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  1. Kumai and Qabian sit across from each other at a small table. In front of her is a crude map of the Shadowlands, drawn by herself, as best a representation as she could manage for something that is at its essence metaphysical, some blobs, lines between them, marked with angel wings, a swirly tree, a skull, three other blobs unmarked. To her left are two piles of ash, one dark, one light. Her fingers play idly in the dark pile. To her right is a length of paper with a tiny quill on it. Magic shimmers over the quill now and then, but for the moment, it lies still on the page. Her face looks drawn, as though she hasn't slept in some time. On the floor beside her chair is a helm made of swoops of gold, thoroughly unlike anything she's worn before. Qabian sits with his face in his hands, the heels of his palms pressed over his eyes, his fingers gripping handfuls of his own hair. In front of him is a steaming cup of coffee with a long leaf limp over its edge, stirred but not sipped. Beside their table is a wide picture window looking out onto a bright Dalaran night. Kumai lets herself watch the couple of citizens walk the street below the apartment while Qabian tries to understand all the things she has just told him in all the ways she has of telling. Behind him, a large fire in a large fireplace burns merrily, but it somehow fails to chase the shadows or the chill from the room. The room is several times the size of his tiny Silvermoon lair, and tonight it feels like a wide empty stone hall full of echoes. "The afterlife?" Qabian says incredulously, looking up at her. He's said the same word in the same incredulous tone a dozen times already. She doesn't turn away from the window, while she makes two signs for him, 'stop' and 'area'. "They still die." She doesn't bother nodding. "And they go nowhere. Or the Maw. So to die and yet fear death, it is no afterlife, merely another life, a life taking place beneath and beside us, merely a world that is reached by a spirit instead of a ship." She continues to watch the evening street, her fingers making swirls in the ash on the table as she lets her friend think himself aloud to wherever it is he needs to be. "But so many worlds. And Bolvar has people walking them now, walking between them, taking bodies to walk where spirits walk. Trying to... And Sylvanas... And Tyrande..." He drops his face into his hands again, pulling at his own hair. "I hate this. I hate this so much." Kumai smiles at him then. 'I know,' she signs. He looks up too late to see. "All right. You are going back?" She nods, making a sign with her thumb for 'tomorrow'. "I have no reason to go there, do I?" There's strange emotion skewing Qabian's voice -- concern, desperation. Fear. She raises an eyebrow at him. She opens her palm over the map in front of her, and the piles of ash swirl threads into a vague representation of Azeroth floating over her hand. A breath from Qabian's nose in place of a laugh. "The world can burn. I'd rather build up to doing that myself, but if someone else beats me to it? Fine." Kumai smirks. The globe illusion drops to ash in her palm and reforms into a spinning book floating over her left hand, open flat with its pages smoothly flipping. In her other hand, she holds a bright yellow flame with white arcane sparks at its center. Qabian scowls. "Knowledge and power." Kumai smiles. "You know me well." Qabian sighs and leans back in his chair, staring at the coffee which refuses to stop steaming. Kumai nods. The Argent over Icecrown seems like a lifetime ago, even though it was closer to a matter of days. The Ebon Blade took over the Argent's work, to her dismay, but perhaps it was inevitable, with how interwoven everything was becoming with the very nature of death, that the death knights lead the charge. 'You going?' she signs at him. "Maybe." Qabian frowns down at his drink. "The secrets are tempting, but the price for them may be more than I can afford to pay." He finally takes a sip. Kumai lets the ash and magic in her hands dissolve, and reaches over to put her fingers on his arm. He doesn't flinch, but looks at her hand with confusion on his face, then frowns at her. Her touch is brief, and she turns her wrist to lift the ash once more into a slowly spinning symbol of the Grim, hooded skull and daggers. Qabian sighs. "I don't know. I don't want to know. It will be hard enough to make such a journey without them. They would only make it harder." Kumai frowns in turn. He knows the questions she's asking. "With the Alliance, on this world, the Grim make sense. They don't make sense anywhere else," Qabian insists. "They never have. They never will. There are no steps beyond the first step for them." Kumai holds out a palm, gesturing to the door on the far side of the room. "No," Qabian says, lowering his voice. "They are still my people. For all we still have left to do in this world. If this world is torn apart by these new secrets, then yes, I will leave. Until that day, while any still walk under the lions' banner, the Grim have whatever serves for loyalty where I'm concerned." Kumai shakes her head and stares at Qabian for a moment, then lets the symbol fall back to ash. She stands up and begins to pack