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Everything posted by RiktheRed21

  1. "So let me get this straight, you jumped off the top of the Temple of the Moon, relying on a glider with a torn wing to slow your fall?" "I didn't know it was torn until after I jumped, but yes that is how it went." The young man with the ponytail winced as Sanjay investigated the damage resulting from the younger man's escapade. "You are lucky you survived. The Kal'dorei take matters of religion very seriously. That Temple is as tall as any castle I've seen." "It wasn't that bad, really." Sanjay eyed the broken leg skeptically. His educated mind told him to be open-minded, but this case seemed rather open-and-shut. "Your femur is cracked in five places," the doctor replied, "Your tibia has a solid dent in it, too. Plus your nose from where you most likely faceplanted, that's seven fractures." "Seven is a lucky number." The boy gave Sanjay a weak smile. Sweat dripped down his forehead in rivers. "Not today, it isn't. I have a question, though, unless you don't want to receive treatment." Moors sighed and lie back on the cot, staring up at the bottom of the top bunk. "Ask away. I'm an open book." "Why did you contact me, and not send a message out to the whole guild?" From what Sanjay had been told about the Empire's guildstones, the default function was to address the entire guild. It took some fiddling in a way Sanjay hadn't bothered to uncover to address only one particular stone. Usually he just kept his on mute. Moors shrugged. "I've never sent a message to one person before." "That doesn't answer the question." "It's late, people are sleeping." "You don't think they mute their stones before bed?" "People tend to forget things. Maybe not as much as I do, but still." The doctor exhaled through his nose and scratched his beard. Though he'd committed to growing it out in Pandaria, the hair was starting to get itchy. He briefly considered shaving it, or at least trimming it down some. "Right. I'm sure that's what went through your head while you writhed about at the steps of the Temple of Elune with bones broken in seven places." Moors' leg twitched in its fresh splint. Sanjay was more interested in that hair of his. It was yellow like straw, and held back in a ponytail. A slash of white lie along his scalp from above the right eye, as well. That was uncommon in one this boy's age. It reminded Sanjay of some old patients. The kid probably rubbed some warlock the wrong way at some point. "I try to be considerate." Or you just wanted to avoid the embarrassment of telling the whole guild you jumped off a building. Sanjay had been aware of some event going on tonight. Given the wine stains on the boy's cotton shirt, he figured Moors had attended. He tried not to jump to conclusions about the alcohol's affect on the boy's actions leading up to his injury. "I'll lend you potions for regrowing the bones and to suppress the pain. It'll be a week or two before you're back on your feet. I'll check in daily until you can get back to work." Luckily for you, I'm on vacation for that long. I could use a break from my break. "Thank you, Doctor. That's really nice of you." He seemed sincere. Sanjay never knew for certain. "Don't jump off anymore buildings, and I'll consider it even. And get some sleep." He stood up to leave. The elves were giving him odd looks. "Hey Doc?" "What is it?" "You won't tell anyone about this, will you?" So it is as I thought. "Not a word, kid. Rest easy." "I got three dates coming up. This won't keep me from any of that, will it?" Sanjay scoffed. That's right, it was about that time of year. Pretty boys like him would be breaking hearts left and right for the next few weeks. "I hope you weren't planning to take any of them for long walks. Or on that deathtrap of a glider. In fact, stay away from anything goblin-made for a while." "Alright. You're the Doc, Doc." He lie back and shut his shiny, baby blue eyes. Sanjay took a breath. After so long spent patching men and women condemned to die of fel poisoning or self-inflicted wounds of despair, this felt utterly mundane. It was a strange thought that such normalcy would feel unwelcome. He strode out of the medical ward of the Temple across soft grass that tickled his feet through his sandals. The elves out here watched him too. Sanjay had grown used to it. When the face of your people is a boy who looks eerily similar to Moors Hawthorne, seeing someone with skin and demeanor as dark as Sanjay's would be rather curious. Maybe I should shave the damn beard.
  2. "Gall's name says it all. He's got guts and doesn't shirk from a fight. I didn't know him long, but I'd probably have lost my head if I hadn't met him. I'd watch his back anytime," -Brinnea.
  3. RiktheRed21

    Rest

    Brinnea Velmon carried a sack over the shoulder with a stooped back, slowed by the weight, but sped by her resolve. She stomped eastward and north from Greenwarden's Grove, into the wild green lands in which only winding, grasping creepers grew and watched. She found a spot beneath an old, wide tree that stooped as she did. There she set down her burden, far enough away from the Grove to be out of sight, but close enough to reach within a twenty minute walk. Inside the sack lie stones she had spent the last week carving at her desk. The runes she had found in a tome she kept in her Thelsamar home. It was a memento of sorts, from her time under the boot of the Scourge. One she had stolen from a pile meant for burning by the Argent Crusade. She set the stones in a precise way, arranging them to make a shrine of sorts up against the stooped tree. Then she drew her blade, Paragon. The runes etched in the side glowed a familiar icy blue as she plunged it into the earth before her shrine of stones. The freshly etched runes glowed a dark purple hue, and wisps of shadow riddled their way up into the old tree like the creepers upon the ground. Bark withered in seconds and high above, leaves fell blackened and dying from the lowest branches. Whispers echoed all around, though it was impossible to discern their meaning. An unkeen ear might mistake it for an odd breeze. Brinnea knelt, her head lowered to the earth. She uttered an incantation that darkened the ground at her feet. Even the heat of the sun felt dimmer as she spoke. When she finished, she uttered one phrase in the low speech that meant, "Show to me the spirit of the dead: the spirit of Parigan Blackmane!" The whispers ceased, as did the dark creepers up the tree and the darkening shadow in the dirt and grass. A single voice pierced the silence -- strong, resolute, yet mocking it was. "Hello Brin. Long time, no see." Brinnea lifted her head to look up at the shade that now hovered over her wicked shrine. "Pari," she breathed softly, "I'm sorry to have to call you like this. You deserve a long, undisturbed rest." "Ha! No rest for me. I've been wandering for some time, here in Azeroth. Without a body, the spirit is free to see whatever sights it wishes, without a care in the world." He seemed utterly content and without a care in this form. He looked as she remembered him before his first death: a young man with shoulder-length black hair left uncombed and wild, brown eyes regarding the world with a fascinated bewilderment, and a body built strong, sturdy, and casually balanced. "That sounds right for you," she replied with a sad smile. "I only wish I could go with you." "In a way, you have. I see you everywhere I go. Your soul still tugs at mine. Sometimes I come back to watch you or Charlotte. She's seen me a time or two, I'd wager. A keen sense, our girl has." "Yes, she's going to make a fine mage someday. She still wants to be a hero, like you. Or me, I suppose." "A hero like us? That won't do. Teach her how to stay alive for longer than twenty years first." Brinnea laughed, tears forming frozen in her eyes. "I should be the one dead, and you the one alive. You could have taught her so much more than I ever can." "And I say," he said as his phantom hand urged her head upwards, "The only true knowledge worth having is earned yourself. She'll learn one way or another, from hundreds and thousands of teachers, living and dead. But you can give her something that I could not. You can be a mother to her. There is no replacing one's own mother." "And the same can't be said of fathers?" "A father puts life in a mother's body, but the mother carries that life with her. They are truly one for he longest time. It's a bond that transcends biology or psychology. I've seen it, you know. The bond between you two. With my own eyes, I can see it like a tether between you two. I truly believe you will never be apart. Not for long." She felt for his hand fondly, though it slipped through her fingers like smoke. "Oh you foolish, clever man! What did I ever do to deserve a you? To deserve any of what I still have?" "You were yourself. Always you were, and forever you will be. Nothing will ever really change you." "I'm not so sure..." "What is it that pains you now? There's always something, but I can feel agony within you. Something in your mind." She sighed, remembering that which urged her to contact him in the first place. "A nightmare. But this one felt real. An illusion, perhaps, but you know I've never been good at sorting reality from fantasy." "What sort of illusion?" "I saw..." she spoke reluctantly. She had been dreading that she would relive the memory again. "I saw the future. Charlotte and the boy, August, grown into a woman and man. I led them astray. They wanted to be heroes...like me." "So they died and became Death Knights," he concluded. "Yes." "Now that's bullshit." "Pari..." "No, you'd never let them do that to themselves in a million years.You wouldn't even let me get a dog when we couldn't afford it. You're stubborn as an old mule when you want to be." "It felt too real to disregard so easily." "That's the thing about illusions." "Don't you think I know that! But what if it becomes real? What if they do try to be just like me?" "Charlotte is what, six years old now? I think you've got enough time to teach her that isn't such a good idea." "It just feels as though I am leading her astray. People I meet believe a Death Knight could never be a true mother to living children. Even if they don't say it, I can see it on their faces." "When has that ever stopped you before? You spent years trying to get adoptions rights in Stormwind, and now you have two children to take care of. Stop worrying over whether it is right and just do the best with what you have." "You're right," she said, still unsure, "But that doesn't make the feelings go away." "Well, I can't control your feelings, though I believe there are drugs that could help with that." "Parigan!" He laughed -- a wispy sound that was a shadow of the irksome chuckle it had once been. "You'll find a way to get through this. You've wanted to be a mother for so long, I know you won't screw it up now." "I hope you're right, Pari. I want to believe it." "Then do that. I'm gonna go on some more adventures. Maybe possess someone along the way. Ah, to feel young and alive again!" "That's just awful," Brinnea said with a laugh and a cry. "You don't have to forget me, Brin. But you have to accept that I'm gone now." "And if you were in my shoes?" "I'd never let you leave me, obviously." "You're such a hypocrite." "And you don't need me to protect you anymore. I may have seemed strong and handsome and dashing when I was around, but it's only because I had you to inspire me. Now you do the same for our daughter, and your boy. Show this world it doesn't get to beat you." With that, he vanished with a puff of smoke. The sun grew brighter, and the silence faded into the breeze. She stood and removed the blade from the ground. Paragon. He would have said it was a funny joke to name it that. "But that's why I did it," she said to herself, "Always carry a smile into battle. Isn't that right, Pari?" Only the wind gave any reply.
