put his head on his knees again.
 
“Pick locks?” Qabian asked.
 
The boy was silent, but his body moved as though he was stifling sobs.
 
Qabian glanced at the sleeping figure on the other side of the cell, then leaned toward the boy to say quietly in accent-free Common, “If you can pick locks, I can get us both out of here.”
 
The boy looked up, staring wide again, though this time his fear was tempered by both confusion and desperate hope. “Yes, but I have no picks.”
 
Qabian, his voice still low, said, “If I can bring you, say, a needle, can you unlock this?” He held out his arm towards the boy, showing the golden band.
 
The boy flinched at first, then shifted closer to the mage. He pinched the band between two fingers and peered at the tiny lock mechanism. “Maybe. It’s magic.”
 
Qabian smiled at the boy. To those who didn’t know the mage, it may even have actually seemed genuine. “How did you know?”
 
The boy’s curiosity faded and his expression turned to panic. “I-I don’t. It’s -- I --”
 
“Don’t worry about it. We will get out of here.”
 
“If you say so, mister. W-what’s your name?”
 
Qabian shook his head, this time more seriously, switching back to a more conversational volume and the thick accent. “No. No name. Call me Grim. I call you Boy.”
 
The boy shrugged. “I’m nineteen.”
 
Qabian laughed. “Boy.” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder, indicating their snoring cellmate. “Him, too?”
 
Boy whimpered, a disconcertingly childish sound. “Please no”
 
Qabian grinned wickedly. “Consider him dead,” he whispered.
 
Boy smiled ever so slightly before putting his head back down on his knees as Qabian went back to mangling the bedroll into a cloak large enough to pull down over his face and hide his eyes.
 

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((Bad words and violence~))

In the middle of the night, Qabian was awoken by a rough kick to his ribs. “You. Did you touch the kid?”
 
Qabian grunted, then pulled his hood down low over his face. “No.”
 
“Good.” The large man who had been sleeping earlier in the day moved away.
 
“You don’t touch him, too,” Qabian said.
 
The man guffawed. “Going to stop me, scarecrow?”
 
Qabian sat up, then pulled back his hood, his green eyes shining in the darkness. “No. But I know your wife. She might.”
 
The man picked up Qabian by his frayed linen collar and slammed him against the wall. “Elf lies! I’ll kill you right now!” the man shouted.
 
Qabian rubbed the back of his head. “Try it, but I know who fucks your wife, and is not you.” He grinned wickedly.
 
“What?!” the man shouted so loud, he sparked the sounds of guards coming to check on the commotion. “Who? Who?! WHO?!” He shook the blood elf, rattling his skull against the stone of the wall.
 
Qabian tried to convince the man to stop with an outstretched hand, finally placing a palm directly on the man’s face before he paused his assault. “I -- I -- I tell you,” Qabian managed to say. He motioned with a finger for the man to get closer, then whispered in his ear.
 
The man screamed and threw Qabian to the floor. The large man stomped around the cell, rattling the bars and shouting incoherently. A half-dozen guards clanked up to the cell to drag the furious man away. 
 
Qabian rubbed at the bridge of his nose, catching his breath as the pain of hitting a stone wall several times resonated through his body. Distant shouts and thumping sounds could be heard for some time. Qabian pulled his hood back low, sitting up against the bars and watching the hallway. The larger cellmate was returned a short time later, unconscious with his hands bound behind his back. The guards dumped him on the floor, then rolled back into corner of the cell.
 
When the guards had been gone for some time and the lanterns in the hall had been snuffed out again, the boy, who had been pretending to sleep through the entire event, shuffled across the floor to where Qabian was sitting. “Grim? Grim, how do you know his wife?” Boy whispered.
 
Qabian’s smirk was dimly lit by his eyes beneath his hood. “I don’t.”
 
“Huh?”
 
“It’s a common story. He looked inbred enough for it to be likely. To be honest, he looked stupid enough to believe it even if he's not married,” Qabian explained quietly.
 
“Who did you say was fucking her, then?” asked Boy.
 
“His brother.”
 
Boy clapped a hand over his mouth, his eyes glinting with stifled laughter in the darkness. “Did you know he had a brother?”
 
