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Everything posted by RiktheRed21

  1. Kimba looked about with disgust at the village’s ruin. Night elven corpses lay sprawled in grisly pieces, often with fingers clawing at their throats desperately. Wisps wept softly as they glided by wistfully, drawn towards the same direction as if caught by a rogue wind. The braves around him were as disquieted as he was, for the most part. Some reveled in the easy victory, those Kimba knew for cravens and old men praying to go home to see their families before they passed. The young were largely shocked and reviled. “Alright, Braves,” he said, “This is our camp for the night. Take whatever you want but leave the dead. They belong to the forest.” The warriors spread about, walking around the bodies uneasily. Kimba set his sights on the largest building, a hollow tree with purple designs depicting some ancient hunt, and across it the same pattern repeated: an eye with a mountain for a pupil. A young bull followed behind Kimba like a faithful hound. Isi hid his uneasy better than the others, and that wasn’t the only thing he concealed. Kimba had known him long enough for the boy to confide in him his secret; the boy was a girl. Isi’s body was broad and strong enough to pass for a man’s, and Kimba liked her well enough, so he agreed to consider her a bull and never speak otherwise to the Braves. For that, Isi followed him around and did everything he asked and was generally an amiable student of war. “Do you know anything about this place, boss?” Isi asked, his voice sturdy to further hide his nervousness. “Aye, I’ve ranged this far a few times,” Kimba replied, “This is the manor of the village elders, the Fargazes. They are a druid clan that speak to the spirits of the woods on the behalf of the people. There is quite a story regarding them, if you’re keen to learn.” “C’mon, boss, you know how much I love your stories.” The pair clopped down into the hollow tree, following the winding passage down and down and down into the deep earth. The wind felt still down here, as though time stood still. “What the hell, telling the tale in the elves’ own hole seems only fitting. The Fargaze clan first gained favor among Kaldorei during the War of the Ancients. They were a fierce hunter clan before they took up the way of the Dream, so they made for good captains in the war. They could hunt down Highborne mages like no other, and the star of the Fargaze clan was called Shanoris. “Shanoris was the eldest daughter of the clan’s patriarch, and the greatest hunter. She had a passion for slaying mages and was a true artist with a glaive. Indeed, she was so good at killing that it became her downfall. For with the war turning sour, Illidan’s draconian tactics appealed to the kill-hungry Shanoris. Though she would not become a demon hunter for some time later, she quickly fell out of favor with the Kaldorei for her love of Illidan, which continued after his dishonoring at the war’s conclusion.” The passageway opened wide to a huge entryway, larger than the chieftain’s tent in Thunder Bluff. Kimba continued his tale, reveling in the echo of his strong voice along the wide walls, “Shanoris’ father Idaro swore his life to uphold the balance of nature, and in his oath, he swore to uphold family beyond all else. So when his daughter was denounced and threatened with exile, Idaro did all he could to turn his daughter away from her dark path. “But Shanoris was not easily swayed, not even by her own blood. She fled home and found a master of the demon hunting arts. She cut out her eyes and drank in the power of demons and learned to hunt them wherever they appeared. When she returned home to display her power to her younger sister Kyrande, Shanoris was disappointed to find her family had disowned her as well. “Before too long, even her beloved sister betrayed her. In one of their secret meetings, Kyrande betrayed Shanoris to the Wardens. The fierce huntress was brought to heel and with her last word against her family, she cursed them. Idaro would never have another child to replace his betrayed daughter. Though she had turned aside Elune’s grace, the spirits of the woods heard her, and the curse was sealed. “The demon hunter wasted away in the dark cells for thousands of years, but one day she was awakened. To the Black Temple she and the other Illdari flew, and before long a new prison was made for them. Shorter years went by before she awakened again, amidst blood and fire. Once again, she took up the glaives and flew to battle. It is said that in the Broken Isles, she found her sister in mortal peril, and a nephew as well. Kyrande, the sister, was lost, but the nephew was saved. When the war ended, Shanoris brought the boy home, to these very halls. The story says Idaro at last forgave Shanoris. And the curse? Perhaps it was broken, but perhaps not. Only time will tell.” Isi’s bright eyes were lit up with fascination and fixed on Kimba as he concluded the tale. “Where is the demon hunter now?” she asked. Kimba shrugged. “I couldn’t say. I heard that story from a night elf who lived here. She was brought to me a couple nights back by the scouts. I asked her again and again, ‘Where is the huntress?’ but she refused to betray any member of the elder family.” A quiet moan echoed through the halls. In the dead silence of the halls, it seemed more like a booming crash. Kimba drew his spear and Isi her axe and shield. They clopped towards the sound slowly. Isi whispered, “Could that be her?” “If it were a demon hunter,” Kimba whispered back, “We would already be dead.” They followed the sound into a small room no larger than a broom cupboard and discovered a naked night elf girl huddled in some straw. Isi gaped at the girl, evidently unsure what to do with her. Kimba put up his spear and removed his fur cloak to drape it over the groggy girl’s hairless body. “What is your name, elf?” he said in Darnassian. Having raided the night elves for so long, he had picked it up at a conversational level from questioning prisoners. “D-dad?” the girl asked groggily. “Hah! No. I don’t think so,” Kimba replied. Isi looked at his confusedly. “What did she say?” “She mistook me for her father.” “Well, you have a certain…fatherly way about you.” If only that were true, he thought to himself bitterly. He took the girl up in his strong arms and carried her out into the light. She had no facial tattoos, which could mark her as a child, but Kimba understood little of the Kaldorei’s culture. Her forest-green hair was tied up in a long braid decorated with folded leaves of autumn colors. Her silvery eyes blinked open and she smiled at Kimba. “Hello there,” she said groggily…in Taurahe. Kimba smirked. “You speak my tongue? Maybe you’re not as young as you look.” The elf giggled. “Looks can be deceiving. Where am I?” Isi spoke up, “You’re in Fargaze Village, the elders’ manor. You don’t remember anything?” The girl frowned and seemed to be straining. “No, I guess I forgot again. Oh well! You two seem nice. Can I have some clothes? People tend to look at me funny when I go around naked.” “I’ll bet,” Kimba said with a chuckle. Having gotten a good look at her earlier, he had felt some stirrings down below. He tried to set them aside, at least until he could figure out how old she was. “Do you remember your name, at least?” “It’s Lyra. Lyra…oh—” she chewed at her braid thoughtfully. “Nope! I guess I don’t remember my last name either.” Isi blinked at the girl, baffled. Kimba merely laughed. “I like you, Lyra. You may not know much, but you know how to stay positive! I’ll find a place for you to stay while we sort out the clothes situation.” “Much obliged! What are your names, if you don’t mind me asking?” “Name’s Kimba, and I’m from the Goldfield in Mulgore. That’s Isi from Taurajo.” Isi gave the elf a shy wave. Seems I’m not the only one falling victim to this one’s charms. Once they had Lyra comfortable in what was clearly the elder’s own bedroom, Kimba pulled the door curtain to and stalked out of earshot with Isi. Kimba said, “The girl doesn’t seem to know about the massacre, so she’s either playing dumb to spy on us, or she’s likely to go mad when she sees the carnage outside.” Isi nodded, scratching his lightly furred chin. “Are you planning on bringing her with us?” “It would be safer. If she is a spy, we don’t want her running free. If she’s as docile as she seems, then she’ll be in danger the moment she steps out into the forest alone.” “Ah, boss, you really do have a heart.” Kimba snorted. “Actually yes, I do. You need a heart to pump blood, and blood to get hard.” “Uck! That’s vile. You should feel ashamed of yourself.” “Think that girl’s old enough for me?” “Really, boss? I swear, you think like a little boy.” Isi tried to act high and mighty, but Kimba could see his façade crumbling. “So you say. I know what you’re really thinking.” “What? But I—Well, do you think I have a chance?” Isi had all the innocence of a young boy and girl rolled into one. Kimba patted him on the shoulder. “She seems friendly enough. Just don’t mention that we slaughtered hundreds or thousands of her people in the last few days and I’m sure she’ll warm up to you.”
  2. The day was misty and bloody before the sun had peeked over the horizon. The old man sat with legs crossed, surrounded by corpses shorn into pieces. The man thought the cuts masterful and saw an odd sense of beauty in the desolation. Even so, he cursed himself for being sloppy. Old age makes clumsy fools of every orc, he thought bitterly as he daubed the small cut on his neck with a finger shortened years ago by some human’s sword. The cut itself was small, but a few inches in one direction and the old orc would have ended his winter days at the hands of some weakling hiding behind his friends. That was no way for a Blademaster to die. But you aren’t a master anymore, old fool. No orc can claim that with his sword taken from him. Grumbling and stiff from his restful sit, the old man got up and sheathed his blade. He had found it in the possession of a particularly large ogre, but it must have been made for a Forsaken smith. The old man could recognize the craftsmanship of any piece of shaped metal at a glance. He had named it Old Bones since he had felt stiff that day. Of course, he felt stiff every day now. Travelling around all the time had become monstrously dull and tiring, but he had little else to do with the Horde settling to restfulness. The Legion had not brought his glorious death, so he had left his home in search for the one who would at last best him. And all I’ve found is craven humans and half-witted ogres. Arathi was once home to some of the greatest human warriors. Humans had been his most bitter rivals in his youth, and so it seemed fitting to meet his end here, in the land where he’d bloodied his blade to many times. The old man walked stiffly over the bodies and out into the misty sunlight. A fine mist like this made him wish he still had tobacco for his pipe. The thought of it made his lungs itch, and he coughed harshly until spittle dotted the grass at his feet, mimicking the morning dew. Hoofbeats in the distance caught his attention. His hand flew to his sword, driven by a lifetime of instinct. Is it more of these cowardly mercenaries? he wondered. He walked toward the sound, prepared to see the beast and its rider fly through the fog. Instead, he heard the animal come to a halt and its rider dismount. No, riders. There’s two of them, both female. One sounds like little more than a child, the other… He smiled broadly, licking the gaps where many of his teeth had fallen out, some from blows landed and others from his age. He had spotted them as the mist parted: the girl and the knight. She was a knight of death, human, and in the prime of her youth. She looked strong and proud in her dark blue plate and cloak, and the sheathe on her belt was greatly warn from the drawing of the sword. All the signs of a great warrior were present, and when she spotted him, the sword came to hand in a flash. He drew his Old Bones. “Finally,” he said in the human tongue, “I have found a worthy challenge in these drab hills. Show me your art, death knight!” “Turn around and go back the way you came. There is only death here.” The knight spoke coldly, her voice like icy needles scratching at the ears. She held her sword in a practiced stance, while the smaller girl hid behind the death knight’s charger. “I welcome it,” the old man replied, “I have been too long in this world, and I must not keep my ancestors waiting.” “Very well. You were warned, old one.” She advanced, her footwork impeccable. The old man’s heart soared as their blade met. It seemed as though their strikes blew back the mists with a great blast of power. He roared, cutting at her blindingly fast from above, below, and either side. She parried and even countered, matching blow for blow. Her sword lunged at his eye like a snake. He ducked to the side and crashed into her with his bare shoulder, smashing her to the ground. She rolled out of range as his blade came down, and her sword flew at his head once again. It parted the mist like paper, but he avoided it expertly. They met again with invisible blades, only breaking off when the woman forced him back, landing a small cut across his abdomen. He was laughing now. He felt as if the fire of youth had returned to him, his old muscles and bones turning back time by years and years. He leapt at her, and she yielded ground. He was much larger than her, and his blows came with more ferocity and through a heavier blade, but her sword moved like a swarm of insects. Trying to catch her off-guard was like trying to cut each insect in the swarm one by one. Eventually, he overwhelmed her defenses. He managed to catch her just before she shifted her stance fully; she took the full force of his strike on her blade rather than deflecting it cleanly. The sword flew from her grasp, but she was far from finished. Before he could even begin a follow-up, she danced around him, and elbowed his kidney. He fell to one knee with a grunt, and her blade was in her hands again. He began to stand, but his knee popped and stiffened beneath him. He was stuck! No! Done in by bad knees? That cannot be the way I die! He was a barely worth more than a clump