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  1. 1 point
    “Here, the prisoner has given us the location of their supply caravans. Utilize the mountain passes, burn everything we cannot take.” The form of Grand Marshal Sakainu Redmoon towered over a sprawled map laid before him, the armored kaldorei traced an invisible line through one corner of the parchment as he spoke. Hunched over the map as well was a pandaren fellow in heavy plate, stroking a thickened auburn beard; at his side was a female Dark Iron woman, wreathed in reinforced ebonweave that glimmered but slightly with innate magical defenses woven in. “That will cripple the local garrison, and we can take-” The door to his room suddenly burst open, startling all but the night elven commander, who merely lifted his gaze to regard the newcomer. Red hair disheveled, helmet at his side, was the young spellsword Thoel, hand clutched tight around a missive bearing the royal seal. He did not bother with commentary on the matter, it was little wonder Thoel broke into the conversation without the standard procedural greetings. Skainu merely held out a hand, the order silent. Little heed was needed, as Thoel practically slammed the letter into his commander’s hand. “...Orders from Stormwind.” Not ordinary orders if his tone had anything to do with it, Sakainu mused to himself as he read the notice himself. Thoel gulped, “...An armistice has been signed, we’re to cease hostilities with the Horde.” His teeth ground against each other with every word, fists clenching as though clutching onto reins to steer his growing temper away. Letting his captain stew, Sakainu focused on the orders at hand; to indeed halt operations against the Horde, and to return to Stormwind posthaste; commands to hand over all his gains and return to the status quo like an obedient hound. “Captain.” The sudden word caught Thoel out of his trance, him rigidily snapping to attention. “Assemble every soldier on the island.” His hands found the edges of the decree, and in one swift motion tore it in two, then four, the into eights. The process repeated itself until it was naught but confetti in his palm. Slowly he paced to the blazing hearth nearby, firelight reflecting in the lone ebony stare. “What naivete.” The torn shreds of paper drifted into the fire, piece by piece slowly consumed with each twist of his hand. “Peace. What peace can there be while our enemies still linger? The disease remains whilst the sheep cry out that the body is healthy enough.” The final shred sifts into the fire, devoured to the last, yet still he stares at the fire’s dance. “There will be no peace, not until justice has been meted out.” Drawing from the hearth, he turned to his officers and strode forward. “We are the Ashen Legion, we are those who carry the colors of those who came before,” The strolling pace became a stride, making to glide past those in the room, as though leading them beyond the confines of the room. “We are sworn to vengeance, no matter the cost, no matter the price.” His face was awash in moonlight then, the fires of the room replaced with white glow from Elune’s grace above them; yet still it burned within his gaze, staring down at the soldiers who had gathered in the twilight. His officers and more stood behind him on the terrace, stone-faced and resolute. “Victory will come when Orgrimmar suffers the fate of Teldrassil...when Thunder Bluff is a ruin...when Silvermoon begs for the days of Arthas after what we have wrought...when Suramar and Highmountain tremble in fear when they see the horizon turn gray with our numbers.” Redmoon’s fist shot into the air, as though clutching a sword that would not relent in its brutality. “Look to the skies of Darkshore! Look upon the wrathful gaze of Mother Moon herself! The Black Moon has risen, and it WILL NOT SET...UNTIL THE DAWN IS STAINED RED!” The rallying cry setting forth a mimicking pattern of hands rising in unison to salute the speech rendered unto them. Along with it, the crashing of a thousand voices yelling their approval.
  2. 1 point
    “So… anyone wanna take bets on what our new orders are going to be?” Maurice, the sniper of their insurrectionist team was the first to mercifully break the silence that lingered as they awaited Commander Kal’une Danteur to return from his meeting. It had been hours that they sat in this ruin of a room with Arcwine beside them. He lit a match as he put a cigarette between his lips. "Only if we're not betting coin," Pelande laughed. Her arms were crossed, her body leaned against a wall and her feet were propped up on a table. She looked every bit the laborer she was in moments like this one where they could relax. The only poise she concerned herself with was with her spear. "Not all of us have much to throw around unless you're willing to work on credit." “Yeah, guess the pay isn’t really a perk of the job.” The sniper chuckled back as the smoke spilled from his lips. “At least the wine is good… for however long that lasts.” He fished out one of his cigarettes from its container and offered it to the laborer across from him. “To finding work when this finally blows over?” She held up a hand. "You caught my interest when you said 'bet', so how about this: if I'm right, you roll me a box of those," here she gestured to the cigarettes, "but if you win, I'll make you a new box to keep those in from scratch, complete with hidden chambers for, well," she gestured casually, "whatever you might need them for." The smile upon Maurice’s face grew into a full-on grin, his hand still outstretched in the offering of a sample of what could be Pelande’s prize. “Sounds like we have ourselves a bet then. What’s your call? More guard replacements, or are you thinking of something a bit more exciting?” Since he didn’t relent, she accepted it, looking over it and admiring the craftsmanship. “If it was going to be the usual I don’t think we’d be waiting this long, we’d be sent off by now. Personally? I hope it’s a target elimination. Someone important enough to bother with and well-guarded enough that it’s requiring a pretty extensive plan.” “Assassination? I like the way you think.” Maurice took another drag for his own as he lit a match, offering the flame towards Pelande. “It would be nice to actually shoot something again, rather than just being another set of eyes. Hey, Twitchy, you want one of these too?” “...Huh?” Isabeale halted in her pacing in the dimmer corners of the room, her lavender eyes glancing at the table. “..O-oh. No. My illusions can’t mask smells. Sorry.” Pelande pulled air through the cigarette to light it, leaning back again once she had a steady glow, and exhaled, her gaze moving over to Isabeale. “Twitchier than usual today, aren’t you? Do you know something about what kind of assignment we’re getting?” Pelande was met with a look of confusion for a couple of seconds from the youngest of the Nightborne. She opened her mouth to speak-- only for attention to be diverted away from Isabaele as a telemancy portal lit up the room. “Feet off the table, grab the map.” At last there came the dry voice of the man they long-awaited from what one had to guess was quite the exhaustive meeting. Each step towards the gathered Ebonfeathers burned away at the illusion of the nobleman face for the public, further returning him to his true form. And yet his stride never changed as it always commanded the respect of those within the room. Even as he turned more and more demonic in visage. “We have wasted enough time, there is work to be done.” Pelande held the cigarette between her lips as she rose, taking a large drag of it just in case it would be taken from her--after being scolded, she wasn't sure what he would and wouldn't tolerate. Leaving the map to the others, she asked, only slightly muffled, "I'm all for work being done. What have you got for us today, boss?" “The Dusklilies have made the last of their preparations, they claim they’re finally ready to make their move.” The demonic elf hybrid stood at attention at the front of the table, his burning sockets stared down at those gathered when the twitchy illusionist grabbed the map and unfurled it for their commander. “We approach the apex of the conflict,” his finger pressed into the paper where the Nighthold stood. His finger traced in a straight line outwards to some noble's home. “And we have our part to play.” Peering at the paper closely, Pelande moved the cigarette to her hand and squinted for a few moments before saying, "Oh! I know this place." She seemed to lose herself to memory for a bit. "Don't know why I kept taking jobs there, the owners were picky about the stupidest things and I always had to pester their household staff half to death to get the payments they owed me." “This time you have the chance to finish the job, your expertise will serve the cause well in the coming conflict.” The talon of a finger gently glided on the surface of the map. “Our role is to make as much noise as possible to give those infiltrating the Nighthold some piece. When we capture the manor, we’ll be able to watch from afar in case reinforcements are needed. Your Grand Magistrix’s reign draws near its bloody end.” Nodding and rubbing her hands together, Pelande seems to be hyping herself up for the task at hand. This was going to be cathartic. "Good, good. We raise hell, they split their forces. I put the gates on this place, it should be a rather simple matter to take them off again.” “Good. You take your partner and start at the bottom with some explosives. While they are more for the show we are putting on, do handle them with care still.” His hollow sockets burned as they scanned between the two women. “When you are done with your task, meet up with us at the apex of their building. Maurice will be covering us with his fire as Manuelle and I weave another portal into the city for reinforcements. Should the Dusklillies’ Chosen be as competent as they claim, then they should hold their end of the bargain as the knife to slip into the Grand Magistrix herself as we stand tall as their feint. “If not,” he concluded, “then the night will prove that much more interesting.”
