Julilee

Members
  • Content Count

    87
  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won

    18

Julilee last won the day on October 10

Julilee had the most liked content!

Community Reputation

73 Excellent

About Julilee

  • Rank
    Senior Member
  • Birthday 01/11/1984

Recent Profile Visitors

2,301 profile views
  1. Julilee dropped into a crouch, thrusting her empty hand toward the larger beast. The force of her will focused the Light into a stunning cascade that fell onto the creature, knocked it off course, and stunned it for valuable seconds. At the same time, her sword came up in a thrust at the smaller beast as it pounced from her other side. It twisted to avoid the blade and Juli tried to lunge in the complementary direction, but one of its paws still struck the back of her shoulder, and she was knocked to the sand. She immediately rolled onto her back, bringing Mercy in between her and her foe, but the animal did not truly respect the blade, perceiving it as an impediment more than anything, and pounced heedlessly. Catching its claws with the sword earned a reprieve barely in name as the thing's sheer weight pinned the weapon across her body, only held away by the width of the blade. The outer edge of Mercy digging into her armor was the least of her concerns as the sabertusk bent down, fangs snapping toward her neck, while leaning further onto its front paws, ready to start ripping and shredding. Death stared her in the face, but she had seen worse. Jagged golden lines burst into illumination down Mercy's hilt, crossguard, and blade, and in one motion Julilee heaved the large beast off her in a feat of strength beyond what even her well-developed athletic abilities could do alone. The beast hissed in pain and the smell of burning filled the air as it backed away, while she rose to her feet again, gripping Mercy with both hands. Light wreathed her weapon and forearms. The crowd was cheering loudly now. While the larger beast had recovered, it similarly backed away with newfound respect for its prey. The two seemed to visibly reconsider. "Shoo," she said to them. "Ya gotta kill 'em, Juli!" Tetsujin yelled down from the bleachers nearest to her. Though he couldn't have heard her, and she hadn't gestured at all, he knew her well enough to know what would make her hesitate. Despite her presence in the arena, she barely had the stomach to participate in any of this to begin with, much less when the beasts didn't even want to fight. At least, when she thought about it, which she couldn't help but do as the beasts stared at her uncertainly. Then the trappings of an ethical quandary were, at least ostensibly, shattered as more rocks began to fall. This time they were aimed at the sabertusks, and a few hit. The smaller one snarled up at the audience and turned to look at Juli again. Its rising aggression chose the only target available, and it lunged across the sands for her again, the larger one right behind. This time she didn't try to dodge; she lunged forward instead, Mercy leaving trailing ribbons of Light as she swung it, two-handed, down at the oncoming beast. It ducked its head as they met so she only scored across its back, but its true strategy quickly became apparent as it tossed its head in the next moment, scooping her up with its tusks and sending her flying. The crowds shrieked. The second beast was there to catch her. It leapt and its jaws closed around her arm, nearly dislocating her shoulder as she landed heavily. But it wasn't her main sword arm, her sword was free, and its neck was exposed. Pulling against its grip to keep it occupied, she brought Mercy across and opened its throat with one clean slice. A river of red joined the spatters on her armor. The thing gurgled, jerked away, and fell. Pain raked down her legs. The smaller beast had pounced her again and its wicked claws, finally put to full use, pierced the metal of her armor like a tin can. Juli gritted her teeth and tried to kick at it unsuccessfully. It seized her leg in its mouth and started dragging her. Juli swung Mercy but it flinched away without relinquishing its grip, and placed a giant paw on her side, ready to try to tear her apart by brute force. It probably had the strength to do so. She didn't want to use any more Light, but she had to. She closed her eyes. A brilliant flash directly beside its head blinded and disconcerted the beast, making it drop her leg and flinch away. Juli opened her eyes and swung Mercy to cut deeply into its front leg. With a snarl it snapped at the blade and achieved a grip on it that almost took it out of Juli's hands, but not quite. Instead she let the beast's strength pull her toward it and help her plant an armored boot in its jaw. There was an audible crack as a tooth snapped, and she jerked Mercy free, then thrust its point into the beast's chest as it reared. She must have found its heart as it collapsed on her immediately. "Juriel! Juriel!" It took some effort to shove the beast's heavy body off and rise to her feet, bleeding, but she did. She closed her eyes again as she listened to the crowd's chanting. She wanted it to feel exciting, glorious, or even at least satisfying to have triumphed once more and be standing under the weight of the crowd's adulation, but instead, it didn't feel like anything. All she could feel was that the reservoir of Light inside of her was lower than before. Tetsujin jumped down to the sounds next to her. She knew it was him without looking. "Good job, Juli," her manager said. He chuckled. "Hope ya ain't too mad at me for the surprise, but I knew ya could handle it." "Yeah," she said, after a moment, opening her eyes again. Her gaze fell on the two downed beasts. Arena organizers were coming to drag the bodies away. "I can handle anything." She turned to walk away, back toward the backstage area. "Hey!" Tetsujin called after her. "Don't sound so happy about it!" "I'm going to go meditate," she replied without turning. "Make sure no one bothers me, please." "Ya and yer meditation," he said without bitterness. She could barely hear him over the crowd as she walked away. "Should celebrate more, what's the point if ya don't enjoy it!" Wasn't that the question. He would be enjoying his portion of the proceeds from today's fight quite thoroughly later tonight. Juli looked down at her red-streaked armor and weapon. If she'd still worn a tabard, it would have been soaked and shredded. With nothing to fight for now, she found herself fighting anyway. "Because I'll never give up," she said, her voice not nearly loud enough to carry back to him over the crowd. He didn't seem to be expecting a response and didn't miss one, busying himself talking to the arena organizers. She left the roaring arena and went to be alone.
