[[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 This theme may be out of date.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 Qabian

  1. I said too much, gave away too many truths. There was a lie anchoring it all, though. Nothing wrong with that. I'm honest about who I am. She knows I can't be trusted. What disturbs me about that lie is the whiteness of it. I could rationalize, make my excuses, that I needed the lie for some other blacker, more sensible reason, but the whiteness of the lie is behind the gifts, too. Maybe I shouldn't have toyed with her, but curiously, I don't regret that at all. It might make her kill me in my sleep, but she wouldn't be the first to try, and good luck guessing where I am any given night. I have my freedom. I never relinquished it. That would be a line drawn that I refuse to cross. However, my curiosity to see how the game plays out, intense as it might be, is nowhere near sufficient. She has earned things from me enough. She has earned abridged tales of tables she could turn. She has not earned me. I suppose, if she were determined, she could make the attempt, but better to break her of that hope at the expense of the game, better to make her think I'm something else, better to make her turn away. Better for everyone. Better for the Grim. I've chosen treason. Treason keeps me loyal. I like how that works. I wonder if she'll hide now, or if she'll make good on her threats, vices and silence. Her problem. Not mine. And the rat lives. She thinks she killed her heart. Hilarious. I don't remember telling her that, but it does seem like something I would do. I wonder if I can get her to admit that in front of Syreena, have Syreena add a heart to her ear collection. I should have killed her the moment she showed her face. Instead, I showed her history and gave her hope. Since when am I an agent of hope? There is chaos in it, I suppose. Hopefully it'll direct itself away from me. I'm failing to do rather a lot of things I should do, not enough to blow up in my face yet, but that is a distinct possibility, growing more distinct by the hour. I spoke with the boy's mother. I don't know what I thought would happen. Maybe I thought I could fix an old problem with a new solution. She thinks she was once broken and is now fixed. I think she was once fixed and is now broken. The best thing for her now, and everyone involved in that tale, would be the quick release of death. Yes, even the replacement. The things we do are objectively harmful, and we will just keep doing them, won't we? Because we want to, and we are selfish.
  2. It should be enough. It should be enough just to hate. I shouldn't need reasons. Garithos was the reason I offered whenever a reason was demanded. He was reason enough, too. I shouldn't She doesn't understand. Hate is easy. It is warm and strong. It protects from all manner of harm. I didn't need reasons to hate. We were just predators, preying on the weak, the lesser, those who would grow and learn and die too fast to remember the techniques we could focus on for decades. We didn't need reasons. Yes, they gave us reasons, but we didn't need them. They weren't my friends. I didn't lose anyone close to me. Not to them. The only thing that killed them was the Scourge, and the Scourge was what? A disease of the world? Arthas and Kel'thuzad can take a lot of blame for being weak and lesser, for falling for trap after trap after trap. Dar'khan can take some blame, for being power hungry, a grand failing of our kind, and his sweet little mutant children overrunning Stormwind now are what happen when you open the gates for death. But even though they weren't my friends, I was too close to what happened to them. It changed me. It changed what made me hesitate. I was always more violent than not, and though I was never demanding, I resolved I never would be. I would never be like them. I would never take the way they did. I would only destroy. She doesn't understand. How could she? Who does understand? A wolf without its pack is prey, and I've been without my pack for too long. The Grim stands in for them, but the Grim failed me. I was prey. More than once. I've learned not to rely on them. The Grim feed the hate, but they do not understand it. They don't need to. I shouldn't need to. She shouldn't need to. Hate should be enough, in and of itself. It does not need reasons to exist. It only needs to burn. It only needs to consume everything in its path. That's all it needs. She is an obsession, a dangerous path with no way to turn from it. Even if I try, I'll always find myself back on the same road. And I have given her everything. Of my own free will. Everything. Prey again, without my pack. The other needs to ask better questions. I don't think she wants to ask better questions. I don't think she wants what she says she wants, to do something for me, which is good, because she won't get it, but I'll get what I want, words and questions, the sound of my own voice, amusement at what nothing can cause. Be careful giving words too much power. They don't have any of their own. The cat disagrees, but also puts a point on the possibility that the only power they have is mischief. I need to spend a week in Suramar to remember what we should have been, but Feralas calls. I don't need brothers, but I'm glad of them, nonetheless, if only for the hope they give. Yes, hope. I like that people assume I know nothing but ruthless cruelty. I like knowing I can drive hate so easily. That doesn't mean I know nothing of things outside hatred. What do I know? I know more than those who worship at its feet. I know more than those who wear it on their sleeves and on their banners. I know because I run from it and it hunts me down. I know because I do not want it, do not need it, and yet I have it. Killing me with kindness would be much more difficult than even the ridiculousness of the cliché implies. Boring me with kindness might be manageable. I suppose maybe you could bore me to death with it? But even then, either you're the sort of kind hearted person I either destroy or walk away from, or you're not a kind hearted person and I take the opportunity to dismantle your kindness, find the motive in it, make you regret ever having plied me with it in the first place. Or you're the kind of person who's better at playing my games than I am. There aren't many of those, so I don't fear them though I probably should. The team building silliness at least takes my mind off the menacing truths running deep under everything I do these days. I would definitely prefer to watch from the sidelines, but that's better managed when other people are on the dais than when I am. And if it makes them stronger, then so be it. I'll take my loss of dignity and chalk it up to forging bonds or some other useless lie. That Eye is pointless. It saw the obvious but not the dexterous. You can tell the truth and not tell the truth at the same time, and how can one device detect that nuance? You can tell the truths that don't matter and neglect the ones that do. There is a way to get every truth from me, and it is actually quite simple, but who actually finds that much value in truth?
  3. Oh no. Oh no no no no. I just realized. The other possibilities. None of this is good. None of it. I think I can keep it from... going entirely off the rails? But it's a mess. Don't they know nothing comes of this? I learned my lesson. I'll play the games and say the words all I want, but it's going nowhere. Besides, behind closed doors, I'm worse. In every possible way. Mm, almost every possible way. They have no idea how much worse I really am. There's only one place I go for truth.
  4. The sound of my own voice never fails to start trouble. Thankfully the number of people who have ever realized this is small. Better not to be interesting. I do a lot of truth telling for someone who is an avowed liar. I wanted to bemoan the place I'm in. I do not mold and encourage and develop people. I can test them, but I do not create them. We could, plausibly, have someone in this role who could create new Grim from troubled souls who find their way to us. I am not such a person. At best, I assess. Even then, I find assessment exhausting. People are... tiring. Destruction in and of itself is much more sensible than people. Not only that, but I am, in fact, a terrible Grim. On the surface, I'm not, but anyone who has been forced to trust me for any amount of time has a sense of it, even if they cannot define it. Awatu does, I'm sure. Syreenna definitely does. The actions I take to keep myself from giving in always have an edge of treason. Never against the Mandate, but often against individuals. Not because I hold the Mandate particularly highly, but it is a ludicrously easy path to follow and not one that actually requires a great deal of rules. People, however, are complicated. I was surprised to hear Awatu mention Loa in such a manner, but perhaps he has ideas I do not. Ideas I tried to contemplate aloud, but of course not. That and... I don't know just how well any given power can obtain souls with so much competition for them out there. There are things I shouldn't speak of. I miss my didactic preaching on the subjects in the time before, when people were simpler and easier to use. I have fears now I did not have before the Scourge, not of the dead, but of weaknesses I then did not realize I had. Every once in a while, those weaknesses make themselves known in places where the doors have not been closed. I should keep my mouth shut, or pretend the last fifteen years didn't happen. One of the two. Instead, true confessions with an insistence that I talk too much rather than an implication that at least half of it was false. No, none of it was false. I have been monumentally stupid. I will likely continue to be whenever weaknesses come to light, but I will not be caught. After all, I already am. Where's Tradire?