away her things. "You're leaving?" Qabian asks, blinking up at her in surprise. She just nods and continues. "Of course you are. You must. What fresh hell Sylvanas has unleashed. She saved us from the Scourge, and now she dooms us to something worse? And there are those among my people who will never believe her wrong. Even I have my doubts, despite everything you've told me," Qabian muses, his gaze drifting around the room as he speaks. Kumai listens as she puts each thing in its place, paper rolled away, ash in its pouches, quill in its case. "What does she think is right in this? Is it simply the ability to harness the Scourge to her will? There are so many secrets behind that shattered sky, and I fear most of them. I am not used to being afraid, not since the dragons lost their interest in me." The way the thoughts and feelings roil through Qabian's mind is audible in his words and his voice, but he stands up and walks her to the door despite how immensely he is distracted. "I don't know quite what to do with everything you've told me," he admits, "but thank you for all of it. With you, at least, I have some freedom to try and wrap my mind around the details." Kumai smiles with a shallow nod of her head, carrying her gold cage of a helm under one arm. Her fingers stained dark with ash, she puts her palm over her heart and smiles at him. 'Safe secrets,' she signs to him. Before she closes the door behind her, she takes a small stone and a wine bottle from her bag and passes them to Qabian with a smile. He looks surprised, but the door closes on him before he can ask questions.
  2. Kumai tosses and turns before giving up on sleep entirely and going to write a letter. - Do not come here. If the Death Knights ask you for help, tell them to leave you alone, then run as far and as fast as you can. What they are going to ask of you will torment you with your memories. I have a fraction of the memories you do and am struggling. This will tear you to shreds. Run. ~K
  3. Kumai flopped herself down in the mountain of pink and lavender pillows she had carefully curated in her room in Razor Hill and stared up at the ceiling carved out of the stone of the cliff. In his haste to get things arranged for the fast approaching disaster in Icecrown, Qabian had thought to send her a note, asking if her new people knew what was going on, describing what he had learned, what the Death Knights were saying happened to the Lich King, and urging her to prepare. In a sense, she knew more than he did, because she had actively offered to help the Argent Crusade and had been there herself, while he was avoiding it like, well, the plague. But Kumai still felt disconnected, like this was not her fight. And it was not her fight. It was a needed fight, a save-the-world fight, but it just was not personal for her. Even when she joined her new friends on a pilgrimage to send the souls that had been blocked from peace on to the next place, whatever that place might be. Much like her mentor, Kumai did not like to delve into the business of souls. The fact that they could clearly be manipulated and yet every people and culture treated the afterlife entirely differently made the spirit world a subject and a place she avoided, a subject and a place she would deal with when forced and not before. She wasn't exactly being forced now, but she still felt a curious sense of obligation given what happened, and she was intentionally avoiding acting on that sense. She grabbed one of her pillows and crushed it to her face, a scream that would have been just as silent unobstructed, then got up and went to her little table. - You are right. The next thing is happening. I have been helping in Icecrown, but it seemed to me like the stories of Northrend were clawing their way out of their shallow graves. New circumstances, new questions to answer, new problems to solve, but mostly the same story in the same place. Now I think that's wrong. This is not the same story. Or it may have started as the same story, but... A new door is open. It is not only about puppeting corpses and the mindless rage of the angry dead, but it is affecting spirits the world over, even those that long abandoned their bodies. The Tauren here are planning to cross to the spirit realm. Or something like it. Without dying first. How... My mind balks. One the one hand, I do genuinely want to offer to help. They seem to desperately need to do this and need the help to see it through. It makes little and less sense to me. Those lives are over and their effect on the living is in their stories not their metaphysical... whatever is in those totems. But they all seemed very certain about what was needed, and very emotional about it, and I have no reason not to help. On the other hand. What. The. Actual. Fuck. I guess stranger things have happened than casually walking into an actual, palpable, interactable version of the afterlife, and if there was ever anything that could make me believe such a thing is possible, it's the state of Icecrown right now, but... I'm afraid. I wasn't before last night, but I am now. The actual walking angry dead are very easy to set on fire. Stepping into another world where I'm not even sure how magic will work? I can only imagine what you're thinking and feeling. This seems like something you would have nightmares about. I guess your project is on hold, isn't it? I can keep you informed if you want. A little fear never stopped me before. Take care of yourself. ~K