  4. "Has to be the most persistent son of an elf I ever met. Everyone I know who knows him berates him constantly, and yet he keeps on at it regardless. Making him blush has become a hobby of mine. He may have trouble adapting to Alliance life, but he's got a big heart wrapped in his thin purple skin. I wouldn't trade him for a legion of Sentinels," -Jenivyr.
  5. "He is a strong and wise chieftain. My father would have trusted him with his life, so I will trust him with my family," -Nagoda.
  6. "A dutiful knight with a strong sense of responsibility. I would have liked to work with him more when I had the chance," -Brinnea.
  7. "I heard about her. What happened in Eastvale...I can't help but feel responsible. I hope her new family treats her well, and she goes on to do great things. My mother once said the most beautiful flowers bloom in adversity. I pray every day that she was right," -Brinnea.
  8. "I haven't seen her in a while, but I remember enjoying her company. She was a staunch companion in battle, and knew how to unwind otherwise. Not so many people had their lives so well put-together," -Brinnea.
  9. "She seems a strong and capable leader, full of fire. Reminds me of a certain General I know. I hope she finds a happy ending wherever her life takes her," -Brinnea.
  10. "I've never met someone so willing to put others ahead of herself. I sure was glad to hear she survived the knife," -Brinnea.
  11. "He's a fighter and an idealist. He reminds me of what I want to be," -Brinnea. "He stood up for a people who needed him. I hope to be like him someday," -Nagoda.
  12. "She's a soldier with the mind of a healer. She doesn't fight to kill, she fights to save and protect. And she has a fine taste in tea," -Sanjay.
  13. "The most innocent and caring person I've ever met. She'd try to save a rampaging ogre if it kicked her down the road a hundred miles. Too good for her own good," -Brinnea.
  14. "A killer, a torturer, and an all-around terrorist. When I think of the enemy, her face comes to mind. Her face and that damn rocket of hers..." -Brinnea.
  15. "Hotheaded and thinks he can solve everything himself, from what I heard. My daughter seemed to adore him, so he must come off as...heroic," -Brinnea.
  16. Full Name: Jenivyr Vayne Date of Birth: April 2 Age: 28 Race: Gilnean Human Gender: Female Hair: Blonde, curly and usually tied back in a tail Skin: Pale, decent complexion Eyes: Light green Height: 5'5'' Weight: 125 lbs Place of residence: Greenwarden's Grove, Wetlands Place of Birth: Gilneas City Known Relatives: Lord Walther Vayne (father), Olivia Vayne (mother, deceased) Religion/Philosophy: Church of the Holy Light Occupation: Mistress of Scouts for the Night Vanguard Group/Guild affiliation: Steward of Night Vanguard Enemies: The Horde, House Hunter of Gilneas, Witherbark Trolls of Arathi Likes: Parties and various social gatherings, hunting trips, fishing trips, planning trips and events Favorite Foods: Fish Favorite Drinks: Ale and wine Favorite Colors: Green and Yellow Weapons of Choice: Bow and arrow Dislikes: Quiet places, being alone, discussions about abstract or unnecessary things (foreign politics, ideology, scholarly or artistic things), sudden and poorly-planned adventures, insensitivity, fighting people. Physical Features: Angular features, somewhat sharp nose and chin, prominent cheekbones. Thin lips with bright gloss. Small eyelashes and thin eyebrows. B-cup breasts. Special Abilities: Excellent at planning and tactics, or navigating intrigue and political plots. An excellent shot with a bow and handy with a spear. Spectacular horse rider. Positive Personality Traits: Strong practical skills, has a sense of duty and loyalty, sensitive and warm, always trying to connect people. Negative Personality Traits: Overly concerned about her social status, inflexible and wants things her way, reluctant to usher in change for the sake of change, vulnerable to criticism, very needy, and possessive. Misc. Quirks: Flirts with just about anyone -- male, female, single, married, human or otherwise. History: Born the first and last child of Walther and Olivia Vayne. Her father was lowborn and earned his lordship through his friendship with one Mayes Blackmane. Jenivyr was born the second generation in this new dynasty, and her mother lived not long to carry on the name through a male heir. With this in mind, Walther allowed his daughter great freedom, hoping she would strike her own path. Even so, he nagged her often for her laziness and disregard for social conventions. Jenivyr never fit in with the noble ladies of court, and garnered many insults and taunts for her tomboyishness and general awkwardness. As it turned out, she was awkward in large part because of her interest in women above men. Though, to impress both, she often flirted with just about everyone. Due to the utter rejection by the women, she preferred the company of men and learned to track, ride, and shoot a bow from a string of short-lived boyfriends. When Gilneas fell, she avoided the Worgen using her survival skills, though her father was bitten and she looked after him throughout the ordeal. She even managed to subdue him long enough for the elixir to be finished. She moved with her father to Stormwind for a time, then to Duskwood after Walther purchased a plot of land for them to settle on. Jenivyr hated the area. The people were grim and disliked her as much as those in Gilneas did. The game were mostly mangy or inedible, and in all she grew stir-crazy before too long. Walther was kidnapped while investigating a plot of treason against the crown, so Jenivyr used the chance to take some time away from his nagging. She set into drinking too much ale and wine, until the day the Night Vanguard arrived at her doorstep. Recruiting their aid, she managed to free her father, unveil the conspiracy, and earn herself a position in the Vanguard's base of operations leading the men who formerly worked for the conspirator. She found her true calling leading others, organizing events, and even fell in love with the woman of her dreams -- Justica Anterius. Theme Songs: "Jupiter," by Gustav Holst "England Peace Theme," Sid Meyer's Civilization 5 "I Vow to Thee, My Country," from a poem by Sir Cecil Spring Rice and the music of Gustav Holst ((Justica and Jenivyr))
  17. Soft leather boots squished against wet cobblestones in the dank, dark depths of the Stormwind City Stockades. Looking around and seeing the agonized faces of prisoners of every race, height, age, and build imaginable, Baron felt the heat in his chest rising at the thought of his father's unjust imprisonment. Locking him up amongst thieves, rapers, and murderers...if I make it out of this dungeon without snapping someone's neck, it'll be a miracle. His own men had learned not to provoke him for any reason. They knew enough to fear his wrath, his sword, and his beasts of war. But these false knights that led him to his father's cell knew not of him. They had never heard of the Bloody Baron. That made this situation all the more dangerous. "Here we are," the portly man in shimmering plate armor announced boredly as he unlocked a simple wooden door. I bet this fat man has never had a scratch put in that armor of his, Baron thought to himself bitterly. It was insulting how easy it would be to free Lord Walden Hunter from his captivity. Clearly these southerners had lost all respect for Gilneas' nobility in their years of isolation. "About damn time," Baron barked, shoving the man out of the way. He entered the cell and the door slammed shut behind him. He heard the two knights snickering and whispering insults as they stood outside. He sniffed angrily and bit back a taunt of his own. "Calm yourself, son," a man in rags and tattered from head to toe said, "Save your rage for the true foes. The living are not worth the effort." Baron almost didn't recognize his father looking to disheveled. His hair was ordinarily well-groomed and a slick light brown color, but now it was a ratty tangle and more the color of dirt or dung. His dark brown eyes were still sharp and skeptical as always, but now they were bloodshot from the gloom. Baron spied a small pile of books in the corner of the cell. "You convinced them to give you reading material," Baron said with no humor in his voice, "With guards as stupid as those, you ought to have just asked them to leave the door unlocked so you could visit a library yourself." "Nonsense, I don't have to ask for anything. I tell them to get me books, and they bring them. Just because Greymane saw fit to strip me of my title, I have not lost my noble blood. Those wretches know how to grovel to a man of power when they hear him call." The man rose to his feet, and Baron felt foolish for having not recognized him. The man held himself in that same self-assured manner as ever, as thought he already knew what the result of the conversation would be and was thinking about some other scheme. If he truly knew what I was about to say, he wouldn't look so pleased with himself. He nearly growled in response, "Can you not escape this prison, then? I did not ask to become the head of the household! Every morning one of your bootlickers comes to me looking for favors or loan repayments. I cannot even return to Stranglethorn to see my wives with all the 'important matters' to deal with in Stormwind!" Walden