“No,” Qabian said, then lifted a finger to his lips. “None of that works on anyone with half a brain. I got lucky.”
 
“He could have killed you.”
 
Qabian nodded. “Just being here could kill me. If we're going to get out of here, I need to rest,” he said, tugging at his hood.
 
“Okay,” Boy said, then crawled back over to his mat.
 
Qabian slept sitting up against the wall the rest of the night, growing bruises preventing him from lying down.

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((Straight up murder))

After two meals of bread and water, evening and morning, the blood elf accustomed to seafood and arcwine knew his strength was going to wane and he needed to set his scheme in motion quickly. Not to mention he had no idea how long he had before Cavanaugh arrived with a noose in hand.
 
Qabian leaned against the bars of the cell, watching pairs of guards patrol through the hallway. He smirked slowly as his target finally came into view. As the pair walked past, Qabian banged on the bars. “Richards,” Qabian hissed. 
 
One of the guards jerked his head around to glare at Qabian, then came over and kicked the bars Qabian was leaning on. “Did I give you permission to talk to me, blood elf.”
 
Qabian raised his hands, palms out. “Apologies. Thought you wanted to know about your daughter.”
 
The guard reached through the bars and dragged Qabian up by the front of his ragged tunic. “Don’t you start with me. Everyone in here’s hoping you have an accident and end up dead.”
 
“Quel’thalas,” Qabian whispered, their noses nearly touching. “I know who has her, and if I die, so does she.” Qabian wrapped his fingers tightly around the guard’s wrist. “We make a deal. Then I tell you how to find her. Then you kill me all you like.”
 
Richards hesitated. Qabian grinned as he read the man’s thoughts on his face. Here he was, holding in his own hands the person who likely caused him the most pain he’d ever experienced, but if he took his revenge, he risked losing everything when he was on the very cusp of gaining it all back. He yanked Qabian forward, causing the mage’s face to slam against the bars and the hood slip back off his head, but Richards asked quietly, “What do you want?”
 
Qabian gingerly touched his already bruised cheekbone, then sighed. “Needle and thread. For this.” He tapped the guard’s fist where it was tearing the thin fabric of the tunic. “And,” Qabian glanced over his shoulder at his larger, still unconscious but once again snoring cellmate. “A private cell. After last night, hm? That’s all. Nothing to cause alarm. Nothing to lose your job. Hm? In return, your daughter.”
 
“Fine. I’ll be back in an hour,” Richards said, keeping his voice low. He tossed the blood elf back to the floor, with a loud, “You’re going to hang, blood elf.”
 
“Can’t wait,” Qabian muttered, pulling his hood back up over his face, hoping he still had a few bones intact by the time it was over.
 
In a dank, windowless cell, it was impossible to tell exactly how long the guard took to return, but he did. He unlocked Qabian’s cell and beckoned to him with one hand. Qabian lifted his hood briefly to wink at Boy, then followed Richards quietly. As they walked away, Boy’s gaze turned apprehensively on the snoring man lying on the other side of the cell.
 
Richards led Qabian around the corner to a darker, much smaller cell at the end of the row and pushed the blood elf roughly inside. “Now tell me where she is,” the guard said, his tone angry.
 
Qabian held out an open palm. “Needle.”
 
Richards slapped the requested item into Qabian’s hand, then shoved him back against the wall. “Tell me!”
 
Qabian took the shove in stride, and lifted a finger to his lips. “Shh. You don’t want others hearing what I have to say. Come closer.”
 
Richards took a cautious step forward, as did Qabian, leaning in as though to whisper, before finally taking the opportunity he’d so carefully conjured. Qabian sidestepped the guard and spun around behind him, bringing an arm across the guard’s face and yanking backward, while the other hand tore the ring of keys out of the surprised man's grip. One of the long iron keys in his fist, Qabian drove the metal instrument inward and upward into the guard’s eye socket.
 
The man howled and struggled, but his screams were muffled by Qabian’s arm across his mouth, and the elf put a knee to the man’s back to keep him in place as he repeatedly slammed the key as far as he could get it to go inside the man’s head. The guard bit down on Qabian’s arm, but the elf’s only reaction was a hiss of pain. He’d been prepared for that much. 
 
