[[Template core/front/profile/profileHeader is throwing an error. This theme may be out of date. Run the support tool in the AdminCP to restore the default theme.]]

Everything posted by RiktheRed21

  1. “Uuughh, come on already!” Charlotte groaned loudly, her focus slipping. A glyph flickered dimly on the ground beside her bed. She sighed in exasperation and threw her hands in the air before falling back on her bed with a thump. She covered herself with her sheets and choked back tears of frustration. Grandpa showed me how to do it, she thought bitterly. Why can’t I do it? For four days, she had struggled just to ignite the summoning glyph she had drawn. She had drawn it from memory using a fiery hand spell she knew well enough. The soot and sparks hand singed her hand for all her efforts, and she still couldn’t get the glyph to light up completely. She had decided to find a way to get out of the room over a week ago, after August had snuck off back wherever he had come from. If he could sneak around the halls, maybe they could get out together. That was the hope, anyway. Charlotte had hoped to summon a helper from the Firelands like her grandpa had showed her to impress August when he came back. If he came back. Why can’t things just go right for once? She heard the door to her room open and shut. Her heart skipped a beat. August! She leapt out of her bed excitedly, wincing when her back stung from the sudden movement. The doglike boy shied back into the shadows timidly when she moved suddenly. Charlotte’s face beamed at him, and that seemed to calm him down somewhat. The boy placed something on the ground in front of him. The red-haired girl cocked her head curiously. “What is it?” she asked, taking a few careful steps forward. August nudged it toward her a bit with his hand. As it slid into the magic candlelight, Charlotte saw its leather-bound surface clearly. “Toe,” August said plainly. Charlotte snickered, holding the back of her hand to her mouth. The boy looked at her curiously. When she had composed herself, she replied, “That’s a tome, silly. Where’d you find it?” August sniffed the air for a moment before saying, “Room. Treasure.” Charlotte’s eyes widened. Treasure! Granny must be a treasure hunter like a mean dragon from Sister Friede’s stories. She bent over and carefully lifted the tome, reading the title in the dim light. “A Beginner’s Guide to Incantations,” it read. Charlotte glanced back at the worgen boy. “This is really nice, August.,” she said cheerfully, smiling when the boy blushed bashfully. “But how’d you know I needed it?” August pointed at the glyph on the ground behind Charlotte. “Circles. Magic.” The young redhead raised an eyebrow at the boy. “Have you been watching me while I sleep?” August’s ears drooped shamefully as he nodded. Charlotte continued, “Ok, that’s weird. But still, it was nice of you. You wanna see what I’m doing?” The boy looked more uplifted when she offered to demonstrate. The two of them spent the next few hours poring through the tome, looking at various spells they could use to escape. When August finally said, “Must go. Now,” Charlotte looked at him questioningly. “Where do you go, August? Do you have a room like the rest of us? How do you get out?” The boy crawled to the door, swinging it open with a quick pull. He turned back to say, “Fast. Like Mother. Not brave, like father.” It was the most words at once Charlotte had heard from him so far. After staring into his sharp yellow eyes for a moment, Charlotte gasped as he seemed to dissolve into the darkness outside the hall, and the door shut. Shanoris Fargaze had never felt so glad to be blind. There had to be over a hundred corpses of her kin scattered across the glen that had been the center of the village burning all around her. Gilnean soldiers milled about, searching for flesh to devour. The demon hunter had been returning from her mission to spread the word of danger regarding Felsoul to the Illidari. Now, it seemed she was out of a job again. The Gilneans that had requested her services were all dead. Esmerra Blackmane, a woman that Shanoris had respected greatly for her youthful zeal and passion to help others, was scattered about in pieces not far from the tent where they had last spoken. It was no question as to who had done all of this. Velmon. Esmerra was right to fear her. The elf tightened her grip on her warglaives, her concentration set on the south, toward Suramar. Cynthia Blackmane and Brinnea Velmon both will feel retribution soon.
  2. ((WARNING: More gross scenes and naughty language.)) A ghoulish figure hunched over a limp corpse, tearing and consuming bloody flesh from its bones greedily. All around, smoke billowed from burning huts and other bodies met the same gruesome fate as the one at the ghoul’s feet. The panicked and horrified screams of the elven villagers had long since died out, and the demonic invaders had moved on, leaving the undead to themselves. A shadow flashed from the nearby brush. The ghoul grunted, looking up from its meal, sniffing the air curiously. An axe fell upon its head, splitting it down the middle with a soft crunch. The axe withdrew just as quickly as it had fallen, its owner staying low to avoid attracting the other ghouls. The troll shaman examined the half-eaten, legless corpse the ghoul had coveted, recognizing her only by the half-consumed crest on her chest. Lady Esmerra Blackmane’s flesh had been stripped from her, head to stumped legs, as if the undead had mauled her all at once. The rumors about her bearing the worgen curse had turned out to be true, as well. Kazarak snarled under his breath. Damn it! Curse my rotten luck… The troll had spent months stalking the Broken Isles to find where his captors had gotten off to, in the hopes of reclaiming the honor they had stripped from him. Now in the span of two weeks, he had found two of them, and lost his chance at both. Kaz thought he heard a growl in the near distance, and looked up from the dead Gilnean noble to search for any approaching undead. He saw none coming his way. Then something tugged at his leggings and he jolted to his feet. The formerly lifeless body was now moaning and clawing at Kaz with a hand that was more sinew than skin. The troll scoffed. At least I get the satisfaction of putting you down. He twirled the axe in his hand playfully before clubbing the worgen with the blunt edge. He smashed her into the ashen ground, striking her head over and over until it was a red puddle and his forearm was drenched. He rolled his left shoulder with discomfort. Still not used to this. He looked at the stump on his right side, silently lamenting the loss of his arm. Shaking off the regrets, he stuck his axe back on his belt and searched the body until he found what he was looking for: a pale stone with inactive runes. The troll grinned, feeling his luck turn around. She kept it on her person, but the runes are dark. She must not have gotten it to wake for her. The tabard is sure to be around somewhere, as well. He took another look around at the ruined village, the fel fires still burning the surrounding forest. A tree snapped and fell over with a mighty crash somewhere to the west. Kaz scratched the back of his head, grimacing. Or perhaps I speak to soon. In any case, I got the more important piece. Whoever took my kill is in for a world of hurt. He stood to go search for the skull-emblazoned tabard the wolf-witch had stolen from him. The room was black as pitch. Silent, it was, to those without the aptitude to hear the truth. The black-haired warlock with the eyes of burning gold sat with her thighs resting on her calves. Her hands rested atop the silky green fabric that pulsed heat like a heartbeat. Cynthia’s intense eyes were fixated on the empty sockets of her skull artifact. Whispers weaved a web in her mind, cold and soothing. A vision shimmered in her mind’s eye, slowly drifting into focus amid the void. A lone man, chained by a thousand bindings hooked into his flesh like a macabre art piece. He was a shadow on a slashed white background. The wails of agony he emitted curled even Cynthia’s resilient will. He breaks. But not easily. Cynthia stepped into the vision, approaching the imprisoned man, whose image flickered like a candlight as she drew closer. The figure lifted his head, regarding Cynthia with her own golden eyes. He exclaimed in a voice without breath. Cynthia flashed a smug smile at him. “Oh? Happy to see me, hmm?” The figure’s eyes were wide and his mouth agape with delirious idiocy. Cynthia snickered. “Well, I have some news for you, child. Your daughter, Esmerra? She’s dead. By Brinnea Velmon’s own hand, no less, hmm.” The man continued to stare stupidly. Cynthia rolled her eyes. “You put too much faith in that girl, boy. She was useful, of course, but not in the way you intended. She makes a fine widow for my collection. Do you even understand my words, hmm? Is there even an ounce of yourself left in this vessel?” The prisoner gave her no answer but to moan weakly. The chains clinked all around Cynthia. They felt far too much like a cage around her for comfort. She whipped her dress about as she turned away from the pitiful sight. “You may have betrayed me, boy, but you are my son, after all. I believe you are in there somewhere, and I will enjoy finding you so we can start this over again. For now, I must leave you. Have fun with your eternal punishment, hmm.” The vision faded, and in the same instant, the door to Cynthia’s chamber slid open, bathing the room with a rectangle of light from outside. Cynthia’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “Why do you interrupt my meditation, hmm?” she questioned the intruder. A bold voice rich with the accent of the jungle trolls replied, “The death knight has returned. She stands in the hall, awaiting your presence, milady.” Cynthia sighed, brushing off her dress as she lifted herself to her feet gracefully. Her skull floated up to remain at eye-level, still softly whispering in the back of her mind. Naavi stood in the doorway, her posture straight and her face hard as stone, gazing at Cynthia as if she weren’t even there. The warlock drifted to her servant on light feet, placing a hand on the troll’s arm intimately. “There’s something on your mind, Naavi, hmm. I can always tell. Spit it out, girl. What’s distracting you?” The troll reluctantly spoke, “The other knight still hasn’t come back.” Cynthia tsked at the troll. “I know as much, hmm. But there is something else, isn’t there? Come now, don’t hold it back on my account.” Naavi drew a breath in through her nose and out through the mouth, responding, “It’s the anniversary.” Cynthia’s eyes went wide. “Ah,” she said, “I’d forgotten. How many years has it been, three? Time sure flies when we have fun, eh girl?” The trolless seemed unamused, her mind still adrift. Cynthia released her grip. “Come, let us join dear Brinnea. She has quite a tale for us, if my spies are any good at their jobs.” Brinnea tapped her foot impatiently, a finger tapping on her waist. She half-expected to tap the hilt of the dagger she had carried, but the troll Naavi had taken it away the moment Brin had entered the Hold. She’s quick and quiet. A dangerous one, her. And not the sort to leave anything to chance. Not that the dagger could have helped her situation anyway, but Brinnea was already missing the comfort of carrying a blade on her person. At last, Naavi re-emerged from the bowels of the Hold, with the witch close behind her. The troll sulked off to the side of Cynthia’s chair, keeping her spear pointed at the flying demons above. Brinnea tried to forget they hovered overhead. Cynthia took a seat in her chair, that skull of hers levitating by her shoulder as she addressed Brinnea. “Welcome home, Brin,” she said cheerfully. “I trust your mission was a success, hmm?” The death knight nodded, hardly daring to look up at the witch’s eyes. “I scouted the camp and found them weak enough to attack. I signaled for the demons and killed the leader,” she reported the attack concisely. Cynthia seemed disappointed. “Ah, but that isn’t all, is it? Did you see someone you knew there?” Brinnea scowled at the floor. Cynthia continued smugly, “Someone once close to you perhaps?” The death knight exhaled sharply before replying, “They were led by Esmerra Blackmane. But I’m sure you already knew as much.” The witch chuckled softly. “You’re learning, hmm! I see everything, dear.” Brinnea still refused to make eye contact, but she managed to say, “I wanted to ask if I could see Charlotte. I did all you asked and more.” The witch’s cheerful demeanor shifted into a more threatening one. “No. You do not ask anything of me, hmm. You do as you are told, and you receive what reward I deem fit for the task. Today, you have earned a pair of plate boots. Keep up the good work.” Cynthia stood and made to leave. Naavi tossed a pair of boots in Brinnea’s direction as the knight gaped at the warlock angrily. Cynthia didn’t even look at her. The troll gestured for her to take her boots and move for the dungeons. On their way back to her cell, Brin spoke to the troll, “How can you bear to work for that vile woman?” Before she even knew what happened, Brinnea found herself pinned up against the wall with a knife at her throat. The same knife she had carried on her mission previously. Naavi’s green eyes were uncomfortably close to Brinnea’s icy blues as the two stared each other down. The troll broke the tense silence first, “Do not speak ill of the Mistress if you feel like staying alive.” She eased back on the knife and shoved Brinnea roughly down the hallway. “Keep walking. Silently.” Brinnea’s cell slammed shut, leaving her with her limited space, and a new pair of boots. Actually, they were a used pair, still covered in blackened stains from whatever poor sod had had them on last. Brinnea set them aside as best as she could in the cramped space and gave Vemynisa a sad look. The Draenei looked slightly relieved, but otherwise as steely as always. “Welcome back, Brinnea. I see you were successful.” “Yes,” Brin seethed. “Successful at killing a lot of people, some of which I cared about. All for a pair of boots. Hoo-fucking-ray.” Vemynisa looked surprised by Brinnea’s outburst, and at a loss for words. She curled up a bit more in her cage and looked at her hooves. From behind Brinnea, Kyrande said, “Hey, go easy on Vemy, Brinnea. She doesn’t understand emotions the same way we do. And those people you killed didn’t just die for some boots. You know that.” Brin turned to look at the elf with a scowl on her face. “That’s the most I’ve heard you say since I got here, Kyrande. Yes, I know why I did what I did, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I’m sorry to you, Vemynisa, I didn’t mean to upset you, but Kyrande, I need to ask you something.” The Draenei perked up a bit at Brinnea’s words, but she said nothing. The elf looked up with a confused and defensive expression. “What?” she asked rudely. Brinnea replied, “Do you even still want to leave this place, or have you so given up that you don’t even feel anything anymore?” The elf looked surprised, and abashed. “I—um…,” she stammered. Brinnea cut her off, “For a while, I thought there was no hope left. But look at us! There are dozens of us here, every one a survivor. I’m not giving up on us, and I won’t let you give up on each other.” Kyrande, Vemynisa, and most of the other Widows looked up from their sorrow over at Brinnea. She recognized something in their eyes. Barely a flicker, but it was still there, lying in wait. Hope. They haven’t lost it, and neither have I. “We are getting out of this hell together. That’s a Light-damned promise.”
  3. ((WARNING: Graphic scenes, violence, and suggestive themes)) “You get orders from on high yet, there, Dav?” a voice thick with the accent of Gilneas spoke casually. “Yup. Increasin’ security on the southern border again. I say it again, Blackmane’s paranoid. No demon’s ever come up this far north since the druids got ahold o’ things again.” The guards stood a shoulder’s length apart, leaning on the wall of an elven hut. Around the corner, a hooded figure lay on a bench, apparently sleeping. Brinnea had noted the guard’s movements the day prior and deigned to take position on the bench to catch any conversation shared between the morning shift. From past experience, she found them to be the most talkative. The pair speaking now hadn’t said anything interesting for the last half hour, but this grabbed Brin’s attention immediately. Blackmane. Only one person that could be. “I dunno, there, Dav,” the funnier talking guard replied, “Jenson’s been spreadin’ tales about more demons poppin’ up in that Hold they were at the other week. Some new commander or somethin’, there.” The straight-talker scoffed before replying, “Jenson’s one o’ the ‘inner circle,’ though. Blackmane’s got the bug in all o’ ‘em. You should’a learned a thing or two by now, Bobby. We’re the common folk, can’t reach too high without getting’ your fingers stepped on.” Brinnea stood from her bench. Her good hand went to her knife instinctively. “Jenson’s always thought I was an okay guy, though,” Bobby argued without a hint of rudeness in his tone, “B’sides, it pays to get ahead, you know. Like, uh, Miss Blackmane always says at her speeches—“ “Initiative pays more than gold,” Brinnea interjected. Dav and Bobby spun about, their eyes widening at the knife in Brinnea’s hands. Dav fumbled for his weapon. The death knight kicked the sword hilt sharply, sending the steel back into its sheath, and its owner stumbling. She moved quick, grabbing the guard around the throat with her forearm before putting her knife to his throat. She glared at Bobby, her eyes glowing dangerously. “Drop your sword,” she said sharply. Dav shook his head with a grimace on his grizzled face. Bobby gave him an apologetic look and unsheathed his blade with his off-hand, dropping the weapon at his feet. Brinnea sidestepped into the shadows. The night elven village was small, and the elven populace was not one to be out and about at this time of day, but it was better to be careful. “What do you want?” Dav asked carefully, his hands held away from his sword belt in a surrendering motion. Brinnea replied, her voice level for the first time in weeks, “Tell me where to find Esmerra Blackmane.” Esmerra leaned back in her wooden chair, right arm sore from writing. She sighed relief, finally finished composing the last in a lengthy series of reply letters. Her allies in Stormwind were happy to help track down the rogue death knight, they had said. However, their forces were spread thin fighting the Legion, and they could not spare more than a pittance of troops to hunt for her. Each of their replies had gone that way. Esmerra rubbed her temples, taking deep breaths to temper her frustration. The fools don’t understand the danger of leaving her alive out there. Not one of them even acknowledged the new threat in Felsoul Hold, either. They all think I’m paranoid. Or that this is some personal vendetta. Not for the first time, she wondered if they were right. Was she overly concerned about this? With Suramar’s power waning, and the Legion’s allies in the Broken Isles beaten into their shadowy corners, the demons’ hold on Azeroth was slipping fast. Even if Cynthia was a dangerous foe, it was only a matter of time before she would be forced to flee, or surrender. Brinnea Velmon would go the same way. The flaps of her tent whipped open suddenly, sending a jolt through the stressed druid’s body. She groped for her staff before realizing it was only her first guard, Sir Doyle Wolfcrest. He stood at attention before her, but the old knight’s stoic face betrayed a sense of worry that he did not often wear. He spoke frantically, “Lady Esmerra, the Legion’s begun an attack from the south! Our scouts never even saw them coming, and there are infernals raining from above! The troops rally to face the threat head-on.” Esmerra’s face drooped in disappointment. Despite herself, she felt somewhat relieved it was only the demons attacking, and not the vengeful death knight. Don’t be an idiot, Blackmane! The demons must never be discounted as a threat. She stood, grabbing her staff in an elegant motion. Her doubts had been shaken away. “I will lead them myself,” she said confidently. It wouldn’t be the first time she led troops against the Legion. “Gather a detachment of your swiftest riders and disperse into the town. The elves must be taken to the barrow and kept safe. Watch over them carefully, Doyle.” The knight looked ready to argue, no doubt concerned for Esmerra’s safety, but he thought better of it, saying, “It will be done,” and about-facing. He moved so quickly, he nearly ran face-first into the elderly Walther, who was entering the tent as Doyle moved to exit. “Oh!” the old advisor exclaimed. “Oh, it’s just you, Sir Wolfcrest. You gave me a bit of a fright, I must say.” They stepped around one another awkwardly in the small entrance space, Doyle taking extra care not to bump the frailer man with the protruding sword hilt on his belt. Once inside the tent, Walther addressed Esmerra, “My lady, there’s troubling news from the village. A small horde of undead has broken out among the populace. Reports say some of the ghouls bear the Gilnean crest and armor.” The younger Gilnean gaped at the man, her former resolve already slipping away again. She’s here after all. “My lady?” Walther asked with a voice of concern. “We must be on guard now, Walther,” Esmerra said as she moved to exit the tent. She urged the man to follower her, which he did with a confused frown on his face. “Brinnea Velmon is among us.” Sounds of metal crashing against metal and screams of horror filled the air all around Brinnea as she sprinted from one wooden hut to the next, keeping low and out of sight of the nearby Gilnean riders. The horsemen began to disperse into the village, which was overrun with dozens of ghouls the death knight had raised from the corpses of the guards she killed. The first two had reluctantly told her where Esmerra’s command tent was stationed. They were the first ghouls she had raised to create this panic, covering her tracks. The elves will be fine so long as the Gilneans do their jobs, Brinnea reassured herself. It wasn’t the first time she had attacked a village without an apparent reason, but the death knight cast her doubts away and focused on why she was really here. The oversized tent bearing the grim colors of Gilneas and the icon of the royal crown alongside the black wolf of the House Blackmane sat just beyond the edge of the forest-bound town’s border. Brinnea couldn’t see Esmerra anywhere. She moved to run for the tent once all the riders had gone past into the town center. Suddenly, a javelin flew past her head, nearly staking her through the eye. Sir Doyle Wolfcrest sat upon his armored horse across from her, formerly out of sight behind the hut she had sprinted around. The knight drew his sword and readied a shield on his off-hand and kicked his steed into a charge. Brinnea’s body tensed and loosened all at once. She reached behind her, using a tendril of shadow to grab the weapon that had nearly ended her life, and pulled it to her hand. Just as Doyle reached her, she lifted the javelin to the horse’s eye-level and let momentum do the rest of the work. The weapon cracked from the impact, and before Doyle ever got within sword-swinging distance, his horse crumpled to the ground with the head of his javelin stuck in its eye. Brinnea moved quickly, taking the dagger Naavi had given her from her belt. Doyle was trapped under his mount, his shield-arm bent at an odd angle from the fall. He desperately tugged at his sword-arm, still trapped under the dead horse. Brinnea never gave him a chance. “Murderer!” the knight shouted with his last breath. The death knight’s blade plunged past the opened visor on his helm into his eye socket with an oozing, crunching sound. With a swift motion, Brinnea pulled the blade out, trailing blood and brain matter along with it. She heard a shout off to her right somewhere, before being launched into the air with a powerful blow. She landed roughly on her tailbone, summersaulting backwards before regaining her footing. Across from her with wide, angry eyes was Esmerra Blackmane, her hand still glowing with moonfire. She was accompanied by Walther, her old advisor, and three Gilnean guardsmen. Brinnea’s cloak had caught fire, so she whipped it off her body quickly. The spell had impacted on her chest, and had probably burned her badly, possibly broken a few bones as well. Brinnea didn’t care; she didn’t feel any of it. All her focus was on the woman before her. “You couldn’t be content with those you already killed, could you, Brinnea?!” Esmerra shouted, her voice full of venom. Brinnea snarled at her, “It’s your turn now, murderous bitch!” The druid’s whole body flared with moonfire as she changed form into a worgen. She drew her hand back as if to throw everything she had at the death knight. Brinnea and Esmerra roared. The death knight stretched her hand out, and in a flash the two women’s hands were connected by a long strand of inky blackness. Brinnea tugged Esmerra’s casting hand downwards. At the druid’s feet, light flashed brightly, blinding everyone around. Yells of pain were barely audible above the din of Esmerra’s great spell. The earth split under its force, and dust billowed where it had landed. Brinnea moved through the dust briskly, knife at the ready. She found where the druid had stood; all that remained were four charred bodies of the men standing around the druid, and Esmerra herself, laying in a puddle of blood and a pile of gore that was once her legs. The young Gilnean still gasped for air, the stumps of her legs gushing blood fast. She still appeared as a worgen. Brinnea heard a story that when worgen perished, they revealed their true forms at last, no longer able to hold back what they truly were. The death knight gazed at her with a satisfied smile. “If there is any justice in this world, you will find only suffering in the next world,” Brinnea said callously. The druid drew a deep breath, and managed to gasp a few raspy words. “Is…Charlotte…worth all this? All this…death? Sadness?” Brinnea frowned at the girl still clinging to life. “Yes,” she replied. “I will slaughter whoever I have to if it means she has a chance to live free.” Esmerra’s face was drenched in tears now. That struck Brinnea. It was so easy to forget Esmerra was still nineteen years of age. She was so young, and yet capable of as much hate as Brinnea. The druid spat at her, “Your mother…would be ashamed…of you.” Brinnea hand tightened around the hilt of her knife. Using every ounce of willpower, she turned away. More shadowy tendrils spiked from her maimed hand, grasping at the nearby bodies. Brinnea listened as they groaned their way back into the realm of the living, and gave them one silent command: Eat. She stayed put until the sound of Esmerra’s screams died out.
