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The Prison of the Mind

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Brinnea tried to cast a rune. She didn't want a large, easily noticed blast of frost, but a small amount of ice. She felt the usual surge of power flow through her body as a rune activated, but then it all vanished as soon as it appeared. The wards on the cell were top-notch, it seemed. She was not particularly surprised. Now I know, she thought to herself, And I had to know.

A guard clanged his baton against a bar of her cage to get her attention. Brinnea had been aware of him before he knew she was, though. She turned her head to look at him -- an average-looking blood elf with his verdent green eyes, chiseled jawline, and vaguely smug expression. He spoke to her unpleasantly, clearly thinking very lowly of her, "You have a visitor. Your only visitor." Brinnea pulled herself up and off the small bed and stood before the cell door as the guard unlocked it. She held her hands straight out in front of her, awaiting the shackles that inevitably clasped around her wrists. She had no intentions of breaking the rules. Not here.

The guards escorted her to another holding cell, this one twice as large as her own. She was seated at a finely polished wooden table with red and gold enameling across from an empty chair. The guards who had escorted her stood against the wall near her back as another pair of elves strolled in from the door on the far wall, just behind the second chair. One of the elves was dark of skin, a shade of violet with fel-green markings, short black horns, and flowing black hair like ocean waves in the night. Her hair even shimmered in the dull torchlight as though glistening under a full moon. It evoked a pretty picture in Brinnea's mind, though she didn't much care for the open sea.

The demon huntress's brightly lit fel sockets simmered slyly in Brinnea's direction as the elf took a seat in the vacant chair. Brinnea kept her shackled hands in her lap and struck all emotion from her face as she had done a thousand times before. One of the guards spoke. "Ten minutes," he said simply.

"You hear that, Brinnea?" the demon huntress said with a voice as silken smooth as her hair, "I do hope whatever you asked me here for won't take too long to explain."

Brin replied politely, "Not to worry, Shanoris. I know you have much to preoccupy you of late. Hopefully this favor won't require too much of your attention."

Shanoris took a deep breath, tapping her fingernail against the table rhythmically. She was just as Brinnea remembered her, though she had not expected an elf as old as Shanoris to have changed much in only a year's time. The huntress never sat still, never kept her hands from moving for longer than half a minute before fidgeting. And she regarded Brinnea with a blind gaze that spoke of distrust and cynicism. Rightly earned, I suppose. Her sister gave her life so that I could keep mine. 

Shanoris replied, "Yes, I am sure you noticed the massive new satellite Azeroth just received. Have you ever heard that term, Brinnea? 'Satellite?' It's an astronomical term invented by my people after centuries of gazing skyward with wonder and enchantment. It is a celestial body that orbits another. In this case, it refers to Argus. It orbits us now." She smiled ruefully. "How lucky are we to have such a splendid deliverer as Illidan Stormrage?"

"If his methods give you such stress, why did you choose to follow in his footsteps?" Brinnea asked simply. She regretted engaging the huntress in a long-winded tangent with so short a time to spare, but she needed Shanoris' interest to get the job she needed done handled.

Shanoris exhaled harshly. "He gets things done quickly, one way or another. I may have lived a long time, but much of that time was spent in a dark cell. At least, I think it was dark. Regardless, I don't like wasting what time Elune saw fit to grant me."

"I hope you won't blame me for getting to the point, then," Brinnea said, "She has been appearing in my dreams again. I believe you know of whom I speak?"

Shanoris's finger ceased its tapping for a brief moment. "The Black Witch. Nightmares of her are common for you, I'm sure."

"You're the one who traded me your family's remedy for nightmares, Fargaze." Brinnea noticed with a hint of satisfaction at the huntress's displeasure at her surname being used to address her. She continued, "The remedies worked, even for a death knight like me. My compliments to your esteemed father. Whatever vision I received to see that witch again was no simple nightmare."

Shanoris reclined in her chair casually, but Brinnea could see her face twisting in displeasure at this particular topic. She replied after a short pause, "So, you think the witch may yet live. In whatever form the Legion has seen fit to grant her after her failure. What of it? The Dark Titan is not in the habit of rewarding mortals for failure. Immortals even less so."

Brinnea's eyes narrowed skeptically. "You want her dead as much as I. Dead, for good and all. If she were to return to our world, she would not rest until she brought her revenge against us. You and I most of all. We were more instrumental in her downfall than any, except perhaps Charlotte."

Shanoris chuckles under her breath. "And how is the little one? Still full of fire, I hope?"

"If I didn't know better, I would say she really took after you," Brinnea smiled despite herself. "She still asks about you at times. You left an impression."

"And if I didn't know any better, I would say she could make for a powerful Illidari someday. But I know you would never allow it." The huntress grinned as if the thought of denying Charlotte anything were a hilarious joke. Brinnea shared that smile.

