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Everything posted by RiktheRed21

  1. Brinnea tried to cast a rune. She didn't want a large, easily noticed blast of frost, but a small amount of ice. She felt the usual surge of power flow through her body as a rune activated, but then it all vanished as soon as it appeared. The wards on the cell were top-notch, it seemed. She was not particularly surprised. Now I know, she thought to herself, And I had to know. A guard clanged his baton against a bar of her cage to get her attention. Brinnea had been aware of him before he knew she was, though. She turned her head to look at him -- an average-looking blood elf with his verdent green eyes, chiseled jawline, and vaguely smug expression. He spoke to her unpleasantly, clearly thinking very lowly of her, "You have a visitor. Your only visitor." Brinnea pulled herself up and off the small bed and stood before the cell door as the guard unlocked it. She held her hands straight out in front of her, awaiting the shackles that inevitably clasped around her wrists. She had no intentions of breaking the rules. Not here. The guards escorted her to another holding cell, this one twice as large as her own. She was seated at a finely polished wooden table with red and gold enameling across from an empty chair. The guards who had escorted her stood against the wall near her back as another pair of elves strolled in from the door on the far wall, just behind the second chair. One of the elves was dark of skin, a shade of violet with fel-green markings, short black horns, and flowing black hair like ocean waves in the night. Her hair even shimmered in the dull torchlight as though glistening under a full moon. It evoked a pretty picture in Brinnea's mind, though she didn't much care for the open sea. The demon huntress's brightly lit fel sockets simmered slyly in Brinnea's direction as the elf took a seat in the vacant chair. Brinnea kept her shackled hands in her lap and struck all emotion from her face as she had done a thousand times before. One of the guards spoke. "Ten minutes," he said simply. "You hear that, Brinnea?" the demon huntress said with a voice as silken smooth as her hair, "I do hope whatever you asked me here for won't take too long to explain." Brin replied politely, "Not to worry, Shanoris. I know you have much to preoccupy you of late. Hopefully this favor won't require too much of your attention." Shanoris took a deep breath, tapping her fingernail against the table rhythmically. She was just as Brinnea remembered her, though she had not expected an elf as old as Shanoris to have changed much in only a year's time. The huntress never sat still, never kept her hands from moving for longer than half a minute before fidgeting. And she regarded Brinnea with a blind gaze that spoke of distrust and cynicism. Rightly earned, I suppose. Her sister gave her life so that I could keep mine. Shanoris replied, "Yes, I am sure you noticed the massive new satellite Azeroth just received. Have you ever heard that term, Brinnea? 'Satellite?' It's an astronomical term invented by my people after centuries of gazing skyward with wonder and enchantment. It is a celestial body that orbits another. In this case, it refers to Argus. It orbits us now." She smiled ruefully. "How lucky are we to have such a splendid deliverer as Illidan Stormrage?" "If his methods give you such stress, why did you choose to follow in his footsteps?" Brinnea asked simply. She regretted engaging the huntress in a long-winded tangent with so short a time to spare, but she needed Shanoris' interest to get the job she needed done handled. Shanoris exhaled harshly. "He gets things done quickly, one way or another. I may have lived a long time, but much of that time was spent in a dark cell. At least, I think it was dark. Regardless, I don't like wasting what time Elune saw fit to grant me." "I hope you won't blame me for getting to the point, then," Brinnea said, "She has been appearing in my dreams again. I believe you know of whom I speak?" Shanoris's finger ceased its tapping for a brief moment. "The Black Witch. Nightmares of her are common for you, I'm sure." "You're the one who traded me your family's remedy for nightmares, Fargaze." Brinnea noticed with a hint of satisfaction at the huntress's displeasure at her surname being used to address her. She continued, "The remedies worked, even for a death knight like me. My compliments to your esteemed father. Whatever vision I received to see that witch again was no simple nightmare." Shanoris reclined in her chair casually, but Brinnea could see her face twisting in displeasure at this particular topic. She replied after a short pause, "So, you think the witch may yet live. In whatever form the Legion has seen fit to grant her after her failure. What of it? The Dark Titan is not in the habit of rewarding mortals for failure. Immortals even less so." Brinnea's eyes narrowed skeptically. "You want her dead as much as I. Dead, for good and all. If she were to return to our world, she would not rest until she brought her revenge against us. You and I most of all. We were more instrumental in her downfall than any, except perhaps Charlotte." Shanoris chuckles under her breath. "And how is the little one? Still full of fire, I hope?" "If I didn't know better, I would say she really took after you," Brinnea smiled despite herself. "She still asks about you at times. You left an impression." "And if I didn't know any better, I would say she could make for a powerful Illidari someday. But I know you would never allow it." The huntress grinned as if the thought of denying Charlotte anything were a hilarious joke. Brinnea shared that smile. "Indeed. Would you lay our worries to rest, Shanoris? I may not live long enough to make sure myself. I know you have the means to find out. Perhaps moreso than anyone else I know." Shanoris nodded without hesitation. "Consider it done. If that witch still lingers, I will tear her soul into enough pieces that she will never reform, even if the Dark Lord himself were to try and stitch her together." Brinnea nodded gratefully. "That is a load off my mind. If you wish to see the girl again, ask around for one of your countrymen, a Sentinel commander named Sorel Crescentsong. He'll know where she is." Shanoris stood, nodding. "Perhaps I shall seek her out. But only after this matter is resolved. You can rest assured it has my undivided attention. I must attend to my business before the way to Argus is opened, after all." She began towards the exit, and the guard opened the door for her. Shanoris turned back for a moment, saying, "One thing you should know about life in a cell, Brinnea: it isn't the bars that trap you. Not the chains on your body. The prison of the mind is the greatest cell of all." She left the room, and the door was shut behind her. *** Brinnea Velmon Shanoris Fargaze
  2. Brinnea Velmon was a commoner in the human kingdom of Lordaeron in the years leading up to its destruction. She grew up on stories of the kingdom’s brave defenders and their exploits in the Second War, both in Azeroth and in the Draenor Outlands. She craved tales of her father’s magical prowess, and was thrilled at the idea that one day that power would be hers. But that all fell apart when the Scourge came. She lived long enough to get a taste of her own family – a husband and newborn daughter – and then the undead took her away to be reshaped as a death knight. Her choosing was a mistake – she was destined for an afterlife as a mindless ghoul for the Scourge army, but somehow, she ended up in the wrong pile. She was a gentle, kind spirit with dreams and goals. She had few ambitions, but she clung to those few like a fish to a hook. She refused to give up on them even after her transformation. This is not her story. *** Briseidis Val’roya smoothed a strand of her ghostly white hair over a long, pointed ear as she placed the last stitch in a rug she’d spent the past two months working at. She had lost faith a few times that she would ever get it right, but at last it was in a condition she was proud of. Bright blue eyes lighting up with excitement, she sprang up and ran to her master’s station. She leaned over the table, her pale grey sleeves brushing the tapestry the man was busying himself weaving. “Master Thaelos, I finished it!” she announced, “You were right all along, it was the thread, not the material.” Thaelos Silkblood looked up and lowered his half-moon spectacles to look at her. He regarded her with a knowing smile that said to her ‘Of course I was right, silly girl. I’ve been making better rugs than that for hundreds of years.’ “Well done, Apprentice,” he said instead, kindly, “You’ll be replacing me in no time.” Briseidis smiled, pleased at her master’s kind words. He always knew what to say to make her smile. She thought he could weave smiles better than tapestries, at least until she took a look at one of his masterworks. It didn’t take long for her to change her mind. Reani, the other apprentice, burst into the shop suddenly. She carried a roll of fine parchment in her hand and a satisfied smile on her face. She was a pretty girl, Briseidis had to admit. Her short-cropped blonde hair caught the light like goldenweave and bobbed as she ran like a fine, flowing robe. When she spoke, her voice sounded smooth as silk: “Master, the harbormaster has agreed to your request! We’ll be receiving regular shipments of mageweave, just as you wanted.” The master’s kind smile grew at the news, but Briseidis’ excitement wavered. Securing trade was Reani’s domain where Bris handled manufacturing. She mostly stitched together what the master was too busy to concern himself over – menial things such as stockings and undergarments, gloves and cloth linings for boots, sometimes a few simple cloaks and robes. But what the master lacked was a good instinct for requisitions. Reani had that, as Thaelos’ wife once had, before she left him and his business to start a new one with a different man. Bris tried not to feel envious of Reani, but she was an asset. Bris was merely a charity case. “Fine work as usual, Apprentice,” the master said to Reani. “Let me take a look at the agreement. We have much to discuss, my dear, but first we should toast this success. Briseidis, please go downstairs and get me the bottle. No deal is truly complete until it has been concluded with a glass of wine.” He and the other apprentice began discussing business Bris did not entirely understand. The white-haired girl made her way downstairs wordlessly, hoping that silence would mask her disappointment. The brand-new rug was forgotten. *** Briseidis sat at the same table she always did, in the same tavern they had always visited together. She held an undisturbed drink in her hand – the master’s favorite vintage. Her icy blue eyes regarded the deep, wine red color without a hint of emotion. Then the goblin entered the room, looking nervous and fidgeting with a small roll of paper between his stubby green fingers. He took a seat without ever meeting Bris’s cold gaze. “Did anyone follow you?” she asked, staring at him without blinking. The goblin was sweating through his embroidered black robe as if he were running through a desert. He replied, his voice barely above a muttered whisper, “Nobody. I don’t think…I don’t think she suspects.” “I’m not paying you to think, I’m paying you to know. This won’t work without certainties.” Briseidis tapped a finger on the glass she held. Small chips of ice formed on the edge of the transparent surface. The goblin’s fidgeting sped under her unflinching watch. “What can you promise me, Kozlok?” He cleared his throat and handed over the small scroll. She took it under her hand but didn’t pick it up. “She’ll be there, at that time, expecting another shipment from me. It was a good deal, you understand me? I would never think of breaking a contract if you hadn’t made such a…lucrative offer. Where did you get that much coin, anyhow? You running a business?” She smirked at the goblin, and replied simply, “Inheritance.” She stood and placed the drink down on the table, the glass slightly chilled but untouched by her lips. The goblin watched her now that her eyes were cast at the note in her palm. “So, when do I get the money?” he asked nervously, “I expected you to bring it here, or at least give me an I-owe-you statement.” “You’ll get it when I say you will,” she answered curtly, returning to staring at him harshly. “If she gets a hint of what I’ve planned, this whole arrangement is off. You won’t see a single copper.” The goblin smacked his lips, trying to work up the courage to argue. He finally said, “What if you just make a mistake? Then I get nothing and my business is put at risk. I need some kind of assurance or something.” “Your assurance is my word, which I never go back on. As for mistakes, I never make mistakes. Not anymore. You’ve seen me in action.” The goblin nodded, still not meeting her eyes directly. She started to walk out, unwrapping the scroll. He called after her softly. “So, what’s with the wine? You didn’t take a sip.” “A wise man once said that every good deal should be concluded with a glass of wine.” She turned around and walked out, reading the note in her hand. Sunsail Anchorage by the docks Midday Tomorrow Two guards She wears a red sash across her eyes Bris rolled the note up and stored it in her pocket. Just one more day until it was over. *** Reani and Briseidis sat across from each other by a campfire. Theirs was one of many that dotted the dark landscape in the ruins of the city they once called home. Reani spoke first, bitterness prevalent in her voice, “They took our home from us, Bris. You know it has to be done. The Prince is doing what is best for us.” Bris didn’t look at her, hiding away her eyes by looking at the dark, dead ground. “The fel is dangerous, Reani,” she muttered tiredly. “We shouldn’t use it so lightly. It can change us. You’ve seen what it can do to people.” “We aren’t using it lightly, fool girl!” the other apprentice spat back at her, “It’s our only option! Don’t you want to fight back against those mindless freaks that took our home? That took Master Thaelos?” Bris would have wiped the tears from her face, but since losing the Sunwell, she barely had the strength left to do much of anything. She hardly ate or moved all day unless the Prince decided their camp needed to relocate. She knew Reani had already started tapping into the fel magics some of the mages had been showing to the elves. The blonde girl’s normally blue eyes were starting to look greener every day. Bris replied, her mind growing foggy as she did, “I just…don’t want us to…lose who we are. I only want Silvermoon…to remain as beautiful as it is in my dreams.” She started nodding off. Reani sighed and moved to her side of the fire, wrapping a blanket around her friend tightly. “That is all that’s left of that Silvermoon, sweet sister. Only dreams.” *** Briseidis watched Reani and her two Broken guards exit a portal by the docks, just as the note had said they would. The sun shone high overhead, just as she expected. When this was over, the goblin would get his money, and it would all finally be over. She drew her curved saber and stepped out, pale white armor glittering in the sunlight. The first Broken draenei shouted out as he spotted her. His weapon was drawn by the time she death-gripped him off his feet. He slid to a stop before her, lying on his back. Her saber pierced his heart and froze him inside out. Reani gaped at her angrily, a red sash over her eyeless sockets, glowing with a fel green tint. Briseidis yanked her blade from the dead Broken’s chest and pointed the curved tip at the second guard at Reani’s side. White frost splashed across the demon hunter’s side as she sidestepped away from her guard. The Broken gasped desperately, trying in vain to catch a breath. Bris knew it was pointless, that his lungs were frozen straight through. It wasn’t the first time she’d killed that way. Reani’s glaives were in her hands. She lunged forward with a wordless, savage shout on her lips. Bris expected that. Reani always lunged first, and asked questions after cutting the foe to bits. The first glaive glanced off the edge of her saber expertly. The second swung short of her gorget, slicing air like shearing a sheet of cloth. Reani growled, bearing teeth like a wolf’s fangs at the woman who was once her friend. “You thief! Betrayer!” the blonde, horned elf screamed as she slashed and ducked, weaving about Bris like a dancer doing her steps. The blue-eyed knight countered with steady steps, not as graceful or quick, but just as expertly practiced. Saber and glaive met with the clash and shriek of metal on metal. “You stole the money! You plotted against me! Tell me why!” Briseidis said nothing. She was busy watching for her opening. Reani made a wild cut to clear distance. Then, her red sashed face glowed with a deadly fel heat. Green flames erupted from her face, directed at Bris. All the while, the demon hunter shouted at the top of her lungs, “TELL ME WHY!” Briseidis surrounded herself with a shell of green runes. The flames died on contact, but her body’s power grew. Green fire cooled to blue frost. Bris had found her opening. She lunged through Reani’s flames and sliced at the woman’s gut. Her saber sang like a winter breeze, cutting through leather, skin, and guts. When the flames had died out completely, Reani was kneeling, her glaives fallen to the ground as she clutched her glistening red cut desperately. But Bris didn’t stop now. She could see Reani sliding a hand towards a dagger hung on the back of her belt. The blue-eyed elf aimed a cut at the back of the demon hunter’s neck. The impact was held back from full-strength; she didn’t want to kill her too quickly. Instead of snipping off her head, she cracked her vertebrae. She would be alive a little while longer as the frost fever quickly spread across her spine. Reani fell to the ground, paralyzed. Bris kicked her so she would face straight up towards the high noon sun. She looked down at the bleeding woman. White frost stole the color from her neck, and quickly snaked its way across the rest of her body. The green glow was dying out in her eyeless face. The red sash had been burned straight through, revealing empty holes in the blonde woman’s head. “Why?” she managed to croak as frost choked the breath from her throat. Bris wondered how she could explain it all. Explain why she had stolen their master’s inheritance and used it to plot Reani’s demise. Why after her friend had reappeared from years of imprisonment by the Wardens, she had been unable to face her until now. Should she explain that she couldn’t trust the Illidari who claimed to be protectors of Azeroth? Should she explain how she had always felt jealous of Reani for getting the master’s close attention, and all of his inheritance? How after she had fought and bled to protect the blood elves, and Reani had betrayed her and their home both to follow Illidan, an outsider and a betrayer? She said none of those things. She knew not a word of it would make a difference to the dying woman she had once called friend. There was only one thing she could say before she drove her sword down into the demon hunter’s heart and snuffed that green flame out forever. “For Silvermoon.”