  4. Charlotte sniffled, curling herself into a ball in the corner of her room in Granny Letta’s Barrow. The room, made largely of polished tree wood, was dimly lit by a magic light floating at the center of the ceiling, casting shadows on the walls that disturbed the red-haired girl’s already unpleasant thoughts. Granny Letta, the goat lady who watched Charlotte and the other kids, had brought her back here from the dark green place in the south that smelled similar to the plagued lands Charlotte had grown up in, only with the smell of a fireplace burning rotten wood mixed in. Another jolt of pain sent a shiver up the girl’s spine. She winced and choked down a squeak. Granny’s ointment burned like hot pokers, but the old lady had promised it would make the pain go away faster. “You see, dear,” Granny Letta had said, spreading the stinging white cream on the girl’s back, “Your mama doesn’t love you anymore. Only Granny does. Granny Letta will take good care of you, I promise.” Her voice sounded sweet, but Charlotte knew she was lying. Granny’s friends with the mean lady with the green dress, she thought to herself bitterly. And mama would never hurt me unless she had to. She didn’t even want to! Stupid, mean Granny! She winced again. Too much squirming caused more pain. Earlier, she had tried lying in the down feather bed in the center of the circular room, just under the light, but she couldn’t lay in a way that wouldn’t upset her back. She had ended up on the floor, but she couldn’t remember how long it had been. Suddenly, the door to her room opened, and just as suddenly shut again. Charlotte sprang up to her feet, adrenaline dulling the pain. The shadows and the flickering light made it difficult to tell if there was anyone in the room. She put her back against the wall and called out in a voice weak from crying, “Wh-who’s there? Don’t you dare try to scare me, I know magic!” From the shadows, a small boy crawled on all fours, staring up at her with bright yellow eyes. They looked fierce and scary, but also a little frightened as well. They reminded her of a squirrel when cornered, trying to look strong when it was an act. At least, that’s what Sister Friede had taught her when the dwarf had taken care of her in the plagualands orphanage. There was something else peculiar about the boy, as well. Fur jutted from his ears like from a dog’s. He cocked his head at her like a curious puppy as well. Charlotte lifted a hand slowly. The boy flinched as if she was going to throw a spell at him, but she only waved, and he calmed down. “Hi,” she said to him softly, “I’m Charlotte. What’s your name?” The boy opened his mouth, mimicking the motion of Charlotte’s as if the words were unfamiliar. Then, he replied slowly, “Arr-rrgh. Aagh-August. August.” Charlotte’s eyes lit up. He’s like a puppy-boy. Or a boy-dog? Well, whatever he is, he’s cute. She took a step forward carefully, keeping her hands outstretched like Sister Friede had shown her. “August. That’s a nice name. Are you a human boy? I’ve never seen another human with eyes or fur like yours.” “War—Worgen. August, Worgen,” the boy said, lifting his head to sniff at Charlotte’s hand as she got closer. The girl felt a hint of pain, but it seemed distant now. She was too excited to feel down about herself now. “Oh,” she said happily, “I read about Worgen. You can change shape into a wolf, but with two legs and two hands like a human. I heard elves were the first worgen, but most of the ones seen nowadays are from up north, where my papa’s from.” The boy’s ears twitched oddly when she said ‘papa.’ He made an odd sound like a dog’s whimper and put his head under his hands. Charlotte put a hand to her mouth. “Oh no, I’m sorry! You lost your papa?” The boy nodded. His eyes welled up with tears. Charlotte knelt down beside him and pet his jet-black hair. “I knew a lot of kids who lost their papas. I lost mine, but he came back. Maybe yours will come back too?” August looked at her hopefully. She smiled and rustled his hair playfully. “Yeah, I’m sure your papa’s looking out for you still! That’s what they do. I bet he’ll come find you any day.” “Pr-promise?” the boy said suddenly. Charlotte smiled warmly and wrapped the boy up in a hug. He looked rather shocked at that. “Yeah, I promise!” Brinnea had been in her cell for weeks by now. The daily routine of food delivery had become the only way to tell the passage of time now. She had counted a dozen visits, once a day by her first count. In that time, she had become more and more jittery. She hadn’t killed anything in nearly two weeks and it was beginning to weigh on her. A death knight must claim life, cause pain, in order to sustain the dark magic that granted them life. The longer she went without doing so, the more she felt the urge to kill. To try and keep her mind off it, she had spent her time meditating as she had learned in Pandaria, and when that failed utterly, she talked to her neighbors. To her left was a Draenei priestess named Vemynisa. She was a hardfaced straight talking woman with a mind for logistics and numbers. She was everything Brinnea wasn’t, but they got along alright given the circumstances. To the right was a night elf with downcast eyes that spoke of a time when she had been proud of herself. Vemynisa had introduced her as Kyrande Fargaze, a Warden. Both of the woman had had their husbands murdered before their eyes, and their children kidnapped. Vemynisa was missing her young daughter Rhyanisa, and Kyrande, despite rarely speaking, eventually spoke of her son Delruin. Brinnea told them about Charlotte as well; it was only fair, after all. The more she spoke of her, the more she felt desperate to get out of the cell and do something. Anything. Over the last twelve days, Vemynisa had told her about how things were run in the Hold. The Widows were used when Cynthia requested their use for a special mission. These ranged from scouting territories and reporting defenses to the Legion without getting caught in the act, to assassinating key military and political figures to reduce the Azerothian resistance. Every successful mission earned the Widow in question a certain reward, chosen by Cynthia, that fit the difficulty of the mission. Gear, clothing, luxury items, greater portions of food, and so on, could all be rewarded. Greater still, a truly life-risking mission could be rewarded by a visit with the Widow’s child. Normally brief, an hour at maximum, but these visits were what they all truly longed for. Vemynisa had yet to earn that right, but she had heard of those that did. An orc woman, Roggra Strongaxe, had gotten a chance to see her son after performing a task she had only spoken of once. Vemynisa hinted it had something to do with a betrayal against the Horde more heinous than any could recover from. Vemynisa had also mentioned what happened if a Widow should fail to complete a task, or try to escape. They were dragged back and forced to maim their child until Cynthia was satisfied. If they would not comply, Cynthia used her Nathrazim Skull to bend them to her will. The child usually did not survive that, and the Widow never survived after the child was dead. Brinnea recalled the skull in question from Cynthia’s taunting visit in Dalaran months ago. Parigan had been completely unable to resist the skull’s magic. No amount of physical or mental willpower could resist it, at least, not from a mortal body. “It isn’t all powerful,” Vemynisa was telling Brinnea now. “I’ve seen her use it to bend dozens of us at once, but the effects are weaker against more targets. I theorize it has a limit: she cannot control us all at once.” Brinnea perked up somewhat. “Then all of us together could overpower her,” she said, keeping her voice hushed in case a hidden demon was listening. Vemynisa frowned at that, saying, “Even if we managed to get ourselves free, it is highly unlikely we could fight our way through the demons to get to her, all overpower her, and prevent her from harming the children. We would be trapped in Felsoul Hold, terribly under-equipped, and outmatched. Besides, most of the Widows wouldn’t dare risk it if the children were still imprisoned.” “But there is a possibility!” Brinnea exclaimed softly, “We don’t have the luxury of choosing the right moment here, Vemynisa. We have to take what we have.” From her right, Brinnea heard Kyrande speak before Vemynisa could form a response; “It doesn’t matter what we do. The witch owns us now, and she always has something worse in store, no matter how many times we tell ourselves we’ve seen it all.” The death knight faced the Warden with pleading eyes. “You can’t let yourself give up hope, Kyrande! Delruin is counting on you, isn’t he?” “Yes, he is,” the night elf said, “And I can’t let him down by risking his life on a gamble like this. As Vemynisa said, there are few of us who would.” Before Brinnea could say anything, the door to the dungeon opened. Must be time for the food run. Hard to tell since I don’t hunger for it. She was proven wrong when a trolless, not the usual imp servants, walked into view holding an envelope and a spear. Vemynisa had told her about this one. Naavi the Witch-Lover, Kyrande had labeled her. She was a huntress of the Darkspear who had lost her husband and children to the Kor’kron. By the time Cynthia got to her, Naavi had already given up all hope. She had surrendered herself to the witch without any need of coercion or threatening. The other Widows spoke of her only with bitterness and hatred. Brinnea saw in her eyes the same desperation she saw in the rest of the Widows. The troll stood before Brinnea’s cell and looked the death knight in the eyes, slipping the envelope through the bars. It fell onto Brinnea’s lap with a dull thwip. As Brinnea opened it, Naavi unlocked the cell and gestured for her to exit, keeping a distance away with her spear at the ready. Inside the envelope was a list of instructions written out in common. · Scout Gilneas Brigade camp in southern Val’sharah. · If defenses are susceptible to immediate attack, send signal using flare enclosed. · If defenses are not susceptible to immediate attack, report strongest and weakest flanks, supply counts, number of active units, special units including healers and spellcasters, and leaders to Felsoul Hold. · Do not become compromised. · Do not jeopardize the Sisterhood. · Do not attempt to escape. Brinnea held the flare mentioned in her hand as she stepped from the cell. Once she had read through it, and looked at Naavi expectantly, the troll poked through the paper with her spear and held it over a torch in a nearby sconce. The paper caught fire and burnt quickly, then Naavi led the death knight outside. As they exited, she looked back at Vemynisa and Kyrande. The Draenei gave her a look as if she were trying to remember what Brinnea looked like. Kyrande gazed at her sadly before shaking her head. Once at the edge of the Hold’s corruption, Naavi tossed a knife into the grass. “Take the knife,” she said simply, “You may have need of it.” Then the troll spun around and walked back into the hellish pit. Gilneas, Brinnea thought to herself. How fitting. She picked up the knife and summoned her deathcharger with a flick of the wrist. She mounted up and took off for Val’sharah. Light, I ask no redemption for this. I know I’ll receive none. I only ask mercy for the souls I must doom today. Light, have mercy on them. They know not what comes for them.
  5. ((WARNING: Graphic scenes, violence, and suggestive themes)) Brinnea sat slumped over a stone bench in the Stormwind park, the sun beating down on her hood and casting grim shadows on her face. She stared at her left hand, short three fingers, and lost herself in thought. She had just departed from the General’s office, half-expecting to encounter a band of vengeful Imperial Keepers intent on cutting her down. She had been disappointed on that front. Katelle was far from dead, as well. Brinnea was still wondering if that should make her glad or not. It had been an impossible choice: the deaths of the only people who may still believe in her, or condemning her daughter to the ire of a mad witch. In the end, all she had done was hide in a corner of the General’s room while the woman she had come to murder patted her and told her everything would be alright. Speaking to me as if to a child. She knows what I am. Brinnea thought again on Katelle’s words. “We'll figure something out. We always do.” Words of comfort. Kind words. They were foreign to Brin now. She considered them with only cynicism and suspicion. She was worried for her life, and that of her unborn child. She thinks of me the same as the rest of them. I’m a killer. Something to be feared and reviled. And yet, she couldn’t bring herself to look past the false comfort. She fooled herself, again, into believing it was real. The General’s words even made her believe she could save Charlotte and be a mother to her again. Fool! Have you learned nothing? Light, why? Why am I cursed with this wretched hope? Footsteps grew closer to the huddled death knight on the bench. Unconsciously, her hand rested on the hilt of her knife. The approaching figure stopped before her. She lifted her sore gaze up to the silhouetted man, dressed as a commoner out on his business, standing between her and the sun. “Mother says it’s time to come home,” he said plainly. “The girl’s getting impatient. She won’t wait for you much longer.” With that, he carried on as if he had never stopped. Brinnea’s heart sank. She was watching, after all. Nothing to do but return to that hell and beg for Charlotte’s life. Gods, I can’t lose her too! Brinnea’s eyes were glued to the smoothly carved stone within Felsoul Hold’s interior. Ahead, at the end of a long hall, Cynthia sat in a silvery chair of night elven make, gazing at her as a disappointed mother would her disobedient child. Charlotte sat in a similar chair beside her, except it was charred black, an ominous and obvious message that had sent a jolt of fear through the death knight’s chest. The hall was watched by dozens of batlike demons, who drooled and licked their lips staring down at Brin. The wrathguard, Morkoreth, stood vigilant beside the warlock, his mace set under his massive violet hands with the flanged head resting on the floor by his feet. Parigan’s blade, still in halves, was tucked into his belt along with a number of skulls, still dangling flesh off them. The demon must have shed blood lately. The warlock spoke, “You disappoint me, Brinnea. I gave you one simple task: kill the General and her family. Bring me their heads. But you brought me empty hands and the stench of failure. Come closer, will you? I refuse to shout at you from across this hall.” The death knight never lifted her gaze as she walked across the hall, coming to a halt a few paces from Cynthia’s chair. The witch sighed deeply. “Do you understand why I sent you on that task, hmm?” Brinnea simply shook her head. “Tsk, you didn’t think very hard. It was because of the way you acted the other day. You disrespected me in front of the other widows. I can’t have that, hmm. One dissident and the whole order breaks apart. No one would take me seriously after that.” “I apologize, ma’am,” Brinnea forced herself to say, however softly. Cynthia chuckled softly, standing. She placed a hand on Charlotte’s shoulder. The girl flinched, but did not shy away. Brinnea commanded herself not to make a move. “It’s alright, hmm. I’m giving you another chance, see? But first, I have to punish you for this. Charlotte, dear, why don’t you stand up for me?” Brin watched as her daughter stood, her face written with anger at the warlock, who smiled pleasantly down at her. “Very good. Now, take of your belt. Atta girl, hmm.” Cynthia folded the belt over, pulling it tight so it made a loud snap. Brin looked at her with a pleading expression. “Pl-please don’t,” she stammered quietly. “Please don’t.” Cynthia looked at Brin as if confused. She replied, “Me? I’m not doing anything, hmm. Brinny, I want you to really focus now, you’re going to take this belt and whip the skin off your daughter’s back until I tell you to stop.” The death knight stared. She couldn’t do anything. With every fiber of her being, she wanted to take her sword and drive it through Cynthia’s throat. But she couldn’t do it. There was no way she could protect Charlotte after that. They would die, trapped in Felsoul Hold. Cynthia continued, “I understand this is asking a lot, but I need you to do what I said. Now.” Brinnea gaped at her, but said nothing. The witch made an exasperated sound, saying, “What the hell, hmm? Would you rather I had Morkoreth do it for you?” The wrathguard looked unamused with the idea of whipping a small human child, but otherwise didn’t react. Brinnea trembled, barely keeping her feet planted. She stepped forward, and took the belt from Cynthia’s outstretched hand. Charlotte suddenly spoke up, “It’s ok, mama. It’ll be ok.” Brinnea’s eyes welled up with tears. Cynthia tore Charlotte’s shirt, exposing the girl’s pale flesh, prickled with goosebumps. She turned the girl around, giving Brinnea a clear target. The death knight tried to lift the belt in her hand, but nothing happened. Her hand refused to move. Cynthia hovered over her shoulder. “We’re waiting, hmm. Are you going to make me count? Very well, then. Three.” “No, I can’t do this, please give me another chance!” Brinnea begged, her body shivering. Cynthia merely replied by looking her in the eyes, and saying, “Two.” The death knight finally lifted her hand. The belt hung in the air, jittering in her unstill hand. “One!” Brinnea gasped, and let her hand fall. Whip! Charlotte cried out in pain, her frail frame crumpling under the force of the lash. A thin red streak had appeared across the diagonal length of her small, pale back. Brinnea put a hand to her mouth. Tears streamed down her cheeks. What am I doing? This is my daughter! Cynthia scoffed. “A good start, hmm. Again.” Whip! Charlotte was curled in a little ball, sniffling and speaking from the pain. Brin’s chest felt heavy, but she forced herself to lift her hand again when Cynthia said, “Again!” Whip! Blood shot across Brinnea’s face, leaving a streak on her right cheek. “Again!” Whip! “Again!” Whip! “Again!” Whip! By the time Cynthia allowed Charlotte to be taken away by the monstrously grotesque Letraxia, her back was slick with blood. The satyr woman had to carry Charlotte out. Brinnea let the belt fall from her hand. The warlock returned to her chair. “You belong to me, hmm. You will do as told from now on. Never question me, or this will become a routine. Or until the little girl dies from blood loss. You will be shown to a cell, where you will stay until I have use of you. Off you go, hmm.” Brinnea allowed herself to be led to a dungeon beneath the hold’s interior, where dozens of cramped cells lined up, patrolled by felguards with halberds as long as pikes, and the inquisitor Envious. The hooded demon looked her over closely before snapping its fingers, summoning a gang of imps. It issued a series of commands in the demonic tongue before floating away. The imps giggled and set about their work. Brinnea allowed the vile creatures to strip her of her gear and clothing. Her palid and scarred body stood exposed to the acrid air, unbothered by the slight chill. Some of the imps dragged her stuff off while the rest threw a small pile of rags into her arms for her to put on. She made no effort to hurry in covering her nakedness, even as the imps chuckled and licked their lips hungrily. When she had finished dressing, they escorted her to an empty cage beside one occupied by a draenei woman in rags similar to hers. One of the imps locked the cage, trapping Brinnea within, and said, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere unless the boss says so! Ta-ta, dead lady!” With that, the evil little creatures vanished with a puff of smoke, leaving Brinnea alone with the quiet sniffling and hushed cries of the other widows. She put her head in her hands and curled into a ball defensively. I’m a Light-damned monster. I deserve this. Even with this betrayal, Charlotte isn’t giving up on me. I have to carry on for her. If she is ever set free, she can live happy with Katelle and her family. She promised she would. In a heartbeat, she said. Despite herself, she still felt a flicker of hope dimly lit in her heart. But not me. This is what I deserve.