  5. What... have we done? I have never seen such... So much... These islands bore me, but Azshara's voice is audible here as it was on the other Isles. I do not fear what she will do. I fear what she will fail to do. I fear she will become just another setback that we will overcome, when the history she holds should mean so much more. History becomes meaningless in the face of the Bronze and the Titans. They strip the value from our stories and endeavor to make us worthless. They will succeed if we do not hold them at bay. Alphaeus asked if I had ever done anything selfless in my life. My immediate response, and the correct one, was an obvious no. But then it occurred to me, and because I enjoy the sound of my own voice, I even revealed that I have evidence to the contrary. Perhaps it is a singular event. No, not entirely singular, but definitely rare. I am capable of selflessness, but if you want it from me, you have to earn it by doing something that means a great deal to me and absolutely nothing to anyone else. In the grand scheme of things, I am capable of no such thing. I have no need for selflessness under the Mandate. The Mandate encompasses my self and every narcissistic action I take furthers its impossible cause. It is best not to dwell on stolen moments that suggest I have the capacity for any real sacrifice. I know that what matters most to me is my self, so I had pieces of me carved away, my ear, my name. But knowing that hardly seemed enough, I tried and failed to do more at the time. In the many months since, I think I have done enough, and look forward to earning that future place of respect without continued sacrifice. But to suggest that anything could matter to me more than I do is heresy of the highest order. Isn't it?
  6. Qabian stepped up the gangplank onto the Banshee's Wail, giving Dazar'alor's great pyramid over his left shoulder a smirk as he set about leaving it behind for another day. The Troll essence pervading everything wore on him. There was enough to it to keep him interested for a short time, but the longer he spent there, the more he wanted out. Despite the Amani's presence in his backyard, Qabian had never been entirely anti-Troll in his past. He knew the sheer duration of their civilization--if it could even be called that, but it was ancient--held secrets that even he could not easily dismiss. Yes, those secrets had left him with a useless, impossible-to-kill cat, but still. Unlike the humans, who had stolen a gift they did not deserve, and the night elves, who had turned their backs on the magic they should have guarded, Trolls actually knew things, important things, held them close, and could use ancient magic imbued with powers that could not simply be denied. But Qabian found himself tiring of their aesthetic easily. It took good, vibrant, powerful colors and threw them into right angles and crude faces, no curves, no sweeps, all boldness with no subtlety, no grace whatsoever. The isles of Kul Tiras were objectively worse, all dead trees and gloom, dreary stone and unpleasant sea creatures, more grey than anyone should have to look at for any length of time, but there, at least, he found no push to appreciate anything. All anyone asked from him in Kul Tiras was fire, and he supplied it with deep contentment, even when it cost him hours in the company of healers later. As the Banshee's Wail set off to bring the day's adventurers to Plunder Harbor, Qabian leaned over the starboard bow and breathed in the salty air. It had memories in it. He had never been particularly naval minded, but the ocean held memories of Quel'danas, and horizon lines brought to mind all those hours spent in honest prayer to the Highborne the sea had swallowed, the Highborne who he had found still lived, the Highborne whose queen he had abandoned for reasons he could not remember. The words of the shark loa floated through his mind. Azshara's motives are hidden behind a vast darkness. She reaches into a place from where she cannot return. Hasn't she been in that darkness for millennia? Qabian thought to himself. Aren't the naga the living proof of that darkness? Did Gral think he knew something different? The blood elf wondered if he would ever find out. The loa had departed with an expressed intention to learn more, but made no promise to return. Qabian was still considering the subject when the ship arrived in the port, and Qabian made his way through a town full of mutineering humans where no one complained when one or a dozen of them were found shivved, floating face down in the water.
  7. War for peace. War for peace. War for peace. And no one sees the irony. No one. I love it. Hit them while they're bleeding. Yes, we're bleeding, too, and risk everything in making the strike, but... But if we win this now, we can force acceptance and servility for centuries. Really? How has that worked out historically? If you insist. If there's one thing I'm never going to argue with, it's scorched earth. Scorch it all. Especially Lordaeron. The Windrunners have had their claws in human scalps their entire lives. Sylvanas was only too happy to find herself gifted with the power to hold human lives in her hands and have them worship her for it. Nathanos isn't just any corpse. I hope she regrets what she's done. I hope it saddens her to see her people, her human people removed from the home they bought with the blood of their families. That pit was disgusting before they turned it into a literal sewer, and it's disgusting now. Leaving it unusable for generations is all it has ever deserved. I hear the rumors trying to pin Malfurion's escape on Saurfang. Maybe so. That might explain his little failed death wish drama. To return their hero to them is a crime that cannot go unpunished. But was Sylvanas not there? Shouldn't she have seen it done? While everyone else bemoans the lack of honor in murdering hundreds maybe thousands of civilians, I'll be over here wondering why they failed to cut the head off the snake. Keep leaving nothing but ash and blight in your wake, Warchief. I certainly don't care how many innocents on either side you take with you in the name of some sort of necessity or survival. This is the annihilation we've been preaching for more than a decade. This is what we live for.
