Join Date: Nov 2008
the Elves, Sorsbrent and Stormwind
Seranidan burst into the room, frustration and anger barely contained. The assault on Boralus was only strengthening. Talthressar was fleeing the city.
“Why do you insist, General, to displease me? Fenris continues the invasion. Were we not allies, once? Where is this stubbornness come from?”
"You tricked me into that alliance!" spat Linus Wrynn.
“What, with some enchanted amulet to twist your mind? I have heard the tales. Please, we both know we did no such thing.”
“You promised me the crown of Stormwind; all you delivered was the death and ruination of my men! You sent thousands into that slaughterhouse with no regard for their lives!”
“Kariel Winthalus promised you glory, to prop you up as the defender of Mankind, Troll-slayer... then that reward. You sent one single brigade to Silvermoon, and did not even come yourself. Tell me, when Winthalus negotiated his alliance with you, did you plan to betray it from the very start?”
“As if it would have done any difference, had I sent every man under my command to Silvermoon. I would simply have filled the ruins of your dead city with more corpses. Even the Esoteric scum saw that madness for what it was!”
“I warn you, General... Winthalus was the kind, idealistic one. I have no qualms whatsoever about punishing you for your insolence. As do I intend to school the Esoterics, though I hope they will repent more readily than you.”
“Winthalus? Idealistic? He was blacker than you, more scheming than a spider! If you think you can mend your alliance with me or Ephraim Marsh, then you are the naive one.”
Shrug. “Perhaps. We will see what my envoys to the Zul'dari have to say. But it hardly matters now, does it?” He turned to Arinre. “What of you?”
“What of me?” came her voice – surprisingly strong. But then Iskandar had reported her to be a formidable creature.
“You would stand by this fool? He is making enemies of all of Lordaeron. As far as I can tell, you are among the few to support him.”
“I am her husband!”
Arinre’s eyes narrowed, considering the situation. She had heard of the Benefactors. ¨There is no marriage, Linus. The ceremony was a sham.” Before the shocked General could respond, she continued. “No, I am not renouncing our betrothal. But I will not have it said that I was wed in a decrepit ruin, in the middle of a battle! I am Queen of Gilneas! Do not forget that.”
“Quite so, your majesty.” Seranidan gave a small smile.
“Do not even try it, Elf. I have been bullied by men all my life – my father wed me off for an alliance. My husband used me to raise a rebellion and usurp my father! I invited the White Admiral, and he plundered my country. I trusted my generals, and they schemed behind my back. I would marry this man – and he would now wake up the War that has finally started to slow down!”
“You have a poor taste in men, then,” snapped Wrynn. “If you so hate me, why marry me in the first place?”
“Do not pretend, Linus, that this was ever more than politics. You needed allies. I needed your troops, and you were more than happy to ignore the Azures who serve me if it gave you a safe haven. Black Richard wreaked havoc across my realm. Now this… Void-God is loose? And you would start a war with my neighbours? That was not the deal I made.”
“If I may, my Queen,” interjected Seranidan. “There are more suitable matches for a monarch of your stature than a lowly general from the south! King Andol, for instance...”
“I am Duke of Holstein! I was damn near made King by the people of Azeroth! Who do you think you are, elf?”
“I am the Lord of the Benefactors. You wage wars that last years; I see conflicts that span centuries! We fought the Sun-King and we won! The Viridian rebellion lived in the shadows of Quel’thalas since before your precious Arathorian Empire was ever founded and your doctrines of the Light were ever written.”
“The Light is eternal!” cried Arinre. "What matters some old and musty books?”
“What is it you worship? A trick of the senses, magical fireworks! What does the Light promise you?”
“I...” Love. Comfort. Life everlasting...
“Where there is Light, there is Shadow. The Void-God is but the truest incarnation of the Shadow. Not Darkness, for Darkness is its own being. Shadow is nothingness, the non-existence between a thing and the absence of it; the oblivion created by the universe to balance your precious Light.
“The Light? Truly, what is it you worship but a force of nature? The Gods are the Meanings! Zinine gave you your mind to think with; Muhar gave you hands to work with; Brux gave you your loins for passion! Mnesthes – he gave you your hearts, to live with! What is the Light any more than gravity or the wind? What makes it more holy than the arcane arts of the Kirin Tor?”
“You do not seriously think you can convert me, Elf?” spat Arinre bitterly. “I might not have experienced it first-hand, but I have been told of the Vision. You worship not false, but empty idols!”