  6. Esmerra stood in her tent, listening to the rain patter on the canvas as her hand trembled and her heart raced. She took deep breaths to calm herself, as the druids of Hyjal had once taught her, but no amount of meditation or focus could ease her guilty conscience. She had convinced herself once that the deception had been for the greater good, it was the only way she could drive herself to act on it every day until now. But now that it was over and done, well, she had hoped to feel released. That death knight was a killer, a murderer, she thought to herself bitterly. She doesn’t deserve my pity. So why am I feeling like this? Before she could muster up an answer, Shanoris entered her tent, blind eyes gazing up at the dark tent’s ceiling. The Illidari cocked her head at Esmerra curiously. “Are you quite alright, my lady?” Esmerra responded immediately, nearly shouting, “I’m fine. What do you want?” The elf raised her eyebrows, but gave no other indication of surprise or offense. She replied, “You did just kill your own brother. I sorta figured you’d need some company to get your mind off of it.” Esmerra made a low growling noise in the back of her throat. “He wasn’t my brother. He was just a rotter who killed my father and brother.” Seeing Shanoris’ sympathetic expression, Esmerra took another deep breath and sat down on her mattress. She gestured for the elf to sit beside her. Shanoris unstrapped her glaives and leaned them against Esmerra’s desk before taking the seat. It was easy to forget the demon hunters were blind with how much they were able to “see” of their surroundings. Even the faintest gesture left some sort of mark they could sense. It made them apt hunters, and excellent judges of character. Esmerra respected Shanoris’ ability to read people. Shanoris spoke up first, putting an arm on Esmerra’s shoulder while she gazed blindly off at a corner of the tent; “I had a sister before I was chained up by the Wardens. Hell, maybe she’s still alive in all the mess stirred up these past few years. Her name was Kyrande, and she was the light of my life when we were young. That was, whew, a looong time ago. I ended up a demon hunter at a time when Illidan was considered a traitor and a danger to everyone. Guess that hasn’t changed much though. But Kyrande, she was a Warden. She always was, looking back on it. Even though I was decades the elder, she was always looking out for me, and the family. I never made it easy on her, though. Several times in our lives when I counted on her to help me, she chose to protect herself, though, and I suffered for it. I hated her for many years of my life. I was imprisoned for a few centuries, at least. Probably more, but time gets a bit hazy after a certain amount of years, you know? Anyway, Kyrande visited me as often as she could. It was our routine. I mean, I didn’t have much say in the matter, and it took a long time for me to get accustomed to speaking with her again, but eventually I accepted that what she had done was meant to protect me. Which is why, when it happened again, only a decade ago on the Black Temple, I knew I couldn’t bring myself to hate her for it. At least, not for long.” Esmerra glanced at Shanoris with narrowed eyes. “Is this story supposed to make me feel better?” The elf sighed, feigning disappointment. “The point is,” she continued, “My sister wasn’t a murderous lunatic like your brother, er, that undead asshole that got smashed. He and his crazy death knight wife needed to go for the good of all Azeroth.” Esmerra had a sudden realization. Her jitters weren’t from the guilt of what she had done, but the unconscious realization of what she must do. Cynthia cannot be allowed to have a weapon like Brinnea Velmon at her disposal. I must not let my focus drop now. “Shanoris,” Esmerra said all of a sudden, her voice calm and confident. The elf seemed to heed her as she said, “You are exactly correct. But our work isn’t finished. In return for bringing down a dangerous man, the Legion took a perhaps more dangerous woman to be their tool for destruction. We must send word to the Alliance. Brinnea Velmon is a servant of the Legion. She must be killed on sight. I will use every ounce of political weight I have to ensure the word is spread. There can be nowhere left for her to hide.” The elf seemed accepting of the order, and stood to leave. “I’ll spread the news,” she said. “More importantly, I’ll be keeping a close eye on Felsoul Hold. That witch was more powerful than I had anticipated. The Illidari must be informed of the danger, but I can’t exactly report anything until I can be sure of what we’re up against. If you need anything, you know how to reach me.” As the elf departed the tent, Esmerra felt her resolve solidifying. She knew her task, and it was time to set about accomplishing it. She sat at her desk and began drafting letters to Alliance officials. As she signed the first letter, her hand slipped, spilling ink on the blackwood desktop. Sighing in minor annoyance, she stood to fetch a rag to clean up the mess, but stopped when she noticed something odd in the ink. The liquid stirred unnaturally, forming into some shape. After staring into the shimmering black substance for some time, she finally recognized what she was looking at. It was a bird: a falcon bearing a sword in its talons. The symbol of the Velmon family. Her hand shook again. She had no doubts as to why
  7. The smell of corruption, of death, disease, and brimstone, filled the air. The night sky was alight with verdant fires and swirling, choking smoke. Chunks of rock and fel flares descended from above like a sinister meteor shower. All around, the earth quaked with the booming thunder of explosions. Felsoul Hold was a land that belonged to no one but demons now. They were all around, stalking the shadows and parading in the eerie green glow. The massive, small, and everything in between all mingled, watching, waiting, some licking their lips hungrily. Brinnea ignored them all. She huddled in the dark corner of the inquisitor’s cell, head buried between her knees. Her thoughts could drift no further. Instinct dragged her back to the here and now. Subconsciously, she thought about why she was even still alive. Esmerra had clearly wanted her dead, but Cynthia had stopped her. The witch isn’t done toying with what’s left of my life, she thought to herself, sadness parting in the wake of a storm of anger. The train of demons halted before a smaller extension of the main hold. Cynthia’s voice cracked a command like a whip in the demonic tongue. The cage fell to the ground abruptly, sending a shudder up Brinnea’s spine. The cage door flew open and the hooded demon that had carried her poked its head in. “Try nothing,” it’s raspy voice dragged along her back like a knife, “You live. We are always watching.” Brinnea stood slowly and moved to step out. The demon grabbed her and yanked her roughly into the open air. She stumbled and rolled along the ground, rising in a kneeling position. She was surrounded on all sides by the demons. Felhounds, imps, wrathguards, doomguards, inquisitors like the one that threw her from the cage, all watching in a circle around a line of people facing Brinnea. They were of various races: humans, orcs, trolls, dwarves, it seemed as if every race of the Alliance and Horde were represented. Only two things were common between each of them. They were all women, and they all had the same stony, emotionless expression written on their faces. A quick count put them at about thirty to forty. Cynthia stood between her and them, a proud look about her, as if her hard work were on display. “Welcome to the family, Brinny,” the warlock said in a singsong tone. She flipped her long, silky black hair over her shoulder and called to those behind her, saying, “Widows, say hello to your new sister, hmm?” All in sync, the women recited back, “Welcome, widow. Welcome to the family.” Brinnea stared at them all in line, horrified. Few of them did more than give her an indifferent look. Most just gazed off into the middle distance, or glued their gazes to the ground. Cynthia stepped forward, standing just two steps from Brin. The death knight thought about killing the witch now. It could be easy. One rune would be enough to make a knife sharp enough to pierce her throat. One motion, and she would be dead. Her seven fingers curled into fists. Cynthia grinned down at her. “Well?” she asked expectantly. “We’re waiting. What? No ‘thank you?’ How ungrateful, hmm. Your new family rather generously accepted you, and they don’t even know who you are. What you are. What you’ve done, hmm.” Brinnea glared up at Cynthia, icy eyes full of hate. She replied, voice hushed and harsh, “I’m gonna kill you.” The witch paused, then scoffed. “You ought to rethink your tone, hmm.” The woman stepped back, gesturing to the demons on her left. A beefy slab of satyr meat wearing a nursing gown stepped forward, leading a small human child with a bag over her head by the shoulders into the middle of the circle. The satyr gave Brinnea a toothy grin and unveiled the girl. Charlotte gasped, coughing between breaths as she choked on the acrid air. Her large, pool-like grey eyes stared at Brin with surprise. She called out, “Mother!” earning her a smack on the back of the head from the satyr in the gown. “Hush, child!” the demon hissed. “You let her go!” Brinnea shouted. She stood, her sword flashing into her hand. Cynthia’s hand lit with fel fire, as the warlock said, “Tut-tut-tut, Brinny. One wrong move, and little Charlotte’s the one who suffers, hmm. Throw the sword down, now.” Brinnea reluctantly tossed the sword aside. She watched Charlotte closely. The girl looked more surprised than scared, rubbing the back of her head sorely. The death knight felt a sharp smack in the back of her leg, and fell to the ground, off-balance. She looked behind her at the wrathguard who had prodded her with the handle of his mace. She recognized him by the skulls on his pauldron, and the two halves of a greatsword stuck in his belt. “On your knees, worm,” the wrathguard Cynthia had named as Morkoreth said deeply. Brinnea gaped at him with a twitch of rage on her face. The demon merely glared back, no hint of amusement in his beady eyes. Cynthia put her fire out with a flick of the wrist. “Much better, hmm. Now, I have a few things to explain, and I won’t be happy if you interrupt again,” the witch brushed soot off her hand with a handkerchief as she drew close to Charlotte. Brinnea grimaced, all of her might concentrated on keeping herself still. Cynthia pet Charlotte’s head, brushing her bright, shoulder-length red hair aside to get a look at the child’s face. “She looks more like you than she does her father, hmm. The freckles, for one. And the eyes, the hair. She’s a pretty little thing.” Charlotte scowled at the woman brushing her hair and eased away from the hand. “You talk funny, but you’re just a bully,” the girl said defiantly. The satyr holding the girl looked to Cynthia for instruction, but the witch merely chuckled, covering her mouth with the back of a hand. “Ah, that’s more like her daddy, hmm. He was certainly adamant in the face of danger.” Brinnea’s teeth gritted, and she said softly, “What do you want from me?” Cynthia’s gaze drifted back to her. “Ah, back to the point. You see, Brinny, this gathering of misfits is my personal army of go-getters, hmm. Widows, all of them. And, more importantly, mothers. Just like you. Convenient, isn’t it? In all my years, I’ve learned one thing if I’ve learned anything, hmm. You take a mother’s child, and she’ll do anything to save him, or her.” She gestured to the line of widows. “What I do is direct that strength at whatever stubborn problem I have. The problem goes away, and I reward them by taking care of the children. It’s a win-win, hmm.” “Wh-what about the husbands, then?” Brinnea said with a glower. “You kill them all, and enslave the women, take their children hostage?” Cynthia simply cocked her head at Brin with a crooked smile on her face. “Do you realize what is happening here, girl? Look around, hmm!” The witch stretched her arms outward at the surrounding demons. “It’s the end of the world, Brin-Brin! Time to grow up and face the truth: you either join the Legion, or you burn with the rest of the rabble.” She stepped forward to Brinnea, offering a hand to the angry death knight with a look of confidence and superiority. “Welcome to the winning side, hmm.” Brinnea looked over at Charlotte. The little girl shook her head. Brin slowly lifted her arm, taking Cynthia’s delicate, outstretched hand in her own. The witch grinned warmly down at her. “A fine decision, my dear. Charlotte will be safe with Letraxia, hmm. She’ll have dozens of other children to play with, lots of open space to roam, and safety from the war. As long as you stay loyal--,” she put her other hand on Brinnea’s shoulder firmly, “—your girl will be just fine. So, to start, I have a task for you. A test, of sorts, to ensure you understand how this deal works. I want you to go to Stormwind, to the office of your old boss, General, uh—,” she looked over at the Inquisitor from earlier, “—what was her name, Envious?” The hooded demon scratched its chin thoughtfully, replying succinctly, “General Katelle Larmont, head of the Twilight Empire’s Keepers.” Cynthia nodded appreciatively and continued, “General Katelle, yes. You go to her office, and you look her dead in the eyes, tell her the Legion’s won. Tell her, oh let’s see, ‘The sun has set for the Empire.’ Yes, that seems dramatic enough, hmm. Then you kill her.” Brinnea gaped at Cynthia, wide-eyed. The witch continued, “Run her through with your blade, strip flesh from bone, really get out your frustration, hmm? Oh, and I’m aware the girl is with child. Make sure she loses it first, see the fear and sadness on her face, it’ll make you feel better about yourself. Then find her husband, that elf with the ridiculous hair, and her girl. Kill them all, hmm.” Brinnea’s jaw trembled and her hands shook. No, I can’t do this. I can’t do that to Kate, not to anyone! “I-I can’t…you can’t…please, I-I-I-,” Cynthia slapped Brinnea across the face, leaving her reeling. She tried to stop her fall with her left hand, but without all her fingers, she couldn’t stay upright. The demons laughed all around her when she hit the rocky ground face-first. The witch snapped at her, “Don’t you fling your spittle at me, hmm. You speak when your spoken to, not stammer like a half-witted ogre!” As Brinnea drew herself to her knees, spitting out blood and panting desperately, as if she needed the air, Cynthia drifted swiftly to Charlotte, who continued to glare at the witch insolently. “If you can’t obey,” the black-haired woman warned, “Then your girl suffers, hmm. I need to hear it, right now. Tell me you will kill the General.” She lit a flame in her hand, drawing it close to Charlotte’s face. The girl’s eyes lit up with panic, and she tried to back up. The satyr, Letraxia, held her still. Brinnea reached out toward Cynthia. “Wait. Wait!” The witch shook her head with a sneer. “You don’t get to make demands, hmm! You tell me, now! Say the words, ‘I will kill them!’” Brinnea clawed at the ground desperately. “N-no, I c-can’t! Please don’t. Please!” Tears streamed down her face for the second time today, an act she didn’t even know was possible before. Cynthia’s burning hand grew ever closer to the little girl’s pale face. Charlotte made a squeaking sound that seemed like fear, like terror. Brin was hyperventilating, taking in more air than she had done in years as a death knight. Her vision blurred from the tears. Everything was askew. Laughing voices called out all around her. She swore she felt her heart beat, just for a moment. Charlotte’s hair started to smoke from the flame. “I’ll do it!” Brinnea screamed, “I’ll-I’ll do it, I’ll kill them. I’ll kill them all, just please. Don’t hurt her.” The witch’s fire went out, and her cocky smile returned. “Obedience,” she said. “It makes life so much easier, hmm? Do as I ask, and everything will be alright. You’ll never have to lose anyone again. Now go. Do the deed, and bring back their heads, hmm. Don’t delay, I’ll be watching. You don’t want to make me angry again.” Brinnea had been given her sword again. Allowed to walk out of the hold unscathed. She had barely taken a step until Charlotte was snatched out of sight by the repulsive satyr. Letraxia had offered Brinnea a kissing motion before shoving the girl away. Brin could only gape and wander toward the exit slowly. Now, she was standing at the edge of the hold’s corruption in the land of Suramar. She collapsed to her knees, hands holding her up. Blood trickled from the cut on her cheek, leaving crimson drips on the slowly darkening grass. She lifted herself up to her legs again, choking back another sob. Her hand went to her sword’s hilt. She drew it slowly, flipped the blade around, holding it by the middle. Slowly, she placed the tip of the sword in her mouth. The thing about death knights, being undead and all, most wounds didn’t have any effect on their mortality. A blow to the head, though, or any damage to the brain, would kill them like anyone else. A method of retaining a knight’s honor in the face of torture or indignity was called “falling on your sword.” It wasn’t the sort of knightly thing she had learned from her father’s tales. But with the blade in her mouth, all that was left was to let herself fall. That would be the end of it. One moment, and she would be free. So why do I hesitate? What holds me back? It was Charlotte, of course. Her daughter: the only good thing she had ever wrought. She couldn’t let her down again. Not when there was still a chance. What chance is there? What choices do I have left to make? She could live, but at the cost of other people’s lives. The lives of people I care about. Those are few enough now. I do this, they can still live. Maybe Charlotte can, too. But she couldn’t be sure. The sword fell from her grip. She burst out in tears again. She fell to her knees, again. For the third time in her undeath, Brinnea Velmon was lost to grief. She yelled as loudly as she could, pounded the ground with her hands until they stained the ground red. Tomorrow, she would visit her friend, and she would have to kill her.