of rocks before her skill now. She moved within his defenses instantly, and without any leverage, he could do nothing to stop her from disarming him. “Over so soon,” he lamented, “Such a shame.” She lay her blade by his neck, but did not cut. The steel was cold as the snows of Northrend, and sent a shiver down the old man’s old spine. “You can still leave with your life,” the knight said, showing no signs of exertion. “That would be anticlimactic, wouldn’t it?” the old man replied. “What’s the use of going on, anyway? My body has lost the fire it once did. Better to make a clean end to it.” “How short-sighted of you. With your knowledge, you could do much more for your people than you ever did with a sword in your hand.” “What do you know of it, death knight? You are no orc.” He eyed the girl hiding behind the horse. Such youthful innocence. She was an example of the human’s failure. Always blooded too late to understand the truth behind bloodshed. “I’m no orc, but I’m not stranger to sword work,” the knight said. “I never wanted a sword. I wanted a home. You should use what you have left, not try to hold on to what you used to have.” “If you will not kill me, then at least give me your name, death knight. I have the names of every warrior who has ever bested me etched in my memory.” She paused for a long moment before stepping back and sheathing her sword. “Brinnea Velmon,” she said. Her hand went behind her back. The old man chuckled. “My name is Gorath. It is an honor.” His knee popped back into place, and he leapt forward, his hand on her throat… …and the knife she had hidden was pressed against his. They both paused in place. “That’s twice I’ve spared you, Gorath. There won’t be a third time.” He released her throat and backed away. “You think it is mercy you have shown to me, Brinnea Velmon? I am cursed to wander until I meet the one who is to claim my life. Every day my body grows older and I approach a dishonorable death. You could have given me what I sought today. I’ll remember your name so I may curse you from the ancestral plain.” She smirked, putting away her knife. “You won’t be alone in that.” The two warriors backed away from one another, mutual respect held in their eyes. Then the little girl stepped forward and mucked it all up. “Wait!” she cried, “You could…come with us, if you’d like.” Gorath eyed her curiously. “Why would I do that?” “Jessaya,” Brinnea Velmon said warningly, “Don’t get involved.” “He could help you with…whatever it is you need to do!” Gorath laughed. “Just because we have not killed one another this day does not make us friends, fool child.” “He’s right, Jessaya. Just leave him be.” The girl looked between the two, determined. “Why do you have to fight? What’s the point? You two are amazingly talented! You could accomplish so much if you just worked together!” “It is not our way,” Gorath said plainly. “Humans and orcs can never be any more than enemies.” “Once I thought the same way as you, Jess, but what the old man says is true. Some people just don’t want peace.” Gorath sensed she wasn’t telling the truth, only what he wanted to hear. But he was too busy listening to the hoofbeats grow closer to point it out. “That sounds like quite a few,” he remarked as the two women realized they were surrounded. The human riders bore spears and swords and axes, and some even carried clubs or huge ogre hammers slung over their shoulders. Gorath took up his sword and smiled at the new arrivals. “Fancy that, boys. We found three dead folks in one spot,” one of the riders said. He wore a helm styled with a tauren’s horns and blackened plate armor that gave him the look of a knight who’d ridden through fire. The death knight scowled at the riders, her blade raised defensively. She kept the girl behind her, but it would do little good. Even if the two of them were to mount, they would never break through the circle of riders. Even so, she barked back defiantly, “We have no quarrel with you unless you mean us harm. Leave now, if you value your lives.” “We rode a long way after your trail, Brinnea Velmon. At first, I thought to overlook your insults to my boys back at Dun Modr. After all, we got what we wanted from ol’ Sio eventually.” The bandits snickered all around them, and the horned knight had a wicked look on his face. “But when I found this—” the man drew a scroll of parchment and unfurled it. A wanted poster, Gorath could tell, with Brinnea Velmon’s face drawn on. “—I just couldn’t resist. Ten thousand gold could buy me and my boys all the whores we could ever fuck in one lifetime.” The death knight stood her ground, unflinching. Her face was like a cracked mask with that scowl stuck in place. “Last warning,” she growled. “And look at what else we’ve caught, boys,” the knight said, ignoring Brinnea’s warning, “Our delayed scouts, all cut apart. At a guess, I would say that wasn’t the death knight’s handiwork, but that of our green guest here. Do you speak Common, savage?” The old orc grunted back in Orcish, “Better than you, pig fucker.” “Ah, apologies. I suppose you’ll just have to die ignorant. No prisoners today, Bruisers!” The rider whooped and kicked their horses to a trot. The circle closed in around them, spear points aimed at their heads. One of the riders reached to grab the deathcharger’s reins only for the beast to bite half his hand off. The man screamed, and his mount reared fearfully as blood dribbled on its mane, throwing him from the saddle. Gorath charged the gap, knocking spearpoints aside with all his strength. The death knight shouted for the girl to mount up, the old man overheard. His senses always seemed stronger in combat, as though nothing could escape his notice. He ducked out of the riders’ circle and struck the rear leg off a horse. The beast tumbled over, crushing the leg of his rider. More horsemen were turning to face Gorath now, but without their flanking advantage, they were nothing to him but fodder for the blade. The two women galloped past as he cut down human and horse again and again. The death knight gave him an uncertain look, and he heard the girl protesting loudly, but the horse charged out into the mist unceasing. The tauren-horned knight lined up with two pairs of his Bruisers. He held a long-hilted hammer in one hand and a shield in the other. He glared at the orc bitterly. Gorath grinned, flashing his gap-toothed smile. “Had your fill, or are you eager for death, human?” he called out in Orcish. “What do we do, boss?” one of the Bruisers asked timidly. The knight snorted much like the tauren he masqueraded as. “We retreat for now. They can’t escape us once we let the dogs on them. And next time we meet, we bring arrows.” With that, they turned and galloped off into the grey. Gorath followed the deathcharger’s tracks as the mist began to fade. He cleaned his blade with a large swatch of cloth as he walked, occasionally taking a swig from his wineskin or munching on horsemeat he’d carved from one of the fallen beasts. The sun was falling on the horizon when he found the end of the trail. The death charger had fallen into a pit lined with spikes, but its riders were nowhere to be seen. Bloody tracks led off one way, but soft footfalls trailed the other. Seems the girl made it away from the trap safely, but not the death knight. Whoever made this has her now. The thought that his equal in combat had been taken by such treacherous means irked him. He set Old Bones on his shoulder and started off on the bloody trail. I suppose I’ve got the energy for one more fight today.
  3. When Vilmah had been tasked with brokering peace between two centaur clans out in the dead waste of Desolace, the last thing she expected was for the meetings to take place at the base of a massive waterfall. Instead of grey, dingy dust and dry bones littering the ground, she was welcomed by a gentle glow of greenery and the cries of living beasts. That sound was comforting, but she had to listen hard for it over the ever-present clangor of the huge fall. The place wasn’t clear of the presence of death, however. The stink of it lingered wherever the clansmen tread. This place was a haven for them, like Shattrath or Dalaran was for the Alliance and Horde. And just like those grand cities, this place was rife with dirty looks and murderous intent. And then, of course, there was the actual dead man accompanying Vilmah. He followed her like a cold shadow, closed-lipped and soft-footed. It was disquieting, but she’d rather have someone to accompany her to this land of hostility, even if it had to be someone like Georgio. “Don’t see something like that every day,” Vilmah said wistfully. “Not usually.” Georgio spoke little, and so softly it came as a whisper. Vilmah scratched one of the scars on her neck. “Where are you from, again, Georgio?” “Brill, after the turn. Before, the city.” “The city…you mean the capital city?” “Yes. I preferred it as it once was, not so as it is now.” “I see.” She could understand that. From all Vilmah had heard of the Second War from its survivors, the capital of Lordaeron had been like a fearsome beast no hunter could bring down. The Horde had come close, only to be broken against its dreaded walls and scattered across the northern kingdoms like blades of grass before a gardener’s scythe. It had been a city to be proud of. And then Arthas. Her thoughts always seemed to lead back to death eventually. Even in this peaceful place, there was no peace from death. Beyond all else, she felt tired. “I think I’ll turn in for the night, Georgio. It was a long ride, and the greetings seemed to stretch on forever…” The ceremonial greetings had been a lavish affair with every respectful ritual possible. And Vilmah had endured them twice, one for each of the centaur clans. Things would be much easier if they worked together. I guess that’s why we’re here. “Centaurs are sticklers for tradition. Keep that in mind tomorrow.” Georgio began to slink off towards the circle of tents that marked the moving city of the beast-men. The tents were clearly divided between those stitched of quillboar skin painted red and those of gnoll skin painted green. Centaurs preferred to display their more impressive kills, so Vilmah had learned. “Georgio,” Vilmah called out. The Forsaken turned about, his bright yellow eyes burrowing under the orcess’s skin. “You’ve worked with these clans before, right? Have they ever gathered like this without coming to violence?” His dead flesh twisted in something resembling discomfort. “Not for years and years, Vilmah Bloodborne. I’d suggest you get a good night’s sleep.” As he slipped into the darkness like a specter, Vilmah promised herself she would do as he warned. --- “It is a great honor to have you here, Vilmah Bloodborne,” the translator said, his voice scratchy and not pleased-sounding in the least. His master, a grey-bearded and one-eyed chieftain painted with bright-red markings, grunted in his own tongue while eyeing Vilmah as a carpenter measures a length of wood. After, he swept his arm over the wide array of food on his long, tall table. It stretched on for several feet in either direction and was lined with centaurs painted just as red, but more humbly than their chieftain. Vilmah felt half a fool sitting in the high chair while the chieftain and his entourage sat all around her. Georgio sat by her left hand, which made her feel a more comfortable. Not by much, but it counted for something. The translator spoke again, “Chieftain Gromul humbly offers this meager meal as a welcome from the Pakan people, ever friends of the Horde.” Georgio had told Vilmah of the Pakan clan’s history with the Horde. For years they defied the Horde’s presence in Desolace, especially around the coastline area they claimed as their sacred ground. They had been aggressors in a bloody three-way war between themselves, the Horde, and the third party present at this summit: the Komen. “If this is what the Pakan count as meager, then I hope to be invited to more feasts,” Vilmah said with a smile. The translator seemed unconvinced by her gratitude as he repeated her words in his tongue. Gromul, however, belched a laugh. “Small though this may be, you will find nothing near as great on the tables of the Komen. They have always been jealous of our wealth.” “Oh,” was all Vilmah thought to say. This was a delicate situation. Her every action could turn either side against her in a heartbeat. “Take care with such honest talk at the meeting today, Chieftain,” Georgio’s whispery voice said, “Remember when you last spoke of Komen wealth at one of these meetings?” “My chieftain says he remembers all too well,” the translator replied as the grey-bearded chieftain chuckled, “A glorious battle, and many Komen lay dead by his spear.” “And many Pakan as well,” the Forsaken replied with a shrug. “It was mine and Vilmah Bloodborne’s understanding that your people had bled long enough on the spears of your Komen cousins.” Vilmah gave Georgio a thankful smile. “Yes, and that is what brings us here,” the translator grunted. “And what brings you to us.” The remainder of the meal was all pleasantries and humble boasts. At times the chieftain or one of his chief raiders would mention the Komen in passing. Georgio even managed to coax a small praise from the chieftain’s eldest son. “The Komen,” he said, “Have proven hard to kill.” --- Vilmah’s apprehension about this meeting had grown steadily after the feast, and Georgio’s grim temperament did little to ease her nerves. “Remember to steer the conversation away from the Second Battle of Tall Grasses,” the undead reminded her for the fifth time that day, “The Pakan are still sore about that loss, and they are like to grow more heated if it is discussed.” “Georgio?” Vilmah interjected carefully. The man’s wrinkled grey face watched her impassively. “Why haven’t we discussed the peace terms? Shouldn’t I know what sort of reaction to expect from that? Why all the talk about battles and faux pas?” “Because we can control the conversation until the terms are spoken.” “What happens after?” “One of two things. They’ll either erupt into a full-blown battle then and there, or they’ll simply leave the meeting feeling cheated and sour, but at peace nonetheless. All we can do at that point is hope for the best.” Vilmah rubbed her temples irritably. “I think