Seranidan gave a cold laugh. “These Visionaries are blinded fools. What they see is what the Prophet’s enemies have decided to show them. A woman in your position should have understood, by now, that there are two sides to every story. Drak’eem is colder, more treacherous than you could imagine. It was he, not Men'heva, who began all of this. It is beyond your comprehension, but know that Drak'eem has made himself enemies out of all the other Lieutenants of the Four. He claims to protect the Gods' decision to Sleep. The Prophet and the Lieutenants do not believe him - some would say that by his scheming, he caused the Sleep out of spite - and for ten thousand years have they sought to ask the Gods themselves of their choice. Drak'eem claims to protect the Truth, when in fact he is fighting for his alibi! For ten thousand years the Faiths have been beset upon by Drak'eem in every way imaginable; and know that Drak'eem's power is terrible. For Drak'eem knows that when the Gods themselves are woken, it is upon him their Judgement will fall. But for all his scheming, the Faiths are stronger than ever!”
Wrynn growled. “You speak in riddles and myths! Your blasphemous faith is a house of cards, nothing more! One the winds of Stormwind will topple soon enough. You try to use it as an excuse for your own mad quest for world domination, but can't you see you are doomed when you have nothing but vain ambition and absurd vengeance?”
“Your so-called crusade is doomed!” sneered Seranidan. “You would wage war against an entire continent! You fall in our backs, even as the troll hordes descend from the north and east! This is the true war, the only one that matters to us mortals! Let the Gods fight each other; I serve the Prophet for his cause is just. But the troll is my enemy! Battle the Dictator; he means nothing to me, for he will not send aid. But Kul Tiras was ours in this conflict. They were ready to protect Mankind and Elfkind against the barbarian hordes ready to enslave us all. But if you disturb those alliances that we have yet - if you want to wage war against every nation in the North, it is in my power to grant you that wish, General!”
Wrynn leered. “You said it yourself… your precious allies in Lordaeron and Arathor are too busy for me. They have the trolls to worry about.”
“For all your would-be sorcerers in the South, you forget your lessons quickly, General. Wage war with Elf-kind, and all strategy you have been taught means less than nothing. I can bring an army to the walls of Stormwind within a day! I could bring it inside the city!”
“Could you? How many of your precious spell-casters still live? Where are your fabled portal-weavers? Where are the rare runes to aid you? You are a spent race, elf. You should age with more dignity-“
For all the hulking strength of the Mannish general, Seranidan’s blow still struck him to the floor. With startling swiftness, he had crossed the room and now crouched over Wrynn’s moaning form.
“As I said, General. Winthalus was the kind one. It does not matter to me why you serve, only that you obey. I do not care why we fight - only that we win. Now I will ask you once more to find a way to convince Duke Fenris to call off the assault on Kul Tiras…”
Last edited by Ashenmoon; 04-10-2012 at 06:09 AM..
Thudding. Ba-doom. Pounding. Kra-koom. Breaking. Kkikc.
Immol’thar, the great purple-black monstrosity, collided with the entangled Theradras at an excessive speed, trampling her and the forest underneath. The green tendrils that held her snapped immediately, overwhelmed by the force of the impact. Pinned down by the demon’s dark claws, Theradras thrashed about, trying to free herself. Immol’thar struck down with his dual maws, the grey stone skin of the princess shattering from the impact, and the demon lapped up the blood-like lava, a strange mix of molten reds and viridian green, that spilled forth from the wounds and onto the forest below. The magic contained within was more delicious to the creature than all the sugar in the world was to a child. A wave of ecstasy washed over him as he feasted.
This provided the elemental princess with an opening. Reaching out, she grabbed a hold of some of the demon’s eye-tendrils, the ocular object at the end straining and bursting in a splash of bright orange ichor. With a strong tug the beast was thrown from Theradras and tumbled violently across the land. She slammed her fist on the ground, causing a spike of dark-brown stone, a small mountain, to erupt under Immol’thar, eliciting a scream of pain as it plunged into the creature’s flesh. The demon’s blood began to seep from the body of Immol’thar and into the forest ground. Theradras got to her feet and unhinged her jaw, letting loose a beam of pure white magic. She bombarded Immol’thar with this blast, intent on killing her foe. In her uncontrollable rage, she let loose similar blasts from her other, tertiary mouths, devastating the surrounding terrain; in a short while the living mountain did as much reshaping to the area as a glacier would in thousands of years. Theradras crouched, taking sturdier positioning on the ground.
Then, suddenly, there was no earth beneath the princess’ feet. The sound of whirling air reached the elemental’s ears and set her into a state of confusion. A panicking Theradras stopped her assault and realized she was falling. It came as a shock to her that the demon possessed the power to warp her so freely. Immol’thar let a mocking howl loose at his pray as she smashed against the ground, pieces of her body flying off as shrapnel and blood-lava splattering. Pleased that his trick had worked, the demon ran and pounced upon her. He chewed off an arm and consumed it with great haste. The princess, her face in the dirt, set off another blast, sending both herself and her enemy flying.