  3. Leon approached the village from the north, mounted on his warhorse. They watched him as he rode into the parameter with skeptical eyes and tight grips on their spears and hatchets. The tusked, toothy faces glaring at him as he followed his guides deeper into the village set him ill at ease. Savages, all of them. Not a scrap of silk or even wool. Leather and linen as far as the eye can see. Oh, and the stench! The knight tried his hardest not to react to the smell of rotting fish meat and whatever else polluted the air. Trolls wouldn’t have been my first choice, but thank the Light Lord Walden didn’t send me to the ogres. I would have slit my own throat and be done with it! His guides sprayed some Zandali dialect at him that he obviously didn’t understand. The trolless translator wearing a collar around her neck interpreted the command in the Common tongue: “She asks that you remove yourself from your horse and follow her into the caves.” The caves in question were gloomy and humid. A horrid air flowed from within, setting Leo to sweltering under the summer sun. He hoped it would at least be cooler inside. Better wet and cool than wet and hot. The knight began to dismount, and replied to the translator, “It’s ‘dismount,’ woman. Not ‘remove myself from my horse,’ that sounds ridiculous and takes too long to say. ‘Dismount.’” The translator bowed her head, though it made her no less tall in comparison to the human, who stood a solid head’s length below her. “I apologize, lordship. She asks that you – dismount – and…” “And follow into the caves, yes. I understand,” the knight interjected, waving his hand impatiently. “Please, tell the huntress to take good care of my steed. Feed her well, brush her down, and try not to eat the damn thing, she was expensive.” The translator blinked, trying to think of the words quickly, then she spoke Zandali to the huntress in a polite manner. The huntress laughed boisterously, rousing a hearty chuckle from her spear-wielding posse. She spoke a quick line of her native tongue and a troll split from the group to take the knight’s horse elsewhere. The huntress urged him to follow once more. The caves were even more humid than Leon had anticipated, though fortunately it was cooler than the outside, sunny air. If I sweat any more than I already have, I’ll rust my armor, he thought to himself bitterly. The huntress spoke to the knight, and the translator relayed the message attentively, “In these caves, we train our young from birth to learn the hunt. They receive their markings, spears, and clothes by proving themselves in the wild.” Leon looked around at the scene. The young trolls, no older than ten, were all naked and unmarked as the adult hunters all were. They ran around, fighting one another or mimicking a hunt with sticks instead of spears. The children older than ten were all lightly clothed in small bits of leather or linen loincloths. They carried spears made of wood and stone. The young adults wore the bulk of the armor from what he could gather. Leather covered their vital parts, but left their arms, necks, heads, and of course, their feet all exposed. Among them, some carried stone axes, polished wooden clubs, leather straps fitted with raptor claws or old troll tusks, a few had rudimentary bows, but the vast majority were armed with crude spears. The older trolls, more seasoned in combat by the looks of their scarred bodies and many tattoos, were practicing some strange battle tactics in a patch of dirt by a pool of spring water. They wore cloaks and hoods that covered their whole bodies with grass, and when they lay flat along the ground, they appeared – impressively enough – as ordinary patches of vegetation. They were drilling a crawl that looked almost like ordinary grass moving in the wind. Leon noted that as a potential asset. Many other adults were engaged in other sorts of activities. Out in the open, most by the pools filled from the ceiling streams, unclothed trolls copulated loudly and violently. Leon was intrigued. He had never been with a tolless before. Their bodies were lithe, tall, and strong. Rugged and unkempt, they dominated males just as much as the men dominated them. He also noticed their ornaments, both dressing the environment and the trolls’ own bodies. Most were either carved wood or bones. Many of the older, more battle-hardened trolls wore jewelry with human or orc body parts wreathed together. He noticed several pink and green ears, severed tongues, shriveled eyes and heads, fingers and toes, and one imposing warrior wore enough bones to count for a full suit of armor. The fetishes and totems scattered about or in the hands of shamans carving them were made of wood and bone. All of them had faces shaped into them. Some of them had rotting pieces of corpses scattered around them or attached with wooden stakes or twine. He noticed back at the entrance a pair of totems with two arms and legs each, a human and an orc head dressed with a mask on either of them, and a torso strung up by dark, withered-looking entrails. It repulsed Leon, those corpses strung up like scarecrows, but it also intrigued him. This is what awaits our foes, after all. “Those that do not return from a hunt feed the birds, which in turn are hunted. That way, the spirits of the Witherbark Tribe never fail. The Witherbark may lose many warriors in battle, but they always get their revenge.” The translator’s eyes dropped sadly at the last part. Leon ran his gaze across the collar around her neck. A war slave, is she? She seems to belong more to a jungle tribe than a forest tribe. Leon noticed that they were following a pathway marked by tapestries shaped like spiderwebs. He inquired as to their purpose. In response, the huntress’ words were translated, “The Witherbark bow to the Loa of Shandra, the spider queen. These tapestries mark the tunnels that only those of the chieftain’s family or invited guests may enter. Those who come uninvited will be cursed by the Loa for all time.” Leon forced himself not to scoff disrespectfully. Loa curses? As if this failing tribe could muster up the power to affect me. The group now stood before a dais with a chair crafted out of bones and leather resting atop it. The dais overlooked all of the Witherbark Cave. A pair of pillars made of stone flanked the dais on either side, along with a pair of torches, casting an eerie light on the large troll seated on the throne of bones. The huntress guide fell to her knees and bowed low to the man in the chair. She chanted in Zandali, and her chant was answered by the voices of the other hunters. The translator urged Leon follow their lead and bow. He reluctantly did so, noticing he was now completely surrounded by spear-wielding hunters and watched closely by the chieftain’s guards. The chief barked something in his tongue and the group stood. The translator was urged to move forward and stand beside the dais to speak for the chief. Leon was announced by the huntress, then the chief responded loudly. He must have had the largest pair of lungs of anyone Leon had ever met. The translator spoke like a mouse in comparison, “The Mighty Majin’ba welcomes you to the Witherbark Caves. He wonders why a human would have the courage to face him so directly and ask that he lend the Tribe to his cause, a human cause.” The seated troll scratched his chin pensively at Leon. The troll was huge: if standing he would have been easily over eight feet tall, a full foot taller than any other troll Leon had seen in the tribe. And he was far from lean as many trolls were. His muscles rippled and veins popped in both arm and leg. His body was largely uncovered, though he wore leather armor across his abdomen and a raptor skin across one shoulder with fangs and claws jutting out of the pauldron. He wore a massive necklace across his chest with countless trophies from his hunts. Leon noticed human and orc teeth, raptor and buzzard talons, and a large purple jewel set in the heart of the amulet. That necklace must have been worth more than anything else the tribe owned. But even more impressive was the weapon lying along the man’s lap. It appeared to be a blade of sorts, but shaped large and flat like a club. Along the edges of the wooden “blade,” jagged bits of obsidian were set like razor-sharp teeth. In the wood, a scene depicting hunting, spiders, and skulls crushed under a large foot were carved. Leon replied to the chief’s inquiry respectfully, as the troll seemed the type to be angered easily, “Honorable Chieftain, I humbly thank you for accepting me into your fearsome domain.” The translator spoke his words in Zandali as he went on, “I was also very glad when our messengers returned with word of your interest in our plans. The Knights of the Silver Hand are always open to accepting new allies into the fold. There are many enemies we share in common. However, today I am not here to ask you to pledge yourselves to our order and offer undying loyalty. No, you deserve better than a demand for service. Instead, I come before you to ask of you, oh mighty warrior, to help us help you help us all.” When the slave troll translated the phrase, the chief and many of the gathered hunters gave Leon a confused look on the brink of anger. The chief’s brusque words were translated, “The Great Chieftain demands you cease the flattery and confusing words and get to your point.” Leon took a deep breath, calming his nerves, and cleared his throat. He extended his arms outward and spoke again, “Honorable Chieftain, too long have you and your people been oppressed under the thumb of knights and Horde warriors. Too long have you stood by while the world surpassed you in greatness. Too long have you stalked the shadows only dreaming at achieving the vastness of the once mighty Zandalari Empire. What you have here is mere trash before the greatness of an empire. And that is what I offer you today, Mighty Chief! The chance to claim an empire for yourself!” He paused, waiting for the seated troll to decide the merit of his words. “The Grand Chieftain wonders how you are to grant the Witherbark an empire. He also expresses his distaste at the thought of receiving the power as a gift from a human, let alone a knight of an order long known to oppose his claim to the land. The Witherbark do not trade and do not receive gifts from old enemies. What they earn they earn through right of conquest and strength.” The chief finished his last line by thumping his surprisingly solid throne with a fist. Leon grinned. It was all playing out according to plan. “Honorable, Wise Chieftain. You are right. Conquest is the only true path to glory. Even a pious knight such as myself know it to be true. That is why I extend an invitation to join in a conquest already under way. As we speak, my enemies conspire to oppose me and my Order from their home in the south. Greenwarden’s Grove, a sanctuary for elven cowards, stands defiantly against myself and my allies. I have no use for the Grove itself, but its defenders must be punished for their blasphemy. They conspire with your enemies as well! The Knights of the Ebon Blade butchered your former Chieftess, Ojin’ba, in Stromguarde. Not only did this show a horrendous dishonor by underhanded tactics, it also removed your last foothold in the once great fortress. But, if you ally yourself with us, we will aid in your reconquest of the fallen city, and we will leave you to spread your tribe to the Wetlands, starting with the Grove. You may make use of the land as you see fit. All I ask is you pledge yourself to the right cause. Your own. Do what will make your people strong again!” The chieftain sat in silence a long while. He had stopped scratching his chin and started rubbing the jewel at his chest fondly when the knight had mentioned Ojin’ba. Leon wondered if the jewel might have been a gift from his former mate, who had led the Witherbark’s efforts in Stromguarde earlier that year. The entire cave seemed to have drawn quiet when Leon’s words had been fully translated. At long last, the chief stood from his throne, hefting his brutish weapon from his lap. He walked close to Leon, hunching over to gaze the knight in the face with his dark green eyes. He spoke a word, and Leon tensed, the troll’s weapon close to his face. Then the translator said, “Yes.” The chief tore his gaze away from Leon and spoke to his people. The translator drew closer to Leon to be heard over the Chief’s roar, “To my people, I promised this: we will slay our foes to the south, we will hunt them down like prey, we will impale them on our totems and leave their dismembered corpses to fry under the sun and be eaten by the bugs! We will build an empire to rival the Zandalari! A spear, we shall be, for the Loa to strike at their foes! This Greenwarden’s Grove will fall to us and these Knights of the Silver Hand! It shall be a new home for out tribe, one through which we will extend our reach as we once did from our home, Shandra’alar! Our empire will spread! Our numbers will grow! Our warriors will taste the blood of our foes! And at long last, we will have Stromguarde, the defiant human castle, to do with as we please! Then we shall reap our vengeance as is the way of Shandra! The Knights of the Ebon Blade will fall so that Ojin’ba’s spirit may forever hunt alongside our warriors! This I swear before the Loa! This I swear before you! For I am Majin’ba! I am death itself!” By now the cave was alive with the warcries of the trolls. Spears shook, long limbs waved rhythmically. War dances were employed to honor the vow of the chieftain. From below, drums were beat and the traditional troll flute was played to echo along the walls of the cave. Voices lit up in the midst of the tribe’s music, singing Zandali rhymes to the Loa. The slave translated the chorus the huntress led the people in singing, “We sing this song so that it may be heard in the realm of the spirit. We sing this song so that our enemies may hear it and tremble.” For a brief moment, Leon truly believed that far to the south, the Night Vanguard heard their death singing to them
  4. Christa raced through the dark blue-tinged woods with Charlotte in her arms. Her only thought was to get the girl out of harm’s way. If Brinnea survived the battle that was inevitable, they would find each other later. The girl in her arms wriggled and shouted, making the journey rather difficult. “Let go of me or I’ll burn your face off!” she shouted, little fists pounding at Christa’s breastplate. “Stop that! I’m trying to save you, girl,” the knight replied. “I don’t know you! Mama says never to trust strangers!” “I knew your mother years ago. She’s in for a rough fight back there, and I don’t know if she’ll make it out alright. I have to make sure they don’t hurt you.” “My mother never loses! She’ll come and find us and she’ll hurt you!” With a flash of arcane light, the girl vanished from Christa’s arms. The paladin gasped and began to panic, whirling around trying to spot her in the dark. “Charlotte! Charlotte, wait!” she shouted after the girl. No response. She growled angrily and kicked a tree stump. An arrow landed beside her foot. Jumping backwards, she tore her sword from its sheath and took on a defensive stance. “Don’t be foolish, Knight of the Silver Hand,” a voice echoed all around, its source invisible. “You could never see my arrow coming, much less stop it from penetrating your skull. Put the sword down.” Christa cursed and did as she was bid. “Who are you?” she called out into the dark, “What do you want?” A figure dressed all in black, from his hat to his long overcoat all the way down to his leather boots, appeared to her side with a black arrow drawn on his black bow. All she could see of the man’s face were his grim, unamused blue eyes. He kicked her sword far out of reach. “It’s not about what he wants,” a second voice said, its source appearing just behind the paladin. He was dressed in the outfit of a Gilnean noble, and carried a rifle and a very long knife. “It’s about what’s best for the girl.” The snap of a branch drew Christa’s attention up to the top of a nearby tree. In it sat a man wearing a brown vest partially concealing a pair of pistols. He held a machete in one hand, and Charlotte’s bright red hair in the other. The girl’s throat was threatened by the edge of the long blade, forcing her to stay still. Christa scowled at the nobleman. “Let her go, now!” The nobleman laughed with amusement. “You don’t give commands, girl. I am a lord of Gilneas, and you are just some fat, upstart bitch who tried to steal my new ward. Normally for stealing I would only take a hand, but in this case, you stole a noble lady who is quite valuable to me. I will take your head for that, and leave the rest for the crows.” He snapped his fingers and more men appeared in the shadows from all around. Christa couldn’t count them all, but many of them carried rifles aimed at her. The lord stepped forward and aimed his rifle at her leg. “You make a move and I make your death slow.” He leveled his knife to her throat. A lance flew through the hand that held it. The lord screamed in pain, and his rifle went off. But it was off-target and hit the ground beside Christa’s leg instead. Instinctively, Christa threw a protective shield around her, just as the black-garbed man’s arrow flew at her head. Gunshots rang out in the night, some aimed at her and others elsewhere. She didn’t stop long enough to see where. Christa raced towards her sword, and scooped it up in a swift motion. The man in black was aiming at her again, but before he could take a shot, a death charger screamed its way right over him. He was thrown to the ground violently, and stopped moving. The lord with the spear through his arm was shouting at his men to stop whoever was attacking, but with all the gunfire, Christa couldn’t hear what exactly he said. She formed a hammer of light in her left hand and hurled it at the man in the tree. He took the blow to the chest and slipped off the branch into the foliage below. Charlotte blinked out of existence and reappeared beside Christa. The paladin took the girl around her arm protectively. “Do you believe me now, girl?” “Yes,” the girl replied with a smile. “But I was right too. Mama’s here!” Christa grimaced at the sight across the clearing. Brinnea certainly was here, and she came with a vengeance. She rode through the line of gunmen, her sword and knife flashing deadly blue arcs wherever she rode. Blood flew faster than the gunshots, and soon the Gilneans were routed. The lord had been helped onto a horse by two of his men and rode off into the night. The man in black remained unconscious on the ground. Christa checked for the brown-vested man and found he’d disappeared as well. Gone just as quickly as they arrived, she thought sourly. Brinnea rode over to Christa and the girl, her armor, horse, and blades equally stained with blood. She looked no worse for wear: her armor was dented in a few spots where gunshots had ricocheted off, but no hits had landed directly. She was an expert rider, just as Christa remembered. The death knight glowered down at her, blade still in hand. “Release my daughter, Silver Knight, or I’ll cut your arms off and beat you to death with them.” Christa let Charlotte go, and the girl ran to the horse, hugging it happily. “Hey, Sparklehoof! I’m glad you showed up, boy!” The girl stroked the undead horse as if it were a pet dog. Christa gave her a confused look, but said nothing of it. “I didn’t take her to hurt her, Brinnea. I was trying to keep her from harm. The other knights were using her to lure you into a trap, but it seems to have backfired on them. They expected to use those other paladins in the village to bolster their numbers, but you arrived just as the Ebon Blade did, seeking justice for their order.” Brinnea eyed Christa carefully, a hint of recognition and much sternness written across her scarred face. It was difficult to see, but Christa could tell it was the same face as the little girl she had known. It was masked by a stony expression and a scarred exterior, but she could sense the warmth of old lingering within. The death knight replied, “It didn’t matter how many there were. Their fate would have been the same. Pawns for Lord Walden’s game, perhaps, but dead pawns when I was done with them. You are no exception. You took part in my daughter’s kidnapping, did you not?” “I did, but I had no choice,” Christa replied truthfully. She had taken a vow to obey the orders of her superiors, so she did. “Then there isn’t much left to say, is there? You put Charlotte’s life at risk, so yours is forfeit. Take up your sword if you wish, it will not save you.” Brinnea kicked and her death charger trotted forward. Charlotte cried out, “Wait, mama!” and the charger was halted. “She said she was trying to help, mama! Don’t hurt her. She says she knew you, too.” The girl clung to the side of the horse’s saddle, beseeching her mother. Christa drove her sword into the dirt. “The girl speaks truly. You may not recognize me, but I sure as fel recognize you, little sister. I’m the same Christa Velmon who carried you from Andorhal to Gilneas. I’ve been hoping to find you ever since the Wall fell, and now we finally meet.” *** Leon grunted and groaned all the way back to Windrunner Village. He had hidden among the trees until the others had all cleared out, all the while healing and bandaging the wound in his knee. It still stung like a hot poker was jabbed under his kneecap, but he pressed himself to limp forward all the same. Nalysia’s plan had failed spectacularly. All the knights in their party were dead now, except for him. Well, myself and Christa, and the draenei bitch, I suppose. I’ll deal with both of them shortly, though. He had suspected Christa would turn against them from the start, but Nalysia didn’t bother dealing with it. The dumb tauren bitch just wanted to get the whole thing over with, as if it were some chore. She thought the whole thing was beneath her, like it was grunt work. Her pride had blinded her to how dangerous the game was. Leon had seen it all, and that’s why he was still alive, and the rest were all dead. He returned to the camp to find all the squires dead, stuck to the ground with their spears stuck through their backs. Leon cursed. On top of everything he had to deal with today, he also had to make his own dinner. There was no way that tasty-looking deer was anywhere near warm by now. I wonder who killed them? Some cutthroat happening to pass this way? The local militia? But he saw no signs of tacks leading into the camp. Those Blood Knights had never bothered to check the whole village for anyone else before parading themselves back to Silvermoon. Then he noticed bloody prints in the shape of hooves leading around the nearest hut. Something wrapped around Leon’s neck and pulled taut. He choked, yelling with effort to try and pry the garrote off his neck, but it remained fast on him. A voice shouted in his ear, “You are no knight! You are just a brigand in fancy armor! A savage rapist! I’ll tear your Light-damned head off!” Velbina shouted, applying all her strength to strangling the man with what he supposed was an old silk curtain or something. I will not die here, he thought to himself as his vision went blurry. I will not die in some Light forsaken elf ruin strangled by a blue goat woman! He kicked hard, shoving her backwards. They fell onto something, and she screamed. Her grip loosened. He fell forward, coughing raggedly and gasping for air. Slowly, his vision returned and he could take long, but non-ragged breaths again. He looked back at Velbina. The draenei had fallen backwards through one of the spears stuck straight out of a squire’s belly. Her body fell down through the spear slowly, oozing blue blood out of her intestines. She was still alive, and screaming at the top of her lungs. Leon sighed, and drew his sword. “Will…you…shut up!” he shouted between heavy breaths. He shoved his sword through her chest so he would collapse a lung. She continued bleeding to death slowly when he withdrew the blade, but now she couldn’t get enough air to scream. Only enough to gasp and sputter as she drowned in blood spewing from her mouth. “Much better,” he remarked while cleaning his blade casually. Then he sheathed it and trotted off to find himself something to eat. Maybe I will get a decent meal, after all
  5. Sister Freida had been an orphan matron for half of her life now. She had started an orphanage in Ironforge many years ago before she realized her aid was needed elsewhere. After that, she had moved to Lordaeron to safeguard the children made orphans by the Scourge War. Of all the children Freida had ever taken in, Charlotte was by far the most energetic. Now she lived in Thelsamar, watching over the child full-time for Brinnea Velmon. The old dwarf paladin could not keep up with the child’s energy anymore. Somehow, late in the night, Charlotte had collapsed from exhaustion and had gone to sleep in her bed. Freida was just tucking her in when she noticed a pair of yellow eyes staring at her from the corner. She jumped, frightened, but it was just Brinnea’s other child, August. The boy had been raised by worgen during his younger years, so he acted much like a wild dog rather than a normal human boy. He was unnervingly quiet, and could move fast when he wanted. He often spooked Freida in the dark with his unnatural stealth. “August!” she chided quietly, so as not to wake Charlotte, “You nearly gave me a heart attack! Shouldn’t you be in bed?” “I don’t sleep much,” the boy said simply. He had not learned the Common tongue until this year, so he often said little if he said anything at all. “Trouble sleeping, boy?” she asked sweetly. “I could brew you a lemon tea that would help you with nightmares, if that’s the sort of trouble you’re having. I know how much you like my lemon tea!” The scruffy boy smiled and nodded. She ruffled his hair affectionately and set to work on the tea. There was a storm out tonight. Thunder boomed and rainfall echoed on the hilltop the hovel was built into. The weather didn’t bother Freida much, but August seemed frightened of the sounds. He shrunk into a corner away from the fire, shivering each time the thunder pealed outside. Freida waved him over to her side. “Come sit by the fire, August. It’s far too dim over there.” The boy did not budge. The dwarf sighed, set a kettle of water over the fire, and walked over, sitting down beside the boy. “It’s only a storm, boy. Nothing to be scared about.” A loud boom sounded just outside the door. August yelped and shrunk his head into his arms, trembling. Freida regarded the front door with confusion. Am I imagining things, or did someone just bang against the door? Another bolt of lightning let off a loud boom, and she shook off the feeling. “That one was a bit close, huh? Not to worry, child. We’ll be alright.” Another boom broke the door off its hinges. Freida gasped and stood between the dark silhouette at the entrance and the children. August shouted and tried to dig himself further into the dark corner. Charlotte was stirring in bed, rubbing her eyes. She saw Freida grabbing her hammer and muttered sleepily, “Wha—what’s going on? Sissy Freida?” The silhouette at the door entered the house, walking down the dwarven stairs and leaning to avoid hitting its head on the low-cut ceiling. It was a tauren woman, dressed in a Sunwalker’s regalia and armor. Sister Freida took up her hammer warningly. Then another figure entered the hovel. And another. And another. Soon, the room was filled from one wall to the other with paladins baring weapons. Frieda kept up a brave face. She had faced odds such as these and survived, she was sure of it. That was a long time ago, though. She mustered up all her bravery and said, “What do you knights think you’re doing, breaking into a private residence in the middle of the night?” The tauren gestured lazily at the dwarf’s weapon. “Put that down. You’re outnumbered, we could bury you before you ever had a chance to hurt one of us. We’re here for the girl.” The tauren pointed at Charlotte, who was now fully awake, and stood on the bed in her pajamas. “You’re bad people, aren’t you?” the five year-old questioned harshly. “Mama said if bad people ever tried to take me, I should do this!” She cast a fireball that flopped on the floor at the tauren’s hooves. The two men in the group laughed. Frieda gestured for Charlotte to stay behind her. “No, child! Don’t do anything reckless!” “Oh, I like her spunk,” the human knight said with a cocky grin. “Can I have her after we kill the dwarf bitch? I haven’t had one that young in a long time.” “No, Leon, you great big pervert,” the group’s dwarf said with a slap to the man’s back. “We’re not to harm the girl. Orders are orders.” “Indeed. Take the girl, no harming her,” the tauren said, drawing closer to Frieda. The old dwarf was backed up almost to the bedside. “And the dwarf? Surely we don’t need her,” the elf of the group said, clearly bored. “Kill the old woman, but spare the boy. He’ll send the death knight a message for us.” With that, they were on Frieda. Her old instincts kicked in quickly. She threw a shield of light up around her just as two swords aimed at her neck fell low. With both the elf and the human guarding low, she aimed high. Her hammer crumpled the elf’s breastplate like it was made of tin and sent him falling over on his backside. He gasped loudly, his lungs crushed by the weight of the swing. Frieda growled as her shield dropped, and blocked a vicious high swing made by the man, Leon. The human aimed high again and again, forcing her to compensate for her height by blocking high. His strikes led her away from the bed, leaving the dwarf woman and the tauren to seize Charlotte and August, who both struggled to break free, futilely. Leon’s blade fell from up high, and Frieda tried to block again. But her old arms had grown tired and slow. Leon severed her right hand at the wrist. Blood squirted across the room violently, and the old dwarf paladin fell to one knee, her hammer fallen to the ground. She screamed as pain wracked her body from her bloody stump. Leon kicked her hammer away before she could grab it again. Shivering from the pain, Frieda’s last sight of the children as they were taken out into the storm was fuzzy. She saw August’s terrified yellow eyes looking at her with fear, and heard Charlotte’s loud yells as the knights failed to gag her properly. Tears streamed down Frieda’s face, mingling with blood from her spurting fountain of a stump. She wept not because she was about to die, but because she had failed the children she was sworn to protect. For the first, and last time in her life, she had failed them. “Nighty night, old hag,” were the last words Frieda heard before Leon’s sword chopped her head off.