  4. Kumai stood on a perch overlooking Mord'rethar: The Death Gate with a deep frown etched into her face. She was used to cultists. She had spent enough time with the Hammer to have a certain familiarity with the nihilism that might convince one to put their efforts into bringing about the end times. The past echoed in her mind as she watched the agents of the Scourge going about their work. Add your Voice to our glorious chorus, for it is the song that will end the world. But this cult was different. It had a fascination with bodies that she was not used to. The Hammer liked to play with dragons, dragons and chaos, and she herself had been sacrificed on an altar, so they certainly had their own attachment to death, inevitable when bent on destruction, but there were fewer, well, corpses. She had never seen the appeal in necromancy, even and possibly especially after meeting the few Forsaken she had the pleasure of interacting with. The Damned were not her cult, nor were they her fight. They were not her story. They were a story told by others - the treason in the Scar that went through Eversong, the ruination of the Sunwell, the war that gave her things in common with people she had no right to have things in common with. And here they were, the Damned insinuating themselves into her story. She wasn't sure how to deal with the mess they were making. She had her magic, and she plied it at the Argent's direction. Perhaps that was all she could do for now. Save the world. It was important. It was. Even if sometimes she felt like she had to convince herself of that. You can only spend so long destroying the world before saving it seems contradictory. She leapt off her perch, blinked out of sight and reappeared on the landing, a few shambling horrors took notice and veered slowly in her direction. Her hands lit up with flames. However this ended, if she lived, she would have stories to tell, and that she looked forward to.
  5. Kumai kneels at the edge and trails her fingers in the lava, her arm flickering with fire magic as she does. She avoids coming back here in the waking world, but in her dreams, she finds herself here more often than not. The lava hisses and bubbles as it slowly moves, and for those who know how to listen, a voice can be heard. "Come. Come home," the lava whispers. "Pass," Kumai says in a voice she only hears in her sleep, a voice that hurts to hear between her ears. Usually in these dreams, she speaks with fire as she used to, before she realized she was speaking to herself. The dreams have a satisfying feeling to them, like she works out problems in direct conversation with her own consciousness. But this dream feels off, feels different. "That tabard is going to get you killed," the lava whispers, echoing words she heard a few weeks ago, words of warning she heard many times before first deciding to wear it. Kumai frowns. Fire knows nothing of politics, of petty grievances, and her own voice has dealt with this problem already. "Why?" she asks in her painful voice, not expecting any answer. "Look," the lava whispers. Kumai looks up and sees a silhouette approaching, red eyes, big hair. Kumai sighs. "She is a friend. She does not get me killed." "No?" The lava hisses. Ninorra's silhouette steps into the soft glow of the lava, though her eyes still shine from a face hidden in shadow. The silhouette offers a hand to Kumai. Kumai smiles at the gesture and takes the hand. "See. Friends." The shadow Ninorra's grip is iron and cold. "Friends," it echoes with a crackle of fire. A spark of pain jolts through Kumai's hand and she looks down at it. The shadow's grip glows with green flame, melting away Kumai's skin, but rather than the flesh revealing bone beneath, it falls away to show silver metal filigree, at the center of which glows white purple magic. "What friends do for friends," the shadow says. Kumai tries to pull away, panicking, but the grip on her hand is impossible to escape. Elegant, elaborate curves of metal creep up her arm, replacing her skin as it burns away, slowly, past her elbow, past her shoulder, as she struggles. "No!" Kumai cries out, then the flesh of her throat burns away in the fel fire's wake as it spreads to her body, her voice reduced to a flash of white-violet in a filigree cage. The fel fire moves down her chest, burning away her clothes, her tabard, until her frantically beating heart stops, dissolves, and is replaced by a slow pulse of white magic within the metal curls and curves of her new ribs revealed by the fel fire. There's nothing inside her, nothing left but the cold calculus of the arcane. "This is what you wanted," the lava whispers at her side. "Isn't it? Now you are heartless, too." -- Kumai starts awake with a gasp, her blankets damp with cold sweat. She flinches when her arm touches the wall and finds stone instead of wood before she remembers where she is. When she does, she calms herself, forcefully, but her attempts to convince herself to go back to sleep result in tears, until she decides to wake up and get some air.