  3. 1 point
    A ‘leaked tip’ and a couple of bribed civilians had lead to this moment in the final hours of the night. Two women stood in the Evermoon Commons alleyway amongst the corpses of several patrols of Nightwatch guards that lay where they had been cut down. The Nightwatch had thought themselves the ones laying the trap for those who dared ply their trade in contraband of Arcwine rations--instead they found themselves the prey, mere fodder some grander design by the enigmatic Commander Kal’une Danteur of the Ebonfeathers. Pelande Aijatar ran a torn scrap of cloth over the end of her spear and then tossed it to the ground, avoiding letting her gaze linger too long on the faces of the dead. Focus was key; she couldn’t let conflicting feelings get in the way. In youth she’d seen the guard as some unshakable force and somewhat aspired to them. Now fear and chaos were getting the better of them as the city descended into further disarray. Unrefined blade strokes, rushed and weak defense, topped off with sudden and unclear orders from the officers: a formula for a messy counter-attack that ultimately failed. Pelande made one more vigilant scan of their surroundings before looking to her mission partner to see how she was faring. Her partner that was cleaning her blade, seemingly taking the lectures she received from the previous missions to heart. And then she froze as her eyes locked onto an intruder of their little operation. For a moment there was silence as the man looked on at horror of the carnage the two women created. Isabaele watched the man intently, waiting to see his reaction. When he screamed for the other guards as he bolted in the opposite direction, she gave an audible sigh. “Damn.” Her soft voice conflicting with the swear. “I’ll take care of the Crier.” And with that there was the familiar arcane pop as she began her chase. Pelande raised a brow at the swear almost imperceptibly, noting how Isabaele’s tone never seemed to match her words when these happened, and gave her a silent nod of confirmation. She didn’t have to understand this strange woman to find her reliable. Reliable, and quick. From the sound of it, the man had hardly rounded the corner when Pelande’s compariot caught up to him with a crash that silenced his cries for help. Then the pool of blood leaked within her view. “Stop in the name of the Grand Magistrix, Murderer!” Commanded a new voice. This was quickly followed by the reappearance of Isabaele popping into existence. “...That didn’t go as cleanly as I like.” ...So perhaps not as reliable. The girl sprinted to grab Pelande’s hand. “We got company! Run!” Pelande quickly obliged, letting out a an audible sigh for no other reason than to let Isabaele hear her disappointment. Perhaps if she wasn’t so eager and using her little arcane teleport she would be able to scout out a situation rather than just appearing in the middle of it? Pelande tucked that little note away in the back of her mind to bring up later, when things weren’t quite so chaotic. “Don’t worry, P, we got this!” The smaller woman looked back at her as they sprinted down the alleyway as another patrol of the Duskwatch turned the corner in pursuit, spotting their fallen comrades. “Rebels! Sound the alarms, don’t let them get away!” “Shit. Shit. Shit.” Isabaele stuck her left hand to her ear, her index and middle finger pointing to the sky as her thumb created a right angle. “Things got kinda hairy out here, we could use some help, M!” A pause. And then Isabaele nodded before looking back at Pelande. “This way!” With a yank she pulled the the warrior down another connecting alleyway that lead into another street where familiar faces stood awaiting them. Captain Ludrissra and her cohorts, fully armed with weapons drawn. This was too absurd, Pelande thought to herself. Why was this woman latched onto her wrist leading her like an excited child dragging her poor exhausted mother into the Darkmoon Faire? And telling her not to be worried when she was being so jumpy? But wrenching herself free would cost them precious seconds and distance so along she went. There was an instant of cold shock when she saw what awaited them until reason took over, and she remembered. “Looks like you bit off more than you could chew; a rookie mistake.” The Slayer that wore Ludrissra’s face commented before rolling her head in command of the others. She sounded eerily so much like her. “Get out of sight. We’ll take it from here.” “Right! This way, P!” The Rogue pulled at Pelande’s arm once more as they ducked behind some foliage before their surroundings swallowed them in illusion to censor them away from the world. All they could do now is wait as the shouts down the street got louder as their pursuers approached ever closer, and hope that placing their fates in this false-faced Ludrissra would prove fruitful rather than foolhardy. With the concealment in place, Pelande let herself lean against the wall behind them, watching through the veil of leaves. She forced her breathing to slow. Part of her wanted to laugh. ‘Rookie’ was a wonderful understatement, she thought as she dragged a hand through her messy hair. Pelande eyed Isabaele, who was fixated on the scene about to unfold before them. Even with their successes under their belts she knew so little about her, and Pelande herself had been so guarded, perhaps that was damaging their teamwork. “Captain! Did you see two women run this way?” Called out the leader of the pack of Duskwatch that were hot on their trails. “They’re suspected rebels that set up an ambush in the Illicit Arcwine sting.” “And you let them out of your sight?” Scoffed Ludrissra as she turned to her comrades. “Imbeciles!” “Well-- I--” “No matter. Let’s find your runaways before the Grandmagistrix’s court gets wind of your blunder. Volroux, you take the right, we’ll take the left.” “Y-yes ma’am!” Ludrissra shot a single glance at the duo that hid under illusion before casting her eyes up towards the crowds. “Let’s hope we find them before it rains. Weather has been unpredictable since the fall.” After the crowd cleared, being lead on their fool’s errand of a chase, Isabaele finally let out a breath that she had been holding in. “...That was more exciting than I hoped…” As the illusion faded the rogue went about tying a cord to one of her oddly shaped daggers. “You okay, P?” "Exciting, I'll give you." Pelande pulled herself up but remained against the wall, idly rolling her shoulder. It was the arm Isabaele had dragged her by. Nevertheless there was a wry little smile on her face. "I'm starting to think we need some work, or we're going to run dry on luck eventually." “You’re probably right.” Isabaele’s soft voice little more than a sad coo as she tested the strength of the knot that was tied to the circular handle of the blade. “We probably wasted all those lives because that man stumbled on our work. Do you have any suggestions?” After a little hum of thought, "It seems like... we're both used to fighting alone." It seemed ridiculously obvious once she'd said it, and she fell quiet. A handful of instances came flashing into her mind; the two of them nearly tripping over each other in close quarters, blowing each other's cover, or a weapon swing getting too close for comfort. Isabaele threw the dagger upward, allowing it to entangle itself in the overhand of the roof above. “I guess you’re right. I was trained by solo fighters as well… so it makes sense.” She tugged on the cord to test how well their anchor held. “Want to do some drills or something when we get back?” "That's a start." Pelande reached out, giving it a test of her own, only seeming satisfied once she'd done so. "Or we could ask the one who made us a team. I mean, maybe he sees something we don't." “He sees a lot we don’t. The problem is getting him to actually tell us about it.” Isabaele sighed, oddly negative in terms of the leadership she seemed to have dedicated her life to for as long as Pelande had known her. Then she began her climb up the rope towards the sky. “If we work better as a team, the