  8. ((WARNING: Graphic scenes, violence, adult language, and suggestive themes)) The light faded. The air crackled and whipped at Brinnea’s cloak. Her illusory mask had long since fallen off, exposing her pale, shocked expression. Her chilling blue eyes were wide with horror. Lying in the shallow earthen ditch marked by the demon’s mace was what remained of the only man she truly loved. Parigan’s body had been scorched so badly his armor had melted as well as his flesh. Only bones remained where Esmerra’s spell had fallen. His midsection from waist to chest had been vaporized in an instant. The fallen warrior lay still, his body still burning in places from the arcane fire. His greatsword, which he had used to shield himself a moment before the spell landed, had been seared in half, each piece lying on either side of the undead’s body. Brinnea’s own body was entangled in vines draining her energy, so all she could do was kneel and gaze upon the gruesome sight, smell the repulsive stench, and think about how she would never see her one true love alive again. And then he gasped for air. Brinnea’s already wide eyes somehow grew even more agape. What remained of Parigan’s upper half twitched and writhed, trying to take in air without any lungs to fill. His metal jaw swung open and shut over and over, as if he were trying to speak. Esmerra had begun walking back to her followers, hunched over and panting from the great effort. Shanoris had a hand on her shoulder, keeping her upright. Now they turned back to look at the body they had left behind. On the other side, Cynthia laughed mockingly. “Esmerra, my dear, you seem to have left a bit of a mess,” she said, her golden eyes flickering between Parigan and the druid. “B—Brih--,” Parigan rasped from the crater. Brinnea panted as if she could not catch her breath. “Nooo…,” she moaned as tears streamed down her face. “Leave him alone…pleeeease…” She trembled uncontrollably, still restrained by the vines. Parigan’s eye met with Brin’s. “Brin…I…,” he coughed a stream of dull green blood onto the ground beside him. “This is truly saddening,” Cynthia said, shaking her head in mock shame. “Morkoreth, put him out of his misery, won’t you?” The wrathguard beside the witch grunted, lifting his already bloodstained mace from his shoulder and stepping toward the gargling undead. “Brin, I lo—love you—“ CRUNCH The demon’s weapon fell to the ground with a resounding clash of metal against metal. Bones crunched and gore flew every which way. Green drops of blood splattered across Brinnea’s face. The eye she had been gazing into popped right out of Parigan’s skull as it deflated under the sheer force of impact. Brinnea felt herself scream, but she couldn’t hear it. All she could hear was a high-pitched ringing sound; everything else was fuzzy and distant. The demon lifted his mace, and stringy pieces of skin and innards came along with it. Parigan’s body still twitched; his hand extended toward Brin’s own reaching desperately trembled before the mace came down for another impact. DOOM The weapon hit more ground than body this time. Parigan’s hand fell to the ground, still spasming. WHAM With another mighty blow, Parigan’s last movements died. The demon seemed satisfied with his work and stepped back to his master, who watched on grinning. All that remained of Parigan was a bloodstained pile of bones, bits of black metal, a cloak plastered with gore, and a pale, outstretched hand. Brinnea’s head lifted to the sky as she wailed with all the strength she had left. What happened next seemed more like a dream than reality. Shanoris drew toward Brinnea at Esmerra’s command, a glaive in hand. A sharp objection from Cynthia stopped her, though. The death knight didn’t care what was said. Her mind and body were focused on what remained of Parigan. Time passed slowly. Her thoughts drifted. Esmerra and her followers departed. The vines drew back, and the false fingers rotted away to nothing. A demon lifted her up and carried her into a cage it carried on its back. She didn’t resist. She couldn’t, even if she wanted to. Esmerra’s betrayal had sapped her of everything she had. Cynthia’s eyes appeared before her as the cage was sealed. The witch leaned in close, a smug smile on her face. She spoke softly, barely a whisper, though Brinnea could not tell if it was her ringing ears that made it so, or the woman’s own speech, “You are mine now, my dear. You belong to me, hmm.” Brinnea’s thoughts drifted. “Hey, wake up,” a familiar voice called to her from behind the veil of a dream. Brinnea opened her eyes to see Parigan’s face as it once was. His brown eyes stared into hers, his scratchy beard pressed against her cheek. His thick, disheveled black hair smelled of forge fire, pinewood, and home. His hand was on her shoulder, gently squeezed. It felt comforting, reassuring. Everything was going to be alright. “You were shaking in your sleep.” “I…,” she said uncertainly, starting to sit upright. “I was having a nightmare.” She trembled as thoughts wormed their way into the back of her mind. Thoughts of death, finality. “Hey,” Parigan said stern, yet warmly, “It was just a dream. Everything’s alright here.” Brinnea looked at him, unsure. She nodded. “It was just a dream,” she agreed. Parigan’s hand drifted to her belly, rubbing it softly with affection. “Have you thought anymore about what to name the little one?” Brinnea bit her lip, something she used to do when she was thinking. “I’m not sure,” she replied, her hand clutching Parigan’s. “Maybe Sarah for a girl?” Her husband chuckled softly. “After my mother? C’mon, we could be more original. Besides, I like Maria better if we were taking parents’ names.” Brin smiled at him. They kissed, holding each other close. She felt warm, and safer than she had in a long time. She was reluctant to break their tender moment, but when it at last ended, she asked him, “Alright, then what about if it’s a boy?” Parigan grinned wolfishly. “I’ve always liked the name—“ His face halted in place, as if frozen in time. The bed grew colder, and the room dark. Brinnea felt all the safety and comfort drain away as thoughts drifted back to the nightmare. “No,” she pleaded. “Don’t send me back! Not there, please! Let me stay!” Everything faded to black, all except Parigan’s face. Green blood trickled down his head like rain. “Let me stay!”
  9. “…nothing. Everything is in place,” Esmerra’s said in a hushed voice. Brinnea rounded the edge of a boulder and saw the young noble standing alone, her back turned to the death knight. “It’ll all go according to plan. Don’t worry.” Brinnea took a step closer, startling Esmerra, who nearly jumped off her feet in surprise. “Oh, Brinnea! I was just talking to myself. I’m a little on edge. Ah, but all the troops are in place. Some of Lord Hunter’s finest sharpshooters and my own druids. Cynthia won’t see what hit her.” Brinnea smiled widely. “That is good to hear. But you shouldn’t be out on your own here, Es. Suramar is still a dangerous place, and Felsoul Hold is even worse.” The clank of armor signaled a new arrival. “Yeah, sis, it’s dangerous to go alone,” Parigan said tauntingly. Esmerra paled and scowled at her undead brother. “Parigan. I trust Shanoris found you well?” “Well enough. You always did have the strangest friends back in Gilneas.” Brinnea crossed her arms in mock judgement. “Oh really? I seem to remember you got along better with her than your other siblings.” Parigan snorted. “Did I ever claim to be normal?” The two chuckled softly. Esmerra half-heartedly laughed as well. “It’s, uh…good to see you two hopeful again.” A raven swooped in from above, landing on Esmerra’s arm. She listened as it chortled into her ear for a moment before it flew off. The druid took a deep breath and said, “Cynthia’s almost here. The number of guards is correct as well, observers and all. My faerie dragons will keep a sharp nose out for them. I’ll see you two on the other side.” With that, she changed form into a black bird and took off. Brinnea exchanged a look with Parigan. “Are you ready to get our daughter back?” Parigan nodded. She handed him an illusory mask, which he slipped on. His form slimmed and grew taller as he took the form of a Suramar spellsword. Brinnea put her own mask on, assuming her role as Lisia. The two walked toward the meeting place without hesitation. Brinnea ran back through the plan for the thousandth time as the meeting drew closer and closer. She would act terrified as the elf had been the night Brinnea took her face, and Parigan would say nothing, feigning mutism. Since he hadn’t had time to practice his role, they figured that would be the most convenient. Once Cynthia was in place, the snipers would fill the demons full of Gilnean lead, the druids would vanquish the hidden observers, and Brinnea and Parigan would lock Cynthia in place with icy chains and caltrops. Afterward, they would have time to pick the location of Charlotte’s prison from the warlock as painfully as necessary. It seems so simple, but it’s never simple with Cynthia. We have to be ready for anything. Despite her desire for caution, Brinnea couldn’t help but feel hopeful, as Esmerra had said. She truly believed they could do this. They could get Charlotte back, once and for all. And there she was. The witch appeared, flanked by an entourage of demons: two wrathguards and a pack of half a dozen felhounds. Lisia really pulled through for once. Once Charlotte is safe, I’ll avenge her and those children. Cynthia dressed in fel green robes trimmed with gold, and had a knife on her belt. A skull floated beside her, recognizably shaped like a dreadlord’d head. It pulsated a sickly green aura, and seemed to be staring right through Brinnea with its voidlike eye sockets. The death knight tried to look scared and concerned as the warlock approached. Parigan stood resolute beside her. “Late again, hmm,” Cynthia said, seemingly bored. “I was beginning to think I needed to remind you how our arrangement works.” Brinnea stammered, as meekly as she could, “N-n-n-no, ma’am. I simply…had trouble picking a specimen. The, uh, the Nightfallen have taken to stealing the children away from the city. I don’t know how they manage it, I swear!” Cynthia sighed, and replied dryly, “And here I was holding out hope you had an offering hidden behind a rock somewhere, hmm. You should know better than to come empty-handed, Lisia.” “I-I am so sorry, my lady! Please, give me one more chance, I promise I will not fail again!” Brinnea considered falling to her knees, but she worried it might lose her the advantage. Cynthia merely rolled her eyes. “You know I get tired of hearing you say that, hmm. Well, I suppose I can give you another chance. However, you will not be leaving here with everything you have now.” The witch cocked her head to the side. Two of her felhunters padded closer slowly and menacingly. Brinnea feigned fear, backing up slowly. “N-no, please…,” she began. Cynthia scoffed. “You know how this works, Lissy. You come empty-handed, I take your hands instead, hmm. You can have someone else stuff kids in silken bags from now on. Your new help, perhaps.” She nodded at Parigan, who stood silently, and hand raising toward his blade. The felhunters snarled as they approached. Then, two gunshots rang out, and the hounds’ heads exploded. Brinnea paused for a moment. No more gunshots could be heard. The other demons looked around for whoever had the audacity to attack them. Cynthia’s eyebrow plucked up at Brin. No more gunshots followed. What are they doing? This isn’t how we prepared for this. Brinnea looked at Parigan, but he was looking around just as much as the demons were, pretending to be confused by the events. Brinnea nearly kicked herself for not thinking as quickly. She spoke up, “Wh-what was that?” “You had better pray whatever it is dies quickly, hmm,” Cynthia said, annoyed. She gestured, and her felhounds took off at a sprint to search for the shooters. The wrathguards fell in closer, their massive bodies offering Cynthia cover. Still, no more shots rang out as the hounds passed the disguised pair. Brinnea gritted her teeth. We might have to improvise. We won’t get another chance like this again. Her hand went for her sword… Suddenly all her strength went out from her. The death knight nearly fell to her knees with fatigue. What the…? Her left hand started tingling. She looked down at it, but where her fingers had been, now there were three rapidly expanding sprouts. Vines crawled up her arm, digging thorns into her skin that sapped the life right out of her. Now Brin really did fall to her knees. Parigan Looked down at her, risking to ask quietly, “What’s going on?” His blade was halfway off his back now. Gunshots rang out, finally. But it was with horror Brin realized the shots were aimed not at the demons, but at Parigan. The undead took a shot across his helm, knocking him senseless. Two shots went through his chest, another two through his legs, and one in his good arm. He collapsed, keeping himself upright only by his prosthetic hand. He gasped out a stream of green blood. Brinnea’s arm had been completely covered in plant life now. Then she remembered. A year ago, an orc had sliced nearly three fingers off her hand. The replacements she had gotten were so like organic material that she had nearly forgotten they weren’t the digits she had lost. Those fingers were obtained through druidic magic. Druidic magic by someone close to her… “Esmerra,” she said, barely above a whisper. Cynthia grinned at her from across the rocky way, a light of satisfaction in her eyes. “Ah yes, I couldn’t have managed this little trap without our star actress, hmm. My dear, why don’t you show yourself?” Brinnea turned her gaze where Cynthia looked. Esmerra appeared out of thin air, along with a dozen druids. An observer hovered above them, its magic clearly responsible for the invisibility. Brinnea stared at her sister-in-law with disbelief. “Es…why?” Her strength to speak was running dry as the entangling leech vines dug into her shoulder and torso. The druid gazed at her with a face full of contempt. “You really believed that whole time that I was standing beside you because you were justified in your actions? No! You are a murderer and a coward, fleeing from justice with the excuse of saving one – just one! – girl that means nothing to no one but yourself. But worst of all, you let that monster loose on this world, unchecked,” she pointed harshly at Parigan with a shimmering staff. The air was shifting as she spoke. Parigan roared, drawing his sword. His wounds practically exploded blood, but he ignored it out of pure rage. Then a huge mace smashed him into the ground, leaving a crater where he stood. Brinnea gasped, barely able to move now. The vines wrapped around her neck and waist. Parigan sputtered, his body crushed and broken under the wrathguard’s weapon. Cynthia chuckled softly. Brinnea felt rage build in her chest, only to be quashed by cold fear. “Pari,” she called quietly, barely able to produce a sound, “Stay down, please…” Esmerra approached the undead. Her human form shifted into that of a worgen. Shanoris and Walther joined her from behind the crowd of druids, staying close by her side. The worgen’s hand pulsed with the moon’s glow. “You tore our family apart, Parigan. Now I’m going to do what should have been down years ago, when you first rose from the dead. For Ersolon, mother, and father!” She swung downward, producing a blinding flash of light. Like that, Brinnea was blinded. A word was on her lips, but she could not speak. A frozen tear drifted down her cheek. Cynthia’s laugh echoed in her mind.
  10. ((WARNING: Graphic scenes, violence, adult language, and suggestive themes)) Rain dribbled down on Parigan’s helmet and cloak, adding more weight to his already great burdens. Though as an undead, he travelled light of usual provisions, such as food and drink, he more than made up for it with the sheer amount of armor, weaponry, and engineering equipment he had on him. That, and he was dragging a fully grown, partially petrified troll along behind him by a length of rope. Despite having saved the shaman from one of the most embarrassing deaths Parigan could think of, his new ‘friend’ seemed rather grumpy and unappreciative of the current situation. “Would you rather I carry you like a damsel in distress?” he had asked with a smug grin on his face before they had begun moving. The troll simply glared at him as the undead tied the rope around his waist. “Look on the bright side, friend. With your arms—excuse me, arm—petrified, as well as your legs, you won’t feel much of anything until after a good night’s sleep.” They had been walking a few hours now, long enough for a storm to blow in overhead. The troll had said barely a word to him since they began. Parigan was growing bored and restless. “So,” he said, “Wanna tell me why you want me dead now, or just keep weighing me down like a silent, tripedal anchor?” The troll said nothing. Parigan snorted in annoyance and tugged the rope a couple times to get attention. “Hello? You still back there, or did I tie this thing to a boulder?” “Why did you…do it?” the shaman rasped in his segmented, slow way of speaking. Parigan made a tsk noise and replied, “Uh-uh, I asked you first. You said before I killed people. Horde people. Did I get someone you cared about, or is this an honor thing?” “Does it matter?” the troll questioned. Parigan replied without skipping a beat, “It matters if you have more friends coming after me. I don’t like surprises.” The troll scoffed behind him. “You should…stay out of Horde territory. Many remember…your actions in Winterspring. Sunwalkers, bounty hunters, soldiers. Grim.” The shaman paused with that last, ominous note. Parigan replied, “By process of elimination, I’d say you’re either a bounty hunter or a Grim. Most people won’t even mention those lunatics without a good reason or a death wish, so I’m guessing it’s the latter.” “Freeing Brinnea Velmon…made you an enemy. Killing fifty Horde…earned you an execution.” Parigan tapped his metal chin with his free hand in mock pensiveness. “Thought it was more like a hundred. Anyway, I’ve met a few Grim, but you certainly are the weirdest one I’ve met. One arm, a hot head, and a face that belongs on a Forsaken alchemist’s operating table.” “So why…did you leave me alive? If not for…the harpies’ curse…I would kill you.” Parigan chuckled softly. “Our little game of hide-and-seek never did get decided for sure. Though, your life is still in my hands.” “Hand,” the troll corrected. Parigan smirked. “Right. Well, I suppose I thought it rather unfitting to let you die in a harpy nest.” “So. I live…or die…on a whim. Just…another day at work,” said the troll. Parigan tensed. He felt a presence drawing closer from the brush nearby. He let the rope drop from his hand – prompting an abrupt “Oof!” from his companion – and drew his sword in a swift motion. A figure in all black sprang out, a blur to Parigan’s eye. The night elf skidded to a halt before him, panting, a smile brimming on her delicate face. Her eyes burned fel green, but she didn’t seem to be looking with them at all. Illidari, huh? He thought to himself. He eyed the oversized warglaives strapped to the huntress’s back warily, but since she had revealed herself without drawing them, he figured it was relatively safe to lower his blade. “Hey there,” the she-elf said as she caught her breath. “Thought I smelled an undead around here. I’ve been looking for one of your kind. Tall, wears all black, heavily armored, and carries a slab of iron he calls a sword. Seen anyone like that?” Her smirk aimed at the ground ticked Parigan off. A smartass, this one. He replied curtly, “What if I have? “Then I’d ask you to point me in the right direction to find him. Duh,” her reply deepened Parigan’s frown into a scowl. “You got something to say to me, or did you track me down just to waste my time?” The elf chuckled, apparently amused. “Well see, warrior, we elves have nothing but time. Oh, or I guess we used to? Sorry, I’m new to the whole mortality thing.” Parigan continued to stare at her. He shifted his wrist, rolling the sword in his hand back and forth, contemplating whether or not swinging it about a bit would speed this conversation up. Luckily, the troll handled it by himself, scratchily shouting, “You! Come to…finish me off…while I cannot stand?” The elf cocked her head to the side at the troll. “You sound sort of familiar. Have we met, troll?” The shaman gritted his teeth and shook in place, still too stiff to move his muscles much. “I’ll teach you…to remember.” Parigan scoffed at the absurdity of the situation. “Let’s hurry this along and get introductions out of the way. We seem to desperately need it. I’m Parigan, but I’m sure you both already knew that.” Crazy follows me like a cloud of stink. The elf stood up straight again with an obnoxious little hop. “Name’s Shanoris. Shanoris Fargaze. Illidari, and currently serving as bodyguard to Lady Esmerra Blackmane of Gilneas.” She added on a bow and an “At your service,” while Parigan scowled at her again. Great. What does Esmerra want now? Could it have to do with Brin? The troll spoke up behind him, simply saying, “Kazarak Bloodskull.” Shanoris sniffed. “Kazarak, eh? Well, Kaz, you have a nasty habit of getting yourself captured. And crippled. Maybe you should switch professions?” Kazarak roared, belching a gout of flame in the elf’s general direction. Parigan sidestepped out of the way, but the fire never even reached Shanoris. She stood in place, smugly. “Oh, that feels rather warm. Guess I struck a nerve. Wouldn’t be the first time I struck you, though.” “Fuck you,” Kazarak grunted as the fire extinguished. Parigan sighed. “Shanoris, get on with what you came here for. Now.” The elf replied with a hmph, “You certainly lack the same manners as your sister. No wonder she turned out the nobler of you two. In any case, she invites you to Shal’aran. Cynthia’s been found, and we thought you might be interested in helping rescue your daughter and all.” Parigan noticed Kazarak’s expression soften for a moment, but it could have been a trick of the light. Parigan himself nearly dropped his blade at the announcement. “Suramar? You’re certain?” The elf nodded. Parigan sheathed his blade. “Tell Esmerra I’ll be there tonight. We’re putting an end to this hunt.” Shanoris smiled. “Now you sound just like your sister. I’ll run ahead and let her know. Try not to fall too far behind, plate-head.” With that, she whipped around and bounded off into the woods, faster than Parigan’s brain could register. The warrior wasted no time gathering up Kazarak’s rope and pulling him with renewed speed. The wet cloak and armaments didn’t seem so heavy all of a sudden. He nearly shouted back at the troll, “There’s a cave nearby I’ve been using for storage. It’s well-hidden, so you’ll have plenty of time to recover and enough provisions to keep you alive. I don’t care if you come after me again, but maybe you’ll consider holding off a couple days, eh? I’ve got something to take care of.” He didn’t bother looking back to see if his guest acknowledged what he said. We’re coming for you Charlotte. Just hold on one more night.
