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Catalinetta last won the day on June 29 2018

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About Catalinetta

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  • Birthday 01/14/1984

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  1. It's going to be that one, he thought to himself, watching as the goblin nodded his head toward the empty pint of beer he'd been served only minutes before. Tahzani had an ongoing bet with himself over which one of his patrons would pass out first, and today he had a good pick of people to choose from. First, there was the goblin. He'd come in from Southshore, battered and bruised, likely from some scuffle over azerite or something else the Warchief ordered her troops to do. It was times like this he was glad for his job; far be it for him to break his nose a third time. Trolls healed quick, but that didn't mean they healed exactly the same. Tahzani's nose was like a jagged knife with not one but two ridges where the cartilage was broken. This alone made him stand out from the other trolls who patronized his establishment, and the Coldstar Cantina was growing more popular as the conflict in Southshore ramped up. "Hey barkeep," said a trollish woman in Zandali, her dark red hair and black facial tattoos outing her as a Ferraki. Sand snake, he thought to himself, approaching the female. "Watchoo wan'?" he asked politely in orcish, unwilling to bring the irritable glances of his many orcish patrons his way. They tended to get testy when he spoke in Zandali, and he wasn't going to start trouble over some sand troll. "Double whiskey, neat," she said, still in Zandali, flashing a jaw full of impossibly white teeth and large tusks. Of course she doesn't want ice, Tahzani thought to himself, pouring a glass with twice the usual amount of whiskey. Passing it to her, he took note of the gold rings on her fingers and the gold cuffs on each wrist. She didn't seem particularly rich, but it was an unusual choice. "He'a ya go," he said in a dry tone, as if he didn't have time for any Ferraki nonsense today. The sand troll took her drink and rolled a few coins toward Tahzani. "Thanks, handsome," she said with a grin. A twitch in his eyelid was all that answered her. When was the last time someone called him handsome without it being a joke? "I told you I wouldn't take any of your bullshit!" came another voice from nearby. Tahzani's attention was stolen by the new conflict; an orc was grabbing a tauren by the collar of his shirt, which was both hilarious and dangerous. Tauren could do massive structural damage if they were so inclined, and orcs didn't know when to back down. "Ey eye ey!" He shouted, waving a hand at both of them. "Take it outsahd! Ain' got no tahm fo' ya bustin' up mah tables an' chai's, mon!" The Ferraki laughed into her hand. "You think that's going to stop them?" She teased, drinking half of her glass. Sure enough, his commands went completely ignored. The tauren reached back and swung toward his assailant with a massive paw to the face, knocking the orc back a few feet and into the wall. A round of laughter went out around the room, and try as he might, Tahzani couldn't help but join them. It wasn't usual that a brawl wound up stopping with a single hit though, so he shook a fist at the orc. "Ey mon! Know when ta stay down!" But the orc didn't know when to quit. He was dressed in thick leathers and animal hide, the mark of a hunter, and sure enough a wolf suddenly appeared from outside only to leap at his tauren "friend" and sink his jaws into the larger warrior's thigh. "Get 'im, Ash'ar!" the orc shouted, hauling himself back to his feet, whipping out a rifle to aim at the tauren. The tauren seemed almost amused by the wolf, until its teeth dug in deep enough to find flesh. "An'she!" He shouted, smacking the canine away in the same way he did to his partner. Now it was time for Tahzani to intervene. "Ah to'd ya ta stop," he said firmly, putting away his own laughter with a shake of his head. The troll had a number of things he could do to stop them, but deescalating situations generally didn't happen when one introduced more violence. Luckily, there was a distraction. "Yoo hoo!" Came a familiar voice, and a familiar jiggle. Well that's an unexpected blessing, Tahzani thought to himself as a blood elf walked into his establishment carrying a guitar. Busty-the-elf to the rescue. She smiled with her painted lips and sat down primly on a bar stool, her low-cut robes exposing her breasts in a display an orc might find lewd. "Who wants to hear a song about how my night went?" She asked with a grin. The orc hunter put down his rifle. Elves were funny, and this one was particularly entertaining. Tahzani let out a heavy sigh. Saved by tits, he thought grumpily to himself, wondering vaguely about the difference between elf and troll breasts in terms of weight and softness. Well elves usually have little ones, but this one has pretty big ones.. can't be as soft as a troll's though, there's no fur, and besides, why would anyone want to bother with an elf, they probably talk through the whole thing and... It was when he was deep into this internal monologue when the music started, and the patrons went just a little quiet to listen to busty-the-elf's song. "Hey, give me another double, handsome," came the same Ferraki as before, smiling at Tahzani with a sinister grin. Rolling his eyes, he refilled her glass. "You can stop calling me that any time now." "Why would I want to do that?" She asked innocently, passing him the coins. Tahzani glared at her. "Because my face is busted to shit and you know it." "Doesn't seem so bad to me," the Ferraki said through a grin, the face paint around her eyes wrinkling mischievously. Is she actually flirting with me? The barkeep thought to himself. He tried to think of the last time someone actually had the nerve to flirt with him and was interrupted by a loud round of applause as busty-the-elf's first some came to an end. Glancing toward her, he saw the elf take a bow before turning back to the Ferraki, who mysteriously disappeared. "What the.." "My eye! My eye!!" Came a shout from one of the tables, a blood elf male leaning forward, clutching his left eye. Blood rolled down his face and hand as he shouted in a panic, and Tahzani groaned to himself. "We don' need anodda bar fight toni--" But his words were cut short, because it wasn't a bar fight that cost the elf his eye. Tahzani noticed a glimmer of air shifting before him, the unmistakable form of a night elf visible for a brief moment as she stabbed another patron, this time a goblin, in his eye as well. "Cripes! My friggin' eye!!" He shouted, and the bar erupted into chaos. "There's a rogue here!" "Takin' out eyes!" "Someone find 'em before they get anyone el--, ahh!! My eye!!" "An eye for an eye, Horde!" Shouted the elf in her own language as she faded from sight only to stab at as many patrons as she could find. Tahzani groaned. Of all the bars in all the world, it had to be mine!? Backing up, he grabbed his staff from the wall and considered the price of using the fel to fight this unseen foe. He was trying to give it up, or at least, he thought he was. What choice is there, though? If some elf is in my bar, taking the eyes from my customers, there had to be something-- "Hey handsome," came the familiar voice of the Ferraki, suddenly appearing in front of his bar along with the limp body of a night elf female, her knife sticking half-way into the elf's throat. "Look what I brought you." For once, it didn't matter if she was actually flirting or if she was just being tease. Tahzani stared at the two, sand troll and night elf, then shook his head and waved a hand toward the nearest bar stool. "T'anks fo' da help," he said with the hint of a smile. "Next drink be on me."
  2. Quel’thalas It was so close to the Undercity. Sometimes that closeness struck Steinburg as he walked through the lush Eversong woods, crimson leaves on white barked trees casting a warm glow on the forest floor. It was all so beautiful, and once, so too was Lordaeron. His thoughts were with the dark kingdom, buried beneath the bones of its people as he and Catalinetta rode on the back of her death charger. He held on to the elf, her body so much stronger than is in undeath, and was grateful that she never flinched. They were both undead, but there was an obvious difference between death knights and the Forsaken. Catalinetta in particular seemed well preserved to the point where she gave off no rotting smell, and the blood magic fueling her strength allowed an unnatural life-like pulse to flow through her veins. They didn’t speak as they rode, but he encouraged her to move fast. As they left the city, Cat noticed that Steinburg was unusually watchful, as if worried that even here he might be stopped by someone. Who would stop him in Quel’thalas, she wondered? Who would stop him anywhere? Eventually they reached Bloodstone Manor, following Steinburg’s directions to find an unmarked path through Eversong Woods. The Bloodstones enjoyed their privacy, and the way didn’t seem overly used. It wound through trees and overgrowth, eventually giving way to a gold gate flanked by a tall wall that surrounded a large plot of land. Past the gate, Cat could see the manor standing tall beside a pond and a stable. It was an old building, and if uncared for it might have seemed menacing. There was a warmth to it however, in the red and gold paint and white bricks. A few waterfowl played in the small pond nearby. “Allow me,” Steinburg said as he slid from behind Cat and on to the ground, grabbing what looked like a ring from his pocket to place within a keyhole on the gate. A tiny click sounded, and the gates opened. “I don’t think I’ve ever been here before,” Cat said in awe of the place, still unaccustomed to the way Silvermoon aristocracy lived. She dismissed her mount with a wave of one plate covered hand and followed Steinburg inside, allowing the gate to close behind them. “The Bloodstones will not mind your company, if that worries you,” the Forsaken said reassuringly, appearing at last to be comfortable speaking again. He walked her toward the house, their path lined with thick flagstones the color of pink coral. “I lived here for quite some time after our guild hall in Orgrimmar was destroyed. Ninorra brought me here, herself. She wasn’t concerned with the Warchief’s finding us, which was when I realized that this was a safe place. Vicailde has placed all sorts of his inventions around the home, to block it from prying eyes and ears.” “But I don’t understand, who’d be following you?” Cat asked, her own long ears twitching for the sound of any spies. Steinburg reached the door and again pressed his ring to the keyhole. Another click, and he opened the door with a push of his hand. Still unable to say what he wanted outside, he nodded toward the foyer. Cat entered a room decorated with long crimson curtains and the portraits of old powerful high elves, their disapproving eyes staring down at both death knight and Forsaken. Closing the door behind them, Steinburg let out a breathless sigh. “Dark rangers,” he answered. “Sent by the dark lady.” “The Warchief?” Cat whispered, unable to hide the horror in her voice. For all the rumors surrounding Sylvanas, Cat had a difficult time imagining why she would want to trail an accountant. “But why??” Steinburg seemed to relax in the manor, undoing the hooded cloak from his neck to hang it near a series of beautifully lined and embroidered cloaks and jackets. Cat supposed that the more flowy ones belonged to the lady of the house, though nobody else seemed to be around at the moment. “Because she’s keeping an eye on us,” he answered, finally taking the time to brush his hair with long bony fingers. “Come sit with me, it’s been a while since I’ve been somewhere comfortable,” he said in his usual tone. Steinburg might have been Forsaken, but he was not against creature comforts. Leading Cat into a sitting room, she was at once awed by the garish colors inside. Bright crimson and gold plush furniture covered in throw pillows embroidered with animal print greeted them. “Woah,” she said quietly, looking around curiously. “This place is awesome.” Steinburg chuckled and sat down in one of the sofas, sighing as the soft down cushion cradled his bones again. “Ninorra takes pride in her decorating,” he said with the hint of a smile before continuing his story. “Cat, it’s been a while since you’ve been to Undercity, hasn’t it?” Sitting down opposite of him, the death knight nodded. “Ever since I… well,” she stopped herself. “..I guess ever since I got engaged. The last time I was there, a friend stitched up my death wound.” Steinburg nodded. “Well. For the best, really. As I recall, your lover is living? There aren’t many who would take to that as good news. Some, sure, but… giving people the kind of hope that their undeath might be looked past… sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. Congratulations on your engagement, Cat. You deserve to be happy, truly.” A pang of guilt hit the death knight’s stomach as the truth bit into her like an angry chipmunk. Of course, being accepted by the living was difficult, and she had gone to great lengths to make Kreyen more comfortable with what she was. It was hard on him at first, she knew that. How much harder it would have been on a Forsaken, whose bones and flesh were exposed and rotting, that much she couldn’t imagine. “…thank you, Steinburg. I’m sorry, I know it’s not the same for your people.” “No it isn’t,” he concurred. “And to tell you why, you must understand. I’m not bitter toward you, Cat. You and your fellow death knights are privileged in that you have the ability to connect with people in a way we cannot. Loved ones, for example. You may be undead, but you can still see your fellow Sin’dorei. The same goes for the orcish death knights, the tauren and so forth. Now, I know that can’t be easy,” he said quickly. “I know that many of the living are not accepting of your kind, but… at least you have the chance to try.” Cat turned her head to one side, trying to understand. “Well, I guess we do. I know I did. I reconnected with my brother and my aunt, but… I guess… that’s not the same as the Forsaken. I guess you all don’t really have much of a chance to talk to other humans, do you?” Steinburg smiled sadly. “Well. We did. For a brief moment, we did. Tell me, what did you hear about the Desolate council, Cat?” A change in subject. She shrugged and shook her head. “I heard they were governing Undercity while Sylvanas was gone.” “Yes, that’s right. That’s what I heard too, when I arrived,” he explained, leaning back in his seat. “I wanted to help. Damian is old enough to be in school, I had little to do here, so I went to help my fellow Forsaken. I’m a good bookkeeper, you know. The council needed a hand. They were kind, they only wanted to make things easy for their people. They were compassionate. They, like many other Forsaken, weren’t bitter about their situation. They wanted to make the best of things. Some of them even still had living relatives that they wanted to see, someday. Of course, that much is impossible. We assumed all humans saw us as monsters, and what relative would want to see their dead family?” Cat felt her stomach lurch. Her own brother seemed less disgusted than distraught when he saw her, but what would he have done if she was missing an entire jaw like some Forsaken she knew? “Yeah, I… I can see why that’d be hard.” “Hard, but not impossible,” he continued. “Can you believe that King Wrynn actually wanted to help? Apparently his own servant was married to a member of the council. Something in him thought that maybe, if he could reunite some families… I don’t know. But Archbishop Faol helped him, and somehow they managed to make some sort of… I guess a deal? She allowed the council to meet with their families. Those who had family, anyway… those who had family willing to meet them.” Cat’s eyes were as wide as saucers. The Warchief, allowing a reunion? That was a surprise. It never would have occurred to her that Sylvanas would actually allow something so reasonable or peaceful to happen. “That’s… that’s great! Wow, what a nice thing to do! King Wrynn must have been up against a lot to even suggest that,” she said with awe, picturing the human king in his white armor flanked by advisors telling him not to do the right thing. “The Light must’v really blessed him with bravery!” “…yes, well,” Steinburg muttered. “It was brave. Foolish maybe, but brave certainly. Anyhow, during the reunion, apparently some of the Forsaken attempted to defect.” “What!?” Steinburg held up a hand. “It wasn’t all of them. It was some. Sylvanas sounded the horn, and the rest ran back to their side. To the queen.” “What happened to the defectors??” Cat asked in a loud and almost screechy voice. “Killed by dark rangers,” Steinburg answered, then paused before continuing. “…along with the rest.” The death knight blinked in confusion. “What do you mean? The humans?” “No, the humans were completely unharmed. The Alliance humans, anyhow,” he added bitterly. “The dark rangers killed every one of the Desolate Council who met with family. Even the ones who returned. She killed them all, Catalinetta.” Her face went through a range of emotions. Shock, confusion, and finally anger. “I don’t… I don’t understand. Why would she do that?” “Because that’s how she keeps her power, Cat,” the Forsaken muttered. “Not like the human king. Not like Thrall. Sylvanas doesn’t command an army by playing the savior, or the saint. Sylvanas keeps her grip on her people by reminding us that life is hopeless, that nobody wants us, and that if the humans had their say we would all be dead. Those members of the council whose family members couldn’t bear to see them? Those, she allowed to live. Those who live in sorrow, who are truly ‘desolate’. Those are her Forsaken, and there is no room there for dissent or argument. There is no room for people like me.” For a while, Cat was quiet. The Forsaken were a people she felt she could relate to, once. Dead, forgotten, but for the most part, accepting of their situation. Now she realized there was so much she didn’t understand, so much she took for granted. The way people accepted her, the love of her family, and the freedom to express those things. The Forsaken didn’t have any of it, and it seemed Sylvannas’ goal was to keep it that way. “Steinburg,” she murmured, eyes lowered to the coffee table littered with romance novels. “I… I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.” The Forsaken cracked another smile, flakes of peeling flesh falling from his lips. “It’s not your fault, Cat. You died like the rest of us, but you were lucky with your circumstances. The Forsaken are indeed forsaken, and that’s how the Warchief wants it. I can’t personally say that I’d be content to live that way. At least here, there’s a little happiness. I might not ever see my relatives, or have my own children, but I’ve been given the gift of a second life in which I can at least help raise them. I can live in my own way. I know there are plenty of Forsaken who don’t want that, but for those who do I only wish I could help them, or that the dark lady would give us the freedom she keeps saying we have.” Cat’s ears had drooped low in her sadness. Not just for the Forsaken killed by their own leader, but for the Warchief she knew that she couldn’t trust. Having joined the Horde and died with Thrall as their Warchief, she once knew that their leader was someone she could trust to hold their best interest at heart. Since waking from the dead, however, it was like a never ending series of terrible leaders. She had already cast aside her loyalty to the Lich King, to Bolvar. Now she wondered if she’d have to do the same to the dark lady. “Be careful with this information, Cat,” Steinburg said, serious again. “Words travel, and the dark rangers can hide in places you’d never think to look. I don’t know what Sylvanas plans on doing, but she’s got Undercity under her thumb. Books about old Lordaeron are banned. Anyone saying anything kind about the living are looked at with suspicion. I don’t know what it’s like outside of Undercity, but I don’t know if anyone outside of the Forsaken will even care about—“ “Of course we’ll care!” Cat said quickly, loudly, and maybe too fast. “We care. I care. I’ll tell the Warboss, okay? I’ll be careful. I’ll be very careful, Steinburg. I have to be, I’m supposed to get married, we’re supposed to be… things are supposed to be normal.” Steinburg laughed, genuinely laughed, and shook his head. “Oh Cat. I never get tired of your optimism.”