  2. The constant pounding filled her ears. Julilee lifted her head as the wind rose for a moment, letting it catch the loose strands of pale hair around her face. Beneath her feet, the coarse sand shifted, cut into strange shapes and angles. It was dyed orange and red in the early morning light, and she turned her head to look behind her briefly at the rising sun. The sky, also red and orange and pink, was always a welcome sight, even after having been back aboveground this long. Then she turned her attention back to what lay before her. The pounding was the combination of the screaming, stomping audience and drums. The sands were the floor of the arena and weren't just red from the sunrise, but from dried blood, and were grooved not by the elements but by battles. The sun was rising over the bleachers and the match was about to begin. She drew Mercy. The sword gave away her identity to those who recognized its jagged silhouette, but that turned out to be vanishingly few. So far, she could count them on one hand. Memories were short in war. The white mask that covered the lower half of her face did enough to disguise her identity otherwise, along with the absence of any of the other features that had once marked her identity, such as her once-dark hair, former purple armor, and tabard. Mostly the tabard. That had been the majority of what people had ever seen when they looked at her anyway. To be fair, she was the one who had redesigned it and raised its banner once more. "Juriel! Juriel!" Now she let her image become whatever it may. The gate across the arena opened with slow, menacing clanks that were nearly drowned out as the crowd rose in volume commensurately. Juli stood waiting, the tip of Mercy pointed at the sand. She held it in one hand and nothing in the other. Carrying a shield would only burden her now. The creature that came out was not one of the largest she had faced. The mad brutosaur had been that, and it had cemented her as the preeminent fighter in this arena circuit. But it was one she had never fought before. It slunk out, wary of the noisy crowd and bright, open space, but soon focused on Juli. And then it was followed by another. Two adversaries. The crowd, thrilled by this twist, became all but deafening. The creatures' blue-gray bodies were lined from nose to tail-tip in spikes, and long tusks protruded from their mouths. Their forequarters were heavily muscled for digging, pouncing, and shredding, but their lean bodies were built for speed nonetheless. Lean, but at least twice her size in weight and mass each. Sabertusks. Julilee was given pause as she studied them, knowing that Zandalari druids took on the same form, but in a few moments it became apparent that there was no hint of sentience in these beasts. They circled her warily, moving instinctively as a pack to take down the first edible thing they had seen in days. Juli continued standing still, only turning her head slightly as one circled behind her. When it thought it had the advantage, it pounced. She heard the crunch of sand and moved as it did. She threw herself into a backwards roll that was diagonal to the beast's trajectory. Tucked low to the ground, her relatively small size played to her advantage as she passed underneath the beast. As she rolled, she whipped her blade up and across its belly. There wasn't enough clearance to get the strength behind the thrust to disembowel the thing, but bright red blood spattered over her white, gold, and dark gray armor. The beast shrieked. As it landed and whipped around with shocking speed to lunge for her, paws as massive as her head with claws that long again coming at her face, she was only just pushing herself into a crouch on the sand. There simply wasn't enough time to dodge again. Her empty arm came up to block. It would have done absolutely nothing to save her if not for the Light that blazed into existence around it. The crowd roared in vicious delight as the large beast collided with the shining barrier, its sheer mass pushing her back a dozen meters and leaving a deep furrow in the sand, but she kept her feet under her. After the beast jumped away to seek a new opening, the creature not yet slowed by the shallow gash that bled fresh red onto the sands, she rose unharmed and allowed the shield to dissipate. The other beast, more cautious than its partner, did not yet make a move, only prowling along the side of the clash. The horn on its nose was broken, it was a darker blue-gray, and it was slightly smaller, though not by much. As Juli watched them stalk her, she wondered what had brought them to the attention of the arena organizers. Had they preyed on townspeople? Ravaged local livestock? Or had it just been the appeal of a matched pair? "Juriel! Juriel!" The crowd was insistent. It wanted blood, hers or the beasts', it didn't care. She had learned it thrilled to either, though this had not really come as a surprise. As much as they had loved her rise to underground fame, it would love her downfall just as much. She had seen the betting odds and knew many had no qualms about betting on the latter every match, if not more and more eagerly with every victory. She made good money off those bets. The sabertusks were too fast for her to try to take the offensive. Unlike the brutosaur, they could turn on a dime and rend with those deadly claws as fast as she could blink. If she gave them the slightest opening, they would seize it, and her by the throat. She would have to wait for them to come to her to try to find an opening, and the crowd communicated its disapproval of her patience as she continued to let the beasts circle her, though this time she slowly turned to keep them in sight as much as possible. Trying to urge action, the drum players increased the tempo. It was effective on everyone but those battling in the arena. The crowd grew more frenzied; someone threw a rock that landed with a thud in the sand not far from Juli. From somewhere, she could hear Tetsujin hollering directions at her. She didn't take her eyes off the beasts, nor they theirs off her. The two beasts started to circle closer. She knew the moment they decided to attack. This time, the sabertusks moved together.
  3. Welcome! Seconding joining Discord. There's more activity there, and you can meet folks, find a guild, and some great groups.