  11. “And you’re certain you can trust what she said?” Esmerra Blackmane looked Brinnea up and down doubtfully, pondering all the death knight had told her. “I already inquired in the orphanage where she worked,” Brinnea replied, face and voice as steely and steady as ever, “The trade has been expected for some time, and there have been many like it already.” Esmerra grasped her chin thoughtfully. The young woman was a vision of beauty and charm, long black hair well-groomed, black leather armor etched with golden curls, and her billowing cloak wrapped around her lithe frame in the dank cold of the cave beneath Shal’aran. She had come in response to an urgent and unexpected message from her sister-in-law Brinnea, who had been out of contact for months after the demon invasion. Such a frantic correspondence was worrying, and drew her attention from matters in Stormheim with the rest of the Gilnean army. “Very well,” Esmerra responded at last, “So what is your plan? Cynthia is a formidable foe, and clever in spite of her insanity. She may smell a trap at the slightest slip. You would place yourself at her mercy.” Brinnea scoffed, though her expression remained unchanged. “I would not choose to face that woman without a plan, but in truth, she should be afraid now. At last we are a step ahead, and we cannot afford to squander this opportunity. Charlotte is depending on us.” Esmerra glanced over her shoulder at her guardians, Illidari Shanoris, her smug expression turned bored by the long conversation, and Walther Vayne, his elderly features weary with the burdens of recent imprisonment by the demons. Esmerra thought to herself, Dare I risk my people in such a venture? Aye, I must. It is my duty as a noble to rid the world of such a menace. I cannot falter. She took a steadying breath and said, “It is a great risk, but I must agree with you, sister. We must act now, or we may never get a better opportunity. My soldiers will come to your aid. Only my finest and stealthiest.” Brinnea smiled warmly, a rare sight from the knight of frost. “Thank you, Es. I don’t know what I would do without you.” Esmerra’s heart skipped a beat. “I—The same to you, Brin.” They spent the next hour discussing strategy, overlooking sketches of the Suramar western ring. They talked over where to position troops to get the best vantage over the meeting place. They nailed down details of how to pin down the enemies, especially the elusive Cynthia. By the end of it, Shanoris seemed about ready to fall asleep. Finally, Brinnea asked Esmerra one last thing. “I would appreciate it if you tracked Parigan for me. Last I heard, he was investigating a lead in Val’sharah. You would be more welcome there than I.” Esmerra closed her eyes and drew a breath for patience. Her history with her brother Parigan was checkered to say the least. Once they had warred with one another, Gilnean against Forsaken, and she had fallen under his mercy. He has not treated her kindly. Not to mention he killed Father, she thought to herself bitterly. She had never forgiven him since, but Brinnea trusted he had changed, so she did not act against him. “I…will send someone for him. I don’t think I can go myself. Apologies.” Before Brinnea could reply, Shanoris practically shouted, “I will find the man! It shouldn’t be a difficult thing. Val’sharah has changed little since I once roamed it in exile. I’ll have him here in mere hours with my speed!” Brinnea stifled a chuckle. “You are an eager one, Fargaze. You remind me of some old friends.” Esmerra didn’t like the way Brin was eyeing her just then. She cleared her throat loudly. “Anyway, that settles that matter. If you’ll excuse me, Brin, I have preparations to attend to. Good luck with your own.” Brinnea offered her a hug. With a slight hesitation, Esmerra stepped forward and embraced the woman, shivering slightly at the chilly touch. “Thank you again, Es. Safe journey!” After exiting the cave that the Nightfallen called their home, Esmerra addressed her companions, saying, “This is dangerous ground we tread upon friends. We must be cautious, or we may lose our way.” Walther dipped his head respectfully, replying, “We stand by you no matter the danger, my lady.” Shanoris snorted. “I am a little newer to serving your house, but what you plan is necessary. We must never shy away from danger if this world is to be saved. We must stand together.” Esmerra nodded to them appreciatively. “Soon this burden shall be done away with, one way or another."
  12. Kazarak struggled to tie a string into a knot, which made setting his trap an annoying affair. The one-armed troll fumed silently as he used fingers and teeth to pull the string taut around a tree branch dug into the ground. After a few infuriating minutes, the trap was set. All that was left was to load the ammunition: toxic darts coated in a fluid potent enough to paralyze a rampaging yeti the size of a human tavern. Kaz figured it should be enough to put the undead into a nice, long sleep. Plenty of time to do away with him. The black swordsman had proven a most resilient opponent. He swung his blade quicker than any warrior Kaz had seen armed so obscenely. He was also highly perceptive, often countering his traps before they even triggered. The shaman had yet to even lay a scratch on the man’s armor. Can’t give up now, though, he thought to himself as he carefully loaded his darts. The Horde lands will remain unsafe so long as he roams free and unchecked. And after he dies, the death knight will follow suit. Kazarak grimaced at the thought of his other foe. His last encounter with the death knight Brinnea Velmon hadn’t gone quite as planned. Not only did he fail to kill, or even harm the human woman, he had gotten himself captured, his guild stone taken, and his pride shattered. Months had passed on his hunt. Now he had a chance to get at the knight’s mate, the undead Parigan. It was time to take back his lost honor. Only then will I dare to show my face to the Grim again. As he waited in a tree for the undead to pass through the chokepoint he had set with traps, Kaz began to feel his body grow distant. It was a feeling akin to tiredness, only Kazarak had been afflicted with insomnia ever since Pandaria. His soul tended to drift off into the spirit world when he sat idle for too long. Another of the many consequences for past failures. Kaz rubbed his scarred throat unconsciously as his vision began to blur between the shimmering leaves in the sunlight and the grey, misty landscape of the spirit world. Then everything went red. Kaz felt his body fade away and his spirit constrict in tendrils of bloody crimson. A large black wolf writhed and barked at massive vines as they held him in place. Despite a show of great strength, the wolf was unable to break free. On the welts where the vines dug into the wolf’s flank and legs, veiny lines like the shadows of sinister fingers wriggled insidiously. The wolf’s hot red eyes locked with Kazarak’s as the troll was dragged to his knees on the blood-soaked floor. MINION! The wolf growled in his mind, I HAVE BEEN IMPRISONED BY A DREAD FORCE OF FEL POWER. IF YOU VALUE YOUR PITIFUL LIFE, YOU WILL DO AS I COMMAND AND FREE ME FROM THIS DAMNABLE NIGHTMARE! Kazarak grunted, trying to pull free of the vines, to no avail. “What,” he began raggedly, his throat struggling just as his body did, “Am I to do?” YOUR OWN STRENGTH WILL NOT BE ENOUGH. YOU MUST CALL UPON THE POWER OF ANOTHER FOR THIS TASK. AND WHEN YOU HAVE FREED ME, I SHALL BE HUNGRY FOR A SACRIFICE. The intensity of the wolf’s eyes burned Kaz’s insides. THE SWORDSMAN IN BLACK, THE ONE YOU PURSUE EVEN NOW. HE MUST BE THE ONE. A SACRFICE WORTHY OF THE GREAT LYCAN! FIND ME IN THE EMERALD NIGHTMARE. DO THIS, AND GREAT STRENGTH MAY YET BE YOURS! The vines drew away as Kazarak’s spirit flew back into his body. The red faded, and other colors began to flood into his eyes. Grass shifted in the wind far above him. That was the first clue that told him he wasn’t where he’d left his body. The next hint was the rope tying his legs to a tree branch, leaving him suspended upside-down over the edge of a cliff, with a grassy knoll far below. His weapons and most of his clothes had been stripped form him as well. The troll sighed to himself. Damned wolf could’ve picked a better time to drag my spirit into the Nightmare. How long have I been out? He spied a harpy’s nest in the cliff face below, but none of the witches were around themselves. Kazarak called on the element of wind to carry him upwards, boosting him just enough to grab the rope that bound him. He lifted himself up to the tree branch and used fire to burn through the bonds. A sound like shifting rocks told him he was running low on time. The branch was cracking due to his movements. Just as he got his feet free, it snapped, and with a shout, the shaman called to the earth, and a hand of rock jutted out abruptly from the cliff face, grabbing his lithe frame as it fell. Kaz took a few breaths, calming his nerves. He had the earthen hand carry him up to the top of the cliff and leaped onto it before allowing the rocks to fall loose to the ground below. A sharp pain shot him in the leg. His foot went stiff and numb as he tumbled to the ground. His flesh felt hard as stone beneath his hand, but he had more pressing concerns as a flight of harpies circled him hungrily, screeching insults and chants. “The prisoner tries to escape!” squawked one as she fluttered about. “One-armed and weaponless, how foolish!” replied another. “A fine statue he shall make.” “Once he knows of our curse!” The witches chanted in unison, preparing another spell to petrify Kaz. The troll sucked in a breath, and hexed one of the harpies fluttering about. She fell to the ground with a squawk as her feathers and talons turned into slimy skin and webbed feet. “Ribbit, ribbit!” she croaked to her sisters angrily. They screeched sharply and channeled their spell at the shaman. His flesh began to solidify all over. He lost feeling and movement in his legs and arm. Damn the luck! I cannot die like this! Just then, a knife protruded itself in a harpy’s neck. She fell to the ground, choking to death. The rest stopped channeling to look where the knife had come from. A tall, dark warrior with a single golden eye glared back from the edge of the woods. “Hey there,” he said insufferably, a grin on his face and throwing knives in his hand. “Am I interrupting something?” The harpies squawked and flew at the interloper with talons baring down on his face. Two more daggers flew before they even got near him, and two more harpies fell, leaving three more in the air. His greatsword flashed from his back so fast the harpies didn’t have a chance to flap out of the way. The three of them exploded in a bloody mess with a single swing. The undead scoffed, returning the blade with a clang to his back. “Guess the party’s over.” His spotted the hexed harpy on the ground, staring at him with wide, dull eyes. “Ah, one last diehard. Time to go home, lady.” He stepped forward, his armor and metal prosthetics clanking with each step. The toad tried to hop away, only to be scooped up by a gauntleted hand. The warrior squeezed, and the harpy popped like a balloon of blood and guts, leaving stains on the armor, cloak, and grass around it. “Whoops, made a mess. Someone’ll have to clean that up.” Kazarak grunted, still struggling to get feeling back in his limbs as he lay on the ground helpless. Parigan seemed to take notice. He walked over slowly. Kaz’s heart pounded. Shit, shit! I refuse to die off my feet! Try as he might, though, the troll could move no more than an inch at a time, and his legs moved not at all. The undead rolled him onto his back with a plated boot. “Hey there, asshole. Looks like you lost.” His blade swung from his back. Blood splattered the grass once more
  13. Parigan wrapped a strip of cloth around his arm, covering a wound oozing grimy, verdant blood. His wounds had a way of sealing up quickly, but loosing too much of the green fluid could still have detrimental effects on an undead such as he. The warrior’s armor sat in a pile beside him as he leaned up against a tree. Nearby, the smell of satyr corpses began to grow as pests flew in to feast on the tattered remains. Blood trails all across the grass led back to the massive greatsword resting in Parigan’s lap. It was more like a heap of black iron than a true sword, more fit for bludgeoning than slicing and stabbing. Yet, with the limitless stamina of an undead, Parigan had grown to appreciate the weapon’s weight. It made short work of foes roughly his size, and made dealing with larger enemies easier. He’d grown somewhat attached to the blade, despite the obvious disadvantages it brought with such girth. Val’sharah’s resident beasts began making noises nearby again. It had gone dead silent for a time, while the slaughter had commenced. Parigan slathered a cloth with oil and rhythmically greased the edges of his blade. He let the near ritualistic pattern of cleaning and sharpening his blade calm his battlerage. And the noises of the forest helped. Just being amidst the greenery and the unnatural brightness of the place made him feel more at ease. I don’t belong in a place like this, he thought to himself. Given his last encounter with the night elven people in Ashenvale, he had every reason to think the elves would be less than thrilled to know he was fighting on their side, let alone in their forest. Let them try and throw me out. I’ll let them taste my blade. Doubt clouded the back of his mind, but he shoved the thought away harshly. No one was keeping him from the search for Charlotte, least of all some repulsive tree-huggers. A twig snapped behind a nearby tree. Parigan tensed, his one eye darting to the source of the noise. He saw nothing at first, but a bit of red fur stuck out just slightly from the side of the tree trunk. His hand moved in a blur of pale flesh, scooping a small explosive from the satchel on his belt, scraping it against his leggings to light the fuse, then flinging it around the side of the tree. One…two…three…bang. BANG! The tree exploded in thousands of wooden bits. Parigan shielded his body with the thick edge of his blade. Once the debris was settled, he stood, his prosthetic leg and arm creaking as he did. Judging by the bloody stain in the grass, he assumed the satyr preparing to ambush him was no longer a threat. There’s always more. He stood still a moment, waiting and listening for more attackers. Silence. Even the animals had stopped their singing again. Then, seemingly from nowhere, an axe flew toward his head. It moved fast and quietly, but Parigan deflected it with his metal arm, sending it harmlessly into the grassy ground. Then another flew at him, this time from the other side. He blocked it with his sword, never bothering to turn around. Then from his left, a blurred figure wearing a wolf hood darted into view, an axe in hand and a knife tucked in a tusked mouth. The lithe attacker, clearly not a satyr, struck at Parigan quickly, aiming for his good hand and leg with strikes empowered by fire, wind, and earth. Each blow, though blocked expertly, left no room for counter-attacks. This guy’s good. But who the hell is he? The troll sprinted around Parigan as the undead attempted to shoulder tackle the lighter combatant. Parigan spun quickly, his blade primed to split his foe in two. But when he had spun around completely, the man in the hood was gone. The warrior scoffed loudly. “What’s the matter? Can’t finish the fight you started?” A raspy voice echoed all around him in reply, “I am patient. You will…fall eventually.” Parigan growled under his breath. I don’t have all damn day. He watched carefully for any sign of the troll, but saw nothing. He called out again, “Maybe you ought to tell me why you want me dead. Not that I don’t have some ideas, but some context would be nice. You know, before I kill you.” He spun around slowly, keeping his eye sharply regarding the surrounding woods. “You killed many…of the Horde. You are a threat…to our people. Our way of life. You don’t…get to live.” Parigan was struck with a bolt of lightning, numbing all of his muscles and forcing him to his knees. The troll dashed in again, his axe aimed for Parigan’s unarmored head. The undead grinned wolfishly as he tugged the rope on his metal arm, and lowered the false hand to reveal the barrel of a cannon. Checkmate. The troll skidded to a halt as the cannon spat forth a gout of flame and metal. Parigan scooped up his sword and charged forward into the smoke, ears still ringing from the roar of his secret weapon. He swung the sword forward, cutting through where the troll should have been standing, or laying as the case may be. Yet his strike cut through only smoke. “As I said,” the voice said again, “I am patient.” The clearing was empty again. This asshole wants to play games? Fine. He’ll learn I play to win by the time it’s too late.
  14. ((WARNING: Graphic scenes, violence, and suggestive themes)) A panicked elf, skin a flawless pale blue glistening with sweat beneath the full moon, huffed and puffed as she desperately fled down abandoned streets in a forgotten part of Suramar city. She looked over her shoulder again, but saw nothing in the dark behind her. It was back there, somewhere. Whatever it was. She gasped for air, urging her legs to move faster, but the fatigue was too much. Her pace slowed. It—it’s going to get me! Her thoughts raced with images of some ferocious beast tearing her apart as her screams echoed into the night, unheard. Her ankle snagged on something in the shadows, and she fell with a shriek. Her nose cracked on the disheveled stone path, spattering blood all around. With a hand on her face, as if to keep the blood from draining, she tried to stand, but even the smallest weight on her ankle sent ripples of pain up her leg. Blood and tears dribbled down her cheeks. “I don’t—I don’t want to d-d-die...,” she moaned meekly. “Neither did I,” a sharp voice, like ice, scraped down the elf’s spine. Shivering, she slowly lifted her eyes up to the silhouetted figure above her. It glared back at her with unblinking, unwavering blue eyes. She tried to back away. A fierce blow to her ribcage sent her tumbling back into the wall of an abandoned building. Coughing and clutching her side, the elf was helpless as the figure stepped forward into the moonlight, revealing a feminine, pale, freckled face, a thin scar across her left eye, and dark auburn hair. Beneath her dark blue cloak, a sword hilt sat ready to be drawn at a moment’s notice. The woman, a human by the look of her, stood stiff and loose all at once: unmoving, but taut like a collapsed spring, ready to pounce. She spoke again, ignoring the elf’s pain-filled cries, “You’ve been doing business with the wrong people, Lisia. You used to take care of children at your orphanage.” The human rested a hand on the hilt of her sword. “Not anymore.” “Pl-please!” the elf, Lisia begged, “You don’t understand those…animals! They threatened me…the children! If-if I don’t deliver…none of them would be spared!” The human seemed unmoved by the pleas. She replied coldly, “So torture and eternal damnation is a better alternative?” Lisia’s breath sped up as she groaned her cries for mercy, “Please! I can’t…I don’t want to die!” She craped against the building, trying to pull herself up. The human delivered a second kick, this time to the elf’s cheek. Blood sprayed across the wall, glittering in the stark moonlight. Lisia collapsed on the ground again, spitting blood and moaning, less loudly now. “Those children will be better off without you,” the human continued, voice still and piercing as a sword’s edge. “But you still have a chance to redeem yourself.” Lisia trembled, tears blinding her. She didn’t bother begging this time. Her tongue bleeding was enough to keep her mouth shut. “You deliver the children to the demons, but who comes to collect them?” The elf took in a few shaky breaths before replying, “Y-you can’t fight them. The Legion, the demons…they are endless. It doesn’t matter what any of us—,” her voice trailed off as the woman standing above her drew a dagger from beneath her cloak, letting the pale edge gleam in the light of the night. The human never took her eyes off of Lisia. “Helpful. But that isn’t what I asked. Who takes the children?” “A witch,” Lisia replied hesitantly, “H-human, like you. Only, with long black hair and fancy green robes. Her eyes were like fire.” The human’s calm demeanor slipped. Her face contorted into an angry snarl. “Where can I find her? Is she expecting another delivery?” The elf shook her head. “If she found out I talked…my gods, she’d take my soul!” The human moved suddenly, grabbing Lisia’s arm with one hand and placing her knife against her blue flesh with the other. The metal was so cold it burned. The elf screeched and squirmed, unable to escape. The human glared at her with a cold fury in her eyes. “Tell me where to find her, or I’ll pick your fingers off. Slowly. I can freeze the stumps so you won’t bleed out, and we can keep going. All—night—long.” The knife pressed down harder. “You highborne make me sick. You call yourselves enlightened and enlightened, but you would throw your neighbors to the demons to save your own skin. Children, too.” Frost formed on the elf’s quivering skin. “I’m just itching to kill all of you.” “The demon’s advance camp at the western edge of the city!” Lisia screamed. “We always met there! She’s expecting two more children by week’s end!” The knife eased back, and the frost stopped crawling up her arm. The human stood slowly. “What sort of escort does she keep?” The terrified elf managed to spit out, “Wr-wrathguards. Usually two, a-and some felhounds. Maybe an observer, I-I’m not sure. I always felt…watched.” The human nodded, apparently satisfied. The knife vanished back beneath the cloak. “Thank you for the information. I promise you, lives will be saved thanks to you.” Lisia seemed to calm down for a moment. Perhaps a glimmer of hope touched her heart at that moment. Brinnea’s sword cut clean through the elf’s neck in one swift motion. So quick, she couldn’t have felt much of any pain before it was over. She got what she deserved. The death knight placed a mask on the severed head’s face for a moment, then attached the mask to her face. In a moment, she had transformed from a human woman to a tall, proud-looking elven orphan matron. With your face, I’ll find Charlotte. For that, you got a quick death. With a flick of her wrist, the corpse expanded before splattering into hundreds of bloody bits, spewing bone, brain, blood, and flesh all over the alley. Then she walked off, not looking back.