The struggle was over quickly. Qabian let the guard’s body slide to the ground while he twisted the keyring to extricate his makeshift weapon from the man’s eye socket. Blood dripped down Qabian’s arm from the bite wound. His torn tunic was stained brilliant red with both his own blood and that of his victim.
 
“I buried her shallow six months ago, idiot,” Qabian said quietly, turning the twitching corpse over roughly with one foot before turning away. 
 
Qabian looked out into the hall to assess the situation. Nothing seemed out of place. He carefully watched the guard patrols for his chance, then dashed back to the previous cell, holding his wounded arm close to his chest. Boy stared with wide eyes at the bloodied elf as Qabian staggered with multiple gory keys before successfully unlocking the cell door.
 
Qabian quietly closed the door behind him, leaving it unlocked, then rushed to the back corner of the cell, grabbing Boy by the shoulder. The elf held out the needle in his palm. “You need to do this. Now,” he hissed. 
 
The pair crouched conspiratorially with their backs to the bars. They had until someone noticed the missing guard, the trail of blood drops in the hall, or the fact that the cell door was slightly ajar. Boy took hold of the needle and the slim gold band around Qabian’s wrist and went to work manipulating the tiny locking mechanism. 
 
Boy worked in silence for what felt like eternity when strange noises began to echo through the halls behind them. “Shh,” Qabian whispered. “There is no one else here. There is just you and the lock. Nothing else exists. Just you. And the lock.” 
 
The sounds of the guards congregating in the hallway got louder. Boy began to whimper. “Shh,” Qabian said as soothingly as he could. Boy’s hands began to shake.
 
A loud cracking sound echoed suddenly through the cell. The gold band shattered and a layer of frost began to spread out across the floor and walls of the cell from where Boy’s feet touched the floor. Qabian raised an eyebrow, rubbing at his finally freed wrist. “You’re a mage?”
 
Boy was just staring at his own hands. “N-no. Didn’t you do that?”
 
Qabian shook his head.
 
The crawling frost reached their snoring companion and he stirred in his sleep. Without hesitation, Qabian gestured and the large man shrieked as he burst into flames.
 
Qabian grabbed Boy’s hand. “We have to go. Now.” The boy didn’t have a chance to respond before Qabian dragged him into the hall where an approaching guard suddenly found herself clopping around on four porcine hooves.
 
Qabian tossed the ring of keys into the nearest cell he passed, where its occupants were standing at the bars, curiously trying to decipher the commotion. Qabian gave them a lazy salute and received hoots and hollars in return as they dove for the ring of keys.

Qabian and Boy dashed for the stairs, sowing fire and chaos ahead, the gangly teenager desperately trying not to trip over his own feet behind. By the time they finally escaped the Stockade itself, the crowd of guards collecting behind them was distracted by more and more prisoners escaping their cells. 

Qabian ran out into the city, locking the ankles of the guards at the door to the cobblestones with a blast of ice.
 
“Is it true,” Boy asked, finding a moment to catch his breath as they ran.
 
“What?” Qabian said, annoyed.
 
“Did you kill the matron at the orphanage?”
 
“What?” Qabian demanded again, jerking the boy towards him.
 
“The guards... I heard them saying...”
 
Qabian spun around a corner into an alley. “Does it matter?" he hissed. "I got you out of there, didn't I? Do you want me to teach you how to use that magic you didn’t know you had, or not?”
 
Boy stared at Qabian’s blood-smeared face. “Y-yes?”
 
“Here.” Qabian held out his hand, palm up. A long dagger of an icicle quickly took shape there.
 
As Boy reached out to take the ice, Qabian closed his fist around it and slammed the sharp point into the boy’s chest. “Don’t,” the mage said, emotionless.
 
The boy stared down in surprise at the blood spreading across his own shirt, then toppled forward.
 
“There's your lesson,” Qabian said as he stepped over the body into the space between realities, teleporting away.

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Smiling as he walked into the cathedral of Light the Paladin slowly walked toward the altar, glancing about at the rather empty building, only a few members of the clergy were gathered about, hastily preparing for something, an upcoming service perhaps, a visit from the King... it didn't matter to Cavanaugh, they didn't notice him and he didn't much feel like any interaction. Kneeling before the altar at the base of the steps he removed a small locket from his satchel and pressed it to his lips slowly as he recited a family prayer in a hushed tone that was only audible to the Knight. After a few moments, he moved the locket from his lips and opened  briefly and a warm smile spread across his, before he snapped it shut and returned the ornate necklace to its place in his pouch, rising to his feet and straightening out his tabard as he made his way to a meeting with Brother Crowley.

