Vionora

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  1. The Nightmare realm was disintegrating. One by one, those who had been drawn in overcame or fell to their own inner demons. Structures, people, worlds built of feral, fel-tinged twilight unraveled, exposing more and more of the twilight realm's featureless horizon. The shade of Vionora observed, so much as something without opinions can observe, but there was something more, now. The faintest hint of expectation. Of waiting. A whisper of intention. At last, there was only one nightmare left. Naheal struggled to fend off his own nightmare after assisting with others. Perhaps focusing on others had only served to delay his facing of the insurmountable. But as it turned out, he wasn't alone. Sinaku was there, as were Aaren, Taozhu, and Caldrien, having plunged back into the twilit nightmare to save him. Together they faced the last active fragment of Accalia in a bitter battle. The shade of Vionora watched as the tide turned against the Beast-God and the last nightmare began to unravel. At the last moment, Accalia turned to flee. There was enough of Accalia's essence left, undefeated, that if this part escaped, she would recover in time. The cycle of the curse of the Eclipse would continue. Vionora's suffering, her life, and her death, would have all been in vain. Nothing she had done would have made a difference, her every action, her every wish and desire, negated and discarded by the world. And the part of her self that had never given up, had refused to change despite the suffering that resulted, and which carried just enough will to have survived being absorbed by Accalia, acted. When she materialized this time in Naheal's nightmare, she knew that she was truly herself. She wasn't being formed of Naheal's perceptions of her, or anyone else's. She was barely there, a ghost of a ghost, but her will persisted. And it was sufficient to hold Accalia in place. Accalia howled and struggled but was too weakened to escape. The others didn't waste any time questioning her presence. With the use of the Sacren Stone, they gathered the energy of the collapsing Nightmare realm and turned it against Accalia. Vionora felt it as the energy came rushing at the remnant of the Beast-God. She was still holding Accalia in place; but the truth was, even if she had let go, she would have been swept into the energy regardless. She was a part of Accalia now, and only existed within her. Vionora closed her eyes as the power overwhelmed them. Accalia would be defeated, once and for all, this day. It was enough. Into the Twisting Nether the last remnant of Accalia fell, and with her the faint shade of Vionora. ****************** On Darkmoon Isle, under mist-wreathed trees, a discarded soulstone glimmered ever so faintly.
  2. Vionora tried to hold on, to remember why it mattered, to not lose how those precious moments felt… but Accalia’s power faded with the crumbling of the nightmare, and the will of another alone was no longer capable of holding her together. She dispersed back into the darkness, and it swallowed her once more in the peace of numbness. Only the faintest impressions remained; an echo, perhaps, of the person she had been. There were brief wonderings, almost thoughts, but not quite. One such almost-thought reflected on how it was impossible to say if she had truly seized the chance to help someone she had cared about. How much had been the true Vionora, and how much had been the person Tirien had wanted to believe she was? As with Malhavik, it had been Tirien’s will that gave her form again, because there was simply not enough of her left to have a will of her own. What she had done, what she had been, for a little while, was probably more a product of Tirien’s wishes than anything else. In the end, an echo sounded different depending on what reflected it. Yet something about this vaguely acknowledged concept disturbed whatever remained of Vionora. It was like the stirring of the lightest breeze, or a barely discernible ripple in water. Her life, her entire, miserable life had been spent suffering the rejection of who and what she was. She had been blamed for her heritage, reprimanded for showing distress, and despised for the actions she was driven to. Yet there had always been a part of her that knew it was unfair. There was a part of her that refused to ever internalize what she was told – to try to change and become whatever it was the rest of the world wanted her to be. It was true she knew she couldn’t be anything other than herself, anyway, and that trying would only be futile… but she also knew she shouldn’t have to be. She wanted to be accepted and loved just the way she was. Everyone did. At the end, she had believed that she would always instinctively seek out self-destruction, and that that would endanger those she cared about. But that self-destructive bent had been instilled in her by the cruelties of the world. It wasn’t what she wanted, but what she had come to believe she deserved, and believed too deeply to be saved in time. She understood that now, when it was far too late. When, then, had she had a chance to be what she really was? Malhavik had outright tried to make something of her she wasn’t. And while Tirien had tried to help her, no one could have saved her from herself at that point, and now all he could see was what he wished she’d been able to become. Which wasn’t real – it was cheating. She hadn’t done it on her own. All of this was merely a trembling in the twisting nether, a vibration in the energies within Accalia’s twilight. But it was all she was. And this… this one the one thing she would never give up.
  3. She returned to peace after that. There was nothing more that could be done. Whatever chances she'd had were gone now; whatever regrets she had were moot. And though nothing mattered anymore, that was not a bad thing. It simply... was. But there was another trapped in the twilight whose thoughts called to her, summoning the remnants of her essence. She was given a chance to make a difference.