  8. Brinnea made her way through the tables set too closely together and found a seat in the shadows of the dim tavern, away from the bar but with a clear view of the door. She wasn't a regular, just passing through, but the nameless town on the road based its existence travelers like her, so even the icy glow of her eyes in the darkness didn't particularly draw attention. Brinnea didn't protest when the barmaid set a full mug of something beside her, but also didn't drink it. The death knight wasn't there for the drink or the food, or even the chance to be off her feet, but for the chance to listen quietly to patrons for news of the road, for the opportunity to learn if anyone was actually following her, and hopefully, though she knew it was a gamble, be left alone. A ragged looking night elf plunked out a tune from a decrepit piano in a corner of the room beside a large fireplace with a comfortably roaring fire. The music would probably have been cheerful if the piano's poor tuning didn't seem to drop everything into a minor key. The handful of other patrons watched the musician idly as they spoke quietly amongst themselves or drank in silence. Eventually, a human man burst through the door, causing the music to stop and the scattered patrons to all turn to stare at him. If he was the one Brinnea suspected was following her, he paid her no mind whatsoever. Instead, he charged up to the bar, grabbed the bartender's collar, and yanked him half over the bar, knocking a glass onto the floor with a shatter. Brinnea's hand went to her sword, but before she could judge if the encounter was worth interfering in, the stranger grumbled some angry inaudible words in the bartender's face, then pushed him roughly aside then stalked back out of the tavern. The door slammed shut in his wake. Brinnea looked curiously between the bartender and the patrons, all of whom looked shocked and uncertain. The bartender straightened his apron and handed a broom to the barmaid who had rushed to his side as soon as the other man had left. She obediently began sweeping up the broken glass as the bartender walked among the tables to stand in front of the piano, where he raised a hand and cleared his throat. "If anyone has seen Jonas Branson or knows where he is, the Red Blades are looking for him. If they don't find him by dawn, they're going to start breaking down doors," the bartender announced. Then with slumped shoulders, the he shuffled back to his place behind the bar. A murmur went through the room as people looked to each other with questions on their faces. Brinnea narrowed her eyes, watching them carefully, but nothing else seemed to come from the announcement. As the piano player adjusted his bench, an old man came up from the crowd and put a hand on the night elf's shoulder and spoke to him quietly. The night elf simply nodded. The old man stood in the place the bartender had just left. "Hello everyone," the old man declared. His voice was stronger than the stoop of his body would have suggested. "I know none of you know me, but since we've all just been interrupted anyway, I have something I'd like to say. My name is McCallum. Today should have been my daughter's first birthday." Brinnea blinked. If what he said was true, he couldn't possibly be as old as he looked. "I don't think there's any one of us," McCallum continued, "that hasn't lost a lot to violence and war, even if we tried very hard to live good lives and take care of our families. It's even harder when we know who is responsible and that there is nothing we can do to stop them from ruining more lives and tearing apart other families." He choked on his words, then composed himself. "But I thought maybe, just for one small moment, we might look back and remember fondly those we've lost, in honor of my sweet Joy." He took off his hat and wrung it between his hands, looking down at the floor. A hush went over the people in the bar, all of whom paid the man their attention and their respect. Many of them closed their eyes and lowered their heads prayerfully. He didn't let the moment go too long. He lifted his head and smiled. "Thank you. Thank you, everyone," he said hoarsely, then patted the piano and nodded his thanks to the musician before heading back to his table where he sat alone and the poorly tuned piano took up its mournful melodies as murmured conversations picked up again. Brinnea stared at McCallum as the man slumped over his table, then began silently sobbing into his elbow, the evidence in the tremor of his shoulders. Brinnea signaled to the barmaid and asked her for a cup of tea. When the woman brought the drink, Brinnea stood, taking her cup of tea and the mug that had earlier been brought to her, and carried them over to McCallum's table. She put the mug down and pushed it against his elbow. He looked up at her then, his face red and wet. "Oh. Thank you, my lady." He took the mug from her and began to drink it down hurriedly as if he hadn't had anything to drink in weeks. The death knight didn't respond to his words, and eyed him curiously as he chugged the ale. When he put the mug down empty, she asked, "Another?" He nodded, looking a little sheepish, and Brinnea waved for another mug to be brought. She sipped at her tea in silence as she watched the man drink the second with a little more patience. "You lost your family, too?" McCallum asked in between drafts. She nodded. "Some," she said, but didn't elaborate, and he didn't press her for details. Some of those details could be seen in her eyes. "Who was it?" Brinnea asked. He knew what she meant. "They made it look like bandits, but..." McCallum trailed off. "You don't believe it was?" "No," he said. "It was a blood elf of the Horde. He decided I was his enemy for reasons I may never know." She nodded again. The man was holding back details, as she did, but she could understand a lack of trust in strangers. He sunk back into silence. "You may not find justice while you live," Brinnea offered. She had only meant to give the man the drink she had no intention of drinking, but she took the chance to give him some hope on his day of mourning. She stood to leave even as she spoke words she wasn't entirely sure she believed. "But there will always be someone out there fighting for it even after you're gone." The man put his hand on her arm, feebly grabbing her elbow as she stood. "Like you?" he asked, his wet eyes staring up at her. "No. Not like me," she said. She pulled out of his grip, gently but firmly. She took a few coins from her belt and placed them on the table to pay for the drinks, then made her way out of the tavern. Outside, the evening had darkened into night and it had begun to rain. Whoever had been following her had been thwarted by her entering the tavern, either because they had no wish to enter the enclosed space or because something had finally taken them off the chase. She needed to be certain of the latter. She began to walk through the slick mud of the dirt road, then slipped into an alley, making a circuit of the town's few buildings, watching for signs or sensations she was being still being observed. It was difficult to know how much time had passed before she heard the voices arguing back the way she came. The absence of light and the rain removed any sense of the hours. She pulled her cloak down around her ears and determined to keep her distance, until the scream. At the sound, she let her hood fall back in the rain, drew her sword, and stalked back into the alley. Two men stood over a third, kicking their victim repeatedly through his staccato wails. The man on the ground was smaller and... older? When Brinnea recognized the man they were mercilessly beating as the man from the tavern, she didn't offer a warning. She ran the first attacker through with her blade, then slammed his groaning form into his partner, bringing both of them to the ground. She lifted her sword again to strike the other, but she could see from the way his head had hit the ground that he would not be getting up again. "Who-- Who are you?" McCallum stammered from the ground. There was recognition on his face, but also fear. "Nevermind that," she said. "Why were they attacking you?" "The-The man they were looking for earlier, Jonas Branson, was my brother-in-law. He's why I came here," he explained as Brinnea helped him to his feet. "I've only been here a couple days, but I still haven't found him. I don't know where he is. Wherever he is, he must be in bad trouble." "And now that trouble is your trouble. And mine," Brinnea said, looking down at the bodies. "Are you all right?" "Just a few bruises," McCallum said. "I'll live." He straightened his sleeves as he shuffled against the wall of the alley, trying to get out of the rain. "Only if you leave town," she said matter-of-factly. He nodded, sighing. "Maybe I can come back after whatever is going on gets solved, although it seems like even if I find Jonas, he won't be able to help me." She frowned. "Do you have a horse?" "Yes," he said. "I'll take you that far. Then we both better leave this place far behind us." "Yes," he said again, looking down at his feet for a moment before putting his hand on her arm for a second time. "I think you are wrong, and you are the kind who will fight for justice after I'm gone." "Maybe," she said quietly, letting his steps take the lead, but holding her blade at the ready. "But I doubt the families of those men in the mud behind us will feel the same."
  9. She has her claws in too many aspects of my life as it is. Now her brother? At least, he seems unlike her in most ways, but it's just another connection where there are already too many. I should... not have gone there, but I felt like I had no choice. Not that anyone but myself was forcing me, but... After everything, simply... staying away... was not something I could do, not without at least making the attempt. I was lucky it was only Damian around, although perhaps if he hadn't been there I could have been and gone without waking her. What she said about Sylvanas is... her problem, not mine. Or it should be, but anyone whose focus turns to her, after they take out her family, will inevitably find those connections. Given what she spoke about sounded like paranoia, something I'm highly familiar with, I know the path that can unfold from there. There is no way that I am willing to stand between her and Sylvanas' minions if there's any truth to her presumptions. There's also no way I just stand aside and let her die. Or is there? On the one hand, I know what I should do. I should stay away from her entirely. But now her brother. Awatu wants us to pay attention to Genn, but I wonder if Anduin isn't stronger than we're giving him credit for. Yes, he's an idiot child, but I'm not entirely certain he's an idiot child entirely bent to the will of the adults in the room. I think he's too opinionated and has too much power to simply do what everyone else says without asserting his own ideas. Umbral has her tabard, at my insistence, essentially. I went where I needed to go and made my arguments and got my approval, such as it was. It feels like desperation. When she turned over that journal, we should -- and again, doing things I know I should not -- have cut her throat immediately, no hesitation, no compromise. But much of what we do feels like desperation these days. The pendulum never completed its swing. Will it ever? Will we have to force it? Yes, she worked hard. She "earned" the privilege by completing the tasks set for her. Several times over, in truth. But she is so deeply flawed that she is utterly untrustworthy. And it's not because she lies. It's because she won't, so she floats her flaws on the surface where we can all see them, and yet rather than destroy her for them, we are forced to take them in stride. We had to give her the tabard to make sure that hard work of hers doesn't turn against us, not because she is what we need. Now her brother.