struck his son. The backhanded slap echoed in the small space, though Baron hardly moved when hit. Its true force was the power to silence him. "You will not complain to me about your duties again. You are my eldest son. It is unbecoming of you to whine like a sullen child. You will appease every last one of the House's allies and you will not leave the capital until Greymane gives you my former position in the army. That is all you must do for now. If I hear a word of ill report about you from those back-country fools outside the door, you will be forced to give up the sword and sit at a desk the rest of your life. Do I make myself clear?" Baron's fists clenched furiously, but he knew he was trapped. "Yes, Father," was all he managed to say from between his teeth. "And if you ever mention those whores you call wives again, I'll send Grant to hang them all." "Yes, Father." Baron had to bite his tongue to keep himself from saying any more. "Now then, tell me what I summoned you here for." Baron took a deep breath and relaxed his body. He would definitely kill someone tonight. "We received word back from the Wetlands. The treasury was looted without a hitch, Grant got it all down into the tunnels before the Vanguard even knew it was being taken. It was all in place down in the cave Creighton picked out, but something happened." Walden's eyebrow rose. "Something happened?" "Walther's brat managed to sniff out the cave through Creighton's traps. Grant wasn't at the rendezvous when our people got there. Our spy says he was toted into the cells by some elf mage named Alcabus or something. They say Creighton's locked up, too." Walden's eyes narrowed only slightly, but it was more than enough to tell Baron he was displeased by the news. "They have your brother and Grant in cells, and all of my money?" A dangerous silence followed. Baron felt no fear, but he was anxious about what new plan his father would cook up now that his first had fallen through. "Have the spy summoned to Stormwind and cut her throat. Throw the body in the canals, but make certain you take any and all valuables off her corpse first. Make it look like a robbery and there won't be any suspicions." Baron risked a question, "Why kill the spy?" "There must have been an information leak. Creighton is too careful to be captured, and the cave would have been concealed too well to find by the time the Vayne girl looked for it. Someone talked, it's the only possibility." "Very well then." Baron was more than happy to clean up the mess. At least he would get to kill someone soon. "But how are we going to carry on without that money? I have your debts to pay and new friends to keep happy, after all." He didn't conceal his resentment well. "Pay them from your own coffers." "You cannot be serious!" Baron stomped madly. "Don't argue, and don't complain. If you do your job well, there will be plenty of reward. You will also need to ransom Creighton and Grant from Greenwarden's Grove. Don't even think of raising your voice at me again. Neither of them will spill any information, I am certain, but we need to smooth over our difficulties with the Night Vanguard sooner rather than later. We cannot hope to get to the girl otherwise." "As long as her Scourge mother is alive, we'll never get close. You could at least let me kill her. It would save us all trouble." He forced himself to say this calmly, though his insides boiled with rage. "No. It is clear now that removing Velmon is not as easy a solution as I once hoped. The child is too attached to her to be separated willingly, and now Gilneas has pardoned her. For now, Brinnea Velmon is off-limits." "Then how are we to take the girl as a ward? The blue-eyed she-devil watches her constantly, and trusts no one she doesn't know." "You've nearly hit the nail on the head, boy. We cannot hope to get close without someone Velmon knows, someone the Vanguard trusts. Someone who hates the undead as much as we, and cares for the child's well-being." Baron huffed quietly. "Who then?" "In due time. For now, focus on winning allies and freeing Creighton and Grant. Make certain that when you ransom them, you send someone who can act with a shred of diplomatic temper. And don't forget about the spy." He sat down and opened a book. The conversation was clearly over. But Baron wasn't finished. "So that's it? No thanks or apologies? Not even so much as a 'goodbye?' Am I not still your son? Am I only a tool for your schemes?" Walden replied without looking up, "All I do is for you and your brother. And for Gilneas. Remember that the hunter does not require praise to catch his prey. Only focus. Now go." Baron went, slamming the door behind him. He ignored the two bumbling guards and their poorly concealed snickers as they locked his father's cell up again. I'll do your dirty work, Father. But once you are free to take back the reins, I will never be slave to your whims again!
  18. Full Name: Nagoda Goldfield, son of Quaran Date of Birth: September 20 Age: 14 Race: Tauren Gender: Male Hair: Brown mane Skin: Brown fur, spotted white Eyes: Brown Height: Short Tauren Weight: Hefty Tauren Place of residence: Ashtotem Village, Thousand Needles Place of Birth: An Oasis in the Barrens Known Relatives: Quaran Sunwalker, (father, deceased), Fasha Sunseer, (mother), Magooma, (maternal grandmother), Kimba [the commander], Rumba [the muscle], and Cassowary [the logistician], (paternal uncles) Religion/Philosophy: An'she and the Earth Mother Occupation: Healer's apprentice at Ashtotem's Healer Hut Group/Guild affiliation: New recruit of Sanctuary Enemies: The White Hawk of Silvermoon, Nakama's pirate crew (presumed dead), Brinnea, the Butcher of Kaur'he Likes: Quiet walks in the wilderness, praying to the sun god in private, reading, singing, watching bugs and critters, tending to plants Favorite Foods: Any veggies or fruits (vegetarian) Favorite Drinks: Shamed to admit he loves firewater (it helps him be more social), more commonly admits to liking kodo milk Favorite Colors: Brown and gold Weapons of Choice: A spear or staff Dislikes: Being cooped up indoors, restraints, (claustrophobic) Physical Features: Chubby, white-faced, brown furred. His horns are small and young, his hooves well-trod upon for his age. Keeps his left hand covered to hide a brand in the shape of a red dragon. Special Abilities: Talented at healing with herbs and medical supplies. Knows how to set snares and traps for game. Positive Personality Traits: Idealistic, seeks value and harmony in all things. Respectful of others' cultures and opinions. Open-minded and flexible, willing to try new things even when afraid of the consequences. Highly creative, passionate, and dedicated. Works hard and complains little. Negative Personality Traits: Too selfless for his own good, lets others take advantage of him. Takes any insult to heart, internalizing them until his self-esteem is at a deep low. Poor at practical skills and unfocused so as to leave him unable to master any trade. Very distant and hard to get to know. Misc. Quirks: Rubs his left hand and bows with his horns to most everyone elder to him Theme Songs: "The Farthest Land," Shadow of the Colossus History: Born to the warrior Quaran and his wife Fasha in the Barrens. Watched his father transform from an implacable warrior with bloodthirst and ravenous thirst for revenge turn to a life of piety and devotion to An'she. Fasha was the first to take to An'she as a Seer, and Quaran followed to become among the first Sunwalkers. This transformation began with a miracle: the Light saved Quaran's life from a mortal wound delivered by Grimtotem axe at Thunder Bluff. Since then, Nagoda has been in love with the sun god, and pious to a fault. Nagoda grew only occasionally in his father's eyes. The elder warrior was normally away at war, a dutiful bull. Nagoda became much like his mother and grandmother because of this, and followed the path of a healer for some time. He was poor at fighting, and did not want to eat meat or even harm wildlife, so he was no huntsman. Since his family had turned to An'she, he did not follow the path of a druid or shaman either. He seemed destined to become a Seer, if not for his uncles' constant insults about his femininity. His father, though he hid his disappointment well, accepted his son's inability to take up the mantle of warrior, which made it sting all the worse for Nagoda. He wanted to make his father proud, and so he would wander from home often to reflect, pray, and try to practice. He could never bring himself to swing a spear or staff at anything alive, or even any practice target he pretended was alive. Quaran Sunwalker died hunting after the Butcher of Kaur'he. The death knight had to die to see justice done, Quaran had been convinced when he left home. Nagoda's heart fluttered nervously the day his father left -- the man had faced the death knight once and still carried a scar on the face where she had smashed him with his own maul. The news came not as a surprise, but it was enough to cast a lasting shadow on the family of the Gold Plain. Nagoda ran from home not long after. His uncles wanted to whisk him away and make a true warrior out of him, but at that moment all the boy wanted was to avenge his father and prove himself at long last. He knew he needed help, so he asked a friend of his father's to hunt the death knight