  4. It was Tirien. Knowing him even with the age upon his features and the dark robes cloaking his figure, Vionora’s heart had sunk to see him, though she couldn’t pull her eyes away. She didn’t know at first where she was supposed to be or what was ostensibly going on, but she knew what this was, and to see him here meant she hadn’t sent him far enough away. It meant that there hadn’t been anywhere far enough to keep him safe. But she was here too. Something had breathed life into her again; something had pulled the scattered fragments of thought and lost wishes together. Or maybe she was just an echo, Tirien’s memory of what she was, and not so much the person she had actually been. Vionora didn’t care. She had a chance to save him. The webs and windings of the nightmare surrounded her, visible to her and only her as lines of feral twilight spinning through every structure and person and flickering flame. The things Tirien did not focus on were shadows and suggestions, no more, the world itself beyond Stormwind disappearing into utter void. Even when she looked down at herself, it was the same as it had been with Malhavik: although he didn’t even recognize her now, she only appeared as Tirien, on some level, had seen her. One way or another, Vionora was no more real than this nightmare world. In this world, Tirien was a warlock. He was everything his father had been. Of course that was his nightmare. She didn’t dare just try to talk sense into him; Accalia’s influence had twisted and blinded him. He would react like a sleepwalker suddenly confronted and lash out, as she had discovered. No, if she wanted to help him, all she could do was play along, and try to remind him of who he really was. Some part of him had to remember. Because, she knew on a level deeper than instinct, why else would she be here? And yet for him to treat her so cruelly… The pain he had inflicted simply to teach her a lesson burned brightly in her memories, though the marks had faded the moment he’d left. It was more agonizing than it had been when Hunter had worn Tirien’s face and hurt her in the past. She had known that wasn’t really Tirien. And while this wasn’t either, it was a Tirien who could have been, that some buried part of him understood his potential to become. And cruelty from the one who had refused to ever hurt her had cut deeper than her dreamed-up flesh, sinking to the deepest part of what her soul had once been. It was only the knowledge that she had to save him that kept it from overtaking her, that kept her from submitting to, to welcoming, the sublimity of suffering once more. But maybe, she thought, that she even felt that desire meant she really was herself… Or was that a part of her Tirien had understood? Distantly, Vionora thought she could hear a howl. She waited in the tavern above the catacombs. Her surroundings responded grudgingly without Tirien present, but she exerted her will and the twilight drew on Tirien’s knowledge and expectations accordingly. It was like lucid dreaming with someone else’s mind. She had to tread carefully, lest the dream be pushed too far and be caused to snap back to its original shape – without her. But Tirien expected her to find Michael, and so she did. He ducked inside, out of the heavy rain. The resemblance he shared with Tirien was uncanny to her, made all the more so by the realization that she recognized the way he moved from the times she had seen him in control. It was like seeing an impostor Michael, and perhaps he was, because looking at him, Vionora could only see more lines and threads of twilight. In contrast, Tirien had shone like the sun, albeit buried beneath the muffling, suffocating layers of twilight. It was evidence that Tirien was the only thing here that was real. Michael looked around and saw her. She held his gaze until he was sure she was his contact. He walked over to the table, and she rose to curtsey. “Lord Forewell,” she said. “Just Michael, please,” he responded. Those words and his open expression, though showing a little concern, made Vionora smile. The nightmare hadn’t tarnished Tirien’s image of his brother in the slightest. Then he asked, “I understand you have something for me regarding my brother?”, and her smile faded as she came to grasp the implications of that fact. He waved her to a seat, and they sat across from one another. Vionora arranged her skirts and considered where to begin. It would probably be best to start with the conflict that she saw; the pattern of the web enfolding them. “How long have you and your brother been at odds?” she asked. Michael reeled back a bit. “Uh… Hm…” He folded his arms. Something about the gesture reminded Vionora powerfully of Tirien, especially since this Michael was much closer to what Tirien’s age was supposed to be. “More than a decade, I know that,” he said. “You two used to be so close… or so I understand,” she said with care as the threads vibrated in warning. Her presumptions were barely tolerated. “We were,” he said with emphasis on the second word. “When did he… turn to the fel?” It was still so impossible to imagine him doing that, even though she’d seen it with her own eyes. “And why?” she had to add. “He hated it...” A sad look touched Michael’s expression. “So it’s true, then,” he said. Vionora inclined her head, and he clicked his tongue the way the Forewells all did and kicked at the chair. “I’ve heard rumors, everyone has, that he employs demons to deal with his enemies,” he said. “There was a time he would have never, ever consorted with demons, or anything fel,” Vionora said. “Yeah. I thought that part of him still held true which is why I hoped…” His voice trailed off, and he rested his forehead in his fingers. Vionora looked at him, at this conception of a young boy that Tirien loved with all his heart, grown into a young man Tirien