  10. Sounds like fun. I'll play again. Qabian.
  11. Qabian

    Overcast

    Birgitte blinked her glowing yellow eyes as she looked down at the unconscious woman in the water. It happened on occasion that someone came through a portal in a state of distress, but it wasn't so frequent that she was unsurprised. She waved an arm at the Forsaken men standing around. "What do you think, Father?" Birgitte asked. "We clearly have to get her out of the water," Father Cobb said as he stepped into the shallow pool, soaking his robes. He held out a glowing hand as he tried to staunch the stranger's immediate bleeding. "I don't think I can lift her," Birgitte said, looking around at the others. They each shrugged in turn. "I'm sure we could drag her out of there together, but maybe better run and fetch one of the Tauren." Sokanon was standing just up the slope from the Pools of Vision, near the Festival Fire, dragging a freshly made stretcher behind her. When a walking corpse accosted her, waving his hands frantically and asking for help, through her shock she managed, "Of course, of course, show me where." While her instinct was to provide aid where it was needed, Thunder Bluff was not her city. In fact, she had only left Highmountain for the first time a few weeks ago. She had only headed up onto the Bluff at all because the animal she had been attempting to tame nearby was injured, and she needed a stretcher if she was going to move it to safety before it was attacked by predators. She had seen enough of the Horde between Highmountain and Orgrimmar to know that the Forsaken were a thing, and generally they were helpful, but she hadn't interacted with them personally and she found them disconcerting. The dead were to be spoken with as spirits, not as bodies. It was only as she was led into the darkness of the cave that she hesitated, suddenly wary that perhaps she should have questioned the dead man's honesty, but when she saw the commotion around the pool at the back of the cave, Sokanon nodded, determined to help. None of the Forsaken seemed to want to touch the injured woman, and Sokanon wasn't sure why. Had they seen something that made them hesitate? Was it something about the woman herself? They didn't particularly seem to want to share either when she asked. Sokanon herself wasn't the type to rest on etiquette and with a nod from Father Cobb and the help of a Bluffwatcher, they placed the woman immediately onto her stretcher -- one designed to be dragged alone, but easily carried with help. They moved Ninorra quickly and carefully up to the warmth and air of Spirit Rise, followed by the priests and joined by Tauren healers from around the Rise. When Ninorra was laid still and while she was being tended, Sokanon knelt next to the elf woman and went through her red and black robes, looking for anything that might identify her. Sokanon found only a tube of paint and a handful of small stones, most of which were green and gave off a dull glow that made the Tauren uncomfortable, but one of which was white with a symbol. She frowned as she examined the stones, then as she was about to return them to the woman, the white one made a sound? It was speaking? She acknowledged she'd led a sheltered life, but each new form of magic she encountered was stranger than the last. She paused, staring at the thing, waiting for it to speak again. When it remained silent, she spoke to it in turn. "He-hello?"
  12. ((I enjoy curse words and Qabian doesn't deal well with mild disgruntlement. I'm not sure I really understood the prompt, but I decided to wing it anyway.)) "Are coming?" Qabian laughed out loud at the thick accent and broken grammar of the Thalassian words behind him. "You need more practice," he said with a smirk as he turned around. "I am try." The dwarf waggled her eyebrows at him. Qabian rolled his eyes. "No. Not if you were the last living thing on this planet. As amusing as it is that Moira's machinations have managed to get a handful of dwarves into the Kirin Tor, I'd still rather see you all dead." She squinted at him, then switched to Common. "All I got out of that was 'No' and 'Kirin Tor,'" she said. Qabian shrugged, also code switching. "Close enough." "So are ye comin' then?" He sighed. "I assume you're talking about the symposium?" "Aye." "I doubt it. The Kirin Tor has become a useless crowd of pedants without inspiration. Why would I want to listen to them talk?" Qabian asked, glancing upward in exasperation. "Because the subject is azerite," the dwarf said with a grin. Qabian raised a brow, his curiosity piqued and his arrogance bruised that the she-dwarf was correct about something he would find interesting. "Fine. I'll go." "See ya there, then," she said with a cheerful wave as she bounced away. --- Qabian sat at the back of the room, manspreading across three chairs. The panel was decently attended, but given the enthusiasm of the average Kirin Tor member who bothered to show up at academic discussions, they were all clustered around the front to better hear and ask questions. The subject should have been interesting. Whether they talked about the specific nature of azerite itself, or the political ramifications of its use, or even the many quirks around its revelation at all, Qabian had assumed that there was no way they could fuck up the interesting factor. He was wrong. Instead, they were discussing the need for empathy for the world soul without a dissenting voice among them. Empathy? Is that what the Kirin Tor had been reduced to? Weren't there other people whose job it was to discuss empathy? Druids? Shamans? Mages were supposed to get into details and design, maybe an occasional ethical more here and there, but empathy? Qabian cursed internally about getting tricked into attendance and swore to himself if he heard the phrase 'the world is crying out in pain' one more time-- No sooner did he have the thought than one of the panelists mentioned how the world was crying out in pain. Qabian slumped back against his thre chairs and groaned out loud. He groaned loud enough that the entire panel turned their attention to him. The dwarf who had reminded him of the event giggled from her place at the front of the room. The moderator cleared her throat and got the discussion back on track, leaving Qabian muttering to himself at the back of the room like a lunatic. There were more frustrating things about the event than simply managing to be impossibly boring. The panelists were two humans and a dragon, with a card carrying Covenant moderator. That was what the Kirin Tor had been reduced to in Qabian's absence after Jaina's little rampage. There were a few other sets of fel green eyes in the room, but that was all Aethas' wheedling had managed for any of them -- a tiny minority in a sea of enemies and traitors. There was a time in Qabian's recollection when panels were being forced to bring on token humans simply because elves occupied most of the places of expertise within the organization. There were always plenty of humans around, yes, but human experts? No. Khadgar's convenient Guardian-adjacent background had only made the human proliferation in the ranks worse over the past few years. No wonder they'd reduced the symposia to pleas for skipping and hand-holding with the planet. When another panelist mentioned the world crying out in pain again, Qabian swept a handful of papers on the chair next to him to the floor with a flutter and stood up, shouting, "This is bullshit! How could you fuck this up? There are infinite ways to make this interesting and you keep yammering on about the planet's pain?! Who gives a shit about the planet's pain? Shouldn't you be discussing the effects on the ley network, or embedded runic energy, or possible routes of action the factions might take? Or anything of some sun forsaken actual consequence? For fuck's sake! The planet's pain? Really? What kind of sorry excuses for mages are you?" He reached back and threw one of his chairs to the floor, then stormed from the room, slamming the door behind him. Qabian leaned up against the wall in the hallway, running his hands through his hair. He could hear the muted discussion continuing as though there hadn't been any outburst at all. A few moments later, the dwarf from earlier emerged quietly from the conference room and approached him. Qabian glared at her. "Do not start with me," he said. She shrugged. "Just wanted te say I'm sorry. I was a li'l surprised at the direction as well." "Don't you dare fucking apologize to me. Fucking dwarves," he muttered and stalked off down the hall. She shifted the book she was holding from one arm to the other as she watched him leave, then shrugged and returned to the room.