  6. Sagito and Velbina spent the ride south in silence. Sagito rubbed his sore cheek and stared at her as she rode further and further ahead of him. Every time he felt like saying something, he felt the sting in his cheek grow hotter. Plus, his chest seemed to pinched by some errant pain. The only sound to break the silence was his ragged coughing and the sound of water flowing down his gullet. The two draenei met with their fellow knights on the Arathi highroad as the sun began to set. Velbina hurried to throwing the provisions down for the squires to set up for dinner while Sagito embraced his old friend Baladar. “I am glad we found each other before dark, my elven friend!” Baladar smiled cockily. “You doubted my sense of direction? Our whole company would be on the wrong side of the Gap if the tauren was still leading.” Nalysia shook her head. “You easterners and your roads. This whole continent is damned confusing.” Leon winked at Velbina as she set down a sack of potatoes. “You and our boy have a nice night up north, Velby? I almost missed you two lovebirds after you left. The night elves are depressing as all fel.” Velbina glowered at Leon and tossed a kettle at his boot before storming off. Leon yelped and shouted after her, “Bitch! Watch where you toss shit at me!” He turned to Sagito and barked, “What’s her problem?” The draenei man rubbed his bruised cheek again. “We, uh…didn’t have such a great night.” Clea scoffed, undoing her breastplate with a sigh. “I told you, didn’t I? I told you marrying a fellow knight was a stupid, stupid, stupid idea.” Sagito bristled at the dwarf. “I am an impulsive man. I follow my passions. She just…didn’t understand--,” he was cut off by a long string of coughs. Baladar cocked his head at his friend. “You doing alright, Sagito? That cough sounds nasty.” “I’m…I’m fine. It’s just a…a tickle in my throat,” he reassured between loud hacks. He chugged more water from his skin, but he couldn’t hold it down. He threw it all back up, bluer than before. Azure blood poured from his mouth and nose. Baladar’s eyes widened as blue blood leaked from his friend’s eyes and ears as well. “Sagito!” he shouted despairingly. The draenei fell to the ground, and the other knights raced in to stand around him. Christa shoved Baladar out of the way and channeled the Light into Sagito’s chest and throat. She grimaced. “Poison. He’s ingested poison,” she reported with melancholy. “Can you save him? Can I save him? I can heal as well, I could burn the toxins out!” Baladar was nearly hyperventilating as bad as Sagito was drowning in blood. The other knights were silent. Velbina was off away from the others, hands on her mouth in shock. Sagito’s chest stopped moving. The blood stopped flowing. Christa stopped channeling her healing spell and stood. “He’s gone.” She walked off, flicking blue blood off her gauntlets. Baladar stared at his friend’s corpse as the other knights murmured amongst themselves. An uncomfortable quiet settled over the camp. It was broken when Leon glanced over at Velbina, who still stood with her hands over her mouth. Tears were forming in her bright eyes. Leon sucked air through his teeth, nodded to himself and walked over to the draenei women with a smile on his face. “Well, only one proper course of action here.” He punched Velbina in the gut as hard as he could. She doubled over, gasping and clutching at her midsection. Leon didn’t let up. He kicked her with his metal boot again and again, in the chest, arms, abdomen, legs, and face. She screamed and begged for mercy, but he kept kicking. The other knights did nothing. “You poisoned him, huh? You got in a little argument so you slipped poison in his water?! You stupid blue bitch. I’ll show you what the punishment is for killing your man!” He slipped his knife out of its sheath. It was a long, clean, polished blade with a hilt made of solid gold shaped like an elf woman’s body. He grabbed Velbina by the horn and yanked her head up so her throat was shown bare. He held the long blade’s edge against her throat. “Wait!” Baladar shouted, walking towards with his hands raised. “Don’t kill her. Don’t.” Leon looked at him with an unimpressed expression. The blood elf looked at the draenei, his face twisted with grief. “Sagito was my friend. He fought at my side in Shattrath, and came to Azeroth with me when I asked him. He’s always been dedicated and loving. He was the best sort of man who ever lived.” His eyes were downcast and he lowered his hands. He shouted and delivered a punch that broke the draenei’s nose. She yelped and wailed in pain. Leon grinned widely. “You killed my friend! You don’t get to die slow, you harlot! First, I will honor my friend’s memory by having my way with you. Then it’ll be Leon’s turn, then whoever else here wants a go at you before I take you again! Whenever I get bored of you, that’s when you’ll get the death you deserve.” Velbina screamed and begged them not to, but it didn’t deter them. She pleaded for the others to help her, but they all looked the other way, pretending nothing was happening. Christa washed blood off her hands and took up a shovel. While the men defiled the accused woman, Christa dug a grave and buried the dead man. Every scream she heard set her teeth to grinding against one another and her fingers to tense against the wooden shaft of the shovel until her hands turned whiter than fresh snow. The screaming didn’t stop until Sagito was buried, the sun had set, and Christa had eaten and set her bedroll. Then Leon and Baladar returned to camp with the draenei woman in chains. She looked at Christa, and Christa looked back. The girl looked broken and battered. Her eyes showed little life. Christa frowned at her sadly and turned over in her bedroll. She tried to fight the feeling, but no amount of looking away could get the image out of her head. Tears rolled down her cheeks, but no one heard her cry.
  7. A knock at a door. The door opens, revealing a lanky, gaunt man with a bruised face and a downtrodden look. “Gunter Merrygrim, I presume?” Leon the Wit asks, already knowing the answer. He held a friendly smile on his face. “Aye, indeed sir,” Gunter replied with a shaky voice, “You must be with the Silver Hand, judging by the look of you. Are you here about…the death knight?” Leon nodded. “Right, you better come in, then. I was hoping someone like you would show up soon. I’m afraid she might come back and kill me!” Leon entered the lanky man’s dreary estate with a musty taste in his mouth. Surwich was by the sea, a colonial town constructed by Gilnean refugees during the Cataclysm. Leon hated the smell of the sea, and the taste of seafood, and people who lived off the sea. He couldn’t understand why Nalysia would want to send him in to question witnesses, but the tauren had been adamant in her position. ‘You’re a friendly human face, not likely to arouse suspicion. Would you rather me send the blind goblin? He’d probably do a better job than you anyway.’ What he thought she should do he kept to himself. Mostly. He had let slip a comment about marrying the goblin since she seemed to like him so much. Why couldn’t she just send Christa? He thought bitterly, still keeping up a genial look as the lanky man allowed him to sit at his tiny table. At least she has experience dealing with…these people. “Mister Merrygrim, I understand based on what the mayor told me that you were recently taken captive by a force of Naga,” Leon began. “And that a group of private militants assaulted the camp and freed you all?” The Gilnean nodded. “Horrid times for us in Surwich. The Naga came out of nowhere! Swooped in during the night and made off with our fishing supplies. A few of us men tracked them down the coast a ways, and they ambushed us, clapped us in irons, and forced us into the mines for weeks! I thought I’d never see home again.” “Gunter, who’s this then? Is he one of them folks what saved you from the fishmen?” A plump woman with greying curls and an aproned dress strolled out from what appeared to be the only other room in the house with a puzzled expression on her face. Leon raised his eyebrows in mock-surprise and pointed between the lady and Gunter. “Is this the misses?” he asked with a false tone of interest, “She is a beauty, my friend. Name’s Leon, I’m with the Silver Hand.” He introduced himself to the woman pleasantly, offering her a kiss on the hand. She seemed perplexed. Gunter fidgeted when Leon spent just a little too long with introductions. “Well, eh, it’s a pleasure to meet you, sir. I must say, I did not expect to find a knight in my home tonight!” she fussed with her hair, acting stupid and flustered. Leon could feel his distaste growing, but he forced himself to keep smiling. “Right, Margret,” Gunter said suddenly, “You go on to bed. I’m just answering some of the young man’s questions is all. I’ll be in soon, love.” As Margret padded off in her slippers she gave Leon a starry-eyed look as if she were trying to be flirtatious. Leon wanted to roll his eyes. As if a peasant like her deserves the attention of a noble knight! “Returning to the matter at hand,” Leon said, taking a seat, “What happened the day you and the other men were released?” “Oh, it was frightening! A gunshot echoed off the hills, then another and another. A pair of the Naga slithered off to see what was happening and then a pair of warriors in plate, a woman and an elf, charged into the camp and took on the rest. Before I knew what was happening, the snakemen were all dead and some explosion went off in the hills. Then two more of these folks showed up, and a pair of them were wearing blue tabards with a white bird of some sort stitched on.” “A white bird on a blue field, eh? I’ll make a note of that,” Leon interjected with all the politeness he could muster. His interest in the conversation was quickly wavering. “Yes, I’m sure it will be useful to you. Anyways, the woman I recognized quickly. I’d known her once, long time ago back in Gilneas before the fall. Only, she’d been carried off by the Scourge before and no one had seen her for years! But my brother, a soldier type, he wrote letters from the front in the Isles and told me all about how the Lady Commander he worked under had this grudge against a death knight with the same name as this woman!” “A fascinating tale, to be sure.” “Right? Well, here’s where it gets melancholy-like. My brother died in the Isles. His whole camp got overrun the way the letter told it. I found out later from the mayor that she was responsible for it. That death knight woman I knew from way back. She’d gone after Lady Blackmane – the Lady Commander my brother fought for – and ended up getting the rest killed because of it. Damn wench. I knew I recognized her that day, but she denied it. A liar and a murderer, that’s what she is! You gotta bring her down before she does worse! I got my family to think about: my wife in the next room and my kids upstairs. We don’t stand a chance if she comes back!” “Not to worry on that front, Mister Merrygrim,” Leon said with a smile. “My fellow knights and I are working on bringing her down. I just need to know, what was this woman’s name?” Gunter Merrygrim grimaced. “Not right to say the name of a condemned woman in a man’s own house. It’s damned bad luck!” Leon banged his armored fist into the table, losing his patience. “Say the name! Please…I need to find her and I don’t have much time. She could strike any day now with the way the Ebon Blade have been acting lately. You’re my best hope of saving lives, Mister Merrygrim.” His face pale from fright, suddenly seeing a veiled threat behind the knight’s eyes, Gunter replied nervously again, “Brinnea Velmon. That’s her name. She and her mother and sister used to visit my fish stand in Gilneas City. It was years ago, but she was a loyal customer, right up to the day of her wedding.” Leon calmed down some, unclenching his fist and adding some warmth to his callous smile. “See, that wasn’t so bad, was it? No bad luck here, paladin’s honor! But before I take off after this ‘Brinnea Velmon,’ was there anything else she might have said or done that stood out to you? The name of a place, perhaps?” “Well, nothing like that, no. But she did say who we should thank for saving us. She said it was the ‘Night Vanguard,’ I think. Yes, that was it! Night Vanguard.” Leon noted the name. Probably a militant guild of some sort. Nalysia would sort it out. Leon wasn’t interested in that sort of work. He stood from the peasant’s table and invited the man to do the same. “Well, it was lovely meeting you, Mister Merrygrim. You have a lovely home and an even lovelier wife.” He took the man’s hand and shook it vigorously. Gunter Merrygrim looked uncomfortable, but forced himself to smile. “Er, likewise. I do hope you get her in time. I’d hate to see more families suffer for that witch’s crimes.” “Oh, no other families have to suffer at all. Tonight, you made sure of that.” Leon smiled the most genuine smile he could. “Because you’re gonna get us the leverage we need to start ourselves a little witch-hunt!” Gunter looked confused. A knife slid from a leather sheath with a light scrape. A squelching noise followed, and with it a gasp as air was forced from Mister Merrygrim’s lungs. The peasant man collapsed onto the ground, choking as blood poured from his mouth. Leon admired the bloody spot in the man’s shirt, right in his asophagus. The man managed to choke out one final word, “Why?” “Why? Because Brinnea Velmon broke into your house and killed you and your family. At least, that’s what the mayor will assume with he eventually finds you. Once the Gilnean royal army hears about this incident, we swoop in and play enforcer on their behalf. Win-win. Well, not for you, but who cares? You’re just a fish merchant.” Merrygrim gurgled, still clinging to life. Leon was undoing his belt. As he walked past the bleeding man, a bloody hand grabbed his boot weakly. “What is it? Oh, you’re hoping I’ll spare your family, of course. No can do, I’m afraid. Just following orders. Oh, but I’ll make sure your wife’s last moments are the greatest of her life!” *** Nalysia scraped dirt with her hoof impatiently, waiting for Leon to return. When he finally did, he carried that same smug look on his face. She hoped he was satisfied enough not to give her any backchat this time. She greeted him simply, “You get what we came for?” “Oh yeah, the Gilneans will hear about this before too long. And I got the name of the one we’re looking for.” Christa was fully attentive now. Leon flashed her a sadistic smile. “Brinnea Velmon. We have a winner, folks! Somebody give me some money!"
  8. July 19 The road away from home was long and arduous. Lordaeron was in a state of panic even then, before it was discovered Andorhal was the source of the misery. Fitting, really, that my place of birth was also the distribution center for the grain that brought a kingdom to its knees. The Cult of the Damned and its undead minions patrolled the wilderness between Andorhal and the capital, preying on any they felt confident enough to handle. One necromancer and his ghouls ambushed my mother, sister, and I in the night. Somehow Mother managed to fend them all off, but the necromancer threatened to end my life with a deadly spell. Mother shielded me with her body, and I thought she was gone then and there. It was the first time I felt the striking pain of true loss. Christa killed the necromancer after that. She barreled into his leg, toppling him onto the ground, then bashed his head with a rock until he stopped twitching. I don't know where she found the strength to protect us that way, and I regret I never got to thank her for it. Mother survived, but the spell had lasting effects. Too much pressure on her heart lead to lightheadedness or fainting. There wasn't much we could do for her, and she still had to look out for us. Christa stepped up to help fend for us after that. She never complained about working again. I think she wanted to make Mother really proud of her, and couldn't stand to see her suffering so much to protect us. All I could do was whimper. I thank the Light every day Charlotte didn't turn out like me. It was a long journey, but we did make it to the capital alive, all of us. I don't know how long it took after that before Prince Arthas returned to murder his own father. All I remember of those times was some church where refugees were cared for. We stayed there for the entire duration from what I can remember. I had a birthday during our stay, I think. Nine years old and I had already seen a man die, and almost lost my mother. It still wasn't enough to harden my heart to the world. I was soft, weak, and a burden on those around me. Just another victim of this sadistic world we live in. I remember seeing the prince walk through the city with Mother and Christa. We felt so uplifted at his return, only to have our hope crushed in one fell swoop. The chaos the city fell into when it was overrun nearly spelled out our end again. Mother saved us. She took us south through Silverpine, but no matter how far we ran, the Scourge still hounded us and other refugees. Gilneas' border was still open to us then, and gave us safe harbor. I remember not being able to sleep at well for a long time after that. I lay in bed every night, thinking they would come for us again. It didn't matter that we were in the city, surrounded by soldiers at all times and that the fighting was far off to the north. I didn't feel safe anymore, not after Lordaeron. After Arthas. Not until I met Parigan.