  15. “I am grateful you didn’t chop me in half,” Brinnea said, sitting beside Parigan as the pair of them leaned against the wall, looking over the ruins of their living room. “But did you have to hit the couch? You know Esmerra is going to make you pay for a new one.” Parigan chuckled: a sad, tired noise that tried to be mirthful. “Only if you tell her I did it. You could just as easily say it was a demon, or that bitch of a warlock.” It had been an hour since Parigan had regained control. It seemed Cynthia’s little toy could not keep people under control from too far away. That was reassuring. The fact that Parigan had lost all sense of himself just by looking it in the eye was problematic. The last thing the witch needed was to control people wholly. She already did a bang-up job of manipulating without the use of magic. A knock came at the door. Parigan scooped up his sword as he stood. Brinnea approached the door cautiously, and called, “Who’s there?” From behind the door, a woman’s voice called back with an air of demanding about it, “Archmage Doreah Vergan, Kirin Tor Investigator. Open the door, please. I would very much dislike forcing it off its hinges.” Brinnea looked back at Parigan, who shrugged, his weapon still in hand. The Death Knight opened the door, regarding the tall woman outside carefully. She was built handsomely, with a broad face, proud features, and tanned skin to match her dusty brown hair. She was well-trimmed and wore the violet and gold of the Kirin Tor upon her robes. The eye symbol of the mages of Dalaran marked her forehead, which was tilted upwards so she was always looking down at the subject of her gaze. Brinnea was rather less than impressed, but simply said, “How may I help you, madam?” The mage entered the room without asking, barely paying Parigan more than a second’s glance despite the greatsword in his hand. Brinnea closed the door and turned to face the woman as she spoke again, “Your home is rather disheveled. I assume this has to do with the fantastical story I heard only moments ago from those who were taken prisoner here?” Brinnea’s eyebrows raised. “Fantastical? You don’t believe the witch brainwashed my husband?” Doreah sniffed, saying, “My dear, your husband is a murderer who evaded custody of our police force only days ago. The only reason isn’t in the Violet Hold now is due to Watcher Severus’ claim that Mr. Blackmane was wrongly accused. A ludicrous attempt to cover up for his mistake in not capturing your husband, but nevertheless— “ “Why don’t you skip to the point,” Parigan interjected impatiently. “I don’t like being insulted by strange women.” The mage sniffed again, regarding the undead man with disdain written across her face. “The point, Mr. Blackmane, is you are no longer welcome in this city. You have caused enough fuss already, and the demons must be our only concern at present. Since the Watchers claim you have been aiding them in fighting the Legion, you are free to leave. But you must never return to Dalaran again, unless the Council issues an official pardon. I wouldn’t hold my breath, if I were you.” Parigan scowled at the woman, and Brinnea worried things might get out of hand if left unchecked now. “Surely there must be some way we can—“ “Fine, I’ll go,” Parigan interjected. Brin’s jaw dropped. She had never known him to be so accepting of someone forcing him to do anything, much less force him to abandon his home. He continued, “I’ll be out of your hair by tomorrow. Just need to pack some things for my journey.” The mage guarded her expression, but her eyes betrayed a hint of surprise as well. She nodded to Parigan. “Very well. I assure you I’ll be keeping a close eye on you until that happens.” She snapped her fingers and vanished in a flash of light. Parigan scoffed, muttering about show-offs and mages. Brinnea watched Parigan go into the other room to gather his belongings. She called to him from the living room, “Are you really leaving? Now of all times?” Parigan carried on packing, but replied, “You heard what she said. I’m not welcome here. And to be honest, I can barely sit still long enough to feel like I’m home. I have to go fight my own war now.” Brinnea stepped into the master bedroom where his possessions had been stored. She grabbed his shoulders from behind, straining to keep tears from welling up in her eyes. “But why?” she asked. “Why do you have to go alone? I’m here for you, no matter what.” “No,” he said clearly, shrugging her hands off his shoulders. Brin stepped back as if she had been struck in the face. Parigan spoke again, “Where I go, you must not follow. And you need to get back to Esmerra. I don’t belong with the Gilneans anymore. They won’t accept me.” Brin’s face lit up with anger. “I’ll make them accept you! They trust me, now. Why won’t you at least try?” Parigan shoved a compact crossbow roughly into his belt bag, his frustration clearly showing. “After everything I did to them, they would never fight alongside me again. Even Esmerra refuses to forgive me, and rightly so. I murdered our father, Brin. I drove a dagger into his heart! It doesn’t matter that it was war, that we were enemies. I betrayed them. And I belong with my own kind now.” He turned, leaving his half-packed bag on the king bed behind him. He took Brinnea’s hand in his and looked her in the eyes. She couldn’t hold back the tears now. They froze as the drifted down her pale cheeks. “What if we never see each other again?” Brinnea asked, her voice of steel trembling. “How will we save Charlotte if not together?” Parigan wiped her icy tears away, and gave her a confident smile, saying, “We have to take the Isles first. You and Esmerra can lead the Blackmane bannermen into combat. Raise the sigil of our house once more, and show the Legion not to trifle with a true noble family!” Brinnea breathed a laugh, hugging Parigan with all her strength. “You make me sound like a knight from one of Father’s stories. Whatever will I do without you, Pari?” “You’ll become greater than any knight, my love. When we meet next, you will have earned a place in history as Brinnea, Legion’s Bane. And we will find our daughter together. Until then, I have some old friends to bother in the Undercity.” And so it was, the next day, that the two departed the floating city, each headed down different paths. Parigan flew north from Deadwind Pass towards the dead lands of Lordaeron, and Tirisfal. Brinnea returned to Westfall to find Esmerra, and prepare for the trials ahead. She wondered to herself, as she had a thousand times before, if the war would ever end. If she and Parigan and Charlotte could ever live as a family, peacefully. No, she answered herself, the war’s end is but a fable. There is no end to the fighting. To the struggle for survival. But there are moments of peace, in which we may build something that will last through every war to come. May that peace come to us soon. Cynthia watched through an Observer’s eyes as Brinnea and Parigan went their separate ways. She smiled to herself, amused by how predictable her little playthings were. She opened her true eyes and cast her gaze on the chamber around her. It had been elegantly crafted long ago by the elves, and had been offered to her as a place to lay her head when she needed rest. So long as she showed her dedication to the Legion, she would have anything she desired from the doomed mortal world. Her door opened without warning, and in stepped a large satyr woman, her plumpness hidden under a dress of fel-green leaves. Cynthia frowned at her unannounced entry. “You’re early, hmm,” she said unamused. The satyr grinned widely, showing her sharp teeth behind her lips. “Apologies, mistress Blackmane,” she satyr grumbled, “When you said you had a present for me, I was overjoyed! I came over as quick as my feet could carry me!” “Hooves, Letraxia,” Cynthia corrected rudely, hoping to prick the satyr’s intolerably cheerful demeanor. “You have hooves, hmm?” Letraxia waved a hand dismissively. “Hooves, yes, that’s what I said. Now, what is this gift you’ve got for me, eh?” Cynthia motioned with her hand, and an image of a young girl, messy auburn hair draped down her face, nearly covering her grey eyes, appeared in the air beside her. The satyr clapped her hands excitedly, licking her lips. “Yes! I love it! She’s just so precious, isn’t she?” Cynthia let the image hang in the air for a time, then snuffed it out with another flourish of her hand. “You are to care for the child in your home. No harm must come to her, hmm. She is too invaluable to let any harm come to her.” Letraxia composed herself and placed her hand on her chest, swearing, “I promise not to hurt her, mistress. Oh, this is going to be such fun! When will you deliver her?” Cynthia clasped her hands together. “She’s already on her way. Now remember, Letraxia, her parents will come for her, hmm. And what do you do with people who try to take your children from you?” Letraxia’s body rippled with fel magic she grew several times her size, her height reaching to the ceiling, and her girth to either wall of the massive bedroom. Her eyes pulsed, an angry verdant flame alight in each. She yelled at the top of her lungs, “I SMASH THEM!” Cynthia smiled, pleased. “Yes,” she said smugly, “You shall smash them, Letraxia. You shall indeed, hmmm…”
  16. Brinnea flew back into a hellstorm when she returned to Dalaran from her meeting with General Larmont. The demons hadn’t stopped their assault after several days. Whatever Khadgar had brought from his trip to Karazhan, it was drawing them relentlessly down upon the city. Brin had told Parigan to rest a while, and tend to his wounds when last they spoke. She wouldn’t be gone long, she had said. Brinnea hadn’t expected to be gone so long. Might be Pari had gone back to the fight. He needed the outlet for his rage. Loosing Charlotte, and her father… it had been difficult for him. Brinnea dipped her cloud serpent toward her apartment balcony and leapt onto it quickly, allowing her mount to retreat out of harm’s way. She steeled herself to face Parigan, if he was even here. Her conversation with the General and her cousin had left her mentally drained. Learning of her former comrades’ suffering had broken her in ways she didn’t think was even possible anymore. She needed the outlet just as much as her husband did. The Death Knight unlocked the balcony door and stepped in. Cynthia sat on her couch. The warlock’s gleaming golden eyes regarded her with amusement, and her black lipsticked mouth parted with a toothy, triumphant grin. Brinnea’s frozen heart unfroze, skipped a beat, and froze again. Her expression twisted from shock, to anger. The witch spoke to her casually, as if enjoying a lovely conversation with an old friend, “Hello darling, hmm. It’s been…too long.” Brin’s blades were in her hands and out of their sheathes before Cynthia could get another word in. She didn’t have to, though. The next thing Brinnea noticed was Parigan standing beside the couch, his sword resting against the neck of a kneeling man she didn’t recognize. Two more unknown people kneeled beside the first, all lined up for a clean triple decapitation. She stopped in her tracks, confused and betrayed face eyeing the man she loved. It doesn’t…make sense…none of it. Her thoughts raced maddeningly. The witch’s voice cut through her thoughts like a knife, “Please, none of that. Your guests are already…on edge, hmm?” Brinnea spat her reply, “What the hell is going on here?!” The witch’s smile never wavered. It drove a red-hot spike into Brinnea’s mind. She wanted nothing more than to let herself go and tear her apart. It took everything to hold herself back. Cynthia replied calmly, still stuck in her own little world, “I wanted to visit you, hmm. You seem lonely, from everything my spies tell me.” Brin’s eye twitched. She went on, “Ever since you cut your way through that village. That did wonders for ruining your career in being a peacewalker…” “My life is none of your fucking business, you deranged--,” she was cut off by the sound of Parigan’s false hand falling away, revealing the cannon beneath it. His face was masked behind his faceplate. Cynthia went on, “Such language, hmm? Not a safe place to raise a young child. I should know, I had five of them. All wonderful young boys and girls. But they all died.” She made an overly exaggerated sigh and said, “Such is the way of things, isn’t it? At least my darling Mayes survived that war, hmm. But he betrayed me.” Brinnea stared at her, afraid to move, or speak, or think. The witch had a way to get into her mind that baffled and horrified her. She waited until finally, she continued, “Oh! You wanted to know why I’m here, hmm? Well, it’s quite simple, isn’t it?” Cynthia stood from the couch, hands spread wide. Brinnea flinched, desperately keeping herself from moving more than an inch. “I missed you! You were oh-so-entertaining to watch those years ago. Chasing after ghost stories in the cold desert.” “If I remember correctly,” Brinnea began carefully, barely a whisper above her breath, “That all ended…when you stabbed me in the back.” Cynthia scoffed. “Still holding on to that, I see. Well, I’m sorry to hear that. I hoped we could move past it.” Brinnea interjected, voice raised back to normal volume, “Maybe we could have, but you took my daughter. You killed—my—father.” “But he deserved it didn’t he?” Brinnea’s body went numb. Cynthia stood in front of her, her every atom insulting Brin. “You told me what he did to you, hmm. As a child. To you and your family. He had this coming for a long time. And your daughter…Charlotte. My spies tell me you’ve been distancing yourself for her sake. I assure you, hmm, she’ll be much better off with me.” Brinnea’s will broke. She drove her swords at the witch’s midsection, but hit only air. She vanished, leaving behind a pile of hot ash. Her voice called to her from back on the couch, “Still with the anger, tut tut. Your man is getting impatient too. So, I’ll cut to the point. My masters rain fire upon your home, and soon you’ll have a question to answer. A very important one. What would you do to save your daughter?” Brinnea gritted her teeth. “Anything. There’s your Light-damned answer, witch. What did you do to my husband?” Cynthia sighed. “You are such a bore, hmm,” she said in mock frustration. She flicked her wrist and from behind the sofa a skull floated, its eyes glowing purple. It seemed to be a talisman or a magic source of some sort. Cynthia stroked the skull as if it were some pet. “This…is Keridthidus, the Dreadweaver. He was a brilliant demon, until some elf slew him in the nether and made a trophy of his skull. I retrieved it, naturally, proving my worth to the Legion. Oh, and for good measure I made the demon hunter my pawn. The skull still has some of the demon’s magic in it. He was talented at making mortals do what he wanted. One word, a snap of his fingers—“ she waved a hand at Parigan. His grip on that massive blade of his wavered, then tightened again. Brinnea felt a slither of hope. He’s still with me. If only I could free him… “So that’s your plan, huh?” Brinnea said. “Get both of us condemned to prison, only for us to escape, thus making us both enemies of our factions. We’ll have nothing and no one left to support us as we fight our way through the Broken Isles to take our daughter back from the clutches of the Legion. A tale worthy of the bards!” she finished with mock enthusiasm. “I’m certain at the end of it all, you’ll have a big, fiery rock to crush our bittersweet ending like the sociopath you are.” Cynthia laughed, a boisterous guffaw. “What a plan! Did you come up with that just now? My my, your mind works fast, hmm. But no. And unfortunately, I can’t tell you of my plans just yet. Word from on high. If you have a problem with my methodology, my friends are just outside. Take it up with them, hmm?” Another abyssal crashed into the floating city just to prove her point. Cynthia continued, “In any event, I have more business to attend to. Pari, dear, clean up the mess, hmm?” Parigan brought his sword back. Brinnea threw herself against him. The two of them tumbled to the ground. A flicker of flame marked Cynthia’s swift exit. “Fight her control, Pari! You’re stronger than her!” proving her point, Parigan threw her off him. She barreled over the living room table. Parigan raised his blade to crush the screaming hostages with an overhead strike. Brinnea leveled herself and blasted him with cold air. Enough to freeze him in place, mid-strike. She moved fast and untied the prisoners, telling them to get out as fast as they could. They ran, and Parigan crashed his way out of the ice. Brin stood between him and those escaping. She spoke to him with a level voice, “You planning on going through me, Pari?” He yelled, raising his blade. She dropped hers. He paused. She continued, “Think about our daughter, Pari. I know I do when I lose myself. Picture her, you have to!” He roared, swinging his blade.
  17. I find it funny how fitting a couple of Kex's artifacts are for my toons. As long as no one else was planning on using them, I was considering bringing them into play myself.
  18. “Help!” a raggedy man in tattered rags screamed, struggling to keep running through the burning street of Moonbrook. “Somebody please, help!” A pack of felhunters stalked at his heels, close enough for him to feel the burn of their breath itching at his legs. He had no strength to run further. Then, suddenly a shadow dipped from the sky and a burst of air flattened the demons. A flying serpent with black scales crackling electrically flicked its tail back and forth as it hovered just above the ground. The air kicked up dirt, forcing the man to shield his eyes as he gazed up at the woman riding the beast. Brinnea slid off her mount, urging him to fly out of sight for now, a phrase she had learned in Pandaren from the serpent riders. The beast nudged her playfully, awaiting something eagerly. Brinnea grinned and dug a side of beef from the dragon’s riding bag and tossed it into the air. The beast climbed into the sky, gulping down the meat greedily before taking off for the hills nearby. The transient she had rescued stared at her in awe. She turned to him with a warm smile. “Come with me,” she said calmly. “There’s a safehouse set up in the Deadmines. I’ll show you the way.” She extended a gauntleted hand. He reached for it carefully, nodding as if he didn’t speak Common. An ear-splitting roar drew Brin’s attention down the road. A mo’arg brute had caught sight of them and had begun to charge. The homeless man panicked and screamed as the huge demon closed in on them. The Death Knight put herself between the man and the demon, drawing a blade. “Not to worry. I’ve got this.” The demon’s blade came down towards her, shattering the cobbles beneath where he feet had been. She slid past the demon’s leg and sliced it open with a frost-tinged blade. The monster roared in pain, swinging about wildly to catch the elusive knight. The back of his huge hand struck Brin in the head, knocking her to the ground with a thud and a grunt. She pushed herself off the ground as a heavy foot crashed down on the ground with the intention of crushing her. Dark blood was dripping through her hair, but she paid it no heed. Instead, she tossed a blast of frost into the demon’s eyes. Expecting another wild assault, she stepped back, narrowly avoiding a swing of the huge sword. Then, she lunged forward, freezing a lance of ice at the tip of her sword, and impaled the demon’s chest where its heart should be. Judging by the monster’s jarring spasm, her strike did the trick. It collapsed in a heap between Brin and the terrified man. With a quick glance around, she saw no more demons in the area. She wiped her blade clean with a hand, using a rune to fling the fel blood off her hand magically. Then, she sheathed it. She gestured for the man to follow her, offering her hand again. He took it much more quickly this time. Within the Deadmines, Esmerra tended to the wounded folks from around Moonbrook. She’d called her troops to Westfall from Stormwind when the demons had begun invading, and focused their efforts on relief for the common folk. The Stormwind military was focused on defending Sentinel Hill, a valuable military target, but the local farms and towns were left largely undefended as waves of Legion forces rained down on their rooftops. King Greymane had begun rally troops for a new offensive, so until they were prepared, Esmerra awaited word here. Brinnea had been happy to join her, and besides, needed a place to keep the Grim prisoner. Neither of them wanted any of the attention it would bring if it got out to the Alliance or Horde they were keeping a Horde shaman as a captive. Brinnea entered the cave with a new refugee following closely behind her. Esmerra smiled weakly at her older sister. It had been a long day healing many who didn’t make it, or didn’t stay in one piece. It weighed heavily in her mind. What was worse was both Walther and Gorbin, her retainers, had gone missing on the Broken Shore. She knew that should mean they were dead, but not knowing for certain made her feel more miserable. Brinnea kneeled beside Esmerra, and the man she was with sat, taking a deep brief of relief. Brinnea spoke, “Es, this is Pieter. Pieter, this is my sister Esmerra. She’ll take good care of you until the demon’s siege breaks.” Esmerra offered him the most welcoming smile she could muster. He smiled back, his cheeks flushing at the sight of her. Esmerra was, by all rights, a beautiful young woman, with flawless tanned skin, an hourglass figure, and long, silky black hair. Her bright brown eyes held a sparkle of mystery, enough to send goose-prickles down most men’s arms. She’d grown used to it, though she never let herself get too attached to anyone who sought to win her hand in marriage. She hadn’t found the right man for her yet. Brin put a hand on her shoulder. “Moonbrook’s clearing up,” she said. “The portals around the perimeter have been torn down. Of course, new ones could pop up at any time, but for now we’ll have some quiet.” Esmerra put a hand on Brin’s. She replied, “Thank you. You’re making a difference for these people.” Brinnea shook her head, saying, “Nonsense. I just clean up the messes. You save their lives. In any case, I should get back out there. There’s a few more farms I haven’t checked yet.” Esmerra tugged the Death Knight’s gauntlet as she rose. “Wait,” the young druid said, “There was a report brought in by one of my mages. He just came from Dalaran to listen in on the Kirin Tor’s news, and he said the city was attacked. The demons were repelled, but…I think you should go there. Charlotte, your father…and Parigan; they could be hurt.” She said the last name with reluctance. There was still a rift between her and her older brother since he had sided with the Forsaken in the war for Gilneas. He’d been the one to cut off their brother’s head when the Forsaken stormed the city. He was the one who put a dagger in their father’s heart. She couldn’t get the sight of either of them out of her mind. She knew Parigan was trying to do right by her, to make up for everything the war had done to tear them apart, but she just couldn’t bring herself to forgive him. Brinnea’s icy gaze drifted to the dirt-covered stone floor. With reluctance, she stood. “Yes, I should return. It has been…too long already. I’m sure they are alright. Parigan would never let anything happen to Charlotte.” Esmerra called for her mage, who blinked into the scene quickly. He opened a portal to Dalaran and motioned for her to step through. Keeping her nerves about her, the Death Knight stepped into the city… Parigan sat at the foot of the apartment spire, his sword leaning against the wall beside him. The mages were already reconstructing and cleaning from the attack the day prior. Most of the damage had already been swept under the rug, as if nothing had happened. Torven’s body was taken to the city morgue for examination and preparation for burial. The guards had recognized him, but they did not apprehend him. He could tell they were keeping a close eye on his location, though. His mind wandered, trying to think of how to tell his wife that he’d lost her father and their daughter in the same day. Nothing seemed proper, nothing he could say would ever prevent the sorrow and anger she would feel. But since he did not know where she was, all he could do was wait for her to return, to find the home she had put together for their family empty but for him. Completely empty, actually, since he did not have the heart to climb those stairs again, only to find the place silent and dead. “Pari?” a voice softly called to him from down the street. He looked up, surprised to see Brinnea standing before him, her armor badly damaged from battle and scorched by fire. Apprehension marked her usually calm demeanor. He stood and, leaving his blade behind him, ran forward and took her in his arms. “I’m so sorry, my love…she took them. That witch Cynthia stole our daughter…and killed your father. And I…I wasn’t there to protect them!” A sob hopped from his throat, and tears rained from his left eye unbidden. It would have struck him as odd once again that tears could even be produced from his rotting corpse of a body, but at that moment, no thought sprang forth but that of those he’d failed. Torven, Charlotte, Brinnea, and so many others. Brinnea pulled away, her hands on his arms. She looked up into his one good eye with her glistening, beautifully glowing eyes. She said, “Shhh, it’s alright, love. You did all you could. I know you did.” Sniffling, he pulled her back for another embrace. She was strong when he couldn’t be. She was forgiving when his rage or fear got the better of him. He loved her all the more for it. “I know where she is,” he breathed softly in her ear. “That…vile bitch left a map leading right to her. A trap, I know. But it’s all we got.” Brinnea nodded into his chest. “We’ll get her back. I know it. Let’s go inside. She’ll want her room ready, for when she comes home.” They walked up the stairs together.