I need some fresh air. How long until the meeting?” “One hour. I would be quick were I you.” She departed from their shared tent – which Georgio never used, leading Vilmah to suspect he did not sleep at all – and walked around the ring of tents. All around her she saw Komen and Pakan, two sides of the same coin to her eyes. One was painted green and the other red and either used different skins for their tents and clothes, but otherwise they were indistinguishable to her eyes. It made her heart sink to imagine these people, who should have been kin, killing each other for generations. “Excuse me, miss?” a voice as clear as running water called after Vilmah. She turned to see a rather small centaur clopping after her. Even more surprising than his voice and size – he was handsome. His long, dark hair was tied back in a neat bun, his eyes were green as grass, and his features were softer and cleaner than the other centaurs Vilmah had met. She noted his green body paint arranged in intricate patterns, a sign of the Komen. “What can I do for you?” she asked politely. “Well, it is embarrassing,” he said with a strange boyish innocence to his tone, “I fear I’ve lost my favorite quill. It is made from the feather of a thunder bird, about this long.” He indicated with his fingers. “A thunder bird? I don’t think I’ve heard of that.” “It is native to these lands, and sacred to my people. They are incredibly rare, but we sometimes train them to hunt or to tell when bad weather is coming.” Vilmah’s eyebrow lifted. “They can predict weather?” “Indeed they can. They can even pass through thunderstorms without fear of lightning. The feather is brown and white, like the hair of a centaur. You haven’t seen a feather about like that, have you?” She shook her head. “Sorry.” “Ah, it is no bother. I will use a spare for the meeting.” “You will be attending?” “Oh yes. I am Chief Vlambok’s youngest son, and the most literate. I am Varamor; I serve as translator and scribe.” Only then did Vilmah realize they had been speaking Orcish. “Ah, that makes sense.” She chuckled. “Well met, Varamor. I am Vilmah Bloodborne. You speak my tongue rather well.” He inclined his head appreciatively “It is a noble tongue, and I have always had a passion for things from faraway lands.” His green eyes drifted to Vilmah’s left arm. She had grown used to the stares her prosthetic received, but she couldn’t help but notice when Varamor’s eyes moved. They were like emeralds when they caught the midday light. “Perhaps later we can discuss our cultures with each other,” Vilmah offered. “Yes, I would like that,” Varamor said. “For now, my search continues. A pleasure to meet you, Vilmah Bloodborne.” He trotted off gracefully, scanning the ground as he went. Strangely, Vilmah began to feel better about the upcoming meeting. At least one person there won’t be unreasonable. --- “My chieftain finds these terms absolutely unacceptable,” The Pakan translator barked not a moment after Vilmah had concluded reading them. The red side of the negotiating table rumbled to life with grunted complaints and insults. Though Vilmah could not understand them, it was plain to see how displeased they were. The Komen on the green half of the long table stood quietly around their chieftain, Vlambok. The old centaur’s beard was long, braided, and white as snow, and his eyes were as green as his son’s. Varamor watched Vilmah, his face flushed with sympathy, as he scratched notes on his clay tablet. “How can the Horde expect the Pakan to accept a peace that so blatantly benefits the Komen? We would lose our most valuable boneyard, a stretch of field where we harvest our red paints, and half of our bountiful hunting grounds!” Vilmah cleared her throat and replied, “That is the only price the Komen will agree to for the lands you fervently argued over in the Desolate War. In return for the boneyard, flower field, and hunting grounds, you will have unrestricted access to Horde ports along the coast and a lump sum payment of sixty thousand gold as blood pay for the lives lost in war.” “The Pakan will never sell the lives of our fallen warriors for so cheap!” Vlambok muttered something in his tongue, so quiet he made Georgio sound like a Warsong. Varamor had to lean in close to hear and translate. “My father wishes it to be known that Komen lives were lost in even greater numbers than Pakan in the war. The lands we desire will be sufficient to honor their spirits.” The red chief Gromul spat on the table, ushering shocked and angry roars from the Komen side. “That is what my chieftain thinks of your dead Komen weaklings.” Vilmah glanced at Georgio as the table erupted into cries of hatred. The undead sat deep in his tall chair and cleaned his fingernails. This is ridiculous! I won’t just sit here and do nothing! A veiled, green-painted centaur woman stomped across the dividing line of the table and punched a red centaur in the teeth. The two fell over each other in a heap, strong legs flailing and budging the table aside. Vilmah felt trapped when the wooden edge scraped against her chair. Chief Vlambok slapped his hand against the table and cried out at his people, though Vilmah could not tell if he was urging them to stop or fight on. She had no such uncertainty about the red chief. Gromul stood with a smug look on his face while his warriors shouted and shoved at the green centaurs. Vilmah roared and shoved the table off her chair, sending a few surprised centaurs stumbling away. Then she slammed down on the red and green surface as hard as she could with her metal arm. She felt the wood bend beneath the force of her strike, causing such a crash that every centaur in the room looked at her, aside from those still wrestling on the floor. “ENOUGH!” she shouted, “There has been enough blood spilled between the three of us to fill an ocean! And yet here you all stand, you proud and haughty warriors, having forgotten so soon what death tastes like!” The red chief grunted defiantly, though not so confidently as before, “The Pakan cannot accept a peace so poor. It would be like pissing on the pyres of our ancestors.” Varamor spoke his father’s words calmly, though Vilmah detected a hint of reluctance “We Komen are ready to lay down our spears for this peace. My father…wishes to offer me as a marriage prospect to seal the deal in blood as well as words.” This ushered new grumbles from both sides, but not all sounded displeased. Vilmah realized she was standing on her chair, her metal arm buried in the thick wooden table. She seated herself, feeling her face flush. “Not bad, orc,” Georgio whispered. Vilmah smiled embarrassedly. Gromul stroked his greying beard thoughtfully. The room quieted when he prepared to speak. “If we are to agree, my chieftain’s grandsons will owe allegiance to him alone.” The green centaurs looked none too pleased at that, but Vlambok merely nodded. Varamor kept his fair face guarded. Vilmah could not begin to imagine what he must be thinking. “We shall consider this offer further,” the red translator said, “We shall retire for now to think over the terms and meet here again tomorrow.” By the time he had finished translating, half of the red centaurs had cleared from the long, tented table. Vilmah released a tense breath and sank into her chair. She eyed the shattered ruin of the table before her, half aware of Georgio slinking off with a brief congratulation on surviving the first day. A shadow fell on her as she lost herself in thought. Vilmah looked up to see Varamor smiling sadly at her. “Today did not go quite as expected, no?” “No, not quite,” she replied, “Honestly, I thought it would be worse.” He chuckled. His laugh was clear and beautiful, like waves lapping at the shore. “You must have heard some stories about our previous summits. In my youth, I witnessed a hundred brawls between my brothers and Gromul’s sons. But alas, now only his sons attend.” “What happened to your brothers?” “The war. All but my oldest brother perished, and one of his legs was lamed. Now my sons will be pledged to Pakan should this peace be settled. My father’s blood runs thin.” His green eyes looked forlorn at the broken table, red and green wood chips intermixing like a cataclysm of blood and grass. Vilmah felt strangely guilty. A green centaur clomped into the tent, yelling frantically in Varamor’s tongue. The young Komen looked shocked but shouted quick commands with confidence. The warrior ran off at a gallop. “Vilmah Bloodborne, the campsite is under attack by quillboar clansmen! I must see to my father’s safety.” “Let me help you!” Vilmah shouted suddenly, hopping to her feet. She carried no weapons, yet she could still fight. “Very well. On my back!” She followed his directions, and together they raced out into the camp as it devolved into chaos. The quillboar had attacked on the green side of the camp, and thus far only the Komen had engaged them in battle. Vilmah spied a pair of spears dug into the earth and pointed Varamor towards them. They both took one up as they raced on to battle. Chieftain Vlambok’s white beard was easy to spot from a distance. He stood surrounded by his fiercest spearmen, who were in turn surrounded by quillboar and their war hounds. Varamor shouted encouraging words to his people and led a charge at the quillboar line. The prickly creatures scattered in an instant. Few smaller than a tauren would stand against the charge of centaur, Vilmah thought. Once Vlambok was free of his attackers, he embraced his son and clapped Vilmah on the shoulder, saying a few words. “He offers you thanks, Vilmah,” Varamor reported. “Tell him to hold his thanks until the enemy is routed.” The green chief seemed to like that. Varamor took a deep breath as they began to charge the enemy once again. “I must warn you, Vilmah, I am no talented fighter. My brothers would have been more use here.” Vilmah patted him on the shoulder. “Don’t think about that. Focus on the here and now. One enemy at a time. Focus on now, and it will be over before you know it.” He seemed to gain confidence at that. The line of centaur grew as Varamor rallied loose spearmen to follow. By the time they crashed against the quillboar line, the young centaur was screaming a warsong alongside his brethren, and his song was the most haunting of all. --- Night was falling. After the battle, Vilmah walked the field of the dead, seeing quillboar bodies and centaurs painted green scattered everywhere. She looked hard for Pakan markings but found none. Once she thought she had found a pack of them, only to discover that the red was made by splatters of blood. “They didn’t even try to aid us,” Varamor said, giving words to Vilmah’s thoughts. “Though what more could be expected from those savages?” “Perhaps they didn’t want to cause further panic,” Vilmah offered feebly. Varamor sighed. “My father will do nothing. It is clear those blood-hided monsters had something to do with this. The quillboar have never been so bold as to attack us with all their strength.” He trotted off towards his father’s tent. “Come, Vilmah. I am certain my father will have a place for you.” Feeling uncertain, Vilmah jogged after him. The green-painted warriors were bickering angrily in the chief’s tent when they arrived. Vlambok looked somehow even older than before. Varamor was waved to his father’s side, and Vilmah alongside him. “What are they saying, Varamor?” she asked when they took their places. “The obvious. The Pakan are liars and traitors and should be dealt with in kind.” And break the peace we came to forge. And here I thought we were so close. Vilmah said nothing, only listening as Varamor translated. “Chalwar, father’s prime warlord, says we should attack at once, so to catch them off guard. Gulin, our storm witch, claims this to be folly, as the red brutes would expect such a response. My father urges patience, as always.” “What do you think we should do?” Vilmah looked up at his eyes, so full of life, and uncertainty also. “I don’t know. My mind tells me that we need this peace, but my heart says we should never bend our legs to those murderers.” She understood him. She had felt such pain before. That only made it harder to tell him, “If your people should choose war with the Pakan, I will not be able to help. I came here to make peace, not pull the Horde into war again.” “I know,” he said sadly. He continued to translate for her, but the discussion only led around in circles for hours on end. At long last, the green chief beseeched his people to tend to the dead, set sentries in case of further attacks, and hold the peace until morning. “In the meantime, my father will sleep like the dead. I fear his strength is waning, and Chief Gromul knows it.” Vilmah departed the tent feeling sore from riding, tired from fighting, and restless with anger. The Pakan are bullies, it is plain to see. Yet I cannot stand against them. Surely there must be something… “Orc woman!” a voice called out, thick with the accent of the Komen. Vilmah looked to the incoming centaur, painted green, and carrying a body in his arms. A bipedal body…Georgio! “What happened?” she demanded. “He found in battle,” the centaur said in simple Orcish, “Quillboar spear in neck.” Vilmah examined the wound. A spearhead still lay in his throat. Georgio opened his eyes and saw her, but when he tried to speak he spat green blood in her face. “Hush, Georgio,” she said calmly, “You’re going to be alright. Komen, healer!” The centaur seemed to understand her, and he raced off. The undead shook his head. He twisted free of Vilmah’s grip and started scratching something in the dirt. Vilmah read it as he wrote. “Not quillboar…are you saying someone else attacked you?” Georgio nodded. “Who, then? Was it the Pakan?” He began scratching out a response, but the Komen returned with a healer, and he scraped mud over his work. Does he not trust the Komen? What happened to you, Georgio? The healer took the undead into his tent and gestured for Vilmah to stay outside. It was far too crowded to try and sneak in, so she did as she was bid. If Georgio couldn’t trust the Komen, then he must have been attacked by one of them. But why? Vilmah shivered as the night grew cold. She knew one thing for certain: if one Horde diplomat had been attacked, the other would be in danger as well. She made her way to