"Indeed. Would you lay our worries to rest, Shanoris? I may not live long enough to make sure myself. I know you have the means to find out. Perhaps moreso than anyone else I know."

Shanoris nodded without hesitation. "Consider it done. If that witch still lingers, I will tear her soul into enough pieces that she will never reform, even if the Dark Lord himself were to try and stitch her together."

Brinnea nodded gratefully. "That is a load off my mind. If you wish to see the girl again, ask around for one of your countrymen, a Sentinel commander named Sorel Crescentsong. He'll know where she is."

Shanoris stood, nodding. "Perhaps I shall seek her out. But only after this matter is resolved. You can rest assured it has my undivided attention. I must attend to my business before the way to Argus is opened, after all." She began towards the exit, and the guard opened the door for her. Shanoris turned back for a moment, saying, "One thing you should know about life in a cell, Brinnea: it isn't the bars that trap you. Not the chains on your body. The prison of the mind is the greatest cell of all." She left the room, and the door was shut behind her.


Brinnea Velmon

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Shanoris Fargaze

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Edited by RiktheRed21

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Nagoda Goldfield clutched the bundle close to his chest, nervously eyeing the brightly painted golems that patrolled the streets of Silvermoon. Anything that could tower over a tauren's height was worth watching with care, and Nagoda had never seen anything near the scale of the elves' city. The artificial color -- bright autumnal reds, yellows, and oranges -- hurt his eyes which had grown accustomed to the verdant plains of Mulgore after years of settling the region.

The tauren looked over the note and map he had been sent. The inn he was looking for -- aptly named The Silvermoon City Inn -- had an entrance placed in a region of the city called 'Murder Row.' It did not help Nagoda's nerves much. He decided to take the route through the Royal Exchange instead. It took him longer, and he had to watch those green eyes gaze at him curiously all the way there, but he was happy to avoid any place known for the amount of people found dead in the gutters.

The inn itself was dimly lit -- only a bit brighter than the caves of Thunder Bluff or the Red Rocks of Mulgore -- which Nagoda was thankful for. He would have said a quiet prayer of thanks, but his thoughts were cut off by the innkeeper's sudden appearance before him. The man's voice -- Nagoda thought it was a man, anyway -- was highly pitched and tinged with a self-assured tone that put the tauren off. "Welcome to the City Inn, welcome patron," he said with a seemingly friendly smile, "May I treat you to a fine Quel'thalas vintage? Or perhaps a reminder of home? We have some Mulgore firewater in the cellar. We also have rooms and hot meals; so long as you have coin, the City Inn has what you need."

Nagoda frowned at the short, stiff-eared man. He found the other races of the Horde were rather forward with social graces. A tavern in Thunder Bluff was a quiet place where one could sit a while and think by a warm fire, but this elven tavern was cold and the innkeeper and his attendants often stood by the guests to offer something – anything to glean more coin from their coffers. Nagoda noticed most elves barely offered the servers a glance when accepting what was offered. That was strange to Nagoda too. But his interests were set on one particular occupant – a trolless sitting by her lonesome at a table with two chairs. One was conveniently tauren-sized.

“Humble thanks, innkeep,” Nagoda said gruffly. Despite his nerves, he prided himself on always maintaining a strong presence, at least in the company of the smaller races. “I am here to see someone.” Without waiting for the man to try selling him something else, Nagoda stepped passed him and joined the trolless at her table. He placed the bundle carefully on his lap. He forced himself not to look around to see if anyone was watching.

“You took your time, Plainswalker.” She was carving a wooden figurine with a knife. Her fingers as deft as any tauren woodworker’s Nagoda had ever seen. “I was starting to wonder if you were truly dedicated to the cause.”

Nagoda bristled and snorted despite his usually calm demeanor. “No one wants her dead more than I. Any who say otherwise can duel me for the honor in the traditional way.”

The trolless clicked her tongue warningly. “Mind that big tongue of yours, Nagoda,” she said while sliding the sharp knife along the rough surface of her figurine, “It could get you into some trouble if you let it wag just so. Remember that she is currently out of our reach.

Nagoda huffed. His neck hairs were lowering as he regained his composure. “Not for much longer. Is your crew ready? I am anxious that they may move her early. There were many ships arriving today when I stepped off the boat. Some had a…military look about them.”

It was the trolless’ turn to snort this time. Her odd hooked nose vibrated as Nagoda watched. The furless folk never ceased to befuddle him. She spoke, eyes still fixed on her woodworking, “You wouldn’t know a real military vessel from a fishing boat, Grasshoof. Had you ever even seen sand before you came into my camp? I could smell the grass on you the minute you walked into my hut!”