  3. Steinburg had been in Undercity for a few months, now. First he came to visit some old friends. It surprised him to discover that the librarians who once helped him find books on Lordaeron’s history were, along with the books, no longer there. When he asked about their whereabouts, he received roundabout answers. They were “no longer necessary”. Whether this was an answer about the books or his friends, he did not press further. During his search however, he discovered that the Undercity was undergoing a slight transformation. In the absence of the Dark Lady, a council of Undercity’s most active volunteers had been created. Steinburg did not know them personally, but he admired their willingness to pick up what Sylvanas had left behind, and to do so with seemingly no personal gain. Damian being old enough to attend school in Dalaran made his decision clear, and as a proud Forsaken, he volunteered to help. A good bookkeeper, he was immediately tasked with keeping track of the city’s funds. It was a thankless job, and he was not well known, but that didn’t bother him. Day and night he tirelessly worked to ensure that the Desolate Council was successful. Until one day, most of them were gone. Now things were different. He wasn’t so much a volunteer as a prisoner, and he understood the meaning of the word “dissent”. All around Undercity, Sylvanas had eyes and ears. Long ones, specifically. The ears of her dark rangers were everywhere, waiting to hear the rumors and report them. He was an accountant, he could calculate the numbers and the odds of his own survival in such a situation. If he had a big mouth, those odds weren’t good. Quiet as he was, however, he could live. That was how he managed to get back to the small apartment he’d been renting in the Undercity, though “rent” was mostly paid by him working for free. The single bedroom, tucked inside of a corridor of the Magic Quarter, was furnished only with a few clothes. Unsurprisingly there was no bed. The Forsaken embraced their wakefulness, their lack of restrictions that the living depended on. A bed would have been suspicious. He might have been accused of wanting to be alive, of trying to relive memories of the past. Once, those things were not quite so looked down upon. Strange, maybe. Now they were looked at with suspicion. The dead had no reason to want anything to do with their former lives, and to go by your “dead name” was to invite too many questions. Luckily for Steinburg, nobody seemed to care that he went by his surname. Though maybe, had he requested that they call him “Andy”, things might have been different. His apartment, sparse as it was, served only the purpose of granting him a place to read in silence. He was expected to work most of the time, but was granted a few hours of “rest” by his supervisor. During these hours, he would go to his apartment and sit down in his single chair. He might read a book or write a letter to the Bloodstones. Today, he opened his closet, and very quietly, cast a spell. A portal. It would not last long, and he was in a hurry. Stepping through the portal, Steinburg understood that he was probably not going to be able to return to the Undercity. They would say he deserted them, abandoned his duties, and be labeled a traitor. All well and good, he supposed. For a second chance at life, he could hardly call existing there under the eye of the dark rangers any sort of living. All was bright as he stepped through, suddenly bathed in sunlight and warm colors. Silvermoon welcomed him as it always did, though he was still suspicious of Sylvanas’ former home. Would she have spies there, too? Or was Lor’themar unwilling to allow such a thing? His yellow eyes glanced about for someone, and with a great sigh of relief he saw her. “Catalinetta,” he said to the death knight, who had apparently waited for him near the portal from Undercity. Shambling over to her, he embraced Cat with a tight hug. It was not a happy one, but the desperate sad sort of hug she could feel in her own bones. “Steinburg, what the hell happened?” She asked, pulling away reluctantly. “Not here,” he answered, looking around. “We need to get to Bloodstone Manor.” Cat shook her head, still confused. “Bloodstone Manor? Why?” Trudging out into the street, Steinburg reached for his hood and threw it over his head. Now she could see how ashamed he was of his appearance, and the old Steinburg had finally returned. “Because there are ears everywhere, and most are as long as yours.”
  4. Clank. Clank. Clank. Catalinetta walked through Undercity, the metal of her boots clanking against the stone floors of ancient Lordaeron. They felt almost unusually loud there, underground, where the Forsaken spoke in scratchy hushed tones and moved in slow, hunched over shambles. She didn't suppose that she was in a hurry, not at first anyhow. The death knight had gone to Undercity with a specific purpose; to find a ring. There were plenty to be had down there, crafted by some of the Forsaken's most talented jewelers, and she knew exactly where to go for what she wanted. Unfortunately, as she reached the edge of the Magic Quarter, certain to find the same bright-eyed Forsaken woman who used to craft her jewelry as a newly risen death knight, Catalinetta saw that she was no longer there. The death knight paused mid-stride, staring ahead at the now empty spot. Tilting her head to one side, she considered briefly that maybe her friend was simply taking a break. Or away, visiting friends in Brill. Without hesitating, she approached another nearby Forsaken who manned a stall selling inscriptions. "Excuse me, sir," she said in her high pitched, if not hollow voice. Cat's eyes glowed with the same eerie blue of her fellow death knights. It was not the dim yellow of the Forsaken, but they often found a kinship in their undeath. Today, however, that did not come as easily. "Death to the living," he said in greeting, his voice hoarse and gravelly. He seemed to have died in mid-life, just old enough to have sprouted a few gray hairs at his temples that hung in thick clumps about his gray face. A lack of flesh in his cheeks that exposed both jawbones gave him a permanently stern expression. "What do you want?" A corner of Cat's mouth twitched. "..yeah, uh... I was wondering if you'd seen Abby?" She asked, her dark gray ears perking a little. Though she was undead, the Sin'dorei's ears still worked as they did in life, reacting to her emotions with little twitches as much her eyebrows. "She was supposed to be here today, I thought. I wanted to buy some jewelry from her." The other vendor's face made no changes. Perhaps if he had been alive she might have seen some sort of change, something in his face to indicate his thoughts on the matter. As it was, he seemed far too corpse-like to emote as she did. "Gone. She won't be coming back." Cat's eyebrows rose, scrunching her forehead in concern. "Where did she go? Is she okay?? Did something happen to her?" Now the vendor's face changed, a slow and creeping grin that gradually pulled at the sagging flesh in his face enough to make his eyes squint like half-moons. "I do not know where she went, death knight," he answered, then frowned again as his face relaxed. Smiling, Cat imagined, must have taken quite a bit of effort on his part. "But I know that she will not be coming back." For a moment, she just stared at him. Admittedly, it had been a while since she'd returned to this place, where the Forsaken once welcomed the death knights to their new status as living dead. Certainly they were different, and there were plenty of Forsaken who were distrustful of Arthas' newer creations. However as time passed, most of the Forsaken grew to learn about the curse of the death knights, their eternal bond to the Lich King, and their inherent need to cause pain. The Forsaken were free, after all. The death knights, in spite of their great strength, would never truly be independent of their creator. Things were even, in a way. So why now did this Forsaken treat her like this, she wondered? Could he tell that there was something amiss? Could he somehow detect the Mogu blood magic that coursed through her black veins, creating the illusion of life even as it reanimated her? Was it a lack of decay? It didn't matter. He was being difficult, and that much was unnecessary. "Look, I don't know what your problem is," she started, pointing a gauntlet-covered finger at the bony creature. "But Abby is my friend. So if you know something, just tell me so I can go find her. Alright?" Again, the Forsaken smiled. It appeared to take less effort this time. "I can not tell you her fate, but your search ends here. Abigaille Lefaye is gone. You might as well leave this city too, death knight. You will not find what you are looking for, here." "But--" "Catalinetta?" Another voice from behind. It was scratchy, hollow and undoubtedly Forsaken, but it was also kind and familiar. She turned to see a man, hunched over but still taller than her. His short black hair, unlike most Forsaken, was usually well kept. Today however, it was matted and disheveled. His typically well cared for robes were frayed and dull, and the once jovial look on his gently rotted face had been replaced with one of terrible remorse. "..mister Steinberg?" Indeed he was. The former accountant of Sanctuary, stolen away by the Bloodstones to Silvermoon when their guild hall was burned to the ground by Garrosh Hellscream. Though he witnessed the death of so many other guild members, one of them his own adopted son, Steinberg carried on. He helped Ninorra raise Damian in her absence. He healed his broken heart by teaching the Sin'dorei boy to read and write, and one again was given another chance at life. In a way. "Yes miss D'Aragon," he said in a slightly pained voice, as if trying to keep the sorrow from slipping. Swallowing something down, his expression turned slightly harsh. "I heard you asking about Miss Lefaye. I'm afraid she's no longer with us. If you'll come with me, I'll show you where you can buy whatever it is you need." Cat's heart sunk at the change in voice. Steinburg had always been kind to her, to everyone. What happened to change him so drastically? Tearing herself away from the other vendor, she walked to her old friend and twisted her hands together. "Sorry if I caused trouble, I just wanted to know if she was okay. Is.. did something happen?" Steinburg lowered a pair of cold yellow eyes to his old friend, the once familiar smile completely gone. "Yes. Now come with me." Following him as the Forsaken shambled away, Cat's eyes were lowered to the moldy stone floor. She held in angry tears, tears she knew would invite too many questions, and vowed to let them out later for her friend. Steinburg led her from the Magic Quarter and walked her, quicker than she would have thought him capable of, toward the elevator. "Where are we going?" "Out," he said quickly, not bothering to look back. To any of the other Forsaken, they looked like a very angry man leading a very confused elf. Both dead, both unhappy, both completely ordinary in a place where nobody should ever be happy. His steps were so quick that Cat almost found herself tripping after him, but by the time they reached the ruins of Lordaeron and rushed past the throne room of its former king, she understood where he was leading her. "Steinburg wait," she said quickly, grabbing his shoulder. The Forsaken didn't slow. "Just keep walking," he said between clenched teeth, frayed robes fluttering around his bare skeletal feet. They clacked about almost as much as her boots, which worried her. Where had his shoes gone? "Steinburg, I--" The orb stood in front of them, a bright ball of red that would take them to Silvermoon. Steinburg grabbed Catalinetta's hand and moved it to the orb, but she wrenched it away. "Wait a second!" she shouted, wrenching her arm back. "What the hell is wrong with you?? I haven't seen you in months and suddenly you're here, and you look terrible, and everything is all weird and sad! What happened to you??" The yellow glow flickered in Steinbeug's eyes. For a moment, a hint of his old self came forward and he nearly smiled at the outburst. She had always been outspoken, even in death, and it had once made him smile. But it was only for a moment. "I am Forsaken," he said simply, the frown returning as he grabbed Catalinetta's arm and pulled her to him, whispering near her long ear. "Now go home. Where you belong." Still not understanding, Cat shook her head. She wanted to argue, to yell at him and get Steinburg to snap out of whatever spell he was under, but then she stopped. His face shifted, so close to hers. It wasn't angry. It was sad. He was trying to tell her something. Go home? She thought. But he doesn't know where I live, now.. She glanced at the orb. Silvermoon. It wasn't her home, per say. Not ever. But it was the home of the Sin'dorei, and she was starting to realize that's what he wanted for her. To go there. But why? "Fine," she grunted irritably. "I'll go back to Silvermoon. Maybe I'll find what I need there." "I'm sure you will," Steinburg muttered bitterly, watching as she grabbed the orb, her form fading from sight before his eyes. A few feet behind him, another hollow voice rung out. "Who was that?" Asked an almost silvery elven voice, though it retained the same echo as his own. Steinburg turned to regard one of the dark rangers, a beautiful elven woman who, even in death, moved soundlessly. "An old acquaintance," he muttered distastefully. "She has no place here." The dark ranger nodded, and glanced back toward the entrance to Undercity. "Good. You might want to get back to work, now. There is much to be done and not as many hands to do it." Steinburg nodded and turned back, resisting the urge to glance behind him at the orb. What point would there be in leaving? The Warchief's eyes were everywhere, and the long ears of the dark rangers heard everything. He would need to think fast. Thankfully, an accountant knew how to calculate all of his options quickly. He had a plan before he reached the bottom of the elevator.