higher the success rate, the lower the long-term cost.” Pelande climbed along, almost speaking of him as a client on a building project rather than a superior. “I should hope he has enough sense to know that after investing so much in us.” “You can give it a try, but sometimes I think he’s playing a different game than we are. Like he’s testing us for something else than the liberation of our city. Guess it doesn’t hurt… but… He’s not like his brother…” Isabaele spoke in between pulls upwards. “...Sin wanted to empower us in our fight against the Legion and our oppressors. He spoke from a place of empathy, like he had seen this before.” Something else? “What else is there besides fighting the Legion?" Pelande seemed genuinely puzzled. It reflected how little she'd seen of the outside world since their city was sealed; it had drastically narrowed her scope of thinking. "What else could possibly matter when They are on our doorstep?" “I don’t know.” Her compatriot admitted. As the two women reached the summit of the roof of the building they scaled, the Concourse of Destiny greeted them in the foreground. And with it did the Three Armies that had marched onto the Nighthold, lost to time by Elisande’s mighty power. The bulk of the army was to their far right, the Generals to their far left as they led what was supposed to be a glorious march of unity between the relatives of the Nightborne. And in the middle stood a lone warrior in mid stride to reach them. Isabaele had gone silent. It was one thing to know of the events that had taken place on the Concourse; it was another entirely to see it in person. Once one was over the initial shock of seeing all these soldiers and their leaders frozen in place, however, an eeriness settled in. It brought to mind many of the homes and gardens Pelande had built for people more important than herself, the lifelike statues they would adorn their properties with, whose cold stares unsettled her. Her partner was fixated on one, so she drew closer with caution, as if she feared a loud noise would shatter the whole lot of them like glass. “...We were there, you know.” Her partner’s voice soft as an evening breeze. “Sin… he was so proud of them. He said that in spite of their rocky histories, they were making a new future for us…” 'In exchange for what?' was what Pelande wondered, but she kept that to herself, instead musing aloud that: "We were all the same, once." “Once, yes.” Isabaele ripped her eyes of the middle man for a mere moment to retrieve her strange dagger, only to return them as she worked on the knot of cord that remained attached to it. “And perhaps, one day, we can get over our differences and become the same once more. I think… Commander Sin dreams of this, for us to remember the strength we can find in Unity.” She wasn't afraid to voice this doubt. "Things are too diffaerent now. I don't think it'll ever be like that again, and maybe that's okay." Her tone turned thoughtful. "Just because we were all one People doesn't mean things were great." “You don’t think so?” The doubt made her comrade frown as she canted her head, eyes still watching the scene before them. “Maybe you’re right, but I think it’s a lovely dream. Better than being cooped up in a Bubble, don’t you think? "Before I lived in an actual bubble, I lived in a different sort of one." She cracked a smile, crossing her arms across her chest. "My missions with you have been my first taste of life outside of some kind of isolation and I gotta say, I do prefer this." “I like that you’ve joined us too.” A smile formed upon her lips. “...Have you thought about what you want to do when the war is over?” "Nope," Pelande freely admitted, shrugging, but then she paused. "...well..." She tilted her head to the side, ponderous, contemplating whether or not to go on. Ultimately she threw caution to the wind. "I want to see Azeroth. Outsiders talk about such amazing places and I've been stuck here seeing the same sights for ten thousand years. Makes me feel like I need to make up for lost time, you know?" “Could be fun!” Isabaele cheered on the warrior as she actually talked about herself for once. Her attention diverted for the meantime. “...Whoah, are you really ten thousand years old?” She'd gotten this sort of reaction before, usually out of younger work crew on her building sites, so she treated it with the same bemused smile as she usually did. "I don't show it, do I?" she teased. "But, yes. More so, actually. I didn't originally live here. I got sealed in when they put the barrier up, so, it became Home." “Crazy…” Isabaele stared in awe of her elder. “All I knew before the Ebonfeathers picked me up was a single manor… any ideas on what place you want to see first? I’m thinking Silvermoon.” A single manor--well, that sounded familiar. Pelande tucked that away to address later. "The more fantastical the better. I don't remember place names, but I know the stories: a Titan city in the north, a forest full of faerie dragons, and an underground city built by Dwarves.” “It sounds like you got a lot of travelling ahead of you. How are you going to get there?” "However most people do it, I would think. So what are you going to do?" “Promise you won’t laugh?” There was an uncomfortably long silence. Quietly, Pelande clenched her thumb. "Yes." Isabaele nodded once the promise was made, seemingly unphased by the passing of time. “I’m going to marry him.” Her soft voice lacked any sense of irony. She raised her gloved hand, a single finger pointing to the center of the Concourse of Destiny where the singular man frozen in place as he desperately tried to reach the generals at the front. “He saved me from my old life, gave me direction and purpose… he even showed me how to fight. Before him, I was nothing. With him, I will become a proper Lady. We’ll save all the Elven peoples together, for a brighter tomorrow.” The slight pop was masked by the totally casual movement of Pelande's metal-clad heel. After blinking and using her loose hand to tuck some windward hair behind her ear, running the line through her mind over and over to make sure she had it all correct, she very slowly nodded, her gaze moving to the figure Isabaele pointed out. "I... see." Was her partner unstable, or was this the new normal? Pelande decided she had no standard to measure it all by yet, so she reserved judgement. It didn't involve her, right? So no need to worry. Right? "Can I give you a piece of advice?" “Of course, P, I’m sure you have a lot of experience in the ten thousand years you’ve been around!” As always, the younger rogue looked back at Pelande, her soft spoken voice as warm and inviting as always. There was a nearly undetectable rise of one brow; she couldn't decide whether that jarring feeling had been from the perceived sarcasm from her partner, or her own insecurity rearing its ugly head, but it didn't matter. "Never invest all your resources and materials into one project. Always have extras on hand. What if the contractor decides not to pay you? If they decide they don't like the work you did and force you to do more for free?" Pelande was rewarded with a tilt of the girl’s head as she considered the words. “...Okay…” Isabaele’s tone was as gentle as always, making it hard to read if she had truly understand the words of advice given or not. But before it could be pondered upon, the girl changed the subject. “...The alarm bells seem to have stopped. Ready to go home?” That was Home now, Pelande supposed, and she answered with a nod. "Yea, I am. I want some wine." Isabaele nodded before she made the same motion she had earlier in the day. Her hand came to rest parallel with her ear, index and middle finger pointed towards the sky and the thumb at a ninety degree angle. A small light shimmered within her palm. “M, we’re ready. Take us home.” In response a portal of similar shimmering light appeared beside them upon the roof. Isabaele nodded at her partner and motioned towards it as she stole one more look longfully at the Concourse. “We’ll see each other again soon, my prince. I promise.”