her tent to retrieve her sword and shield. “If they come after me, this won’t be enough,” she muttered to herself as she tied on her swordbelt. If there was one person she knew she could trust, it was Varamor. She made for his tent at a quick pace, keeping to the shadows as much as possible. When she arrived, the chief’s son was nowhere to be seen, though the entrance to his tent was guarded. She snuck around to the darkest side and crawled beneath the hide wall. I hope he doesn’t take offense to my intrusion, but I’m sure he’ll understand since it is a matter of life and death. The most striking feature of the tent was the finely polished desk sitting in the center, covered with heaps of papyrus and parchment and clay and stone tablets. They were written on in dozens of languages, including Orcish and the bizarre script of the Qiraji Vilmah was somewhat familiar with. She spied all sorts of writing utensils as well. There were styluses for the clay tablets and chisels for the stone, inkpots and quills of every color imaginable, and even metal-case fountain pens. The collection was laid out neatly, showing pride in something uncommon among Varamor’s people. It brought a smile to Vilmah’s face. And then she noticed a prominent feature: a great brown and white feather marked with little frills of green. “Thunder bird…” Vilmah muttered quietly. He had said it was lost, yet here it was. Curious, she sifted through some of the writings, focusing on the Orcish script. There were many poems, and all of them mournful. Some even made Vilmah’s heart stir and her eyes blink to hold back wetness. The saddest of all spoke of the pain of loss. The loss of love. “I lost you to red storm, my love…” she read aloud. “And to red storm my vengeful heart is cast.” Varamor’s voice made Vilmah jump. “That was the hardest for me to write, but I made myself write it over and over, in every language I knew how.” “You…you were in love, but the war…” “Yes, the war. It took everything, as wars do. But it was the Pakan that did the taking, and the Komen that gave all. You saw them all today. You saw all of Gromul’s sons, hale and healthy.” “But not your brothers.” “Nor my sweet love, Leyanah. She was named for a gentle spring flower. But flowers do not live when the red storm comes.” His green eyes were glassy before he shut them. Vilmah shifted uncomfortably. “I…I’m sorry.” “You have no reason to be. It is the Pakan who should be sorry, but the truly guilty never are.” “There is still a chance for peace, Varamor. You know that, don’t you?” “No. I gave up on that dream when my spring flower was taken from me. Now all that is left is war. The only true chances for peace are in your death, or that of your enemy.” His fine, mournful features now appeared sinister in the low light. But above all, he looked desperate. “Why did you attack Georgio?” “I’ve known the undead for a long while. He is dutiful, and his heart is closed. He could never be convinced, so I had him was silenced.” “Convinced of what?” “That my people are not afflicted by the same evil as the Pakan. But you, Vilmah, you could bring the tale of what you’ve seen here back to Orgimmar. You could tell all the Horde that the Komen are a people worth fighting for. I could never hope to win a war against the Pakan myself, but that will not stop me from trying.” A horrid thought crossed Vilmah’s mind. It hurt even to think it, but she had to ask. “The quillboar, that was you as well?” “A simple enough trick. You’ve seen the Pakan tents with quillboar skin and needles. The red savages have done the same to us with gnolls in the past.” He shook his gnoll-tooth necklace pointedly. Vilmah glared. “You brought your own people to harm…” “There was no other way! My father would do anything, even sell me, to prevent further war.” Vilmah eyed him desperately. “Don’t you see what you’re becoming, Varamor? This warmongering…you’re becoming the very thing you hate so much!” He shook his head sadly. “There is no other way. I had hoped you would see.” He walked to the entrance of his tent and dropped a totem on the ground. Vilmah started after him. “Varamor, I won’t let you—” A shock ran through her body and she fell back from the entrance. The centaur looked at her pitifully. “Don’t try to struggle against the storm, Vilmah Bloodborne. It only hurts worse if you do.” Vilmah drew her sword. “Release me, Varamor!” she shouted, but he was already galloping away. “Varamor!” She swung her sword, only to feel the shock again, this time driving her arm numb. She gasped. The air was growing thin around her; she could not breathe. Desperately, she tried to push through the invisible wall with her metal arm, but the shocks made her heart flutter uncontrollably. She flung herself back and gulped what air she could, feeling her vision fog up. Her thoughts went to old friends, old enemies, and old kills. She saw smiles and skulls and blood. She heard cries of friendship, cries of hatred, and cries for mercy. Guilt tugged at her like a bird’s talons. Guilt at failing, and at leaving people behind that she’d sworn to help. She felt guilt for not stopping those who hurt her friends, and guilt for killing those that did not deserve to die. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Just close my eyes, and the guilt goes away… Her eyes flashed open. She spasmed for breath that would not come, but she forced herself to focus. Focus on one enemy, then the next… She grabbed the nearby desk to help herself up and clumsily spilled half of its contents to the floor. She picked up her sword and threw it at the totem, but the invisible wall stopped it short with a crackle of lightning. Vilmah nearly fell over with the effort but supported herself on one knee. Her hand brushed a feather. Thunder bird! She thought desperately. The brown and white feather looked only like a smudge of colors in her hand as she crawled her way to the tent entrance. She gripped the end of the quill and pushed the pointed tip through. The wall crackled around the feather, and she felt the hot numbness take hold of her arm, but the feather did not stop. The tip touched the totem’s surface just as she faded to black… Light came rushing back, and air filled Vilmah’s lungs. No breath had ever tasted so sweet. Her eyes refocused, and she saw the totem was knocked over. She tested the air of the tent entrance and found she could pass through. She gathered her sword and shield and sprinted clumsily. She was no huntress, but she could see the freshest tracks led through camp towards the massive waterfall. She spotted Varamor and a small warband at the start of the hill road and knew she could not catch up to them before they reached the summit. With bows in hand, they have a perfect vantage point to rain death on the Pakan. And when the red centaurs take up arms, the sentries in the Komen camp will have no choice but to take up arms as well. Vilmah knew she had to reach the top before that happened. She sprinted to the base of the hill, found the driest stretch of rock, and began climbing. The road up to the top was long, roundabout, and winding. She knew that from her long ride down to the camp. The climb up was straightforward, but it would take a great deal of strength to outpace centaur legs. I have no other choice. Dawn will break before the reach the summit. She would just have to rise faster than the sun. --- She clawed up the last few feet, her heart a lump in her throat, as the sun’s first light brushed her back. Her muscles were jelly, her fingers covered in cuts and blisters, her metal arm was almost too heavy to carry, and her lungs were stretched thin from breathing hard, but she was alone at the top. I made it in time. She seated herself with her sword in her lap, as was the custom of a Blademaster. She steadied her breath and let her stamina return. As she waited, she listened to the thrum of the waterfall, as she had all night long. She felt the sun lick at her neck, and the sweat pour down her brow. She felt alive. Nervousness faded away as the quiet of battle took hold in her mind. Varamor crested the hill with a bow in one hand and a quiver of arrows over his shoulder. When he spotted Vilmah, he gaped at her like a guilty child stumbling into his parent. She stood, blade in hand and shield strapped to her metal arm. “I’m giving you one last chance, Varamor,” she called out to him, “Go back and give peace a chance.” “I must do this, Vilmah. For my people.” His warband climbed the hill and took positions around him, bows trained on Vilmah. She lifted her shield and hoped her plan would work. “If you want to prove yourself, fight me alone.” “I am no great fool to think I would have a chance against you alone, Vilmah Bloodborne. Else I would have dealt with you more directly before.” He called a command to his warriors and they advanced in three groups of two, two from the sides and one directly. So much for that idea. Time to improvise. The flankers drew bows and loosed while the direct charge readied their spears. Vilmah ducked down and lifted her shield over her head. The arrows flew faster than lighting. Two ricocheted off her shield, while the others bit through flesh. One scraped by and did not stick, but the fourth dug into her leg. She growled and leaped forward to meet the spearmen. Seems I am the fool who stands against charging centaur now, she thought dimly. Her shield caught one spear and she grappled the centaur into the other as the second spear sliced open her arm. Her sword arm fell limply, so she bashed the two centaurs with her shield to incapacitate them. Then she used their bodies to cover herself from the other warriors’ arrows. They circled her, but she kept herself covered in every direction. She felt like a beast caught in a trap, but the bowmen dared not come any closer. “I’ll give you the same honor you gave me, Vilmah,” Varamor said, “Throw down your shield, and I will spare you.” Vilmah growled back ferally, “You’re lying. You can’t have me live to tell the Horde you were the aggressor. If I die, you can claim the Pakan did me in.” “You are as sharp of mind as you are with sword. But that won’t—” “VARAMOR!” The chief’s son whirled around as the green chief himself thundered to the top of the slope, his own noble guardians in tow. Varamor gaped at him and said a word Vilmah recognized, the Komen word for “father.” The two screamed back and forth, but Vilmah could not follow their conversation. She focused on binding up her wounds in case she needed to defend herself again. Vlambok approached Varamor carefully, his arms outstretched. Varamor was weeping now. He screamed another word Vilmah recognized and wheeled about, charging towards the cliffside with his bow at the ready. He screamed the same word again and again as he readied his arrow. His bowmen looked uncertain, but at a word from the chief, they threw down their bows and knelt. Varamor never slowed. Vilmah sprang into his path, her shot leg throbbing painfully. Her wounded arm still hung limply, so she left her sword behind and readied her shield. Varamor charged straight ahead, his green eyes turned to a vile shade of poison where once they had been grass. All around her became the thundering of hooves and the crash of the waterfall. He screamed his warcry and aimed a shot at Vilmah. The orcess ducked down and the arrow thudded into her shield. She charged forward and slammed the shield down with all the strength she had left. The force of his leg hitting the wood and metal splintered her shield and yanked her metal arm clear off her stump, but Varamor went down in a heap. Then Vlambok’s guardians ran in and held him down with their strong forelegs. All the while, the chief’s son screamed in agony his word of desperation, and Vilmah felt only pity and pain. “LEYANAH!” he yelled as his legs, bent and broken, flailed in the air. --- Chief Vlambok came to visit Vilmah in her infirmary bed two days later. By then, she had told Georgio all of what had happened, and the undead could manage a few grunting words. Mostly he said “Damn.” Vilmah stood shakily with a crutch when Vlambok entered the tent. He waved for her to sit, and he himself knelt alongside her. A new translator stood to say his words in Orcish. “My chief says that his heart weighs heavily on his son’s downfall. But he thanks you as well for putting an end to his scheme.” Vilmah lowered her head humbly, not feeling particularly praiseworthy. “I am sorry for your losses, Chieftain. Will the Pakan listen to further offers of peace?” “That is a more difficult matter. Word has gotten out of what young Varamor intended, and the Pakan curse the Komen name with much fervor. They demand we turn over Varamor as prisoner to face Gromul’s justice.” Vilmah looked at Vlambok, shocked and apologetic. “They’ll kill him…” “Yes, my chieftain knows this. Yet what alternative exists? To go to war?” “That would not end well for anyone.” “Exactly as my chieftain thinks. But what kind of man is a chief who betrays his own son to his death so that his winter days might be peaceful?” Vilmah had no reply to that. There is no right answer here. In every direction pain ways, only in some there is less pain than others. But Vlambok watched her expectantly. Desperately, even. She saw the same painful hope in his eyes that she saw in his son’s. He needs my answer. He cannot make the choice, so he asks it of me instead. She took a deep breath. “Chieftain, I only came here with one goal: to make peace. At times to reach that goal one must first make war. I know it seems like trying to go west by walking east, but nothing in life is straightforward. We can never tell if we are walking the right way, but we keep on because to turn back is to give up. “Varamor turned away from the path, but you still have a chance to keep your people from straying. You can still try.” His nod was slow and painful to watch. His head fell, and he seemed to grow a hundred years older all at once. Vilmah’s heart ached worse than her wounds. “My chieftain thanks you for your words, Vilmah Bloodborne. The peace talks will resume tomorrow. He gives you his word.” Vilmah shrank back onto the furs and tried to rest, but her mind would not quiet. Georgio sat up in his furs and looked at her with his wrinkled, grey face. “Damn,” he said. “Yeah,” said Vilmah. “Damn.”