Nagoda felt the bundle on his lap, as if afraid it might wander off while they talked. A server came by with a tray of various drinks. Nagoda noticed a troll-style wooden cup and a tauren clay mug as well as the blood elf glass. Nagoda’s large nose twitched at the strong alcohol smell. He took a mug of troll palm wine and placed a pair of Orgrimmar silvers in the elf’s hand. He made an effort not look the server in the eye as he did so. Perhaps that will satisfy them that I am just another customer, he thought bitterly as he took a sip of the sour wine. He tried to hide his distaste from the close watch of the trolless. She had taken the firewater mug, to match his show of respect. At least she has a sense of other cultures.

“I saw more than my fair share of human ships when they invaded the Barrens,” Nagoda replied after the sour taste started to fade. “I’ll never forget the look of those ships coming in from the horizon. They looked like birds of prey, gliding across the choppy sea. It takes a lot to make a tauren feel like a mouse.”

The trolless took a long drink of the firewater. Nagoda half expected her to cough at the amount she drank, but was left half disappointed. She’s more accustomed to other cultures than I am, that’s for certain. “Colorful metaphors aside,” she said, “The vessel we want is called Sun’s Wrath. An appropriate name, wouldn’t you think?”

Nagoda took another sip of the palm wine and swished the sour liquid around his mouth thoughtfully. It’s starting to grow on me. “Father would have thought so. I’m having a hard time understanding An’she’s justice lately. His wrath seems to be cast on those who devote themselves to his radiance and the unholy ones who smite the faithful are allowed to escape untouched.”

The trolless shrugged. “This unholy one won’t be getting anywhere,” she said offhandedly, “I don’t suppose you saw the Sun’s Wrath in port today?” Nagoda shook his head. “Then stop worrying so much. I’ve done this dozens of times, and never been caught. You see me sweating through my skin? No, so shut your yap and enjoy your drink. And stop fawning over that stupid thing like it’s some goblin explosive.”

Nagoda bristled again. “You’re the one who needs to watch your tongue, fool pirate!” he exclaimed through bared teeth.

The trolless snorted. “I only said that to watch your hair stand up. I think it’s cute.” Nagoda made a conscious effort to keep his hair from standing on end. The trolless waved a hand dismissively. “These elves don’t recognize anything outside of their tables when they’re in here, Plainswalker. I frequent this place every time I pull into port. You know how many times I’ve been called a pirate in here? They don’t care. And they would hardly notice if you were carrying a bomb, so stop looking like your about to shed the innkeeper a new carpet.”

Nagoda stood suddenly, leaving his drink half-finished. He held the bundle against his chest despite the trolless’ words. “Nakama, remind me why I chose you for this job again.”

“Because of my reliability, reputation, and discreetness,” she answered simply.

“Some sense of discreetness would set my mind at ease and make this whole business easier for all of us.”

The trolless inspected her carving critically, looking for any flaw left over from her broader strokes. “Just ease your mind on it, my furry friend. My crew’s watching the port between rounds at Saltheril’s Haven. With enough shifts, the port’s under constant watch. We’ll let you know the moment the target is moved.”

Nagoda took a breath of relief. “Good. I’ll be making a camp of my own between Fairbreeze and the Anchorage. At least the nature around here feels enough like home. Your crew will find me, or I’ll find them.” He turned to leave, only to halt as the innkeeper stood before him. Nagoda frowned again. “Thank you for the drink, friend, but I am very busy and must be going…”

“There was a message for you, my good man. Didn’t see the courier’s face. She was in a hurry too.” The innkeeper slid an envelope in the tauren’s hand and flashed him an off-putting smile. Nagoda looked at the seal – an albino hawk. It didn’t mean anything to him, but the innkeeper’s reaction made it seem important. He pulled it open and withdrew the letter within. He was vaguely aware of the trolless leaving out the exit behind him as he read.

You are making a mistake, sun of the Lightwalker. Justice’s grip tightens around Brinnea Velmon, and your sense of vengeance puts it all at risk. You believe yourself to be justified in your actions, and perhaps you are. But your actions will only deter justice from being carried out. Enough blood has been shed on the death knight’s account. Don’t make the same mistake as your father. We will be watching.

-The White Hawk

Nagoda crumpled up the letter and stuffed it in his belt angrily. He stormed out, ignoring the smug look on the innkeeper’s face. Whoever this Hawk is will not stand in my way, he thought to himself as he clomped his way through Silvermoon, uncaring if the golems saw his bundle. They had already seen enough, evidently. Justice died with my father. The Light failed to exact it when it had the chance. And there have been enough second chances where Brinnea Velmon is concerned!


Captain Nakama

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Nagoda Goldfield

Nagoda Goldfield.PNG

Edited by RiktheRed21

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The guards came for Brinnea as the sun started to pour into the small window of her cell. She stood without complaint or delay, and the process repeated. Enchanted irons on her wrists and ankles, then a slow waddle through the twisted labyrinth of a dungeon. Her left hand itched terribly. She eyed the black-toned corruption in her skin angrily, memories of the witch flooding back to her like waves of hot sand, ripping at her skin.