  13. Malygos is gone. Neltharion is gone. Ysera is gone. Nozdormu has never been particularly solid in this time or any other. That leaves Alexstrasza as the only aspect. They talk about replacing them, but is there any precedent for that? Was Malygos the third, fourth, fifth Aspect of Magic? Perhaps they simply renamed them to Malygos each time? Or perhaps they were never worth anything to begin with. They are and have always been mortal. They are and have always been pathetic, only moreso than we are because they pretended to have power they did not. The same could easily be said of the Titans. All we have is who we are. There are no gods. There is no immortality. Fanyare didn't need to see that from me. No one does. But the more time passes without that swing of the pendulum, the more doubt creeps in and the more insidious it becomes, and the more comfortable I am in someone's presence, the more likely I am to simply let things slip. I am... sufficient, but the Grim needs more than sufficient. The Grim needs inspiration. The Grim needs to be shaped. I cannot do either of those things. I know myself, and I know my strengths, and they are not here. Being merely sufficient is suffocating, but unless we find ourselves a shaper, sufficiency is all we can hope for. Umbral is correct. She has been nothing but obedient. She will follow the Mandate until it kills her. Her problem is that she is not capable of respect, on many levels, but is that really something we demand? She is not an intellectual. She works on instinct, and it has carried her far with us. She follows orders, mostly, depending how drunk she is. Unfortunately, you cannot order her to stop being an idiot, just as you cannot order someone to simply stop their thoughts. I cannot even convince her to equivocate when it's in her best interests. The reason Grainger was surprised at my humility was because I knew how to lie to get what I wanted. Why does something that seems so simple and so obvious escape so many? Just lie. You don't have to lie all the time and try to keep track of multiple stories. Just lie when it's important. You won't forget you've done it. I remember a Grim where puppetry and boot licking were frowned upon. Tradire remembers that, too, it seems. But my memories are unpleasant to say the least, making me consider perhaps a structured, orderly Grim would be more useful. Unlike Umbral's accusation, I am not an anarchist. I have no interest in dismantling systems. I simply want to abuse them to my own ends. That's not anarchy. That's narcissism, maybe psychopathy. The more order there is, the easier it is to game. In that case, however, someone else would have to take my place, and unless Awatu does it himself, I'm not sure we have anyone willing to insist on order. Perhaps I can simply force myself to place more importance on structure than I naturally do. Syreena and I have a lot in common, but where we differ will prevent us from ever trusting each other. Where I want to draw out the truth in someone, to find out that their heart lies with the Mandate or to convince them through their own incentives and desires that it should, that for them to live their best lives it must, she instead wants to force it on them. She wants to strap them down and shove the Mandate down their throats until they choke on it, and when their pale, breathless body is resurrected they'll have no choice but to do as they're told. In that, apparently, Awatu agrees with her. I don't care. Not really. But it's not my way of doing things. I want to poison them with words, not crack their skulls. If skull cracking is what they want, maybe they should be on the lookout for a skull cracker. She also thinks we shouldn't leave each other behind. She puts weight on loyalty that I don't and never will, and I believe she means it honestly. I don't think we should leave each other behind, because a toolbox without tools is empty and useless, and the illusion of loyalty is efficient for convincing people they need something they may not actually need. But she veers dangerously into family territory. She wants something from us that does not exist, but it's the closest she's capable of finding anywhere in this world, so perhaps that is enough for her. Tradire has her shield and demands nothing else. That is for the best, at least where I'm concerned. But she needs more than a simple shield. She needs someone who responds to her and drives her to self-improvement. I'm not capable of those things, and she knows that now, or she should, but I suppose she's finding value in the shield alone. It was good to finally meet Fanyare, to have her become something more than an occasionally quipping presence at an occasional meeting and the one who dragged Tradire up out of her grave. She is, though, it seems, similarly bad at equivocating. Or perhaps simply doesn't care what others think of her. She's no supplicant. She has no one she needs to convince of anything. She can be brazen with her arrogance the way I am with my falsehood. The temptation to call the other back is high, but the longer I put it off, the stronger I feel. The temptation is there to call her, to show her things no one else will ever see, and then cut her throat. That would be endlessly satisfying in that single moment, but then that moment could never be retrieved. Drawing it out is better. I think. What we have is nothing if not drawn out, and I am nothing if not self-indulgent, right? Of course, the temptation to look up at the sun from the bottom of the Elrendar is there, too. "Learn to live with it," he says, as if I haven't already done that. There are rather a lot of things that should be preventing me from "living with it", yet here I am, and confident enough in my capacity to do so to take the place of any Grim in duress, yes. I wonder if that means anything to her at all. I wonder if that makes her feel better about her decisions. I wonder if she's even capable of regret. I don't think she is, and that's probably why I like her.
  14. Mmhmhmhm... Ahahahahahaha! I win. Oh, how I win. Nothing I can take back to the Grim, of course, but mine is a dangerous ego to stroke, hm? Taunt me with something you think I can't do that I know I can. 'Oh, no,' I'll admit. 'I could never do that. I'm simply no good at it. It's just not me.' A little vulnerability, not even mock vulnerability, very real, but a wager in a bet I cannot lose, a little honesty, and just enough arrogance that who I am is never forgotten so I cannot be blamed for any deception. And fuck you. I win. Truth and lies, truth and lies. That's what chaos is made of, yes? And what am I if not chaos? Is it true? Of course it is. Was it lies? Of course it was. Reality is never either or. It's always both. Little human with broken eyes he needs to hide thinks he's being generous, offering me a chance to put him in his place. You don't need to make the offer, boy. You're already there. Why would you admit that secret of all secrets in front of me? And I'm sure my secret only made you feel worse, hm? You're not special. You're not even different. You're just a broken, defiled version of the real people all around you. Enjoy your misery. I certainly enjoyed giving it to you. What an odd defect in me to harp on when it was caused by someone you claim as a friend. When what I have done with what I have lost is something greater than I could have done had I kept what I had, am I really even defective? Or have I improved? That's what we're all here for, to get better. I've gotten better. Have you? When you will never feel equal to the people around you because you never can be their equal? You can steal their faces, their friendship, their power as much as you want, but you will always be a pretender, and you will always have to hide your shame, because the day you accept yourself and live as you are is the day you'll die for it. I have no shame. I wonder how long I can play the lost bet excuse. We certainly gamble, but even though my win rate is expectedly even with my losses, what I ask for is always for my own greed. What she asks for is always my debasement, not enough to spark my anger or make me second guess, but enough to keep her laughing. I should have caught on to this sooner, especially after her little gift to Syreena. I think I did? And decided the price was worth it, and even a little entertaining for myself. The masochistic tendencies extending beyond physical pain, perhaps. I like it when she laughs, even if it's at my expense, and it's almost always at my expense. Explains too much. I shouldn't think about it too hard. The wolf's advice is good. I'm always uncertain about plans that require biding, infiltration, masks of sweetness. I can do them to a point. I have my networks and systems that I use to pull on threads hoping they'll bring down the tapestries. But such things are distasteful when chaos will suffice. Yes, I understand the idea behind a little order serving to bring a lot of chaos, but such games are difficult to play and rarely end well. When they do end well, they end very, very well, but the risk tends to be on our side, not on theirs. Still, leading them patiently to their own failure is clearly our best option in the present, regardless of whether the pendulum swings in the way they seem so certain it will. The violet commander's marital issues have caused a strange sea change. I, for one, don't think that little shift is enough to warrant the sudden acceptance of things as they are. They aren't different enough. I've only met the little warboss once? But I certainly have no faith that she's any sweeter. I blame the turning of the winds with the defeat of the Legion. Everything looks just slightly different, even when it isn't really. Old hurts have been fogged over just enough by time to be put aside long enough for coffee and brunch. And I'm able to hear things I should never hear, share things that should never have been mine to share. I can sit quietly and let them berate me as much as they wish, speaking only when spoken to, offering only the gentlest of contributions, and still come across as cruel and strange. It's quite enjoyable, really. I've had far too much enjoyment lately. It's going to my head. But given what led me to be so entertained in the first place, I'll take it.