  4. Of new-Juli Artist's dA: https://www.deviantart.com/loch-tess
  5. Her feet took her back down the tiers. Conscious thought had little to do with it, as she had no plan, no idea for where to go from here. She would get a letter to Rylie; even with the new conflict, Juli knew there were some on the other faction who would help. But past that, her future was a complete blank. It was a state she had never before in her life found herself. So she wandered through the Zandalari city of which she didn't even know the name. The crowds took her in without a second glance. She was just another Sin'dorei soldier here for the war effort. Without the distinctive, famous tabard, her appearance attracted no attention at all. The only thing that did was when she accidentally brushed by someone too closely. They looked at her with a bit of startlement when they felt the aura. Far more active than that of most Light-wielders, it rose off her with a heat anyone standing close enough could feel. Constantly burning, it could not be quenched. Finally she stopped at the edge of the dock area. Down in the water swam schools of bright fish, and slower, larger ones alone. A couple people stood fishing for them nearby, conversing with one another. Juli didn't pay them any attention and them her any either. Instead, she focused her thoughts on figuring out what she was supposed to do next. It felt like a monumental effort, but eventually, the answer arose within her, the remnants of whatever soul or morals she'd once had. Survive, and do as little harm as possible. She inhaled and exhaled slowly as the bare, cynical truth of it settled over her, and she began to apply it with a cold and calculating eye to her life. While she had few responsibilities now, there were still some things where she had to ensure that her inaction did no harm. The moment she decided was the moment the voice next to her registered. "Aye... inna way... Peaceful b--" "Cobrak?" Juli said before she realized what she was doing. The orc, fishing with a companion Juli also recognized, turned swiftly at the sound of her voice. His one good eye widened as he took her in, reconciling the voice with her appearance, and the pipe in his mouth began to droop. "Hey," she said, for lack of any better ideas. Cobrak continued to stare as the pipe fell out of his mouth to land in the water below with an unnoticed splash. Behind him, Megeda said, "Greetings." Juli gave him a nod and looked back at Cobrak, who was still staring at her in disbelief. "I'm not a ghost, by the way," she said, since he looked like he was seeing one. Megeda tilted his head, seeming to suddenly realize something, as Cobrak let out a strangled laugh, then began to smile, weakly. "Fuckin' shite..." the orc finally managed. "Commander Liene... You look different," Megeda stated. Cobrak set aside his fishing pole, rose to his feet, and swiftly closed the distance between them. Then, he poked her with one finger. She just looked at him. "...'Ah ta see. Bout tha ghost part," he said. Without further ado, he folded her arms around her in a hug, one hand patting her back. It was the first time anyone had touched her in over six months, and it felt like something that was happening to something else. Juli just stood there, not returning the hug, until he released her. He didn't seem to notice her reticence, or the aura. "Shittin' 'ell, Liene!" he laughed again in disbelief. "I'm sorry for my absence," she said evenly. "I hope it hasn't caused any problems." "Tha fuck 'appened? We spent long as 'ell lookin' fer ya... e'en tha Earthen didnae..." Cobrak tweaked his head a little then, finally sensing something was amiss. "...Ya... alright?" The glass wall was here, too. She and Cobrak had achieved a level of respect with each other over the years, especially after he took charge of Borrowed Time. They had disagreed vociferously over many a subject, but still always recognized they both wanted the best for their people, and had each others' backs without exception. Or so she had thought until she'd heard what he'd done shortly before her mission to Silithus. Then there was the whole staring into the void thing that had stripped all pretension from everything anyway. It was all really moot. She couldn't connect to anyone anymore, if she ever really had. But she couldn't say all that, so instead she said, "I'm... just getting used to things again. I was trapped below Silithus with nothing but the void for company for most of this time." Cobrak's eye widened as he looked her over again. Like Kex'ti, he had a special loathing for all things Void and clearly couldn't help the fear that sprang to mind. "Oi. Ya... ya didnae..." "Yet you do not carry its taint," Megeda said with surety. The Light he himself wielded could doubtlessly discern as much. "No, far from it," Juli said in response to both of them. She held out a hand, curling it into a fist. With a moment's focus, a burst of Light showered outward. Cobrak let loose a breath, blinking. "Woah. That didnae 'appen fore." "So one set of rumors was exaggerated. The other was true?" Megeda inquired. "You'll have to be more specific," Juli said, lowering her hand. "We all thought ya wuz dead," Cobrak said. "One was that you disappeared in Silithus, presumed dead," Megeda agreed. "The other was that you were a paladin." "The irony isn't lost on me," she replied. With how much of her life she had spent denying her potential, all because of... well, it didn't matter anymore. It was either the Light or the Void, and she had chosen. Cobrak was shaking his head, still in disbelief to a degree. "I've been bribin' them boys in Silithus ta dig deeper after whar... we found... jus'.... nuthin' o' ya. Jus' yer shield..." "You found my shield?" Juli said. Once, it had felt like an extension of her body, but now the idea of getting it back felt... wrong. She had come to rely more on Mercy than she ever had on her shield. Cobrak grunted. "Aye. Wuz gonna put it on tha statue we commissioned..." A snorted chuckle. "Ya cost me a few dozen gold pieces now that that things goin' ta waste..." "...A statue?" "Aye," Cobrak said again. "Likka all our friends who parted this world... sumthin' we kin remember." "...Well, thank you for the sentiment," Juli said after a moment. She didn't ask about the shield. Cobrak snorted in good humor. "Shut it, good ta know yer alive. Lost too many friends already, but always good ta see one still kickin'." Friends. He thought they were still friends. "How fares Borrowed Time?" she asked instead of responding, including Megeda in the question. He had been regarding her with his lips tightly pressed together, unlike Cobrak unwilling to overlook her changed demeanor. Still, he was the one who responded. "Unsieged... For now," the tauren stated. "A welcome change," she said. Cobrak looked back at Megeda. "Well, things be..." He hummed, looking for the right word. "Even for the moment. Nothin' too upsettin' or well..." "A lot of things have happened while I was gone," Juli said. "There is division over how the conflict is to be handled," Megeda said. "Some have joined our ranks, others have left..." The three chatted for a minute longer about current events. Eventually Juli said, "I haven't reported myself alive to the Horde chain of command yet. I'm... not sure I want to get involved." "Thar's always room in tha Champions," Cobrak suggested. "They're workin' on 'ealin' Azeroth more than fightin'... I been sendin' mosta tha Azerite we recover from tha Allys ta them anyway." "Chieftain..." Megeda said, "she just got BACK from Silithus." "Champs work outta a lotta places," Cobrak argued. "Azerite's poppin' up er'rywhar. But..." He looked at Juli. "Yer always welcome at tha Port. Iffin ya need a place ta find yer 'ead an' think bout things wiffout worryin' bout a roof o'er yer head." "Thank you, I appreciate that," Juli said politely, with no intention whatsoever of taking up the offer. Megeda looked between the two. "So we are