was destined to not understand and see only as a threat. What answers could he give her, plucked from the depths of Tirien’s psyche? “What happened?” she asked after a moment, daring to probe deeper despite the web shifting around them. “How did you get free?” “I have no idea,” he said. That he grasped of what she spoke so easily, without question, reminded her that this was a dream; that she spoke to a ghost. “It just felt like a miracle of the Light.” “And Hunter…?” she asked. “Is he… gone?” Michael nodded. “Of that I am positive,” he said. “He died fighting Accalia in a vain attempt to steal her power. I saw it, Hunter’s nightmare.” The web shuddered in protest, but it rang with truth like the rest hadn’t. Tirien had seen it. Hunter was truly defeated. Vionora’s hopes rose. Hunter had once said that his and his sons’ souls were fused, never to be separated, but here, even a wisp could be reformed; to unfuse souls was not beyond the realm of the twilight. If she could free Tirien from his nightmare, he would truly, truly be safe, even from the things Vionora could no longer hope to affect. If she could free him. She thought she heard another howl, closer. “Accalia consumed him too?” she said distractedly, and Michael nodded – again, she realized, taking the conflicting implications at face value. Yet that made her realize something else. If this was not the true Michael… then where was he? “Did you have a nightmare?” she asked, focusing on him. “No, I didn’t,” he said, calmly; too calmly. The web didn’t react in any way, almost as though tensed and waiting. Vionora intuited, then, with a flash of insight, the greater pattern of the web that stretched far beyond the hazy borders of this nightmare, spanning through the twilight realm where others still lay trapped in its snarls. Even though Michael’s soul was not here, his fate still hung in the balance. If Tirien was not saved, he could not save Michael. She took a soft breath, and dared push as hard as she could. “What about… Tirien?” Michael thought. He looked troubled. “I’ve asked him about it, but he would never go into detail. I don’t think he remembers it.” A tendril of the web snapped. Vionora would have flinched if she could have, but she couldn’t. She had gone too far, and now the strands tightened around her in response. “So, what news do you have of Tirien?” Michael asked. He looked hopeful. She pressed forward, ignoring the web closing in. “I need your help to turn him back from this path he’s on. It’s the only way to save him. He’s going to… do something he’ll forever regret.” Her hands fisted in her skirts as howls sounded, unheard by anyone else. Michael leaned forward, earnest and eager to help; vulnerable. “Anything,” he said. “What do you need me to do?” And Tirien’s nightmare imposed itself on her. There was only one way this meeting was supposed to end, and it wasn’t with Michael coming to her aid to save his brother. “He wants me to kidnap you,” she whispered. He stared at her. “He wha—” The howls had closed in. The webs formed the jaws of worgs closing on her wrists and neck, directing her actions. Somehow, Vionora called forth demonic terrors to tear open a portal behind Michael. A dark force yanked him back from his seat. He only had scant seconds to mouth ‘no’ in disbelief before he was gone.
  5. <p>Who is Zakael?</p>

  6. <p>Gahhhhhhhhhhh</p>

  7. <p>What is happening!!</p>

  8. Malhavik was infuriated with her for rescuing Aaren and throwing his plans with Fhenrir into jeopardy. But she calmly told him to not expect her to stand by and let someone she cared about die – because he wasn't the master of her. To which he asked who was, and she told him: herself. Even if she gave herself to him, it was her decision; she was ultimately in control of her own life. Maybe it had been true all along. Life had heaped everything from indignities to unspeakable cruelties on her, but the choice of how to react to them had always been hers to make. While the choices she'd made were understandable, a great part of them something it would hard to blame her for, it had taken her this long to believe she could even be anything besides a victim. It wasn't going to be easy, learning to fight the instinct to give up. There were pitfalls she couldn't even fathom down that path. Chief among them was taking responsibility for how her actions had and would hurt others. But she was determined. Yet Accalia was coming. A new perspective wouldn't be able to save her from the choices she'd already made. And the light she'd found, reflected by those around her, would illuminate the truth of why she'd taken the path she had. *** fin
  9. Semi-final update of thread list. The list and summary will be updated one final time when people are done adding to their nightmares.
  10. [[ Final update, barring last threads to be added. ]]
  11. Can you dream when you don't exist? Her soul had been devoured, torn into shreds and dissolved into energy to feed Accalia. But Accalia yet existed, and therefore, a shade of Vionora existed within her. She couldn't form complete thoughts, or feel much emotion; her memories were made vague and irrelevant. But she understood what had happened and her current situation, and through the twilight void that was both Accalia and Accalia's prison, the faint echo of her soul wandered. Vionora didn't know it, but her circumstances were not unlike those someone she had encountered had endured. All she really thought was that the absence of suffering was peaceful. Death was peaceful. Although she still existed in a way, the idea of ceasing to exist did not trouble her. She might have continued on this way until Accalia was destroyed, except that she wasn't alone in the twilight. The thoughts of another latched onto the echo of Vionora, and, for a time, gave her a semblance of life again.