  9. The muggy air of the Eastern Plaguelands hung heavily around the stalwart defenders of Light’s Hope Chapel. Seven defenders stood at the gates to the chapel grounds, their shining armor glinting dimly in the muted early morning light flittering out of the blighted sky in the east. Spears had been buried in the soft, dead ground and helmets had been set on the ends of the tall polearms as three of the knights bearing silver hand badges on their cloaks sat around a hollow, open box and a cup full of hand-crafted dice. A blood elf man spilled the dice out into the box and groaned as singular dots appears on all five. The other two – a human man and a dwarf woman – burst out laughing at their companion’s misfortune. The elf reluctantly tossed a gold coin into the other half of the hollow box, increasing the size of the pile. Two of their companions sat off to the side leaning against the mossy white-bricked wall and smoking pipes while staring off into the distance. The pair were a male and female draenei. The woman’s head was on her man’s shoulder affectionately. They seemed content with their place in the world, and grinned off at the dead landscape without a care in the world. A female tauren stood overlooking the dice game with an expression of distaste on her face. She wasn’t upset by the lack of attention or professionalism by the guards at her feet, nor the dusk to dawn watch duty they had been saddled with the past fortnight. Her feeling of disgruntled annoyance was so deep-set that her face always looked like that, no matter who she looked at or what was happening. Her arms were crossed and her hooves scraped against the old cobbled road occasionally. The last knight stood with her back against the wall on the other side of the gate from the draenei couple. Her spear remained at her side, but she remained laid-back and showed no intention of picking it up anytime soon. Her build was large for a human woman. She stood a head taller than most other women and a few stones heavier as well. Her body was round overall, not toned like a warrior woman, but weighty like a lavish noble. In any case, she had a strong presence as she stood high and overshadowed others. Her tangled auburn hair was tied back in a sprawling ponytail. The laid-back woman was the first to catch sight of the approaching figure down the road. It was still far-off – the sight lines from the Chapel went out for miles so it was nigh impossible to sneak up on it – so it only appeared as a greenish-yellow splotch on the distant landscape. The woman stood up and grabbed her spear and helm, saying to the others, “Something’s coming.” The blood elf sighed. “So I won’t get a chance to win my money back?” The dwarf woman punched him in the shoulder. “You woulda just lost more anyway, Baladar!” she said as she boxed up the dice, cup, and coin and kicked it all behind her. She and the other three knights gathered around the game took up spears and helms as well. The draenei couple took their time putting out their pipes first. The shape approached slowly, and as it grew closer, more details could be made out. The human woman noticed it was of a smaller humanoid race, possibly a gnome, goblin, or even a short dwarf. It wore a bright lime-colored cloak with yellow patches sewn into it, and carried a walking stick about the height of the average dog, paw to ear. The male human piped up loudly, “Any bets on what that thing is? I’d wager two gold it’s a leper gnome.” The tauren snorted impatiently at the man. “How about you shut up and make sure your helmet is on straight, Leon?” She scraped the ground with a hoof in annoyance. The man begrudgingly checked to see if his helmet was in fact crooked. The figure walked up to the group and raised a green hand in greetings before lifting the hood from his head. He was a goblin with a bald head, sharp yellow teeth, ears with holes bitten out of the edges, and dim green eyes. He seemed to look around the knights rather than directly at any of them. The human woman guessed he was blind. The tauren spoke curtly, “Name and business?” The goblin cackled madly for no particular reason. “Scruggs, that is his name! He is called Scruggs! Scruggs is here with information – knowledge for the brave protectors of the Light! For when poor Scruggs was lost, alone, and nearly mad, the Light saved him! So Scruggs – nice, meek Scrugges! – has gone to the bad knights’ flying house and listened closely for knowledge. He was asked to, yes he was, and so he did!” The tauren woman sighed. “Right, we were expecting your report hours ago, goblin. Did you get lost or something? No, nevermind. I don’t want to hear it. Just tell me what you came to say.” Scruggs smiled, flashing his disgusting teeth at the gathered knights. “Ah, Scruggs has quite the news! He hears that a bad knight who did bad things in the Chapel is all alone, ripe for the Light’s vengeance! A human, she was, and spotted far south by Surwich in the lands blasted by hellfire. Scruggs did good, yes he did! Didn’t he?” The tauren replied, “Yeah, sure. You did good, little guy. Let me just report to my superiors and figure out how to proceed here. Don’t go anywhere.” She stomped off into the Chapel, grumbling on her way about crazy little green men. The human woman bit her lip. Something about what Scruggs had said rubbed her the wrong way. She took off her helmet and spoke to the goblin, “Hey, Scruggs, you said it was a human woman, right? The death knight seen in Surwich? What was her name?” Scruggs cocked his head at her in confusion. “Why does it matter to the noble dame? Scruggs hears it is a bad knight, so she must be punished. Her name does not matter.” “Wait,” the female draenei said suddenly, looking at the human woman, “You don’t think it’s her do you Christa? That would be just awful!” Christa glared off at the desolate landscape, biting her lip angrily. The dwarf woman scoffed. “Why would’t matter? She’s a murderous little bint ain’t she? She’ll get what’s coming to her, Light willing.” “But Clea, it’s someone important to her!” the draenei said to the dwarf, who looked back at her with an expression of amused disbelief. “Family is family, no matter what. My grandfather is one of the Eredar, but I don’t think I could bring myself to kill him if I had to.” The male draenei put a hand around her waist protectively. “It’s alright, Velbina, you won’t have to worry about him as long as I am here.” “I know, my sweet Sagito,” she said, leaning into him. “You are the best man a girl could ask for.” They kissed deeply. Clea put her head in her palm. The other man made a mock gagging noise and pretended to puke as the draenei showed their affection. “You two are disgusting, you know that?” “Leave them be, Leon. Not even a demon invasion could put a stop to their makeout session.” The dwarf waved them off dismissively and turned back to Christa. “Honey, you can’t let that woman get the better of you. If Nalysia comes back with the news that we’ve gotta kill her, we’re gonna do it. End of story. Gotta let this one go, hon.” While the others discussed the matter, Scruggs was drawing religious symbols into the dirt just off the pathway with the end of his stick. He seemed very content as he stood there, muttering some prayer. Nalysia clomped back out of the gates. Her exasperation hadn’t cleared up since she had left. Christa looked at her, asking, “What’s the plan? Are we going after her?” Nalysia eyed her as if searching for something. Christa only seemed interested in receiving orders. “Good news and bad news. Good news is, we’re being relieved from guard duty. Command says to go to Surwich tomorrow morning and gather intelligence, see what we can find out about this woman.” “What’s the bad news?” Leon asked with a smug grin on his face. “The bad news,” Nalysia replied with a twinge of annoyance, “Is that we have to take the goblin.
  10. July 17 I haven't kept a journal since I was eight years old. I suppose that means there's a lot to write about. When overwhelmed with ideas, it's usually a good idea to go back to the beginning. For the last seventeen years I haven't felt truly at home. The only home I've ever had was in Andorhal, and I saw the state of the city only a few years ago. So that home is gone now. But it was gone long before the Scourge infested it or the Forsaken bombed it or the Alliance burned it down to stop them from spreading. My home was gone the day my mother, my sister, and I ran from it. Ran from him. I loved my father, perhaps even more than I had loved Mother. He saw a spark of something in me that his two other children apparently lacked. I loved his stories of fantasy and heroism, magic and monsters, knights and princesses. I loved seeing where he worked. His magical study was full of little wonders and knowledge. But that was before the hard times. The hard times started when we lost Owen. He was my half-brother, but I remember him only fondly. He was older than my sister and I, so he was the first to head off to war. And of course, he never came back. The good ones never seem to come back, or if they do they aren't the same -- not as good as they were. Father lost a part of himself when Owen's letter came. That piece of paper caused all the grief that has ever befallen my family, or at least that's how it seemed at the time. Father drank to forget. He drank until he couldn't remember the son he lost, or the lover he had lost before. The memory of his first love lived on in my brother, I'm sure of it. But Owen was gone, and so was she. He drank to forget they were gone, but in the process, he forgot about us as well. He lost his position as the Kirin Tor representative in Andorhal, and after that, Mother was put upon to provide for all of us. She had to somehow pull enough love from her heart to keep us all happy, Father included. There was little left for her. I couldn't imagine what kept her heart beating in the midst of it all. I couldn't then, but I can now. Father drank until he forgot us, and once he had forgotten, he had no reason to love us. He had no reason to forgive, not even for the smallest mistakes. A drunken, bitter mage and three helpless girls do not for a healthy, happy household make. He usually just hit us. Sometimes he burned Mother by accident, trying to scare her or let off steam. He never turned his magic against Christa and I. Perhaps that was a small blessing. A sign that he could still come back from where he was. It didn't matter to me then. He wasn't the same father who had tucked me into bed at night and read me happy stories. One night he tried to scare Mother with fire again, and I couldn't take it anymore. Something snapped inside me that I could never piece together again, and I cast my first spell. He was frozen against a wall, passed out in a drunken stupor. We were all gone by the time he came to. I often imagined what he must have felt like to wake up and find himself alone. When I was younger, I imagined anger and bitter rage. I was still afraid of him. As a teenager, I started to imagine sadness and sorrow. I hated and pitied him then. But as I grew, I knew exactly what he must have felt: alone and empty. By that point, I just missed him.
  11. Full Name: Sanjay, Alexander III Redjay Nicknames: Sander, Desert Wind, Doctor Jay Date of Birth: May 21 Age: 36 Race: Burning Steppes Human (Descendant) Gender: Male Sexuality: Heterosexual Hair: Black, shaved head, bushy beard Skin: Dark brown Eyes: Dark Brown Height: 6' Weight: 210 lbs Place of residence: Dalaran Apartment Place of Birth: Lakeshire, Redridge Mountains Known Relatives: Alexander II Redjay (father), Joanna Redjay (mother, deceased) Religion/Philosophy: Pandaren Spirituality Occupation: Monk of the Broken Temple, Licensed Medical Practitioner Group/Guild affiliation: Steward of the Twilight Empire Enemies: The Sha, Mantid, Cultists of the Old Gods and the Black Empire, The Burning Legion, Nyomi of Suramar Likes: Snakes, physical exercise, brewing Favorite Foods: Cinnamon ginger snap cookies Favorite Drinks: Black coffee Favorite Colors: Green Weapons of Choice: Staff, fists Dislikes: War, hypermasculinity, the color red, recruitment of child soldiers Hobbies: Researching medicine, brewing tea, mixing coffee, distilling beer, meditation, exercise Physical Features: Large, muscular build. Dark skin and black hair. Shaved head and thick, bushy beard. Dark brown eyes, thick and bushy eyebrows. Scar over right eyebrow. Multiple surgery scars at the small of his back. Special Abilities: Healing mists channeled through his staff and body. Physical excellence at its peak, as with all Pandaren monks. Spiritually in-tune, and able to commune with spirits and cleanse bodies possessed with dark spirits. Incredibly fast runner, and has high stamina to boot. Positive Personality Traits: Warm, caring, and supported. Loyal and dependable. Hard-working and thinks practically. Patient and always willing to lend a hand for long-term projects. Negative Personality Traits: Humble and shy, unwilling to step in even when he knows he can improve something. Strict sense of duty and a moral code. Easily overloads himself by working too much, and never asks for a lighter load. Won't argue a point unless he has to. Reluctant to change his mind on something; stubborn. Easy to manipulate. History: Born to an illustrious Stormwind military family in Redridge, Alexander III Redjay was destined for a life of military service at the insistence of his father, Alexander II. During the conflict with the orcs of Orgrimmar, the night elves of Ashenvale called on their new Alliance partners, the humans of Stormwind. Alexander served in a battle in Ashenvale against the Warsong Raiders as a combat medic, having already shown an aptitude for medicine. During the battle, a cannonball shattered his spine, leaving him paralyzed and incapable of continuing his military service. Drifting from his disappointed family, Alex pursued his medical degree in Stormwind, often held back by his confinement in a wheelchair. After many years of hardships and isolation, Alex earned his doctorate. Then, he shifted his focus to repairing his body. He investigated hundreds of claims from doctors, surgeons, physicians, magical healers, and spiritualists the world over to try and repair his paralysis, but all of them proved to be unable to repair his broken back. Still dissatisfied with his life, Alex began using his inherited wealth to pursue selfish luxury and pleasure. His father confronted him and warned him to stop wasting his life and his family’s hard-earned wealth, but Alex told the man off angrily and bitterly. His disappointed father departed, cutting his son off from the family and the remainder of his inheritance. After the mists lifted from Pandaria, Alexander half-heartedly travelled there with what was left of his wealth. Upon arriving, he found himself captivated with the beauty of the land, and enamored with the philosophy and lifestyles of the people. He spent the next few years training to repair his broken spirit, and upon lifting his downtrodden haze, he found his body responded, and he slowly regained the use of his legs, and dedicated himself to the preservation of the land that had granted his rejuvenation. He continued his training as a monk until he reached physical perfection and learned the healing arts of the serpent and crane styles. Now imbued with new power, having cleansed his spirit, restoring his body, and reaching new heights as a healer, Alex cast aside the past that had embittered him so he would never be dragged down by it again. He cast aside all he had from his past, his possessions, his wealth, and his name. He took on the name Sanjay, and his new title of Desert Wind. With this new identity, he roamed the world to spread a philosophy of balance, peace, non-aggression, and spiritual purity. (The Chakras, Yin and Yang, and the Caduceus Staff. Represent Sanjay's tangential relationship between spiritual and physical, his balancing of the two, and his engagement in spreading his balance to others through the art of medicine.) (Appearance from Elder Scrolls Online) (Profile)
  12. VII. Brinnea was frankly baffled that they reached the Wall without incident. No Mantid, no ambushes, and most surprisingly, no Mokdeth. Since she’d arrived in Pandaria, her luck hadn’t been this good. In all honesty, her luck had never been this good. Charlotte slept most of the way, unable to stay conscious without talking, it seemed. August kept glancing back at the road in case they were followed. Brinnea tried to keep up a brave face for the kid, but found herself taking a few chance glances herself. Brinnea took in the view of the Serpent’s Spine from a near distance, stirring Charlotte so she could get a good look. It was truly one of the world’s greatest wonders, a testament to Pandaria’s both beautiful and troubled past. During her first visit to Pandaria, the Wall had been besieged near constantly by Mantid raids, but now the massive doors were freshly repaired. They even opened widely as she rode forth and sounded the Shado’pan horn. She felt an odd surge of emotion witnessing something so grand moving at her call. The Ranger Commander Yao met her at the gatehouse, with a grim expression written across his face. Brinnea dismounted, and helped Charlotte and Colin down as well. August hopped down unaided, and took the charger’s reins dutifully. “You alone return from the excursion, Outsider?” Commander Yao questioned, barely containing his grief. Brinnea nodded sadly, and the Pandaren commander’s head drooped. “Captain Furan was among our wisest veterans. Without him, our ranks will suffer. He knew the Wastes as well as any of our number.” Brinnea sighed. “I wish I had better tidings, Commander. The captain died bravely, defending his followers.” “Tell me, Outsider, how did Furan meet his end? Did you get the chance to burn his body, lay his spirit to rest?” “The Mantid ambushed us in the wilds near Set’vess. They were young, from a new spawn. Likely looking for intruders to test their mettle. We tried to flee, but only I escaped with my life.” Brinnea saw Charlotte racing off towards the young Pandaren training with crossbows off to the side of the courtyard. August walked the charger in that direction, keeping the spirited girl within his sight. Yao replied, “Even without a full swarm, the Mantid hound our steps. You nearly completed the route, at least. Come with me, I will need a full report.” He turned and gestured for her to follow him. She did so, speaking to the children as she passed them, “Stay in the courtyard, you two. No wandering off. I’ll be back soon. Deal?” “Deal!” Charlotte cried gleefully while trying to wrestle a crossbow from a training Pandaren twice her height. August gave her an affirmative nod. Then he tugged Charlotte by the collar away from the practice session she was disrupting. Brin sighed, rubbing her head with concern. She sure is a handful. Was I this bad at her age?