  4. 1 point
    Suramar City was rotting away with unrest, this was undeniable. After the invading armies of the Outlanders had been lost to the might of Grand Magistrix Elisande’s magics, she had become much more ruthless. Deserters were dealt with extreme prejudice, those who remained loyal garnered more affluence to abuse the public with. Just as it was tonight. Here within the canals of the Terrace of Order where a group of Spellblades threatened the life of a suspected Dusk Lily rebel. “Dearest Marquette,” sneered the captain as her phantasmal blade of energy loomed before her victim’s neck. She was flanked by three of her followers upon either side. “I thought we exiled you last time, left to wither away like the miserable little cretin you are. Whatever are you doing in front of us now?” Before the cornered and accused could respond, another Spellblade moved casually toward the gathering and cleared her throat. Azure-tinted white hair was pulled back into a harsh bun. A scowl on her perfectly-painted lips, she looked like a harsh mother that had come across her child doing something she didn’t approve of in the slightest. “Surely,” Pelande spoke, “you aren’t planning to make a mess.” A snort. “And I don’t just mean for the street cleaners. Interrogations without recording pertinent information? Executions without magistral approval?” She shook her head. “The Grand Magistrix might suspect you have your own agenda.” “Piss off.” The captain of this septet spoke as her eyes inspected the newcomer. Marquette, whom the blade remained pointed on, slowly tried to scoot away upon the floor. “Mind your own patrol, unless you really want a mess made?” As if on cue the flanks started to move to show just how much they meant business. “You’re not alone, P.” The soft voice of the woman garbed in a veiling illusion whispered, “Just remember we need them intact if we’re going to steal their likeness.” The nod she performed passed as acknowledgement to both those in front of her and the unseen elf. She moved her hands into view, but stood her ground. “No need for savagery. I just want to make sure we’re not all bogged down with extra paperwork. I mean, I’d just hate to think all the rumors about you were true, Captain Ludrissra.” “Tsk. You talk too much.” Ludrissra’s attention was now fully upon Pelande, granting Marquette a chance to flee. “Detain our intruder, she’s likely with them.” “Um… P…?” Pelande cursed softly, following up with a quick instruction. “Behind them.” It was very swiftly turning into an unavoidable fight. Pelande hoped Marquette had enough sense to get away while she could, and that her companion had the sense to cut off any that tried to pursue. “Fine, fine.” She said aloud, meandering verbally to buy the rogue the precious seconds she needed. “It’s fine. I’ve never been good at pretending I’m all high and mighty with an ass that smells like roses.” In a singular motion she freed her hair from the bun and took her spear from her back, charging rather than letting them make the first move. It was met with a just-in-time block from her opponent and she was quickly stepping back to avoid an attack from another. As long as she kept their focus, her partner could act freely-- given her strikes were true. Her partner teleported behind their primary target with a small arcane pop, slinging her razor-like blade into the opening upon the Spellblade Captain’s back. As the dagger sunk into Ludrissra’s flesh, Isabaele realized she had missed the spine. This wouldn’t be as quick as either of them wanted, but no matter. The shadow magic that lingered would still prove useful. “What the-- Dammit all!” Screamed the Captain. She pulled away from her attacker, forcing the rogue to relinquish the shadow laden blade that still remained. “Protect me, idiots!” Pelande was busy taking the butt of a polearm to the chin when she heard it, and staggering when she saw the attention of all but one of the group leave her. Her thoughts raced as she wiped away the droplet of blood from her lips, carelessly smearing the heavy makeup. She could probably kill this one on her own. That would leave the rogue to handle the rest. But, Isabaele wasn’t clad in armor that exceeded her own weight, or hardened by millenia of servile labor. The girl was quick, that much was sure, but this was hardly the time to test her. Pelande instead slammed her boot into the street with thunderous force, destabilizing the ground beneath them all. That was enough to make them hesitate at least as they debated which of the duo was the true threat. And that heistation would be their downfall. Isabaele abandoned Captain Ludrissra to the afflictions of the shadow laced dagger, moving with another arcane pop to appear behind one of the more aggressive of the guards. As he raised his glaive to strike, the rogue’s blade found its mark with a flick of her wrist. She nicked one of his arteries, the blood loss would claim his life soon. One of the guards moved rather deftly and sought to cut the rogue off and strike her from below, but she fast found herself on the ground, facefirst, delivered and then skewered there by a sweep and then a piercing blow from Pelande’s spear. A sharp kick freed the weapon from the soon-to-be corpse. She moved her weapon behind her, the bloodied point downwards, inviting the next attack her way, and the smile on her face was more genuine than any she’d given during her failed performance. “Two down.” Isabaele leapt over the body when Pelande was done with it, “And thanks!” Her dagger pointed its shadow-laced tip at the next lackey of the Captain. He blocked. No matter, she was fast enough to correct her trajectory. Sliding under the man’s legs, she kicked at the back of his knees to create her opening for another execution. The blood spraying over her dark leather armor. “Guess that’s three?” A glaive swung at Pelande; she brought her own spear up in a block, and the two began a brief dance. Block, block, parry, block, parry… but as soon as the warrior saw her opening, she took it, twisting her opponent’s weapon right out of her hands and piercing her throat. Now both intruders were making a mess. “Four,” she amusedly shot back, unable to even remember the last time she’d experienced such excitement. “Neat, we’ve hit the halfway mark!” Isabaele dodged a glaive that came down in response of the blood end of the guard’s comrade. Instead the guard maimed the corpse, ruining it for their own uses. “Ooh. Someone’s mad.” Her turn. The thin woman used this opening to send her blade through the soft underside of her attacker’s chin. “No worries! You’ll be with him soon.” A wink, a twist, and then a retrieval of the blade. “Hey P, think you can clean up this last one yourself?” “Yea.” “Thanks, I have a blade to retrieve.” But that last one wasn’t charging, rather he seemed torn between fighting and fleeing, hands tight on his weapons and gaze shifting from Ludrissra (with more fear than concern, Pelande noted) to the attackers. The warrior watched him at the ready. He made a break for it. Her smile wavered; he couldn’t be allowed to leave, and she took no joy in murder. The excitement ended on a morose note as she cut his escape short and silenced his cry before he could give it. Leaving the last of the lackys for her stronger companion, the rogue teleported behind their primary target once more. “Miss me?” She looked down at her prey who was still desperately trying to remove the agonizing blade from her shoulder. The spell was waning, but that didn’t matter. The rogue’s leather glove firmly grasped at the Captain’s jaw to hold her in place, forcing her to look at Pelande with a look of terror as the blade rested upon her neck--a look that was only met by the warrior’s disgust. “...N-no… please…” Her begging was cut short with a simple incision. The blood flowed like a fountain from her severed veins before she was released from the rogue’s grasp. The still bloodied blade returned to its sheath. Pelande ran a messy hand through her hair, looking round as she walked back to Isabaele and Ludrissra, “Could’ve been worse.” “Yeah, the right people are dead and we’re still alive.” Isabaele kneeled before the corpse of Captain Ludrissra as she took out a small pouch from her armor. Her fingers gently went inside and pulled a ring from within before she offered the bag to her companion as her smile continued. “What do you say we wrap up and call this mission a success?” Her adrenaline wearing off, she smeared away more of her itchy, smelly makeup. Multicolored fingers accepted the pouch and gripped it tight. “The sooner the better. I feel stupid.” She gestured to the elaborate armor. “Don’t be like that, you look nice.” Isabaele smiled, looked up at her companion and slipped the ring upon the corpse’s finger. Over the next few moments the magic within the ring absorbed the information needed, “Remember, we can only use those whose bodies are still intact enough for the illusion.” Pelande gazed around at their mess once more. She’d forgotten about that rule some ways into the fray, and it showed. Still, there had to be at least one. After turning over a couple and grimacing she found it; the woman she’d stabbed in the back. She knelt. Of course she had a familiar face. They all did. It wasn’t as if she knew any of their names off the tip of her tongue, but millenia of being a contained community meant there were no strangers among them. She placed the ring on the dead woman’s finger, rose, and began looking for another, idly tapping the pouch against her hip. When the process was complete, Isabaele removed the the ring and set it within another one of her pouches. She stood up and looked up and down the canal. An empty gondola rounded the corner, ripe for capture. The rogue threw a grappling hook to ground it. As she prepared the ritual to commandeer the small boat she looked back at the warrior for a moment. “When you’re done all we have to do is load up the bodies for disposal and get out of here.” “Right,” Pelande replied, setting about the conclusion of their grisly labor.