  12. With her eyes closed, Vionora didn't see the despair twisting his features, but she heard it. She had tried so hard to keep his approval. For months, even when they were together, it had been a constant struggle. It was one seemingly between them; but in the end, it was only against themselves. Vionora could not be what he wanted her to be. Despite the immense cruelties the world had heaped on her, she had never really wanted anyone else to suffer the same. But it was the impossibility of it that had drawn her to him. Only now, after he finally rejected her, did she understand that that rejection was what she had been looking for all along. And yet she had spoken truly when she'd said he couldn't hurt her. In the end, she had been hurting herself. He had only ever been what she'd wanted. But there was no pain now. The only thing she felt was her own share of regret. So much wasted time. So many wounds never allowed to heal. She opened her eyes to see the shadows that stitched the illusory inn together were coming apart. So, too, was she. To the void she returned.
  13. Cast Xara (Vionora, Xaraphyne, Julilee, Filora, and Nokokomah) Naheal (Naheal, Naheal, and Naheal... j/k) Malhavik (Malhavik and Grinjowl) Breygrah (Breygrah and Aaren) Konro (Konro, Shokkra, Alakroz, Karthok, and Telerian) Darethy (Darrethy) Kerala (Kerala, Lomani, Anura, Coqui, and Chanchu) Kexti (Kex'ti and Tesonii) Cobrak (Taozhu, Cobrak, Caldrien, and Brammorn) Tirien (Tirien, Hunter, and Michael) Fhenrir (Fhenrir and Fhenrir... seriously) Syreena (Syreena and Maxissa) Stepanos (Stepanos, Fidjit, and Ja'breeve) Smithe (Smithe) Emmeran (Emmeran) Hegran (Hegran) Lupinum (Lupinum) Khorvis (Khorvis) Ruuki (Ruuki) Cen (Brast) Awatu (Awatu and Borghul) Inzema (Inzema and Qarosimae) Talfryn (Talfryn) Alfirin (Alfirin) Grimal (Grimal) Vilmah (Bellame) Leyujin (Leyu'jin) Lilliana (Lilliana) Brinnea (Brinnea) Civarra (Shaena and Civarra) Saphiara (Saphiara, Malethia, and Malethia) Gazreeth (Gazreeth... for GM) Selash (Selash) Faelenor (Faelenor) Amalyn (Amalyn) Mudhide (Mudhide) Jenasis (Jenasis) Astraea (Astraea)
  14. Several weeks later, finally writing a wrap-up post... Well, better late than never! Where to begin? Definitely first and foremost, I want to say thank you to every participant for your wholehearted support. It made all the difference in the world. I'm humbled by how fully my not-so-little idea was embraced by the community. Even people who didn't participate have said they thought it was cool. But Eclipse would not have been a fraction of what it was if folks hadn't jumped in unreservedly like they did. Simply put, my greatest hopes were exceeded, and it's all because of you guys. Thank you so much for letting me do this. It's sincerely been one of the greatest highlights of my WoW experience, which includes quite a bit. One thing I particularly appreciate is how everyone accepted, adopted even, Vionora – an "anti-villain" as Darrethy kindly called her, but more accurately a cliché pile of emo tropes that I can't believe no one ever rolled their eyes at. It was kind of sweet, actually, how no one ever pointed it out, like you were all afraid I didn't know and didn't want to burst my bubble. But it was very freeing to just play her as she was, and thank you all for that. That's really what Eclipse was about, though... No judgment; just having fun. It didn't matter how many people got kidnapped, threw themselves headlong into danger, appeared in the right place at the right time, or had whatever else happen that was way over the top. We weren't writing the next great novel, we were just doing whatever sounded the most fun at the time. And as a result, a whole lot of fun was had. As intended, Eclipse was just backdrop for everyone to tell their own stories and develop their own characters. That is what we're all in this to do, after all. If Eclipse ends up being a significant event in some characters' histories, and staying a small part of server lore for as long as any of its players are around, then I'll be honored. And maybe in another seven years, some part of it will still live on. Thanks go to the GMs of the original plot, Rannoch and Theira, who were kind enough to give me their blessing in carrying on the story they originally created. Also thank you to Naheal, the other veteran of the first Eclipse plot, whose support was invaluable. But again, the biggest thanks go to all the players. Thank you so much. Love, Vionora/Xaraphyne/Julilee/Filora Edit: oh geez I'm the worst wife. Huge thanks also to my husband for not only putting up with me spending almost every free minute I had for three months on WoW (at least I'm sure it felt that way!) but for taking an interest in the story and being an awesome collaborator. By the way, the reason Eclipse isn't the #1 highlight of my WoW experiences is because I met him on WoW.