down. The troll was an expert at the hunt, using the elements themselves to bolster his weapons and senses. Yet even he did not return to hunt after the death knight. For a time, Nagoda believed the Butcher was impossible to kill, and that An'she intended for him never to be like his father. But then the sun god sent him a new chance -- the Butcher was imprisoned in Silvermoon, and would soon be sent across the sea to Kalimdor. The boy ran again from his people, this time to total strangers. He approached a pirate captain called Nakama, a trolless with her own ship docked at Ratchet. He paid her with money left behind by Quaran, and arranged for the ship carrying the Butcher to be hijacked at sea. The gold was not all his father had left behind, though. A priceless relic from Northred, a gift from the Wyrmrest dragons themselves, accompanied him on his task. He believed it was a gift from An'she as well -- the instrument of justice. His father had called it a brand once, though Nagoda had been too young to understand what it was for. He knew only that it carried the dragon's fire somehow. Fire that might cleanse the world of the death knight he thought unkillable. The White Hawk, a mysterious elven task force, warned Nagoda not to do what he intended, but he stubbornly ignored them. He had to avenge his father. The Hawk were prepared for this, though, since Brinnea the Butcher was not on the ship as the pirates had been informed. It was set up as a trap, and the pirate ship was surrounded by war vessels to be taken in by the Hawks. Nagoda was stunned, and with the brand in hand, his emotions exploded outward at last. It was enough for the dragon fire to erupt and burn the ship around him. As far as the young tauren knew, no one by he survived the explosion. It left a lasting mark on his left hand, a reminder of his failure. After that, he decided he had shamed himself too much to return home again. He tried to find a new path, and An'she sent him a vision of a golden hawk on a purple sky. Sanctuary. He followed his vision, remembering that it was Kex'ti of Sanctuary who stood against the Butcher and lived. Nagoda sought a chance at redemption and escape from his failure, but he never forgot his duty. One day, he knew, he would have to face the Butcher, and only one of them would walk away alive.
  19. ((Updates and edits, most likely final version))
  20. Oof, I've been meaning to go back and read everyone's posts at some point.
  21. She was reading by the fire again. He loved watching her do that. She always seemed happy, even for the briefest of moments. Even if there was so much fear in her heart that she spent nights weeping in bed or curled up on their carpet, she could always find solace in a story read by firelight. Parigan didn’t enjoy much. He didn’t enjoy going to the bar his brother used to take him to. He didn’t enjoy attending the galas his sister sent him invitation after invitation for. He didn’t enjoy meeting his father every month to tell him what he had been up to. Parigan was sick to death of his family and seeing their hands in every aspect of life in the city appalled him. He had his forge, and he had his sword. And he had her. Parigan regretted so much that he had pushed her away since the rebellion. It was the last thing he had wanted from the cause. A fair society, free of tyranny and oppression, of course. Freedom from his father’s dictatorship of a family, most definitely. But he never considered it would mean losing her trust. She’ll never look at me the same way. After what the rebels did in the war – terrorism and mass mayhem – she won’t feel safe setting foot outside the door. And she knows I was part of that. How can I ever make her trust me again? But at the very least, she could find freedom in the pages of her books. He admired that about her. With him, he could never set aside his problems, but it was clear he hadn’t the foggiest idea how to fix them. She was in much the same boat, but could manage to set aside her worries to enjoy her passion. Parigan used to take literacy for granted until he’d met some of Brinnea’s relatives. Brinnea Velmon. Parigan had never once questioned why she had kept that last name. Now he wished he had taken it as well. What has being a Blackmane ever gotten me? She didn’t talk much about her father, but he could tell by the way she reacted to any mention of him that she wasn’t sure what to think of him. Parigan thought she was trying to be angry with him, but she came off seeming more worried than mad. He felt such sorrow for her complex array of emotions, but he couldn’t empathize. With Parigan, everything was black and white. Yes or no. Right or wrong. He felt he had chosen wrong. Marrying her didn’t make her life better. It had dragged her into worse shit than she had already been dragged through. But he loved her more than anything, so he selfishly kept her close and never let go. And she never said anything against it. Does she truly love me anymore? Did she ever? He felt the need to comfort her, or maybe he just wanted to be comforted. He picked himself up off the stairs and walked up behind her chair. She was reading something about a knight and his lady, and a witch who had cursed them to fall in love. Parigan had never enjoyed books, at least not the way Brinnea had, but he remembered this story well enough. The two were from rival kingdoms that had an unsteady truce between the two in the face of the Horde invasion. It was a common theme in literature after the Second War. Everyone loved a good story about romance in the face of a calamity that nearly wiped out humanity. The two lovers had been brought together by the orc witch in the hopes of shattering the alliance between the nations, but instead the people saw how beautiful things could be if everyone held love in their hearts. The ending was blissful – the two humans married, the families and kingdoms both united, and the witch was burned for her treachery. Parigan liked the story well enough. Real life is far from a fairy tale, though. Love isn’t so simple or clean, and hatred is never easily set aside. Parigan kissed her on the head, ruffling her hair affectionately. She set down the book on her reading table, which was buried in piles of books she’d bought with his money. Her grey eyes looked up into his brown eyes. She smiled, but it was a bad fake he’d seen too many times to be fooled. She was upset he had interrupted her. She wanted to look up and see a noble knight, not the failure he was. “Hi,” he said quietly. “Hey,” she said back. “I’m sorry.” “For what?” “I don’t know. I’m just sorry. Sorry for everything, I guess.” “And why do you feel like you need to apologize? Have you done something requiring an apology?” “I just…I don’t feel like a very good husband. Or man, even. I don’t know what to say.” She stood up and walked away from him, towards the hearth and fire. She warmed her hands over the flames. He wasn’t providing her any, clearly. “It doesn’t really matter what you say, does it? Everything out there isn’t real. This isn’t real. All that’s real is what lies outside the Wall.” Parigan stood behind the chair, unmoving. His eyes lowered to the tome she had set down. The Tale of Richlid and Theodara. If only life were so simple. “What is outside of the Wall isn’t the world. It’s just a nightmare. We’ll live through it.” “What makes you so sure?” “We have so far, haven’t we? Nightmares always have an end.” “This one hasn’t ended long enough for me to believe it is real.” She hugged her arms and rubbed them roughly. The sleeves on her gown were worn and tattered. He had offered to buy her a new one, but never had. “We will make it together,” he replied. He wanted that to be true. He needed that to be true. “Everyone I’ve made it with so far is dead.” “Your sister…” “Is gone. She left yesterday. She bought a fishing boat and made for Purgation Isle. She’ll never be able to come back. She probably won’t survive long enough to try.” Parigan’s shoulders slumped in defeat. Christa was gone. The last person who could get through to her. Why had she left? It had been a year, nearly, since their mother had passed away. Why choose now to leave? The Scourge had only gotten worse, and no contact from the outside had made it in. That my father is willing to share with me, that is. “Did she say why?” “It doesn’t matter. It hasn’t mattered for years now.” “It’s about your father, isn’t it?” She tightened her grip on her shoulders until her knuckles turned white. He stepped forward and held her tightly. She didn’t resist or pull away, and he took that as a good sign. He hoped it was. “It’s all gone. Why can’t she understand it?” “Some people need something to hold on to.” He held her close, but she didn’t hold him back. “There’s nothing left to hold on to. It’s all ashes and bones now. Gilneas may as well be all that’s left, and there’s nothing for me here.” “I’m still here.” He turned her face gently so she would look at him. Her eyes were dry, but her face was pale. “I am. And I’m not going anywhere.” That night, she disappeared. He awoke to find a note where her head should have rested. She told him not to go looking for her. He crumpled the letter and threw on his coat and boots. *** Shanoris gasped and awoke suddenly, disturbed from her dream. From his dream, she thought silently. Felsoul Hold’s dwindling supply of portals