  5. Once upon a time there lived a huntress. Born to a rich elven family, she grew up longing for adventure. She was as difficult to break as a wild stallion, and as beautiful as one too. Lustrous ebony hair reflected the sharp glow of her fel green eyes, and it was difficult for anyone to look away from her perfect mischievous smile. When war came, the huntress went. Trained in the shadows of the forest, she learned how to kill and how to hide. She fought valiantly for her people, and though she saw many suffer and perish, her heart remained intact by carefully locking it away. Even through war she had many lovers, and easy as it was for her to find comfort in someone’s arms, she was content to keep them from drawing any closer. That is, until she met the knight. He was much younger than the huntress, and not very bright. The knight was still in training, with the hope of proving himself to his people and fighting in the wars himself. Like the huntress, he too had black hair and fel green eyes, but that was where the similarities ended. He was scrawny, still attempting to fill out the armor provided to him, and there was no confidence in his expression. One night, the huntress spotted the knight in a tavern. The knight was having a good time with his friends when the huntress spotted him, and for a single perfect moment their eyes met. The knight didn’t know exactly what love felt like, but he thought it seemed as if a jolt of electricity ran through his veins, and an invisible hand reached through his chest to clutch his heart in an icy grip. It felt like death and it was wonderful. “By the Light,” he said as she approached him. “You’re beautiful.” The huntress smirked playfully at him. “The Light has nothing to do with it, sweetheart.” The knight seemed very confused by this. “Oh, but you’re wrong. The Light has everything to do with it.” The huntress and the knight spoke a little, and after a few drinks they went for a walk. The knight felt as if his hands and feet were numb, but still he walked beside the most beautiful person, he imagined, in the entire world. When the huntress took him in her arms, the wars disappeared. So long as the moon cast its light on them both, nothing else mattered. Morning came and the knight awoke in his bunk, never having slept. He trained with his brothers in arms, part of his mind always on the huntress and her beautiful eyes. But the huntress worried for her heart. The knight was kind, but even his innocence could not convince her to unlock the chains that bound her inside. Before the sun rose, she left the city without a word. The knight knew nothing of the huntress’ departure. He continued to train until calamity struck. The city was under attack by the enemy, and the knights were dispatched. The young knight went with his brothers and fought valiantly, but there was no hope for him among the throngs of enemies who swarmed them. “By the Light we will triumph!” He shouted into the air, giving heart to his friends. As he bravely cut through their forces, the thought of the beautiful huntress was always in his mind. Hopeful that he might see her again, the knight guarded himself with a shield, fending off blows that might end him once and for all. So distracted was he by this task that he did not notice when an enormous black knight rose behind him, and drove his sword into the young knight’s back. The pain was minimal. The knight felt a numbness in his hands and feet, electricity through his veins, and an invisible hand clutching his heart. This was love and this was death, and soon the Light in him was gone. Many miles away, the huntress found peace among the trees. She befriended the druids and the naturalists who tended their grounds, and when war came to them, she fought by their side. In this beautiful place, the huntress finally found that the chains around her heart could be loosened. Eventually, someone managed to find the key that would unlock the bindings within. He was strong and confident in his love, forcing the huntress to understand that life was worth living if only she allowed it. For a while, she was free. Until calamity struck once more. War would not forget the forest, and ever druid defended their home. The huntress fought like a demon, tearing through the enemy in an effort to keep the peace she had found. Chaos consumed the forest, and the huntress fired arrows so quickly that they could not be seen with the naked eye. She swore to defend these people, especially the one who opened her heart to the world. But when the body of her love lay before her, she felt a pain like no other. Her heart, which she kept safe for so long, cracked right down the middle. In an effort to keep it safe and whole, the huntress sealed it away once more and left the forest. Years passed. The huntress wandered the world, finding work and busying herself. One night, lost in the monotony of drinking in a tavern, she heard the cry for battle. Grabbing her bow and arrows, she ran outside to find that the enemy army was attacking. Except this was no ordinary enemy, this was the army of the dead. Mindless undead swarmed the village, and the huntress joined the villagers to defend their home. Arrows flew into faces gray with death, and indiscriminate as she was against the enemy, the huntress couldn’t tell one undead from another… until a familiar face appeared. He was young. Far younger and less experienced than most of the other dead seemed to have been when they perished. His green eyes blue, his skin gray, he had a strangely calm expression as he attacked the villagers. The huntress felt a pang of regret where her heart was hidden. It was a simple choice to put him down, this undead monster who once shared a night in her arms. Why then was it so difficult to loose her arrow into his skull? Should she not simply let him rest in peace? But a strange tug at the chains around her broken heart forced the huntress into a different action. She ran to the knight and kicked his sword away, leaving him temporarily stunned and defenseless. The knight stared at her, confused. “Stop it, don’t you recognize me?” She shouted past the cries of battle booming around them. The knight reached for his sword but found nothing. He looked down toward his hand, then back up at the huntress. A strange realization came over his face. “…who?” “It’s me!” She shouted again, though there was little else to do besides fight back when the knight found an extra knife in his boot. “Who are you?” He asked, swinging the knife, skillful in spite of his undeath. The huntress dodged his attacks, ducking and weaving through them easily. “I am the huntress you met in the tavern! Don’t you remember?” The knight continued to attack. “I don’t remember,” he said easily, swinging faster. The knife came close to her belly, prompting the huntress to kick it out of his hand. “You have to remember! We were friends!” Again, he seemed confused. The knight shook his head and looked around for another weapon. Finding none, he simply swung his fists toward the huntress. “I don’t remember a friend.” Much more skilled with his fists than the knife, the huntress took a surprise hit to the jaw and went down to the ground. “I’m sorry,” she said past the pain in her mouth. “What are you sorry for?” The knight asked curiously, looming over the huntress. “Why are you sorry?” “Because...” she muttered, feeling very stupid. Why was she allowing this to happen? Guilt? She was stronger than this. Her heart, broken as it was, could survive many more years in the chains she created for it. Why did this one stupid young knight even matter in the grand scheme of things? He was nothing. “Because you left?” He asked, as if answering for her. The huntress stared at him, dumbfounded. The knight seemed at odds with himself. Grabbing his head, he stumbled back in a daze. “..I… I don’t remember a friend… I remember… I remember you, and… pain. The pain of death.” She knew that feeling all too well. Struggling back to her feet, she attempted to approach the knight. The battle around them was dying, and her people were winning. Soon he would have to die, or… “I’m sorry,” she said again, grabbing the knight’s empty hand. “I’m sorry I left. I’m sorry you died.” Again, he looked confused. A strange realization came to the knight’s face, and even as he stared at the huntress’ familiar eyes, his own seemed lost. “I died?” The innocence of the question broke one of her chains. The huntress grit her teeth, feeling both stupid and vulnerable at the same time. “Yes,” she managed to say at last. “Yes, you died.” The knight’s face calmed a little, as if this truth changed everything. “But,” he said finally, taking a step closer to the huntress, his blue dead eyes focused on her own. “..you make me feel so alive.” Another chain fell away. Even as the fight ebbed away, there seemed to be no other sound then that of his voice. How was it possible that this stupid boy could make her feel so much in the midst of such violence? He seemed oblivious to his undead allies falling around them, and as the last one fell, one of the living knights approached him and the huntress. “Don’t worry, I’ve got him,” the living knight said with a sword aimed for his back. “No!” the huntress shouted, pulling her knight’s body toward her own. Both arms wrapped around his waist, protecting him, even as the living stared them down. “No, you will not hurt him!” Soon a crowd of the living began to surround them. The undead knight pulled reluctantly from the huntress and looked, confused, as the living pointed their swords at him. “He is dead,” they said. “An enemy to the living. It will be a mercy to put him down.” “No!” The huntress said again. “He is not like them, he will not harm you!” “Only one way to find out,” one of the knights grumbled, stumbling forward to slash with his sword at the unarmed knight. The huntress leaped into action and deflected his sword with her bow. She kicked the living knight down, which displeased his friends. Another living knight ran toward her and thrust his sword at the huntress’ back, but it never touched her. The undead knight had grabbed the sword itself, cutting into his own fingers rather than let her be harmed. The crowd gasped. What undead creature would sacrifice himself for the living? The fighting stopped. As his fingers bled black coagulated blood on to the ground, the living stepped away from the dead. The huntress stood, unhindered, and looked sadly at this young knight who continued to sacrifice himself for others. “You didn’t have to do that,” she said quietly. “I know,” he said easily, attempting to smile. “By the Light, I couldn’t see you hurt.” “The Light has nothing to do with it,” the huntress said bitterly, grabbing the undead knight’s good hand and pulling his body toward her. To the disgust of all those around them, she kissed him. A living huntress and an undead knight, beauty and death incarnate. Though he was frigid, her heart felt warm and at last the final chain fell away. Raw, bleeding and still cracked, he seemed to take it in his grasp and hold it together with his cold grip. Pulling away from her lips, the knight finally managed to smile. “The Light has everything to do with it,” he said, and as she returned his smile with one of her own, never did the knight feel more blessed.
  6. The smells of roasted meats and warm, nourishing soups began to fill the west side of the home, the staff quiet save for the clinking of trays and glasses. Amalyn made her way from the drawing room towards the kitchen, checking on everything before arriving at the hall, gazing over the smaller table setup for the four- no- three of them. The set up meant for Evie smacked Amalyn in the face and made tears well up once more. She clutched the white table cloth, shifting everything on the table unintentionally. She needed to pull herself together, this breakdown could happen later... her family needed her. When more staff began to arrive, placing out bowls of fresh bread, carting in a tray of wine, Amalyn straightened up. Her handkerchief wiped at her face as she made her way around the room, trying to look busy while waiting. Aetheril was next to arrive. He swept into the room as surely and smoothly as the pleasant smells wafted out of the entire wing. His expression was calm, not unpleasant, but it was still set, almost masklike. He looked to Amalyn, and inclined his head. The was a momentary silence, as he took in the room -- seldom had Aetheril been able to enjoy a dinner like this with family. He was lost for words for a moment, the silence reaching an awkward point. Finally, he spoke. "Amalyn. Thank you for this," he said, simply. The signs of strain and tiredness were there, in his muted tone and too-stiff features. But he was, at least, glad of the comfort of home. Cat walked into the banquet hall in Amalyn's provided blue dress. She looked sullen and broken, goimg through the motions without actually feeling anything. Seeing Aetheril and Amalyn, she gave them both the best smile she could muster. "Evening." Looking around, she seemed to grow a little anxious when she noticed someone missing. "Is.. Eive joining us?" Amalyn forced a small smile for her brother as she circled to stand behind her chair at the circular table. Lush, red velvet skirts dusted along the floor, a contrast to how little fabric was used up top. "You need not thank me, Aetheril, we are all family here." Cat was a distraction from another line Amalyn was tired of using around Aeth, a true beauty in the dark blue. She so badly wanted to tell her how beautiful she looked, but held her tongue; Cat deserved an answer first. "No, Catalinetta, I apologize but she will not be able to be with us tonight." Green eyes darted at a nearby server and he ducked, swiftly taking away the fourth placeset, "We have all done Eiverlyn a great disservice and I do not fault her for not being here." The priestess's knuckles turned white as she gripped the back of her chair, using it to balance as she looked at the two in front of her. Aetheril let out a small sigh, increasingly aware of the tension in the room from the very moment he entered. He blinked, returned a twitch of a smile that she had offered him, and nodded, slowly and deliberately. "A shame. I was hoping to make a proper acquaintance," he said, addressing it rather directly. "Very well. Shall we?" He looked to the chair in front of him. "You... you would have liked her very much," her voice quieted as she pulled her chair out to sit, "Aeth." It was so uncommon of her to shorten his name, anyone's name really, that perhaps it was a mistake. Amalyn's eyes had grown somewhat distant in the time it took for them to be seated, noticing a small mark in the pristine white tablecloth. Cat followed directions and sat down. Her face was blank, but there was clearly concentration happening. Licking her bottom lip, she closed her eyes for a moment, then took a deep breath. "I was going to ask her to help me find Kreyen. If she's not coming, I'm going to leave after dinner. I know someone who can help me." She looked pointedly at Amalyn and Aetheril, as if waiting for them to say something, but there was an unusually grim determination in her eyes. The usually gentle priestess, all warmth and smiles and hugs had been replaced with a stern look and a very even tone. "That is a very spoiled notion that because you cannot have what you want right now, that you will simply just leave whenever you would like." Her head turned, eyes boring into Cat as her hands flattened to the table, "Specially a home that you have put under un-do danger." Aetheril tensed in his seat, stopping mid-reach for the bread. He felt his throat go dry. Cat pursed her lips. "Well maybe I am spoiled. I'm not used to my fiance leaving out of nowhere.." she bit her tongue. "..he's not like that. He left for a reason, and I'm going to go find him, and the further away I am from this home the safer it is. I'm not going to wait for him to come back. I'm not going to spend my un-life waiting." Aetheril bit his tongue. He took a hunk of bread and began to spread butter on it, the only sound he made the light clink of silverware. Anything to feel preoccupied for just a moment, while he gathered himself. Her voice rose just ever so slightly, yet she kept it even, "And you thought I would not procure another mage for you? That they would not be here by the morning to do whatever it is you were going to USE Eiverlyn for?" A short, manicured nail began to scratch at an errant thread, it seemed these linens had been in the closet for too long, "You will be safer here, despite what you have done, than leaving again. I will not permit you to go." The smaller of the two death knights blinked away tears. She was used to being chastised for her rash decisions, but not for being thoughtless. The idea that she wanted to use Eiverlyn struck a chord. "If you bring someone else here, they'll know about me. So you'll put another outsider in danger. The less people know I'm here, or anywhere, the better. If you're worried about anyone's safety, worry about yours, or your daughter's. Because me being here just makes this place a target, and I'm a death knight. I've already died once. I'm not going to let it happen again, and I'm especially not going to let it happen to you and your family." "Cat," Aetheril finally blurted out, laying down his silverware. His voice was flat, low, and weary. "It's already too late for that. This family knows the risks. Fel, do you know what they, what we have been through for years? Why my brother has all...all this?" He waved indistinctly over his shoulder, at the walls, the ceiling, everything.