  6. Kumai had made herself something of a nest in her room in Razor Hill, a garish one, but that leaned more to the pastels than some of Ninorra's other dramatic decorating choices. The orc mage wrapped herself in a plush zhevra-print blanket made out of something unnatural, too soft, with a sheen that caught the flickering lamplight, definitely not actual zhevra, and sat down at her little table with a new sparkling pink quill and a few pieces of lemon scented paper with a floral pattern in the corners to write a letter. - He has forgotten me. It seemed important to tell you. Was it actually him? Was it someone else following me that day around Warsong Hold? I was so sure it was him, but it was so long ago now. Perhaps it is my memory that's faltered and not his. I was content to listen. It's difficult to make that clear with pictures. Just let me listen. I want to see people. I want to see how many of them are actually as bloodthirsty as I was, how many have other priorities in their lives besides dealing death, and what those priorities are. I now understand the warning you gave before teaching me the basics of some of the other Horde languages. I have no qualms listening to people's Orcish conversations that don't include me, but it felt somehow more rude to be able to understand the Taurahe. Why would they have switched to it unless they thought they could only be understood by each other? At least they left before they got explicit. He knew signs. Did you know he knows signs? Mostly he knew signs. He put in the effort, and his mistakes were a sweet sign of just how much effort he was making. I think he's the first person I've encountered who already knew them, but then I don't usually introduce myself with them. I try not to introduce myself at all, or use the ash if I'm pressed, but he was looming. He's intimidating when he's standing and you're sitting. I've taken pieces of the decor from other rooms around here. I'm not sure if anyone will notice. The only people I see lurking the hallways much are Garinth and Vilmah, and the occasional visitor at Vilmah's office door. After so long in Dalaran, it's strange to be back to seeing mostly orcs day to day. He said my tabard would get me killed. You made that clear from the start and I made this decision anyway. If it does, it does. I don't think it will, though, or they would have been wiped out long ago. They are as persistent as yours. I do not think they are easily discouraged, no matter how intimidating and serious the person threatening them may be, so I will try to be as they are. Persistent. I am more concerned this tabard will get you killed, but if he has actually forgotten me, you may be in the clear. Everyone else who was there that day has succumbed to the shadows. I hope you are well. I suspect that much like me you are trying not to draw too much attention to yourself now. We have plans to make before we step into the light. We have comfort to find, nests to build, towers to hide before the pendulum makes its next swing. I would say I miss you, but I don't really. I am fine on my own, but I do wish you well. I know your heart better than most, and though you are going to do a lot of damage before you give in, someday you will understand this choice. Someday something will happen that will make you change. You will hate it, and then you will be different. Just like I am. ~K
  7. Sarah ran ahead, her armor clanking. Everyone was in good cheer. She was covered in blood, but none of it was hers. Daniel had made sure of that. They were deep in the depths of Blackrock's spires, clearing the place of cultists and ogres for honor and profit. Even the usually morose Oliver seemed to walk with a lighter step. Sarah suddenly put up her hand in warning and a finger to her lips to urge silence. Terand crouched low and moved to the shadows to scout ahead. A clear chanting harmony floated through the stone passage toward them and the party hugged the wall as they advanced slowly toward what they gradually understood to be a ceremony of some sort. At the edge of a pool of lava whose deep yellow softly moving light made eerie shadows around the cavern, a massive orc in dark robes stood behind an altar with his arms in the air and his face to the stone ceiling so high above that it was lost in the darkness. All around the altar were similarly robed but far more ordinarily sized folks of varied races voicing the chant in obviously practiced tones that would have been almost pleasant if they weren't so ominous. Atop the altar was a smaller female orc dressed in almost nothing, a few strategically placed strips of cloth. With a blank expression, she stared up at the huge orc leading the ceremony. Terand tiptoed silently into place behind the leader, unnoticed by any of the cultists, but was forced to draw back when the huge orc turned around and dipped a black stone cup into the lava. The chanting continued, increasing in volume as the huge orc handed the cup to the small one on the