“Don’t bother trying to break the cuffs, Death Knight,” one of the guards said with a snort. He batted her on the back of the head with the flat of one of his weapon’s two blades. Her anger flared again, but she forced it down with a will of ice and steel. I was scratching an itch, fool. I know better than to try and escape. "Elven metal is better than whatever shit they clapped you in at Thunder Bluff. Those tauren and their big, clumsy fingers -- it's no wonder they let you run free for so long." Brinnea ignored the elf as he prattled on patriotically about how superior Silvermoon was. She had her mind on other things.

The guard in front of her made a left turn, which cut the guard behind her off in the middle of a sentence. "Isn't the way to the docks the other way," he asked his comrade with a confused tone. Brinnea's wayward thoughts straightened. This is intriguing. One guard knows where we're going, and one doesn't. 

"Fool," the guard in front said sternly, "Orders came in this morning. A change of travel plans. You would know that, if you bothered to listen to the Captain longer than one sentence." Brinnea felt a twinge of disappointment. What was I hoping for? Someone to break me out? I'm a bigger fool than the oaf behind me.

The oaf behind her made a sound of pompous annoyance and replied, "Who sent the orders? The Captain was set on the boats yesterday."

"The Captain is no longer in charge of her transport," the guard in front said coldly. Too coldly. He's on edge about...something. Sure enough, he told her what that something was. "The White Hawk is."


Nagoda felt nervous every time he got on board a ship. And today, the sea shook harder than any other time he had been on the deck. Once before was all, and once was more than enough for me, he thought to himself. He had taken ship at Ratchet to come to Silvermoon, and had only disembarked a week ago. He praised his ancestors when he finally set hoof to ground again. The unstable footing on the deck of a ship set poorly with his stomach, and every peel of thunder sent a shiver up his hide.

"Enjoying the weather, Plainswalker?" the captain shouted over the din of the storm. Despite the slimness of her trolless' frame, her voice burst as loud as a boom of thunder and with all the sharpness of a whip crack.

"The sea puts me ill at ease," he replied queasily. The woman bellowed a laugh in response. Nagoda bristled proudly. "We tauren were not made to walk a ship's deck and sail the sea. Our hooves are made for running the plains."

Nakama hooted. "Koro! This here Plains-Boy says tauren can't sail!" Nagoda rolled his eyes in annoyance, but they grew wide when he saw this 'Koro' the captain called to. He's the largest tauren I've ever seen. He must be greater than Old Cairne in his prime! Koro clopped forward, his hooves falling louder than the storm. Louder than the captain's booming laughter. "Old Koro here's been sailing since he was three years old, Grassyfur," Nakama said with a toothy grin.

Nagoda looked up at Koro with unease. The old tauren was grey of fur and scarred all across his face from what Nagoda could only guess was half a dozen different weapons. The big greyhorn glared at him silently. "I--I didn't mean to offend you, elder. Forgive me," Nagoda bowed his head. He supposed it was respectful, but mostly he wanted to look away from that scarred, grey face. Koro said nothing.

"He doesn't talk much since he got his tongue cut out," the captain said. She took a long swig from her canteen. Nagoda smelled rum in the salty air.

"Why did someone take his tongue?" Nagoda asked, though he regretted it as soon as his grey eyes met his.

The captain put the stopper back in her canteen. "I couldn't tell you, he wasn't very forthcoming with--"

"SHIP HO! BOW 'N' STARBOARD!" a voice cried out from the crow's nest high above. It reminded Nagoda of a hunter's call from a high peak, sounding out the time for the chase to begin. Nagoda girded himself, hoping the seasickness would fade in the face of his rage. Rage makes you blind, Father said. But Father was dead. And so is she. Soon enough.

"STEP LIVELY, BILGE RATS!" the captain roared over the storm, "SUN'S WRATH IS JUST AHEAD! LET'S MAKE LIKE THE STORM AND BRING THE SUN TO HEEL!" A cheer took up in the Tusked Storm's crew. Nagoda joined in, wanting to subdue his sick feeling with anything he could. And the captain's voice filled his heart with courage somehow.

The Storm came up on the Sun ram-first. And then the battle began.




Edited by RiktheRed21

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The elves gave up quickly. Much too quickly. Nagoda had his bundle wrapped carefully about a shoulder so it draped at his side like a waterskin. Only waterskins aren't this fragile...or this dangerous. The elves' weapons hit the deck just as soon as the pirates' feet did. The Sun's Wrath had been rammed and grappled before its crew could prepare the guns. Nagoda had heard the captain mumble something about the storm and visibility. Nagoda thought he understood -- the elves hadn't seen them coming, so they had the element of suprise -- but he was confused as to how they had tracked the Wrath. She hadn't bothered trying to explain that before they started swinging across to the other ship on long ropes, and clambering across on heavy oaken planks. Nagoda had chosen to take the plank rather than the rope.