(edited) "I can't wait here anymore," Cat argued, swallowing a lump in her throat. "He could be out there somewhere, alone and hurt and I'd have no idea! I'm supposed to just wait safely while I have no idea where he is?? I-it's too much! Kreyen promised he wouldn't leave me, he promised." Her fingers clutched the dark blue fabric of her dress as she struggled to keep her voice even. "I have to find him, and I have to find him now." Aetheril clenched his teeth. Passively, her mounting panic hit him hard, as much as she tried to keep it in check. He was too tired, too weary to shut it out. Amalyn was just about to speak before Aetheril jumped in, her mouth closing slowly to let him speak. He had a part in this and would receive his own admonishing in time. "Yes. You are to wait here until we hear back from Faelenor or he returns. You must trust in him and KNOW that what he is doing, is for your best interest and safety." Was she just telling Cat these things, or perhaps it was something Amalyn had to live by day to day? It was hard to tell anymore. The girl's own hurt was beginning to mount on Amalyn's, for she too was too tired to block it out. A ripping pain began to gnaw away in the center of Amalyn's chest, but she ignored it to press on. "You speak as if this family has not seen battles, that I even haven't seen horrors beyond comprehension." A small glance down at her bracelet gave her away to anyone observant, it held a black pearl that swirled in an other-worldly way. "Your safest place to be is Here. With. Your. Family." Her words had a finality to them. "And how long before Faelenor gets back?" Cat asked with a rising amount of panic. "I trust Kreyen, that's why I have to find him! Because he'd never just leave me without telling me, and if he were out there, he'd try and let me know he was safe! I know him, and if he's been gone with no word it has to be because something is keeping him from me. How can you ask me to just wait?? You've seen battles and horrors, then you know what it's like to want to be with someone. Or at least know where they are. Why is it so wrong for me to find him? I'm not completely incapable, I'm not helpless.." She had to stop twisting her dress for fear of tearing it. "..Kreyen is my family, too." "Not long actually," Came a voice from the entrance to the banquet hall. Dim eyes peered over the gathering, narrowing as they crossed over the death knights respectively. "Whether or not that is good news to anyone here will remain to be seen." The tapping of his boots began as he approached. They echoed with an intensity, purposefully making his presence known to them. He parted the crossing of his arms to remove the hood that had been keeping his features under guise, revealing only a cold stare. No warm smile, no soft sighs, only a frigid tone and a directness that could not be mistaken. "Before I begin with what I have to say...let me grant your worries respite. A favor some of you seem to be unable to grant others around you." His stare hit Cat first, moving towards the other death knight as if to remind him that this has not been forgotten. "Kreyen, much to his own fortune, is safe and out of danger. I saw to it that he make it to safety at the completion of something foolishly dangerous...he seemed to have a trust in me that I expected from my own kin. On the subject of seeing him. If you do not wish to break him further, I will advise that you keep a distance until he returns to you. He asked that I keep you out of harms way and I aim to keep that promise." He pulled a chair from the table and leaned on its backing, stare still drawn to the guests of the manor. "I wont sweeten it for you or lie to you about the situation...simply put, your actions were the reason he ran...and he will continue to run until you can learn that what you do has an effect on more then just you. One does not get to be a hero and have family, Cat...Eventually one of you will break...is that what you want?" The fork that Amalyn had begun to worry between her thumb and forefinger clattered to the table, the knock against her plate a mar on the otherwise silence. Her mouth went dry as his face came into view and her back straightened, a reflex really. Her gaze fell to the table, another wave hitting her as his anger swept over, another rip in her chest. The exhaustion doubling as she struggled to not crumple under its weight. Cat's eyes lowered to the table. There was nothing she could say or do after Faelenor's explanation, but the life and excitement once so prevalent in the death knight's demeanor seemed to leave her eyes. Aetheril went rigid, his face returning to that masklike quality it had before. He shivered for just a moment, a visible rise in his shoulders as he sharply inhaled. Nothing to do for it now. He wasn't exactly unprepared for this, but it didn't lessen the sting. Fael was coldly livid -- somehow, it was more unsettling than if he'd been openly raging. At least then, it'd be a crack in the facade, a break in his impenetrable character. Something to dissect in the open, even if it were messy. With nothing else to do, he took a bite of the hunk of bread, absently. It was a mechanical thing, chewing away, but it gave him time to set himself in order. He swallowed with difficulty, retaining composure. "Not one of you has a single word to say? No excuse for any of the things that occured? Nothing?" He pushed away from the chair, palms reaching down to press on the table. He leaned so that they could see him and spoke out once more. "Playing the broken mess when you've caused someone troubles, unwilling to own your mistakes and take responsiblity for those actions. Do you honestly think you have a reason to be silent, to feel broken when the right thing to do is to get your shit together and make it right for Kreyen? He loves you...risks his life for you and you repay him by retreating to that little place in your head that justifies and validates you? Tell me Cat...do you love him?" Aetheril didn't take the bait. It wasn't time to hash things out with Faelenor. It wasn't time to talk specifics - this was Cat's move. But he couldn't help but look between the two of them, his own eyes settling keen and cold in their orbits. The death knight didn't answer right away. It didn't seem as if she were capable, as blank as her eyes appeared. Despite her ability to breathe, something she did more out of habit than necessity, Cat sat rigid and still, more corpselike than alive. When she finally did speak, it was in a low voice, scratchy in the way one would expect the dead to talk. "..yes." Another stab and her back bent in an odd way forward, both hands flat to the table. She knew he wasn't speaking to her but she was feeling that icy-cold wrath reguardless. On top of Cat's defeated sadness and Aeth's swirling of emotions Amalyn was doing all she could to keep it together. She couldn't even look at her own husband, no matter how badly she wished to see his face. "Then fix your mistakes, live up to them and remind yourself how things got this way everytime you have the urge to play the hero card. I may not be around often and I am certain that I make Amalyn worry about me, but I take every precaution to ensure that I come back alive... no heroics...no thoughtless decisions, just the notion that I have to come back and the understanding that one mistake could cost me. So if you love him, and you have to be in a situation where things could get messy...you have to be willing to take every measure to return to him." He moved towards the black haired death knight and pulled the chair next to her, sitting beside her. His tone softened, stern but no longer a frigid wind of emotion. He placed a hand on her shoulder and sighed. "No matter what that measure is...even if its remaining in the safety of our home until we can take our fight to those that would threaten that happiness. Use every resource at your disposal to return to him, especially when that resource is your very family." Cat didn't move under Faelenor's hand. Her bare shoulder was cold to the touch, a faint pulse beating slowly, just enough for her organs to function, though her lips turned a pale shade of violet and her chest remained still. She gave no indication that she was actually listening to Faelenor until he finished speaking. At that point, her grip on her dress had gone completely loose, and her hands slid limp against her lap. "Okay," she eventually murmured, her voice still scratchy, as if she wasn't getting enough air to project. She seemed to exhausted to cry, and instead closed her eyes. "I'm sorry. I know I'm.. I'm.." Her voice faded before picking up again. "I'll do as you say." Aetheril wasn't sure how to take this.There was too much in play, too many emotions having reached a tipping point. He could only let loose a long-held breath, a bated sigh in response to the change in the color of the room, a release of tension. He closed his eyes tightly, feeling that at least one of them was involuntarily tearing up. A moment later, he grabbed the bridge of his nose, and rubbed them. Another sharp breath through his nose. Wet splashes hit the tablecloth beneath her, her eyes still burning from the tears before freshened anew with pain. The tipping point had come and gone and now it ebbed out from her shoulders and through her fingertips. She ached to be held by him as he had before when the cacophony of emotions had gotten to be too much, but instead she would wait. Aetheril had noticiably relaxed, and it allowed her to do as well, returning to her straight-back position in her chair. But with this change, this ease, more emotions began to trickle into her periphery. The staff, who'd all wisely stayed behind the swinging door, were full of worry and fear and she ached to reassure them everything would be alright. That everything would work out, just like it always had. "Don't do as I say because I said it, but because you understand what the right thing to do is." His hand raised from her shoulder to pat at the back of her head like an older brother to a grieving younger sister. "For now, think about the words I've said. When you have given yourself the opportunity to reflect we can discuss how we go about handling everything that has occurred. I want this to end as much as the rest of you..." Cat opened her eyes slowly and nodded. The light behind them was dim, casting a pale light on her gray face. It was just enough to highlight the red rims of her eyes. Again, she spoke just enough to convey her acceptance of the situation, a low tone that sounded as if there were no steam left in her to fight anyone. "..okay." Aetheril lowered his hand from his face, and looked to Faelenor sharply, a little warning in his eyes, sunken and ringed though they were with fatigue. He could sense that Cat had sunk very low indeed, beyond any sort of argument. This wasn't a moment where she could properly consider what Faelenor had to say, after the initial bombshell. She needed time to process. "There's not much more to be said right now," he said, his own voice subdued. He shook his head. "Good food, reflection, recovery, peace. All to be put in order soon, but not a moment earlier." He looked at the bread in front of him, then to Amalyn, and then back to Cat and Fael.(edited) With Aetheril's interjection, Cat's head lowered just a little more. If it was shame that kept her from looking at anyone, it continued to cow her under the weight of their presence. "..may I be excused?" Fael gave no acknowledgement to Aetheril, sharp stare and warning eyes met with the side of his cheek and nothing else. His turn would come in time. "I do not bind you to this dinner though I suppose that is not up to me. If you need to walk away for now then you should." "You are not our prisoner, Catalinetta." Amalyn's voice broke around the tears that had yet to fall, "Please take the time you need," She finally looked up, eyes softening to the girl, "my suggestion being the rose garden or the library... they are places I enjoy going to think." She said nothing else, still trying to filter and sort out the turmoil of emotions writhing through her. Cat stood from her chair and bowed politely to Amalyn and Faelenor in turn. "Thank you for dinner, ma'am. Sorry for my outburst. It won't happen again." Her walk from the table and into the hall was slow and without rush. It seemed she didn't have a particular place to go. Aetheril shook his head again, exhaling softly. He folded his hands in his lap, and let her go without comment. Largely at a loss, he simply had to accept that there was nothing to be done to "fix" the current problem -- at this tender stage, Cat needed time alone. And so he sat in near-awkward silence, trying simply to put his own thoughts and emotions in order. Out of the room, out of sight, Amalyn broke down. Surrounded by family she didn't have to hold together a perfect facade. She buried her face in her hands and began to sob, quiet at first until she gasped for air. The burn had moved into her throat, strained under all the words that wouldn't come out. The weight she held on her shoulders settling into its place. Faelenor walked past Aetheril, softer steps that moved with little to no anger. There would be plenty of time to have a discussion with his brother but the urgency and presidence Amalyn took won out the night. He lowered himself down to her, digits leading a hand that pressed lovingly on her back. Lips kissed through scarlet locks, slowly at first until he embraced her fully. "Love..." The warmth of his hold shifted, arms moving to lift her from the chair. He continued to kiss her head, feeling the way she shook. "I'm sorry..." He carried her past the doors of the hall, letting the staff walk past him to clean up what little needed cleaning. His warmth was the first thing she felt, his skin always molten against hers. It radiated until he was pressed up against her, his arms circling around her frame. He always made her feel so small, so protected, that feeling cementing as she buried her face into the crook of his neck. His heartbeat still marched on, a reassurance he was real, as she inhaled the scent of him; pine, leather, and a darkness she couldn't quite ever place. He smelled like home. As she curled her arms around his neck, she laid her wet cheek to his shirt, her sobs quieting as he carried her out. Gods she'd missed him. The staff took most everything from the table, one of them approached Aetheril with a bow. "Lord Aetheril. Did you wish to remain at the table for dinner? We can prepare something for you should you request it." "Aetheril will do," he corrected, softly, though a slight jagged edge crept into his words, a raggedness born from the general atmosphere. "The only Lord of this House is already in attendance. Sir, if you insist," he added, almost dejectedly. "Apologies," he quickly amended, shaking his head and clearing away his tone. "I will remain, and have a little of whatever I'm smelling -- a soup, was it? Yes. Then I shall retire." Aetheril sighed, and was left to his own thoughts. He wasn't about to flee to his own quarters, or offer excuses for today's misadventure. He and Faelenor would have it out in time, and he'd take whatever responsibility he must. After the light meal arrived, he ate in silence and solitude, only the clinking of silverware breaking the stillness. Worry lines cracked an otherwise-impassive face.
  7. During his time at Light’s Hope Chapel, Xoan made himself as invisible as was possible for a new recruit. He was interviewed and eventually placed with a small group of trainees, where they spent most of the day performing practical exercises. Having been raised in a fairly devout family, he had no trouble reciting the philosophy of their beliefs, and physically was in good enough shape to keep up with their training. By the end of the day, he made a few friends. It didn’t take them very long to gossip about the goings-on around the chapel. From the attack by the Ebon Blade, to a splinter group’s crusade against rogue death knights, to the sudden discovery that the Light could somehow bring death chargers back from the dead, there were plenty of things to talk about. Xoan kept his mouth shut through most of it. When they mentioned the young bull who survived the purge in Windrunner Village, however, he kept his eyes open. The bull was soon pointed out in the yard, still injured, and Xoan was already formulating a plan. Thankfully, after the fight, the Sunwalker was given a small room to himself where he could recover. That would make things easy, and as day turned to night, Xoan waited for the moon to hide behind a group of clouds before hiding in the shadows himself. He wasn’t the best fighter by any means, but Xoan had grown accustomed to sneaking. Something about it came naturally to the elf; the slow languid movements, the silent way of stepping. He let the shadows consume him as he crept toward the Sunwalker’s room, checking the name on the door just to be sure before letting himself inside.(edited) It wasn’t quite morning yet, but it was also past midnight. Soon enough the sound of training would hit the yard outside, and the Sunwalker would rouse himself awake. For now, however, he was safely asleep. Xoan approached him silently, dressed in black to hide his form in the darkness, the moon still shrouded by clouds to keep it that way. Only his fel green eyes cast enough light for him to see his way through the bull’s room, and as he looked down at the sleeping tauren, Xoan smiled a little to himself. The thick fur of his kind would certainly come in handy, here. No one would notice any irregularities. Careful to position himself behind the headboard, Xoan reached for the rope wrapped around his leg and carefully wrapped it around one fist. He would need to do this quickly, and cautiously. Too much of a struggle would rouse suspicion, and tauren were certainly stronger than he was. That’s why before actually strangling the bull, he reached into his other pocket and pulled out a small damp napkin. It smelled of lilies and hyacinth, but when placed against the bull’s nose, sent him into a sleep even deeper than the one he enjoyed. With that out of the way, Xoan wrapped the rope around the bull’s neck, twice for good measure. Pulling on both ends, he cut off the bull’s windpipe and watched as his victim struggled to breathe. Fortunately, the relaxing poison he inhaled was enough to keep him too deeply unconscious to move very much. There was a twitch in his arms and legs, but nothing more. Xoan waited for all of the twitching to stop before letting the rope go slack. With his victim dead, now the real work began. Looking for an appropriate beam at the ceiling, Xoan climbed atop a chair and made a noose from his killing instrument. It would be just high enough to appropriately hang the tauren, but he would have to actually get him into it first. Stepping off of the chair, the elf reached into his other pocket and pulled out a strength potion. It would only work for about sixty seconds, but it would be enough to lift the tauren and hang him from the noose. Staging the scene only took a few extra moments. The chair was left at its side, to indicate that the tauren simply climbed up, formed his own noose, and committed suicide. He made sure to remove every other indication of his presence; the napkin, the flask of potion. They both went back into his pocket, and with his padded gloves and boots, not even fingerprints would remain. When the Silver Hand found the bull the next morning, they would mourn his choice. It was not unheard of for a knight to take his life, be it out of pride or sorrow. Clearly he felt such a blow to his ego after having been released by a single death knight that it damaged a part of him that could never be repaired. Xoan heard about it from his friends, the next day. “He hung himself?” The elf said with no small amount of surprise. “What a shame.”