  15. The wolf is right. Being Grim requires caring intensely. I didn't like that description initially, but there is core truth to it. It doesn't require caring intensely about others, but it does require a fanatical dedication to the goal. I'm not sure the girl has that. All she has is the sense of a debt owed. Paying debts is not all there is, and it's certainly not enough to make one Grim. Is there a test that can force her to care? And her sense of Peace... I see the pattern, though I'm loath to admit it to others. If I'm choosing alcohol, it's because my own failure has been too fierce to set aside. That's what I'm not going to spill. I'm not going to admit something is my fault without considerable duress. I've failed again if she doesn't have the sense to keep that version of Peace to herself. Let's hope she shares that definition of peace with Awatu. He'll be impressed, I'm sure. Accept the Peace that those among us who believe in it desire. Accept it for what it is. And while they travel the endless road to their dream, enjoy the annihilation along the way. But you still need to accept and praise appropriately the Peace in public, or the entire structure falls apart. It's better that Syreena doesn't trust me. I was uncomfortable enough that she trusted me with what she gave me. If there's anyone who should know better, she should. And yet? All evidence seemed to point to the contrary. It's odd then, that while I got what I wanted, something seems off about the entire debacle. Does she even acknowledge what else I could have done with the power I had? Does she even care that it was less an outright lie and more a bending of the truth? She was absolutely responsible for the death of a Grim. It was just a brief death of a priest with priestly connections who never would have let her soul drift away for something as pathetic as an overly enthusiastic beatdown. There was just enough truth in my lie that I could have played it for a very long time. I could likely have played it long enough to end her if that had ever been my goal, but it was not. My goal was confession. I got my confession. That game is over. I respect her incentives, despite how misguided they were, but she thought they were worth following for the same reasons that she is willing to take on puppets where I am not. She had a right to be angry at my lies, whether they were based in truth or not, but it's not like she never lied to me. We lie to each other, all day every day. It keeps us going. The truth is inherently boring when not being manipulated to interesting ends. But her anger should have been tempered by how little I asked of her, how little I toyed with her. Was it? Would she have done worse if I hadn't kept the truth in the fiction to myself? I could have killed her with that weapon. That was never my intent, and she should see that. She should know that now, that her death, her punishment is not something I will ever aim for, because if I wanted it, I could have had it with ease. She should understand that now. But something tells me she doesn't. All she holds against me now is my falsehoods, not my reasons for telling them. Why do I even care? I don't. It's better when none of them trust me. They'll treat me as they should when I'm untrustworthy. I don't like the expectations that come with trust. Tradire has... no idea what she's doing. I still don't believe I can give her what she wants. As much as she lies about what that is, I think she believes her own lies. But I do think she wants more than a shield. She wants conversation and there she takes advantage of the words that are my weakness. She wants knowledge, and though I do believe her when she says that desire is limited, I don't think it's quite as muted as she would insist. I also think she wants knowledge I cannot give her, or that my version of it is twisted and broken, and to share it with her would only cause harm. What she wants she should really be getting from someone else, someone... softer in the ways she is, someone sheltered enough to still believe in possibilities that have long since been erased from me. I've at least made it clear what lines I will not cross. And I haven't decided what I will or will not admit to in honor of her game, which makes most conversations where she becomes the subject incredibly awkward, but at least said game seems to be succeeding where it concerns my accepting my role.
  16. Tradire... She's going to regret this. I'm going to regret this. The reasons I had to shut her down are... numerous. And yet, it's a dance that requires two. We’ll see. I don't think she'll get what she wants and yet Malkaris already gave in. Maybe she's smarter than I give her credit for. But the entire conversation would go more smoothly if she weren't a coward. And it already feels like revenge, despite the looming specter of repeating history. Syreena will hate it. Good. I'll need to get the heart back. It was cute for a show, but I'm already wondering if an alcohol soaked necromancer has ruined everything. Is that yet another decision I need to regret? Will the tower fix anything? She'll meet the others next week at least. That should stave off the worst. On the one hand, good to break that illusion early. On the other, its loss could do harm that cannot be repaired. Good to know now rather than much later, I suppose. Syreena can take care of the new one and start requiring every Supplicant trade an ear for their tabard. I truly don't care. I'll fight their battles for them when their tests are over. I have an offer for her. I doubt she'll take me up on it, especially now. We'll see if I even get the chance to make it. I’ll at least have rather a lot to discuss at my next confessional.
  17. I wasn't certain, not at all. It was entirely my paranoia, and I know it. I was paranoid as soon as I heard that Vyalis took my advice to heart a little stronger than I might have hoped. So to send out a warning only to have that warning become useful? How could I not make the leap? But if she were innocent, her initial reaction should have been outrage, rather than suspicion. Even then, though her initial reaction was convincing, it was not enough to make me certain. What made me certain was her saying she didn't know where the money went. If she were innocent, she would have signed that paper herself. If she were innocent, she would have taken the gold in coin rather than paper. Now I can accuse her of anything, provided it's not something she can easily disprove herself, and even without proof of my own, I have the upper hand. The only question remaining is how long to play the new game. And when I do put an end to it, I think my message will be quite clear. Don't fuck with me. I imagine she thinks she could turn me in for my financial games, but those are both false and warranted in ways her intentions to hurt me are not. Amusing that she didn't understand how our relationship worked, given the nature of the correspondence she stole from me. I'm sure his name was mentioned several times. I could easily have brought him to the Grim instead, if he weren't so obsessed with Suramar and its well-being as a nation-state. She's one of the ones who always thought I was better because I am not like the rest of them. Really? Do you not remember why I left? How I left? How long have you held onto that mythology? Maybe they will finally lose the lie. I doubt it, though. You act cold enough long enough, and people will forget what they already know about you. The only way I am different than the rest of my people is that I am superior. I am just as arrogant, but I am more arrogant and my arrogance is of higher quality. I am just as deviant, only more so, and again, higher quality. I don't feel the need to shout it in the streets the way the less self-assured do. I don't feel the need to appraise everyone who walks past as Malkaris does. But on my own time, behind closed doors, with a touch of common sense? I am exactly what they are. The only difference between them and me is I am not cheap. So if being "elfy" as she would say is a crime, and I am not different, only greater, then I should get the harshest sentence, hm? She would say Kiannis was different, but catch him when he thinks no one's looking and he's behind the shrubbery in Dalaran with his hand up someone's dress, too. We are none of us different. We are all of us exactly the same. I am merely better at it.