to forget the treachery then?" he said. "S'in tha past, Meg..." Cobrak grunted awkwardly. "I'm surprised you looked for me, honestly," Juli said. It seemed just barely worth saying. "I thought you'd chosen different priorities." Cobrak looked at her. "Ya think me priorities e'er shifted from me friends?" "It seemed that way when you chose to attack and nearly kill Allycia, who was under my protection, who I specifically asked you not to harm." Megeda was silent as he watched them finally speak of the matter that hung between them. Perhaps he thought that once they had it out, Juli would thaw, and start acting more like her former self. He didn't know that nothing would ever bring the old Juli back. "I kill void elves, thass fer sure," Cobrak said. "An' that willnae change one bit, wut I will say I didnae try ta kill that'un. Shapeshifter under tha employ o' tha Raven. Wanted you gunnin' fer me." Juli blinked once. Cobrak wouldn't lie. If he had been bold enough to attack Allycia, he would have looked her in the eye and told her so. Still, after a moment, Juli realized that this, like everything else, didn't matter. Though it had not then, if it ever did come down to it, Cobrak would do what he needed to. He was not really her friend. And she was not his if she could not accept that. "Well, I appreciate your efforts in looking for me," she said after a protracted pause. Cobrak looked like he was about to say something, but stopped himself, then said something else. "...Bah. Any case, yer back an' thass wut matters." He looked off to the sea. Maybe he was looking for a reason to believe that as the strain on the conversation grew too great. "I should be going," Juli said, then, politely, "It was nice catching up with you both." Cobrak reached into his pocket and produced something, which he handed over to her. "Here," he said. She took it and looked up at him. "It's ta me cabin in tha port. Ya ever need help, go thar an' stay as ya like." His words were a little strained, but he was determined to uphold this fallacy. He wanted to believe they were friends, that the camaraderie they had shared could be restored. He didn't see the truth of it like she did. Megeda was still watching her. Juli said, still politely, "Thank you." "Stay safe, Juli," Cobrak said. "Tha world's gotten only more dangerous." "Safe Journey, Liene... Azeroth needs all the help it can get," Megeda said. She gave her most honest reply yet in parting. "Safety is an illusion. Don't stay safe. Stay strong." She left. Once she was out of sight, she destroyed the hearthstone with a surge of Light and tossed the ruined rock in the water. [[ Written in conjunction with Cobrak and Tahzani. ]]
  6. They emerged onto a large balcony. It jutted over the edge of the tier and had a view of a section of the city, as well as the jungle-covered inclines that lay beyond. Further out, the jungle appeared to melt into swamplands. Pterodons wheeled overhead, and the sounds of the city drifted upward. Kex'ti stepped up to the railing and wrapped his grip around it. Juli looked at his hands, seeing the finger he was still missing, and the ring he still wore. "Are you happier here?" she asked, remaining behind and to the side of him. He didn't answer the question, because since when did he answer any question that made him slightly uncomfortable. Instead he tried to find the words to speak of what preoccupied him the most about her reappearance, in his meandering way. "Last I heard, you had been lost in Silithus. And it was not someone from Sanctuary that told me this, but... I am tremendously relieved that you are alive, and were not lost to that cursed place." He grimaced. "I'm sorry if you were worried," Juli said. "It wasn't intentional." "What do you want from me, Juli?" he asked simply. He turned and scrutinized her. She didn't know what he was looking for. Any sign of the taint of the Void? She knew he feared that above anything else. Any hint of the woman he had loved, and who had loved him? She knew it wasn't there in her eyes anymore, whatever he had once seen, though it could very well have as much to do with the knowledge in his gaze as the knowledge in hers. The time they had spent apart had been instructive to them both. If you set someone free and they don't return, that means you were only holding them back. "I wanted to say I'm sorry I never loved you as much as you loved me," she said. He was floored. All he could say was, "What happened to you?" She moved up to the railing beside him and folded her arms on it, looking out but not really seeing anything. Her mind went back to the moment everything changed. The six months that followed had changed her too, but not as much as that moment had. "I came face-to-face with the Void, and it... made me see things differently. I was almost lost to it, Kex'ti. I'm sorry I never really, fully understood your aversion to it before. In the end I had two choices: the Void or the Light. I chose the Light and survived." At her hip, Mercy glowed softly with its jagged lines of gold energy that were no longer just energy. Now the purified weapon glowed with the Light, and so did she. It shone in her eyes and flowed through her constantly, an aura she couldn't turn off. The goblin hadn't been wrong. She was a paladin now. Kex'ti's expression softened. He hadn't missed the difference in her. "I am glad you made the right choice." He thought for a moment, then said, "You do not need to apologize. Love is not a matter of magnitude... and I do not even think it is true. We both made errors in our relationship. Am I happier? No. I am not. But I am also less sad, and frustrated." "You're kind to put it that way," she said. "But I think we both know it was my fault it didn't work. I just want you to know I don't blame you." There it was. She had said it, most of it. She had walked straight out of hell and to him because nothing had mattered more than lifting whatever she could of the burden that she had so unfairly placed on him. If she had died down there, her ghost would have been haunted with the knowledge of the guilt she had inflicted on him, unjust and undeserved. Looking at him, she wondered if it helped. He didn't look dumbstruck anymore, just calm. Maybe it would sink in over time. "I appreciate that. I hope things have improved for you since Sanctuary. I do not imagine it has without you." He lifted a hand from the railing and put it back, watching the birds. "Are you happier?" "I only just got back," she said. He didn't know how true that was. "This is the first thing I'm even doing. Next will be Rylie... if I can communicate with her safely." He nodded. "That is a large part of why I am here, so obviously present in the military. So as not to paint a target on her back. Or draw question to my loyalties. It might be advisable you do the same." "I just don't want her to think she's been abandoned," she said quietly. He scowled. "I have tried to get mail to her. I do not know if it has arrived." Changing topics swiftly as he did when he was irked, he said, "What will you do next?" "After trying to get word of my own to her... I'm not sure." He coughed and reached for where he used to keep his medicinal jug at his waist. It was not there. "Ah. I left my medicine back inside. It was... good to see that you are alive. I am sorry for the troubles you have faced." She listened as he prepared to end the visit, to separate himself from her. She watched as he stepped away from the railing, taking a couple steps back toward the guildhall. Every move he made was so familiar to her. Even with his lost weight, every plane of his face was embedded in her memory. Every twist of his mouth, every furrow of his brow, every pitch in his voice, she knew. But it was like watching him through a window. They couldn't reach each other. So it was just as well he didn't want to anymore. He turned away, but then he stopped. Without looking at her, he spoke. "I never stopped loving you, or believing in you. I just couldn't stomach that one decision you made. I am sorry that choice led you to the path you had to walk, but I hope it brings you purpose and peace. For myself, I often wonder if those things exist. But at least for you, if they exist, I believe you'd be the one to find them." And that was why she'd had to come tell him this. Because he would have kept putting up with her, with far more than he should have, if she had not pushed just a little too far. And then she had accused him of not loving her enough. "You did always love me more than I deserved," she murmured. "Maybe," he said. Before he began to move, he remarked, "Do not endanger Rylie because of a guilty conscience." Then he waved his hand and headed inside. Once, that would have been more than sufficient to offend her. It didn't. What he thought of her didn't matter. Whether he was right or wrong to think it didn't matter. She had done all she could here. The rest was out of her hands. She looked once more over the view. It held nothing of interest. She left Warscar Reach's hall. [[ Written in conjunction with Kexti. ]]