  15. I thought I'd share some of the things I know and learned about running a large-scale, epic plot for anyone out there who might be interested in doing the same. It's a very rewarding thing to do, but it takes a lot of work, and there's a lot that can go wrong if you're not looking for it. I hope this will come in handy for anyone considering running their own plot. What is a Plot? I might be the only one who uses this term this way, so my apologies if it's confusing! I call it a plot when a bunch of roleplaying characters are all involved in a common storyline. However, what differentiates your everyday roleplay from a plot is a good question too. I guess it's a matter of scale. Everyone has storylines and character arcs and events going on. However, when the impact starts to be greater than a single character's development, it starts to be more... a plot, like a story has. It's when guilds rise or fall. It's when worlds are threatened. It's when things are changed forever. In free-form roleplay, as is customary on WoW, such plots can only be successful with competent direction. Otherwise, people will run around doing their own thing and no cohesive story will really take shape, or, worst case scenario, things go south and people end up unhappy with the story that does happen. Thus, a plot requires a GM, or game master, like in tabletop RPGs, to provide guidance and keep the story going in the right direction. But since it is free-form, players must agree to participate; no one can be forced into accepting guidance. Remember that any authority a GM has is endowed by the players and can be revoked by the same. GMing can be very, very rewarding. However, it's not easy. There are various requirements and challenges you should consider before you start up your own plot. Time & Scale First of all, I should warn you that it's extremely time-consuming. I spent several hours a day, every day, for three months on Eclipse. This included reading RP posts, writing my own RP posts, updating the summary and thread list, planning and coordinating events and plot points (I actually had to beg to get my PM limit increased on both TNG and Sanctum), chatting in the Eclipse group and channel to keep tabs on how everyone is doing, and, last but far from least, actual in-game roleplay. It's not for the already-busy if you want to run a plot on this scale. That said, not every plot needs to be so intense. You can run a plot that doesn't necessarily take center stage at a much more relaxed pace, which would also not necessarily draw in as many players, making it smaller and easier to manage. There are pros and cons to both, one of the considerations definitely being burnout if you go for something epic – and not just of the GM, but the players, too. But of course, there's something to be said for big and intense! Either way, having regular events, and an ending in mind, is crucial to keeping a plot from drying up. This includes a target end date, though you may need to multiply however long you think it's going to run by about 1.5 if experience shows right. <_< But do ensure the plot always keeps progressing, and know when it's time for it to come to an end so that other stories can have their chance in the spotlight. Laying the Groundwork Another thing to note was that it was extremely helpful to have guidelines written up that included OOC expectations. I pretty much didn't have to stop and explain to anyone that Eclipse included non-canon content and that as a GM I would need to be allowed to take liberties upon occasion, except those who encountered the plot in-game. People knew what they were signing up for already or I was ready to let them know right away. But I did have to think about ahead of time what people would need to be prepared to accept that wouldn't normally come up in day-to-day roleplay. Then, I had to be ready to ensure randomly encountered players understood that, and acquire their consent before proceeding in anything that would affect them. (Pro tip: a character who can just disappear at will is super handy.) One example is an earlier-on scene where a fight broke out in Warspear involving several characters against Vionora. Before the fight began, I acquired the consent of one player who had not formally volunteered for the plot in order to allow Vionora to be overpowered, and then also explained to a bystander who started watching that all players involved had agreed that my character could kick ass for the purposes of the greater story. Speaking of fighting, there was one thing I had to add to the guidelines partway through the plot, and that was how to handle combat. This can be a fraught issue in any kind of roleplay anywhere, including on WoW, so it's important to make expectations clear. While it may be impossible to please everyone, presenting an arbitrated option can help. As GM, you can take it out of the players' hands, which is invaluable in keeping tensions diffused. If you do decide to use an arbitrated system, the most important thing is being flexible, so as to ensure all players have fun and feel awesome. Also, I wouldn't suggest trying to arbitrate a group of larger than 10 or so. Lessons learned! Feel free to borrow the Eclipse combat system if you like and modify it to suit your own tastes. Just remember, when you start to lay the groundwork, that most of the time, people do whatever they like when it comes to their roleplay... so if you have something specific in mind that you want your players to respect, you'll have to ensure they know what's expected of them and consent to it before you proceed. That means you need to sit down and work out exactly what you're going to ask of your players ahead of time. Setting the Tone The OOC guidelines should also include conduct expectations for all players. I was fortunate to only have the very best participants, but the guidelines helped set the tone to attract those people: positive, mature, collaborative, and inclusive. Keep this tone not just in your OOC guidelines, but in your OOC conversations! Positive: Phrase things in only the most positive way ("let's do X!" rather than "don't do Y!"), and it will really pay off with the excitement and willingness you'll receive in return. Mature: Just state the obvious. Hopefully, most people won't need to hear it, but it will be reassuring to hear that you as the GM expect people to do things like be able to work out their differences. Do remember to be positive here! Collaborative: Try to keep a default answer of "sure!" and stay away from letting slip the "I dunno..." In the end, a little bit of inconsistency is totally worth players feeling like their ideas are wanted and valued. The story doesn't have to be perfect and completely without plot holes. Don't try to make it; be easy instead. People will be happier and that's what will make the plot successful. It's really about letting the players contribute. Ask players what they want out of the plot, what sort of challenges they want their character to face, and what they think would be interesting for their character to do. Just asking really facilitates collaboration. Inclusive: Do your best to reach out to everyone and actively draw them into the plot. Whenever someone showed some interest, I made sure to speak to them personally and suggest ways to get involved. And whenever I hadn't heard from someone in awhile, I reached out to find out how they were doing and if there was anything I could do to ensure they were having a good time and felt involved – and wanted. With something like a plot, an activity people are participating in, it's far too easy for some to get left by the wayside. It may happen even if you mean well; trust me, a lot can be going on and it's hard to stay on top of it all. I know I didn't do a perfect job, despite how much effort I put into it. But it's important to be proactive and considerate, especially for those who aren't so good at involving themselves. The moment it becomes a clique is the moment it stops being a good plot. In Conclusion GMs are only human and they're bound to make mistakes. I know I did with Eclipse. But if you keep your eye on the prize, and the prize is everyone having a wonderful time, it's very possible to be successful in that. Put people being happy ahead of telling exactly the story you wanted to tell, or being the center of attention, or ignoring the problems, and you'll be happy you did – and so will everyone else.