Captain Nakama stepped forth, having just dismounted from the Wrath's railing and released her swinging rope. She looked upon the surrendering crew, bemused. "Alright, you sorry lot," she called out to the elven crew loudly, so they could hear over the storm, "We aren't here to loot and pillage and rape! Nobody gets hurt! Well, nobody except one of your prisoners. We come for Brinnea Velmon."

The elves' captain -- a rather squat and plump Sin'dorei with a long, protruding nose, sunken green eyes, and pale blonde sea-stained hair tied back in a long ponytail -- stepped forth and proudly regarded the trolless, proudly puffing out his chest with its emblazoned sun badge. "I am Captain Varmos, cur! You cannot simply pluck a Silvermoon prisoner from a high-security transport and think to get away with it!"

Nakama burst out laughing, and her crew followed suit. Nagoda shifted about uncomfortably. He rubbed the haft of his borrowed harpoon and felt the bundle at his side. I'm so close, but a million things can still go wrong. The trolless captain replied loudly, "High-security? A Silvermoon prisoner? Your ship surrendered awfully easily for a high-security vessel, Pinkear. And this--" she gestured around to the stormy sea, which lapped against the two vessels, forcing their tangled embrace ever closer, "--does not look like Silvermoon to me. This is the Great Sea, captain! The only law that applies is the golden rule. The ones who have the gold make the rules, and I have stolen more gold than I could fit in two ships' holds!"

Nagoda piped up impatiently, hoping his deep pipes would be enough to be heard over the storm, "Just bring the prisoner, captain. We mean you no harm. No one wants to give their life defending an enemy's life. Especially an enemy bound for execution anyway."

The elf puffed up in pride again. "Any one of my men would gladly lay down their lives to defend Silvermoon's honor! You thieves would seek to strip that honor from us!"

Nakama buried her face in her hand before interjecting, "This is all rather moot, captain. You and yours surrendered already! Why waste your breath on pointless posturing?" She stepped forward until her lanky figure towered over him, a head taller at least. She drew a pistol and stuck it under his chin. The elf was visibly on edge. "What do you say? Will you cut the crap and give us what we want?"

Varmos exhaled nervously. "You make a compelling argument, captain. Follow me." He pulled way from the pistol slowly. Nakama never moved it, forcing him to pull himself off of it slowly, painstakingly. He about-faced stiffly, and as he stepped toward the hatch to the lower decks, Nakama smirked and gestured with her pistol for Nagoda to follow. He did so. Nakama called for Koro to watch the main deck carefully. "No funny business," she said before ducking into the open hatch, following the elf captain. Nagoda followed, ducking low to get his head and horns in. His heart beat faster with each step of his hooves. So close, and yet so many things could go wrong...

Varmos led them to the cells on the second-to-last deck. Every level below the first was filled wall-to-wall with cells that seemed too cramped for even an elf to weather. Nagoda shuddered at the thought of being crammed in one and forced to endure a long journey, full of bumps and waves and booming thunder. The thought of it turned Nagoda's stomach. A few prisoners filled a cell or two here and there on each deck. Nagoda didn't quite understand why they were so oddly spaced out, but he didn't dwell on it long.

At last they came to the cell he had waited for. A small human-shaped figure squatted in the corner of the cell, huddled so he couldn't see her face through her two pale hands, small knees, and short tufts of auburn-colored hair. Nagoda's rage began to bubble as he stared at her. "Open the cell," he heard himself mutter. "Open it now."

The elf captain dug meticulously at each key on the ring at his belt. Nagoda was growing less patient with each key he checked. The sound of the irons clanking together grated on his ears. Nakama seemed to be growing impatient too. "Can we hurry this up? My crew is less patient that me, and they won't like me being gone from them so long." Varmos finally tried a key in the lock, and it clicked open. Nagoda reached into his bundle and pulled out the Brand.

It was an orb with a red-hot brand seared into its surface, rendered in the shape of a coiled dragon. As he held it in his hand, he felt all his rage billow in the hand that the orb rested in. Nagoda's regret for how he obtained it, his reluctance to use it, and even his seasickness drained from him at the feeling of all that rage, centered right in the palm of his hand. He held it so the Brand itself pointed at Brinnea. Nakama dragged Varmos away. "Trust me," she said, "You don't want to be near that thing when it goes off." Nagoda thought he smelled a hint of fear in the air, but he put that aside.

"Brinnea Velmon," Nagoda said to the woman in the cell. "Show me your face, and I'll make your end quick." She stirred, her short-cropped hair shaking as she lifted her head. Her two brown eyes looked like doe's eyes. Like human's eyes...not a death knight's. The rage began to fade. "You're not..."