altar. Daniel hissed in sympathy as he realized what was about to happen and Sarah's plate gloves clanked as she put a hand on his arm to calm him. The nearest cultist stopped their chant to look over their shoulder, and Sarah shouted and dashed forward. "Now!" Terand was already in place an stunned the massive orc with the a swift leap that ended with the hilt of his blade driving into the base of the orc's skull. But even as the party scattered the ceremony and cut down the cultists, the small orc on the altar brought the stone cup to her mouth and drank down the molten rock within. Even if she had thought to scream, there was doubtless nothing to scream with. She made a slight gurgling sound as she collapsed onto the stone, flesh of her throat melting as she did. Despite Terand's interruption, the orc leader's transformation happened anyway. His already imposing form liquified and expanded, becoming part fire part body with an echoing roar that was both a voice and an explosion. Sarah took control of the monstrous orc elemental's attention, holding up her shield as her enchanted blade slashed at every weak point she could see. Oliver and Terand made sure none of the cultists escaped. Daniel, though, was entirely focused on the orc on the altar. His healing magic flowed through her, but he seriously doubted whether the damage she had done to herself could be repaired. Sarah would have to hold her own, as he was confident she could, while he saw to the dying girl. His work was so difficult and required so much of his attention, that he paid no notice to the fight around him as it waxed and waned and finally ended, the cult leader's lavabeast corpse oozing slowly back into the pool behind them. When Sarah approached, wiping her sweat off her brow with the soft leather protecting the inside of her elbow, her shield was half gone, destroyed. She had a burn on the space on her chin that her helmet didn't quite reach, and Oliver was bleeding from a gash on his leg, but they had managed without their healer. "Is she going to make it?" Sarah asked as she pulled off her helmet. "I'm not sure," Daniel answered. "We have to take her back to the city. We have to try." Oliver and Terand shared a look. Daniel knew what it meant. He knew they wondered what made this orc any different than the ones whose bodies littered the path they had taken down the spire, but they all knew better than to ask. They all knew Daniel's heart bled freely for any he perceived to be victims and they put up with it for the sake of his skills. "All right," Sarah said. "We've been in here long enough for one day as it is. Let's head back." A pair of ogre spears and Daniel's own shield as well as some of the cultist robes were pressed into service as the makeshift stretcher they used to take the orc girl back to Stormwind. Sarah smiled at Daniel as they made their way up through the spire, taking the long way. He smiled back. Their work was good for both of them, and at the end of the day, he always made sure he could sleep well knowing he had done his best to make the world a better place. ((Kumai - Twisting Nether))
  8. Kumai


    Full Name: Kumai Race: Orc Gender: Female Hair: Long, henna colored. Eyes: Light brown Height: A little on the short side Weight: A little on the round side. Notable Physical Features: A massive burn scar covers most of the left side of her body, including most of her neck down to her hips, though it is usually only visible if intentionally uncovered by clothing She refuses to speak, though whether she actually can or not is debatable, and instead either creates images with ash and heat or signs with her hands Place of Residence: Dalaran Place of Birth: Nagrand Known Relatives: None Occupation: Errandmage, apprentice enchanter Guild Affiliation: Sanctuary Known Associates: Qabian Grimfire Known Nemesis: Always wary of Twilight cultists and current members of The Grim, but no sincere enemies Special Skills: Extremely delicate manipulations of fire and heat, especially shadow, light, and ash directly within a flame source. Positive Personality Traits: Determined, independent, intellectual, curious, carefree, easygoing, tenacious Negative Personality Traits: Overly cautious, naive, proud, selfish, stubborn History: When Kumai joined the Grim, she confessed her Bleeding Hollow clan origins and her past interaction with the Twilight cult that resulted in her scarring and her disconnection from the elements. She was born and raised in Nagrand, but she is very far from Mag'har. She just had her rite of passage into adulthood when the portal to Azeroth was opened permanently, and ended up with the Twilight not long after. She was only with them a very brief time before being rescued from Blackrock, though her rescue did not go smoothly. After a slightly awkward admission interview with the Grim, she faded into the background quickly and remained there, hidden and untested. Not long after Qabian returned during the campaign in the Broken Isles, Kumai