  7. Down, deep within the sprawl of the Seal's halls, she found the banner the woman had described. An eager-eyed orc stood beside it, dressed in black chainmail with red accents. He addressed her the moment she was in range, before it was even reasonable to assume that his hall was her destination. "Throm-ka, paladin! The Reach could always use more of your kind. Have you come to enlist, following our recent victory?" She continued until she stopped in front of him, her gaze briefly moving to the banner. It was not far removed from the Kor'kron banner Shokkra had kept in her room. To the orc she said, "No, I'm looking for one of your members. Kex'ti, Kex'ti Dalendala." "Dalendala? Oh. Huh. Who're you to him?" the orc asked, hand on his pike. Juli paused, distinctly. Wasn't that quite the question. The answer she finally came up with was, "Julilee Liene. He'll know who I am." "Oh. Uh huh." The orc seemed to know what that meant. "Well, he's back about three torches on the left. Should be sparring with Tulip, Ochiga, Kaeeli, and Gorgath. I'll escort you." He added the very last sheepishly after Juli simply looked at him for a moment, since he stood blocking the doorway. "Thank you." The orc nodded. The thirst for drama was evident in his hurried pace as they entered the Warscar Reach barracks. Past the third torch, the hallway angled down to a veranda with overhanging vines. A sandy ring lay in the middle. A white-haired Sin'dorei stood in the center of the arena, a burly Blackrock orc and a lithe Nightborne strafing around him. He hadn't noticed the newcomers yet. "Think fast, old man!" yelled the Nightborne then, rushing in to take a swing at the back of the elf's head. The orc growled and charged in at the same time, low, aiming to tackle the elf's waist. Outside of the arena, a goblin kicked her feet on a planter, and a pandaren monk sipped at a cup of tea, cross-legged, as they watched the sparring match. Juli stood in the archway and observed. Kex'ti twisted lithely and leaned back to catch the Nightborne's fist, only to spy Julilee as he did so. A moment of confusion crossed his face. "Juli?" he muttered, then the orc's converted uppercut connected with his jaw. The phenomenal strike landed him in the Nightborne's arms, caught and hanging limply by the armpits. "Whoa, hey, wait a second!" called the goblin. "Kex'ti, you alright?" She hopped off the decorative container and walked over, summoning a few drops of healing rain onto the sand. "I wasn't expecting that to work!" boasted the orc. "But... are you okay?" Kex'ti never took his eyes off Juli. He spat some blood into the muddy dirt. "I am fine, everyone. Excuse me a moment." He held a hand to his cheek and began to mend the damage as he regained his feet. Then he walked calmly over towards her, limping only slightly. Juli stayed where she was, letting Kex'ti approach. Seeing him... It felt different. Everything was different now. It evoked feelings she wasn't allowed to have anymore. She found she didn't know what to say, and was silent. He looked different. He was dressed in sparring leathers in red and black. The red on black of his tabard looked out of place compared to the purple and gold he'd worn for so many years. His beard was much better kept, very close to the sides of his angular face. He'd lost a lot of weight. He'd never been fat, exactly, but it was clear the traveling with a military branch left little time for him to bulk up to his usual size, or perhaps the lack of quality food... None of it mattered. He was there. She was looking upon him. And she could tell him what she'd spent every day these past six months hoping she'd have a chance to say. "I see you have matched your hair to mine," he chuckled. She'd forgotten how different she looked, too. Her armor was no longer muted purple and gold, but white, dark gray, and gold, and lacking tabard, pauldrons, or shield. And her hair, long now, had become as white as his. The last changes she hadn't known about until she came across the mirror in the ruins. Her eyes no longer glowed green. They glowed gold. The differences were so striking that it was remarkable he had recognized her instantly. No one else would have. "Yeah, I guess." She paused. The words wouldn't come out, hardly. "I just wanted you to know I'm alive. I thought... You would want to know." "Should we go somewhere to talk?" he asked. "Probably." He raised a hand to his eyes and rubbed them. "Fine, let us head out to the general concourse." He walked past her, causing the orc guard, who had been hovering, to start hastily moving back toward his post. The goblin in the arena called after Kex'ti. "Uh, you want your staff?" "No, Tulip. I will not be long," he said, wearily. He glanced to Julilee, and nodded out back towards the humid mid-day heat.
  8. Juli didn't know what the Paku'ai were and didn't bother asking when it didn't seem like it would make itself obvious. It was a climb indeed but it didn't bother her. She had learned long ago that it didn't matter how slow your forward progress was as long as you kept moving forward. Endurance would win you any battle, eventually. At the Great Seal, a hall characterized by an ancient device that hung broken overhead, soldiers more than any others came and went. Juli knew them by the way they carried themselves, by the purpose with which they moved. Sprinkled amongst them were emissaries from the new lands: diminutive, foxlike people, a few snake-like ones, and the slow, wizened turtle-esque ones. Juli barely spared the unusual sights a glance as her gaze moved over the crowd, looking for a familiar face that did not materialize. She ended up wandering, and came to a field hospital. There, chants to the Loa, the Light, and other supernatural forces clamored for attention. A slight Sin'dorei woman, her ears evident through the cap she wore, tended to the wounded with pulses of mists. Her ministrations were gentle, hope blooming on the faces of those she tended. Juli thought of Kex'ti's less-than-tender healing as she watched and waited. After the monk finished tending to her last patient, Juli approached her. "Excuse me," she said, "have you seen another Sin'dorei monk around here? His name is Kex'ti... White hair, slight limp?" The woman nodded. "He was here right after landfall. Fell in with a division called the Warscar Reach. Black tabard, red Horde crest. Don't know where the Zandalari have garrisoned them, but should be somewhere near here, in the halls below the Seal." After a moment she added reflectively, "Proficient healer. Little sensitive about the quality of his work." "Warscar Reach," Juli repeated. Luck she had no right to had befallen her again. "Thank you." She went to turn away just as she had every time over the past three days. "Your spirit seems troubled," the woman spoke up. "It's not," Juli said, both politely and honestly, and left.