  4. Near on a week passed before Brinnea left Dun Modr. Though loathe to admit it, even to herself, she had become attached to the girls in Matron Sio’s boudoir. Ever since she saved Jessaya from the drunkard Vic, the other girls had pestered her with questions and requested help with anything from braiding hair to making beds. Brinnea didn’t mind lending a hand, and they quickly caught on. Their company was worth the pestering, so far as Brinnea was concerned, but the more comfortable she became, the more anxious she was to depart. When she did, it was early in the morning, before the sun could rise. It was at that hour the boudoir was most quiet, when all the drunkards had fallen asleep and the late-night lechers had fled to bed before their wives could wake and find them gone. Brinnea had stolen out while Sio slept, and left all the money the gruff matron had secreted into her purse. I never asked to be paid, Brinnea had thought, I shouldn’t have even stayed as long as I have. Now the sun was rising to her right, over mossy green hills. The crossing of the Thandol Span lie behind her now, and before her rose wave after wave of green hills. This was the land of the most ancient human civilization, the Strom. Arathi Highlands was true to its name; the death knight found herself riding up and up and up as she ascended from the dull basin the Wetlands sat in on the other side of the wide Thandol gap. Beneath the grass and dirt Brinnea knew there were relics to be found, some as old as she was and some far older. This was a land where civilizations rose and fell – one massive graveyard buried beneath pleasant green hills. The wolf made its appearance known again a few miles north of the Span. It baffled Brinnea that the beast would have waited so long for her to leave Dun Modr, let alone follow her across the great stone bridge over a massive, wet, and windy gorge. A lone wolf seeks a pack where it can find it, I suppose. A few miles more, and Brinnea found the road blocked by two boulders as large as she was. Given that the road was tightly flanked on both sides by hills, making going around on ordeal on horseback, she immediately suspected a trap. She dismounted and clambered up a hill, her sword drawn and ready for an ambush, but when she reached the top, she could see no sign of anyone or anything. A pair of birds weaved about one another in an angry dance up above, and the wolf was nowhere to be seen, both otherwise there was nothing of note. “Nothing to do but move the boulders aside,” she mumbled to herself. A wind whipped at her cloak, as if trying to reply. If it was speaking to her, she did not know the tongue. A sudden yelp back down the road caught her attention as she slid down the hill. The wolf eyed her and barked. It lifted its head, and the bark flew into a wild howl. Brinnea’s eyebrows knit in annoyance. “Did it occur to you I didn’t want to attract attention, mutt?” The wolf kept up its howl, and padded up and down the road. It kept looking at her with its unnervingly focused eyes. She called out to it loudly, “Go bother someone else! I’m a poor replacement for the pack you lost!” The wolf sprinted down the road, away from her. Guess that finally drove it away, but for how long? Brinnea set to work moving one of the boulders. There was little chance of removing them entirely from the road with such steep hills to either side, but at least she could move one so there would be a narrow s-shaped gap to ride around. Any travelers with carts would be out of luck, but that wasn’t Brinnea’s problem. She found a thin, sturdy tree a way off the road and hacked at it until the little trunk gave way. She shaved off the branches and returned to the road. The trunk was sturdy enough to serve as a lever, but getting the proper leverage took much longer than anticipated. Eventually, she managed to get the boulder to budge, but the process of moving it out of the way was gradual and often resulted in the damn thing rolling back the way she had moved it from. Frustration was among the emotions left to Brinnea, though she could have done without it right about now. While considering better methods of moving the boulder, she happened to glance back down the road, expecting to see the wolf coming back. When she saw no sign of it, she felt oddly disappointed. “Get ahold of yourself, Velmon,” she muttered, and set back to work. The screaming started a few minutes later. The wolf’s howl accompanied it, making it hard to know for sure, but it sounded just like a girl’s scream. Brinnea listened closely, uncertain. It could have just been a bird with a peculiar cry; it wasn’t as if she knew the fauna of this region well. The screams stopped of a sudden. Brinnea told herself to pay it no heed, but before she knew it, she was clambering into her saddle and leaving her boulder and level behind in a cloud of trail dust. Not a mile south of the road obstruction, she came across a dead horse swarmed by flies. The smell of it was fresh, and there were clear marks indicating the rider was dragged off the road by something with deep footprints. “Ogres,” Brinnea said. Something moved behind her, too soft to be one of the great oafish clansmen responsible for this mess. She whirled about, and lowered her blade when she saw the wolf padding up to her, its fur a reddish brown she hadn’t noticed before. “You’re growing bolder to get so close to me, mutt,” she said. The beast panted and watched her expectantly. She imagined it speaking to her; Are you going to do something about this mess? “What’s there to do?” she replied, “Anyone taken by an ogre is bound to wind up in an ogre’s supper.” They could still be alive. “It’s none of my business. I have more important things to worry about.” She turned towards her horse. Some urgent meeting you have to get to? And here I suspected you were wandering aimlessly. “I know where I’m going.” But you don’t know what you’ll do when you get there, do you? Brinnea spun to shout back, but the wolf was gone. She looked around and caught sight of its tail retreating up the hill, in the direction of the ogre trail. “You have to be joking!” Brinnea exclaimed, but when she remounted, she followed right along, looking back at the northward road woefully. The trail was clear enough, but Brinnea lacked the skill to interpret how many or how fast her query was moving. Based on how long it had been since the screaming, she figured the ogre or ogres couldn’t be more than a couple miles ahead of her. She urged her charger into a gallop. Even at a dead run, an ogre couldn’t outpace a horse. The wolf bounded to try and keep up, and Brinnea was surprised at how long it managed to do so. Before too long, it fell behind, panting and yapping. The ogres are like to hear us coming with all this noise. Oh well, I prefer a fair fight, anyway. She caught sight of them after ascending a hill. They were within a couple minutes’ ride of her, and had lit a fire under the cover of a heavy stone outcrop. A stream trickled beside them, no deeper than Brin’s ankle, she guessed, but it would be an asset in the fight to come. The death knight couldn’t tell if the captive was alive or not; they appeared only as a white and yellow smudge in the distance. The ogres, on the other hand, stood out greatly. There were three of them, more than enough to overwhelm Brin if she wasn’t careful. She rode around the ogre’s camp, sticking to the shadows. It seemed that they hadn’t spotted her yet, so she intended to keep it that way. She made her final approach with the westering sun at her back and the stream at her side. The ogres stirred from their seated position as she approached, cantering carefully. Ogres were dull creatures, but smart enough to set traps or tame wild beasts. She watched closely for any sign of a trap. “HEY!” one of the ogres roared at her, “THIS OUR CAMP! NO STEALING!” The three ogres faced her, two carrying crude clubs, and the other a net and spear shaved from the trunk of a tree much larger than Brin’s lever. Their captive was wrapped up tightly in another net. A great boar was turning on the spit over the fire. Luckily the beast seemed a better feast than the small woman the ogres had captured, else Brin’s detour would have been for nothing. “I’m here for the girl, the one you idiots pulled from her horse,” Brinnea said calmly. Her sword rested in its sheath for now. Let them think I’m not hostile. They’ll underestimate me and charge blindly. “NO LIKE HORSE!” the head ogre shouted back, “WE EAT GIRL INSTEAD! BRING SKIN BACK FOR TENT!” “I didn’t ask. You’re going to give her to me. Now.” The ogre with the spear and net laughed first, but the other two joined in, as if just getting the joke. “YOU STUPID! YOU NO BEAT US! YOU WANT BE FOOD TOO?” “If you want a taste of me, you’ll have to come get me.” As expected, all three sprinted at her, roaring and bashing their weapons against their chests, bare but for a few furs and leather straps. Brinnea wheeled her horse to run down the line of the stream. Once they were chasing her, big feet clattering along the wet pebbles, she drew her blade and pointed it at the water behind her. In a flash of blue light, the water began to freeze. The ogres were too dead-set on her to even slow down. All three fell over on the patch of ice, making a great THUD! Brinnea spun her charger around and urged it to do what it was made to do. The killing was bloody, brutal, and brief. Her sword flashed thrice in wide silvery-blue arcs, each time turning red midway through. She raced past the ogres, and left them with three slit throats. Brinnea came to a stop at the camp and dismounted. The wolf was there now, gnawing at the nets angrily. Brinnea drew her knife and cut the animals free first, shooing them away easily enough. Then she freed the girl. Somehow, Brinnea wasn’t surprised to recognize her. “Jessaya, were you following me?” She helped the girl sit up and looked over her head. It was cut and bleeding, but her eyes focused when Brin passed a finger in front of them, so she figured her brain was likely safe. “Yes,” the girl admitted quietly. She was always quiet and shy. It was part of why the men liked her so much. That, and her absurd youth. Tonight, she wore one of her white robes covered by a cloak of foxfur she must have stolen from Sio along with the horse. Her clothes were dirty and tattered, but still usable. Brin noted with annoyance than the girl wore only underclothes beneath the robe. “You’re going straight back to Dun Modr in the morning,” Brinnea said. “But…!” Brinnea hushed her with a look. “There are worse things than ogres about. You’re lucky to have been saved this time, but your luck won’t last.” “But if I stay with you…” “You won’t.” I’m more dangerous than anything you’ll face on the road. “Why not? You’re all by yourself out here. Everyone needs company.” The girl was utterly innocent, her eyes telling a story of hurt and sadness, but hope too. It was too much for Brin to look at. The wolf lay nearby, warming its fur by the fire. Brin noticed Jessaya watching the beast carefully. “You’re going back, and that’s final.” “It’ll be dangerous for me to go back by myself now,” Jessaya replied, “And without a horse now. I couldn’t ride very well, but it was faster than walking.” Brin sighed. The girl was right, but the last thing she wanted was to delay her travel further. “You’ll just have to tread carefully and hope for the best.” The girl was devastated, Brin could tell. Better sad than company with a walking disaster. Her odds could be worse. It’s only a couple days back to Thandol Span. Brin picked meat off the spitted boar and offered it to Jessaya. She ate hungrily, thankful for the food. Brin tossed a few meaty ribs at the wolf too, when she saw it eyeing the meat and licking its chops. The charger, Sparklehoof, stood sentry out in the open. It and Brin were the only ones not eating. “I didn’t just come because I wanted to,” Jessaya said after a while. “I’ve been hearing about Vic’s company for a while from the girls. They’re called Bronto’s Bruisers, and they practically own Dun Modr. After you kicked Vic out of Sio’s, the word was they wanted blood for being made fools out of.” “You think I didn’t notice?” Brinnea asked rhetorically. “I’ve been keeping the Bruisers out of the boudoir for a week.” “But you left. They didn’t even wait until morning before they came to Sio demanding free tumbles for the whole company. ‘When one Bruiser gets shortchanged,’ they said, ‘All the Bruisers are robbed.’ Sio couldn’t stop them with you gone.” “So you came to fetch me back?” “No. I just wanted to get away, like you. Sio will find a way to survive. She always does. They probably won’t leave you alone, either. They might have sent people out here hunting for you.” Brin cleaned off her sword with cloth and tempered the edges with a whetstone. “They can certainly try.”