asked him to teach her. He took her under his wing and became unusually protective of her. Eventually, he cut ties with her publicly when her capacity to follow The Grim's Mandate became questionable. In the present, Kumai has fully abandoned all of her connections and past with the Grim and the Twilight. She seeks knowledge and companionship with Sanctuary, a hard turn from her previous associations, but she tries not to belabor her past too much, looking instead to the future. STORIES: Beginnings and Beginnings: Letters to a friend, current character journal ((Letters Unsent: Kumai's old Grim journal)) What Friends Are For: It's hard to know sometimes Rescuers: Not the main character Friendship is Magic: A nightmare in the tradition of nightmares
  9. Kumai placed the small pile of books on the plain wooden table she set up in her new room in Sanctuary's Razor Hill quarters. She frowned as she pulled a sheaf of blank papers from inside the cover of one of the books. She was doing her best and didn't regret the decision she had made, but she questioned herself, her capacity, her correctness, as people do. She was a quiet person. She made it seem as though this was forced on her, but in truth, it was by choice. It was all by choice. She had been given a voice on a few occasions since the original loss, and technically, she still had the last, but she hated it. New voices never sounded like hers, never felt like hers. It always seemed like an outside force moved her mouth and she hated it. She had grown to feel most like herself when using her hands and the light and shadow that was hers. The voice was not hers. There were times she felt forced into it, but when she had the option, she chose. She looked around the room. It was so different than what she had become used to in Dalaran. Dalaran oddly suited her. It was full of people who tended to be so different from her on the surface, but somehow so very like her within their minds, curious and analytical, easily forgetting the world around them when they were lost in their own thoughts, few of them truly gregarious because they were too busy with the things they believed were important, things that might affect the entire world but were not individual people. Unfortunately, Razor Hill reminded her of people who were like her on the outside, but whose minds never worked like hers, people she had abandoned, people she did not miss. But this was the Horde, wasn't it? Dalaran had separated her from the Horde, creating an illusion of a world where only magic mattered. The Grim's version of the Horde was incompatible with a world everyone who wanted to share could share. The Twilight's version of the Horde was, well, a mess. Kumai wanted to know the Horde as it really was. Qabian thought maybe here, or at least with these people, she could learn about a Horde that he did not himself believe in. Kumai leaned over the table to put her hand to the wall, carved by the elements. A toxic mixture of rage and despair welled up in her, but she was achingly familiar with the sensation now and waited patiently for her acquired knowledge to dissolve her reflexive pain with no more action on her part than a few contemplative moments. She pulled a quill and ink from the pack on the floor and finally sat down to write. - I know you said we would not see each other again, but I don't believe you. I might believe you if Dalaran crashes into the sea one day, but you have too much history there to avoid it forever. I'm going to see you in its streets one of these days. Your Violet have me living in Razor Hill. This is nothing I'm used to. I've lived on rolling plains. I've lived in the molten depths of a great mountain. I've lived in a thriving city of magic. I suppose the word for this place is quaint. There's a simplicity to it that reminds me of where I started, but if there's anywhere I never wanted to go again, it is back where I started. But then the Horde started where I started, didn't it? It makes sense to go back if I am to understand them. This is what I wanted, what I asked for, but it isn't what I expected. Not that I know what I expected, something more brutal perhaps, more stoic grunting, less awkward smiling. Despite my discomfort, there is a sweetness here. I trust everyone's intentions, which is new for me. I think Dalaran will always be more comfortable because it suits me, suits my authentic voice, but this place seems like it will be better for me in the end, more wholesome, more healing, and will help me find the things about myself that I abandoned long ago. This was the right decision. If I sound like I'm trying to convince myself, I am. I know that you do not worry about me, and that was not a lie, but I also know you will be curious. Consider these letters my gift to that curiosity. You will be tempted to keep them, but you should burn them. For both of us. ~K - Rather than address the letter, she tucked it away. Later, she would slip it under an unremarkable door in a Dalaran alley.