  8. Surveying the carnage, Aetheril strode on through the aftermath. He kept sharp watch on the dead and the dying as he moved - knights of either stripe reduced to so much bloody wreckage. There was a space in the battle-priest's eyes, a distant remembrance of similar sights, back when he still called himself an Ebon Blade. His padded half-plate rattled only slightly as he walked. After a time, he came to a stop at the foot of one sorry case – a Silver Hand, some young adept whose career was cut painfully short. He was laid open at the belly, the entire scene a ghastly tableau. There were pieces, some already breaking down from the telltale corruption of unholy runes. He covered his eyes with one iron-shod hand, forcibly stilling his own breathing. Aetheril murmered something indistinct as his head was bowed. It could have been a prayer or a curse, for the scene warranted both. After a few quiet minutes, clinically examining the scene with the air of an investigator, he seemed to come to some sort of decision. The priest turned on a heel, and came striding back towards the tavern, purposely. He gave Cat a harrowed look as he passed, his gaunt face turned even more ashen than normal. Whatever terrible notion drove Aetheril, he seemed to have eliminated his options. He came back out bearing his pack, which he'd dropped at the first outbreak of violence. He didn't look at Cat on his way out, but spoke to her all the same. "The Shriven will need to know. My splinter chapter. The Brotherhood," he said, voice clipped. "Come with me. Or not. But I may have a use for you. Just know that this won't be the honorable option, but its the only one I have right now." He was blunt, and terse, and seemed to be speaking out of a distracted state. "..what do you mean?" Cat asked with a somewhat blank face, still shaken from the fight. The last living paladin was long gone, but she still felt their presence there, watching. "They're all dead. The fight is over.." she blinked a few times and turned to watch him. "You're my brother. What's not honorable about going with you?" "I mean -- what I'm about to do," he said, quietly. He'd come to a stop, and looked back at her over his shoulder. "We can't very well make contact with them directly, and risk exposure. The Brotherhood is very strict in times of crisis. I have the means to reach them even here. A ritual," he went on, his breathing slowed and his eyes looking a bit sunken. Cat checked their surroundings again. The remaining death knights, though few, tended to themselves. There were a handful of wounded knights, and they helped one another before eventually collecting the bodies of their fallen brothers and sisters. Only when she was sure there was no more danger did Cat approach Aetheril and stand beside him. "Unless you're planning on hurting anyone, do what you have to do," she said with a shrug. "There's not much that'll shock me, at this point.." He gave her a long, searching look. Finally, he met her shrug with one of his own, and sighed. "Let's get this over with, then." They both approached the dead adept, his armor -- well-appointed, perhaps newly-issued – lay rent asunder at the gut, its gleaming mirror-shine marred by the evidence of wrenching violence. Something had happened here, and wounds were seldom so hungrily gouged. There was a distinctive animal brutality that only a rune blade had the will and the malice to inflict. Muttering something indistinct, he removed his tall, wide-brimmed hat, and laid it over his heart. He then offered a momentary silence as the weight of the scene settled on them both. A ground-mist had begun to gather. Then, the silence ended abruptly. Without further ado, Aetheril dropped his pack, and began to rummage through it. As he did, Cat might've picked up the strains of another rasped incantation on his breath, perhaps a ward against evil or restless spirits. In a place as eerie as the Ghostlands, such things were a common traveller's refrain, but the priest uttered them with such haste and urgency. Finally: "I'm not very good at this," he admitted, pausing in his search. "But I must put my meager skills to the test. We're running low-to-zero contact, for your safety...and mine, come to think of it. And the Shriven Brotherhood wouldn't have it any other way." Looking paler and sunken for just an instant, he withdrew a spherical object from his backpack, wrapped in thick canvas. He undid the ties, whispered another ward, and uncovered the thing. The object was a strange silver mechanism, inlaid throughout with a shining, cyan-tinged metal. That sickly inlay – as if metal could be unwholesome! - was sinister, uniformly unsettling, and Aetheril's eyes and lips quivered with unwilling, mild fascination. And yet, his hands never touched the gleaming device directly – it was encased in a membrane of sorts, a sphere of polished dark glass or crystal. Smoky currents seemed to shift freely, obscuring and revealing the inner workings. Shaking himself awake from an unaccustomed chill, Aetheril spoke to Cat again. "This should not affect us, or so the Ebon Blade has said time-and-again. But treat it carefully. The mechanism is of saronite inlay, and a devious thing." He stood and gave it to her, hesitantly, gingerly. "Hold this for now. I will need it soon." "Uh.. o-okay.." Cat said with as much bravado as she could muster, taking thing in her hands. Despite wearing gauntlets, she seemed less than willing to let the weird thing touch here skin and held it away from herself. She did not, however, question Aetheril. Aetheril reached into his pack again, withdrawing a capped, opaque-painted vial. Delicately, he unscrewed the cap from its threads, and teased out the contents into his palm, carefully. Packed in cotton wadding, it was a wickedly sharp needle that shone with a telltale light. "The two resonate. But first must attune to the medium." He held the delicate, evil-looking thing between two fingers. Aloft, it looked to be crystalline, as if it were a pointed shard from a larger mass. And, with that green glow, undoubtedly fel in origin. "Forgive me," he sighed. Aetheril kneeled again, before the corpse. He made some esoteric gesture in the air, handling the tiny thing like a conductor's baton, carving out an unseen pattern. Then, he anointed the needle with the still-cooling blood of the corpse, going directly to the source, the terrible wound. There was no immediate reaction, but after a moment, the blood quietly bubbled and hissed on the point of the implement. "The sphere!" he demanded, quietly but urgently. He held out his free hand. "Uh... here!" Cat babbled, handing over the strange device. It was true that she wasn't shocked by his actions, but she wasn't quite sure what was happening either. Careful not to get too close, she watched as the blood bubbled, smelling the changes as they were made before her eyes. The moment the sphere touched his hand, he jerked upright where he sat, as though an electric shock had passed from one hand to the other. Aetheril grit his teeth, grimacing, before finding the will to move. Beneath the smoky glass membrane, the saronite mechanism had sprung to sluggish life, layers within layers turning and arranging in jerks and starts. "The fel, and that which issues from beyond, the blood of the Void, have a certain antipathy," he intoned, breathing deliberately, as small beads of sweat sprung up on his forehead. Aetheril spoke to keep himself distracted from the discomfort. "Where they meet, there are ripples. The mechanism issues a dissonant note, a shriek that carries through the Saronite lode...all the way to Northrend. For the blood of Yogg'Saron is one blood, one life." He then whispered another prayer, another ward, and laid the mechanism down in the open belly of the corpse, a grotesque cradle. The tremor in his hands stilled. "If one of the Brothers is on the other end," he explained, breathing his relief. "They will hear. It is a direct line through the black blood, untraceable by any ordinary magic. The reception is...difficult, however." He held the needle aloft once more. More whispers, and then his hand came down deliberately, fiercly, before reaching a jerking halt. The bloody point hung above the surface of the sphere, shaking slightly in his hand. The priest uttered a single word of power, and a film of shadow magic sheathed the needle. He releaseed his hold on it, and watched as it slowly descended of its own accord, penetrating the glass membrane without a sign of a crack or displacement. It was as though the outer layer were viscous, and the point was sinking into a layer of molasses. He snatched his hands back, like he'd touched a hot stove. Then clapping them together, he nodded once, fiercely. The mechanism within the sphere began to turn with greater speed, layers locking into place. A channel was forming, the fel needle allowed passage deeper into the heart of the device. It's sheath of conjured voidstuff remained unbroken. Cat watched the whole scene with widening eyes. This sort of magic was never her specialty, but if Aetheril was being careful, that meant something. "The Brothers," she repeated quietly. "Where were they, last? I mean, where did you see them?" "Not long after the war in Northrend," he began to answer, as his eyes remained locked on the needle's delving point. Aetheril spoke with a flat tone, entranced. Most of his attention was fixated on the device, sitting on his haunches in front of the body. "--the Brotherhood -- my order, the Shriven -- they took part in the first, doomed assault on the Broken Shore. I believe some have gone back there since. But their home, where I hope to make contact..." His eyes shuddered in their orbits, as his mind began to interface with something other. To the priest, the psychic ether grew deathly still. Even so, an unskilled onlooker might note an inexplicable sense of tension, of mounting dread, a deep-rooted aversion that might compel them to quickly leave. Aetheril was carving through the local thoughtscape with a surgeon's finesse, but to an uncertain end. Sensation in the immediate area took on a sort of waxiness, as though details were unfocused, and sight and sound slipped out-of-joint. The sound of his voice was muffled, bubbling up through the haze. "The Shadow Vault." The words were an invocation. His eyes stilled, and their pupils dialated fully. Aetheril's hands rose painfully-slow and deliberate, the air like molasses in that small clearing around the paladin's corpse. It may have been a trick of the senses, an attenuation of percieved time. Whatever the case, after a very long transition, they at last hung in space in front of him at about chest level, a blank-eyed conductor ready to lead an orchestra. "..the Shadow Vault..." Cat repeated under her breath, careful not to distract Aetheril from his task. She remembered this place well. Located in northern Icecrown, so close to the Frozen Throne that one might spit and have it land at the feet of the Lich King. The Ebon Blade took that place as a base during the campaign in Northrend, and to Cat's knowledge, still held it. Why then would the Shriven Brotherhood be there? If they disassociated themselves with the Blade? She thought back to her time there, fighting for the Horde, bits and pieces of her earliest days as a Death Knight creeping back to the front of her mind. A presence was there, too cloaked in shadow for her to remember entirely, but never gone from her past; Soleren. She briefly remembered a glimpse of his face and immediately recoiled from those thoughts. What few memories she had of him were pure dread. But then, there was no way he would be anywhere near the Shadow Vault. Was there? When Aetheril's scrying finally led him to create what looked like an illusion before him, the smaller death knight had to fight her instinct to leap back in surprise. She watched the ritual like a student, but felt that this particular sort of magic was far beyond what she was capable of. Clasping a hand over her mouth, Cat waited for Aetheril to speak with his brethren. At once, the needle found the core of the sphere, the final saronite gate aligned and locked into place. The last seal was broken. The lingering tension relieved, all at once, and a gentle, inward rush of air disturbed dead leaves. The clearing breathed with an unseen presence. Then, the scene took on a new and frightening light as Aetheril's hands began to move, swiftly and mechanically. His face glistened with cold sweat as his fingers were puppetted by some alien impulse. Droplets of blood spattered his tunic and gambeson, as the priest worked. The paladin's own steaming innards were the so-called "medium" of this method of scrying. Somewhere in the preparation, Aetheril had silently produced a fine-edged knife, and was deliberately excising and sorting the contents of the corpse's belly. Not once did his tool nick or disturb the dark sphere where it lay in the center of the mess. He didn't dare. He worked at his grisly task for several minutes, pausing at irregular intervals. At times, the light of recognition crept into his eyes, momentarily breaking the seer's-trance into which he'd fallen. Aetheril seemed more puzzled than anything else, but each time shook his head to clear it, and resumed with renewed deliberation. When he finally released a long-held breath, and wiped the knife clean, he sat surrounded by cooling remnants, an esoteric array laid in blood and offal. He struggled to his feet, turning about, surveying the results as he would any runic configuration – this one, however, was not any recognizeable language or sigil. Aetheril vacillated between confusion and peturbation, before grasping something resembling recognition.(edited) "The Vault," he explained, at last returning to life, or whatever ashen mockery passed for it. "Is not wholly under the Blade's control. Their garrison is a token one, and has been since Acherus moved. The Brotherhood has always operated within the larger hierarchy, meeting in secret in the foundations of the place, to practice their subtle arts. To the Ebon Blade, they were just another sub-Chapter, a force left to protect their holdings." Aetheril screwed up his face, trying to make sense of the confusing sensations he'd recieved during the trance. He wiped his forehead, carelessly smearing blood as he fought off confusion, and pain. "I sensed...danger. A need to flee. The Lich King's outstretched hand -- doom stalks the halls. He will know that the Shriven Brothers are faithless, that they deny him and refuse their swords. His terrible eyes pierce the veil, where the Ebon Blade was unawares. A doctrinal dispute will turn to a question of treachery." In the ruined belly of the corpse, the mechanism began to silently click, as the needle was slowly extruded from the dense and murky interior. Atheril's attention was arrested for just a moment. He shuddered. "I recieve these...feelings. Through the black blood. At the Vault, another sphere is tied directly to this one...a sort of...magical entanglement," he muttered, waving his hand absently in an attempt to simplify the picture. "What effects one will effect the other, and a psychic medium must use unorthodox means to interpret it." Aetheril rubbed his temples, and took on that same pained expression again. He seemed drained by his efforts. "I'm a poor haruspex, I'm afraid. But I reached one of the Brothers. Or a Sister? Either way, I know that they will move, soon, some directed to aid us in our time of need. The others scattered and gone to ground. I've tried to relay as much detail as I could, but it's jumbled, confused....but at least others cannot sense this. Only those who hold the spheres." "The important thing is that they're doing what they can to be safe," Cat said with a quick nod. "That's all that matters. Though I wish.." her voice faded a little as she looked around the village. The handful of surviving death knights had almost all gone, left their home abandoned, perhaps in search of a new one. Or at least in search of safety. "..I wish we could have done more, here." The mortality of their situation felt heavy. Cat was so used to death by now that entrails and blood hardly impacted her, but seeing the remains of her fellow death knights was a reminder; she was not immortal, and if this could happen to them, it could happen to anyone. "...I need to find Kreyen," she said suddenly, blue eyes focused on her brother with a painful confidence. "If he finds out what happened here, he's going to worry himself into an aneurysm. I've got to get to him before that happens." Aetheril's mouth tightened, pressed into a thin line. His features were sunken and cold, his energy spent. One eye twitched, just slightly, an absent spasm. He didn't speak for a few moments, and took the time to carefully retrieve and stow the sphere and it's fel needle. He handled these effects with utmost delicacy. "I'm not going to tell you this was a mistake," he said at last, quietly. "I think we did some good, and we need whatever allies we can get in this time. Interference. Something to throw the opposition into disarray. And I wouldn't have dared use the sphere inside the bounds of the manor." Aetheril was wringing his hands as he surveyed the carnage. The mechanism was now out of sight, cradled in its sack, and hopefully out of mind. Its lingering influence soured his stomach. The priest took a moment to swallow his rising gorge, idly surveying the carnage. "All that said...we move from goal to goal quickly and hastily. It is perhaps time that we waited, went back to ground ourselves. Hit and fade. We shouldn't assume that we are ever alone, or that we move unseen. Nor Kreyen." He breathed in through his nose, sharply. Cold eyes met hers just once, and then scanned the area. Cat pursed her lips as Aetheril spoke, his general good sense setting her course. Whatever she imagined Kreyen must have been thinking when he left didn't feel entirely right, anymore. The real world danger that awaited her, and every other death knight, wasn't a situation she knew he would want her exposed to. Frustrations about feeling trapped aside, she lowered her eyes to the ground and made a difficult decision. "..yeah. Okay. I guess.. we should probably go back, then," she muttered, touching her axe reflexively. It was satiated, for now. "We'll find him," he said, nodding sharply, a little of the tension going out of his face and voice. Aetheril cast his eyes around, but it seemed he looked for something that wasn't there. Then, speaking deliberately: "The Brotherhood will help us. This is a crisis for them, too." He wiped some of the blood from his hands as he thought this aloud, to nobody in particular. A moment later, he turned back to Cat, and carried on as normal. "We just need to regroup. I promise...if Fael hasn't already located him, we'll put our heads together and figure this out. I promised Amalyn we'd return together, and safely, after contacting our allies." Aetheril sighed, gently, sensing her reticence, her wrestling with the decision. But, at least, she'd taken his advice. No overextension. A sigh quickly turned into distracted urgency, however, and his nose wrinkled. "Help me burn the body. I can't leave him like this." Cat nodded quickly and lowered herself beside the corpse. Aetheril was usually easy to read, but his shifts in mood had her a little concerned. Was it the scrying? The way in which he tore through a corpse to get what he needed? She felt a little ashamed for not being as disgusted by the act. Having grown accustomed to not only using blood runes but eating her victims to regain strength, Cat and long since passed the point of disgust. Sliding both arms underneath the paladin, she lifted him easily into the air, limbs limply hanging down along with his entrails, and carried him toward the town's small dilapidated chapel. The graveyard was small, and may have gone forgotten for some time. However, for the death knights residing there, forgetting the dead was not an option. The few surviving death knights already had a pile of bodies going, but only for the paladins. Their own dead, they would bury. Cat lay the corpse among his brethren and took a step back, looking at the pile of bodies with a newfound sense of awe. "Thank you for helping us," said the death knight orcess from the tavern. Her voice was low and strained, as if she were having a difficult time speaking. Leftover burns on her arms faded slowly, leaving behind gray scars. Cat smiled awkwardly. "I'm sorry we couldn't get here sooner. I'm hoping nobody else tries something like this again, but.. I can't be sure. What will you do now?" The orcess shook her head slowly. "There are few of us left. We had hoped that this could be a new beginning for us, but.. now, I do not think we can stay. Not after this. No, we will go to Northrend. Regroup. After that, I do not know. What will you do, elf? You look like a fighter. Will you return to the front?" It was a difficult question to answer. The Legion was attacking, and death knights provided a necessary service to the Horde. Even if her kind were being hunted, could she ignore her duty? Cat flashed a glance at Aetheril before answering. "..eventually. For now, we regroup. Please, be careful out there," she pleaded. "I know this was a setback, but.. it was a nice place. I hope you can find another home, someday." There was a long pause in conversation as the orcess reached for a book of matches in her pocket, struck them, and dropped the little fire on to their pile of bodies. As the paladins went up in flame, she smiled sadly and nodded. Had she been alive, the orcess might have wept. "Yes. I hope so, too." Aetheril listened to the conversation, silently. He watched as the bodies burned and crackled. "I'd ask for your help," he murmered, without tearing his eyes away. "But you hardly wanted any of this." The priest swallowed a lump forming in his throat, and hesitated, as though he couldn't find the words. Finally, he shook his head and settled on an indistinct curse. The piled dead were consumed in the heat. "Such a waste." The orcess looked carefully at the priest as he stared at the rising flames. He seemed less than happy with the situation, so she reached into her pocket and pulled out a stone. It wasn't particularly interesting looking, just a plain smooth polished stone, gray in color. "Here," she said to Cat gently, handing her the rock. "Take this. We made a few for everyone who lived here. We must regroup, but in the future, if you or your friend need help, do not hesitate to call on us." A few yards away, the remaining death knights had begun shoveling. There were plenty of bodies to bury. Cat nodded and pocketed the stone. "Sure. But before that, let me help you dig," she said with another glance at Aetheril. "And then we'll go?" Aetheril furrowed his brow, looking at the stone in Cat's hand. After a moment, he nodded. He turned to the orcess one last time, before they joined the work. "If, in your travels, you come accross the sigil of the scabbard and the empty hand...know the bearer for a friend." He gave a cryptic smile, then went to find a shovel.