  19. Black smoke billowed in the distant sky, drifting above the sea of clouds below the city of Dalaran. The wind blew the black pillar towards the city, threatening to smother it and its inhabitants. Parigan stood watching the smoke from the landing platform on the edge of the city. He carried a sack of supplies for training and teaching Charlotte, as well as some food to make a proper meal. Despite Torven’s experience at housework, he was still hopeless at cooking. Someone had to feed the kid, and Parigan wasn’t a terrible cook, himself. But those concerns had left his mind. Rumors were spreading that Lady Proudmoore had recently returned to the city from battle in the Broken Isles. The rumors said the Alliance and Horde had lost, and that demons were invading Azeroth. That, and Brinnea hadn’t sent any word of her whereabouts in weeks. It was more than enough to worry the ever-paranoid warrior. The thud of plate boots and the soft shifting of cloth robes broke Parigan’s trance. He turned to see a small force of mages and Violet Watchers form a semi-circle around him. One of them, apparently the leader, stepped forward and addressed him impatiently, “Parigan Blackmane! We received word that you were hiding out in the city. You, a fugitive of the Horde and the Alliance, are not welcome to muddy the already uneasy peace in Dalaran! Furthermore, evidence was presented linking you to the destruction of a storefront and the deaths of three citizens. Make this easy on everyone, and disarms yourself. Come quietly, or we will be forced to take action!” The man, a stocky human with pasty white skin, bright blue eyes, and silky blonde hair, drew a claymore from his back and motioned for those around him to arm themselves as well. Parigan bared his teeth as he regarded those around him. Not much chance to take them all down, he thought to himself. Wouldn’t help matters much to kill anyone, either. He glared up at the spire in which his daughter waited for him. Bah! This is no time for doubts. Charlotte needs me! He placed a hand on the hilt of his greatsword. The stocky man growled a warning, “Just try and fight! You’ll be put down before you get a swing in!” Parigan grinned wickedly. “You sure?” he asked incredulously. “We’ll just have to see, then!” He leapt into the air at the guardsman, who blinked in disbelief. The mages readied their spells and sent bolts of frost at him, only too late. He landed on top of the leader’s torso, pinning him to the ground and knocking the air out of his lungs. The claymore went spinning out of his hands. The other guards closed in, lances and swords at the ready. The frostbolts hurled over their heads, headed straight for Parigan. The warrior hefted his greatsword and smashed the bolts out of the air in one swing. These mages are certainly orderly. And predictable. A guardsman thrust at him with a lance. He blocked, then tackled his foe to the ground, bounding towards the mages at the back line. The other guards shifted and attacked from behind. More frostbolts threatened to pelt him from all around. Roaring with rage, he spun wildly, slicing bolts out of the air, and bashing weapons aside expertly. He tossed his blade past a nearby mage, forcing the woman to back up, losing her focus. He rushed forward, grabbing her around the neck with his prosthetic arm. Enough pressure, and he could have snapped her neck. The others recognized the danger and halted. Parigan scooped up his sword and backed up slowly. “That’s two swings. If you don’t want to see a third, I’d suggest you back off.” The leader, adjusting his cape as he stood, barked at him proudly despite the precarious situation, “You despicable brute! Just like a filthy rotter to take a hostage rather than fight fairly!” Parigan tightened his grip, forcing a scream out of the mage’s agape mouth. Some of the guards threw their weapons aside without being told. The leader continued to stare defiantly. The undead growled back at him, “You know, it isn’t wise to prod a wolf with its jaws already around your friend’s neck! Tell them to stand down, and we all live another day.” He backed up further. The ground beneath his feet began to give way. Thinking quickly, Parigan kicked the mage toward her allies and stepped back from the spot as a snarling felhound burrowed out of the stones. Parigan grimaced and hefted his sword. More demons were popping out of the ground now. He noticed the smoke was engulfing the city now. In the black plume he could see bursts of fel green. The demons were attacking Dalaran. Torven closed the window, coughing on the smoke as it drifted into the kitchen. Charlotte was too busy studying a magic scroll to notice the disturbance. She took to her studies well, and eagerly. He was certain Brinnea would be proud to see her. If only she were here. I hope she gets well soon. The girl’s missing her mother already. A knock at the door stole his attention. He walked over to it, ruffling girl’s hair as he passed her. He unlocked the door, and it burst open suddenly. A spear, pulsating with green fel energy was thrust through the entryway at him. The old mage gasped and blinked backwards, appearing beside Charlotte as the spear passed through an apparition of himself. He grabbed the child and lifted her into his arms. “Ahh! What is that?!” Charlotte shouted, pointing at the felguard in the doorway. Torven backed into Charlotte’s bedroom, slamming the door shut as the demon entered the apartment. “We need to get out of here!” he said frantically. Demons in Dalaran! Is nowhere safe anymore? The demon pounded on the door. Torven opened the door to the balcony and rushed over the edge, casting a slow fall spell on the both of them. A tug at his clothes quickly turned into a hand grasping his waist. It materialized out of thin air, yanking him back onto the balcony. Charlotte screamed as tendrils of shadow tore her from his arms. “Charlotte!” Torven shouted. More tendrils grasped him as well, pinning him to the side of the tower. The face of a void lord emerged beside him, staring him in the face. Looking in those eyes was like staring into an endless abyss. Charlotte was tucked into the demon’s other hand, still kicking and screaming, scared out of her wits. Torven was panicked, and trembling despite himself. A doomguard drifted out of the smoky air to hover in front of him. A figure shrouded in bloody black robes regarded him with eyes of burning gold. Black hair shivered in the gusty air beneath her hood. She grinned wickedly, eyes wide with murder. “You must be the proud grandfather, hmm! That makes us kin!” Her hand lit with a fel green flame. Torven struggled to call on his magic to free him from the demon’s grip, but nothing happened. It was as if fear had prevented him from casting even the simplest spell. The warlock’s fire grew larger in her hand. “Allow me to…welcome you to the family, hmmm!!” Parigan raced through the city streets, cutting down demons as he passed them. Terrified and surprised citizens watched with wide eyes as the city guard struggled to suppress the burrowing demons. Parigan ignored them all as he neared his destination. The spire was shrouded in the black fog. He couldn’t see what state it was in from here. Panic wormed its way into his breast. Charlotte, please be alright! It was unlike him to pray for anything, but he found himself desperate as he raced to the entrance of the tower. “Hold up! Get back here, you!” a familiar voice called from behind. Parigan glanced back, sighing in exasperation as the head guard from before rushed after him. “I know you had something to do with this, you traitor!” He brandished his claymore at him, swinging it about like an old man at some hoodlums on his front lawn. “You idiot,” Parigan called back angrily, “Don’t you have a city to defend?” The guard huffed as he followed, “Indeed! And I’ll start with you, Legion scum!” Parigan shook his head and deigned to ignore the fool. That is, until he heard his shouts turn to screams. Looking again, he saw the man flat on his back, a fel hunter licking its chops in anticipation of a meal. Parigan grumbled impatiently, wondering to himself, What the hell would Brin do? He turned back and charged at the demon. The hunter snarled at him as he approached, and leaped as he grew near. His blade sliced the creature out of the air. Its body fell in two pieces on the stone path. Parigan hastily picked the guard off the ground, put the fallen claymore in his hand and said, “Fight the demons. Defend the city. Stop being a daft lummox!” The guard simply stared at him dully. He whirled and took off again. If that fool cost me my daughter, I swear I’ll skin him alive! At the foot of the tower, a figure in a violet doublet lay motionless. Parigan sucked in a sharp breath as he recognized the figure as Brinnea’s father Torven. He was burned from head to toe, and a felbat was gnawing at his arm hungrily. Roaring, the warrior sliced the gluttonous bat apart and knelt to check the mage for any sign of life. Torven was breathing faintly. Parigan shook him gently. “C’mon old man, don’t die on me yet!” Torven gasped for air, his voice raspy from inhaling smoke. His body crackled green and sizzled from the burns. He reached out to Parigan, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Char—lotte. Taken…,” he rasped painfully. Parigan grimaced, his one eye wide with fear for the girl. “Who? Where?” he asked hastily. The mage shook his head. “Warlock. Hu—man. Woman. Flew…away.” He pointed weakly to his chest. Parigan noticed it was marked deliberately to look like a map. The burns resembled a string of island he once saw on a map in his father’s study. The Broken Isles. An “X” marked a spot on the map in the southernmost point of the largest island. He memorized the position. It might be his only chance of saving Charlotte. He took Torven’s hand in his own. “Thank you. I’m…sorry for everything I did to hurt your daughter, old man. I’m sorry I wasn’t there to save you today.” Torven shed a tear, but it evaporated on his burning skin. A final breath left his lips. Parigan bared his teeth angrily, and let out a cry of rage and pain.
  20. As the ship approached the isles, the light she had seen in the distance had grown brighter, until a ball of fire hurled itself forth from the maw of brightness and engulfed all Brinnea could see. It moved so fast, she had no chance to shout a warning. She grabbed Esmerra, who stood mesmerized by the incoming projectile, and ducked down, placing her body between the girl and the fire. Green runes surrounded them, a shield to absorb the magical fire. As the ball made impact with the vessel, the crew shouted and screamed, engulfed in flames instantly. Brin could feel the heat begin to penetrate the shield. Glancing behind her, she could see the entire ship was set ablaze. Anyone not leaping over the side was roasting. Gritting her teeth and holding her sister tightly, she shot a lance of frost through the fel flames, subduing them long enough to charge through and leap into the shallows below. She kicked hard, and froze the water below her feet to give the pair of them something to stand on. As Brin and Esmerra resurfaced, they witnessed the Black Fang’s mast fall over into the sea, and the ship began to teeter and sink. Other Alliance ships nearby had been scuttled or sunk as fel fire rained from the sky. What appeared to be some sort of airship radiating green flames flew high overhead, bombarding the shoreline with raw fel death. Brinnea shouted to those floating nearby, freezing a path to shore in front of her. The Gilnean and Alliance troops scrambled quickly onto the path. As the Death Knight and young druid ran past, they helped up those who had been burned or could not get a good grip on the icy walkway. Once they reached the shore, they caught sight of a gathering of Alliance troops. The beach was covered in wreckage from airships and sea ships alike, bearing Alliance and Horde sigils. The High King Varian was rallying the reinforcements as they arrived, joined by Jaina Proudmoore and Genn Greymane. Esmerra called to those around her to prepare for battle. Brinnea drew her blades, eyeing the demons on the high ground inland. Nowhere to run now, she thought to herself. She forced the rage of war down and concentrated on keeping Esmerra safe. The druid’s form changed into that of a worgen, and then grew wispy, and twinkled like the stars. She called to the winds, the sun and moon, and nature itself to surround her and her allies. Brinnea was no expert on fae magic, but she could tell that here on the Broken Shore, nature’s power was faint. Then the King sounded the charge, and the Alliance answered. Kazarak was submerged in water, choking on the blood of dead sailors and soldiers. Using the water around him, he hurdled himself up into the air, catapulting his body onto the wreckage of a sinking ship. It was marked with Alliance and Gilnean banners, he could see, but he could not tell where the crew of the ship had gone. In an attempt to take out the Death Knight Brinnea Velmon, he had snuck aboard the vessel she had chosen and waited below decks to strike when the time was right. He knew they were headed to the Broken Isles to fight the demons, and he would use the fight as a distraction to bring her down. However, the first sign of battle had been a fireball through the hull of the ship, which had nearly crushed and incinerated him. Only a quick reaction and use of the elements had saved him from a fiery end, but he had lost consciousness long enough for his prey to slip away. Kazarak spotted the remnants of the Horde fleet down the beach, and deigned to join the fight there, rather than try and infiltrate the Alliance army to search for the Death Knight. He shifted form into a ghostly wolf and padded his way swiftly across the waves. He arrived with the Horde host just in time to join the charge up the beach. He weaved through the line of demons, delivering powerful strikes to their legs and torsos as he ran by. His aim was to bring down the demonic runes powering the portals that brought their reinforcements. Only then could the Horde take the beach. With the fury of the Maelstrom, he struck one down as the rest of the Horde joined in bringing the portals down. He looked across the sea of Horde, searching for his Grim brethren, but there were too many to discern the sigil from the crowd. Warchief Vol’jin called to his people to advance into the heart of the Broken Shore, and Kaz followed, moving with the body of the Horde troops. The thunder of boots on the ground and warcries taken up all around him was deafening and invigorating. It took a special kind of battle to bring out this sort of excitement in Kaz, and he was prepared to soak in the blood of his enemies until none of them were left standing. The battle had raged on for a time, to the point where Brinnea had lost track of how many demons she had cut through to keep the vanguard intact. Esmerra backed her up with lances of moon and sun fire, and kept enemies at bay with intense gusts of wind. Brin was impressed by her sister’s newfound skill, but remained focused on keeping the Legion’s forces from getting anywhere near her. At last, the Alliance and Horde forces had found Gul’dan. The warlock had Tirion Fordring in his grasp, much to Brinnea’s dismay. The paladin had been responsible for freeing her from the Lich King’s control once, and she had nothing but respect for the old knight. Seeing him enthralled and in pain was heartbreaking. Still, she had faith that the man would break free, as he once had against the Lich King’s icy prison. When the massive demon emerged from the fel fire and burned him, his screams of agony broke Brinnea’s resolve. She nearly collapsed to the ground. A hero such as he falling in brutal agony, the Light failing to protect him – it was unthinkable. She was reminded of how futile the fight truly was. No one person could stand before a Legion and win. But then Esmerra placed a sterling hand on her shoulder. The determination on the druid’s wolfish face put the courage back in Brinnea’s heart. She wasn’t alone anymore. And together, they had a chance. She readied her blades as the beast rampaged towards the Alliance forces… Following the retreat of Fordring’s killer, Kaz and the Horde forces had taken a position on the cliffs overlooking the Alliance’s battlefield to cover the skies and bring down the portals through which an army spewed forth. Wave after wave of demons washed over the Horde forces, forcing them back again and again. Every time Kaz felt the tide of battle shift in their favor, another line of the Legion’s lapdogs came forward to quash his hope. A call to retreat to the cliffs was sent out to the troops. Kaz grimaced as he nearly took the full brunt of a felguard’s charge. He sidestepped, but a second too late. The demon’s axe cleaved through his shoulder and he felt his arm go limp. His axe clattered on the rocks at his feet. Growling in pain, he fell back to the cliff as three felguards surrounded him, each readying their axes to finish him off. With one foot nearly dangling off the edge, Kaz saw no way to escape. Baring his teeth behind his Zandalari mask, he ran forward, leaping over the axes as they swung at him. With all the strength his wounded throat had left, he bellowed, “FOR…THE…HORDE!” A bolt of lightning met his axe as he plunged it into the head of a felguard. A burst of air struck the second off the cliff. The third swung his axe around for another strike, only to get stuck on a pillar of earth which rose from the ground at Kaz’s call. The troll swung a swath of lava from his axe, burning the demon’s legs. Then he drove his axe into its skull. Another wave of demons was already heading his way. He was cut off from the Horde troops. A horn bellowed above the din of battle, and he watched as his comrades began to flee back to the shore. He spotted Sylvanas, with a wounded Vol’jin on her mount. Kazarak panted, his arm throbbing in pain. He noticed the wound was oozing green corruption, and acting quickly, he amputated the arm with a swift strike from his axe. The pain was extreme enough to numb his entire body. Demons were heading his way, but he could not flee now. All he could do was tug himself toward the cliff, and tumble off the side. Brinnea’s heart sank as the Horde fled the battle in the cliffs above. “Without the Horde, we’ll be overrun!” she overheard King Greymane shout. Esmerra was glaring up at the cliffs angrily. Brinnea could tell her anger was directed towards the Horde, who were supposed to have their back in this fight. Though Brin felt the sting of betrayal as well, she did not linger on it. The Alliance forces were fleeing to the incoming airship as a wave of demons bared down on them from the great spire ahead. As the Death Knight turned to run for the ship, she spotted a figure rolling down the side of the cliffs. A troll, wounded and oozing blood along the rocks as he fell. She was close to the rock wall, but the rest of the Alliance troops were fleeing. She told Esmerra, “Get to the ship! I’ll meet you there!” and tore off running for the troll. He’d been abandoned, just like the rest of them. He deserved a chance to survive this, and get home alive. Brinnea slid to her knees, grabbing the troll by his one arm and draped him over his shoulders, holding his legs in her other hand. As more demons approached, she slipped through the shadows, taking the form of a phantom to travel fast and avoid the Legion’s attacks. She managed to catch up with her comrades and climb up the rope ladder to the vessel’s deck with the troll still on her back. Then, a massive demon grabbed the ship, nearly sending all of them over the side. She shouted defiantly, grabbing the edge of the ship with one hand, and holding on to the troll’s arm with the other. It seemed like an eternity, holding on for her life as the ship fell to the earth. Then, all of a sudden, the demon’s grip loosened, and they pulled away. She yanked the troll onto the deck of the ship and sat with her hands on her lap. The weight of an intense fight lay on her. Though fatigue was a distant memory as an undead, she still felt something akin to tiredness in her as they departed from the Broken Isles. Esmerra found her by the edge of the ship. The pair embraced. Esmerra had tears in her eyes. “The High King. He fell. I saw it happen; he saved us!” She sobbed quietly. Brinnea held her close, lending as much comfort as she could. “This was a decisive loss,” Brin said sadly. “The Legion is more powerful than ever. We have to stay strong, or we’ll all lose.” Esmerra sniffled and nodded. Her eyes drifted to the troll. “He needs medical attention,” she said, her sadness and fear gone in the face of her will to save another. Her hands glowed with the force of nature and she treated the fallen man’s severed arm. Brin hadn’t had a chance to get a good look at the troll on the ground, but now she stared at him with wide eyes. On his chest was a singed tabard, black, with the mark of the Grim upon it. The same shaman that had attacked her in Stormwind. A hand drifted to the sword at her side. She watched the troll closely for any sign of consciousness, ready to strike at any indication of a threat. The propellers of the airship beat constantly and rhythmically. Many miles still back to Stormwind, to tell the people their enemies still came. With the dread of seeing the people’s downtrodden faces and the suspense of the Grim’s eventual awakening, this was going to be a long ride.