She drew a pistol and fired at Nakama. The trolless reacted quickly, but not fast enough. The shot pierced her through the groin, sloppily shot too early after drawing, Nagoda could tell. Nakama's shot was expertly placed, and Nagoda saw a hole appear in the false prisoner's head -- just between the eyes -- before she fell over, limp and dead. "SON OF A BITCH!" the trolless shouted, clutching her groin as blood oozed through her fingers. "YOU FUCKING SON OF A BITCH!" This time, her swears were directed at the elf captain, he still stood still and weaponless. He held his hands up in surrender, but Nagoda saw his face alight with glee. "YOU EXPECTED US! YOU SET US UP!"

"Of course," he said smugly, "And you had fair warning. The White Hawk told your tauren friend this was a bad idea. Velmon is too important to allow some vigilante to claim her life on the high seas. Who would believe her truly dead? Her ghost would haunt the Horde forever, literal or metaphorical."

The trolless glared at Nagoda, but she clearly intended to address him later. "Are more coming?" she asked with great pain. "Do they know where we are?"

"Of course. This ship can be tracked by any Silvermoon mage. The Hawks will be upon you soon. They may already be surrounding you." Varmos grinned from ear-to-ear. "There won't be any escape for you, captain."

She drew her sword and buried it to the hilt in his heart. "DIE! DIE FOR YOUR PRECIOUS SILVERMOON! YOUR CREW WILL ALL DIE FOR YOUR FUCKING PRIDE!" The elf slumped over, dying fast. Nagoda could only watch in horror. This was all his fault. All of it had gone wrong because he was too stubborn not to fall for the trap.

Varmos uttered one last thing before he expired. "They will die...for Silvermoon...happily. I" Blood gushed from his chest and mouth when Nakama yanked her thin blade out of him. She closed in on Nagoda next, raising the bloodstained blade to his throat.

"You knew this would be a trap and you didn't tell me!?" She screamed at him. She wasn't interested in hearing his reply, however. She stormed her way back upstairs as the sound of battle filtered in between the plank ceiling. Nagoda stood there for a moment, dumbstruck. Then the deck shifted suddenly below his hooves and the floor rose to meet him. After that, everything suddenly grew hot and bright. He couldn't hear anything but a high-pitched whine, nor see anything but white light for a steady minute. He could feel his left hand pulsing with a burning power before he passed out. He remembered reading somewhere about the dangers of the Brand, of using it for too long. Then all he could think about was his father, staring at him from beyond the grave.


Brinnea passed through the portal and stepped into a dimly lit cavern filled with the sounds of clinking picks, shovels buried in dirt, and rocks cracking and falling. Brinnea had seen many rock formations in her time serving as a miner for the Scourge, but these formations that surrounded her seemed unfamiliar at first. Her thoughts drifted a moment to her time with the Scourge, to all their tests and trials. They had tried everything to turn her into a force of death. Grol did, at least. The rest were ready to throw me in a soul forge for spare material.

The serious guard turned back to her and unlatched her wrist and ankle restraints. Brinnea could tell her runes would not work here. She figured that would be the case, since the guards who escorted her were the Sin'dorei mage-breakers she had encountered in the campaign on The Isle of Thunder years ago. The Sunreaver mages dressed fairly similarly to the common Silvermoon authority mages, she recalled as well. If mage-breakers were those who escorted her, it was clear they did not intend to take her to an unwarded prison. Between that, and the rock formations she was starting to narrow down based on locations she'd investigated in her travels, she had a decent idea where they had taken her.

"An orcish prison. My guess would be Azshara, since mining operations are booming there," she guessed aloud, not really expecting the guards to engage her.

She was surprised when the serious guard replied, "Good guess. Welcome to the Azshara Crater. This will be your home until the day of your execution. The warden will have you briefed on the rules here, but there aren't many. No one has escaped from this prison as of yet. It is warded better than the Silvermoon cells, impressively enough, from both inside and outside attempts at magical transportation or any other form of spellcasting. The walls of the mine are thick enough down here to keep you lot digging for a hundred years before you made an escape route. The guards routinely check progress, collect mined ore, and remove any corpses. Occasionally they settle disputes and behaviorally challenged prisoners, but I've heard most shifts don't care enough about your lives to bother much."

Brinnea took a look around her "new home." She stood above what seemed to be the primary tunnel nexus -- branches of tunnels stretched out in every direction, including directly below the platform she stood on. She saw prisoners of every variety, build, gender, and every race she could think of. A hozen pushed a chunk of ore across to a pile across from her. A yaungol carried several pickaxes down a tunnel before disappearing in the dark. Three identical earthen dwarves played rock-paper-scissors over a pair of shovels -- one fairly new, and the other partially broken. Brin assumed the loser would dig with their hands.