  9. Xaxas'delar Winter, Year 32 "So.. after me, you had girlfriends?" Cat and Kreyen were sitting together in his apartment at the port. They were in the middle of getting dressed, something they usually did together while talking over the day’s plans. Today’s conversation was starting off with something that had been weighing on the death knight’s mind for some time. She tried not to sound too petulant as she questioned him, but it was unmistakable. "Did you love them, too?" "After a time," Kreyen admitted quietly, "and for a while before they'd passed. Those relationships lasted two and three years each, so..." He sighed, then turned around to face her with an apologetic look, "I'm not going to hide anything from you if you have questions, but I'm not sure how much of this you actually want to hear, Cat." Cat stood up, finally dressed, wet hair from a recent shower still down past her shoulders. She fidgeted with the front of her shirt, twisting the fabric around her hands. "..I guess.. I don't need details, I know they're personal and I don't want you to think I'm.. super jealous or something, but.. I would like to know, because its a part of you. And I think I should know all about what makes you... you, I guess." Kreyen sat backwards onto the bed, fidgeting with the buttons of his shirt. "Tai'jin, the troll, was the one who knocked sense into me. Didn't put up with my bullshit when I just wanted someone to fool around with. So, you can thank her for that one. She was younger than you are, but I'm not sure I've been with many that had as much authority as she brought to bear." He frowned, finishing his shirt and looking up at her with a distant look. "Maera...was a more mature relationship. We'd been friends for a long time prior, and it just...sort of happened. She was sweet, but played games I had problems keeping up with. The...other thing...you already know about." "It's not like any of you are the same," he said quietly, "And there were different reasons I fell each time." Kreyen gave her a long look, fidgeting on the bed nervously, "You don't have any competition though, and it's not as though I'm settling or something weird. I was trying to avoid getting this attached again in general, but..." he trailed off, opening and closing his mouth once as he collected himself, "I'm glad you pushed through that. I haven't been...actually happy for a while." Cat stood still as she listened, her face gradually becoming sadder as Kreyen explained his losses. Eventually, she moved carefully toward the bed. She sat down next to the hunter and put her arms around him from one side, leaning her head on to his shoulder. "I'm glad, too," she said quietly. "And I'm sorry you lost so much, and went through so much pain. I wouldn't wish that on anyone. Especially you. I'm sorry for asking you about it, but... it does explain some things I'd been meaning to ask about. I promise, I'm not jealous or freaked out or anything. I'm just thankful that after all that, your heart is still open to something." He looked at her quietly as she spoke, then leaned over and pecked her forehead quickly. "More difficult to hide from someone I already had feelings for, Cat." Kreyen looked into her eyes then, his expression difficult to read. "I don't know how many times I've said it, but it's not like you have changed. Behind that death knight magic and blue eyes, you're still the girl I fell for years ago." A soft smile lit to his features, "Even if you find it hard to believe." Cat didn't seem to want to move from her position. She closed her eyes for a few seconds and squeezed him before speaking again. "...did you ever think about me? After you left? I mean... I thought you died. Did you ever think about coming back?" "Tai'jin made me confront how I'd felt about you," he said quietly, "and then her. So, it's not like I forgot I just...I owed them a debt. Without the druids help I'd definitely be dead. Or...undead, probably. After getting downed by a death knight, I mean." Kreyen mulled over his thoughts then, chewing on the inside of his cheek. "I was...too angry to come back, after Maera. She'd coaxed me out of the loss of Tai, and with everything else I..." The hunter sighed, "It's why I agreed to take up the bow. Honestly, I thought it'd kill me just trying to make the bond. When it didn't, I had another purpose." Cat blinked at the mention of his bow. She glanced down to his tattoo, but didn't let go of him from one side. One of her feet drifted toward his ankle and curled around it. "So… what's your purpose, now? With the bow and all?" "Ease it's pain," Kreyen said quietly, but didn't elaborate. "..the bow?" She let her toe drift along his leg. "How? Er.. why? Sorry, I'm not really good at this kind of thing.. why is the bow in pain?" "Xaxas'delar was crafted during the War of the Ancients by a Satyr," Kreyen explained, "After tearing the still beating heart from the Ancient of War, it was crafted into the shape it has now. It was used on the elves and their allies mercilessly until its owner was killed. Part of its soul remains within it, and that's what gives me the headaches. It wants to kill demons almost constantly for what was done to it." He sighed then, shrugging, "For what it was used to do." "Oh.." Cat shifted and sat up a little straighter. "That makes a lot more sense, now." She ran her fingers through his hair, still leaning her head on his shoulder. “So.. you agreed to take it up because you felt like you owed it to the druids who saved you. Now you have to kill demons to satiate it." She smiled a little, twisting his hair between her fingertips. "Kinda like me. We both have to kill to ease our pain." Kreyen raised his eyebrows at the thought, then turned his face to look at her with an earnest expression. "I ease it's pain," he said carefully, "You ease mine." Cat gently leaned her forehead against Kreyen's and smiled. She held herself there for a while, as if content to just be near him. "Always," she promised, adding playfully. "You can't run from me, this time." The hunter smiled at her, and then managed to chuckle at the thought. "Not with that ring on your hand I can't."
  10. A Conversation on Running Fall, Year 32 Cat's voice came through Kreyen's hearthstone. She sounded shaken, and quiet. "I gotta go, Krey. I gotta go back to Northrend. I'm sorry." "Me too. I didn't realize you actually wanted to fight." "What?" "You're going to have to, if that's what you've decided." "You don't understand. I hurt Lora. I hurt her bad.. this.. dreadlord.. he made me think she was dead, but when I attacked it, it was her. I almost killed her. I can't be trusted." "I don't think you understand. The only way you're going back there for good is through me." "I hurt everyone who gets close to me. I don't want to hurt you, I couldn't live with myself. I can hardly live with myself now." "It's not like you were tricked into picking up and spooky sword that compelled you to kill all living people Cat. Wait until I get there before doing anything. Please." There was a long pause. "If you don't, I will come after you." "I don't want to hurt anyone else…" Cat whimpered into her hearthstone. "Ariavan hates me... what do I do?" "Look, unless you killed Lora I very much doubt that is the case. Did you stick around to help, or explain the bit about the dreadlord?" "I got them out of there. I drew the rune so we could escape, but.. I couldn't talk to them. I can't look them in the eye after what I've done." "... Because you weren't innately equipped to deal with a one of the most dangerous manner of demon there is? Cat..." "I should have known. I was so stupid. I tried to go in there and be a hero, and all I did was make everything worse. Tirien didn't need me. Nobody did." "Did you kill it? Did you save Tirien, or get everyone out alive?" "I killed it, yeah." The sound of waves crashing was transmitted through the stone. "But I shouldn't have brought them there to begin with. I put them in danger to help someone, and Lora got hurt because of it. Because of me. All I seem to do is hurt people." "So does everyone else, Cat. It's called living. You fix it by apologizing and making amends, not running away." "How can I ask someone to forgive me after I almost ripped her throat out?" "Being brave, setting aside your pride, asking, and explaining what happened. Cat, being a hero isn't just doing the right thing all the time. It's also accepting and fixing your mistakes..." There was another long pause. "I'm an idiot." "Does that mean I don't have to drag you back by your pig tails then?" "Not unless you want to. I deserve it." "No you don't." "Why'r you so nice to me? I'm a gods damned monster. I eat people." "And I'm an asshole." "Not to me. ...not recently, anyway." "That's not the point," he laughs, "You're not much of a monster either." "I've almost killed two friends. I don't really have a good track record..." "Your 'track record' involves withdrawal from a powerful potion and a deadlord's magic... At least mine was intentional enough to be called a record." "…but you're good to me, Krey. And I don't think I deserve it." "The feeling is mutual then." "I'll go apologize. I'll beg if I have to." "Should I just meet you at your guildhall then?" "Uh.. sure. Okay. Yeah." "Got it. Good luck, Cat." "Thanks. Be safe."
  11. First Glance Fall, Year 26 It was a Friday night in Silvermoon, and The Purple Hawkstrider was more crowded than usual. A smallish tavern with a regular clientele, they were used to entertaining common folk. There were less of them these days, years after the massacre of Quel'thalas. But tonight there was an influx of blood night trainees, thirsty for a drink after their first week of basic training. Dressed in their casual clothes, the only thing that set them apart from the average citizen was their youth. They were, most of them, just barely old enough to begin training. One of them in particular, a bright-eyed recruit with black hair tied up in pigtails, was happily chatting with the bartender. "They told me they were out of Blackrock Ale! Can you believe it? Those orcs know how to drink!" She giggled. The bartender smirked, filling a dozen or so mugs with beer. "You sure you can handle that kind of drink, girlie?" "What do I look like, a lightweight? ..don't answer that." A snicker issued from a man down the bar, dark haired and hardly fitting with the aesthetic of the place. It wasn't any one thing specifically, but a collection of smaller issues. His clothes fit a little too well, and his movements were a little too certain. His gaze was the most telling, however, bringing to bear an intense focus no matter how long it lingered. Amusement lingered in it then, coupled with a teasing smirk across his lips. "Sounds like you know the answer to that one then," he called over, teasing. Catalinetta blinked at the new voice and turned in its direction. In the haze of inebriation, she saw what looked like an attractive elf with black hair. Smirking proudly, she put a hand on her hip. The young elf was curvy and short, dressed in green and brown cloth pants and a white shirt with nothing underneath. One could tell by the way her clothes fit that she was athletic. "I sure do. Don't let my size fool you, either. I might not be big, but I can drink with the best of 'em." The other elf's eyebrow snapped upwards abruptly at the proclamation. He watched her for a moment in silence, as the smirk slowly widened into a cryptic smile. His gaze swiveled to the bartender then, swirling the dark drink in front of him as he mulled over a thought. "What's she drinking?" he asked, mischief glimmering briefly in his eyes. The bartender smirked at Kreyen, fully aware of the game being played. He stacked ten mugs on the bar, each of them the size their new allies, the orcs, were accustomed to. The bartender nodded toward Cat. "Here you go, ten rounds. You need help carrying them?" Cat grinned and slipped her hand into one mug handle, then another, then another until each arm carried five mugs. She lifted each arm into the air, a show of strength and size at the same time. "Nope!" She said to the bartender, casting a quick smile in Kreyen's direction before she brought the drinks to a table full of new blood knight recruits. The cheered at Cat's arrival, and the dark haired knight in training beamed proudly. Surprise and curiosity splayed across the dark haired male's face, his fel tainted eyes wandering over the exchange. It was only as she began to leave that an amused smile fell across his lips, turning slightly on his stool so that he could watch the pigtailed recruit wander back to her friends. Kreyen met the gaze of one of her peers as she caught him in the act, smiling and winking at her before he turned back to the bartender. "Put their next round on me, Vythas," Kreyen said. He lifted the glass of alcohol to his lips and drained it, then slid it across the bar to the other male. "You hardly need such a wide net, Streamsong," the bartender shot back quickly, giving the hunter a knowing look as he did so. Kreyen laughed. "Who said anything about a net?" The hunter's expression remained amused as he spoke, but began to grow earnest. "It's not like they'll have long to enjoy themselves like that. May as well help them along." "You're not fooling me," Vythas said with a grin, shaking his head at the elf. The bartender produced a bottle of dark aged rum then, refilling the hunter's glass and passing it back. Kreyen only shrugged in response, not conceding the point as he caught the glass. It didn't take long before Cat was back at the bar, a wide grin on her face. Before she could ask, Vythas was already placing another round of drinks in front of her. The recruit blinked, confused, until the bartender pointed at Kreyen. Cat looked at the male with surprise. "Thanks! Your future heroes of Quel'thalas appreciate it!" "It seemed a worthy enough expense," Kreyen said chuckling. "I remember when I was doing the same thing." His eyes fell on her then, making no effort to hide the fact that he was looking her over. "What sort of heroes are they training you to be then, foot soldiers? Blood Knights? Farstriders?" His head cocked to the side then as an impish sort of smirk fell over his lips. "Certainly not Magisters." "Heh, what gave it away?" Cat asked as she slipped her arms into the mugs again. She didn't seem to notice that he was looking her over, because she was too busy awkwardly doing the same. "Blood Knights! Warriors of the Light, defenders of Quel'thalas, and someday, vanguard for the Horde." "That makes sense," he said with a teasing tone, "They could use all the help they could get up in Quel'danas." Kreyen's attention turned to his own drink then, lifting it in her direction in a brief toast. "Good luck with the training, and enjoy yourselves." Another smile drew over his face then, just before he took in a mouthful of the rum. Cat smiled sheepishly, as if unsure how to respond. She nodded and cleared her throat before moving back to her table with the drinks. "Thanks." Another cheer went up for her triumphant return, though once she placed the drinks on the table, one of the other recruits gave her a playful smack over the head, nodding in Kreyen's direction. The two exchanged words for a moment before Cat was literally pushed away from the table. Kreyen had made it a point not to ogle the recruit on her departure the second time around, content with being caught in the act once already. With an easy view of the door from his position, he'd settled back against the bar to watch and listen to the conversations that remained within earshot. It was Vythas who actually took note of