  13. VI “What were you thinking? Riding off into the Dread Wastes, not even knowing where I was or what state I was in – you could have gotten hurt, or lost, or worse! And since when do you ride a horse? Let alone a deathcharger!” Brin ceased fuming long enough to glare questioningly at the girl, hands on hips and eyebrows raised expectantly. “Sissy Friede showed me,” Charlotte mumbled, her eyes downtrodden. “And Sparklehoof isn’t that different from a normal horse. He’s just cold and strong, like you, mama.” Brinnea blinked, her stern expression broken. Light, what do I say to that? she wondered to herself frantically. Though Charlotte had been born five and a half years past, Brin was still not used to being a mother. The girl had been taken care of for five years by a dwarf paladin-turned-orphan-matron named Sister Friede. Brinnea was often surprised to hear of the things the dwarf had taught Charlotte, and felt a twinge of envy at missing much of the girl’s upbringing. “Who’s Sparklehoof?” Brin questioned, trying to maintain an air of authority. The façade was slipping. “Your horse! Just look at how sparkly his hooves are; they’re like diamonds!” Charlotte’s cheerfulness returned quickly. It seemed she thought the new name and a charming smile had made Brinnea forget her anger. She was mostly correct. “I never thought to give it a name before,” Brin mused out loud. “Never really seemed alive enough to need a name.” Charlotte patted the undead steed’s leg affectionately. The worgen-spawn August was sitting in a nearby tree, watching out for any more Mantid. Brin had been concerned when taking him in that she would have to protect him as attentively as she did Charlotte, but the boy had proven rather independent, if starved for affection. August was eight years old, so he was more developed than Charlotte in some ways. When he had come along with them, however, he barely knew how to speak the Common tongue. Charlotte explained he had been raised by worgen since his human mother had been taken by the Scourge. Brin made an effort to teach him proper speech. He learned rather quickly, despite the death knight’s amateur teaching skills. The boy took his duties seriously, so Brin was in the habit of letting him help out with things she normally preferred to take care of herself. He helped with cleaning, cooking, (thankfully his nose for food was better than Brin’s – being a death knight meant she didn’t need to eat, after all), and he watched after Charlotte when Brin was busy elsewhere. Resuming her lecture, Brin turned to August first. “And why exactly did you let her come here? I told you to stay at the farm.” The boy’s unnervingly yellow eyes blinked down at her fearfully. He replied in his abrupt and uncertain manner, “Couldn’t stop her. Came along instead. Safer together, Lupa says so.” Lupa was August’s name for Brinnea. He never said why he called her that, and Charlotte had no idea either. He was right about what Brin had said, though. She warned them that if danger ever came, they would be safest together. “I suppose that is acceptable, then,” Brinnea said forgivingly. She turned to Charlotte, who seemed to think the conversation was over, and had begun brushing “Sparklehoof’s” dark fur. “I didn’t say we were done talking, young lady. Put the brush away and look at me. Now, how did you two find me? The Dread Wastes are vast, what made you come this way?” Charlotte showed Brin a red stone she had on a necklace. “We used Colin! He can sniff you out from miles away!” Brin looked skeptical. “No, really! He’s smarter than a normal dog, grandpa always said so. He ran off to find you, and we’ve been following him.” “So where is the rascal now? I haven’t seen him.” Charlotte shrugged. “He ran off earlier, but then we found you with all those bug-people. I can summon him if you want, though!” Brin assented, and the girl gleefully sang an incantation to the red stone, which flashed brightly. When the light faded, a dog apparently made of lava, wearing a sparkling blue collar, romped around in the grass at the girl’s feet. Charlotte immediately tackle-hugged Colin, giggling as the molten corgi lapped at her face affectionately. Brin was thankful at that moment for her father’s specially-made collar. Colin would joyfully melt anyone’s skin off with his fiery tongue without the warding spell it kept on him. “Well that’s one problem solved. Likely ran off chasing a varmint or something. In any case, we ought to get moving. I have to finish my mission, seeing as I’m the last one standing. We should make good time on the horse.” “Sparklehoof!” Charlotte corrected, struggling to pick Colin up off the ground. “Right. Sparklehoof.” Brinnea bent over, helping the girl ease Colin into the saddle-pouch Charlotte had insisted on buying for the dog a few weeks ago. That way, he could stay with them as they rode places. The sight of a deathcharger carrying a dog on fire must certainly look rather peculiar, but Brinnea humored the girl anyway. Colin nestled into his cozy pouch, tongue lolling from his mouth excitedly. After helping Charlotte into the saddle and calling August down from the tree, she mounted up and urged the deathcharger to begin out into the open where they could pick up some speed. “Old Da taught me a few songs for long journeys,” Charlotte said as they picked up the pace. “Want me to sing for a while? Da says I’ve got a good singing voice.” Brinnea agreed with the old farmer, but she shook her head. “Singing is for foot travel. You could bite your tongue while riding.” Charlotte nodded, a little disappointed. The boy was glancing back at the woods with great focus. Too much focus to be simple caution. Brinnea asked, “You see something, August?” “Something…green.” Brinnea swore softly. “Sissy Friede would wash your mouth out with soap for that one, mama!” Charlotte chided playfully. “Don’t talk, you’ll bite your tongue.”
  14. ((More history updating, as well as a few info tweaks. News of Brinnea's death has spread far and wide.))
  15. V. She found the other rangers’ corpses later that night. It didn’t take a master tracker to see that Mantid tracks riddled the area around their final resting place. Brin could hear the insectoid wings humming not too far off. She kept moving, not stopping for anything the rest of the night. As the sun rose, hidden though it was behind the thick cloud cover that hung constantly over the Wastes, she knew she was being followed. The stench of death hovered after her, close on her heels. A death knight had a nose for such things, though Brin would have given nearly anything to be rid of the stench. It seemed to exist no matter where she went. A quarter of the way through the day, the orc made a mistake. He stepped into the open while Brin was keeping watch, awaiting his presence to draw nearer so she could get the jump on him. Mantid blood coated his leather armor, and a few roughly stitched wounds of his own glistened red in a beam of sunlight. His battleaxe had several nicks in its blade where he had forcefully parried Mantid strikes. His hatchet had been reduced to a billy club with a splintered edge. He seemed to be listening for something. Brinnea was no master of stealth or subtlety. When his back was turned to her, she charged, knowing the element of surprise wouldn’t likely turn in her favor. As expected, the orc spun to face her, battleaxe swiftly raised, broken hatchet forgotten on the ground, and a sinister grin twisting his bloodstained face. Her long sword flashed like a bolt of lightning. Blue runes ignited, leaving a trail of dazzling azure in the wake of her swing. Mokdeth was terribly predictable. He smacked her strike as if cleaving through the trunk of a tree and aimed a counterstrike at her head. She ducked under the blow and swung for his legs. She was surprised he reacted in time, leaping over her sword. He nearly clobbered her over the unprotected head before she regained her stance. “You dance well, death knight,” the orc spat, lowering his axe. To the untrained eye, he might have seemed tired and unable to continue the fight. Brin’s eyes were not untrained. “You killed the captain, pig! I will take vengeance for him and his rangers!” He scoffed. “His girth was useful for something. Not a bit of shrapnel got on me.” She roared as she thrust at his evil eye. The orc’s movement was swift and, in a way, elegant. A high thrust was pointless against that move. She had seen it used before, only by a knight’s sword. That is why she did not strike high. She feinted, and thrust her blade through the orc’s leather jerkin. Mokdeth merely grunted with displeasure at the sword in his gut. Brin cursed under her breath as she quickly drew back her blade. Fool! she chastised herself. You missed his liver, intestines, or anything really important. Leave it to Bumbling Brin to screw up a perfect feint! Growing more careful, Mokdeth stepped after Brinnea slowly, axe kept lifted in a more reliable stance. Brin aimed a few measured strikes at his feet, head, and hands. He dodged and parried them all, but did not counter. He seemed barely slowed by his wound. She pushed down her impatience and waited for an opening. That’s when she heard the Mantid’s wings rapidly approaching from behind. Rather than make a quick escape, Brin made a riskier maneuver. She cast a howling blast at Mokdeth, who sidestepped it entirely and countered. Brin parried his attack and ducked around to flank the orc, who kept up with her footwork, ready to reprise any attack she threw at him. His cocky expression faded into confusion when she sprinted off into the shadows. Brin took great pleasure in the sight of the orc frantically whirling to face the attacking Mantid who came from behind him. His surprise had cost him a wounded shoulder. She hoped he would lose his head, too. She was so caught up in her success that she never saw the insectoid that clubbed her in the side of the head. She fell head over heels into the dirt, her sword falling loose on the ground. Blood tricked down the side of her head, tickling her ear, though she could hardly feel it. A Mantid aimed a strike at her from above. She threw up her left hand to fend it off. The hungry-looking bug-man seemed surprised to hear a metallic impact when his blade hit her arm and glanced off. The leather of her glove tore, displaying the black iron hand she wore as a prosthetic. She kicked the Mantid off balance and drew her knife, plunging it into her attacker’s throat as she sprang to her feet. A second Mantid appeared. She hastily searched for her sword, but didn’t find it before she was surrounded completely. The dagger fell from her hand when she used it to block an attack. Desperately, she pulled the cord on her iron arm. The hand fell on a hinge, revealing the barrel of a cannon. Before she struck the ignition, a sword fell on her back. She felt the jagged blade slice through metal, leather, and skin. Her back grew damp. Now off-balance, her cannon shot flew with a deafening kaboom! By the time the smoke fell and the Mantid shook off their confusion, she could tell she had missed them all, sending the cannonball hurdling high in the air. Damn the luck, she thought to herself bitterly, abandoning hope. I’m sorry Charlotte. As she awaited the blade that would end her miserable undeath, something caught her eye in the near distance. A small flame. It grew rapidly, engulfing the Mantid around her before fading. Searching for the spell’s origin, she saw someone that filled her with both unparalleled happiness and infernal dread. Her five-year-old daughter, sitting high in the saddle of a deathcharger along with the wolflike boy who she called brother, spoke down to her, “Not to fear, mama! Your heroes have arrived!”
  16. IV. Brinnea spent the next week of travel saying nothing except to answer Furan’s commands. The orc proved an unfaltering pain in the ass for her specifically. Whenever he got the chance, he would throw insults her way, or challenge her abilities with offhanded comments or sarcastic mockery. She rarely said anything in return, fighting herself internally to avoid smacking him across the face for his idiocy. On the last day before their route turned homeward, he went too far. “If you weren’t a death knight, you’d be about the least threatening human I’ve ever come across,” he said with a mouthful of morning bacon slurring his speech. He gulped down the greasy meat without chewing much. “I bet your father was some pansy mage your mother took pity on. Or maybe he beat you as a runty pup. Would explain your lack of spine.” Flashes of her father rippled through her mind like waves in a storm. She remembered how he had loved her. And how the drink took that love away. She turned around to face the orc and punched him in the gut. He doubled over immediately, coughing up spittle at her feet. The rangers swooped in faster than Brinnea could believe and restrained them both. They didn’t keep Mokdeth still for long. He shook off the Pandaren and charged at the still-retrained Brinnea. He shouted, “Did I hit a nerve, pinkskin? Here, I’ll find another one!” He kicked her in the groin and laughed as she doubled over. The pain was subdued compared to what a living person would feel. That said, it hurt so much her legs went limp, leaving the rangers to hold her up where before they had had to hold her back. Before Mokdeth could follow up with another witty remark or low blow, an arrow impaled itself in his boot. It had missed his toes as far as Brin could tell; the orc reacted only by glancing sleepily at the arrow’s source. Furan stood apart from the group, calmly knocking another arrow. The expression on his face betrayed his serene demeanor, but his hands were steady and unhurried. “Everyone back in formation. Now.” The rangers released Brin as soon as she regained full use of her legs. They began to line back up to carry on down the path, and Mokdeth followed them, rubbing his core. He scoffed at Brin cockily. “Yeah, human. Fall back in line, like an obedient little zombie.” She raised her fists. “Oh, you don’t even know how to shut up, do you?” He pulled the arrow out of his boot, but didn’t move. He gave Furan a sidelong look. “You really want to get in the middle of this, Captain?” “There must be a way the two of you can work together,” the captain said with a hint of desperation touching his voice. “It cannot be this way forever. You’ll both end up dead out here if you cannot see that!” Before Brin could tell the Captain what she thought about that, one of the rangers shouted a warning. A buzzing sound rapidly approached from above, and out of the darkness from all around, buglike figures appeared, advancing at breakneck speed and bearing armor and weapons of dull amber. The Captain shouted an order than Brin couldn’t make out over the sound of beating wings. Her sword flashed into her hand, deflecting an amber blade before biting into the Mantid’s exoskeleton with a savage counterattack aimed at where a human would have a collarbone. One fell, and two more replaced it. The Pandaren rangers, human, and orc all stood together in a small circle, fighting the Mantid as they appeared. Brin thought their group had shrunk, and noticed a pair of Pandaren corpses out of the corner of her eye. Furan’s bow sat forgotten and trampled nearby. He had drawn his sword instead. Mokdeth fought like a demon, striking out with a battleaxe and a hatchet in either hand. Each blow crumpled Mantid bodies like folded paper, leaving a messy pile for the rest to scramble over. Brinnea parried, countered, and hacked her way through those that advanced on her. These Mantid were clearly not blooded given their lack of skill, but the ambush had done its work by the end. Attacks from above claimed three more rangers before the insectoids fled en masse. Six of them remained – four rangers including Furan, and Brin and Mokdeth. One of the Pandaren was badly wounded, and supported by two of her comrades. The amber blades did nasty work on the body – the spikes built into the blade made them cut unevenly, so they didn’t run deep every time. Instead, they left puncture wounds that bled more profusely than cuts, and some of the spikes even broke off inside the body to infect the bloodstream with viral infections. Brinnea knew the technique well. Too well. The ground around them was riddled with blood, bodies, and equipment. Furan gave a few quick orders, clearly expending great effort to keep himself calm. Brin gathered their dead allies for a small pyre before she heard more buzzing in the distance. “They’re regrouping,” she warned, “Sounds like there’s more than there were before. We have to get out of here, Captain.” Furan seemed torn. He looked at his fallen brothers and sisters in arms regretfully before sheathing his blade. “She’s right. There’s no time to tend to the dead. We need to get back to the Wall. Mei needs medical attention and we need to report this engagement.” Mokdeth stood before Furan before he could lead a hasty retreat. “We haven’t checked the last location, Pandaren. Are you planning on abandoning the mission due to a few casualties? Sounds like fear talking to me.” Brin took an angry step toward the orc before Furan signaled for her to halt. “We haven’t the time to finish the route, Mokdeth,” the Captain said with a level voice. “Don’t you hear the Mantid? There will be more – too many to handle. We have to get back alive.” “We? Or just you? I can hear the fear in your voice, Furan. There’s a job to do and you’re too scared to see it through. How’d a coward like you ever make it as a ranger, anyhow?” He’d gone too far. Furan struck him in the chest with an open palm. The orc collapsed onto the ground. “I sacrificed everything I cared about to get where I am today, orc!” the Captain put a foot down on Mokdeth’s throat, pinning him to the ground. Brinnea and the rangers watched on, unsure of what to do. They eyed he sky nervously as the sound of beating wings grew closer. “I have lost too many brothers and sisters to let it happen again! I refuse to be the last one standing this time, so get up and fall back to the Wall!” He released the orc just in time to be struck in the side of the head by a metal sphere. Knocked off balance, he stared blankly at the burning fuse at his feet before shouting an order to run. Brin’s eyes widened and she reached for both Mokdeth and Furan with her death grip spell to pull them to safety as the other rangers scrambled to follow their captain’s orders. She only managed to tug them partway to her, unable to pull two people so far at once. They were still well within the range of the grenade, and they both knew it. The fuse burned low. Brinnea was turning to get out of the grenade’s range, so she could only see what happened next out of the corner of her eye. Mokdeth grabbed the Pandaren by the scruff and tossed him back at the explosive. She somehow heard his hideous scream over the ear-deafening boom.
  17. III. They patrolled the trail in silence for some time, sticking to the shadows like bugs on a log. Brinnea fingered the hilt of her sword, trying to keep her senses focused on her task, but her thoughts drifted to the voice on the air. She tried to push those thoughts down, and listen to the sounds of the wasteland around her, but she feared the voice would find her again. Lost in thought as she was, Brin nearly fell over Furan when he stopped abruptly in front of her. “Quiet!” he whispered harshly. “Look over there, a small flame!” She followed his point, and saw it flickering in the distance. “It’s too obvious,” Brinnea said as she shook off her daze. “A trap?” He grimaced. “Or a signal for help. Come, it isn’t far.” He went, stepping soft as a fox despite his girth. She stepped after him, at least half his size but twice as loud. Not far from where the fire burned, they halted, still in the shadows, and watched closely. It was a campsite, by all appearances. A log was placed by the campfire, presumably for sitting on, and various cooking utensils, pans, and pots sat around the fire as if someone had been preparing a small feast in the woods. Brin eyed the camp suspiciously. There was no one in sight. Furan had a bow in hand, an arrow knocked and ready in case anything was amiss. Brin spoke softly, “I’ll take a closer look. Watch from here.” Normally the captain would remind her he was in charge, but he agreed with her this time. She approached the camp carefully, drawing her long sword softly. Shadows swam all around her. Too many places to hide. She shoved down the feeling of vulnerability and crept into the camp ever so carefully, trying to keep her light metal armor from making too much noise. There was no sign of any fighting even after a close inspection. Whoever had been there seemed to have just left without a fuss. Brinnea searched for tracks, but she wasn’t familiar with the hunters’ skills. She heard a branch snap as someone approached the camp. She stood ready to defend herself. Unconsciously, she was aware of the spacing between herself and Furan’s bow. She shifted her stance to give him room to fire. A young orc warrior dressed in grungy leather armor stepped out of the gloom carrying a hatchet in a hand, and firewood under his arm. Brin’s guard remained sturdy. “Who are you?” she questioned the approaching orc. “What are you doing here?” The orc grunted and tossed his firewood down. He kept the axe at his side, but eyed Brinnea with a hint of annoyance. “You here to steal my food, pinkskin? What’s with that hat? Think you’re some kind of Pandaren?” “We’ll be asking the questions, friend orc,” said Furan as he entered the firelight. His bow was on hand, but the string was not pulled. Brin cursed silently, reminded that the Shado-Pan were generally friendly with the Horde races. “What are you doing camping so auspiciously in the Dread Wastes, orc?” she asked almost threateningly. Furan gave her a sidelong glance. “An orc has no need for subtlety if his axe-arm isn’t broken. Name’s Mokdeth. I’m here on business.” He swung the axe up onto his shoulder casually. Brin wasn’t amused. “Not specific enough, beastman. Better start explaining yourself or I’ll—,” Furan cut her off. “Enough, Brinnea. The man has a right to his privacy, and our courtesy. But if you would, friend Mokdeth, perhaps consider travelling with our group? You seem a capable fighter, and our party has need of such.” This time Brinnea gave Furan a sharp glare. “We don’t know this orc, Captain! How can you trust him so easily?” Furan gave her an impatient look and she said no more. Mokdeth yawned and replied, “Sure. Can I expect payment?” Furan nodded. “Wonderful. I’ve been meaning to see how you Pandaren fare in a fight.”
  18. II. Days passed uneventfully. Most nights while the rangers rested, she kept watch. She was good at that. A death knight needs no sleep, so she could stay awake as the others lay down their heads. The night air bore much noise in the wastes. Life preserved even in this dark and desolate land. In the twisting nettles which served as cover, she could only see a little of the dim passage they were travelling on, so she had to rely mostly on sound to sense if anything was watching. The warbles of swamp cranes, the chirps of insects, and the distant howls of scavengers washed over her. One night in particular, in the cacophony of noise, she felt something hidden, veiled as if beneath many layers of water. She closed her eyes, and dove in. Murderer. Her hands clenched defiantly. “No,” she murmured to the voice on the air. Murderer, it whispered back. She shook her head, baring her teeth angrily. “No!” she seethed under her breath. You killed them. Killed them all. It was so easy, remember? Two swings of a sword and a wave of the hand, and the whole lot of them were doomed from then on. And later, after it all happened… “Stop! Leave me be!” She clamped her hands over her ears. The voices persisted. …But she deserved it, didn’t she? That black-haired bitch betrayed her own brother: your beloved. She would have left the girl to die. You did what had to be done. She clawed at her head, biting back curses. She knew the rangers would be listening, their thin sleep easily broken. She forced herself to sit still and listen. It was her task. What would you have done without me? Without your conviction? You would still be that weepy-eyed girl from Andorhal. Your father would have beaten you and your mother to death. You never would have survived as a death knight. The Horde would have caught you and put you to death as they so desire. You would have died a thousand times as you were! I made you strong! You survived because of me! She cried out, ripping her sword from her sheath instinctively. The rangers stood quickly, hands on their weapons. The voice had fled. “What is it? Did you hear something?” the Furan questioned grumpily. Brin sighed, putting her weapon away. “No. Er—yes, I thought I did. It was nothing.” The rangers tentatively lowered their arms. “Are you certain?” Furan pressed, taking a few steps toward the death knight, “Perhaps we ought to take a look—,” she cut him off. “I will look around alone. You carry on sleeping.” The head ranger shook his head. “You know the rule. No one travels alone beyond the wall. Not unless they are the last one alive.” The old Pandaren stomped out into the open without waiting for a reply. Sighing, Brin gathered up her hat and cloak, then followed after him.