She noticed all of their hands were worn and weathered, and they all looked incredibly dirty, tired, and wore tattered rags. She wondered at something, and thought to ask the guards before they left her there. "What keeps them working? They could just stop, and no one would know."

The serious guard answered again, before the stupid one could say something fitting to Brin's new name for him. "A quota is kept, incentives are placed. Clothes and medicine, extra rations. If the quota isn't met, everyone is punished. Usually, the punishment is less severe if the slackers are put ousted by their fellow inmates." Brinnea sighed. Sounds just like home, she thought bitterly.

The stupid guard pushed her towards the edge of the platform, which she realized had no railing. The fall was far and the rocky wall was steep. The stupid one cackled at her and said, "You only have to fall once, unless you try climbing back up." Brinnea glared at him.

"I'll get out of here. You had better hope I don't remember you, elf." The stupid one slashed her across the face with one of his weapon's blades and she fell backwards, tumbling head-over-heels into the cavern below. She lay still a while, staring up at the platform and the ceiling, feeling black blood dribble down the side of her face. That makes three facial scars. I keep this up, and Charlotte won't even recognize me anymore. She looked around as she brought herself to her feet. The other prisoners didn't seem amused or interested in her or her spectacular fall. A tauren or two eyed her angrily. That was to be expected. An orc passed by, and put a pickaxe in her hands.

"Freshy, here's a gift," he said with a slobbering smile. He licked his lips too many times for her liking. "No gift is free, Freshy! I own you now! Hehehe!" She smacked him across the face with the pickaxe. He crumpled over on the ground and babbled madly as blood gushed from his cut-open nose.

"Consider us even." She stepped over him to find a good hunk of rock to hack away at. She had some rage to get out of her system.

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She was reading by the fire again. He loved watching her do that. She always seemed happy, even for the briefest of moments. Even if there was so much fear in her heart that she spent nights weeping in bed or curled up on their carpet, she could always find solace in a story read by firelight. Parigan didn’t enjoy much. He didn’t enjoy going to the bar his brother used to take him to. He didn’t enjoy attending the galas his sister sent him invitation after invitation for. He didn’t enjoy meeting his father every month to tell him what he had been up to. Parigan was sick to death of his family and seeing their hands in every aspect of life in the city appalled him. He had his forge, and he had his sword. And he had her.

Parigan regretted so much that he had pushed her away since the rebellion. It was the last thing he had wanted from the cause. A fair society, free of tyranny and oppression, of course. Freedom from his father’s dictatorship of a family, most definitely. But he never considered it would mean losing her trust.

She’ll never look at me the same way. After what the rebels did in the war – terrorism and mass mayhem – she won’t feel safe setting foot outside the door. And she knows I was part of that. How can I ever make her trust me again?

But at the very least, she could find freedom in the pages of her books. He admired that about her. With him, he could never set aside his problems, but it was clear he hadn’t the foggiest idea how to fix them. She was in much the same boat, but could manage to set aside her worries to enjoy her passion. Parigan used to take literacy for granted until he’d met some of Brinnea’s relatives.

Brinnea Velmon. Parigan had never once questioned why she had kept that last name. Now he wished he had taken it as well. What has being a Blackmane ever gotten me? She didn’t talk much about her father, but he could tell by the way she reacted to any mention of him that she wasn’t sure what to think of him. Parigan thought she was trying to be angry with him, but she came off seeming more worried than mad. He felt such sorrow for her complex array of emotions, but he couldn’t empathize. With Parigan, everything was black and white. Yes or no. Right or wrong.

He felt he had chosen wrong. Marrying her didn’t make her life better. It had dragged her into worse shit than she had already been dragged through. But he loved her more than anything, so he selfishly kept her close and never let go. And she never said anything against it. Does she truly love me anymore? Did she ever?

He felt the need to comfort her, or maybe he just wanted to be comforted. He picked himself up off the stairs and walked up behind her chair. She was reading something about a knight and his lady, and a witch who had cursed them to fall in love. Parigan had never enjoyed books, at least not the way Brinnea had, but he remembered this story well enough. The two were from rival kingdoms that had an unsteady truce between the two in the face of the Horde invasion. It was a common theme in literature after the Second War. Everyone loved a good story about romance in the face of a calamity that nearly wiped out humanity.

The two lovers had been brought together by the orc witch in the hopes of shattering the alliance between the nations, but instead the people saw how beautiful things could be if everyone held love in their hearts. The ending was blissful – the two humans married, the families and kingdoms both united, and the witch was burned for her treachery. Parigan liked the story well enough. Real life is far from a fairy tale, though. Love isn’t so simple or clean, and hatred is never easily set aside.