  5. I submit Brinnea Velmon for this raffle. Good luck.
  6. The mission statement of the Magic Protection Service is “To observe, inform, and secure the study of magic for the benefit of all.” Magic is tool, and like all tools it must be used responsibly. The MPS exists to secure the use of magic so that all may coexist. The MPS is not an enemy of magic. The founding member of the Service is renowned mage, Fjalla Gladstone, who has seen the magical society grow and adapt much over her seventy years. She has seen magic used and abused aimed at both the protection and destruction of life throughout Azeroth and beyond. Gladstone and her associates strive to encourage protection and discourage destruction, while keeping the magical community thriving. Similarly, the Service takes responsibility for the abuse of non-magical people by magic users. Rogue mages presenting a danger to society are not tolerated by the MPS. The MPS recruits from all walks of life. Be you mage or layperson, you can provide to the Service, and provide to Azeroth. Join, and Serve. ((Feel free to contact me by personal message here, on Discord at RikTheRed21#0639, or in game at Fjalla-Ravenholdt if you are interested in joining.))
  7. ((Warning: sexual themes and language)) The wolf followed her for ten miles before she lost sight of it. By then, she was nearing the northern crossing at Dun Modr. Brinnea swung west from the highlands down to the cobblestone road leading onto the Thandol Span. From there, she would continue north. But for how long? How far would she go? Brinnea had lain awake the night prior, unable to close her eyes for fear of nightmares, thinking about her destination. Or rather, her lack thereof. Once upon a time, she had lived in Lordaeron, at a well-travelled town called Andorhal. But now, Andorhal was deep within Forsaken lands, and any Forsaken would attack her on sight. Yet, she felt unavoidably drawn to Lordaeron, as if called home by something familiar. Five more miles passed, and the wolf padded out into sight again, carrying a half-eaten squirrel. Brinnea realized then that she must have slowed her pace, else the beast would not have caught up again. She groaned at herself for wasting precious time before she realized that time didn’t mean much to a soldier with no war to fight. Night began to fall when Dun Modr appeared on the horizon, just around a tall hill. The dwarven fortress had once guarded the border between dwarven Khaz Modan and the human kingdoms to the north. But since the Second War, Dun Modr had fallen into disrepair, and after the Scourge and Forsaken invasions, the bordering human kingdom Arathor was almost entirely wiped out. That made the crossing a hub for oddities, wayfarers, and vagrants of all sorts. Brinnea meandered into the town square beneath the dwarven fortress. If she was to travel north, she needed to prepare. Glancing back, she saw no sign of the wolf following her here. The throng of people all about explained that. Humans, gnomes, dwarves, worgen, and even elves wandered about the mossy ruins of Dun Modr wearing largely threadbare clothes in hundreds of styles. Even now, nearly twenty years after the Scourge attacked the northern kingdoms, people were still reluctant to let go of their homelands. Yet, the people here all looked filthy and gaunt. Food and clean water was scarce in these hills, it seemed. Brinnea dismounted at a squat wooden structure. A sign nailed to the unsteady beam serving as a roof marked it as a stable in both Common and Dwarven script. Brin searched for the owner of the meager establishment while fishing coins from her purse, and settled for handing a couple silvers to a mud-speckled boy who might have been a very young human or a ten-year-old dwarf. He muttered a half-hearted thanks and took to her steed as she instructed. Brinnea kept a hand on her purse as she walked through the town, not enchanted by the idea of having it cut from her belt by some desperate soul. The crowd was brimming with folks who looked down on their luck, but also with merchants crying wares marked at ten times the price Brinnea would expect at Greenwarden’s Grove or Menethil Harbor. Typical of merchants to exploit the poor in such a way. She set her sights on the stone buildings up the hillside. They looked less ramshackle than the lower square, so she hoped for better wares than down where she was. At the very least, she expected better security. Wandering eyes latched on her for uncomfortable lengths of time. Rough looking men and women sat, squatted, or leaned along the sides of the road, carrying weapons auspiciously. There were no guards about wearing Ironforge badges, nor the mountaineers that the dwarves of Khaz Modan used to patrol the far reaches of their clans’ holds. No, this land was ruled by those with the coin to pay for protection. Brinnea noted that the mercenaries mostly flocked near merchants, taverns, and whorehouses. Any of the three would have enough coin to pay for them with the times as they were. She moved quickly to get away from their vulturelike gazes. In the upper part of the town, Brinnea finally found some of the garrison. Most were milling about as if there was no job to do. A pair of them sat at a Hearthstone board drinking cheap ale and laughing raucously. She felt the need to smack their heads together and yell, “You are defenders of the weak, now act like it!” But then again, who was she to judge? The shops she passed had more potential than the merchant stalls in the lower square, but that didn’t make the prices any fairer. Criers announced goods in stock at exorbitant prices. Brin shook her head, gazing down at her half-empty purse. For these people, this much is a fortune, she thought to herself, And yet I still may beggar myself before I depart north. Ludicrous! Brinnea finally settled on a humble shop built into the hillside. The crier outside welcomed her with a sly smile that made her nervous. She kept a tight hold on her purse until she was finished with her purchases. By the time she exited the shop, her purse was light, but her pack was full. She had enough cloth to make bandages, rope for various uses, bits of leather and metal for repairs, a couple tools to replace old and rusted pieces of hers, paper and ink for letters, (though she had only picked them with great reluctance), and a cleaver for chopping firewood. The store owner had looked at her skeptically and asked, “No food for your travels?” Brinnea had answered, “My horse and I don’t eat much.” Outside the store, the sun had sunk below the hills and night began to set in. Chirps from a million crickets filled the air in chorus, heralding the end of the day. People stepped quickly about their final business. Brinnea followed suit; it would not do to be out and about at night in a place like this. She noticed the thugs following her almost immediately. They weren’t trying to be stealthy about it. Three men, a dwarf and two humans, followed her loosely down the hill path. They had swords on their belts and leather on their bodies. Tattoos marked them as belonging to some mercenary band, unless Brinnea’s eyes deceived her in the dim light. That was trouble. Kill three thugs and you might be safe from further violence, but kill three members of a band of hundreds and you had better skip town before the sun rises. She tried to lose them by ducking into a tavern, but she misread a sign and ended up standing in the front room filled with fox fur decorations, soft-looking fox fur couches, contented and eager looking men fiddling with their coin purses, and mostly naked women. The sight of it all brought back uncomfortable memories for Brinnea, but at least the three men hadn’t followed her inside. The matron of the establishment approached her, carrying a board with a stack of papers and a candle in one hand and a quill in the other. She examined Brinnea skeptically. She was a dwarven women of freckled complexion and coppery hair tied up in businesslike braids. Her green eyes were stern and unwavering. When she spoke, she sounded very much like a man. “Good ‘eve, lass. My name is Sionnach, though you can call me Sio. What can the Foxy Sisters provide ye tonight?” Brinnea cleared her throat awkwardly. “Nothing, miss. I was only…passing through.” Sio’s eyebrow rose at that. She did not seem the type to enjoy having her time wasted. “Just passing through me house? Well, sorry to say, there’s no back door, so ye’ll have to pass back the way ye came.” Brinnea did not welcome the thought of searching for a tavern with the streets the way they were. Before the matron could walk away, she said, “Perhaps I could stay here tonight? I have coin.” Sio wheeled about, twirling her quill between her fat fingers. “My rooms are reserved for my daughters’ company. I’m afraid I have no gentlemen to provide you entertainment. So, unless you are—” Brinnea cut her off there, “I am not interested in that. But perhaps we could come to some arrangement for a place to lay my head tonight.” “What sort of arrangement?” Brinnea tapped the hilt of her longsword. “I could provide protection for your establishment tonight.” Sio pursed her lips thoughtfully. “And ye’d charge nothin’ so long as ye’re allowed to stay the night?” Brinnea nodded. Sio made some marks in her papers and waved for Brinnea to follow her. “Ye’ll stand guard in the corner. Swords make men nervous before a tumble, which isn’t good fer business. Stay here, out of sight.” She directed Brin to a chair, which the death knight sat in happily. Her joints ached from a long day of riding and walking. Sio went on describing the sort of things to look out for to aid security before she waddled off to see to other guests. Brin settled in to watch her surroundings. Her mind wandered back in time all the while. Brinnea, her mother Maria, and her sister Christa had lived in a run-down hut outside the walls of Lordaeron City after they left home to escape her father. While their mother fought a nasty fever, Christa and Brin had to look for ways to bring in coin, lest they all starve. Weeks went by with little work to be found, and their bellies grew emptier with each passing day. Christa had been the one to come up with the idea. “The brothels always pay their girls well,” she had explained to their mother as she lay in bed, “And Matron Kathy said I could start so long as I tell people I’m fourteen. They’ll never notice I’m younger by two years.” Maria had been adamant they never whore themselves out in such a way. “You are my daughter, Christa,” Maria said sternly despite her weak state, “You are not a piece of meat for men to buy and sell.” Brinnea had spoken up then, “But mother, we have nothing else to sell. And besides, we’re all girls.” She looked about now at the scantily-clad women, some no older than twelve as her sister had been. She saw through the masks they wore. They put on brave faces, even managed to look pleased to do their work. Perhaps some of them really were. A few hours of pleasure, a few hours of soreness, and at the end of the day, you had enough food and water and rest to feel comfortable. But none of them looked truly alive underneath those masks. Brinnea sighed softly. Not for the first time in her life, she felt powerless. “What do you mean, ‘you owe me?’ You charge silver for that sort of tumble?” A man, red-faced and drunk, stumbled out of a back room shouting and waving his fists wildly as Sio tried to calm him. He wore the same leathers and tattoos as the men who had followed Brin down the street. She watched him carefully. “What did the girl do wrong, Vic? Jessaya’s never made a mistake large enough fer such anger before!” The red-faced man looked all the wilder for Sio’s words. “Well clearly your standards are lax, Matron! That little slut just up and bit me! Like a fucking mutt, she just bit me!” The girl he pointed at with his angry red finger was in tears, holing sheets about her body to cover herself. She looked a teenager to Brin, though on the younger side. Her hair was a pretty shade of yellow, like a honey bee’s hair. Brinnea placed a hand on her sword’s hilt, eyes fixed on the escalating situation. Sio remained calm, unperturbed to be looking up at the angry man. “Vic, please! ‘twas a small mistake. Nothin’ to get so wild about! And ye will not storm out of me house without settling yer debt again!” A vein popped out of the side of Vic’s head. “A small mistake? She could have taken my bloody cock off! I ought to knock her teeth in!” “Please, sir,” the honey-haired girl wept, “I didn’t mean to. I didn’t mean to!” Vic took a step forward, and his eyes said everything Brinnea needed to hear. In a flash, she was between the two, sword unsheathed. She held the point to his throat and flashed an icy glare at him. The man shrunk back in horror, though not too far, for Brin’s sword followed. “Pay what you owe and get the fuck out of here,” Brinnea snarled. Vic fumbled for his purse, a little too slow for Brin’s liking. She yanked it off his loose belt and tossed it behind her to rest at Jessaya’s feet. Then she kicked the red-faced man to the door. “That was…excessive,” Sio said quietly. “Vic’s a lout, but he’s never hit one o’ my girls before.” Brinnea sheathed her blade, still eyeing the door. “People change,” she said icily. Jessaya tackled Brinnea with a hug. The death knight held her arms outwards in surprise. “Thank you, miss!” the girl said tearfully, “Thank you so much!” Sio pocketed Vic’s purse and tugged at Jessaya’s sheets. “A’right, girl, enough. Go clean yerself up and eat some supper.” The girl obeyed, glancing back at Brin with thanks in her eyes. Brinnea returned to her chair as Sio muttered to herself about death knights and bringing down the mood and losing clients. Brin’s thoughts were on the man she had threatened. He must have been a member of a mercenary band, and a tight-knit one to have tattoos on even a lowly member like him. Killing him might have brought worse wrath upon her, but if she had hidden the corpse, the rest of the band may have never found out. Now, though, he was likely to run straight to his friends and stir them up with his drunken, red-faced fury. As the night went on, Brinnea became more convinced she would have to leave town before dawn.