  19. I. A pyre burned low in the dim, cool night. It stood alone in a vast ocean of darkness that reined as far as the eye could see. The Dread Wastes of Pandaria was no fine place to die. It was cut off from any decent folk by a massive wall, occupied by the wretched Mantid and worse creatures, but most importantly, over the wasteland was the overwhelming feeling of being watched. Something always watched you from the shadows. If you were lucky, it was something too small to cause any more than minor mischief, but on most days, it meant death lurked just around the corner. The Shado-Pan rangers knew the risks coming to this land – and that it was necessary. Given the speed at which the last swarm came, albeit sped due to the Sha, they had to be prepared in case another was just around the corner. Due to the nature of their mission, there was never time to send the dead home. Swift funerals had to be completed during brief rests. But burial was no option – the buried dead did not stay buried long in this land. A pyre was needed, to free the lost brother or sister from the taint of the dark lands. A small fire, not enough to draw attention, but enough to grant the final honor. The head ranger Furan lifted his bowed head and replaced his hat and scarf. He called to the small party – even smaller after the prior night’s skirmish – “Put the fire out and let’s get moving. Our work here is not yet done.” Eight Pandaren replaced their coverings. One human followed suit, raising her hood and placing a smaller-sized hat on top of it. Waving a hand, the fire extinguished in a flash of sudden frost. Only cold embers remained where the fallen ranger’s corpse had been. While the other rangers gathered their spears and packs, Brinnea tried to remember a prayer her mother had taught her when she was a child. In the bitter dark, her quiet words went unanswered. Not certain what she had been expecting, she joined the other rangers as they moved out into the wastes.
  20. ((One final warning, this story contains gore, violence, and foul language. Enjoy the long delayed conclusion!)) Kazarak clawed along the sides of stony corridor walls nearly blind from exertion. He had heard sounds of battle outside, and Naavi had not returned. Every instinct told him sitting still was pointless and foolish. He had hoped for years Naavi might someday return, and now she had. No amount of pain or weariness would keep him from her. And there she was – leaning up against a blood-soaked wall. Her breathing was labored, and her left arm was missing from bicep to fingertips. Kaz sucked in air harshly and flung himself to her side. “No!” he shouted defiantly. In the dry, burnt air, he gathered what water he could and pressed it against her wound, willing the blood to cease flowing and the gashes to close. His strength failed, and water splashed to the ground. Blood seeped from the wound again. Naavi’s hand brushed against his face gently. “Rest,” she said breathily. “Put away…your axe. Rest now, my love…” Her hand fell limp on the floor and her eyes stared blindly at something no one could see. Kazarak reached for her, but she was gone. *** Green fire crackled behind the door Brinnea and Laurana faced. Gripping their weapons tightly, they gave one another reassuring looks and together, they kicked the door open. Darkness greeted them as they charged into the breach. The witch’s silhouette knelt before a casket reverently, a disembodied fire illuminating the area about it from above. The death knights reached out with shadows for arms, taking a shoulder each and tugging towards them. The robed figure flew at them, and blades flashed. The warlock spun about in midair, flinging flames from her hand towards Brinnea. Instinctively, the knight shielded herself with runic magic, absorbing the magic into her body. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a violet shadow dart at Laurana. Cynthia’s skull artifact collided with Laurana’s blade, cracking and deflecting the blow intended for its master. Beams of light flashed from the skull’s eyes, burning through the death knight’s flesh and the wall behind her. Grimacing, Laurana struck a second time, this time shattering the skull utterly. The room filled with light, sound, and force. Brinnea felt herself hit a wall and everything went black for a moment. Her eyes fluttering open, Brinnea witnessed a flickering purple light die out at the center of the room. Blood and gore lie strewn about the room, and Laurana was nowhere to be found. No! It can’t be! Brinnea glared angrily at Cynthia, who was conjuring a doorway behind the casket. “Cynthia!” she shouted, springing clumsily from the ground. The warlock turned back to face her as the doorway opened. “Oh, you just never die, hmm?” the witch seemed nearly unhinged with anger. Her golden eyes flashed dangerously as she shouted, “Very well! I’ve been saving a certain spell for just such an occasion! As fun as it has been, it is time to say good night and fare well, my dear!” The room grew hot and dark as a black flame sputtered to life in Cynthia’s hand. Brinnea darted toward her, prepared to take whatever punishment she must to end the fight at last. The black flame darted towards the death knight’s heart. She wouldn’t make it before the spell hit its mark. I’ve failed, the thought flickered through her mind. I’m sorry Charlotte. Sorry for everything! A pillar of ice lanced from the ground before her, cutting off her route of attack and deflecting the dark bolt up into the ceiling, where it compressed into a small point before exploding in a flicker of shadow. Brin glanced over her shoulder. Charlotte stood in the doorway, her hand misting with cold fumes. A bright smile lit her face and tugged at Brinnea’s heart. A tear flowed down her cheek. A second shadowfire bolt flickered its way past her ear and hit the child squarely in the chest. She flew down the hall a long way before skidding to a halt, motionless on the floor. Brinnea’s mind snapped. Everything went cold and numb. She vaguely noticed turning from her child’s body and towards the mad witch’s menacing smile. “What a dumb little cunt,” Cynthia spat, “She’s yours for sure, Brinny! Too stupid to get out of the damn way, hmm.” She felt herself move forward as if in a dream. Her sword hung limp in her hand. Her eyes fixed on the witch’s. The black fire flashed to life, and flung itself at her. She flung herself at it, taking it in her chest and holding it there as she took a few steps towards the warlock. Then she drove her blade into the witch’s abdomen and plunged the spell into her mouth. Cynthia screamed dully somewhere far away from Brinnea’s ears as it seemed. All she saw was the woman’s face turn black under her maimed left hand. Black veins travelled across pale flesh, burning away everything. Nose, cheeks, ears, golden eyes, black hair, all burned to nothing. Then Brinnea’s own hand crumbled into ash. She didn’t notice. Her world was gone, tossed into the fire. Some sense that had become useless to her noticed a chilling presence rise up from the witch’s body and fly into the nearby casket as if dragged. A whisper scraped at her ears, but she ignored it until it was gone. It was over. All of it. Then a cough from behind her snapped the world back into being. Brinnea shook off her trance without a second thought and darted back into the hallway she had come from, and knelt by Charlotte’s side. The girl gasped for air, taking in deep and frantic breaths. Brinnea unlaced the girl’s shirt and checked her body for damage. There was no scarring, no blackening, and no tendrils of fire burning away at her. More tears came unbidden. Brinnea held the girl against her body tenderly. “You’re alive,” she said bewildered. “You’re alive, you’re alive!” Charlotte caught her breath and pulled away to look in her mother’s eyes. “We’re alive,” the girl said. *** Shanoris watched as other night elves lowered her sister’s thoroughly covered body into a fresh grave beneath a tree. Three weeks had passed since that fateful day in Felsoul Hold. The mothers had been reunited with their children. The wolf boy and Brinnea’s girl had vanished by the time she had come to from the witch’s curse. Her nephew had chosen to stay with his family in Darnassus, so Shanoris had taken him there, along with her sister’s remains. The Fargazes were a ritualistic people. They made certain Kyrande had a proper burial, and would wait until afterward to turn their wrath against Shanoris. By the time the ceremony neared its conclusion, she had already gone. Three weeks ago, her vengeance had been stolen from her. In the ruins of Cynthia’s chambers within the Hold, she had found the witch’s remains burned half to ashes beside an empty casket. Another body rested in many pieces across the room. Shanoris could tell it had been a death knight, and sniffed out what remained of a head in the corner of the room. The features all felt the same, and from all Shanoris could tell, she had found the final resting place of Brinnea Velmon. Elune took my vengeance from me. Both culprits responsible for Kyrande taken right under my nose as I wandered like a fool in a trance! She had spent the too-long boat ride to Kalimdor drafting a letter mentally to deliver to a writer later. Her acquaintances in Stormwind ought to know about the demise of their former comrade. They’ll know that justice has been done, but what does that leave me? Am I to become the hunt as my fellow Illidari have? The forest of Darnassus surrounded her, serene and disconnected from the world’s troubles. With all the peace in the world about her, she still could not clear her head of the demons’ swirling, churning hate. Begrudgingly, she had the letter written and sent to the General before returning to her hunt. *** Kazarak sat at the edge of a cliff, holding in his hand a length of black cloth. On it lie the ghastly sigil of the Grim. It was all he had taken of his possessions from the Hold before departing. He was tired. The weight of the cloth itself was multiplied by the weight of his grief. Naavi was gone again. Now he had a choice in his hand. Return to the Grim and fulfill his vision? He knew in his heart that the chance for glory and greatness still lie within his grasp. Yet he hesitated before this path. All his family lie down a second path. A peaceful path with only one hardship resting at its beginning. He saw his father and mother down that way. He saw his brothers and sisters, his children and Naavi herself. They were all of them just as he remembered them: happy and proud. Proud to see what he was. He had been a paragon of justice and a champion of peace. But that was then. Now, he was a filthy murderer. The stain was set in too deep. He saw the path of glory, full of its hardships and pain. He spat at that path; he had made his choice. It was many months before an adventurer happened upon the picked-over bones at the bottom of the tall cliff. The travelling fellow groaned impatiently, having found only a simple tabard tucked in the fingers of a skeletal hand. *** Brinnea and Charlotte finished a prayer at the foot of a fresh grave in a pass between the city of Suramar and Felsoul Hold. Marking the grave was Parigan’s greatsword, both halves dung into the earth. Someone would undoubtedly take the blade’s remains someday, but for now it made a decent memorial to the man. Brinnea chuckled softly, and Charlotte asked, “What’s funny, mama?” Brin ruffled the girl’s hair playfully, responding, “Your father always hated this sword. He used to say it was too heavy to carry around all the time. I asked him all the time why he kept it around, but he never told me. I think I know now, though.” Charlotte stared up at her mother curiously. “Why did he?” she asked innocently. Brin stood, and her girl did the same. They faced the rising sun, admiring its beauty and serenity. “He carried it so he would never forget the weight of it all. Of war and peace, hatred and passion, death and life. He kept it to remember how to feel.” Some hours later, the pair of them rode atop Brinnea’s grim steed, facing out into the sea. Charlotte asked, “Where are we going, mama?” Brinnea answered, “Wherever we want. We’re free now. But, is there anywhere you’d like to go first?” “I heard Pandaria’s great.” “Alright, let’s go.” They began to wade across the top of the sea on rapidly forming chunks of ice before halting a moment. August raced from back where they went. Charlotte invited him to join, and he timidly hopped aboard the dark horse. They rode on into the distant sea, three souls bound on one adventure. The End. ((This may well be my last WoW story. It was a wild ride and I'm glad I've finally given my characters each a conclusion. For better or worse, I'm moving on to make new stories. I hope you all enjoyed the mess I wrote for you all. Peace.))
  21. Brinnea huddled in a cage even smaller than the one she’d been given before. Her lifeless legs hung limp below her waist. The wrathguard’s mace must have shattered every bone she had in either leg for all she could move them. Even as an undead, the pain of them was unbearable. Between the confined space, the pain, and the deepening feeling of despair, she was miserable to say the least. Before having her and Laurana carted away to separate cells, Cynthia had said, “For this behavior, the both of you will receive the ultimate punishment, hmm.” Laurana’s head had seemed to be half a skull at that point. Why did I risk myself for her? I’ve doomed her, myself, her son…and Charlotte. I wasn’t strong enough! The crushing failure that had been her fight with Morkoreth reminded her of how powerless she truly was. She had never wanted to be a knight, let alone a death knight. Once upon a time, she’d dreamed of being a mage, unravelling the mysteries of the world. As a child, she pictured heroes in stories as something she could never aspire to, but she tried to emulate their heroism and selflessness in everything she did. A good deal that did me, she thought bitterly. I’m a murderer, a poor excuse for a warrior, and on top of it all, the world’s worst mother. Charlotte deserves better than me. A clanging sound told her her jailor had entered the cell. She lifted her head enough to see the Inquisitor float menacingly toward her. Without a word, the demon lifted her cage onto his back and floated back to the cell entrance. Brinnea thought about giving the demon a tongue-lashing, but thought better of it. It wouldn’t help this situation any. When they emerged from the hold’s bowels out into the grim wasteland the Legion called their base, she heard Laurana barking angry comments and insults at her jailor. Guess she disagrees with me. Cynthia had gathered all the Widows into a line, with demons surrounding them. Brinnea was reminded of her arrival at the Hold, and began frantically searching for Charlotte in the crowd. She couldn’t see her, or the satyr Letraxia anywhere. The jailors set her and Laurana’s cages on the ground, but left them sealed. Laurana shouted at Cynthia, “You coward! Let me out of here and we’ll settle this once and for all! No more tricks, just you and me!” She bashed at her cage wall, bent double just to stand at the most height her cage offered. The death knight’s head still shone bright white on one side where the skin had been scraped off by Morkoreth’s mace. Brinnea grimaced at the sight of it, but Laurana was so angry she didn’t seem to even notice it. Cynthia smiled at Laurana, but ignored her taunts. She turned to the line of Widows and began to speak. “My dears, I bring you here today to teach you a valuable lesson. Or, re-teach you one, rather. I’ve told you all time and again that loyalty is rewarded where disobedience is punished, hmm. These two women blatantly disregarded my orders and turned against me, weapons in hand. That will not stand. Any of you with ideas of disobeying me need only witness what happens and decide for herself whether it is worthwhile.” Cynthia’s hands lit with fire. Brinnea’s hands curled into tight fists. Burning to death isn’t the worst way to go, I suppose. She bit back panic and lifted herself to a proud sitting position rather than a curled-up ball. Laurana was still cursing Cynthia and the witch’s entire family. Brin tensed as Cynthia prepared to hurl the balls of fire at them, readying herself for the end. Before the fire could leave her hands, they were snuffed out by a brisk breeze. The sudden gust blew Cynthia’s hair all over her face. The witch clawed at her hair angrily, and turned to face the line of Widows. Brinnea saw where the wind had come from, and it was clear Cynthia knew it as well. “Kyrande, dear,” Cynthia began calmly, just barely containing a fearsome rage, “Why did you just cast a spell at me, hmm?” The night elf defiantly glared at Cynthia, and replied, “I’m through with being your slave, witch. Do your worst.” With her last word, she flicked her wrist, blowing more wind in Cynthia’s face. The breeze continued past the witch, but Brinnea didn’t think anyone noticed as the jailor’s key near Brin’s cell was plucked from his waist and fell just beside the death knight’s cage. Kyrande gave her a nod as Cynthia roared, hurling a ball of fire at the elf’s feet. While the burning woman screamed, Brinnea bit back her anger and grabbed the key, unlocked her cage, and felt her magic return to her with the seal broken. She formed an icy dagger and death gripped the jailor down to her level. The inquisitor’s eyes gaped in horror as she plunged her blade into his neck, drawing the fel blood into her body. Bones crackled and muscle groaned as Brinnea’s legs repaired themselves magically thanks to the fel blood. Cynthia took notice of her just as her legs came back into working order. The witch hurled a ball of fire at her, but Brinnea hid behind the jailor’s body. It was blasted into ashes, but Brinnea was already on the move. A fireball toward her. She activated her anti-magic shield and turned the spell into fuel for her runes. She froze the second jailor solid as demons began to rush toward her. Everything moved so quickly, she didn’t even notice the jailor’s key was in her hand until she unlocked Laurana’s cell and yanked the death knight to her feet. They stood back-to-back, a frost sword in one woman’s hand, and a blade made of shadows in the other’s. Laurana spoke to Brin as she absorbed one of Cynthia’s fireballs, “This makes twice you’ve saved me, Brinnea. I misjudged you when we met.” Brinnea blasted a row of demons with ice and cut down a felhunter as it closed in on her. She replied to Laurana, “Think there’s any chance of getting away this time?” Laurana tried death-gripping Cynthia, but Morkoreth stepped in the way. Laurana broke the connection before the hulking demon yanked her instead. “Only with a miracle,” she said. Brinnea hadn’t tried to get her hopes up, but something about the way Laurana said it made her feel somewhat hopeful. At the very least, we’ll die outside this way. Just as Brinnea prepared for the charge of a dozen angry demons, a pillar of green fire erupted in front of her. She made to jump out of the way, but it only separated her from the demons. That isn’t Cynthia’s fire! A shadow flew across Brinnea’s face. She turned to watch Shanoris Fargaze plunge glaives first into Morkoreth’s violet body, slicing into his flesh angrily with cut after cut before leaping backward, burning the demon’s body clean through with beams of fel fire from her eye sockets. The wrathguard roared as his body burned away into nothing. Brinnea and Laurana blinked at the demon hunter. Shanoris growled at Cynthia, “You! That was my sister you burned to death, you conniving bitch!” Brinnea could feel the fire between the two from where she stood. “Mama! I found you!” a familiar voice called to Brin from her side. She looked, and stared in disbelief at Charlotte, who tugged at her ragged pants excitedly. Alongside her were the molten corgi Colin, and a rather hairy boy about her age, who looked about ready to puke. Brinnea replied, “Charlotte! How did you get here?” The girl beamed at her. “Colin found us help! He showed Miss Shanny where we were and she saved us from Granny Letta. Then we came to get you!” The demons began wading through the wall of fire. Brinnea told Charlotte to get behind her, but before the girl did as told, she pulled something out of a blade and tossed it at Brin’s feet. Instinctively, she scooped it up and cut down a felguard with her own runeblade. Charlotte called to her, “I found the armory! I told you everything would be ok, mama!” The next few minutes were a confusing tangle of demons, ice, fire, and various shouts and taunts. Somehow, Brinnea managed to avoid being torn apart in the midst of it all. Charlotte seemed to be dodging around using her blink spell, handing weapons to the other Widows as they began to take heart and fight against the enclosing demons. Shanoris seemed to be chasing after Cynthia as the witch apparated about, hurling shadowy balls of magic at the demon hunter. The elf dodged past it all, and kept after the witch insistently. A doomguard scooped Brinnea up by her feet as she stumbled pulling her blade from another demon’s gullet. She swiped at the doomguard’s hand as it prepared to cast a spell at her with its other hand. Just before it could, it yelped and dropped her abruptly. She rolled to her feet roughly as she hit home, and dug her blade into the large demon’s leg. She noticed Colin had dug his teeth into its other leg, likely saving his master in the process. She smiled as the demon fell to the ground, and she plunged her blade into his chest. Colin continued to nibble at the demon’s corpse until it suddenly vanished in a puff of green smoke. He panted happily at Brin, who quickly said, “Good boy!” and charged back into battle. At one moment, she stood beside Laurana, fighting toe-to-toe with a horde of demons, then she was defending Vemynisa as the draenei provided barriers of light and healing for the Widows all around. Many and more faces passed by her and fought alongside her for what seemed an eternity of battle. Brinnea had to admit to herself as the battle waned; This does feel rather like the climax of one of those stories. At long last, the demons all were dead. The Widows cheered, tired but most alive. Laurana grabbed her from one side as another muscular woman took her other side and they lifted her on their shoulders. She blinked and laughed, cried and breathed easy. She saw Charlotte cheering at her from in the crowd. She seemed so happy and proud, all directed at Brinnea. It’s over, she thought triumphantly. We won, and now we’re free. Shanoris screamed from somewhere to the north. Brinnea never saw her before she fell to the ground. The crowd that had been cheering a moment ago was now standing stock-still all around her. A voice cut into her mind like a knife in its sheathe, “You think it’s over, hmmm!? Your suffering has only just BEGUN!” Everyone around turned to face Brinnea. Vemynisa, Shanoris, Charlotte and her wolflike friend, even Colin. Every eye in sight had glazed over to a distant stare. Only Laurana at her side seemed completely cognizant. A thought flashed into Brinnea’s mind as the crowd’s weapons and magic turned towards her, The Skull! That must be it! Laurana grabbed Brinnea’s hand and pulled her out of the crowd as their zombielike friends began to strike at them. They were slow and sluggish enough for them to get away easily, but Brinnea couldn’t see Cynthia anywhere. “Laurana, the skull! It won’t work on death knights! That’s why we haven’t been put under her spell!” she said quickly as Laurana tugged her up to higher ground. The black-haired woman was already searching for Cynthia when she replied, “That’s part of why I went to the Scourge. I had the idea that the Lich King’s control might give me resistance to her skull’s power, but I think it’s just the opposite. We Ebon Knights broke free of Arthas’ control once. It might have something to do with this as well.” Brinnea caught a glimpse of something shimmering from the hold. Looking closely, she saw Cynthia slip into a side entrance, and signaled Laurana to follow. They sprinted around the mass of the hypnotized, still slowly meandering after them. Brin looked for Charlotte in the crowd, but couldn’t see her. Please Light, don’t let her be trampled… As they ran, Laurana said, “Your girl, she was with August. My son.” Brin blinked at the other death knight. Despite herself, she grinned. “I guess they got along about as well as we did.” Laurana scoffed, rubbing her bare skull. “I sure hope not.” Brinnea kicked the hold door open as they reached it, and was greeted by a spear’s head darting toward her. Off-balance, she was unable to avoid it. Laurana, however, was prepared for it, and yanked Brin out of the way, then knocked the spear away with her sword. Naavi stepped back as the black-haired death knight pressed past her guard, threatening to cut her open. The troll glared at the two of them, barring their path. Laurana swore at her, prepared to attack again. Brinnea put a hand on her shoulder. “Naavi,” she said calmly, “We have the witch on the run, and the children are all safe. We can end this and free ourselves, but only if we work together. You don’t have to be afraid of Cynthia anymore.” Naavi bore her teeth at her, tightening her grip on the spear. “My children are all dead, death knight,” she growled. “And you shall go no further.”