Theradras landed on her feet, the impact cracking the stone beneath her. Immol’thar fell and skid across the surface, slowing his slide by digging his dirty silver-grey claws into the ground, leaving long and deep marks to show his trajectory. The elemental unleashed another blast, but this time Immol’thar was ready. He countered with his own, a ray of impossibly black energy that warped the light around it. The two opposing beams collided to explosive effect, devastating the forest as if a meteor had hit. The foliage around the dueling pair withered, died and burned in an instant, trees were thrown back and flattened with crushing force. The stone itself warped and twisted.
The two gigantic beasts, the two kaiju, fought with unshakable determination. It was a battle of life or death for the both of them. Immol’thar would only be able to sate his hunger if he survived. Theradras would only be able to protect the centaur, her precious children, if she survived. The battle had gone on too long and too harshly for a truce to be considered. There would be no peace, and so the battle raged on.
Suddenly, the stalemate broke. Theradras falter, and the blast set forth by Immol’thar advanced, colliding directly with her head. She screamed in pain and stumbled back, clutching at her face with stubby fingers. Immol’thar charged forth, expecting to be able go for the kill, but instead found himself at the elemental princess’ mercy as she seized him by the throat. Theradras squeezed hard and fast, producing a loud cracking noise, before slamming the creature to the ground on his back. And so Crown Princess Theradras walked away, victorious, or so she thought.
In an instant, Theradras felt a now-familiar falling sensation. But there was no shattering collision with the ground this time. Instead, all she felt was a crashing sensation as she collided with the waves and was subsumed by the ocean water. Despite being terribly out of her element, Theradras was not frightened. She was a child of Therazane, of the earth; she had no need to breathe. She would merely need to persevere, to get to shore, and she would be fine.
But she had forgotten an important detail; the ocean was the domain of Neptulon. The domain of his children, children known for being over-protective of their realm. As Theradras reached the sea floor and attempted to strive forth, she found herself unable to do so. Vibrantly blue hands grasped at her. She tore through the sea giants that assailed her with ease, shredding them with her energy blasts. More than just sea giants attacked the living mountain; murlocs, murgul, naga, lobstrok, makrura, krakens, and other such denizens of the deep formed an unlikely alliance against the intruder, their assumed mutual foe. Their numbers were great, enough to slow her, but not enough to stop her. However, this combined attack distracted her from the most dangerous of the giants; their lord, the Sea King. Stealthily getting behind her, he swung his axe with swiftness that would be impressive even on land.
“Killmaim, to your work,” the Sea King spoke matter-of-factly, as he embedded the axe deep within the middle of Theradras’ neck.
The weapon was small, the wound even smaller. Had it been any other weapon she could have shrugged the blow off as if it were an insect bite. But Killmain was a vampyric weapon, and it leeched at her very being. If she could have she would have screamed with pain, but she couldn’t. Filled with vengeful rage, she let loose a radial blast of energy that incinerated her foes in an instant. The sea water evaporated, leaving a void to be filled by greedy ocean currents. This sped up her venture to the shore as she went with the tide.
As she near the shore, her head broke out from beneath the waves. For the first time, she was able to see the damage her conflict with Immol’thar had done to Feralas. Canyons had been filled in, hills and pillars flattened, while previously flat ground was dotted with new mountains and ravines. Forest was no longer an appropriate term for the region. The trees and other flora had been burned and blasted aways, and the fauna has died with them. Many of these remains had been swept away by the sea after Theradras’ submerging had caused a tsunami. It would be a dead region, a desert of despair. A New Desolace to replace the old one that had become her precious Theradrian Wildlands.
Soldiers scrambled in the distance; some of them centaur, some of them tauren. Neither side had a clear upperhand as far as the elemental princess could see. She would be sure to change that. Theradras was in shambles, but she still far outclassed any other creature that stood against her. She finally escaped the surf, water pouring off her as she did.
An unnatural tearing noise made its way to her ears, and what was left of her damaged vision began to fade. Looking down, she saw the last moments of a black beam of energy as it obliterated her skin and tore through her. She saw only a glimpse of the hole left behind in her chest before she died. Theradras’ corpse fell to the ground with a loud boom and a crack, leaving one final monument upon the landscape. The Dead Mountain. At the foot of the mountain rested Immol’thar, maimed but victorious.
A magpie landed on the corpse, pecking out a emerald.
Xalmor Windrunner stood alone on the summit. The stone was a dull purple. The wind whipped his hair and cloak about. The storm clouds overhead were a darkish grey and brought with them a howling wind but no rain. Despite the cloud cover there was still a great deal of light in the land. In the distance, Xalmor could see his army, the centaur people, desperately fighting, and uselessly dying.
He heard something behind him and turned, not with careless haste but with deliberate urgency. The elf drew his blade, which was a gem-like viridian crisscrossed with streaks of gleaming white, artifacts from when it had been repaired with refined Elunite. Xalmor saw nothing, but that was not enough to make him think he was alone. He heard stones, loosened by the turning of a foot, tumble down the slope. Xalmor grimaced and focused his remaining eye.