Going over a report with the Scarlet priest, he was hardly engaged, but courteous, his mind was wandering to the prisoner that he had brought to the Stockade, 'What sort of trial is required? What if it was required that the children be brought before the Magistrate? That could put them in danger... would his testimony alone be enough?'  He knew that he was no longer held in favor by the King's court, and his resignation from both the Military and the Silver Hand was not looked upon favorably by the faithless and weak.

"My lord!" A deep voice echoed through the stone walls of the cathedral's basement, a warrior and escort of the Scarlet Crusader burst into the room with as much flair as you might expect from a ham fisted soldier of the Crusade, "The mage... he- he has escaped!" trying to catch his breath as he gave the information to Sir Cavanaugh, "Somehow he was able to escape, he removed the bracelet, his cell mate was killed, some guards... perhaps others!"

The Paladin slowly looked up from the parchment before him, and a look of boredom was replaced by a furrowed brow and a scowl that hardly masked the fury that was building within the Paladin as he was given the new. "WHAT?!" he bellowed, as he quickly stood, slamming his gauntlet down on the table, his chair flying back and making a loud thud against the wall as it toppled on its side to the ground.

Looking at his escorts the Paladin nodded, and beckoned to the door. "To the Stockades... now! Crowley... this will have to wait!" the small troupe marching to the door, Brother Crowley bowing his head as he watched the Knight make haste to the door.

Leading the way and walking with an almost possessed pace the troupe made its way toward the stockades, the warrior taking to his mount and riding ahead, advising the commoners who remained in the city to make way, out of courtesy to the Crusaders and the populace, it was unlikely that they would have hesitated in trampling any citizens who were caught off guard by their march.

As they arrived at the Stockades Cavanaugh looked about, ordering two of his men to remain outside he marched past the sentry set up to prevent entry and his heart seemed to go into his throat as he surveyed the bloody scene the greeted him in the hallways of the Stockades.

One of the guards recounted what had happened to Sir Cavanaugh and he listened intently, containing his anger, outwardly to the Guard, almost lending a sympathetic ear as he seethed inside, 'Why would they put a savage, accused of murder, and implicated in other possible attacks just based on his organization... in a cell with a common thief, or with ANY of the general populace...at best this was incompetence, at worst collaboration...' the thoughts were streaming through his head, as he was being told the details of what had happened, hardly paying much attention once he learned all he thought was necessary.

"May the Light bless you and your brothers in arms, this was not your folly, you did what you could. May the child and guards that were harmed rest peacefully..." the paladin put his hand on the soldier's shoulder, he knew the young man was not a child, but certainly this would play better... and the fire needed to be stoked. His outward calm and discipline hiding a storm that was brewing inside as he made his way to the Warden's office, nodding for his last two escorts to remain outside the door, he entered calmly and closed the door behind him, a condescending smile spread across the Paladin's face...

"So was it just incompetence that allowed for this to happen? Or are you colluding with savages of the Horde now? Sending their murderers back to the front line for the 'Greater Good'?" the paladin asked in a tone that was very outwardly belittling to the Warden.

"You are not going to march in here while I am dealing with a crises, Crusader, and make accusations of -me- in -my- city! We have enough to deal with then having to put up with your paranoia!" snapped the warden, his patience was at its end and he hardly had the will to deal with the aristocratic jabs the Scarlet was likely going to give him, thinking that was enough to send the Crusader on his way... he was mistaken.

Nearly as soon as his eyes returned to the desk his table was thrown out of the way and Sir Cavanaugh grabbed him by the throat and raised him to eye level, his eyes lacking the clam he entered the room with, filled with fury, "-You- will indulge me you insolent wretch. If you were under my command I would have you executed for your incompetence and disrespect. You are at best a fool, and at worst a traitor. I tend to lean towards the latter."

"Unhand me... you... zealous..." the Paladin tightened his grip as the man spoke, obviously more then a match for the Warden, and unconcerned with his words and cutting them off, with his breath.