  18. Seems if she's going to do anything about anything, it will be slow. I've spent too many hours worrying about something that isn't a problem. If anything, it's the opposite. I've remembered something in these newest lost hours. I fell back into my hatred of others easily. Its warm and inviting nature called to me the moment I stepped away from the Bronze. What I did not immediately regain was the hatred of others towards me. Stormwind had it, of course, but even then, not in its old intensity. It is just as warm and inviting to have the hatred of others focused on me as it is to have my own hatred focused outwards. Perhaps I should make that my focus. I don't like puppetry, it's true. But I don't need to puppet someone to convince them I'm worthy of hatred. Even if they have no loved ones I can murder, there are other ways to make people hate. And I am at my best when everyone hates me. If she does take any steps, she'll make this happen for me. It will be... good. Eva won't fall for it. She's too much like me. She'll take it in stride and find pride in new scars. But anyone else? Anyone else can burn, and I'll pull a comfortable chair up to the fire.
  19. I don't regret any of this. Yet. Maybe some particular words used, but overall, no. I doubt I'll be lucky enough for Vyalis to simply grow a pair without revealing who handed them to him. And given what he's been through, if he follows my advice, he's not going to be cooperative, is he? Of course not. That would be too easy. I don't suppose she'll have the good sense to talk to me first. In her place, I doubt I would, but we've been trading favors for a long time now. Not talking to me is what made all of this a problem instead of merely incidental, but somehow I don't think she has the wisdom to see that. So I expect she'll do her best to make me regret, but while I've given her the tools to do so, I'm not sure she has the intellectual capacity to use them to effect. Will she get angry or bored if revenge gets no reaction? I have a rationale for all my choices, several actually -- being uninformed, the ineffective motivation she was using, narcissism. All in her best interests as well as mine. But I doubt she'd understand them even if she did let me explain. So if she's going to react without mercy, I'll expect none, but I know how to keep peace. She can have her pound of flesh. Not literally this time, at least not mine, but whatever she decides to do. Everything will be fine. Once the storm passes. I hope. Maybe I should call for that protection that was offered. Ha!
  20. Home is a strange thing. People put so much stock by a handful of dirt. I mean Silvermoon is mine, and if it were to vanish tomorrow, I would lose perhaps half my reason to fight, but certainly not all of it. I can likely thank my worthless family for that attitude, hm? Removed from home as soon as it was plausible to be removed, why would I give it any value? The fact that I had one for a time has only made it even less desirable, nevermind the butler. I hope he is dead. I hope his child is dead, too. I hope all their children fall off cliffs and rot on the rocks. I hope their pathetic family disintegrates and their ashes scatter to the void. I don't know how they got Syreena to play their disgusting games, but it's painful to watch, especially when they make idiotic suggestions like putting the worthless parts of her back together. Let her be. She's sharp the way she is. That puff of cowardice would only dull her entirely. It's not fair that people like that can taint the good, but I suppose there's always something out there taking what's valuable and twisting it to worthlessness. Hilarious again to see that I am everything they wish they were and can never be. I know peace. I know how to make peace. I know how it's done. I could teach them lessons. It's done so: You stand before your enemy, you lay down your weapons, and you open your arms. If they kill you, there is peace. If they don't, you ask them what they need, and you provide it for them. And there is peace. I'm not an idiot. I know war serves no peace. I know precisely how peace is accomplished. I simply have no interest in it whatsoever. Oh, I'll fight for peace certainly. I'll fight to force the enemy to be the one to lay down their weapons and open their arms. And when they do? I'll cut them down, and there. We'll have our peace, the only way we have ever professed to take it. And I'll still surprise the bartender when I know how to get what I want when I want it. And the hypocrites? They cry on each other's shoulders as, one by one, each of them turns bad, each of them starts fights, each of them sacrifices peace for petty revenge or misguided notions of whose home belongs to whom. I have your peace right here. And he'll surprise me when he's good at his job. Not the serving drinks part, but the other part, the letting your patrons talk out their own problems, or asking them the simple, obvious questions they hadn't yet thought to ask themselves. They're all so frustrating because they don't hide the way Lilly and I know how to hide. Vyalis hid quite well. I think that's why I liked him. Then when I force them to dredge up what they're trying to bury so that we can force them to kill it, even the ones who don't wave their issues like banners have to confront them. And Vyalis loses the advantage he had, as his issues cause his courage to deteriorate. I have my baggage, but I don't wear it on my sleeve. I don't announce it to people in bars. I don't rant about the importance of family or the loss of mentors. I have a confessor for that now. I'll go to my confessional where I'll receive my freedom in exchange for truths until the burden becomes too heavy and sends me back. But the facts remain. Those issues I refuse to confront are what lost me my arm, not any warlock, nor her child. I'll still refuse to confront them. And maybe they'll lose me the rest of my body in the end, but I've accepted that. I am highly skilled at putting aside my past for the sake of my future. I have always been good at that, as he intuited. My past simply stood in the way of one small child's death. How could I have known his discolored eyes would hold all my ghosts? But it hasn't stood in the way of anything else, and no other child will have that measure of luck when I'm turning the next orphanage to ash, and the next, and the next. I have their peace right here. Apparently, I'm also neither pretty, not prissy, nor vain. Hahaha! She's so astute, but how many would disagree with her? And Tradire doesn't even count. Her master would choose the overly prideful for his artistry, yet pride is a Thalassian birthright, yet he himself was Thalassian? There's a contradiction for certain. I don't want to tell her who's a fleshcrafter and who isn't. And I don't want to give her back that heart. She has two choices if she finds her master, and I don't entirely trust that she'll be capable of either yet.