  9. The next morning she had stopped in Echo Isles to start searching for more information, and that's where she discovered two things: one, that it had been six months she had been gone, and two, the pleasant coincidence that a boat sailed from the Isles to Zuldazar every day. Thus she had ended up in the Zandalari capital city that very afternoon for the price of only two gold, her journey more direct than it had any right to be, though at that point she was on her own to figure out where to go from there. She'd only had the one idea of where to start looking for him. As she stepped into the sailors' tavern, she gave herself a moment to adjust to the interior. The tavern music was loud and heavy on the drums, but the addition of stringed instruments added a strangely elven vibe. Within, sailors threw knives at targets, quaffed drinks, and brawled. Most were Zandalari, but grizzled orcs staked their claim. In a corner, two goblins, a Farraki troll, and a single Forsaken were engaged in a game of cards, and laughed in unmistakable Orcish lilts. One of the goblins clutched her hair and bemoaned whatever she'd lost in the exchange. Juli was standing there, pondering whom to approach, when the female goblin noticed her and seemed to brighten with hope. "Hey! You!" she called to Juli. "You're a paladin, aintcha? I just lost my staff. Really, really a shame. Can barely call down the Light on my allies here. Mind helping a fellow girl out?" Not offering any corrections, Juli approached. "What do you need?" she inquired. "Just uh, you mind spotting me some coin? Just three gold, enough to buy back my staff." The female smiled coyly, batting her eyelashes. "I'll do anything you might need. Y'know, 'cause we're fellow travelers on the path of the Light." Juli reached into her satchel and pulled out her remaining three gold. "Just help me find someone. His name is Kex'ti. Sin'dorei, white hair, a little weathered, likes to punch and use the mists like a monk." The goblin quickly grabbed the three gold, but didn't hesitate to turn to her companions. Her voice, known to the other regulars, elicited attention as she spoke loudly. "Hey, any'a youse know anything about an old blood elf monk guy?" She set down the coins and pulled back an ornate, gaudy staff. "I've seen one or two," spoke up one of the orcs. "You might try checking up at the Great Seal." He addressed Juli. "Hell of a climb, 'specially in plate. Ask for one of the Paku'ai to send you up." If Kex'ti had kept to bartending, or underground fighting, these people would have known him. This Great Seal seemed like her only remaining lead, weak though it was. "Thank you," she said, and once more left without a backwards glance. "That's it?" Juli heard the goblin say, then, with a shrug in her voice, "All right, boys, buy me back in. I'm gonna win this one."
  10. She'd also forgotten what pork tasted like. After journeying north into Durotar, she'd killed a boar, then cooked it over a proper fire. While the meat sizzled and browned, she'd stared at it, struggling with a sense of unreality. Dissociation, she told herself. She'd heard the term somewhere, probably in a leadership course or other schooling her privileged upbringing had provided, but like many other things, she hadn't understood it until she experienced it. Pork didn't really taste special. It was just meat. In the fading light of the evening, Juli inventoried her possessions. She carried very little. Her sword, Mercy; her armor, with the padding she wore underneath; and the contents of her pack, which was at this point only a short rope, a knife, a patched waterskin, a well-used sharpening stone, and five gold pieces. If she continued to Orgrimmar, she could access her accounts and purchase anything at all she needed. She could commandeer a mount, sleep in a bed, replace her shield. She thought about it, then laid back on the hard-packed dirt and stared up at the sky until stars began to twinkle into existence. The sight wasn't as reassuring as she had hoped. It wasn't really anything. It was just the night sky, which was to say, more an infinite void than anything else. "I'm alive," she whispered. The void did not answer. That was a welcome change.
  11. She had gone to Ratchet, first. That was where he'd been the last time she'd seen him. She barely remembered the overland journey there, but remembered that the bartender had had to tell her twice that he had quit and gone off to join the war before it sank in. "What war?" she asked. "The Legion was defeated." The goblin gave her a look that said he was finding her more and more questionable in terms of sanity, intellect, or both. "With the Alliance? You know, after we burned down Teldrassil and they tried to take Undercity so we bombed it to plaguey smithereens?" She stood there, digesting that. Once, those two hefty pieces of news would have sent her into a tailspin. It would have changed everything. Now, she found they didn't matter. They just passed through her. It was noise, unimportant background. Her objective remained the same. "Where should I look for him?" "Uh, Zuldazar's where the Horde's operating out of, so start there, I guess?" The goblin was nothing more than that same background now, and she almost turned and walked away without a further word. But something stopped her. With an effort, she focused on the hesitation and identified it. It was that the goblin was a person, and you were supposed to treat people with respect. It had been so long since that had been relevant she'd forgotten it mattered. "Thank you," she said politely before she departed.
  12. She stepped off the boat and looked up, up, up, at the tiered and thickly floraed city. The air was heavy with humidity, so heavy that it had made her dizzy for a moment when she'd emerged from the ship cabin before she'd warded it off. The commingled foreign scents of rotting jungle and the unique culture of this city made the air even thicker. Around her moved crowds almost as dense, made up of many Zandalari trolls, but also Sin'dorei, orcs, Nightborne, Forsaken, and others, including a race of turtle-like people she had never seen before, and everywhere else she looked there were dinosaurs, used as beasts of burden and labor. Everything was different and exotic and strange. She barely spent a moment looking at it before turning to a dockworker. "Excuse me," she said politely. "Where can I find taverns?" The green-skinned troll had nearly two heads on her. Clearly taking a break, he stood leaning against a pallet of crates while smoking a foul-smelling herb, but responded with lucidity. "Ya be lookin' fo' de elf-like taverns, de sailormon taverns, o' de Horde soldier taverns?" He pointed in the direction of each as he spoke, three separate locations along the docks. She considered the options, then asked, "Which one has the most fighting?" The troll chuckled. "De second. Which loa do you bargain with?" He looked at her sword as he asked the question. Julilee put her hand on the hilt of Mercy. "None," she said, then, still just as politely, "Thank you for the advice." With that, she turned away to head in the direction he had indicated. "Paku watch over ya, richmon," he said, regarding her with a wary respect as she left.