  5. 1 point
    As Pelande passed through the portal, the sights that greeted her were not what a Shal’dorei would consider pleasant. She was underground, in some ancient ruin of a circular room with high ceilings-- it looked like it possibly predated Suramar’s sealing.It all bore the familiar trappings of Suramar’s architecture but had undergone none of the meticulous maintenance. Still, it held together by virtue of its craftsmanship. There wasn’t much in terms of furniture, nor did there seem to be any natural way out. As the portal closed behind her she was trapped. The third time, by her count. Though less than pleased by this, Pelande kept her composure. “You made it.” The Eyeless commander noted, his tone flat. It was hard to get a read on the man. His head canted towards the female that had stood next to him before they departed and gave a simple command--“Pour her a drink.”--and the other Nightborne got to work immediately. Pelande set her spear aside, upright against the nearby wall, and pointedly stepped out of reach of it. A show of trust to accompany the direct inquiry, “What are you?” “A weapon against the Legion.” The Commander motioned towards the table. There were too few chairs to seat all those she had seen at the ambush. In fact there were far too few people in this room. There were dozens during the conflict, now there were but four excluding her. Scanning the room, she took this to be a council of some kind. A marksman, a man in robes next to what looked like a now inactive telemancy beacon, the female who was pouring the drink, and this demonic outlander who was seating himself. For a brief second she became anxious of her unkempt state. But the others seemed either not to notice, or simply didn’t care. “That’s not much of an answer,” she replied, settling into a chair. “but if you don’t want to tell me, that’s fine. You fight them; that’s all that’s important.” The ordeals began to catch up to her-- just the simplicity of sitting down was such a massive relief. Pelande let out a long breath. “So… how do we do it?” “First, you drink.” Before he finished the sentence, a mug of Arcwine was placed before the woman. The timing was eerie for a man who shouldn’t be able to see. “You are worthless to me if you Wither. Where the First Arcanist uses her rebels as an army and to inspire, we are more… specialized.” Pelande swept the cup into her hands and it was at her lips before she knew it. Her eyes opened in shock, but their illumination was already stronger than it’d been in weeks. She looked to the cup and shivered. Had she really just behaved like a starved animal in front of these strangers? Swallowing heavily, Pelande set the emptied cup back down. She tried to shift focus back to the conversation with a shaken laugh. “Extremists, then?” “Some would say so, but those would not understand the nature of war.” The Commander shrugged. “Sometimes a dagger can slip through one's armor with more ease than a sword or hammer. We give the Loyalists pause as they exploit your city, we create those openings the Dusk Lilies need by getting our hands dirty. In turn, by killing those who sell their own to the Legion, we save lives.” Idly, she tapped the side of the cup with her fingernails and let her thoughts run freely off her tongue. “They make me sick, these Shal’dorei that would rather be the kings and queens of ruins than fight. We didn’t survive all this time just to lose Suramar like this. Death is better than they deserve but all we can give them.” She looked to him curiously. There was much she wanted to ask, but wasn’t sure how to. “Does your cause have a name?” “I’ve not seen a point in naming our little group in hopes of keeping us more anonymous. But… the public has deemed otherwise and have named us for the weapons we leave as a warning for those who betray your people to the Legion. We are known as ‘the Ebonfeathers’.” Maela would probably find all this informality uncouth, but Pelande was feeling refreshed by it. After so many millenia, here she was in a new place. Speaking with new people, finding a new path, following a new set of rules... even if she wasn’t sure what they all were yet. It didn’t matter, she said to herself. As long as she was fighting the Legion, the anger that had festered for ten thousand years would find its outlet. She spoke with a smile. “As I said before, my weapon is yours. If you’d have it I would call myself an Ebonfeather.” “Then you are in luck, as we do have an opening.” His tone betrayed no hints as to how genuine he was being. “You made your choice when you stepped through that portal. Before we talk about your first mission; you should know that as one of us, our resources are available to you. This includes wine, our beacon, arms and armor-- tell me what you need and I’ll see to it.” “Some plate and a proper spear is all I could ever want--” She paused, “and, rations of wine, naturally.” This last part was spoke with a touch of shame, quickly masked with a clearing of the throat. “From there just tell me what to skewer… er...” Pelande trailed off, blinking… and then laughed. “...it just occured to me. I don’t know what to call you yet.” “Kal’une Danteur will do for now. As for your mission, you come to us at a critical conjecture. The First Arcanist marched three elven nations worth of armies into Elisande’s trap, including my ‘Brother’ who tried to warn them. This has left the rebellion in shorter numbers than we would prefer, so we will have to supplement for them. And while we don’t have the time to forge you into a weapon such as myself, I know where to find my Illidari brethren. The problem is, we need to get them inside the city undetected.” He motioned for the other woman to take a seat next to their newest recruit. “And that is where the two of you come in. We’re going to locate select targets, and replace them with those designed to Slay rather than Serve.” ‘Forge’ her. Did that mean turning her into something as twisted as himself? She didn’t care for the idea, but if he said it wasn’t happening it shouldn’t matter. But assassinating those that had turned their backs on her people? He didn’t have to ask her twice. It was apparent that he was moving his pieces into place. To what exact end, Pelande couldn’t see--she didn’t have much of a mind for planning, and the more she knew the more of a liability she’d be. She’d taken a leap of faith, and now this was the only solid ground left in sight, the only island in the storm. She had to trust in this man. With her bridges burning behind her, it was easier than expected. “Whatever it takes to liberate Suramar, Commander Danteur.”
  6. 1 point
    “Because you won't stop hurting us!” Juli cried. “You won't.. stop... we have.. to...” The entropic shadows were overcoming her. She staggered and fell to her knees again, and this time couldn't get up. Lilliana pushed herself up, still clutching Syreena like a broken ragdoll, and stared at Juli in amazement. “Freaking psycho hypocrite,” the priestess managed. She began to weave shadowmending around her leg, and Juli couldn't stop her. “Cerryan comes and tortures my friend as revenge... You attack me when you demand I step aside after we, together, save her, and expect me to allow you to kill her in front of me... and like totally break... oh shit what are your vows again? First one! Peace! I will not initiate hostilities!” Lilliana got to her feet, supporting herself mostly on her one good leg, and threw a fresh blast of shadow at Juli. Juli flinched as it struck her. “Second one! Justice! I will react with force only to defend the innocent, or in fair, consensual combat! Err okay maybe you didn't break number two... But you did break number three... Mercy! I will respond to hostility with the least force required!” Another blast followed. Juli gritted her teeth as it hit, her eyes watering with pain, and Lilly continued. “And Julilee... Sacrifice! I will forgive mistakes, insults, and injuries to me person for the sake of peace, justice, and mercy!” The final oath was partnered with another blast. Bracing herself on the greatsword, it was all Juli could do to keep herself upright. The Light from the sword had entirely faded away, dissipated absorbing all the shadow attacks. Without its warm glow, the pain Juli was under was nearly unbearable. Lilly paced around her, limping. “You and that jerk face Cerryan don't even follow your own rules! At least I follow my order's rules! But noooo, it's totally okay for you to play the eye for an eye game!” “You.. don't... understand... the vows!” Juli pulled the greatsword back and hurled it at the priestess. The sheer unexpectedness of the attack took Lilliana by surprise and it knocked her down again. Juli fought her way to her feet and started moving toward the door. Putting her fingers to her lips, she blew a shrill whistle. In response, a red-gold cloudserpent came swirling down from the overcast sky. Shou-Yana, the loyal companion Kex'ti had helped her tame, landed outside in the courtyard. Juli turned back as Lilliana started shouting. The priestess had left Syreena inside and come to chase Juli