  16. Vionora slumped in Malhavik's arms; gone. He stared down at her in disbelief. The soulstone rolled from his slack hand to the ground. Accalia fell, but she was not yet finished. Even as the sun was freed from the shadow of the Blue Child, and a spear of light shone down, she lifted her head weakly and spoke to those who yet lived. FOOLS... MORTALS... YOU THINK YOU HAVE DEFEATED ME? YOU CANNOT DEFEAT ME IF YOU CANNOT OVERCOME FEAR ITSELF! The forest floor opened beneath the defenders, a giant, slavering maw. Into a nightmare they all fell.
  17. The last of the daylight winked out, plunging them into utter darkness, and Accalia moved into the mortal realm. The power it took the Ancient to penetrate even the thinned veil between worlds was immense. Malhavik was prepared for it. He gathered the excess energy and focused it through the soulstone, sending it arcing through the seal on Vionora's hand and soul, and out through the mark of the Eclipse, back to Accalia in a feedback loop. Vionora gasped and clutched onto Malhavik as the massive amount of energy ripped through her, incising her soul. She was barely even aware of the great many-headed worg that loomed over them, that the defenders had attacked, who tore through with lunar power and mind alterations and swarms of minions. Malhavik ignored the pitched battle around them as he worked single-mindedly to lift the seal from Vionora's soul. It was the most excruciating thing Vionora had ever felt, and she had endured unimaginable things. But before Malhavik was done, Accalia turned on them. The Beast-God was weakening, torn down by the defenders despite her great power. Like seven years ago in Moonglade, her mortal form would be defeated this day. But also like then, she intended to retreat and survive to try again someday. And to destroy to as many as possible on her way out so that they would not be there to challenge her the next time the curse was unleashed. To that end, she grasped as much power as she could. THE HUNT NEVER ENDS. EXCEPT FOR THE PREY. Accalia's metaphysical jaws closed around the talisman-seal, still anchored in Vionora's soul, and tore it out of Mal's grasp like stealing candy from a baby. Vionora experienced a moment of weightlessness, of something beyond disbelief or acceptance or even relief. She had spent many long periods of her life not caring what happened to herself, to others, to the entire world; but now, none of it mattered in the slightest. Nothing mattered anymore. She had done everything she could, or ever would, do. In that moment, she experienced the ultimate surrender. Then, with another wrench, the Beast-God ripped her soul from her body and devoured it.
  18. She ran straight toward destruction, as she always had. The power to the north was growing staggeringly as the daylight waned. The sun was nothing but a sliver now, and more and more howls filled the woods, despite the many beasts brought down by the defenders. In the washed-out twilight through which Vi moved, the worgs glowed amber with a fel touch around the edges, a shocking and nauseous combination. They ignored her, focused on their prey. Even now, the mark of the Herald Vionora bore fed Accalia. Once again, her life was required. A sobbing laugh escaped her as she ran. Before an empty grove, Vionora fell to her knees, releasing the twilight. The colors and sounds of the unmuted world returned in full force, but they were nothing compared to the energies swirling in front of her, invisible to the naked eye but screaming on her magical senses. The mark on her right hand burned, brilliant and agonizing. She clutched it helplessly. Everything that had mattered was falling away. Naheal. Darrethy. Aaren. Malhavik. Tirien. All of the people who had tried to convince her that life was worth living. She had done this, she had brought this on herself, as she always had. They couldn't save her from herself. No one could. Time and time again, she had thrown her life away, and this time, she had gone too far. There was no going back, now. She could only wait and reap the consequences of her actions. And even if she lived this time... Malhavik's hand came to a rest on her shoulder; he knelt down next to her. It was time. Vionora looked at him again, at his black eyes, and the regret was crushing. He had only ever been exactly what she had wanted, and it had been monstrously unfair to him to have been caught up in all this. She had pulled him into her self-destructive spiral for which there was only one end. She thought of Tirien, safe on the other side of the world. Far away from her. If only she had understood sooner... But she hadn't been capable of understanding before. Only when the light inside of her had been lit did she understand that the only way to protect what it illuminated was to put it out. "Mal," she said, but whatever she would have said next was lost forever.