crackled nearby, and she felt the presences of demons approaching her location. That was what had awoken her from the dead man’s dream. She had already searched for evidence of the witch’s revival, and found nothing. The sarcophagus was gone, as well. The Illidari had already seen to its removal, but the last she heard it had yet to be destroyed. That thing is dangerous, but it may have some use as of yet. I’ll check Marduum and the sarcophagus next. She meant to leave, but she felt compelled to stay. Parigan’s grave was marked by a badly rusted sword that had been broken jaggedly in half by a savage blow. She had witnessed it personally, felt every felling of the demon’s hammer in her core as if it were her the beast had slain. His last words echoed in her mind. “Brin, I lo—love you—“ Shanoris may have stood against Brinnea in the past, but what the witch had done to her was beyond cruel. And she took my sister from me. We both have enough reason to want her dead forever. The demons came on her suddenly, emerging from the shadows as if they had the element of surprise. She proved they were wrong. Moving faster than the untrained eye could even see, she sliced her way through felhounds and Felguards like scissors through silk. At the end, her rage and demonic spirit boiled over, bursting through the uncovered crevices of her eye sockets. Nothing remained of the demons save for ashes. The grave marker had fallen over in the scuffle. Shanoris returned it to its rightful position, but then noticed something she hadn’t sensed before lying buried in the dirt. She dug it up with a strong hand and felt its surface, clearing it of dirt as she did. It was a ring. She detected moonstone and silver, badly tarnished. Words were engraved in it, and she could feel the indents enough to read it. Words may leave on wind, but love is forever. A wind licked at Shanoris’ cloak. She felt his presence still writhing in the tainted dirt, too tired and fragmented to be pieced back together or take form. She made a promise to the grave that she would see his remains taken to a proper burial site. But then it dawned on her she had no idea where he would want to be at rest. She would have to ask Brinnea, but there was no way to speak with her now. Sighing, she made another promise. “I’m going to regret this, aren’t I?” she asked the dirt. Parigan’s spirit was silent, but silence speaks volumes to a demon hunter.
  22. This was a mistake, the monk thought as he tugged uncomfortably at the tight sleeves and collar of his dinner jacket. He hadn’t worn it in years, and when last he’d donned the formal attire, he’d been a much smaller man. Sanjay looked around at the ceremonial area and the ornate chairs set along the sides of the fancily-laced carpet and wondered where the person who had invited him was. I should have just run away. There’s no telling what she’ll make me do this time. The monk’s shaved, darkly-toned head barely reached up to the chins of most of the elven guests at this event. He’d have a hard time finding her in the crowd. Without warning, Sanjay was pulled to a seat in the middling section. An elven woman smiled at him knowingly, her pale blue skin lacking any wrinkle or hint of what she was thinking upon its surface. Her brilliant eyes regarded him with recognition and a distinct impression of humor. “Hello, my Redjay,” she said sweetly. “It is good to see you again.” Sanjay’s heart skipped a beat without his permission. “Nyomi,” he muttered, “I got your invitation. I don’t know what compelled me to come.” “I do,” she replied. He felt an itch of discomfort as he took his seat beside her. Nyomi put a hand on Sanjay’s leg. He tensed and tugged at his black, unkempt beard in annoyance, but felt powerless to stop her. His voice was hushed and strained. “Why did you invite me here? Just to torment me?” She laughed quietly. “You know me. I never go anywhere without a strong man to protect me.” Sanjay wished he had one to protect him. Or a woman. I wonder if her charms work on them as well? The wedding party entered. There were no less than ten couples who came down the aisle, with several flower girls and boys sprinkled in between. Once that was done, the music swelled to a crescendo, and a Nightborne man, presumably the groom, announced as Gaspard du Chalons, emerged alone. His wedding suit was as much a statement as he himself was, a mix of armor and military dress with the fur of a Llothien Prowler draped across his shoulder. His hair was cut short in a military style and his face clean shaven. Sanjay had seen a thousand men just like him. A thousand men, and one, he thought bitterly. He tried to drown the unwelcome memories as they flooded back, but only succeeded in annoying himself further. Gaspard swaggered his way down the aisle and took his position at the center of the dais, turning to await the last arrival. The music fell very, very, softly, then swelled even more dramatically, and the bride, Celene Valmont, made her appearance. Her wedding dress was beyond over the top, a shocking construction of arcane material and white lace that somehow managed to leave most of her legs bare. She sashayed down the aisle with a sly, shy smile, very aware of her status as the center of attention. The groom smiled broadly at her. “Do you think the bride is beautiful, my dear Jay?” Nyomi asked the monk, her grip tightening around his thigh. Yes, far more than you, he wanted to say. “Would my answer even matter, Nyomi?” he replied instead. “Either way, you’ll get the answer you want to hear. How can you know if it’s the truth?” “Who cares about truth when you can get exactly what you want?” She smiled at him again, looking as content as could be. Sanjay started to wonder which was worse – thoughts of his past, or of the woman whose clutches he had fallen into. Gaspard took Celene’s hand as she reached the dais. Celene tittered nervously. They turned to the man from the podium, who had emerged to stand before them, holding a great tome. Only, he proved not to be holding it as it kept itself suspended in midair as he flipped through the pages, slowly and deliberately, looking for the right passage to read from. Sanjay noticed many within the crowd shifting about nervously. The monk could have felt the tension hanging in the air even if he had not been sensitive to the spiritual energy around him. Some in the crowd – most of them suspiciously non-Nightbourne – seemed to be about ready to leap out of their seats as if at any minute the bride and groom would exchange knives in the heart instead of vows, rings, and a kiss. The minutes crawled by, and Sanjay’s increasing anxiety – a combination of the crowd around him, the memories plaguing him, and the woman clawing at his inner thigh with a sense of indecent ownership – ascended to as high a crescendo as the music had moments ago. Minutes passed to hours, or so it seemed to the monk. So many amongst the crowd awaited something to happen, and yet, as time crawled by.... nothing did. At long, long last, the bride and groom leaned in, about to kiss. Sanjay thought his heart would stop. If only it were the romance that was getting to me. And then it was over. The crowd burst into applause and strange flashes filled the hall as some contraption that seemed goblin in origin was displayed a few feet from the dais. Sanjay thought he remembered mention of “photographs” being taken as he had entered the area earlier. It was far from something he understood, however. The wedding party began filing out, the bride and groom first, followed by the ten couples, children, and officiator. They took an even longer time exiting than they had entering. Nyomi spoke in Sanjay’s ear as the din in the hall grew less and less reverently hushed. “A sterling ceremony, wouldn’t you agree? I told you when you saved me from those Legion interrogators that your valiant service would be rewarded. If this is unsatisfactory to you, I am more than happy to bring you to more such events.” The monk could feel her burning smile in his back as he shuffled out into the aisle awkwardly, flanked on all sides by tall bluish people. If I had known what sort of reward I would get for saving you, would I have still done it? he wondered to himself in sullen silence. He didn’t bother replying to her question. It was much too loud for him to want to try, and he knew he wouldn’t have a choice in the matter anyway. If she wanted him to go somewhere, all it would take was one puff of her dust. By the time the couple reached the ballroom, many guests were already filing about, talking to one another about gossip, politics, and other ceremonies they had been involved with. “The du Monticlaria wedding had a much better officiary,” one guest said off to Sanjay’s right. Another mentioned a better ballroom at another wedding entirely. Sanjay tried to drown out the voices the way he had been taught in meditation. That didn’t last long. Nyomi turned him to face her, and she drew that infernal dust to blow in his face. A short bout of coughing later, and Sanjay’s mind was altered entirely. Thoughts of his soiled past, odd marriage customs, and goblin technology faded away until all that was left in his mind’s eye was her – Nyomi. His love. “I would love to dance the night away,” she said. And it was all he wanted, as well. “Would you accompany me, my Jay?” “Anything for you, my lady."