  13. In that moment, the world was irreversibly changed for her. You can’t unsee the abyss. You can’t unknow the truth. No matter how hard you tried to repress it, no matter how much you tried to deny it, it would haunt you forever. Juli saw it and knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that nothing would ever be the same. Kex’ti’s fear, his unwillingness to slide so much as an inch closer to that edge, was so much clearer to her now. She had understood it, but she hadn’t known it. Every pretension she had, every self-delusion, no matter how innocuous, every coping mechanism she relied on, all were stripped away. She saw herself and indeed the whole world and uncaring universe laid bare, reduced to an absurd meaninglessness. Of course the world was uncaring; she had never labored under the belief that anyone would necessarily get what they deserved, be it good or bad. She knew evil could triumph anytime, any place, and that it would be forever and thankless a struggle for anyone trying to hold it back. But she had never realized it was also a pointless struggle. No matter how much suffering you tried to alleviate, more would take its place, because evil was endlessly inventive and adaptive. And in the end you died and whatever difference you had made would end up being less than negligible. But worse, somehow, was how all the things she had tried to accomplish, everything she had ever tried to be, was all shown to be utterly foolish, self-centered, and inadequate. Her own uncharitable thoughts, even what she had believed were her deepest fears, were nothing compared to the truth. She had never loved Kex’ti. She had only used him to placate her need for control, and he had allowed it until he couldn’t anymore. She had never treated Shokkra like a person. She had tried to turn Shokkra into what she had thought Shokkra should be, sacrificing everything Shokkra was along the way, until Shokkra broke. She had done more than simply been too cautious with Sanctuary. She had ruined a legacy, dragged it backward and done significant harm it would take long to recover from, if it ever fully did. She had been too hard on Cerryan; she had revoked her trust simply because he was imperfect. Cobrak, meanwhile, she had also expected too much of. She had expected him to place her needs above his own. The list went on and on. Even with Miwanza, she hadn’t come down here for the girl’s benefit, or any of the others’. She had come down here to selfishly prove herself. That was all there was to it. And with her father, for whom she’d never been good enough, the truth was she was just… Oh, fuck you. The reflex was so deeply ingrained, it was inseparable from who she was as a person. Her entire body jerked. No one was allowed to touch that nerve. It didn’t matter who. It didn’t matter why. It didn’t matter even if they were right. Nobody got to diminutize what she had gone through growing up. Nobody got to break her down like her father had always tried to. She was entitled to defend herself. And fuck anyone who suggested otherwise. Just fuck them right in the eye with a jagged sword. She reached out, and her hand closed around the wickedly curved hilt of Mercy. Golden light surged down the blade, purging the tentacles which shrieked as they were dispelled. It filled up the weapon and all of the eyes hovering around shrank back as she pulled it free. Maybe it was all pointless. Maybe she could never make a difference. Maybe she would never do more help than harm in the world. But fuck anyone and anything who tried to convince her to give up. She would die fighting, with her soul intact, because no one would ever convince her to hand it over. The righteousness, the strength, the self-belief, she seized it. ******* When Miwanza awakened, she had no idea where she was. It seemed to be the bottom of some caved-in ruin, stonework on one side and a huge mountain of rubble on the other. There was a torch lying nearby, barely an ember left on it, but she was able to coax it to life with the shreds of some purple fabric that was discarded next to it for some reason. She started climbing, trying to find an exit, guided by the faintest whisper of a breeze. If there were other whispers, she didn’t hear them. It took hours of squeezing through narrow gaps and crevices, but Miwanza eventually broke through to a ravine that was open to the sky. From there she was able to follow it until it became shallow enough that she was able to climb out, and from there she wandered until she came across a Horde camp. “Whoa, what happened to you?” the guard said in alarm, ushering her to a bench. “Alliance hit?” “No… I don’t think so…” Miwanza looked down at herself. She was covered in a layer of dirt and had a bandage wrapped around her leg, though she felt no pain. Later, she would discover there was no injury beneath. “...But I don’t remember what happened.” The guard took a closer look at her and frowned. “Are you glowing? You didn’t try that Azerite brew, did you?” “I don’t think so…” She looked down at herself again. She had thought the torch had been her only source of illumination, but she did seem to be giving off a faint golden glow. As she watched, it faded away, leaving just her dark blue complexion. “Some sort of blessing,” said another guard who had shown up to see what was happening. “You don’t remember anything?” the first guard asked. She shook her head. “The last thing I remember is arriving here in Silithus with my platoon.” No one was ever able to puzzle out what happened. The Alliance were named likely suspects when her squadmates were discovered missing. The incident was soon forgotten.