the would-be blood knight's exile. Cleaning a glass, he spoke as he started to move down the bar. "Seems you might not be drinking alone after all." It drew a raised eyebrow from the seated male, but little more. Cat looked between her table and the bar, as if confused about what was happening. She was shoved again by one of the female recruits, a skinny brunette with a crew cut, who nodded at Kreyen with a mischievous smile. Cat followed the other recruit's gaze and raised her eyebrows, turning away with embarrassment before she was once again shoved away. The trainee stumbled over herself, much to the delight of her friend, who shook her head in a resounding "no". After a few seconds, Cat drifted to the bar, her face burning red. "..can I get a whiskey?" She asked Vythas, her voice a little more high pitched than usual. The bartender nodded, but left to go grab a clean glass and the bottle. Kreyen meanwhile, cast his attention on the blood knight recruit with an amused look and a raised eyebrow. He swiveled on the stool, leaning an elbow against the bar so that he could face her. "Going to get sloppy switching to whiskey after pounding that much beer back so quickly," he teased, "Celebrating something, or is this a usual night out for you and your friends?" Vythas returned then, setting the tumbler on the bar in front of Catalinetta and pouring two fingers of the amber liquor into it. With a brief glance between the two dark haired elves, the bartender stoppered the bottle and left again to return it to where it'd come from. Cat took the whiskey and drank down half of it before answering Kreyen. "Usual Friday night," she answered, setting the glass back down. "I mean, usual for the past few weeks. Basic sucks so when Friday hits, we party, and sleep it off on Saturday. Our drill sergeant says we better enjoy it while we can, because once we're actually put to work there isn't going to be another weekend in our future." "Things are a little frantic," he said with a raise of his eyebrows, "But you'll get rotated out for leave often enough. Maybe not to Silvermoon, but still. The sergeant is probably just trying to scare you." Kreyen studied her a little then, taking acute note of how much of the whiskey she'd already pounded back. Casting an amused glance back at the table her friends were at, he pondered aloud, "You the only one who likes whiskey, Miss...?" "Oh, Catalinetta. Sorry. Wait no, you can call me Cat. Everyone else does. Whiskey? Yeah. Pretty much." She nodded back to her table, her voice already a little slurred. "My brothers taught me how to drink whiskey. I like beer too, but whiskey is my favorite. Nobody over there knows how to drink it, they just shoot it back like a chump." "Some whiskey's made for shooting, Cat," he said with an impish grin, "But I can see how that'd be irksome." Kreyen lifted his own glass and drained it, then set it across the bar for Vythas to pick up on his next pass by the area. "I'm Kreyen, by the way," he added after, extending a hand in her direction. Cat looked at Kreyen's hand for a second before actually responding. She shook her head and took a few steps toward the male, grabbed his hand with her own and shook it firmly. Her hand was small, and her nails cut short in a utilitarian kind of way. "Nice to meet you. Thanks again for buying the beer. You're gonna be their hero in a few minutes. I'm pretty sure they're about three quarters of the way toward being completely smashed." He gave her a shrug as he spoke. "You guys have better things to spend whatever spare money you have than a round of beer, and it's not like rum is expensive." A teasing smirk fell over his lips then, scanning her expression for hints about her own state of mind. "If they're about to be completely smashed though, where does that leave you Miss Whiskey? Just less of a lightweight than your peers?" "Much less," she said boldly, swirling her glass. "First of all, I know how to drink, and that means eating before you drink. Second of all, I'm not as light as I look. Third of all..." She held up a third finger, but seemed suddenly preoccupied with her own hand. Bringing it close to her face, she wiggled her fingers. "...huh. My hands are so skinny. I never noticed it before. That's kinda weird." The dark haired sin'dorei listened attentively until she lost track of her points, managing to contain his laughter until after she'd completely lost track of them. Grinning at her afterward, Kreyen shook his head. "Seems to me that you might have overshot your comfort zone with that one, Cat." He nodded towards the half-full glass of whiskey as a teasing, but off kilter smirk fell back over his lips, "Gotta be careful how you string them together." "I'm careful," she shot back, taking another long sip from her glass. "Plenty careful. Actually, Ayla over there said I was too careful. That's why she shoved me over." The whiskey seemed to be doing its job, and Cat found her boldness at the bottom of the glass. "Were you checking me out, earlier?" "Of course I was," he said almost immediately, but burst into laughter afterwards. When he settled a few moments later, he arched an eyebrow up at her and then glanced at the table where her friends were still drinking, "Doesn't mean your friend was right though, I'm not sure I'd trust me either." "Trust you to do what?" Cat asked curiously, leaning an elbow on the bar. With her curiosity out of the way, she suddenly felt free to speak her mind. "It's okay, I was checking you out too. I just didn't know if you were and I didn't want to look like an asshole." "I'm not sure looking someone over briefly at a bar counts as being an asshole, Catalinetta," he said easily, dodging her question with a smirk, "It's not like you were staring, or that I'd take even that as something other than a compliment." Kreyen chuckled and leaned forward a little then, "Should I have been offended?" "I don't think so?" The recruit shrugged, clearly unsure of how to handle the conversation. "I don't know how this sort of thing works. Ayla said I should just go talk to you, but I'm pretty sure she's just trying to embarrass me." "It depends on you're looking for," Kreyen started, wry amusement on his features, "If it's just small talk then it seems like you've got that down well enough. You could always try cheesy pick up lines or physical contact though, if you're looking for more than that. The key with either is just to be confident, and then just roll with however they react." He shrugged, "Getting embarrassed is a choice." "Is it?" Cat looked into her glass with a concerned expression. "Why would I choose to be embarrassed?" She murmured to herself. "That's a terrible choice.." Standing up straight, the recruit finished the last of her whiskey and looked pointedly at Kreyen. "Well then, how about this. I'm a new recruit, still in basic, working on becoming a hero. I've got no hangups and my girlfriends are working really hard to make my life hell until I can bring them back some good dirt. I think you're cute, and I have nothing but time until Sunday. So what do we do with that?" Kreyen's eyebrows shot up at how direct she was being, needing a moment to digest the information. When it sank in, he hopped down from the stool and drew closer to her, looking over her expression with a distant sort of smile. "How about we start with this," he said, reaching up with his fingers to tilt her chin towards him. He pressed his lips against hers lightly then, in an earnest but not overly eager embrace. He pulled back quickly, studying her reaction with a heated look, "And maybe we just go for a walk? It's a nice night, and if you change your mind I can help you make up some dirt for your friends." Cat blinked rapidly, her breath caught in her throat. She stood dumbfounded for a few seconds, staring into space until a loud cheer went up from behind her. The other recruits had been watching, amongst them the buzz-cut bruinette who yelled. "I told you!" from her place at the table. After a few seconds, Catalinetta laughed nervously and swallowed. She cast a glance at the table and made a rude gesture at the other recruits before looking back at Kreyen with a red face. "H'ooookay. Walk. Sounds good. I could use some fresh air." Kreyen shot look mixed between annoyance and amusement at the buzz-cut recruit, not sure what to make of her shouting. He turned his attention back to Catalinetta with a softer look quickly though. "Me too," he said, shoving his hand into a back pocket and drawing out the necessary gold for the drinks he'd purchased, the tip, and another round for the remaining recruits. There was no sense in giving them a reason to follow. He smiled at her then, looping his fingers around hers and starting to lead her towards the door. Cat was suddenly holding hands with someone, something she had never experienced. She hastily used her other hand to pull out some money for her whiskey, which she practically threw at the bar before following Kreyen's lead. It was obvious by the way her palm started to sweat that this was new for her. Her skin was very warm to the touch, either because of nerves or alcohol or both. Finally outside, she took a deep breath of the cold night air and looked for the fel green glow of Kreyen's eyes. "..they are going to give me so much shit when I get back," she said with a nervous laugh.
  12. Proposal Winter, Year 32 "I actually have something for you," Kreyen said, "I was going to wait till Winter Veil, but..." He chewed on his lip idly as he considered, his eyes unmoving from her face. "...should I wait?" Cat sat up and leaned back on her palms, her eyebrows knit with concern. "Well shit, I wish you'd told me," she said with a playful frown. "I haven't even wrapped your gift, yet." "It's..." he started, then trailed off, faltering in his explanation. A soft smile formed at his lips as he shook his head. "Don't worry about it. I got you, Cat, And I think that might be enough for a few Winter Veils on it's own." He chuckled and dragged his feet off the bed, groaning as he got to his feet and moved over to where his pants had been deposited. He picked them up and began to rummage through the pockets, then let them fall back to the ground when he'd found what he was looking for. Whatever it was fit into his hand, something she couldn't see as he crawled back across the bed to her. "That's the sort of thing you say when you get someone a gift you know they can't beat," she said dryly, smirking. Cat reached up and combed her fingers through her hair before shifting her legs beneath her to kneel on the bed, facing him. "Whatever you're planning, I hope you realize what sort of person you're up against. I've got the kind of gift-giving skills that'd make Great Father Winter feel ashamed of himself." Kreyen gave her a shrug, coupled with an expression that was difficult to read as he sat down in front of her. He held his hand out to her, flicking the object out of his palm and up between his index finger and thumb. A rosegold ring, the narrow band was covered in small arcane markings. At its center was what looked like a gemstone, though something was certainly off about it. Blood red in color, it didn't reflect light terribly well. "I know...it's early, and I don't want to pressure you, or make you think I want to rush into this super soon or something..." he said cautiously. "But I wanted to know if...when you were ready...if you'd marry me?" he asked as he averted his eyes. "Anyone else I'd...it wouldn't be about love, and that's...it's important to me." Cat's mouth hung open at the declaration, her eyes fixated less on the ring than on Kreyen's face. After a few seconds, she swallowed and blinked a few times, as if to convince herself that this was actually happening and not a hallucination. She reached for him, hesitating for a moment before putting her hands on his face to make him look her in the eye. "..you know, it's going to be impossible to get rid of me," she said carefully, before breaking into a wide grin. "Yeah I'll marry you, if that's what you really want. Here I was just hoping you'd stick around for a while. Way to blow my expectations out of the water." The look in his eyes before she started speaking was by far the most vulnerable she'd ever seen him, lacking almost any of the usual swagger or confidence he usually held. It faded quickly as she started talking, and broke rapidly into laughter as he leaned forward to kiss her once before rocking backwards. "That's...part of what this is," he said apologetically as he offered her the ring. "The gem is actually crystalized blood," he explained, "Mine. If I disappear, and you take it to a mage, they should be able to find me. Even if I'm dead. I...I wanted to show I wasn't going to just run off into the night again." He paused and looked her in the eye then, his smile still weak, "I love you." Cat's lip trembled as he explained the ring, a strange choking sound caught in her throat. A few tears gathered at the corners of her eyes and Cat seemed at a loss for words. She chewed on her lip and looked at the ring again, as if piecing together the information over and over. "..you know, it's kinda weird? It's like we just met again a few weeks ago, isn't it? Maybe months, now.. but.. it still feels like I've known you a long time. Have I? When we first me, did you feel like this at all? Because.. I think I did, and.. I didn't know why." "It's been a few months," he said with a chuckle, "...but probably less than a year total, even including the stuff before." The laugh seemed to catch in his throat then, and he had to take a moment to collect himself again. "...I didn't know what it was then, but...yeah, I did." He thought for a moment, a guilty look on his face. "Took a lot to knock sense into my head. I didn't expect to find you again, and before you got your memories back I..." he sighed, shaking his head to get the look off his face entirely. "If you change your mind later, it's fine." He smirked and chuckled, "I can be a bit of a shithead, wouldn't exactly blame you." Cat frowned and playfully tapped Kreyen's chin. "Don't be stupid," she chided, shaking her head. "I never thought you'd actually wanna marry me, is all. Have a little fun, maybe. I guess I don't know myself all that well.. I fell kinda hard for you and I didn't know how to deal with it. You don't know how pathetic I looked when you turned me down at the Filthy Animal. After, I mean. I think I ate half your ice cream." "Half?!" he asked incredulously, his brows furrowing. "That's..." Kreyen shook his head again then, the weight of her previous statements crashing on him more than the ice cream. "Wait, you were just going to be ok with me knocking you up, no commitments then?" he asked, managing an even more incredulous tone, "What, was I just going to run off or sit around and father the kid as your boyfriend in that scenario?" The hunter broke into laughter at the thought, then bowled her over with a series of barrage of teasing kisses. Cat grinned and shook her head throwing her arms around his neck to hug him close. "I didn't really think kids would be possible. I never even thought of having kids before, to be honest with you. If its with you, though, I think I can handle it. Just... a long time from now. When I'm a little less... you know. Dumb?" Kreyen nodded and grinned, continuing to press his lips against her face in a random pattern. "One step at a time, Kitten," he said when he seemed satisfied, "It's kind of comforting to know that all we have to worry about now is the Legion." A happy grin fell over his features, "And I'm not sure how worried about them I am now..."