  8. Full Name: Lanette Wetwhistle Date of Birth: September 4 Age: 32 Race: Goblin, Formerly Steamwheedle Cartel Gender: Female Hair: Cyan, shoulder-length Eyes: Blue Height: 3 feet Weight: 40 lbs Place of residence: Dragonsroost Port Place of Birth: Booty Bay Known Relatives: Not among the living Religion/Philosophy: Money Occupation: Goblin Engineer, Pet Tamer, Sailor, Gun for Hire Group/Guild affiliation: Borrowed Time Enemies: Bloodsail Buccaneers, Southsea Freebooters, any and all slavers, some warlocks, the naga, the Venture Company Likes: The smell of the sea, animals, sleeping under the stars, tinkering, the tropics, photography Dislikes: Snow, ice, the color white, Northrend, snow cones, and ice cream Favorite Foods: Pineapple Favorite Drinks: Piña colada Favorite Colors: Teal, Brown Weapons of Choice: Rifles, Grenades, Rockets, Traps, Tasers, Knives Physical Features: Angular facial features. Sharp eyes. Messy hair tied up with skull-pattern pendants. Special Abilities: Wild imagination. Can put together workable contraptions quickly and with limited supplies. Can tame just about any beast, given enough time and resources. Trained in wilderness survival, specialized in tropical jungles. A spirited climber and excellent swimmer. Positive Personality Traits: Open-minded and logical. Easygoing. Can keep a secret. Negative Personality Traits: Aloof, disinterested. A natural liar. Lacking in social graces. Misc. Quirks: Loves to spend as much time around the water as possible. Seems to hate everything cold and related to ice or snow. Paints all her gear bright and tropical colors. Photographs everything. Music: Escape -- Rupert Holmes History: She spent her early life growing up in Booty Bay with her parents, both fishers. Pirates raided the bay and killed her parents. She was taken as a slave and sold to a plantation, where a warlock stripped away her ability to think for herself. A hero saved her and the other slaves from the plantation and gave them kaja kola, which restored their minds slowly. She still relies on the kola to keep her mind from being addled, since she was brainwashed from such a young age. Reliance on kaja kola has made her brain move twice normal speed. She’s able to hold a conversation while also rapidly coming up with complex plans in her mind. This makes her a natural improvisor, and made her a natural engineer. After the hero dropped her off back at her home, she felt lost and out of place. She got a sailing job with the cartel, but disliked all the rules and structure. Eventually, she left the cartel in pursuit of her own self-image. Though she is still looking, she has managed to gather numerous skills she enjoys practicing, including pet taming, hunting, survival skills, photography, and exploring. Nowadays, she drifts between jobs. In fact, she heard of a really nice job, just the other day. Something about a mercenary company in the Twilight Highlands…
  9. She woke from an unrestful sleep beneath a tree that seemed doubled-over in pain. Dry leaves fell about her and rain pattered on the moist ground. Brinnea wiped damp hair from her eyes and stood to greet the new day. Dreary and grey, the day seemed unwilling to return her hello. She gathered her meager supplies – a sword belt and a satchel with some money and first-aid kit – and hopped on the back of her last loyal companion. The deathcharger stood still, its eyes vacant as a corpse’s. When she gave it a kick, it moved, but there was little evidence otherwise that it was even conscious. On they went, kicking up moisture from the summer rain and crossing long, desolate miles of the Wetlands in silence. Brinnea slowed as they approached a small farm. She gazed at it longingly, catching sight of a family at work. The eldest man appeared to be complaining bitterly about the rain while the youngest children frolicked about without a care in the world. By instinct, she began riding towards it. Once she realized what she was doing, she quickly yanked the reins and spurred the charger into a gallop northward. The farm shrank into a dot behind her, though she never looked back to see it. The rainclouds gave way to thunderstorms. Winds shrieked across the wavy hills and sent droplets scraping across Brinnea’s bare flesh. Drops tinned against her armor. She wondered if the soldiers back at Greenwarden’s Grove would be able to keep the rain out of their tents tonight. She wondered if somewhere on the passage into the mountains far to the south Charlotte and August were dressed in their warm clothes for the journey to Ironforge. Would they like it there? Would they make new friends? Would they ever forget about her? The wind picked up further until even the undead charger balked at carrying on at full gallop. The death knight eased her mount towards the dense hills where they might find some cover from the storm. Lighting crashed somewhere nearby. She couldn’t see where it had struck home. She imagined a fire trying to survive in a storm like this, but her imagination failed her. The horse and rider strode through clefts populated with fleeing deer and rodents, squirrels and birds of every sort. Plantlife was abundant here, ranging from flowers to fungi, small shrubs to huge trees spreading wide canopies. Thinking of the tree she had slept at the night prior, Brinnea decided to continue searching for better cover. A wolf’s lonely howl took to the air. Brinnea waited, but heard no response. She counted it a blessing without thinking. A pack of wolves is dangerous, after all. But then she got to thinking of the lone beast out all alone. What had happened to its pack? Was it cast out, as she had been? Perhaps it had hoped too greatly, and tried too hard to further itself and its pups. The alpha could only tolerate so much before he had to act. At last, Brinnea found a cave gashed into the rocks and hurried toward it. She dismounted, for the ceiling was too low to fit on horseback. The deathcharger squeezed into the cave and stood resolute at the back, facing a wall. Charlotte had named the horse Spaklehoof for its bright hooves, but the beast was far from intelligent. Brinnea guessed it was evening. The sky seemed a little less bright than it had when she first entered the hilly area. She knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight. Last night’s dreams had confirmed it. Brinnea had never been able to sleep well as a death knight, but after a while living in Greenwarden’s Grove, she found she was able to have more restful nights than she used to. Despite being an overgrown, swampy backwater, the Grove had started to feel a little like a home. The wolf’s howl shook her back to her senses. Again, it sounded lonely and sad, and again it garnered no reply save for the roaring wind, the screeching rain, and the thundering storm. Brinnea had removed her armor and began polishing it, but every time she started to lose herself in the monotony of work, the howl returned. Somehow, it seemed to be growing both louder and weaker. She tossed her pauldron into a pile of armor and yanked her sword belt about her waist. After tying her cloak and lifting her hood, she stalked out into the storm. Brinnea was by no means an expert tracker, but she figured in this case it would be easy to find what she was looking for. The wolf howled every few minutes, so she used it as a guide. It became more difficult every time the thunder and wind deafened her, and for many hours, she felt as though she were wandering in circles about the hills. Then she spotted it – the wolf huddled under a tree with its leg caught in a trap. A kill was decomposing nearby, swamped by rain and eaten through by all manner of bugs. Odd that the wolf would remain trapped for so long without the hunter whose trap was laid coming to check on it. Brinnea thought as much, until she found whom she presumed to be the hunter in question lodged under a fallen tree stump. The char pattern was rippled like tree roots, but more jagged like hands with too many fingers and fingers with too many joints. Brinnea searched the man for weapons and found a knife, a bow, a length of rope, and arrows. She left the bow, but added the knife to her belt beside her own, and pulled the rope over her shoulder. The wolf had awoken while Brinnea was investigating. It sniffed and growled at her weakly, but made no attempts to move. Brin approached carefully, and eased herself to a crouch beside the beast. She reached out to touch the trap, but the wolf barked at her warningly. She pulled her hand back. Taking the rope from her shoulder, she measured a section of it and cut it with the hunter’s knife. Then she deftly clamped the wolf’s snout shut and forced the rope around and tied it tight. The wolf tried to paw it off, but otherwise acted with meek acceptance. Brin grabbed hold of the clamped trap, the leather of her handwraps thick enough to keep her hands from getting shredded by the sharp metal. She pulled with all her strength. The metal creaked, and the wolf whimpered. Blood spurted from the reopened wound, but the wolf pulled itself loose. Brin yanked her hands free and left the trap clamped and bloody where it was. The wolf tried to nuzzle the wounded hind leg, but was impeded by the ropes. Brinnea retrieved bandages from her medical kit and carefully grappled the wolf, then applied the cloth to the bleeding leg. After, she drew her knife and carefully cut the rope muzzle free, then pulled back. The wolf growled at her bitterly before madly licking its newly bandaged leg. “There, mangy mutt,” Brinnea said, “I saved you. Now scamper off and don’t do anything stupid.” The wolf watched her and continued to nibble at the bandages. In time, they would rot away, but that would be long after the wound healed. “You should be more worried about predators than a little cloth, idiot.” The wolf ignored her advice. Shaking her head, she turned to head back to her cave. It wasn’t until she was halfway back that she realized the beast was following her.