  21. ((Updated with a lot more information and a long history lesson.))
  22. The sun rose again on a dark day. The sun’s rays seemed tainted by the long arm of the Legion. Ominous clouds spread overhead, and green smoke rose from the horizon. The city of Stormwind was in a state of one with breath drawn. Everyone awaited the storm to come, all afraid to tear their eyes off the sky for too long. Word had spread of some small incursions in the lands at the border of their kingdom, but the true proof of what the doomsayers had warned was in the sky. Brinnea walked through town in shredded clothes, body covered in claw and bite marks, gashes from blades, and discolored skin from blunt trauma. Dark blood caked her all over, sending chills and sometimes screams down the streets as she passed by. The guards gave her uneasy looks, but left her alone. Her destination was just ahead then: the bank of Stormwind. She’d left her gear there when she had chosen to give up her weapons to the General, but she had use of them now. Following the demons’ attacks the night prior, Brinnea had met with the Night’s Watch on the road to Darkshire, who offered her news of the Stormwind army, only recently returned from combat on Draenor, mobilizing for an attack on the Broken Isles on the Great Sea. Every Alliance race had sent troops and representatives to prepare for war with the Legion. Brinnea guessed that if she were to find her sister-in-law, it would be there. After withdrawing her medical supplies, combat surplus kit, armor, and some backup rune weapons, Brinnea cleaned herself up, put on her gear, and headed down to the docks to sign up for the fight. She found a familiar face assigning newcomers to ships – and old friend called Captain Randolph. The red-haired knight looked up from his paperwork as she reached the front of the line. He frowned deeply. “Velmon. You shouldn’t be here. After everything that happened, I can’t just let you waltz back into the army. If word got out…well, it would be bad for both of us!” he growled sourly as she simply crossed her arms and frowned right back. “From the mess I saw in the south, I’d say you folks could use all the help you can get. Besides, I’m with Esmerra Blackmane, Lady of Gilneas. If you send word, she’ll vouch for me.” The warrior groaned and pinched his forehead in annoyance. Reluctantly he sent a runner to find Esmerra and told Brin to “Step out of line and wait patiently.” He also added, “Oh, and try not to murder any potential allies while you’re at it.” She grumbled as she leaned against a wall of supply crates. Redhelm was a dutiful, honor-bound man who would follow orders if it meant standing in a fire until his legs burnt to the bone. Brin had had the pleasure of working with him in Pandaria, where they had often gotten into disagreements. Despite his rank, which would easily have let him dismiss her from service for her brash behavior, he had kept her around and the two had become something more than friends. But that was in the past, before she even knew Parigan, her husband, was still alive. Brin and Rand had ceased contact shortly after the start of the Draenor campaign. After about ten minutes of brooding and staring angrily at Captain Redhelm, Esmerra appeared from the crowd of soldiers and upon sighting Brinnea, sprinted into her arms with a warm, loving hug. The young druid laughingly said, “Brin! It’s so good to see you again!” Her bodyguards caught up to them, apologizing their way through the line of new volunteers Esmerra had just barreled through. One was an elderly worgen dressed in a large set of serving man’s clothes, and the other a rather large highland man with bright blonde curls and facepaint that accented his wide blue eyes. Brin warmly greeted the older man, Walther Vayne. They had worked together to search Duskwood for threats once, and he had been an invaluable source of knowledge and advice for her. The other, if she recalled correctly, had a very high-pitched voice that surprised her for his great size. She offered him a polite nod, which he returned stiffly, saying nothing. Esmerra drew back from their hug with a bright smile on her face. “I’m glad you came to help us. There’s no one I’d rather have fighting for Gilneas than you,” she said. Brinnea smiled back, her hands still planted on her little sister’s shoulders. She had watched Esmerra grow into a beautiful woman before Gilneas fell, and they had always been close. The Death Knight replied, “Are you prepared to lead in battle again?” Esmerra nodded, her face still beaming. “Of course; Father taught me everything he knew about war, and with you by my side, the Legion doesn’t stand a chance!” She looked back at Captain Redhelm, who was giving the pair of them a look of impatience. Esmerra straightened herself and addressed the captain, “Sir Redhelm, this woman is in my employ and directly serves the Gilnean Crown. She will be permitted on my ship as she sees fit.” As she turned back around, she paused and said, “Oh! I’ll even fill in the paperwork, if it will speed things along.” Captain Redhelm sighed and replied, “That won’t be necessary, my Lady. Do with her as you will. Only, do so quickly. We have a schedule to keep.” Esmerra nodded properly and led Brinnea and her guards to the dock at which her ship awaited. The Black Fang towered above them; it was among the finest military vessels ever appropriated by the Gilnean forces after the exile from their homeland. Esmerra’s father had built a small fleet, but had lost much of it in battle at Silvermoon. The Black Fang had survived the Forsaken fleet by its speed and superior hull strength. Brinnea was glad to see a ship of such promising background protecting her little sister. Esmerra directed her onto the ship’s deck, where sailors prepared the vessel for departure and soldiers drilled for combat. The Gilnean flag flew proudly from the top of the main mast. Raindrops pelted Brin’s helmet as the weather drew greyer. The knight said offhandedly, “Between the Gilnean tabards and the weather, it’s starting to feel like we’re back at home, eh Es?” Esmerra snickered and rubbed her hand along Brin’s shoulderplate. “Someday,” she mused, “After all of this is over, we’ll get to go home and rebuild. You and Pari and little Charlotte can have a house in the country where no one will bother you. She’ll grow up happy. We’ll all be a family again. Someday.” Brinnea glanced off into the horizon, where the sky was darkest. Even though it was dark and stormy, though, she could still see a glimmer of light out there. She smiled. “Es, I promise I’ll do everything I can to make that dream come true. Tomorrow is a new day.” She pulled the young woman in for another hug. “But today, we have a world to save.”
  23. The musky dark forest of Duskwood reeked of undeath and putrid sickness, even more so than usual. It seemed something had seeped into the very roots of the woods, or so Brinnea inferred. She wasn’t very in-tune with nature, but she knew the shadow of death when it reared itself above the world. Though she carried no weapons, she still prepared for a fight here. In a clearing ahead of her, a cottage of Gilnean craft appeared, dimly lit by whale oil lanterns. It seemed little more than a silhouette in the darkness, but Brin recognized her sister-in-law’s home as if it were her own. She approached cautiously, on the lookout for Esmerra’s two bodyguards, but saw no one at all. With doubt filling the back of her mind, the Death Knight stepped up to the front door and knocked three times. No response. The malicious shadow drew nearer, as if drawn by the sound. Upon another search for the threat, Brinnea noticed something especially troubling. The common sounds of a forest -- the cricket’s chrip, the owl’s hoot, even the distant sounds of water from the nearby river rushing past – none of it reached her ears. She was alone, by all appearances, and yet she felt something draw ever closer. With a flick of her arm, Brinnea expended the power of a rune and formed a sword from frost crystals in her hand. She called out to the presence in the woods, “Come out! Show yourself!” The silent foliage offered no reply. All of a sudden, the sky crackled and brightened, nearly blinding the knight below. A sour green cyclone rippled into existence, and from it rained fire, equally verdant. Brinnea ducked out of the way as one of the flames rumbled from the sky onto the house she stood before. Wooden shrapnel flew in every direction, impaling itself in the grassy dirt. Brin rose quickly to face whatever had landed. A fel brute leapt from the wreckage, sending a tremor out around him as he landed, flattening the grass and charring the land with unholy flames. The Death Knight wasted no time engaging the demon, charging sword-first. The brute roared and swung his fiery blade at the frail human’s body. She ducked beneath it, and shattered her own makeshift blade in her adversary’s abdomen. She then grappled his head with a tendril of shadow, yanking him onto his back. She proceeded to strike the brute’s head with a fist of frost, freezing it down to the skull, while simultaneously shattering it. The brute’s body twitched as it disintegrated into ashes. Brinnea could feel his demonic soul returning to the Twisting Nether, and lamented her inability to shatter it completely. More fireballs were making contact around her now. Brinnea formed a pair of frosty swords and shouted to the demons around her, “If you want to get into Azeroth, you have to go through me!” The Legion’s forces turned to face the knight, clad only in cloth and wielding little more than icicles. Their laughter echoed as they charged at her. They were not prepared for the frozen hell they had stepped into.
  24. Waves lapped against the rocky shoreline down below. Stars twinkled in the night sky high above. A brisk wind lapped at the tattered grey shroud wrapped messily around Brinnea’s shoulders. A somber shadow lie across her face, uncovered by the hood flowing freely in the breeze. Her icy gaze was cast out at sea. The first tendrils of sunlight rising above the horizon sent the stars into hiding, and dimmed the light of the moon. It was quiet here, in the newly rebuilt district of Stormwind. It was a place of contemplation and prayer to honor the departed. She thought it fitting to remain here while awaiting word from the General. There was plenty of departed to recall. Even a prayer or two found its way to her lips. Sitting at the edge of the stone circle, she could see the harbor district, the lighthouse island, and far out to sea, where the multicolor light of the rising sun reflected beautifully. It felt peaceful. From the training in meditation she had received from the monks on Pandaria, Brinnea could tell that this place was by far the most spiritual part of the city, even rivalling that of the crypts below the cathedral. Yet it was not enough to shed the doubtful clouds from her stormy mind, nor warm the frozen tundra of her heart. There were people here. Eyes in her back. Her survival instincts – the only ones that seemed to work anymore – told her that lingering in such a place, weaponless, was a terrible idea. A sense of danger trumped the tranquility of the space. She felt an outsider. An aura of displeasure surrounded her from the onlookers. They despise you, a voice told her. You are an enemy, or a symbol of the wrongdoings that brought them to this place of peace. You don’t deserve to rest fitfully. Try as she might, the voice could not be silenced. Brinnea abruptly stood from her bench and flipped her hood up, shading her face from the beauty of the rising sun. Following a downward path, she set out on a walk down the stone-covered beach of Stormwind. The feeling of wariness and distrust slowly faded as she shied from view of the city. Yet her guilt still haunted her at the back of her mind. Fists clenched, teeth gnashed, and face contorted in a snarl of frustration, Brinnea let out a roar of anger and slammed her fists into the hard-packed sand. Where she made contact, earth gave way in place of frozen crystals, which shattered, leaving behind a chilled crater, with the Death Knight in the center. She remained in her spot, eyes and face now drooped in sorrow. She curled into a ball, hugging her knees up against her slim chest. The heightening sun’s rays blinded her. She squinted as her eyes welled up with tears. She lay her forehead against her folded knees and hid her hooded visage from the light. In the dark, she saw visions of them. Tauren, orc, troll, and others. Many more. All of them mutilated, head severed and bloody. Some had clearly been bitten with eyes, noses, ears, or other parts sheared off. All of them stared at her lifelessly, in horror. There was no fight left to push them back. They swarmed her, and the whispers followed. Why did you kill us? Why do you hate us? Please, have mercy! Give us a chance… You heartless monster! Let me go! No, no…! I have…a family…spare me… They called to her, a chorus of pleas and curses. It was deafening and blinding all at once. The images blurred together into a mist that swallowed her up. The whispers grew louder and louder until she felt herself being crushed under the weight. Then, slowly, they faded from her. The fog drew back from her vision, and the weight eased. Only one image appeared before her. A woman of great beauty, with waist-length red hair, bright blue eyes, flawless pale skin, and a heroic figure garbed in a paladin’s robe. Mother. ‘Why are you crying, Brin?’ the phantom asked with great concern. Brinnea lifted her head from her lap, allowing light to flood her eyes. The phantom sat on the water, nearly invisible in the light of the sun. Brinnea rubbed cold tears from her freckled cheeks and replied with a weary voice, “I don’t know if I can go on like this.” ‘What do you mean, little one?’ her mother’s ghost asked, love and care dressing her face. Another voice, one belonging to a younger Brinnea, replied in the Death Knight’s stead, ‘Am I bad? Is that why Daddy tried to hurt me?’ The scene on the water faded, making way for a dimly lit camp in the woods. Three figures sat around a fire: her mother Maria, the eight-year-old version of herself, and her older sister, Christa, who was a young teenager at the time. Maria placed a strong but gentle hand on the younger child’s trembling shoulder and said, ‘No, you aren’t bad. And your father doesn’t hate you. He’s just…lost and confused.’ The young Christa frowned deeply and scoffed, saying, ‘What he did was unforgiveable. Owen’s been gone for almost a year, but none of us are still hung up over it! He had no right to treat us like that.’ Maria turned to her eldest, replying sternly, ‘Young lady, that is no way to speak of Owen or your father!’ The young Brinnea said meekly, as Christa huffed and looked away from their mother, ‘Is Dad really unforgiveable? Did he make a mistake that bad?’ The Death Knight’s eyes widened with realization. She knew the words that came next, and mouthed them as she heard them from her mother’s ghost. “Nobody is unforgiveable. No matter how many mistakes you make, no matter how bad the things you did were, you can always make up for it.” The vision dissipated like a raincloud as the sun’s rays pierced it. She was fixated on her mother’s gaze before the scene vanished from view. The determined and caring look in her mother’s eyes that night, and the words of hope did what she had thought was impossible. It had lifted the storm in her mind, even just a little. And her frozen heart felt a bit warmer. A flicker of hope had been lit within her. She held on to it, and didn’t let go. The earth beneath her trembled and rose unnaturally to surround her huddled body, locking her in place. She felt a presence before she ever saw anything coming towards her. A ghostly wolf, the spirit form of a shaman. Its eyes were two different colors, one blood red and the other piercing blue. It approached from the sea, padding across the waves as only a shaman would. Its form changed into that of a male troll, becoming solid as he stepped onto the beach. He regarded her from behind a scarred Zandalari mask. Two axes were in his hands, but he held back rather than striking. Brinnea looked him in the eyes, awaiting a sign of attack or some word to indicate his intentions. After a brief inspection of her by the troll, he spoke, voice gruff and raspy, “Brinnea Velmon. You…do not hide well.” Brin sighed, replying, “I’m through with hiding.” She noticed as the troll stretched his back a symbol engraved on the tabard he wore. A red cloaked skull figure with twin daggers resting on a black background. The symbol of the Grim. Her eyes narrowed as she continued, “A Grim. Took you long enough to reply to my message.” The troll cocked his head, saying, “I am new…to this hunt. But you…took less time to find…than anticipated. All who report seeing you…claim you are…proud and unwavering. Yet, here you sit. Huddled and defeated.” “People change. We don’t have to do this. No one needs to get hurt because of this. Not you, and not me. We can walk away from this and end the bloodshed. Isn’t that what you Grim want? Peace?” Brinnea regarded the troll with a sturdy demeanor, despite her obvious disadvantage. He snorted at her notion of peace. “That sort of peace…is a fantasy. Only your death…can prevent my people’s suffering.” He tightened his grip on the axes, but remained firmly planted. “If that’s what you’re here for, why haven’t you attacked already? Why even talk to me?” “You are a…powerful and clever opponent. Any attack…would be anticipated and countered.” “What then?” she asked curiously, “What is your plan here? Talk me to death?” The troll’s face twitched eerily as if he were grinning madly behind his mask. “No. I merely delayed you. For this.” He tossed his axes to either side of her body. Each blade glimmered with elemental power, and sheared a gash in the sand on each side. The gashes grew, until they met beneath her feet. By then, Brinnea had gathered her runic power for a powerful storm of crystals, which weakened and shattered the earthen mold around her into tiny pieces. She leapt away from the gash, though it felt as though it grabbed at her very soul with invisible tendrils. She rolled, regaining her feet as the shaman cast a hurricane spell to pull her back to the strange portal in the ground. She froze her feet to the ground, seeping her frost deep into the beach. The Death Knight called to the troll over the galeforce winds, “I don’t want to fight you, but I won’t allow you to take me, either!” He lunged, axes flashing into his hands in a burst of wind. Unable to dodge due to her planted feet, Brinnea triggered her blood runes, tugging at the blood within the troll’s veins. She forced his arms to pause before landing his attack, then she covered her hands in frost and pounded his chest hard enough to send him flying back onto the beach. His portal faded now that his axes had been removed from the ground. The troll growled in annoyance at his trap being foiled. Brinnea’s boots of frost cracked and fell to shards around her boots. “Walk away,” she said sternly, empty hands at her sides. “I don’t want to hurt you.” “You are a creature…of murder,” he replied, “It doesn’t matter…what you want. You will kill…or die.” Then he lunged. Brinnea forced his body into the rock face of the cliff to her left with a shadowy hand. His axes triggered a pair of giant boulders to fall free of the wall A chain reaction of cracks weakened the side of the wall, and several large rocks fell loose. One, greater in size than Brinnea and the troll combined, fell towards them both as smaller chunks bounced painfully off their skin and armor. The shaman stumbled from his impact with the wall. He would be unable to get out of the way in time. Brinnea gritted her teeth in defiance. She gathered all her power into a fist and met the boulder in midair, crystalizing the inside with freezing runic power. Combined with his tremendous undead strength, the boulder shattered into small bits, showering the beach, and the troll below. Though he might be bruised by the impact, he was at least alive. The Death Knight landed roughly, sprawled out on her hands and knees. Her attacker still girded himself for a fight despite having been saved from his own self-ensured demise. Brinnea regarded him sadly, until she heard human voices far behind her. Apparently some of the guards had noticed the results of their fight. The troll made a tsk noise and shifted into his wolf form once again, while saying, “This isn’t over.” He raced back across the water, out of sight in the sun’s light as Stormwind guards rounded the corner of the rocky cliffside. The lead guard addressed Brinnea, “Are you alright? What happened here?” Brinnea cast her gaze out to sea once more. She spoke to the guard calmly, “Nothing. A landslide, and nothing more.” The guards were surprised, as if expecting something worse. The head guard replied with uncertainty, “Do you…require an escort home, miss?” “No, I’ll find my own way back.” She carried on down the beach wordlessly, leaving the dumbfounded guards to stare across a beach marred by melting crystals of ice and bits of rock.