  23. The elves gave up quickly. Much too quickly. Nagoda had his bundle wrapped carefully about a shoulder so it draped at his side like a waterskin. Only waterskins aren't this fragile...or this dangerous. The elves' weapons hit the deck just as soon as the pirates' feet did. The Sun's Wrath had been rammed and grappled before its crew could prepare the guns. Nagoda had heard the captain mumble something about the storm and visibility. Nagoda thought he understood -- the elves hadn't seen them coming, so they had the element of suprise -- but he was confused as to how they had tracked the Wrath. She hadn't bothered trying to explain that before they started swinging across to the other ship on long ropes, and clambering across on heavy oaken planks. Nagoda had chosen to take the plank rather than the rope. Captain Nakama stepped forth, having just dismounted from the Wrath's railing and released her swinging rope. She looked upon the surrendering crew, bemused. "Alright, you sorry lot," she called out to the elven crew loudly, so they could hear over the storm, "We aren't here to loot and pillage and rape! Nobody gets hurt! Well, nobody except one of your prisoners. We come for Brinnea Velmon." The elves' captain -- a rather squat and plump Sin'dorei with a long, protruding nose, sunken green eyes, and pale blonde sea-stained hair tied back in a long ponytail -- stepped forth and proudly regarded the trolless, proudly puffing out his chest with its emblazoned sun badge. "I am Captain Varmos, cur! You cannot simply pluck a Silvermoon prisoner from a high-security transport and think to get away with it!" Nakama burst out laughing, and her crew followed suit. Nagoda shifted about uncomfortably. He rubbed the haft of his borrowed harpoon and felt the bundle at his side. I'm so close, but a million things can still go wrong. The trolless captain replied loudly, "High-security? A Silvermoon prisoner? Your ship surrendered awfully easily for a high-security vessel, Pinkear. And this--" she gestured around to the stormy sea, which lapped against the two vessels, forcing their tangled embrace ever closer, "--does not look like Silvermoon to me. This is the Great Sea, captain! The only law that applies is the golden rule. The ones who have the gold make the rules, and I have stolen more gold than I could fit in two ships' holds!" Nagoda piped up impatiently, hoping his deep pipes would be enough to be heard over the storm, "Just bring the prisoner, captain. We mean you no harm. No one wants to give their life defending an enemy's life. Especially an enemy bound for execution anyway." The elf puffed up in pride again. "Any one of my men would gladly lay down their lives to defend Silvermoon's honor! You thieves would seek to strip that honor from us!" Nakama buried her face in her hand before interjecting, "This is all rather moot, captain. You and yours surrendered already! Why waste your breath on pointless posturing?" She stepped forward until her lanky figure towered over him, a head taller at least. She drew a pistol and stuck it under his chin. The elf was visibly on edge. "What do you say? Will you cut the crap and give us what we want?" Varmos exhaled nervously. "You make a compelling argument, captain. Follow me." He pulled way from the pistol slowly. Nakama never moved it, forcing him to pull himself off of it slowly, painstakingly. He about-faced stiffly, and as he stepped toward the hatch to the lower decks, Nakama smirked and gestured with her pistol for Nagoda to follow. He did so. Nakama called for Koro to watch the main deck carefully. "No funny business," she said before ducking into the open hatch, following the elf captain. Nagoda followed, ducking low to get his head and horns in. His heart beat faster with each step of his hooves. So close, and yet so many things could go wrong... Varmos led them to the cells on the second-to-last deck. Every level below the first was filled wall-to-wall with cells that seemed too cramped for even an elf to weather. Nagoda shuddered at the thought of being crammed in one and forced to endure a long journey, full of bumps and waves and booming thunder. The thought of it turned Nagoda's stomach. A few prisoners filled a cell or two here and there on each deck. Nagoda didn't quite understand why they were so oddly spaced out, but he didn't dwell on it long. At last they came to the cell he had waited for. A small human-shaped figure squatted in the corner of the cell, huddled so he couldn't see her face through her two pale hands, small knees, and short tufts of auburn-colored hair. Nagoda's rage began to bubble as he stared at her. "Open the cell," he heard himself mutter. "Open it now." The elf captain dug meticulously at each key on the ring at his belt. Nagoda was growing less patient with each key he checked. The sound of the irons clanking together grated on his ears. Nakama seemed to be growing impatient too. "Can we hurry this up? My crew is less patient that me, and they won't like me being gone from them so long." Varmos finally tried a key in the lock, and it clicked open. Nagoda reached into his bundle and pulled out the Brand. It was an orb with a red-hot brand seared into its surface, rendered in the shape of a coiled dragon. As he held it in his hand, he felt all his rage billow in the hand that the orb rested in. Nagoda's regret for how he obtained it, his reluctance to use it, and even his seasickness drained from him at the feeling of all that rage, centered right in the palm of his hand. He held it so the Brand itself pointed at Brinnea. Nakama dragged Varmos away. "Trust me," she said, "You don't want to be near that thing when it goes off." Nagoda thought he smelled a hint of fear in the air, but he put that aside. "Brinnea Velmon," Nagoda said to the woman in the cell. "Show me your face, and I'll make your end quick." She stirred, her short-cropped hair shaking as she lifted her head. Her two brown eyes looked like doe's eyes. Like human's eyes...not a death knight's. The rage began to fade. "You're not..." She drew a pistol and fired at Nakama. The trolless reacted quickly, but not fast enough. The shot pierced her through the groin, sloppily shot too early after drawing, Nagoda could tell. Nakama's shot was expertly placed, and Nagoda saw a hole appear in the false prisoner's head -- just between the eyes -- before she fell over, limp and dead. "SON OF A BITCH!" the trolless shouted, clutching her groin as blood oozed through her fingers. "YOU FUCKING SON OF A BITCH!" This time, her swears were directed at the elf captain, he still stood still and weaponless. He held his hands up in surrender, but Nagoda saw his face alight with glee. "YOU EXPECTED US! YOU SET US UP!" "Of course," he said smugly, "And you had fair warning. The White Hawk told your tauren friend this was a bad idea. Velmon is too important to allow some vigilante to claim her life on the high seas. Who would believe her truly dead? Her ghost would haunt the Horde forever, literal or metaphorical." The trolless glared at Nagoda, but she clearly intended to address him later. "Are more coming?" she asked with great pain. "Do they know where we are?" "Of course. This ship can be tracked by any Silvermoon mage. The Hawks will be upon you soon. They may already be surrounding you." Varmos grinned from ear-to-ear. "There won't be any escape for you, captain." She drew her sword and buried it to the hilt in his heart. "DIE! DIE FOR YOUR PRECIOUS SILVERMOON! YOUR CREW WILL ALL DIE FOR YOUR FUCKING PRIDE!" The elf slumped over, dying fast. Nagoda could only watch in horror. This was all his fault. All of it had gone wrong because he was too stubborn not to fall for the trap. Varmos uttered one last thing before he expired. "They will die...for Silvermoon...happily. I said...so." Blood gushed from his chest and mouth when Nakama yanked her thin blade out of him. She closed in on Nagoda next, raising the bloodstained blade to his throat. "You knew this would be a trap and you didn't tell me!?" She screamed at him. She wasn't interested in hearing his reply, however. She stormed her way back upstairs as the sound of battle filtered in between the plank ceiling. Nagoda stood there for a moment, dumbstruck. Then the deck shifted suddenly below his hooves and the floor rose to meet him. After that, everything suddenly grew hot and bright. He couldn't hear anything but a high-pitched whine, nor see anything but white light for a steady minute. He could feel his left hand pulsing with a burning power before he passed out. He remembered reading somewhere about the dangers of the Brand, of using it for too long. Then all he could think about was his father, staring at him from beyond the grave. *** Brinnea passed through the portal and stepped into a dimly lit cavern filled with the sounds of clinking picks, shovels buried in dirt, and rocks cracking and falling. Brinnea had seen many rock formations in her time serving as a miner for the Scourge, but these formations that surrounded her seemed unfamiliar at first. Her thoughts drifted a moment to her time with the Scourge, to all their tests and trials. They had tried everything to turn her into a force of death. Grol did, at least. The rest were ready to throw me in a soul forge for spare material. The