down. “I understand your stupid vows! I understand you don't freaking follow them! Don't run away from me...! We're not done! You haven't taught me a lesson yet!” Juli forced her broken arm to work as she grabbed her shield off her back and held it up to deflect the new spells Lilliana was flinging at her. “Our vows don't tie our hands, Lilliana,” she said through gritted teeth as she backed away. “It's not our job to keep turning the other cheek. We are allowed to fight back! We don't have to roll over and die because someone wants to kill us! I'm not going to let you, or Syreena, or any of the Grim hurt us. You did learn something today. We're not who you think we are. I'm not.” Turning, she reached Shou-Yana and grabbed onto the saddle with her good arm. She coughed, hacking up black blood, and leveled a stare at the advancing priestess. “Take Syreena and go. I can't beat you this time... but remember... I might try again.” “You might try again? Do it, I fucking dare you!” Lilliana shrieked. “Try to get me, you two-faced...” She inhaled and released a psychic scream again. Shou-Yana writhed in protest. And Juli simply stared Lilliana down, fury radiating off of her. She was not one to lose her temper. She would never rage incoherently like Lilliana was doing right now. But she was a warrior, and though she kept her rage tightly controlled, it was there. “Be wise, Lilliana,” she said lowly, “and consider it even.” “Don't try to backpedal!” Lilliana hollered. She started throwing spells at Juli's mount. Shou-Yana snorted, her reflective scales immune to most of the attacks, but backed away, and Juli let her go. “You know it's not even!” Lilliana yelled. “No, it's not,” Juli said angrily. She drew her blade, Mercy. Its jagged, glowing lines flared with a new light as Juli pointed it at the priestess. “It's not even. I've overlooked so much... but the Grim has gone too far, Lilliana! And even now I don't want to kill you!” She gave a bark of laughter, of all things. “You're just trying to protect her, that's why I'm holding back, even though if Syreena recovers she'll hurt me and mine again...” “Oh yeah, well I'm trying to kill you! I think Awatu will forgive me for like, totally disob—” Whatever Lilliana was about to say was cut off as Juli stepped forward and took a swing at her. The priestess flinched away and the sword only grazed her arm, but Juli followed through with a reversal, plowing the curved hilt into the priestess's stomach. At the same time, however, the spell Lilliana had been preparing was loosed, and it knocked Juli down, sending her rolling along the dirt a distance. Somehow, she managed to maintain her grip on her sword and shield until she came to a stop. Looking at Mercy, she realized it was glowing more than it usually did. Had the Light from Cerryan's sword transferred to it? Shaking her head, she pushed herself up and whistled for Shou-Yana. This time, she was able to pull herself astride the cloudserpent with her good arm before Lilliana caught up. Lilly's screams quickly grew distant as Juli rose into the sky. Despite the loss, Juli felt relieved. She had done her best to enact justice. If Lilliana thought she was a hypocrite didn't matter. The point had been made. And Lilliana, and the rest of the Grim, would look a them with a lot more wariness from this point forward. The glow on Mercy had faded by the time she landed in Dalaran.
  7. 1 point
    Lilliana’s head snapped up. She heard the quiet resolution in Juli’s voice, and her blue eyes blazed with immediate anger, all suspicions confirmed. “Why, Julilee?” she asked. Juli pointed the sword, Cerryan’s greatsword, at the priestess. It still glowed with the power Cerryan had infused it with, arcs of Light moving along its blade. “Step back, Lilliana,” she said again. “I can’t let you heal her. She didn’t deserve to suffer, but she doesn’t deserve to live, either.” Lilliana’s gaze trailed over the sword and moved back to Juli. “Get the fuck out of my face before I kill both you AND Cerryan… and then sic the rest of the Grim on your guild. You are not the Horde’s police,” she responded icily. Protectively, she put a hand on Syreena’s burned chest. In most of their fights, those in play and some in slightly more earnest, Juli had defeated Lilliana handily. But Lilliana had never honestly tried to kill her, barring Aerie Peak where both had been in groups with others. And Juli’s shield shoulder was injured, making it impossible for her to use her arms of choice. She held Cerryan’s greatsword, an unfamiliar weapon, but it wasn’t as hard to wield as she would have assumed it would be. She felt clear; resolute. “I will ask you one last time, Lilliana. Syreena tried to murder one of my own. If she is allowed to live, she will try again.” Juli raised the sword slightly. “I have no other option. If I did, I would take it. You can’t offer one, either. Step back.” “Oh yes, Julilee, I can offer options,” Lilliana said. Her childish voice had gone dead cold. “The option is, either you drop that sword and leave me and Syreena in peace… Or I make you drop it and I help you fucking find peace.” The words came out in a hiss. “As I said, you and your stupid guild are not the Horde police. Syreena goes back with me.” “What I am is a bringer of justice,” Juli said, and stepped forward to slice at the priestess with the greatsword. It was a calculated move, not overextending herself as she tested her ability to wield the blade, but it had strength behind it; no mere feint. It forced the priestess to scramble back, but Lilliana had grabbed onto Syreena and dragged her with her. “Julilee! I’m fucking serious! Go the fuck away!” Lilliana yelled. “You’re no bringer of justice… You’re just as bad as the Grim, and you know it!” She wrapped an arm around Syreena’s midsection and backpedaled as Juli moved on her. The words may as well have fallen on deaf ears. Even if what Lilliana thought wasn’t immaterial to her, Juli knew the priestess would say anything to try to achieve the effect she wanted; that she was willing to call her own guild bad just illustrated that fact. She aimed a low sweep to try to trip Lilliana up, and caught a glancing hit as the priestess tried to hold Syreena away from the strike. A shield of Light glimmered into existence around Lilliana in the next moment as she continued to back away, deeper into the barracks. “You’re a fucking hypocrite!” Lilliana said. “Are you seriously doing this right now? You let Cerryan do this and you speak of justice? He is so fucking dying… I’m going to make him into a drooling vegetable and leave him outside the Legion’s gates—” Juli concentrated on getting through Lilliana’s guard. She made a feint to the side that turned into a thrust. The commitment behind the strike was enough to have run Lilliana through if allowed to hit unprotected. She was not pulling her blows. The shock on Lilliana’s face when she felt the force of the blow bounce off the shield, weakening the barrier, meant she realized it. “Julilee, please don’t do this shit…” Her tone changed to begging, desperately. “Please… Not with me… Don’t!” “Then surrender Syreena and I’ll let you leave,” Juli responded implacably. She shifted her grip on the greatsword as she circled to cut Lilliana off from the exit. The Light that arced around the sword’s blade had moved into the hilt, coalescing around her hands. Somehow, Juli was able to sense that despite her pleas, Lilliana was reaching for the shadows. In the next moment, they returned to the priestess with an unearthly hiss, and the moment after that, the priestess loosed a blast aimed directly at Juli’s injured shoulder. Juli’s first instinct was to raise her shield to counter it, and having to readjust her instincts cost her. She tried to dodge but the blast still caught her with most of its force, spinning her and nearly knocking her down. She turned the momentum into a vault, completing the turn and lunging at Lilliana, the sword trailing behind her as she shoulder-checked the priestess with her good shoulder. As they collided, Lilliana loosed a piercing scream, one that burrowed into the deepest recesses of the mind and sent any enemy with a mind fleeing in blind panic. It was also a trick Lilliana had tried to use against Juli many times in their duels. Juli staggered but threw off the effect in mere moments. Letting go of the greatsword with one hand, she pummeled the priestess in the midsection to try to forestall the dark magics she sensed forthcoming, but they were loosed instantly nonetheless. A creeping shadow settled into the warrior, beginning to eat away at her strength and leaving behind considerable pain as it did. Her shoulder flared in renewed agony that she hadn’t noticed easing. Grasping the greatsword again, she took half a step back to bring up the sword between them in an upward slash. Lilliana, still burdened with the slight figure of the rogue in one arm at her side, took the slash shallowly up her stomach and chest. She screamed again, this time in pure anger, and released a serous of blasts with no pause in between. All three struck Juli, driving her back a good