  22. “I got it!” Charlotte shouted excitedly, leaping up from a crouched position as her rune flared to life. August jumped nearly as high as her exclamation shocked him from his slumber in the corner. Rubbing sleep out of his eyes, the wolfish boy blinked in astonishment at the flickering fire on the floor where the rune had been. Charlotte laughed maniacally as a figure rose from the floor-fire slowly. It had taken a week and many tries, but she had finally cinched the summoning ritual. Now I’ll be able to break out of this prison and rescue mama! The fires died out as suddenly as they had appeared, leaving behind a small, stubby dog made of fire and rock with a blue runic collar around its neck. The dog barked excitedly and leapt at Charlotte, nearly knocking her over. “Colin?” she asked the fiery beast with disbelief. He barked affirmatively and licked her face. Despite his incredible heat, the collar he wore reduced the surface temperature to avoid causing fires or burning people. That was what confirmed Charlotte’s suspicion. Her mother had made that collar herself. August sat in his corner, petrified of the sight of Colin. The molten corgi had yet to notice him, but Charlotte expected the friendly creature would get to know the doglike boy fairly well soon, as was his nature. She spoke to Colin, “I’m happy to see you, too, boy! I was sorta hoping for something bigger though. You have any friends you can bring?” The dog cocked his head at her unknowingly. “Oh well,” she said dismissively. “I’m sure we’ll think of something.” “WHAT IN SARGERAS’ NAME WAS THAT NOISE?!” a booming voice rang out in the halls outside the circular room. August leaped up even higher this time, clawing his way up the wall in a panic. Charlotte gasped and frantically ran around, trying to cover up things indicating she had been using magic. She threw her blanket over the rune on the floor and stuffed the book August had brought her under the bed. She thought she had everything well hidden, until she remembered Colin. The dopey dog was sniffing curiously at August as the boy scrambled up the wooden wall with his sharp fingernails. Heavy footsteps drew closer outside. Charlotte used a blink spell and grabbed Colin, hoping she could get his attention. Gazing deep into his fiery orange eyes, she gave him a command, “Go find mama, Colin. Bring her here so we can get out, ok?” The dog licked her nose. The door burst open, and the big satyr Granny Letta gasped loudly as a molten corgi darted between her legs and out of the room. She was so preoccupied watching where the dog went, she never even noticed August slide past her and into the shadows of the hallway. Charlotte gave an audible sigh of relief. Letta turned her frigid gaze on the child. “Charlotte, you should know better than to have guests in your room. Granny’s gonna have to punish you for this.” Charlotte winced, thinking about her sore back. Come on, Colin. I’m counting on you. Kazarak stirred from a pleasant dream into a dark space, dimly lit only by a fel green torch in a nearby sconce. The bed was soft – softer than any he’d slept in for a long time. As a troll, he was accustomed to finding beds too short for him, and preferred patches of dirt or long hammocks. His body, stripped of all the gear he’d been wearing when he was last conscious, felt as heavy as a hunk of steel. He tried to lift an arm, but he may as well try and lift a kodo. His false arm was equally immovable; the slab of earth molded into an arm was normally controlled by his power over the elements. Evidently, even that power was sore and tired. Groaning, he turned his head to see a jug of water and a goblet beside him. Great. Water for my thirst, but no way to get it myself. As if reading his mind, Naavi appeared in his view, moving on silent feet. She poured water into the goblet and helped him drink down a bit. He tried to slurp down too much at once and started coughing. Naavi sighed with exasperation. “Like taking care of a baby spider monkey. Drink slowly fool. You haven’t moved in four days.” Kaz may not have moved in that long, but he could still laugh. It hurt, but he did it anyway. “I…missed you…too.” He got another good look at Naavi’s face. Her sharp features were as rough, and her skin as weathered as the last time he’d seen her, three years past. Her amber eyes and green hair the same, though her hair had perhaps grown longer, and her eyes sharper. Given the state she had been in before, however, she looked significantly more alive. It was like one of his dreams had come to life. Naavi put a hand on his forehead. “Fever’s starting to break. You are a tough bastard, Kaz. No wonder I chose you.” “If I remember,” Kaz rasped after taking a slower gulp of water, “I did the choosing.” Naavi shook her head. “You stuttered a few words, maybe. Everyone knew I was the man of this relationship.” Her half-smile faded as her hand drifted to the scar at his throat. “How did this happen?” Kazarak cleared his throat, holding back a cough. “Alliance deserters. After the siege…I escorted Darkspear emissaries…across Pandaria. Hoped to…work at peace. I was…too preoccupied with thoughts. Didn’t notice…the trouble until…it was too late. They killed everyone.” Naavi set the goblet aside and threw her arms around Kazarak, resting her head against his chest. He closed his eyes and let the warmth of her body wash over her. He inhaled her aroma, letting her become one with him as they had been before. She seemed to be crying when she said, “I’m sorry Kaz. I…I never should have left. I should have told you I was alive, at least. I can’t imagine what I put you through all these years…” Kaz mustered up strength he never knew he had and lifted his arm, resting it on her head gently. She looked up at him, her eyes shiny with tears, yet still as strong as always. “It’s in the past now,” he said with a smile. A knock came at a door Kaz couldn’t see. Naavi carefully stood back up, placing Kazarak’s hand back to his side softly. As she backed away from his bed, she said, “I promise I’ll explain everything when I return, love. I know I owe you a long talk. Rest up. You’ll need your strength soon.” Kazarak didn’t need to be told twice. Naavi drifted out of sight around an unseen corner, and the shaman slipped back into his pleasant dreams. Haven’t slept this good in years.
  23. Kazarak lurked in the shadow of the Hold, watching as dozens of demons streamed out, chasing the shadow of the fleeing demon hunter. His breathing ragged, he tried to stream water from the surrounding air into his chest wound to cleanse it of infection and seal it, but the dryness of the air prevented him from gathering any substantial amount of water. He grimaced, the cut stinging like an angry swarm of jungle wasps. Could be worse, he remarked silently, ducking lower as a felguard stomped past him. At least I still have my head. He frowned, remembering his defeat once again. He wasn’t strong or fast enough, even with the element of surprise on his side. I have no honor left, truly. He ran his blood-covered left hand over the makeshift stone arm on his right side. He watched the stony fingers close into a fist. Felt it, but he could not feel it. A torn spirit and a mangled body, that’s all I have left. I may as well never show my face from behind this mask again. He fingered the wooden mask tenderly, running his calloused fingers along the jagged scar, the only remnant of its former owner. Kazarak was jarred from his recollection by a piercing pain in his chest. He looked down, and saw the point of an arrowhead poking through his chest. His vision went fuzzy, and instinct took over. Leaping out of cover might have seemed a foolish move before, but he had no other option now. Demons turned their heads as the troll tumbled from his hiding place. Kaz looked to where the arrow had come from: the high ground above the rocks. The sun caught her amber eyes between two smoggy clouds. The wind picked up, streaming through her verdant braids as she nocked a second arrow. Kaz’s axe slipped from his grasp as he drew it from the loop on his belt. A name hung in his mind, held as close to his heart as the memory of a loved one. He called up to her, his voice raspy but resolute, “Naavi, is that you?” Her face twisted in confusion at first. He removed his mask, letting it drop to the ground. Then her face brightened with recognition, her eyes brimming with tears. “Kazarak?” she asked uncertain. “Yes, it is you!” Demons circled Kazarak, lifting their weapons to crush him into the dirt. Naavi’s face hardened, and she called, not to Kaz, but to them, “Felguards, hold! The Mistress wants to see this one herself.” The demons stopped in their tracks, and lowered their arms. The huntress slid down the cliffside and stood before Kazarak, holding her bow behind her in the oh-so familiar stance. It would have been a beautiful moment, but Kazarak began to feel the arrow wound again. His vision faded to black suddenly, and his legs gave out. The last thing he saw before losing consciousness was Naavi’s worried expression as she carried him away from the sun, into the shadows. Brinnea stood quickly, returning her hand to Laurana’s shoulder as Cynthia swept her way back onto the dais and resumed to sit on her throne. Morkoreth was at her side, but the trolless was nowhere to be seen. Brinnea wondered to herself what sort of trouble they had left to address. Cynthia spoke in a more irritated tone than usual, indicating whatever it was had been left unresolved, “Thank you for waiting, hmm. Now, where was I? Ah, yes, your punishment. Brin, dear, would you mind unsheathing your sword?” Brinnea’s body tensed. She gave Laurana an apologetic look as the death knight glanced back at her questioningly. The sword slid from her scabbard and rested in her hand, the point low to the ground. Cynthia gave her a false reassuring smile. “That’s right, now stick it in Laurana’s mouth, hmm. A liar’s tongue is not welcome in my halls. Remove it for me, will you?” Brinnea’s grip on Laurana’s shoulder loosened. She looked at the sword, then to the other death knight’s eyes. The sword sat limp in her hand. Cynthia spoke again, growing more impatient, “Right, shouldn’t have asked. I command you to remove the liar’s tongue. NOW.” Brinnea gritted her teeth. I’m going to regret this. She lifted the sword to be level with Laurana’s mouth. Then she pointed it promptly at Cynthia and channeled her runic magic through the inscriptions on its edge. A long spear of ice protruded from its tip, jagged and fast moving. It rapidly drew closer to Cynthia’s neck, only to be shattered by Morkoreth’s mace. Brinnea moved quickly, hearing the screeches of the winged demons above. She handed her blade to Laurana, who paused no more than a moment before readying herself for a fight. Brinnea forged two blades made of ice, her icy blue eyes fixed harshly on Cynthia as the witch stood from her throne. The woman barked a rude laugh. “You are both fools! You shall learn what it means to defy me, hmm!” Her hand darkened; an aura of shadows was cast upon the room, snuffing out green torchlight. It darkened until Brinnea could not see more than a foot in front of her. She and Laurana stood back-to-back as the screeching demons flew in from the shadows. They cut them down, narrowly escaping the rake of their claws a dozen times. Laurana drew bones and blood from the fallen to form a shield around the pair of them as Brin sheared through tendons and leathery wings with razor-sharp ice. More demons lurked towards them from the shadows. Dark creatures, with no defining features. They seemed more like lumps of raw shadow than corporeal beings. Brinnea cut through one, dividing it in two. It split like water, only solid like gel. The two halves flopped to the ground, then merged back together to reform the creature. Brinnea gritted her teeth as more drew closer. She tried freezing them in place with a series of howling blasts of frigid air, but the ice seemed to melt as soon as it touched them. They lunged at her, one by one. She tried cutting them all out of the air, but she couldn’t possibly stop all of them. They latched on to her body, sticky and hot like a liquid fire. They expanded across her skin, forming a layer of shadows across her body. As more and more piled on top of her, she felt her muscles contract and her skin burn. A sense of overwhelming despair cast over her heart. Then the beasts slipped from her body and flew off into the shadows. Brinnea looked around curiously until her gaze rested on Laurana. The dark puppet strings retracted into her fingers and she gave Brin a cocky smile. “Throwing creatures of shadows at a dark puppetmaster is a grievous error, don’t you think?” Neither Brinnea nor Laurana saw the wrathguard until his mace crashed down on Laurana’s head. Brin’s eyes widened in shock. Then she yelled defiantly and lunged at the hulking demon, plunging a shard of ice in his eye. The violet demon grunted, apparently only mildly annoyed by her attack. She smacked him across the face with a few icy blasts to get her point across. Morkoreth batted her away with the back of his fist before lifting his fel-stinking mace off the fallen death knight’s body. Brinnea tugged at the giant weapon with a death grip, but it didn’t budge; the demon’s grip was too strong. He rushed her, aiming his shoulderplate to spear her through the gut. She rolled to the side, and sprinted to Laurana’s body. She wasn’t moving, but her head was still intact. Part of her hair had been wrenched off her head, along with the skin of her scalp. Brinnea tried to ignore that. She took her sword back from the black-haired woman’s limp fingers and readied herself for the demon’s next charge. Morkoreth came in more carefully this time, stomping to her left, then her right, and then left again before swinging his mace upwards from the ground. Shards of the floor tiles flew at her as fast as shrapnel. She blasted the stone from the air with ice before closing the distance to the demon, stabbing him in the thigh. Morkoreth bashed her hands loose from her blade with the haft of his weapon. She rolled away again as his mace plunged downwards at her, smashing the stone floor where she had stood. The demon ran his fist into the hilt of her blade, shattering it as if it were a needle caught between two rocks. Brin thought quickly as the wrathguard closed in on her. She spotted something on his belt, and made her move. I may not be able to death grip your mace, she thought to herself as she reached for the broken sword at Morkoreth’s waist, but I can sure as hell grab this! The blade slid loose and flew into her hands as she ducked inside the demon’s guard. She sliced upwards with a short leap, cutting into his tainted flesh with the jagged tip of the greatsword. It raked across him abdomen and pectorals, but before she could reach his throat, the handle of his mace smashed into the crest of her head, knocking her into the dust. The blade clattered on the floor, having fallen from her maimed hand. She lifted herself up to see Morkoreth’s mace falling down towards her. I’m sorry, Pari. If only it had been you here, this demon wouldn’t have stood a chance. She smiled, envisioning the wrathguard’s head severed by Parigan’s mighty strike. If only… The mace fell on her legs, and a searing pain shot through her lower body. She heard bones cracking under the force of the impact, and she screamed in agony.