  14. Juli didn’t have much of a choice. She raised Mercy and delivered a solid thwack with the side of the blade to the girl’s head. Miwanza crumpled and Juli scooped her up, throwing her over her shoulder and running for the far side of the dais. Probably should have done that in the first place. Except now she couldn’t hold up her shield, or fight effectively. And the fallen torch’s light didn’t reach far. No, this plan had far too many problems, but it was the only one she had now. You – can’t – flee – from – what – you – believe – She stumbled down the other side of the dais and fetched up against the wall, which she could barely make out. Ancient tapestries crumbled to dust under her touch. She started following the wall, feeling frantically for any exit. Slithering sounds surrounded her and she unintentionally stepped on another tentacle, quickly grinding it to pulpy sludge with her boot. A swipe around her with Mercy had several more barely-visible tentacles dodging back. Luckily, the golden light the blade gave off wasn’t bright enough to illuminate them. She wasn’t sure what they would do if they reached her even if they couldn’t hypnotize her, though. Her hand on the wall suddenly plunged into nothing. An exit! She threw herself toward it, only to bounce ringingly off a wall just inside. It wasn’t an exit. It was just an alcove. Juli stumbled back, and that was when a tentacle wrapped around one ankle. She was just starting to react when it gave a heave and pulled her feet out from under her entirely. She lost her grip on Miwanza as she fell, the girl’s limp body slamming Juli’s head into the stone floor and stunning her. When she regained her senses a few moments later, she had lost her shield but somehow retained her grip on Mercy, and was dangling upside-down in the air, being drawn away from the flickering torch and toward the corner of the room where the mass was. With a grunt she pulled herself up and sliced at the tentacle around her ankle by feel alone. It loosed her, and she braced herself for a rough landing, but instead landed in what felt like a nest of writhing, slimy tentacles. Light help me. As she struggled to right herself, throwing off tentacles and slashing out with her bright blade, it occurred to her in a wry corner of her mind not currently occupied with fighting for survival that this would undoubtedly make a retroactively hilarious story, someday down the line, to share over a cup of strong liquor with Kex’ti – no, Shokkra – no, Cobrak – no, who? Who would she laugh about this with someday, if she made it out of this? Who would care? Nobody would care. “Get out of my head!” she shouted as she struggled, infuriated her thoughts had once again been pushed in this unwanted direction. We – need – do – naught – your – own – battles – are – fought – In the very faint outlines provided by Mercy’s glow, a great stalk rose up in front of her, twice as wide as she was, thought admittedly she was rather small. At the end, a great orb turned towards her. Juli didn’t wait to see any more. She lunged forward and plunged her blade into the center of it. You – bring – us – power – it – we – will – devour – From the edges of the wound sprung more tentacles. No – they sprung from her sword. Juli jerked her hand back in horror as Mercy’s golden glow was replaced by a vivid purple that grew brighter and brighter as more and more tentacles swarmed out of the sides of the blade. Very clearly released. Her mind leapt to the battles against Karthok and his minions, where Mercy had seemed to harmlessly absorb several void attacks. It hadn’t been harmless at all. All this time, she had been carrying around a void-infused weapon. What have I done? How had she not known? Had it been manipulating her? Let – us – show – you – what – mercy – is – true – Too late, she realized that the illumination was too great. She should have closed her eyes immediately. But, still shocked, she didn’t. And she met the gaze of a hundred black eyes.
  15. Miwanza described it as, of course, an unfathomably hideous tentacle beast with far too many eyes. Juli didn’t know what she expected. All Miwanza could really offer other than that was that meeting the gaze of one of the eyes had spelled doom for her companions. Miwanza had only barely avoided doing so, since to gaze upon the mass was to almost assuredly ended up catching the gaze of one of the eyes; only her companions’ reactions, in front of her, had saved her, as they had commanded her attention and at the same time clued her in to what was happening. “All right, here’s what we’ll do.” Juli looked toward the shadows ahead in the antechamber. Apparently the thing lurked in the next room; they speculated it was immobile, relying on its prey to come to it. “You’ll hold the torch, and I’ll guide you – you’ll be blindfolded.” “Blindfolded? But wait, you won’t be?” Both options seemed dismaying in their own way to the girl. “Yes. I’m going to use my shield to block my vision where needed, and find us an exit. If I stop talking and guiding you at any point… try to smack me in the face, with the torch.” Juli inhaled slowly. “I’ll take being blind over insane.” Miwanza hesitated, then nodded, firming her grip on the torch. “All right. Let’s do this.” Juli had used up most of the roll of bandage, and wasn’t sure the gauze would be thick enough if not layered adequately, so had already decided what she was going to do for a blindfold. She sheathed her weapons and took hold of the hem of her purple and gold tabard. Tearing upward, she pulled off a long strip. One of the wings of the phoenix emblem came off with it. Now how is it supposed to fly? She ignored the nonsensical thought as she had Miwanza bend down so she could securely tie the improvised blindfold around the girl’s head. The whispers were getting louder; more eager. She redrew her weapons, and felt better with Mercy in her hand. They set off toward the end of the antechamber. A wall with a wide archway appeared, separating it from the next room. The stonework was still absent of the black chitinlike corruption, but the whispers were growing louder and louder, no longer in small degrees, but in leaps and bounds as they drew closer. Below it, Juli thought she might be hearing disturbing slurping sounds. There was no point in hesitating. Juli took the girl’s arm with her sword hand, lifted her shield and darted into the room. The torchlight danced madly, illuminating a space smaller than the antechamber – a throne room? There was a dais at the end with some objects atop it, but that wasn’t where the creature was. To their left, the light gleamed on hundreds of orbs and Juli threw her shield up between herself and it before she was sure what she was seeing. Backing away from that direction, she looked around, trying to see if there was another exit. Miwanza, making small sounds of fear, gripped Juli’s arm tightly and almost trod on her feet as she followed Juli’s lead. What – do – we – spy – with – our – countless – eyes – The voice was both inside and outside of her head. “Nothing to see here,” Juli said through gritted teeth. There was no exit on the right side of the room, but maybe there was behind the dais. Juli tugged Miwanza that way, angling her shield. She heard sickening slick noises and strained to determine if they meant the thing was moving. The acoustics of the chamber if not the echoing whispers made that impossible. As they reached the dais, something slid up to her foot, under her guard. She didn’t think; she stomped it to bits. The texture was wretched. “Up!” she urged Miwanza. “Five steps!” Miwanza stumbled as she went up, breaking from Juli’s grip but catching herself. Juli swept Mercy under her shield preventatively, and thought she felt the tip of the blade slide through something that gave almost no resistance. Like, maybe, an eyeball. “Juli?” Miwanza cried. You – saw – all – before – remember – so – much – more – “Keep going!” Juli backed up the steps, keeping her shield up and using every sense she could to try to catch any more tentacles that might encroach. Not being able to look went against every instinct she had. Look out, look out, look out. She bumped into Miwanza, who wasn’t moving. Juli whipped her head to look at the girl, suddenly fearing the girl had somehow become transfixed despite the blindfold, but there were no tentacle stalks near the girl. Nonetheless, she wasn’t moving. “Miwanza! Keep going!” Juli tried to give her a shove, but in response Miwanza simply dropped the torch. It continued to burn, but the light was dangerously dimmer. The – inner – eye – is – where – truth – lies – “I saw it,” Miwanza breathed. “I saw it, before. I ran away, but I remember now.” She reached up. “Miwanza, no!” The girl ripped off the blindfold and smiled beatifically past Julilee.