  19. <p>Too bad they didn't get to talk more.</p>

  20. <p>I posted sum Aaren</p>

  21. It was a delicate balancing act, trying to please Malhavik while asserting her independence. It came to a head when Vionora rescued Aaren from Fhenrir against Malhavik's wishes. The fel gateway fizzled out behind them as they stumbled into the dank interior of the cave. Vionora pressed a hand to her stomach where blood flowed. She'd been shot, again. Pain was familiar and almost comforting, taking her away from what she'd just done so she didn't have to think about the ramifications. Yet. "Fucking hell! I just made this one too!" Aaren said, inspecting her arm where another bullet had grazed her. Then she looked at Vionora, realizing the other elf was injured. "Did they hurt you?" "Ah," Vionora said distractedly. She summoned the Light to start healing the wound, though doing so brought its own share of pain. "I've been hurt worse," she said. Aaren reached out with her bloodied hand, setting it on Vi's shoulder. "Yeah, so have I. Want me to help?" "Is it worth it?" Vionora murmured. "For me? Yeah. For you?" Aaren left it unanswered. The glowing lichen lit up the cave enough to see each other by. They were in the Ghostlands, the first place Vionora had thought to go. She was still a little shocked that she'd done it, she'd drawn on the fel well of energy inside of her. She'd had no other choice, though. More shocking was how it had bent so easily to her will, unlike the Light, which had only ever come grudgingly. She closed her left hand, the seal-marked hand, into a fist over her wound. Aaren frowned. Vionora knew Fhenrir hadn't meant to shoot her. That was the last thing he wanted to do. "If I die, the Harbinger loses his power... But Accalia will still come," Vionora said. It had been almost three months, and more had been marked this time than the last. Accalia would certainly have enough power gathered to break through to the mortal realm come the next eclipse even if the flow were cut off now. "Is it worth it?" Vionora repeated in the ensuing silence. "I don't know." "Well, letting you die isn't nice," Aaren said factually. "What would your human friend say?" Vionora blinked and looked at the other elf. "He's... very stubborn," she said after a moment. She had no doubt of what Tirien would say. He would tell her not to throw her life away just to take away Fhenrir's power. He wouldn't even invoke any logical reasons about other ways she could help. He wouldn't need any. "Well, so am I," Aaren said. "And you are too, whether you think so or not." She moved her arm and flinched at the pain. "I'm sorry," Vionora said. "It's hard to remember... he treats me differently than everyone else." She spoke of Malhavik. He'd been all too willing to let Fhenrir dispose of Aaren. After being the one to bring Aaren into that situation, Vionora had found she couldn't stand by. "Why do you bother with Mal, then? He's an idiot. And a jerk," Aaren added. Vionora paused to find the words. "You're addicted to magic, aren't you?" she asked. "Like all elves? Have you ever been addicted to anything else?" At that, Aaren appeared at a loss for words. Her expression was somewhat pained. "Ya know," she said after a moment, "Sunfury are drunk on mana crystals, all the time." She frowned. "Well, were. I dunno. Anyway. What are you getting at?" Vionora leaned back against the cave wall. The stone was smooth and cool in between patches of the glowing lichen. "I'm addicted to suffering," she said. "And he..." She trailed off, her gaze going distant. Aaren looked down at her injured arm, then at Vionora's wounds. "Not like this, huh?" she said dryly. Vionora focused on Aaren again. "I've accepted it about myself," she said. "Yeah, well, you should ditch him and hang out with that other guy." Vionora shook her head. "Tirien would never hurt me." "Yeah, that's why you should stay with him," Aaren said. "No... that's why I could never stay with him," Vionora said quietly. "Because you think you need to hurt?" Silent, Vionora gazed at Aaren for a few moments. "I'm happy, now, this way," she said eventually. "You don't look happy," Aaren said flatly. "It's hard to hold onto." All of it. Pleasing Malhavik, protecting the others, helping Tirien, and dealing with the looming threat of Accalia's coming, and everything that came with that. "It's all on the verge of falling apart. It would be better if I hadn't started to hope again..." "Hope for what?" Aaren said. Then she sighed. "It's kinda overrated sometimes, I know. But it's necessary." "Yes..." Vionora murmured. "It ain't bad, though," Aaren said. "Unless you make it meaningless." Vionora pushed away from the wall. Aaren looked at her, her expression tired. "Will you be prepared when Accalia falls?" Vionora asked. Aaren shrugged. "Don't got much of a choice. I kinda just take things as they come, anyway. Plans never work out. Well, sometimes." "I have to go back," Vionora said. "To the jerks, huh?" Vi nodded. "Kay. You do that, I guess." Aaren tried to sound indifferent, but it didn't work. "Don't get hurt," Vionora said. A smirk flashed across Aaren's face. "You be careful. No fun unless you got another scar for the story." "Scars are forever," Vionora said. She had many she would never be rid of, not all of which were visible. The way Aaren looked at her, Vionora knew the other elf knew what she meant. "Yeah. I know," Aaren said. "I got plenty. Inside and out." "I know," Vionora said. It was why Vionora had wanted to help her. She headed back to Malhavik and Fhenrir to face the consequences. ***