"Be silent, worm. I would kill you here and now if I thought you a threat... thankfully, your poor decisions will likely lead to your dismissal regardless, and hopefully your imprisonment within these very halls... and your own charges will do my work for me... and I will -SEE- that they do. As you know... our coin is not in short supply." A calm smile returned to his face as he threw the Warden into his chair, leaning down and placing his hands on the arms of the seats, his face just inches from the Warden's, "The Light have mercy on your soul."

Coughing the Warden looked to the ground, rubbing his neck. He thought to call for guard, perhaps try to jail the Crusader for his assault, but he had enough trouble on his hands with this event, and he knew that even though Sir Cavanaugh had fallen out of favor, he was still needed on the front lines, there would not be anything but a slap on the wrist for what had just occurred... if any punishment was levied at all.

"Get out..." he coughed out at the Knight, still catching his breath, reeling from the exchange that just occurred.

The Paladin stared down at the man, for a few moments longer, a look of disgust and disdain still on his face as he made a quick about face toward the door, looking back, "You -will- pay for your incompetence." Opening the door and nodding at his men to leave. Several of the guards peeked into the room noticing the mess, but did nothing, simply nodding at the Crusaders as they made their way to streets.

"Summon Odesserion, we must make our way to Dalaran, and he shall open a portal... I must speak with this... Redgrave." Cavanaugh looked about as his troupe made haste to the mage district.

------

 

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Qabian chose to go immediately to Suramar for healing, not because they were particularly notable for their skills, but because among his circle of influence there, he had access to ley-infused aromatic baths. While the healers had taken as good care of him as could be expected, bleeding staunched, bruises reduced to mild discolorations, he found himself continually touching or staring at his arm where a slight and fading scar of the bite he’d taken remained. Fragments of memories taunted him from a time when fear of something much worse than a simple physical disease had plagued his every breath. 
 
He stepped into the water and let the arcane essence provide comfort and rejuvenation like he had never found anywhere else. He hadn’t been without magic particularly long this time, but there was no worse feeling. The loss of magic was at the core of Qabian’s deepest fears. He would rather suffer a thousand bites than wear that band again. The bath was the perfect remedy, a resolution to old longings for the horizon.
 
As he relaxed more and more into the water, he let himself slip completely beneath the surface. The pain and fear of the recent ordeal drifted away, leaving a pure, unadulterated rage tensing through his core as he held his breath.
 
Curiously, it wasn’t Cavanaugh bearing the brunt of Qabian’s anger. Cavanaugh only did exactly what Qabian might have expected him to do, like an animal with no will of its own simply following its instincts. Qabian had taken the risk of being caught at the orphanage and willingly suffered the consequences for that. Redgrave, on the other hand, was going to pay the price for her betrayal. She should have been Kirin Tor first, then Dalaran, then human. Instead, she reversed the order, and when everything else about the situation washed away, Qabian focused on that betrayal with pinpoint clarity. She would have to be dealt with.
 
When holding his breath finally edged into pain, Qabian broke the surface of the water to taste the sweet, magic-tinged air. He leaned back against the edge of the bath, his thoughts churning as he planned to make sure the traitor was dealt with as effectively as possible.
 
Hours later, Qabian found himself back in his Dalaran apartment gathering up his belongings. He hadn't had time to accumulate that much in the months since the bronze, and the most important had already been lost to the hands of the Alliance. He selected a set of plain robes almost too remarkable for their plainness. 
 
He would keep the place paid and furnished but without occupant for the near future. Though it would no doubt be watched for a time by Stormwind supporters once news spread, Qabian felt fairly certain any backlash would die quickly. No matter what ostentatious villainy he chose to commit, there were far too many in the Kirin Tor who owed him favors. He would be back.
 
The black panther cub that shared his residence spun around his ankles. Qabian planned to leave it behind. Again. He had no doubt it would manage to follow him anyway.
 
The mage stood with a single packed bag and stared down at his hand. He had to make a choice: Tirisfal or Quel’thalas. It was harder than it should have been, but there were reasons not to want to go to either. He held his breath a moment, then decided on the riskier but less aesthetically vile option.
 
The panther cub sat staring at the empty space where the mage had been a moment ago.