serious guard turned back to her and unlatched her wrist and ankle restraints. Brinnea could tell her runes would not work here. She figured that would be the case, since the guards who escorted her were the Sin'dorei mage-breakers she had encountered in the campaign on The Isle of Thunder years ago. The Sunreaver mages dressed fairly similarly to the common Silvermoon authority mages, she recalled as well. If mage-breakers were those who escorted her, it was clear they did not intend to take her to an unwarded prison. Between that, and the rock formations she was starting to narrow down based on locations she'd investigated in her travels, she had a decent idea where they had taken her. "An orcish prison. My guess would be Azshara, since mining operations are booming there," she guessed aloud, not really expecting the guards to engage her. She was surprised when the serious guard replied, "Good guess. Welcome to the Azshara Crater. This will be your home until the day of your execution. The warden will have you briefed on the rules here, but there aren't many. No one has escaped from this prison as of yet. It is warded better than the Silvermoon cells, impressively enough, from both inside and outside attempts at magical transportation or any other form of spellcasting. The walls of the mine are thick enough down here to keep you lot digging for a hundred years before you made an escape route. The guards routinely check progress, collect mined ore, and remove any corpses. Occasionally they settle disputes and behaviorally challenged prisoners, but I've heard most shifts don't care enough about your lives to bother much." Brinnea took a look around her "new home." She stood above what seemed to be the primary tunnel nexus -- branches of tunnels stretched out in every direction, including directly below the platform she stood on. She saw prisoners of every variety, build, gender, and every race she could think of. A hozen pushed a chunk of ore across to a pile across from her. A yaungol carried several pickaxes down a tunnel before disappearing in the dark. Three identical earthen dwarves played rock-paper-scissors over a pair of shovels -- one fairly new, and the other partially broken. Brin assumed the loser would dig with their hands. She noticed all of their hands were worn and weathered, and they all looked incredibly dirty, tired, and wore tattered rags. She wondered at something, and thought to ask the guards before they left her there. "What keeps them working? They could just stop, and no one would know." The serious guard answered again, before the stupid one could say something fitting to Brin's new name for him. "A quota is kept, incentives are placed. Clothes and medicine, extra rations. If the quota isn't met, everyone is punished. Usually, the punishment is less severe if the slackers are put ousted by their fellow inmates." Brinnea sighed. Sounds just like home, she thought bitterly. The stupid guard pushed her towards the edge of the platform, which she realized had no railing. The fall was far and the rocky wall was steep. The stupid one cackled at her and said, "You only have to fall once, unless you try climbing back up." Brinnea glared at him. "I'll get out of here. You had better hope I don't remember you, elf." The stupid one slashed her across the face with one of his weapon's blades and she fell backwards, tumbling head-over-heels into the cavern below. She lay still a while, staring up at the platform and the ceiling, feeling black blood dribble down the side of her face. That makes three facial scars. I keep this up, and Charlotte won't even recognize me anymore. She looked around as she brought herself to her feet. The other prisoners didn't seem amused or interested in her or her spectacular fall. A tauren or two eyed her angrily. That was to be expected. An orc passed by, and put a pickaxe in her hands. "Freshy, here's a gift," he said with a slobbering smile. He licked his lips too many times for her liking. "No gift is free, Freshy! I own you now! Hehehe!" She smacked him across the face with the pickaxe. He crumpled over on the ground and babbled madly as blood gushed from his cut-open nose. "Consider us even." She stepped over him to find a good hunk of rock to hack away at. She had some rage to get out of her system.
  24. The guards came for Brinnea as the sun started to pour into the small window of her cell. She stood without complaint or delay, and the process repeated. Enchanted irons on her wrists and ankles, then a slow waddle through the twisted labyrinth of a dungeon. Her left hand itched terribly. She eyed the black-toned corruption in her skin angrily, memories of the witch flooding back to her like waves of hot sand, ripping at her skin. “Don’t bother trying to break the cuffs, Death Knight,” one of the guards said with a snort. He batted her on the back of the head with the flat of one of his weapon’s two blades. Her anger flared again, but she forced it down with a will of ice and steel. I was scratching an itch, fool. I know better than to try and escape. "Elven metal is better than whatever shit they clapped you in at Thunder Bluff. Those tauren and their big, clumsy fingers -- it's no wonder they let you run free for so long." Brinnea ignored the elf as he prattled on patriotically about how superior Silvermoon was. She had her mind on other things. The guard in front of her made a left turn, which cut the guard behind her off in the middle of a sentence. "Isn't the way to the docks the other way," he asked his comrade with a confused tone. Brinnea's wayward thoughts straightened. This is intriguing. One guard knows where we're going, and one doesn't. "Fool," the guard in front said sternly, "Orders came in this morning. A change of travel plans. You would know that, if you bothered to listen to the Captain longer than one sentence." Brinnea felt a twinge of disappointment. What was I hoping for? Someone to break me out? I'm a bigger fool than the oaf behind me. The oaf behind her made a sound of pompous annoyance and replied, "Who sent the orders? The Captain was set on the boats yesterday." "The Captain is no longer in charge of her transport," the guard in front said coldly. Too coldly. He's on edge about...something. Sure enough, he told her what that something was. "The White Hawk is." *** Nagoda felt nervous every time he got on board a ship. And today, the sea shook harder than any other time he had been on the deck. Once before was all, and once was more than enough for me, he thought to himself. He had taken ship at Ratchet to come to Silvermoon, and had only disembarked a week ago. He praised his ancestors when he finally set hoof to ground again. The unstable footing on the deck of a ship set poorly with his stomach, and every peel of thunder sent a shiver up his hide. "Enjoying the weather, Plainswalker?" the captain shouted over the din of the storm. Despite the slimness of her trolless' frame, her voice burst as loud as a boom of thunder and with all the sharpness of a whip crack. "The sea puts me ill at ease," he replied queasily. The woman bellowed a laugh in response. Nagoda bristled proudly. "We tauren were not made to walk a ship's deck and sail the sea. Our hooves are made for running the plains." Nakama hooted. "Koro! This here Plains-Boy says tauren can't sail!" Nagoda rolled his eyes in annoyance, but they grew wide when he saw this 'Koro' the captain called to. He's the largest tauren I've ever seen. He must be greater than Old Cairne in his prime! Koro clopped forward, his hooves falling louder than the storm. Louder than the captain's booming laughter. "Old Koro here's been sailing since he was three years old, Grassyfur," Nakama said with a toothy grin. Nagoda looked up at Koro with unease. The old tauren was grey of fur and scarred all across his face from what Nagoda could only guess was half a dozen different weapons. The big greyhorn glared at him silently. "I--I didn't mean to offend you, elder. Forgive me," Nagoda bowed his head. He supposed it was respectful, but mostly he wanted to look away from that scarred, grey face. Koro said nothing. "He doesn't talk much since he got his tongue cut out," the captain said. She took a long swig from her canteen. Nagoda smelled rum in the salty air. "Why did someone take his tongue?" Nagoda asked, though he regretted it as soon as his grey eyes met his. The captain put the stopper back in her canteen. "I couldn't tell you, he wasn't very forthcoming with--" "SHIP HO! BOW 'N' STARBOARD!" a voice cried out from the crow's nest high above. It reminded Nagoda of a hunter's call from a high peak, sounding out the time for the chase to begin. Nagoda girded himself, hoping the seasickness would fade in the face of his rage. Rage makes you blind, Father said. But Father was dead. And so is she. Soon enough. "STEP LIVELY, BILGE RATS!" the captain roared over the storm, "SUN'S WRATH IS JUST AHEAD! LET'S MAKE LIKE THE STORM AND BRING THE SUN TO HEEL!" A cheer took up in the Tusked Storm's crew. Nagoda joined in, wanting to subdue his sick feeling with anything he could. And the captain's voice filled his heart with courage somehow. The Storm came up on the Sun ram-first. And then the battle began. *** Koro