  22. Malhavik slowly placed the soulstone in a pocket of his robes. He was clearly still troubled. Vionora didn't dare draw near or touch him, her persuasion at best tentative for now. But it was enough. And there were other hurdles to clear. She looked down at her hands, where the seal glowed, but the mark of the Eclipse was now dormant, its power transferred to another. "You know..." she said slowly, "without the curse... it will kill me when you try to remove the seal." The only way Malhavik had surmised the seal could be removed required a vast amount of power; an amount great enough to kill her without the mark to send it to Accalia to absorb. She looked up at him calmly. "I figured it would kill you anyway," he responded. "Maybe," she said again. He and Naheal thought her will to survive insufficient to survive the ordeal. But a part of her wanted to live, now. Even as she wondered at it, she nurtured it. "Are you still going to try...?" she asked. "I don't know," he muttered. He wasn't looking at her. "It's... hard to think right now." "Then don't think," she said softly. "Part of me wants to flay your soul for what you have done to me," he said. His deadly tone sent a shudder through her, and she clenched her hands. "You can, if you want to," she whispered. Now he looked at her. "...But another, more foolish part still calls me to embrace you." She couldn't help but move closer. The movement made him cringe away from her, and she stopped. "I'm sorry," she said helplessly. "I can't... grasp this right now," he said. "I'll be returning to Silverpine to rest and plan our next move." He turned away. "Let me know when..." She paused. "...if you want me." He began to walk away, but stopped after a few paces to look back at her. "You are still welcome to my home as you please," he said. Relief washed over her. "Thank you," she said. He nodded faintly and left her there. ***
  23. His expression was shuttered; cold. "No... please..." she had pleaded, when he'd offered her freedom and warned her against him. But she wanted and needed what they had, no matter how twisted it was. And she understood, then, that he was afraid, and that was why he was pushing her away. Then, for the first time in her life, she got angry at someone who was hurting her. "No!" Vionora reached out and shoved his hand away. Malhavik dropped his arm in surprise as her words tumbled out recklessly. "I refuse! Harm me if you want to. I don't care." "Don't you see?" he responded, growing vehement. "You are not like me! I have nothing to offer you but misery!" "I'm only free when you hold me!" she cried. The words hung between them. She bit her lip and tilted her head down, looking at him from under her eyelashes. Malhavik remained quiet for a long time, looking at her. "Very well," he said finally. "But know I will likely kill everyone you care for in the end." Vionora thought of Tirien. "No one owns ya, V," he'd said. He wouldn't understand why she chose this. He wouldn't judge, but he wouldn't understand. She took a breath as she understood that, and at the same time, understood she'd do anything to preserve it. "Maybe," she said.
  24. Her gray-glowing eyes opened and she gazed back at him with her expression calm. Despite his menacing approach, she showed no fear of him. Yet it was not a lack of regard for her life that made her unconcerned, as it had been that day he took her from Shattrath. Back then, her relationship with suffering had been simple. It was all life was. Now, life was so much more. Or, it had been. "Malhavik," Vionora said softly. The number of times she had used his name could be counted on one hand. "This isn't real." To her, the Brill inn around them was full of shadows; made of shadows. She could see the underpinnings of Accalia's machinations, the dark and feral power that fed into Malhavik and flowed out to create the suggestion of the world they saw, although in his mind it looked as he expected it to and made perfect sense, even when she appeared from nowhere. In this shadowy dream made manifest, Malhavik's soul was the lone spot of brightness... an irony, perhaps, considering the warlock and his predilictions, but not to her. She didn't look away from him as he drew closer. She raised her hands, still holding his gaze, to show him the backs. There, the mismatched marks once again both glowed, the nearly-overlapping circles of amber on the right and the demonic purple seal on the left. "This isn't true anymore," she said. The marks were more of Accalia's illusion. They appeared only because that was how Malhavik had known her best. But the mark of the Eclipse was dormant now that Accalia's mortal form had been defeated and the Beast-God had been forced back into the twilight realm, if for no other reason; and the seal... That no longer existed either. "I never wanted you to change," she said finally, lowering her hands. "I wanted you just the way you were. And you... could never hurt me." The reason she gazed on him without fear, now, was not due to indifference to her own fate. It was trust that was in her eyes. The trust she had placed in him, that she had refused to give up even when he tried to drive her away. That he had earned after giving her no other option, but which she had not taken back when she could. She had already placed her life in his hands. She would not flinch now. "Just remember," she said. "Just.... remember." She closed her eyes.