distance. Juli didn’t realize that the Light from the sword had crept all the way up to her shoulders. Her resolution kept her unfaltering. There was no other choice but this. As she charged forward to close the distance between them again, Lilliana had the few moments she needed to conjure up her shadowfiend. It launched itself for Juli’s bad shoulder, and though Juli twisted to try to slice the thing down, she was not fast enough with the heavier weapon to intercept it, and it latched on. She let go of the sword with one hand again to try to grab the thing and pull it off, but her hand passed right through its incorporeal form. Meanwhile, Lilliana was taking the time to work shadowmending on herself. Ignoring the shadowfiend for now, Juli set her sword and charged again. The shadows around Lilliana darkened into pure void. It was something Juli had never seen Lilliana do before. The blasts the priestess loosed were merciless and forced Juli to stop and raise the sword to put it between herself and the blasts. It seemed to buffer the impact somewhat, though the darkness still tore at Juli, so hard it forced her down to a knee. She grimaced in pain. “Lilliana,” she said between blasts, “Syreena tried to kill Kanda… the orphan she helped raise. Just for… joining Sanctuary. I can’t let her live.. and… be successful next time.” She pushed herself to her feet with an effort under the deluge of shadow. “You’d do the same in my position.” “Shokkra tried to kill Khorvis just to be an ass!” Lilliana screamed. She sounded nearly unhinged with anger, punctuating every sentence with another blast that pounded Juli remorselessly. “Your fucking ambassador… so fuck you! You and Sanctuary are not our police… You are not the judges… This is revenge and murder at this point… Maybe I’ll be the guilty one instead… Although at this point it’s kind of self defense! And WHY THE FUCK DID YOU CALL ME HERE ANYWAY?” “If I wanted revenge I would have left her here!” Juli shouted, fury overcoming her steely resolution. She swung heedlessly to parry a blast of shadow, the Light from the sword deflecting it, and began to advance, parrying Lilliana’s attacks. “I would have asked Kex’ti to help me instead of you!” She parried another blast, though her shoulder cried in agony. She didn’t know how she was even carrying on at this point. Strength suffused her. “I called you because I won’t hide… I won’t compromise… I can be PUSHED TOO FAR… and you and the Grim NEED TO SEE THAT!” “You brought me here to teach me a lesson?!” Lilliana said incredulously. Juli swung and struck the priestess with the flat of the blade in one knee. The crunching sound promised an injury as bad as her shoulder had been. Lilliana fell hard to the floor.
  8. 1 point
    Lilliana's curiosity, of course, got the better of her, like Juli knew it would. When the red-haired priestess arrived, spiraling down on her hippogryph to a landing, the look she gave Juli was not one of someone who was going to be easily duped. The questions Lilliana had peppered her with after getting the call had received only the most vague answers, and Juli intended to give nothing more away now than she had to. All she said in greeting was, “Lilliana. We need to get in there.” She indicated the barracks, guarded by the tall construct. “Yeah?” Lilliana rolled her shoulders and eyed the construct lazily, acting entirely unconcerned despite her discerning eye. “Why ain't you asking one of your own? 'Cause like... I might mind control that thing...” She pointed at the construct. “...to eat you or something.” She giggled. “You know me, always such a danger to all that's Sanctuary. How's your head, by the way?” Juli utterly ignored the taunt, considering she had thoroughly humiliated Lilliana several times since the incident she was referring to, and taunting was all the priestess could do. “I don't think it has a mind to be controlled, it's a construct. And–” She hesitated for a moment. “No one else who could help was available, and it's something in your best interest. There's no time to waste. Let's do this.” She drew her sword and shield. Mercy, the sword Kex'ti had given her, glowed with bright, jagged lines in the gloom of the Ghostlands. “Are you with me?” Lilliana's guard went up more obviously as she eyed Juli with open suspicion. “My best interest?” She didn't move. “Tell me what's in it for me. Then I'll help your self-righteous ass.” She grinned. Juli looked at Lilliana, evaluating. Then she said, “Syreena is in there.” She counted on Lilliana knowing she wouldn't lie. Lilliana might think Juli was crazy at times, but Juli had never been deceitful. And Lilliana tensed immediately. “What the frack? You lock her up in there like you did with Lupinum and I... But like now the construct thing is out of your control or something and Syreena is like done being grounded by you poopheads?” She started moving toward the construct as she spoke, drawing shadows to flicker about her body with a vicious, dark hiss. “Don't jump to conclusions,” Juli said coolly. “I asked for you to come here. Syreena's presence here has nothing to do with me.” She couldn't keep the edge from her voice at that. “Let's go.” “Wait... What?!” Lilliana looked from Juli to the entrance to the barracks. She was trying to reach Syreena via mind magic, and couldn't. But Juli was done trying to convince the priestess to get on board, and was closing the distance between herself and the construct. She slammed her shield into its side and swung her sword at the arm that immediately reached toward her. Like she anticipated, Lilliana's battle instincts kicked in and she was with Juli in the next moment, weaving shadows to strike at the construct and knock its reaching arm away. Juli's strike cut into its torso, but it quickly forced her back with a downward-aimed punch she had to dodge and aimed a blast of arcane power at Lilliana. The blast caught Lilliana in the side as she was briefly distracted watching Juli dodge the punch. “Ow! Rude!!” the priestess hollered. With a gesture, she pulled a fiend from the shadows and sent it after the construct. The construct parried another slice from Juli, then turned to try to make a sweeping strike at the shadowfiend. Juli got in a good chop to its back, making it stagger, though it managed to stomp and scatter the fiend into bits of shadow that dissipated. In retaliation, it turned, its torso rotating more than Juli had counted on, to deliver a horizontal blow to her shield-arm shoulder before she could pull back and raise her shield in time to block. The force of it drove to to the ground, though she kept one leg under her. It started raining blows on her that she hefted her shield despite her broken shoulder to catch, and a shield of Light shone around her to help, a token courtesy of the priestess. Gritting her teeth, Juli thrust up inside its guard into its internals as Lilliana blasted it with shadow. “Error,” it announced, as it continued pounding on her. “Critical damage suffered. Emergency recovery systems will activate in ten seconds.” “Finish it, quickly!” Juli said, pushing herself to her feet under the onslaught. “I'm trying!” Lilliana whined. Shadowy apparitions drifted in with deceptive languidity, eroding the thing as they came to it. Juli dodged another attack and started to circle it, looking for a way to stun it, but it stayed with her. Then the flimsy bubble of Light around Juli expired. “Weak point analyzed,” the thing said, and it leveled a two-handed blow at her left side. Juli was forced to catch it on her shield with her injured shoulder. The pain was intense and she couldn't raise her shield again as it lifted its arms for a killing blow. Its core began to power up with regenerative energy. A devastatingly deathly blast of shadow struck it from behind. It stayed frozen where it was for a moment, looming over Juli, but then began to slowly topple over. “System... failure...” it ground out before crashing to the earth. Juli got out of the way just in time. There was an unearthly, hissing sigh as the shadows around Lilliana vanished again. The priestess didn't stop to check on Juli as she vaulted over the fallen construct and entered the barracks, looking around frantically. Juli followed, grimacing as she sheathed her sword and slowly took her shield with her other hand to place it on her back. She stopped short when she saw the scene within, just as Lilliana went, “Oh fuuuuuuuuck...” The flickering light Juli had noticed earlier proved to be coming from a sword. Cerryan's greatsword, in fact. It pinned Syreena to the wall like an insect, the Light arcing from it illuminating Syreena's charred figure. It didn't seem the rogue could still be alive, but that the Light still attacked her. It was probably keeping her alive even as it burned her. Juli realized she had muttered an oath under her breath, though more of the Light was certainly not what was needed here. Lilliana reached toward her fellow guildmember but pulled back, knowing she lacked the strength to pull the weapon free from how deeply it had been buried in the wall. She turned to Juli. “Julilee, get it