  21. Someone should have died last night. And I don't just mean Anduin Babyface Wrynn and the spanking he got from three measly Grim. To be honest, Tradire could have taken care of him herself, most likely. Naughty child shouldn't have let his father die. The Alliance have degenerated so much. I wonder if Moira shows as poorly these days. Perhaps I should pay her a visit. She was never that impressive back when she was in Blackrock. Poor little purple princess. She's so sad and cranky that she'd fall for the snipes of a lizard, accurate shots at her other half, a lizard who won't even respond at all when the pushback comes from the Tauren across the room. Usually people like that, people who insist on playing for a team, they'll back off once they realize that causing me pain would only give me a good time. Wouldn't want that other team to rub off on you now, would you? He was apparently willing to take the risk. Well, I may not give a shit about teams, and perhaps I don't even have a type according to him, but I definitely don't play those games with vermin, wildlife, animals. I know magic, and I know whatever he is trying to be, he isn't right. And we can all make our dubious educated guesses, can't we? I've taken enough of them apart, scale by scale, sinew by sinew, vertebra by vertebra, soul by soul, to know for a fact. Dragons aren't people. But he doesn't even get that far. He's something less, something worse. He is a dog, after all. I'd have more respect for Aaren if she'd been bent over by an actual dog than that thing. It seems the standards she has for her collection are standards that idiots must fall below rather than rise above. Anyone with too much intellect has to be kept at a distance. More power to her, abusing the stupid to get what she wants. Not a technique I'd ever use, but whatever works? Always hilarious to see cowardice looked down upon. If cowardice keeps me from falling like the purple princess to a puppy with small words and some ash in his drool, seems cowardice is preferable in every way, isn't it? Syreena should be careful about listing my collection. One time-lost connection never technically severed that allows me to insist I am not single probably wouldn't even make such a list. But she would. Along with Ninorra and Fayleah, probably Tradire as well at this point, and I don't even want to know what she was saying to Gavril, maybe even the unfortunate new kid. And Eva, of course, the only one who actually belongs there. Nevermind the other two whose names no one knows. The better comeback to her saying she hasn't been seen leaving my personal quarters would have been she's seen leaving my office where she's alone with me all the time, occasionally with bags of money, but maybe I wasn't entirely comfortable saying that. Or I didn't think of it until it was too late. Either way. Maybe I don't care about teams, but one team seems to care about me, hm? Team or no team, what Eva's learning with the shadow is horrible. Something new. Something I haven't trained with. Something delightful. She never had trouble keeping pace with me, but now that she's learning to heal, I'm the one who's falling behind. Perhaps there are regrets to be had after all, but she seems to enjoy the results. Vyalis shouldn't have given up his ear. He shouldn't have given up at all. Ninorra's not that fearsome. I'll have to talk to him. He's setting a bad precedent for the necromancer's child. Amusingly, Syreena didn't seem to realize just how much I knew. I wonder if she was trying to keep her plans secret from me and Vyalis bungled that, too. He still should have kept his ear. Pieces are to be given in pride, not disgrace. Like that oaf of a squidgoat and my eye back in the day. There's something not right about Shalassian. I've gotten so used to understanding people trying to speak against me in a tongue they think I don't know. Amusing how Pandaren have never even made the attempt. Eva's shared a few words, but they have rather specific applications, none of which applied last night. Shame. I wonder what they were doing there, but I wasn't in much of a place to make inquiries. I doubt I ever will be. The Nightborne crowd I've fallen in with are not the Nightfallen, but they do suit my purposes oh so well.
  22. This is fine. It’s fine. It will be fine. Once I’m no longer blindsided nor hungover, it will be fine. I was prepared to deal with Silvermoon’s tizzy over nothing. I had all my excuses and counter-stories ready for those accusations. I wasn’t at all prepared for Syreena’s little revelation. It was just a stupid game. I was supposed to be taunting her for accessing my correspondence, nothing more. I asked for letters written in code, but I wanted them to be inane, perfectly pointless, so that if Syreena actually went to the trouble of breaking them, she’d get nothing but grocery lists and meeting minutes for her efforts. And there it was, the whole of it. Don’t read my mail was all it was supposed to say. I suppose I should be taking this as a win, considering it convinced Syreena to essentially confess to reading my mail. However, that’s rather lost under what kind of mail it proves Syreena’s reading. I got my letters in code. And they were ordinary, in the sense that they were the same kinds of letters that she had been writing before. But those kinds of letters were... Personal? Incriminating? Certainly not inane, not to me at any rate. I decided I didn’t care that much because it was so unlikely Syreena would ever find the cipher anyway. I could keep the game going indefinitely, and I might as well keep it going forever, as punishment for getting into my mail. Fine. Read my letters. And end up with an unsolvable puzzle. Enjoy breaking your brain against that one for a few years. Well, game’s over. The jig is up. Check please. Why would she do that? All it does is ruin what Syreena thinks of me. I don’t care what most people think of me. Rumors have been an integral part of my existence for as long as I can remember. That doesn’t mean I need to pay any attention to them. But could you leave well enough alone the one person that I managed to convince I wasn’t worthless? Of course she couldn’t. She can’t know why it would matter to me. None of this matters to anyone else. I’m sure none of it even matters to Syreena. It only matters to me. I think I know why she did it. She thinks she’s better than I am. Of course she does, or I wouldn’t like her. So she’s showing me how much better she is. If that’s all it is, then this will be fine. It will pass. It will blow over. For now, the game isn’t mine anymore. It’s Syreena’s until she gets bored of it. Let’s hope that’s sooner than later. I’m not sure what I told the bartender, or what he gave me to drink before he sent me home with... Was that cider? I think it was rocket fuel. Rocket fuel and champagne? What the fel? I wonder if everything would be better if I had managed to kill the kid. That was... a far greater ordeal than this petty game of letters and innuendo. And it was a wake-up call that I never wanted. I got what I wanted. I succeeded in what I’d been threatening all along. And it hurt? Why did it hurt? No, I know why it hurt. And so I let her hurt me in turn. Saved my life, the kid did. Probably. I don’t think she would have killed me, but she might have kept me in a jar for a thousand years. He’s a good kid, smart, good reflexes, strong sense of power. I can hope he’ll grow up to have more sense than his mother, but with me stepping out that seems like a long shot. Still, I’m glad to drop the teaching. I dropped the others, as well. I’m no instructor. All but one. I’ll keep her. Ninorra said no one saw her. What a liar. I told her I didn’t care. Evidently I’m a liar, too, despite my great pronouncements to tell nothing but truths. I know she’ll tell Vicailde everything I said, and everything she said, so there won’t be any real need for him to come after me. But that’s not exactly going to stop the entire city and apparently the entire Horde from saying something that’s patently not true and makes him look like a fool. If I were in his shoes, I’d want to kick my ass anyway, just for the rumors, whether I believed my wife or not. And Syreena was already angry with her, so now she gets to be angry with me as well, because of course someone like Ninorra can’t walk through Silvermoon’s streets without being noticed. I should have told her to wear a sack and cover her face or something. I didn’t think it would be so damned necessary. I don’t know what Vyalis thinks he’s going to do. I made my suggestion. I think it’s a good one. We’ll see. We’ll see with all of it. I don’t want to see. Can I just... lock the door and come out when everyone’s forgotten everything? It’s not like I’m innocent of anything, but that doesn’t mean I want to deal with this garbage fire.
  23. Qabian woke in a cold sweat, sitting straight up with a gasp of fear before he realized where he was. When he took in the familiar surroundings he breathed a sigh of relief and laid back down. A Nightborne woman approached the bed carrying a bowl of steaming water. He reached toward her with both hands almost on instinct, then flinched, grunting as pain ripped through his right shoulder. "Fuck the sun. That all actually happened, didn't it?" She nodded. "And as much as I'd like to hear exactly what 'that all' was, you have some decisions to make." She set the water on a small table beside the bed, then pulled a cloth from it. The warm fabric felt impossibly soft against his forehead as she washed his face. He groaned, laying his hand on hers. "I want a bath." "You're not getting in any of my baths until I know that's not going to come undone and fill them with blood," she said, nodding towards his bandaged stump of a shoulder. "I know I told you I was going to study healing, but you can't possibly expect me to create you a new arm." "No, I can't." He stared at her, coming to greater realization of just what he had lost. He could have fought back harder. He could have even escaped entirely, at least temporarily. He knew why he didn't. He knew why he let Ninorra do what she did. He even knew why he would have let her do more. But he didn't want to dwell on it. He forced himself out of his thoughts. "Reinna..." The woman blinked at him. "You want Reinna to make you an arm?" She seemed shocked. "Belore, no. But I assume you know who she steals from." "Ah. I do. And you'd like to commission them?" "Yes." "Do you prefer blackmail or negotiation?" Qabian laughed. "Whichever gets it done faster." "Blackmail then." She grinned at him. He smirked. "You're priceless." "Do you love me?" she asked, leaning over him to kiss his forehead. "Absolutely not." "Good." She mirrored his smirk. "You taste like dirt."