  10. Full Name: Kimba Goldfield Date of Birth: July 21 Age: 42 Race: Shu'halo, Tauren of Thunder Bluff Gender: Male Hair: Black mane and fur Eyes: Gold Height: 8 feet, 2.4384 meters Weight: Approximately 1000 pounds, ~453.592 kg Place of residence: Ashtotem Village Place of Birth: The Barrens, in a small canyon between two mountains where the sound echoes like a boom of thunder Known Relatives: Qarn (Older Brother, deceased), Rumba (younger brother), Cassowary (younger brother), Nagoda (nephew), Fasha (sister-in-law via Qarn), Magooma (mother-in-law via Fasha), Mayha, Laika, and Rhoma (his dead mates, all tauren women), Draquesha (promised mate) Religion/Philosophy: An'she, the sun god Occupation: Thunder Bluff Brave, Escort to Barrens Refugees Group/Guild affiliation: Guest of Ashtotem Village Enemies: The Alliance, Scourge Affiliates, Brinnea Velmon, the Barrens centaur tribes Likes: Wide-open spaces, flat landscapes, large gatherings, parties, playing the drums, racing, javelin toss, fishing, swimming Favorite Foods: Kodo roast, grilled salmon Favorite Drinks: Mulgore firewater Favorite Colors: Leathery Brown and Shiny Gold Weapons of Choice: Battleaxe, Hunting Spear, War Club, Throwing Axes, Javelins Dislikes: Confinement, tight spaces, restrictions to movement, diet, or activities, the smell of death, quiet places, abstract studies such as complex math, magic, social sciences, politics, etc. Physical Features: Average tauren height, black fur all across his body, black horns tipped with gold ornaments, facial hair tied in three braids, has two gold teeth, and rippling muscle across his body criss-crossed with scars Special Abilities: Peak physical fitness, hugely powerful legs and arms, expert tracker, and can run for several days without tiring. Positive Personality Traits: Boisterous and optimistic. He tends to go with the flow without concerning or stressing about the future or the past. Can liven up any situation with a fun story, song, or joke. Bold and brave, never one to shy from a fight. Highly objective; will confront someone if he senses the need. Perceptive, and takes note of people's mannerisms or interests. Reveres the elderly for their experience, and prizes the youth for their energy and potential. Has strong control over his rage, so he can use it as a tool without it getting the better of him. Negative Personality Traits: Insensitive and easily bored. Impatient and likely to take risks even when unnecessary or clearly dangerous. Finds it difficult to grasp a bigger picture or pat attention to abstract ideas or feelings. Often if there is an emotional matter at stake, he'll ignore it or find a way to move away from it. Defiant and resistant to criticism. Misc. Quirks: Shows a flagrant disregard for nature whenever possible. He'll kill critters for sport, pelts, and food if they cross his path, chop his way through foliage that annoys him, and grows vindictive at his surroundings if they restrict or confine him. Sharpens and polishes his weapons every morning, first thing. Always carries a skin of firewater with him, and gets in an intolerable mood when he's run out. Music: "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC History: Ever since his birth, Kimba has had an uncommonly strong set of lungs. He cried the most out of his three siblings, and was the most likely to cause trouble for the family. His father often told him that he had a responsibility to his people and to his family to uphold their honor and legacy, just as his older brother Qarn understood intuitively. Kimba eventually understood what his father meant after both his parents were butchered in Camp Taurajo. Qarn was devastated and went on a rampage against the humans of Northwatch that nearly got him killed. Kimba pulled Qarn, who was usually the responsible one, from the fires of hate. Kimba understood loss and felt sad too, but he understood how to control anger until the right moment, and could always find a way to enjoy the now rather than get hung up on the past or future. That way, he could always look out for his family's honor and legacy, even if he couldn't make as significant strides to a glorious future like his older brother could. Qarn was grateful to his brother from then on, and trusted him with his own family. When Qarn perished in a hunt for fugitive undead Parigan Blackmane and Brinnea Velmon, Kimba took upon himself all his brother's former responsibilities that he could. Though he could not be a visionary and a diplomat, Kimba could still be a warrior and a guardian for the family. He took in Qarn's wife and son, Fasha and Nagoda. Nagoda resented Kimba for trying to step in where his father had left, but Kimba never understood how to make the child accept the new reality. The boy wanted to be just like his father, but didn't know how to. Kimba tried to teach him as best as he could, but found the boy more hateful with every passing day. To fulfill one of his brother's final tasks, Kimba led some refugees displaced by the war in the Barrens south to Thousand Needles, to the neutral territory of the Ashtotem Tribe. They were accepted as residents, though the people had to cut their ties with the Horde. Kimba and his brothers continued to serve the Horde and uphold their duties to the refugees. Though they did not join Ashtotem, they were allowed to stay as guests. Kimba shortly afterwards led his nephew on a pilgrimage to one of Qarn's favorite holy sites, Wyrmrest Temple, to offer service to the dragons and continue their ties to the Light as Qarn would have wanted. Kimba was given a task to slay a void beast lurking in the center of Sholozar Basin, and there he found Draquesha, a Darkspear troll living alone with a multitude of animal companions. The two grew fond of one another and engaged in several sexual encounters, until the tauren asked the troll to be his mate. Drunk on firewater and lust, she accepted.
  11. Sometimes he stood at their graves. The ones he'd lost. The stones sat there looking up at him questioningly. They still waited to hear his diagnosis. Every one of them stood stock still like a soldier should and watched him with the utmost attention. It was a tremendous weight to see them all look at him. He stood at each one he could remember, and he had a long memory. When he had had time away from the war, Sanjay found his way to the graveyards eventually. Now the war was over, and there was nothing to do but stand. He counted them back in his head, but couldn't. He wished he'd never learned to count past ten. Or one hundred. Or a thousand. The graveyard had to be extended to fit them all. New earth was put into place for them to be buried. How ironic was that? Sanjay thought about the earth beind ripped apart a hundred miles away to be toted here, surrounded by walls and sad, grey stone. All that, only to be dug up again and filled with bodies. Filled with dreams and thoughts. Hopes and loves. Husbands, fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, and everything else. He thought about the ones without names. They sat and watched, too, but silently. The others shouted in his mind. A name to a memory. The nameless were the ones that kept him awake at night. They crept through the crevices of his mind like errant shadows without a source of light. They wandered aimlessly, silently. His overactive mind put faces to their lack of names. He invented names only to discard them, calling himself stupid fir disrespecting them. But he had a long memory. The discarded were not filled by new memories so quickly. And so they built up, one atop the others and so on until the nameless names outnumbered the true names. He tried to set the weight of their gaze down in his mind. He needed something physical, like a talisman, to embody the weight. So one time he spent a week weaving little leather dolls. He had meant them to look like soldiers, strong and proud. Once he'd placed them on the graves they looked more like children -- huddled, alone, and frightened. Sanjay thought about his legs sometimes. He'd told himself it didn't matter anymore, that old wound. It was the new wounds that really mattered. With new wounds, you couldn't be certain if you'd recover. If the patient would ever walk or talk or live again. Sanjay's legs had recovered. His back had mended and his spirit reformed from the ashes of the cannon that buried him alive. But he still thought about them. He had even named them. His mother had told him that names made the monsters less scary. Torque was what he'd named one. He liked giving it a powerful name, something that carried weight. It was his right leg, the one he unconsciously considered his dominant leg. When it had stopped working years ago, it sat limply in a chair and melted away like an old flower blown to dust by a brisk wind. Only, he didn't notice the wind had taken it from him until one day he'd woken up alone. There had been girlfriends -- dozens of them. They came and went, but his memory was long. He recalled them straddling his unmoving waist lovingly, swaying as if to a song. At least that part of him had still worked. The other leg he'd called Panic. It was the leg that reacted when he needed to react fast. Where Torque carried the weight, Panic pushed him past it. Sanjay remembered pushing past the time when he was alone. He had decided he wouldn't live on without legs. He had decided he wanted to sway to the music he couldn't hear. Dancing was something he'd been good at. He'd wanted to be a dancer once before his father had given him his duty. Sanjay had looked for a cure everywhere cures could be found. A broken spinal cord was tricky business, something no amount of potions, Light, magic water, experimental surgery, or happy thoughts could cure him of. His vast knowledge of medicine and fixing broken things didn't help. He had been convinced it only made matters worse because there was no more room for hope. But in the end, he'd found his cure. He'd been made whole. And so he was graced with the chance to make others whole too. But making some whole meant burying those whose pieces wouldn't fit back together. That meant names, and the nameless. It meant moving earth to fill it with bodies and wishes. It meant standing and weaving talismans and finding ways to lift the weight. It meant standing before a grave on the outskirts of Lakeshire on a dry evening as the sun fell dead in the west, biting back tears as they escaped at last from their long sentence behind the bars of shame. They were the only names that could make him cry anymore. It was bizarre what time could do to a man. Time could heal his wounds and change him into something new. But it could also make grief weigh heavier, and guilt burn deeper. The names stared up at him as a talisman of past failure, a weight that couldn't be set down. He stared down at the blurred carvings and the piles upon piles of woven children and felt time's effect on him. "Hi Dad," he told the children, "Hi Mom. Alex. John. Brom. Hi Saphir. It's me again." He wiped away his bitter tears to do his duty, as Father had always wanted. "I didn't think I'd ever come back, you know. I don't just mean to Redridge. I thought Pandaria was where I was meant to be. I thought home meant making something for myself and never looking back. I didn't think I'd have a reason. As it turns out, I was right. There was nothing to come back to." He thought it was true. They were all dead. Every last one of them. Broken pieces that couldn't be mended. No sense in dwelling on old wounds. Yet he had come back. "I'm still patching up soldiers like you would have wanted, Dad. Guess you got your wish, somewhat. I don't win any glory for the family name like you wanted, but at least I'm keeping the army you helped build keep its feet." Sanjay looked at the dolls seated carefully about the graves and sighed in frustration. "This is stupid. I'm stupid for ever thinking this would help." He bent over to pick a doll up and tossed it off into the distance. He lost sight of it behind a dry, dead bush. "You're all dead. There's no point to it. My words won't comfort you, and your lack of presence won't make me feel any better. I screwed up. I left and didn't look back until you were all gone. Ducking around the truth is pointlessly stupid. You are dead, but there are others that I can keep from the grave with the gifts you gave me. That's legacy. That's what will make me feel better. Don't any of you ever catch me getting weepy around you again, got it?" None of them answered. Sanjay told himself he was still being stupid, yet there he stood. Sanjay. Sander Redjay. The firstborn son of Alexander II Redjay, a hero of the Alliance. Taken by war before his time, and dying far too old. Beside him was his family, the ones who had stood by him. And standing above him, still breathing and crying was the one who had left. "I'm not using your name anymore, Dad. It belongs exactly where you put it. My name is Sanjay now. I never got to tell you before you died. It means Conqueror." He about-faced and walked off, his stride long and stiff. Torque and Panic carried him back down the road to town. The old house belonged to him now, so he intended to give it away to someone who needed it. That, or burn it down and light a cigar in the flames. He hadn't decided.
  12. "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.
  13. "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.
  14. RiktheRed21


    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.
  15. "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.
  16. "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.
  17. "A dutiful knight with a strong sense of responsibility. I would have liked to work with him more when I had the chance," -Brinnea.
  18. "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.
  19. "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.
  20. "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.
  21. "I've never met someone so willing to put others ahead of herself. I sure was glad to hear she survived the knife," -Brinnea.
  22. "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.
  23. "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.
  24. "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.