out! Please please please!” she begged frantically. To think Cerryan had done this, had created this sickening sight, and felt nothing but satisfaction. Juli moved forward and grasped the hilt of the sword. “Hold her,” she said to Lilliana, and Lilly did. With a heave, Juli pulled the sword out of the wall and Syreena both. The priestess caught Syreena and lowered her to the ground, desperately checking for signs of life, or unlife as it were. She glanced up once at Juli and her eyes narrowed. Juli felt the brush on her mind and realized too late that Lilliana had picked up the thoughts of Cerryan from the surface level of her mind. But the priestess just turned back to Syreena, beginning to weave the shadows into mending – knowing that more Light would certainly not help the Forsaken rogue. Juli watched, holding the greatsword, and slowly began to realize something. To allow Syreena to be nursed back to health was ensuring the rogue would go on to hurt more people. Juli knew it; she had thrown as much in Kex'ti's face for freeing Syreena from Alliance prison. But the damage that had been done to Syreena was appalling, and sickened her to her stomach. And that was the heart of the matter. Syreena had deserved to die, but not to suffer. That was why what Cerryan had done was wrong. And even if Kex'ti had found Syreena, and had enacted the “permanent solution” he had spoken of so ominously without making her suffer first, his reasons wouldn't have been completely right either. Because he, like Cerryan, would have taken satisfaction from it. That was why Juli hadn't been able to ask him, or anyone else in Sanctuary, for help. She didn't know who she could trust to do this. Besides herself. “Step back, Lilliana,” she said quietly
  9. 1 point
    Bits of conversations replayed in her mind. Heard again and again, they made Juli start to question things about which she'd been so sure. The drumming hoofbeats of her zhevra as she crossed the bridge into the Ghostlands couldn't drown out the inner dialogue. She urged it a little faster, though she couldn't risk an all-out gallop. If the horse foundered, then it would take even longer to get there, and if it wasn't too late already, even mere minutes could make the difference between life and death; so she had to make the measured choice. The measured choice. The reasonable, thoughtful one, where she considered all possible consequences, even those distant or hard to foresee, and made the best choice she could. That was what she did. Those who saw her as reticent to act would surely hesitate to move as rashly as they advocated if they found themselves the ones with the weight on their shoulders. Wouldn't they? “When we cut down enemies of the Horde, of Azeroth itself with every campaign, how can we stay our blades to a threat that is every bit as dangerous?” Cerryan had said something about Kanda, but Juli hadn't understood, and hadn't sought clarification. The truth was, she hadn't wanted to know that that line had been crossed. Syreena had been a dangerous nuisance, one Juli knew full well never to turn her back to, but before Kanda, Syreena had tread cautiously. Juli knew Kex'ti could bring her back into line if need be, and knew Syreena knew it too. “I had assumed you meant a permanent solution.” Juli had been sure that when she sent Kex'ti after Syreena after hearing about the attack on Sen'ahri that Kex'ti would teach Syreena a lesson, nothing more. Without admitting as much, even to herself, she'd thought the worst Kex'ti would do was take the Grim rogue's other ear, despite how dire Kex'ti had sounded. Surely with her words echoing in his head, he'd come to moderate his actions in the end. Instead, he had only been saved from responsibility for the act because Cerryan had moved instead. “This lunacy has gone on long enough. The hope I had... Was for nothing.” “That's not good enough, Julilee. 'Sometimes we can't do what is just because the world isn't that kind of place' is not GOOD enough!” “Sanctuary will burn.” That last was what she had said. If nothing else, it didn't matter even if Syreena really did deserve such a fate. One Sanctuary member attacking members of the Horde, they'd been fortunate to have the Warchief overlook. By bringing Saphiara to justice, Sanctuary had sufficiently distanced itself from her principles and actions. But two would destroy them. What little claim they had to loyalty to the Horde would become utterly unbelievable to public opinion, and mob mentality would tip against them. But what if she was just being paranoid? Yes, Sanctuary had been burned to the ground under Garrosh's reign. Yes, Sanctuary was, and always had been, viewed with suspicion for their interest in peace with those who were otherwise enemies. But the Horde cared about strength. Often, might made right. By turning the other cheek, were they making the distrust self-fulfilling? Many would respect Cerryan for what he did. They respected Kex'ti for his uses of strength. The willingness to take matters into one's own hand was often seen as a virtue. There was the fact that the Grim simply outmanned them. This wouldn't be the first time Juli had steered clear of antagonizing the Grim simply because they could not afford to with their smaller and often weaker numbers. The Horde respecting might was undeniable in the latitude the Grim had to conduct their questionable affairs. Multiple Warchiefs who had expressed interest in peace with the Alliance had not acted to defang the Grim. With Sanctuary's weaker political position as well, the Grim could act against Sanctuary so long as it had the thinnest veneer of justification, and come out well enough in the end. Maybe they wouldn't risk it; but Juli couldn't afford to give them the excuse. Not with every life in Sanctuary resting on it. Even if it was a slim chance that the Grim would choose to act, it simply wasn't worth taking. Wasn't it? Was she making the considered choice, or just finding excuses to avoid making the call? It seemed every argument started with the assumption that the only options were do nothing and be destroyed, or utterly annihilate your enemy. Those who advocated something more like the latter always assumed that when Juli refused she was espousing the former. She wanted to say she didn't, but then why did she never offer a counter proposal? Why did she focus her efforts on simply saying they were wrong instead of arguing for a different path? Maybe they never asked, but maybe she had always been counting on that. The voices multiplied as the zhevra bore her through the misty paths. Some were things that people had actually said to her, others she couldn't help but imagine them saying. “There is no sacrifice in taking punishment for nothing.” “It is no worse than what she would do. Has done.” “Finish the job. Any other outcome is going to lead to WAR.” “It was consensual combat. She showed up voluntarily.” It was a clamorous chorus with a theme that reached all the way back to Naheal, Faelenor, Kargron, Jinsai, Saphiara. Every argument beat at her resolve and not all of them she could counter. It was true Syreena had attacked and nearly killed Kanda. It was true Syreena had willingly accepted Cerryan's challenge. Juli would lay odds half of Sanctuary would believe Cerryan had done nothing wrong. Maybe more than half. But inside, her soul protested. It was wrong, what Cerryan had done, what Kex'ti had wanted to do. It was just wrong. It just was. It had to be. Because otherwise, deep down, she had no reason not to agree except being coward. The old Farstrider barracks came into sight over the hill, and Juli reined in the zhevra. The mount was still pacing to a stop as she slid from the saddle, drawing her sword and shield and moving forward. Over twice her height, the construct loomed in the doorway. She didn't hesitate as it reared up, activating at her presence, and her sword chopped into its ivory arm before it had finished its motion. It swung, dislodging her blade and forcing her back. “Trespassers will be eliminated,” it announced. Behind it, something glowed within the dilapidated barracks. Juli focused on the fight. The construct had the advantage of the doorway, meaning she could only come at it from one angle. It began charging up energy, and she darted at it again, slamming her shield into its knee. She was unsuccessful in bringing it off balance, and barely dodged the energy beam it released. “Repairing,” it stated, and arcane energy flowed to the points she had struck, reinforcing them. The one exchange, over in seconds, was all it took for Juli to calculate that she would not be able to get past it. She stepped back, out of range, and it remained in alert mode, standing guard in its position. It only took her a moment to decide what to do next. Even as self-doubt plagued her mind, she didn't waver from the path she had chosen. Maybe that, too, was just a sign of cowardice, but it remained to be seen what would happen in the end. Before anything else, she had to see for herself what lay beyond the construct. She spoke into her hearthstone. “Lilliana,” she said, “I need your help.”