Parigan kissed her on the head, ruffling her hair affectionately. She set down the book on her reading table, which was buried in piles of books she’d bought with his money. Her grey eyes looked up into his brown eyes. She smiled, but it was a bad fake he’d seen too many times to be fooled. She was upset he had interrupted her. She wanted to look up and see a noble knight, not the failure he was.

“Hi,” he said quietly.

“Hey,” she said back.

“I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“I don’t know. I’m just sorry. Sorry for everything, I guess.”

“And why do you feel like you need to apologize? Have you done something requiring an apology?”

“I just…I don’t feel like a very good husband. Or man, even. I don’t know what to say.”

She stood up and walked away from him, towards the hearth and fire. She warmed her hands over the flames. He wasn’t providing her any, clearly. “It doesn’t really matter what you say, does it? Everything out there isn’t real. This isn’t real. All that’s real is what lies outside the Wall.”

Parigan stood behind the chair, unmoving. His eyes lowered to the tome she had set down. The Tale of Richlid and Theodara. If only life were so simple. “What is outside of the Wall isn’t the world. It’s just a nightmare. We’ll live through it.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“We have so far, haven’t we? Nightmares always have an end.”

“This one hasn’t ended long enough for me to believe it is real.” She hugged her arms and rubbed them roughly. The sleeves on her gown were worn and tattered. He had offered to buy her a new one, but never had.

“We will make it together,” he replied. He wanted that to be true. He needed that to be true.

“Everyone I’ve made it with so far is dead.”

“Your sister…”

“Is gone. She left yesterday. She bought a fishing boat and made for Purgation Isle. She’ll never be able to come back. She probably won’t survive long enough to try.”

Parigan’s shoulders slumped in defeat. Christa was gone. The last person who could get through to her. Why had she left? It had been a year, nearly, since their mother had passed away. Why choose now to leave? The Scourge had only gotten worse, and no contact from the outside had made it in. That my father is willing to share with me, that is. “Did she say why?”

“It doesn’t matter. It hasn’t mattered for years now.”

“It’s about your father, isn’t it?”

She tightened her grip on her shoulders until her knuckles turned white. He stepped forward and held her tightly. She didn’t resist or pull away, and he took that as a good sign. He hoped it was. “It’s all gone. Why can’t she understand it?”

“Some people need something to hold on to.” He held her close, but she didn’t hold him back.

“There’s nothing left to hold on to. It’s all ashes and bones now. Gilneas may as well be all that’s left, and there’s nothing for me here.”

“I’m still here.” He turned her face gently so she would look at him. Her eyes were dry, but her face was pale. “I am. And I’m not going anywhere.”

That night, she disappeared. He awoke to find a note where her head should have rested. She told him not to go looking for her. He crumpled the letter and threw on his coat and boots.


Shanoris gasped and awoke suddenly, disturbed from her dream. From his dream, she thought silently. Felsoul Hold’s dwindling supply of portals crackled nearby, and she felt the presences of demons approaching her location. That was what had awoken her from the dead man’s dream. She had already searched for evidence of the witch’s revival, and found nothing. The sarcophagus was gone, as well. The Illidari had already seen to its removal, but the last she heard it had yet to be destroyed. That thing is dangerous, but it may have some use as of yet. I’ll check Marduum and the sarcophagus next. She meant to leave, but she felt compelled to stay.

Parigan’s grave was marked by a badly rusted sword that had been broken jaggedly in half by a savage blow. She had witnessed it personally, felt every felling of the demon’s hammer in her core as if it were her the beast had slain. His last words echoed in her mind. “Brin, I lo—love you—“

Shanoris may have stood against Brinnea in the past, but what the witch had done to her was beyond cruel. And she took my sister from me. We both have enough reason to want her dead forever.

The demons came on her suddenly, emerging from the shadows as if they had the element of surprise. She proved they were wrong. Moving faster than the untrained eye could even see, she sliced her way through felhounds and Felguards like scissors through silk. At the end, her rage and demonic spirit boiled over, bursting through the uncovered crevices of her eye sockets. Nothing remained of the demons save for ashes.

The grave marker had fallen over in the scuffle. Shanoris returned it to its rightful position, but then noticed something she hadn’t sensed before lying buried in the dirt. She dug it up with a strong hand and felt its surface, clearing it of dirt as she did. It was a ring. She detected moonstone and silver, badly tarnished. Words were engraved in it, and she could feel the indents enough to read it.

Words may leave on wind, but love is forever.

A wind licked at Shanoris’ cloak. She felt his presence still writhing in the tainted dirt, too tired and fragmented to be pieced back together or take form. She made a promise to the grave that she would see his remains taken to a proper burial site. But then it dawned on her she had no idea where he would want to be at rest. She would have to ask Brinnea, but there was no way to speak with her now.

Sighing, she made another promise. “I’m going to regret this, aren’t I?” she asked the dirt. Parigan’s spirit was silent, but silence speaks volumes to a demon hunter.

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