  13. They made a peculiar duo, Cat and Aetheril. Though both were death knights, and shared a biological father, that is where the similarities ended. Aetheril, tall and thin, draped in the shadow magic that disguised his form, glided gracefully beside Cat. She, short and awkward in black plate, trudged like a kodo. The original plan was to head to Northrend, in search of their fellow rogue death knights. With them as allies, they could protect themselves more efficiently against the paladins who sought their execution. It seemed simple enough until they arrived in Silvermoon, and while asking about a portal to Northrend, caught wind of a far closer destination. “Northrend? What would anyone want to go there for?” Asked the mage who’s portal could send them to the icy battleground. He didn’t give them a chance to answer. “Looking for other death knights?” Cat’s face gave away their carefully crafted plot, even if she stayed quiet. Aetheril was just about to work on clouding the mage’s memories of them when he continued to speak. “Look, I don’t want any trouble, but there are plenty of them in Windrunner Village. So I hear,” he said carelessly. “Got to the point where they got sick of everyone gawking at them in town, so they decided to take it over for themselves. A whole town of undead,” he added with a shudder, then quickly waved his hands. “N-not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Aetheril smiled at the nosy elf, his blue eyes flashing once. The mage blinked. “..sorry, was I saying something?” “No,” Aetheril said kindly, taking Cat by the arm and gently leading her to the city’s southern exit. “We were just leaving.” That was how they wound up walking the road through Quel’thalas, en route to Windrunner Village, staying as inconspicuous as Aetheril’s power would allow. “A whole town of death knights,” Cat said wistfully. The idea was somewhat comforting. “They definitely aren’t Ebon Blade if they’re just trying to live there, out of conflict. The Ebon Blade would have sent them all to the shore by now.” "Not as uncommon as you might think," replied Aetheril, distantly, half his attention focused on mental deflection, a mantra running through his skull. "Knightly orders fragment, whether by doctrinal squabbles or vast distance. I belonged to a similar enclave. They're still out there, I hope." "I hope they're safe.." Cat murmured quietly as they approached the village. A few faded memories of her time as a Blood Knight initiate came to her, as the view of the small settlement came into focus. It was a lot nicer than she remembered; repaired roofs, a few new fences, corpses no longer littering the ground. She remembered going there to exterminate the lingering Scourge, but there was no sign of them now. "I suppose we should thank them for keeping the village in order," Aetheril murmured, mouth tilting into a wry grin. "Famous name, Windrunner. But it'll be years before Silvermoon can get to reclaiming the place." He took a long draw at the air, clammy with ground mist. His psychic shields remained clamped in position, prying eyes likely to slide right past them. "Do you think they'll be friendly?" "I hope so. We're coming with good intentions," Cat thought out loud, looking around for some sort of movement. As they entered the village’s main thoroughfare, the telltale sound of carpentry could be heard. Someone was sawing wood, someone else hammering nails. The sound stopped sharply as Cat stepped on a twig and snapped it sharply underfoot. “Can I help you?” Came a voice from behind the two death knights, a deep masculine voice that seemed somehow familiar. Cat turned around quickly to regard him, and found an older Sin’dorei wearing the clothes of a peasant. Were it not for the blue glow of his eyes, she might have assumed he was a simple farmer. At his hip, however, the Sin’dorei carried a sword. It glowed brightly with the same color of his eyes. “Oh! Uh… sorry to intrude,” Cat said apologetically, bowing her head respectfully. “My name is Cat D’Aragon. This is Aetheril. We’re Death Knights,” she explained haphazardly. “Yes, I gathered,” the other knight chuckled. “I take it you heard about our little town in Silvermoon. Word travels fast. Well good,” he added with a friendly smile. “We were hoping that any other knights in search of a home might come to us. My name is Rhyden. Welcome to Windrunner Village.” Aetheril relaxed his wards just a little, but his curious eyes remained fixed on their visitor, and his mind on the locale. "Warmer welcome than I expected," he observed, haltingly, as he pushed back the brim of his tall hat. As a matter-of-course, his other hand hung close to the unmarked side-sword at his hip, but he made no move for it. "Do you keep no watch?" he asked, his brows furrowing. One ear twitched. "Not in some time," Rhyden admitted. "This is not a military base. This is a village. The death knights who live here are attempting to eke out some normalcy. Rarely do we get visitors, but.. on the chance that we encounter someone.. 'unfriendly', they are met swiftly. You will find that we all are quite protective of our little home." Rhyden led both death knights toward an area of the village that seemed a little more active. Though the majority of those they saw were Sin’dorei, there were a few other races sprinkled throughout; a tauren female, an orcish male, two goblin females. They, along with about half a dozen Sin’dorei seemed to be working together on building a new animal pen. A few yards away, some skinny goats bleated at one another behind a makeshift fence. “As you can see, we try to help each other here,” Rhyden explained, waving a hand. “After we rebuilt and refurbished the homes we needed, we started working on rebuilding the livestock once kept here. The milk and cheese we make here will be used for trade. Eventually, we will have enough income to create more jobs, but for now we all agreed that this would be the simplest way to start.” Cat cracked a smile at the harmony in which the death knights worked. She was so used to seeing death knights in armor that it was fairly bizarre sight to see them in peasant clothes, sawing wood and building. For a moment, she considered what it might be like to live there, among her own kind, away from the living and the fear of their rejection. But Kreyen was among the living, and with him all of her hopes and dreams for the future. There was no home without him. "I'm always kinda floundering for a place I feel like I belong. Nothing has really felt like 'home', yet," she remembered telling him a short while ago. His response then had lifted her spirits. "Home is where you are." “If you two intend on staying, we will need to find a home for you,” Rhyden said as he led both Cat and Aetheril to another end of the village. “There are still a few unclaimed homes that--” “Oh, oh no!” Cat said quickly, waving her hands. “We’re not here to stay. Sorry, I should have made that clear.. No, we’re here to warn you, sir. There are some paladins from the Silver Hand looking to exterminate rogue death knights. As in, knights that aren’t affiliated with the Ebon Blade,” she explained. “Has.. the Ebon Blade given you any trouble? When I left, they weren’t exactly thrilled.” “Luckily we were able to leave as a group,” Rhyden explained. “There were enough of us that we could defend one another. Though we have had visitors in the past, representatives from the Blade attempting to bring us back. It hasn’t worked, so far.” Cat bit her lip as she listened. “..do you still hear him?” “The Lich King?” Rhyden’s face darkened a bit. “...yes. I fear we always will. It is something we will have to ‘live’ with, but, we are in control of our actions. Just because we hear him doesn’t mean we need to listen.” Cat passed at glance at Aetheril before continuing. She seemed a little unsure about Rhyden’s answer, but didn’t argue. “Well.. we were going to go to Northrend and see if there were any other rogue Death Knights there, but, then we heard about your village. We wanted to make sure you knew about these Silver Hand guys, so you could protect yourself.” Rhyden’s expression changed from cordial to concerned. He looked around for a moment, taking stock of his would-be villagers, and led both Cat and Aetheril to another building that was reminiscent of the same inn that once watered Cat’s own hometown. Inside, it seemed as if someone had taken the time to tidy up. No one was drinking yet, but a kind looking orcess stood behind the bar, cleaning mugs with a rag. She nodded to Rhyden as he entered with his guests. “Tell me what you know,” he said to Cat and Aetheril, his expression suddenly grave. “We left the Ebon Blade to escape conflict, not get dragged back into it. I understand that there is a war on, but--” “We’re not here to make you go to war,” Cat sid quickly, waving both hands. “Just to warn you. From what I’ve heard, it seems like the Silver Hand has a few paladins who want to take out people like us. I tried laying low for a while, but, that didn’t work. Someone found me. I figured it would be better to find others like us, and let you know what I know.” Rhyden’s brow furrowed, long eyebrows knit in the middle as he considered the possibilities. Beside Cat, Aetheril’s attention was focused on the villagers outside. He seemed to be taking mental notes, as if in preparation. “They want us gone...” Rhyden muttered. “Why?” “They think we’re more likely to go rabid outside of the Ebon Blade,” Cat explained with a shrug. “And they have an agreement with the Ebon Blade. The rest of us--” “I think, unfortunately, that is the end of our conversation,” Aetheril said to his sister. A slender hand was placed on her shoulder, calm and gentle. “We should be going.” Cat frowned at the sudden shift. “Wait, what? Why? Aetheril, what’s going--” “Paladins!!” Came the shout from outside, the hollow voice of a death knight warning all those who might hear it. “Dozens of them, Rhyden!” The town’s makeshift leader cast Cat and Aetheril an incredulous look as he led them outside. “Where you followed??” “No!” Cat said quickly, nodding to Aetheril. “He made sure of it!” Aetheril shook his head and took in a deep calming breath. “It seems our chatty friend in Silvermoon found someone else to talk to.” In the main square, the death knights abandoned their carpentry. Most retreated to their homes to gather weapons, just in case. It seemed they were more prepared for such a confrontation than Cat imagined. Soon, the paladins they were warned of flooded into the square atop shimmering white horses, their leader a massive bull riding a monstrous animal with hooves wider than dinner plates. “Death knights,” the Sunwalker said with authority, his voice even and without emotion. “I am Commander Karhyo of the Silver Hand.” “Commander Karhyo,” Rhyden said with a polite bow of his head. “Welcome to Windrunner Village. I am Rhyden.” “Who is in charge here, Rhyden?” The Sunwalker asked, passing a glance over Cat and Aetheril. Rhyden did not blink. “I am. What can I do for you?” “I have come to compel you to rejoin the Ebon Blade,” Karhyo answered, not moving from his place atop the gargantuan white horse. “Join the fight against the Legion, and be under the Horde’s protection once again.” The death knight tried to smile. “While we appreciate the offer, we must decline. We came to Windrunner Village to start a new life away from conflict. As you can see, we mean no harm to anyone. The people of this village have no intention of returning to the employ of the same creature that killed us. I am sure you can appreciate that.” “That I can,” the Sunwalker said, then added gravely. “However. We have an arrangement with the Ebon Blade. They are responsible for their men not succumbing to their feral state. I can not say as much for you, or your people. So I will ask again. Rejoin the Ebon Blade. If you do not, I can not guarantee your safety.” Rhyden’s eyebrow twitched. “Are you threatening me, Commander?” Karhyo did not budge. “Yes.” Cat took a step forward, ignoring Aetheril’s hand on her shoulder. “You can’t do that! They’re not hurting anyone, and you have no right to come here and tell them what they have to do!” There was a pause as the Sunwalker appraised Cat, still in her full armor, yet wearing pigtails. “On the contrary. It is in fact my duty to tell them what they should do, in the effort to avoid violence. I don’t think anyone here wants that.” “Then I would suggest you leave,” Rhyden said with a strained smile. “You and your men. You are making my villagers very uncomfortable, sir. I would appreciate it if--” “Do you refuse?” Karhyo asked, interrupting the death knight. “Do all of you refuse?” There was a murmuring in the village as each of Rhyden’s fellow knights spoke among themselves. In the time since the paladins had arrived, they each managed to gather their runeblades and stood in peasant clothes with glowing weapons in hand. It didn’t take long for them to reach a consensus. “We’re not going back,” said the orcess from the bar, brandishing a broadsword in one hand. “And you will not force us.” Karhyo huffed once from his large nostrils. That he anticipated this turn of events was clear, given the two dozen paladins behind him. He didn’t seem inclined to speak on the matter further. “Very well.” The Sunwalker’s hand rose into the air, and a moment later a dozen paladins kicked their horses into action. Cat stumbled backwards, grabbing Aetheril to help pull him from the path of an oncoming charger, but he didn’t need her assistance. The slender weaver of shadows glided effortlessly to one side and immediately began defending them both, tendrils of shadow extending from his body to wrap around the paladin who nearly trampled him. There was no time to be impressed by his power, so Cat moved on the defensive. Mounted, the paladins had an advantage and easily used their horses to crush death knights underfoot before casting bolts of pure Light toward their prone bodies. The smell of burnt undead flesh and the sound of their screams began to fill Cat’s ears. The death knights were not prepared for battle with fully armored paladins, and they were woefully outnumbered. Only Cat wore armor, but the rest defended them as best they could. Thankfully, Windrunner Village was surrounded by death. Those who could summon the bodies of the fallen did so without remorse, sending a small shambling army of corpses toward the paladins to pull them from their horses and onto the ground. It was chaos, but with the help from the dead, the death knights at least had a ghost of a chance in defending their home. With Aetheril busy commanding his tendrils of shadow, Cat looked for ways to assist him. Stomping her foot into the ground, she created a rune that surrounded them both. Biting into the unarmored part of her own hand, Cat cut a wound just big enough to allow her to bleed. Then, extending her hand to one of the human paladins, she released a tendril of blood that wrapped around his neck and dragged him into the rune. Almost immediately, his flesh began to turn colors as necrosis set in. As the pain and panic began to set in, the paladin screamed, slashing at Cat with his Light blessed weapon. Using her axe to deflect him, she kept her hold on his neck with the blood and made him stay within the confines of the rune. Wearing him down slowly was the goal, and after a few loud hits of steel against steel, the paladin fell to the ground in exhaustion and let the rot take him. “An’she guide your blades!!” Karhyo shouted as he fought Rhyden on the ground, their swords hitting to create a shower of sparks. The massive bull towered over Rhyden, but the death knight would not relent. As their blades met once again, Karhyo’s sword pressed down on Rhyden’s to push the death knight to his knees. “I ask you again, death knight, to submit or we will burn this village to the ground!” Rhyden spat at the bull, all of his strength focused on keeping the Holy sword at bay. “We will not submit to you, or the Lich King. Never again.” “Very well,” Karhyo grunted, a white light erupting from his sword. The entire village could hear Rhyden’s voice, a high pitched wail of pain and despair. The Light cut through his body like fire through paper, burning his gray flesh until a charred corpse was all that remained. “An’she take you,” the bull said quietly, crushing Rhyden’s black skull with his hoof. Cat’s memories of Light’s Hope were at the forefront of her mind, then; the feel of her flesh as it was incinerated, the screams, the pleas for help. She remembered calling on Kreyen, speaking to him as if he were right beside her as she attempted to do whatever it took to stay on her feet. But Kreyen couldn’t hear her now, and Aetheril was fighting his own battle. Seeing Commander Karhyo execute Rhyden created a pain in her chest that felt like a combination of grief and remorse. He died for his people, defending their freedom. He died a hero. “You killed him,” she said in a hoarse voice, approaching Karhyo. Blood dripped from her hand. “You killed him, and he didn’t do anything wrong. How could you? Paladins are supposed to do what’s right. There’s nothing right about this!” Karhyo turned to Cat and again looked her over. He seemed exhausted, and perhaps sad. “You must have died very young..” he said quietly, raising his blade to meet her. “..if you think that right and wrong still has bearing on this world. I am sorry, but there is no future for your kind.” Cat’s lips pursed. This rage was new for the death knight, this seething anger that begged to be released. Here was a Sunwalker, who was supposed to represent everything that she believed in. Once, the Light blessed her. Would it never do so again? “The Light does not forget its champions,” she said under her breath, stomping the ground with her boot to create a rune that spread throughout the ground. Karhyo felt the immediate pain, the necrosis that spread beneath his fur, threatening to rot him from the inside. The bull needed only a few steps to close the gap between himself and Cat, a few thudding steps that would allow his sword to come down on her small frame with all the power of a Sunwalker. It crashed down hard against Cat’s runeblade axe, nearly shoving her to the ground. But as the blood poured from her hand, it snaked up her weapon and against Karhyo’s until it wrapped around his arm, infecting him with blood rot. The bull reeled as his flesh was compromised, infection discoloring his eyes and nostrils, blood slowly seeping from every orifice. Still, he attacked Cat, crashing his sword against her axe as if he were chopping wood, slamming harder and harder as the rot entered his brain and ate at the parts that granted him motor skills. Karhyo’s attacks, hard and heavy at first, grew weaker and weaker. His lumbering body became a shuffling mass of rotting meat, held together by cracking bones until finally, Cat swung her axe into his torso and crushed his heart beneath his ribs. “Cat, look out!” Aetheril’s voice rang out beyond the sounds of battle. She turned just in time for a younger bull to rush her, his axe aimed for her neck. Aetheril’s warning was all she needed to duck the attack and punch the ground, creating another flesh rotting rune that surrounded them both. The young bull stumbled as he felt the disease gnaw at him from the inside, confused and caught off guard. Turning to face him, Cat hesitated only when she saw that the rest of the village was actually holding their own against the invasion. The ghouls summoned from the earth admirably distracted their foes, allowing the knights time to execute those who attempted to destroy their way of life. The paladins still standing had been pushed into defending themselves and were slowly being backed out of the village. But there was no time to take stock of the survivors. The young bull came at Cat with his axe again, slower and less precise. She managed to dodge him with her own axe, sending his weapon spinning away and into the ground. The bull blinked at his empty hands. All he had left was the Light. “An’she--” Cat’s blood tendril wrapped around his throat, effectively silencing his prayer. Certainly he could still call upon the light, but he seemed to distracted by being choked and rotting to remember that. Pulling his body toward her, Cat was ready to decapitate him when she noticed that the other paladins were gone, along with the sounds of battle. The young bull struggled in her grasp, writhing on his knees as bits of flesh flaked away from his face and fell to the ground. Fully armored, though much younger than the other paladins, he looked almost pathetic in her hands. If he died there, he would have been another hero for the Light cut down before he reached his real potential. Just like her. The tendril unwrapped from around his throat. “Hey,” she said to the bull, grabbing his jaw with one hand and forcing him to look at her. “You have someone waiting for you, right?” The bull’s mouth opened to answer, but it was too painful. If she didn’t stop soon, the rot would take him. He nodded instead. Cat kicked him in the chest, pushing him out of the rune. “So do I. We’re not different, okay? We just want to be left alone. Got it?” Again the bull nodded, though he avoided her gaze. “We’re not monsters,” she continued, yanking the bull to his feet. “I want you to go back to Light’s Hope, and tell them what happened here. Tell them you and the others tried to kill a bunch of death knights just trying to live in peace. Tell them they defended their home. Tell them we let you go, because we don’t need to keep killing each other. Got it??” He nodded slowly, breathing in heavy pants as his body slowly recovered from the rune. Shame was clear on his face, still cracked and bloody. As Cat released him from her grip, he stumbled toward one of the chargers left behind. About a dozen or so horses still stood around, riderless, as the paladins who came to execute Windrunner Village lay dead in the ground beside many of the villagers themselves. Only a handful remained, including Cat and Aetheril. They watched as the young bull struggled to mount his horse, and eventually turned in retreat.