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Bursting into the offices of the Kirin Tor, the Scarlet made his way hastily to Regrave's office, his eyes fixated on the door as he walked, his small escort drew the attention of several other members of the Kirin Tor and the two Knights did an about face as the Crusader entered her office and shut the door behind him, quietly.

"You know... Miss Redgrave, I would have thought some competence was required for this position..." he calmly removed his gauntlet his tone as friendly yet condescending as possible as he took a seat across from the woman, casually leaning back in the chair.

Caught a bit off guard at his brazen entrance the mage looked up flatly, "What do you want, Scarlet? I haven't the time for games." she responded, only looking up for a moment, attempting with her body language to convey that she was far too busy to be bothered with any petty business that the Crusader might have. "We are, in case you didn't know, in the middle of planning for our final assault on the Tomb," a small smile appears if only for a moment, "Certainly there is something -else- you can be doing?"

"Oh, I certainly do, I shouldn't be doing other peoples jobs. Like yours for example... or the guards of Stormwind." leaning forward a bit, slowly and calmly removing his gauntlets and placing them on her desk, "What sort of device did you put around the Mage's wrist, Amberlight has escaped and I can't imagine that frail savage could have succeeded in such an endeavor simply based on his physical skills, he isn't exactly known for his constitution."

The mage looked up, a bit of shock and dread on her face realizing now why the Paladin had come. The thought of Qabian escaping sent a small chill down her spine. She knew he wouldn't take her handing him over to Stormwind authorities lightly. "I-I he, what?" she stammered a bit, caught off guard at the news. Redgrave had assumed that the mage would be indisposed for quite some time if he was truly guilty, or out of her hair completely...

"You know, I of course blame the fools that guard him for their deciding to place him within the same cell as a common thief, and the bungling Kirin Tor for placing such a simple device of his wrist to hamper his magical prowess. A wrist guard that can be removed by a novice. However, it seems that with the new commanders of this city come with some instances of gross incompetence, perhaps you didn't want to feel left out?" His snide tone not hiding his disdain a bit, his eyes cutting through her as if she wasn't even there. "I imagine he won't be happy with you... and I must admit I am not exactly satisfied either... you should have secured him properly. Or perhaps handed him over to my organization to deal with his crime. We have very effective measures for handling these types of situations."

Redgrave glanced at the Knight and his tabard for a moment before locking eyes, "I would -never- just hand someone over to -YOUR- organization. It would be disastrous for our relationship with the Horde-" 

He cut her off and slammed his fist on her desk, "What is disastrous -IS- our relationship with the Horde! And the fact that we must suffer -THESE- savages and let them roam free in -ALLIANCE- cities like Dalaran even -AFTER- they have committed so many crimes against the Light, GIRL! Do not tell me about our relationships! Perhaps Lady Proudmoore needs to return to cleanse this city again, not only of the traitorous Sin'dorei and their Horde allies, but also of the less than competent Kirin Tor who sacrifice their honor for a tenuous peace!" He leans over her, his eyes narrowed not taking care that his voice was rising as he spoke. 

She took note of his rant and was quite aware of the position of the Scarlet Hand, trying to remain calm, but when he called her "girl" she nearly lost it. His belittling tone, his obvious warmongering, even if in the back of her mind she did wish for Jaina's return and supported her, and would have been apologetic for the escape of the mage, it was this sort of attitude that drove her back towards the current council and its stance. "Get out! I don't have time for YOU or your zealous, xenophobic attitude!" Her voice echoed through the halls.

Provoking a reaction was his goal and he smiled, picking up his gauntlets he began to place them back on, clasping them and keep his eyes locked on hers the entire time, "You know, one day, Lady Proudmoore may return, and when she does I hope this city is no longer a haven to traitors to the Alliance like you, and the rest of your organization. Selling your souls for convenience, instead of having the faith in oneself and the Light." he smiled and reached out and tapped her face lightly, she recoiled in anger. "Light guide you." he smiled and said to her as he walked out of the room, nodding at his escort as they made their way down the hall.

One magistrate peeked in and he could see her still staring at the empty door, seething... barely able to catch her breath, as the Paladin calmly walked down the halls and out to the streets of Dalaran.

 

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