  24. Most days Shanoris saw the world as a vibrant mix of colors splashed on a brilliant tapestry of scents, sounds, and waves of motion, painting a picture of the world few could truly see. Today she saw the harder part of her Illidari gift. In the midst of Felsoul Hold, all she saw was red. Red with rage, seething and pulsating all around her like bright, oppressive bonfires. Every flame was a target, something she was meant to rid the world of, warglaives in hand. She was meant to live and die fighting those fires, but today, she had to force herself to ignore them. Even casting her spectral sight away from the horde of demons, she could still hear, smell, and feel them all around her. Like a tidal wave, the sense of them washed over Shanoris, threatening to sweep her away. But her focus was on something else. A strange, familiar blend of sensory details. She felt it…but she couldn’t believe it. The demon hunter rubbed her tattooed shoulder, a chill suddenly stalking over her in spite of the blazing inferno of the Hold. It was a room, full from wall to wall with an odd mix of different Azerothian races. Elves, humans, dwarves, trolls, orcs, and so on, all confined in small spaces like cages as far as she could tell. There was a minimal demonic presence in that wing of the Hold, as well. Those must be Cynthia’s pets, she concluded silently. Far too close to her hiding spot, a massive infernal wandered by, shaking the ground. Shanoris’ body, she knew, would be completely invisible to it, but she tensed in any case, hands tightening around the grips of her glaives. Once the great stony demon had passed, Shanoris darted into the open, ducking from one hidden place to the next, edging closer and closer to the Hold. Finally, she reached the wall of the cells she had detected. She could hear their heartbeats now: most still and steady despite their position. Shanoris focused her strength on her muscular legs and bounded up to the top of the wall swiftly. She found a weak point in the roof and let her demonic blood heat to a boil until it exploded outward, shattering the stone at her feet. Two demons stood baffled on either side of her as she fell from the ceiling. Shanoris threw one glaive, slicing the head off a felguard. The demon grunted, his body burning to nothing in green flames as his head flew from his neck. The other demon charged forward, axe at the ready. Shanoris leapt over his head and raked her remaining glaive down his back, spilling his demonic guts open. Then he burned, too. The first glaive flew back into her hand. She smiled, satisfied with her performance. Then a voice drew her attention, a woman’s voice saying weakly, “Shanny?” The demon hunter turned her attention to the cell where the voice came from. She had felt right earlier. It was her. “Kyrande.” The death knight Laurana knelt before Cythia with her icy blue eyes fixed firmly on the witch’s golden ones. Morkoreth stood at the side of Cynthia’s throne, honing the flanges of his mace with an oil rag that smelled of vulgar things like blood and vinegar. Brinnea rested her maimed hand on the captive’s shoulder, and gripped the hilt of her blade in her better hand. The black-haired knight snarled at her hand in between stare-downs with Cynthia. Brin couldn’t help but admire the woman’s tenacity in the face of danger. She found herself longing for that strength. Foolish. If I were like her, I would be right where she is now. “Ah, Laurana, where have you been?” Cynthia mused playfully, her darkly colored lips quirked mischievously. “I’ve been so worried I might never see you again, hmm!” The death knight sneered back defiantly. “Enough of your games, wretch! If you mean to ‘punish’ me, then get it over with!” Brinnea tightened her grip despite herself. Part of her hoped Laurana could still make it through this alive, and the last thing to help her now was to be disobedient towards the witch. Cynthia sighed dramatically. “Well, I tried to be understanding. No one can deny that, hmm? My dear, for your actions, you must pay. I simply cannot allow my Widows to do as they please. That would invite anarchy, and that is no good for anyone, hmm.” Brinnea choked down the desire to roll her eyes. Laurana didn’t even try to hide her disgust. Cynthia continued, “For abandoning your new family in this time of war, you must—“ The trolless Naavi sprinted to Cynthia’s side, looking flustered. The witch paused, her smug smile fading quickly as her servant delivered a message in whispers. When she was done, the troll awaited Cynthia’s order. The witch exhaled annoyedly out her nose and stood. As she drifted towards the side door, the troll close at her feet, Cytnhia addressed Brinnea, “Don’t move until I return, hmm. There is a matter I must attend to at present, but we are not finished here.” Morkoreth tossed his oil rag aside as he followed Cynthia and Naavi outside, slamming the rough metal door behind him. That left Brinnea, Laurana, and the swarm of flying demons watching them from the ceiling. Brin let her hand drop from Laurana’s shoulder. The black-haired death knight looked back at her from her knees, conflicted, as if unsure whether to punch Brinnea or take off running. “So…,” Brin said carefully, “We’ve got a lot in common, I’ve noticed.” The kneeling woman’s face twisted in confusion. Brin blinked, and stammered, “You know, because we’re both humans, death knights, and uh…” Laurana interjected, “Stuck in an impossible situation? Yes, the similarities are staggering; I noticed it as well!” If Brinnea possessed the capacity, she was certain she would be blushing. What the hell am I doing? Trying to make friends at a time like this? A familiar voice popped into her head then and answered her, What other time is there? We don’t all get a tomorrow, don’t forget. Brinnea leveled herself. “I know things seem hopeless,” she said calmly as she sat beside Laurana, her hands in her lap. The black-haired woman eyed her suspiciously. Brinnea continued, “But we will get through together. Only together. The witch cannot control all of us.” Laurana shook her head sadly. “I wish I shared your optimism. Cynthia is too powerful, and has every advantage. Even if we tried to wait out the war, and if the Alliance and Horde managed to win, we would still have to live with what we’ve done. I couldn’t bare the shame of betraying my people. Not again. Hope? Where are we supposed to find it in this grim place?” Brinnea smiled at her warmly. She spoke, her mind full of thoughts of those who had spoken with her the way she now needed to, “Hope is something you find within yourself. Even in the darkest of times, all it takes is remembering what it is we fight for. For me, it has always been my Charlotte. My hope is one day we can live a peaceful life, and move on from the mistakes I’ve made. More times than I can count, I’ve lost sight of that hope, but it has always returned to bring me back from the brink. Never lose sight of what gives you hope, Laurana.” Shanoris gritted her teeth in rage. Kyrande couldn’t even look at her sister now, after all she had said. “Cynthia…,” Shanoris seethed, “She killed our brother? Imprisoned you and…your son. I…didn’t even know you’d had a child.” Kyrande’s heart beat slow and sad, no ounce of defiance left. She spoke grimly, “He was beautiful, my darling Kota. I named him for his father. I…needed something to remember him by. Elune blessed us with his birth the year after you and the other Illidari were imprisoned.” Shanoris shook off her frustration and punched her sister’s cage angrily. “I’m getting you out of here, Kyrande.” She readied her glaive, but before she could cleave the cage’s lock, Kyrande yelled at her, “No! You must not free us! If the witch found our cages empty, she would put the children to the knife!” Shanoris snarled and lowered her blade. She barked back, “Then I’ll find them and free them all first! You believe that, missy! I may be blind, but I can feel how hopeless you are just by standing here!” Kyrande sighed. “I’ll not get my hopes up just yet, sister,” she said, downtrodden despite her sister’s efforts. “You know, it is ironic. For thousands of years, it was you behind bars, and I sought to reassure you from outside. Time makes fools of us all.” Shanoris tried to ignore the unintentional insult. Before she could reply, she heard something coming her way. Fool! The entire Legion could have snuck up on you by now! She swung around, leaving her sister with a quick reminder, “Count on my return, sister. I won’t be long!” She sprinted back to the spot she had descended from and leapt up through the hole she had made in the roof. Taking a quick survey of the surrounding guards, she chose a direction and moved to glide off. As her wings spread, a jolt of pain shot through her back. She fell to a crouch and clutched at a spike of earth that jutted from her left shoulder, its inside pulsing orange with lava. She whirled around, throwing her glaive at her assailant. The shaman leapt over the thrown weapon and readied his axes. Shanoris felt his feet shuffle close, his weight, though greater than hers, was thrown lightly into each step. He kept light and ready to move in any direction at a moment’s notice. He’s wary. He should be! Shanoris swiped at him, testing his reflexes. The troll easily ducked inside her defenses and aimed a strike at her throat. Despite his quick movements, Shanoris was much faster. Before he could reach her, she shifted behind him and delivered a kick to his rear, sending him flying over the edge of the roof. She grinned as her glaive flew back to her hand. She expected to hear the troll’s body thump on the ground below spectacularly, but was disappointed when he flew back onto the roof, aided by the wind. Shamans. It had to be a shaman. “This is an odd place to pick a fight, redblood. The Horde needs to learn how to pick its fights in better locations,” Shanoris grinned at him smugly. The troll grunted back raspily, his voice somehow familiar to the night elf, “This…is about you and me.” He shot a bolt of lightning at her, but it fell off-target. Shanoris had leapt overhead and drove her glaives downward at the shaman. He rolled aside, and swept back in for a counter-attack. Shanoris knocked his strike aside and let loose a pair of fire beams from her eye sockets. The troll grunted with effort as he sidestepped toward Shanoris’ left side. She grimaced as the fire of her eyes fizzled out. Her left arm responded slowly with the jagged length of rock still stuck in her shoulder. He’s preying on my injury. Smart, I’ll admit. The troll’s axe fell toward her throat again. She moved her body so the head of it struck the rock. It sliced clean through, nicking her breast but otherwise missing its mark. She stepped back before the troll could get another strike in. Blood flowed from her leather jerkin, oozing from the axe’s cut. Shanoris’ face scrunched up angrily. “You’re gonna regret defacing my dignity, swine!” She charged so fast, she must have been a blur to the naked eye. The troll certainly seemed to see her that way, as he barely got his defenses up in time to block her first strike. He never saw the second one coming. He flew backwards at the force of the strike. When he rose, his chest was wet with blood. Shanoris chuckled. “Haha! There, now you have one to match.” The troll snarled and tried to rise, but his legs spasmed and he slipped down to his knees. “You…have beaten me,” he growled. “Beaten me again. I…have lost my honor. Kill me, quickly.” Shanoris would have glanced at him in confusion, had she the eyes to stare him down with. As it was, she replied, “Have we met before? You said I beat you ‘again.’” The troll rasped bitterly, “Yes. In Westfall, months ago. You broke my tusk.” Shanoris noticed the length of his left tusk was half as long as the other. Then she remembered. “Ah,” she remarked, “I remember now. You were a prisoner with the Gilneans. No wonder you are so eager to die, after so many failures.” He merely dipped his head humbly. The elf continued, “Well, I’m certain the world won’t miss one of your kind. There’s far too many trolls as it is. I shall grant you the death you desire.” She stepped forward, resting her blade against his neck. She felt something odd about his throat. A scar perhaps? An old wound would explain the rasp. She ignored her own inquisitiveness and drew her glaive back to remove the troll’s head. Just before she could strike, she felt more enemies drawing near; this time they were demons. Shanoris spun around, slicing through the flesh of a winged demon that had nearly reached her. Dozens more had already begun circling overhead, and the roof was now occupied by a squad of felguards, a wrathguard, and a human warlock that could only be the dreaded Cynthia. She was watching Shanoris like a hawk, her demeanor still and elegant. Her heart beat steadily, completely unaffected by anything around her. She addressed Shanoris smugly, saying, “Well well, if it isn’t the Gilnean Illidari. I was aware you had evaded the battle in Val’sharah, but I never expected you to come to your death so willingly, hmm.” Shanoris laughed loudly. “My death? I think you have that backwards, witch!” She lunged forward, aware of the many flying demons diving toward her. She was focused on the witch herself. I’m fast enough. I can end it, right here. Kill her, and get away. It didn’t work out that way. She was quick, but the wrathguard beside Cynthia was just as fast. His mace blocked her path just in time to stop her dead in her tracks. Unable to change course, Shanoris was helpless as the winged demons fell upon her. They buried her in a pile of flesh, leathery wings, and razor-sharp claws. They ripped and bit at her viciously, tearing blood from all over her body. Any normal person would be infected with deadly fel toxins, but as a demon hunter, Shanoris could survive the poison. She struggled under the demons’ attacks, lifting herself upright in time to notice the wrathguard hefting his large mace overhead. Shanoris gritted her teeth, gathering all her fury, then unleashed it in a single burst. Her body transformed; the demon within her escaped her control for a moment. The winged beasts flew backward at the force of her wings spreading. She leaped aside, her speed even greater despite her increased size. The wrathguard’s mace smashed into the ground where she had sat. Cynthia’s smugness never wavered. Shanoris’ rage bellowed in her chest. Dammit! I’ll never reach her in one piece! At this rate, I’ll be torn apart before I get her. Shanoris used her speed to dash off the roof, making a rude gesture at Cynthia as she glided off towards the canyon exit. She grimaced as her body shifted back to normal. Her wounds stung, but none more than the slash across her breast. That reminds me, what happened to that asshole troll?
  25. An icy breeze licked at Brinnea’s cloak and the landscape of the Icecrown Glacier sent unnatural chills down her frigid skin. The very thought of being near the land of the Scourge again put the fear of death back in her heart. It had been years since she had left, hoping never to return. Now, she was on a mission with no thought but to keep moving forward. One death knight isn’t impossible to capture, she thought to herself. But this one has put her lot in with the new Lich King. If I am not careful, I could end up a prisoner of one with total control over me. Despite her cautious ponderings, Brinnea marched onward toward the ominous, grim gates in the distance. As she drew up on the gates, doubt crept into her like a creeping plant in a ray of sunlight. Instinctively, she felt for the blade at her hip. The feel of the leather-wrapped steel hilt reassured her only a little, but it was enough. Icy blue eyes from every angle watched as she entered the sanctum of the Scourge. A pair of skeletal knights bearing the Lich King’s standard stood in her path at the pinnacle of the Citadel entrance’s stairs. One, or perhaps both at once, spoke to her, “What business have you in the Citadel, Ebon Knight?” Brinnea stood at her full height, pushing any hint of reluctance or emotion of any sort from her visage. Thusly donned, she replied. “I seek one of my order,” she said. “Laurana Corman. She arrived some months ago, alone as I am.” The guards spoke without hesitation, “The one you seek lies within, but is no longer of your order, Ebon Knight. She has returned to the path of the Scourge.” Brinnea nearly betrayed a hint of surprise. Desperation can lead people to the oddest of decisions, but to return to the Scourge willingly? I must be careful with this one. She spoke again, acting unnerved by the news, “Precisely why I must speak with her. The Knights wish to know why she has betrayed her vows to the Deathlord, and I am here to learn such. Grant me passage, and I will be gone all the sooner.” She tried to exert her unholy power over them, to bend their dark souls to her will. Anything to make this conversation end. The guards’ bare skulls regarded her with ominous grins. They replied, “You have no power here, Ebon Knight. Your every move is watched and judged by the Master. Do not betray our peace, or you will beg for mercy long before your soul is scattered on the cosmic winds. You have been warned. Now enter, and conclude your business quickly.” They stepped aside in perfect unison, and the gates began to peel open slowly. The screech of metal and ice scraped down Brinnea’s spine as she strode confidently toward the maw of evil she had entered in the darkest of waking nightmares. A measly skeletal figure awaited her within the gates, which shut ominously behind her after she entered. The skeleton chattered at her as she approached, “Brinnea Velmon. Follow me. Your fellow knight awaits in the educating hall.” The death knight followed the undead minion wordlessly, keeping her head stuck straight ahead no matter what menacing shapes moved out of the corners of her eyes. When the pair at last arrived in the educating halls, a familiar scene played before her eyes. A floating, robed lich with its skeletal face, boney hands, and cold aura, cast its freezing gaze upon a room of freshly dug up corpses with the same blue glow to their eyes. The instructor shouted whispers at the unwilling listeners. Their heads would be filling with visions of the Lich King’s ideal world: a world of unending. A world without war or death or disparity. It always seemed a bleak, lonely vision for the world to Brinnea, but on some days, it seemed to make sense. Even now, she wondered if everyone would be better off without freedom. Your flesh is a weakness, a voice echoed in her mind. Brinnea realized she was staring into the lich’s eyes. She shook off the spell with great effort, leaving her hunched over and shaking. She had nearly forgotten how hard it was to resist the Scourge’s magic here, in the icy heart of the Lich King’s domain. The skeleton lifted a stark finger bone at a black-haired beauty of a woman adorned with the armor of a Scourge knight. Her pale, flawless complexion was perfectly still, and fixated on the instructor. She seemed to be hanging on every dark word the lich was saying. Brinnea pictured herself sitting there in Laurana’s place. It hadn’t been that long since she actually had. She composed herself, regaining her posture and stepped forward into the hall. None of the students’ unblinking eyes even registered her presence as she walked past them. She stopped alongside Laurana’s bench and moved to place a hand on her shoulder. Before she could, the apparently mesmerized woman snatched Brin’s hand by the wrist and held it away from her shoulder. “I know why you’re here,” Laurana said plainly, her icy voice sharp as steel. Brinnea snatched her hand back with some difficulty. “Laurana Corman,” she replied carefully, “The Knights of the Ebon Blade have wondered at your disappearance.” Before she could continue, the other woman stood and snatched the sword from her belt and held the tip just a finger’s length from her eye. The other undead never so much as glanced their way. Brin held up her hands defensively. Laurana glared at her. “You’ll never take me back to that hell, alive or dead. I’d rather give up my soul than live as that woman’s slave!” Brinnea calmly spoke, “What about your son, Laurana?” The black-haired woman gritted her teeth and deepened her scowl. Brin continued, “August, was it? How could you just leave him back there all alone? I’ve seen what she does to them, you know I have.” Laurana snarled back at her, “My son was all I had left in the world! I loved him more than anything, but no amount of love can make what she made us do right. I did what I had to do to escape. You would do the same if you had any sense.” Brinnea closed her eyes. Charlotte’s weeping face filled her mind in the endless void of dark. There’s no way in hell this woman is damning my daughter. Her eyes fluttered open, regarding the black-haired death knight with scorn. She said calmly, “I’m gonna break your arms first. Then your legs. Then I’ll drag you by your useless limbs back to hell with me. Because I will do anything for my daughter. That’s a promise.” Laurana moved to pierce Brin’s eye with the blade, but she had been ready for that. She turned her head to the side, allowing the blade to slide harmlessly across her icy skin, as hard as steel. Then she smashed Laurana’s sword arm with a fist just as hard, shattering bone under the fierce strike. The black-haired death knight growled as the blade slipped from her grasp. With a flick of her finger, the sword wriggled to life and flew at Brin’s eye. She shielded herself with an arm and kicked at Laurana’s leg, cracking her knee with a precise blow. Her opponent fell to her knees, but refused to cease fighting. She channeled her runic power, taking control of Brinnea with dark tendrils like puppet strings. She could feel her blood, bones, and skin tugged sharply backwards by an invisible force. Brinnea took a deep breath, and focused all her power into her lungs. With a long, bellowing exhale, she cast a frigid cone of frozen air at her opponent, and in moments she felt the tug of her spell loosen. When the frosty mist cleared, Laurana was frozen solid, and Brinnea stood before her surrounded on all sides by Scourge. She gritted her teeth. No way out of this one, it seems. But the undead did not advance. That’s when she noticed the fel green portal opening beside her. Cynthia stepped out from it, her golden eyes arrogantly cast out into the crowd of icy undead. The wrathguard Morkoreth and the Inquisitor Envious followed closely behind her. The Scourge instructor spat a curse and shouted, “How did you get in this sanctum, wretched servant of the Burning Legion?!” Cynthia gestured from Morkoreth to the frozen death knight, and the wrathguard dragged her into the portal while the undead continued to gape. She then turned to the lich and replied, “I have my methods, hmm. Your master has been rather busy of late, I must say. It would not do for knowledge of his actions to fall into the wrong hands, now would it?” The lich glared back, its skinless face aglow with cold rage. “You arrogant warlock!” it barked at Cynthia. “You think the Lich King is afraid of the mortal races of this world? While they divide themselves so fruitlessly in a war against your kind?” Cynthia smiled back at her. “Oh, I know he is, hmm. After what happened to his predecessor, I am more than certain he would be displeased to have the eye of the Light’s champions shine back on Icecrown. Perhaps it is inevitable, but that process can be sped up, for certain. Or, you let me go, and take no vengeance for this intrusion. That way, both our enemies shall be all the weaker. There is no need for past wrongdoings to bring us at odds at so inopportune a time, hmm?” For a long, tense moment, Brin stood stock-still, waiting for the lich to reply. The tall, cold figure floated silently, its empty blue eye sockets fixed on Cynthia’s bright gold eyes. At long last, the lich said, “The master has deigned to grant your request, witch. Begone before he revokes this generosity.” Cynthia simply nodded, and motioned for Brin to follow through the portal. As the dark, azure halls of the Icecrown Citadel with its frozen, palid servants slid out of view in place of the oppressively hot, verdant wasteland of Felsoul Hold, Brinnea couldn’t help but think, I honestly cannot tell which is worse.