  25. Nagoda Goldfield clutched the bundle close to his chest, nervously eyeing the brightly painted golems that patrolled the streets of Silvermoon. Anything that could tower over a tauren's height was worth watching with care, and Nagoda had never seen anything near the scale of the elves' city. The artificial color -- bright autumnal reds, yellows, and oranges -- hurt his eyes which had grown accustomed to the verdant plains of Mulgore after years of settling the region. The tauren looked over the note and map he had been sent. The inn he was looking for -- aptly named The Silvermoon City Inn -- had an entrance placed in a region of the city called 'Murder Row.' It did not help Nagoda's nerves much. He decided to take the route through the Royal Exchange instead. It took him longer, and he had to watch those green eyes gaze at him curiously all the way there, but he was happy to avoid any place known for the amount of people found dead in the gutters. The inn itself was dimly lit -- only a bit brighter than the caves of Thunder Bluff or the Red Rocks of Mulgore -- which Nagoda was thankful for. He would have said a quiet prayer of thanks, but his thoughts were cut off by the innkeeper's sudden appearance before him. The man's voice -- Nagoda thought it was a man, anyway -- was highly pitched and tinged with a self-assured tone that put the tauren off. "Welcome to the City Inn, welcome patron," he said with a seemingly friendly smile, "May I treat you to a fine Quel'thalas vintage? Or perhaps a reminder of home? We have some Mulgore firewater in the cellar. We also have rooms and hot meals; so long as you have coin, the City Inn has what you need." Nagoda frowned at the short, stiff-eared man. He found the other races of the Horde were rather forward with social graces. A tavern in Thunder Bluff was a quiet place where one could sit a while and think by a warm fire, but this elven tavern was cold and the innkeeper and his attendants often stood by the guests to offer something – anything to glean more coin from their coffers. Nagoda noticed most elves barely offered the servers a glance when accepting what was offered. That was strange to Nagoda too. But his interests were set on one particular occupant – a trolless sitting by her lonesome at a table with two chairs. One was conveniently tauren-sized. “Humble thanks, innkeep,” Nagoda said gruffly. Despite his nerves, he prided himself on always maintaining a strong presence, at least in the company of the smaller races. “I am here to see someone.” Without waiting for the man to try selling him something else, Nagoda stepped passed him and joined the trolless at her table. He placed the bundle carefully on his lap. He forced himself not to look around to see if anyone was watching. “You took your time, Plainswalker.” She was carving a wooden figurine with a knife. Her fingers as deft as any tauren woodworker’s Nagoda had ever seen. “I was starting to wonder if you were truly dedicated to the cause.” Nagoda bristled and snorted despite his usually calm demeanor. “No one wants her dead more than I. Any who say otherwise can duel me for the honor in the traditional way.” The trolless clicked her tongue warningly. “Mind that big tongue of yours, Nagoda,” she said while sliding the sharp knife along the rough surface of her figurine, “It could get you into some trouble if you let it wag just so. Remember that she is currently out of our reach.” Nagoda huffed. His neck hairs were lowering as he regained his composure. “Not for much longer. Is your crew ready? I am anxious that they may move her early. There were many ships arriving today when I stepped off the boat. Some had a…military look about them.” It was the trolless’ turn to snort this time. Her odd hooked nose vibrated as Nagoda watched. The furless folk never ceased to befuddle him. She spoke, eyes still fixed on her woodworking, “You wouldn’t know a real military vessel from a fishing boat, Grasshoof. Had you ever even seen sand before you came into my camp? I could smell the grass on you the minute you walked into my hut!” Nagoda felt the bundle on his lap, as if afraid it might wander off while they talked. A server came by with a tray of various drinks. Nagoda noticed a troll-style wooden cup and a tauren clay mug as well as the blood elf glass. Nagoda’s large nose twitched at the strong alcohol smell. He took a mug of troll palm wine and placed a pair of Orgrimmar silvers in the elf’s hand. He made an effort not look the server in the eye as he did so. Perhaps that will satisfy them that I am just another customer, he thought bitterly as he took a sip of the sour wine. He tried to hide his distaste from the close watch of the trolless. She had taken the firewater mug, to match his show of respect. At least she has a sense of other cultures. “I saw more than my fair share of human ships when they invaded the Barrens,” Nagoda replied after the sour taste started to fade. “I’ll never forget the look of those ships coming in from the horizon. They looked like birds of prey, gliding across the choppy sea. It takes a lot to make a tauren feel like a mouse.” The trolless took a long drink of the firewater. Nagoda half expected her to cough at the amount she drank, but was left half disappointed. She’s more accustomed to other cultures than I am, that’s for certain. “Colorful metaphors aside,” she said, “The vessel we want is called Sun’s Wrath. An appropriate name, wouldn’t you think?” Nagoda took another sip of the palm wine and swished the sour liquid around his mouth thoughtfully. It’s starting to grow on me. “Father would have thought so. I’m having a hard time understanding An’she’s justice lately. His wrath seems to be cast on those who devote themselves to his radiance and the unholy ones who smite the faithful are allowed to escape untouched.” The trolless shrugged. “This unholy one won’t be getting anywhere,” she said offhandedly, “I don’t suppose you saw the Sun’s Wrath in port today?” Nagoda shook his head. “Then stop worrying so much. I’ve done this dozens of times, and never been caught. You see me sweating through my skin? No, so shut your yap and enjoy your drink. And stop fawning over that stupid thing like it’s some goblin explosive.” Nagoda bristled again. “You’re the one who needs to watch your tongue, fool pirate!” he exclaimed through bared teeth. The trolless snorted. “I only said that to watch your hair stand up. I think it’s cute.” Nagoda made a conscious effort to keep his hair from standing on end. The trolless waved a hand dismissively. “These elves don’t recognize anything outside of their tables when they’re in here, Plainswalker. I frequent this place every time I pull into port. You know how many times I’ve been called a pirate in here? They don’t care. And they would hardly notice if you were carrying a bomb, so stop looking like your about to shed the innkeeper a new carpet.” Nagoda stood suddenly, leaving his drink half-finished. He held the bundle against his chest despite the trolless’ words. “Nakama, remind me why I chose you for this job again.” “Because of my reliability, reputation, and discreetness,” she answered simply. “Some sense of discreetness would set my mind at ease and make this whole business easier for all of us.” The trolless inspected her carving critically, looking for any flaw left over from her broader strokes. “Just ease your mind on it, my furry friend. My crew’s watching the port between rounds at Saltheril’s Haven. With enough shifts, the port’s under constant watch. We’ll let you know the moment the target is moved.” Nagoda took a breath of relief. “Good. I’ll be making a camp of my own between Fairbreeze and the Anchorage. At least the nature around here feels enough like home. Your crew will find me, or I’ll find them.” He turned to leave, only to halt as the innkeeper stood before him. Nagoda frowned again. “Thank you for the drink, friend, but I am very busy and must be going…” “There was a message for you, my good man. Didn’t see the courier’s face. She was in a hurry too.” The innkeeper slid an envelope in the tauren’s hand and flashed him an off-putting smile. Nagoda looked at the seal – an albino hawk. It didn’t mean anything to him, but the innkeeper’s reaction made it seem important. He pulled it open and withdrew the letter within. He was vaguely aware of the trolless leaving out the exit behind him as he read. You are making a mistake, sun of the Lightwalker. Justice’s grip tightens around Brinnea Velmon, and your sense of vengeance puts it all at risk. You believe yourself to be justified in your actions, and perhaps you are. But your actions will only deter justice from being carried out. Enough blood has been shed on the death knight’s account. Don’t make the same mistake as your father. We will be watching. -The White Hawk Nagoda crumpled up the letter and stuffed it in his belt angrily. He stormed out, ignoring the smug look on the innkeeper’s face. Whoever this Hawk is will not stand in my way, he thought to himself as he clomped his way through Silvermoon, uncaring if the golems saw his bundle. They had already seen enough, evidently. Justice died with my father. The Light failed to exact it when it had the chance. And there have been enough second chances where Brinnea Velmon is concerned! *** Captain Nakama Nagoda Goldfield