“Show your face. There is no hiding from me.” Xalmor announced loudly. At his silent command a bolt of indigo lightning struck the ground from the sky. “I am everywhere.”
Within a second Sylvanas rolled onto the summit, quickly landing of her knee with bow in hand. She quickly let an arrow loose at Xalmor, but it failed utterly as it Xalmor waved his hand through the air. Lightning in the colors of the Four trailed from his fingertips, consuming the projectile. Continuing the motion, he gestured towards Sylvanas. The plasma shot forth, too quick for Sylvanas to escape.
She writhed with pain as the energy coursed through her. But, to Xalmor’s surprise, the pain subsided. Instead of letting the energy destroy her, Sylvanas instinctually pulled it inward. It infused her with power, energy like she had never known. Slowly, she rose to her feet defiantly. Xalmor frowned.
“Bah. Now that is an annoying trick.” Xalmor moaned. “No matter. I have other techniques at my disposal.”
More lightning shot down, and would have cut Sylvanas down if not for her enhanced agility. As it was, she dodged and rolled forwards. Drawing her blade, the ranger jumped at her prey. Xalmor parried the strike easily, moving his blade with unnatural ease. Aiming for the legs, she was blocked. Sylvanas aimed for the neck with no more success. She stabbed at his chest and was disarmed entirely. Sylvanas responded by twirling around Xalmor’s blade and punching him square in the face. He stumbled back, allowing Sylvanas to reclaim her weapon.
“Your actions besmirch our family’s name,” Sylvanas growled, leaping over Xalmor’s head to attack. “I will redeem it.”
“Men’heva sends a relative to slay me. How quaint.” Xalmor responded, sidestepping the blow and hitting Sylvanas in the head with his blade’s pommel. “The power of Xaxion Drak’eem lends me sight to replace my lost eye, but even without it I would see more clearly than you do. The lies of your false Prophet blind you.”
Quickly raising his free hand to the sky, Xalmor brought forth a hard-light construct beneath Sylvanas. She felt only the sharp spikes and the pain that came with them. Had there been another there to observe, they would have seen a gleaming ivory city, willed into existence by the Malefactor Highlord. He clenched his fist and the city shattered, blowing Sylvanas off the summit and sending her tumbling down the mountain side.
Xalmor was far from finished. Reversing his grip on his sword, he grasped it with both hands and plunged it into the ground. A pulse of energy was filtered through the ground. Sylvanas, at the foot of the slope, was assaulted by treants awakened by Xalmor’s power. Simultaneously, huge chunks of the mountains broke off, tumbling down. Xalmor himself was lifted up into the air by a small rock, floating above his domain.
Sylvanas rolled to the side, avoiding the smashing arm of a giant treant. The wooden monstrosities lumbered after her, making up for their slow speed with long reach. Looking up, she spied Xalmor’s foolish display of power. She flipped over, crawling on the back of a treant and taking a stance. She carefully took aim, factoring in the wind, and fired her penultimate arrow. It cut through the air and impacted in Xalmor’s right shoulder. He fell from his high throne, plummeting down. She activated an inferno stone to deal with the treants, leaving her only with her essentials, and ran back up the mountain.
Sylvanas found Xalmor stumbling out of a crater, bleeding but not mortally wounded. However, he soon collapsed to his knees, unable to move. Sylvanas grinned triumphantly as his sword clattered to the ground. She herself was worse for the wear, her clothing ripped, torn and scorched. But she was the victor, and the satisfaction was immense. Bending over, she picked up Xalmor’s sword for herself, sheathing it in her belt as a trophy.
“That was no ordinary arrow, as you’ve no doubt surmised.” Sylvanas explained mockingly. “It was coated with the blackest of poisons. The dose will be more than enough to stop your heart. You’ll be dead within a minute.”
Xalmor said nothing, for he could say nothing. The paralysis had already taken speech from him. He could still move the muscles in his neck, however. Xalmor Windrunner looked up, the wind blowing his hair about, and with his solitary eye gave Sylvanas a look she found peculiar. It was one partial acceptance, of calm. And also, Sylvanas recognized too late, of victory. She had not even time to react before the bolt of indigo lightning tore through her. Sylvanas Windrunner fell to the ground beside Xalmor. And once more the only sounds on the mountain was the silently deafening wind.
The two elven corpses had long since cooled by the time the tauren reached the summit. Against all odds, they had broken the centaur army, and their ancient foes had scattered to the corners of the continent. The tauren seized the Theradrian Wildlands as the spoils of war. Xalmor Windrunner’s body was put on public display. Combing through the wreckage of New Desolace, which Immol’thar’s titanic battle had transformed Feralas into, the tauren found the half-elf named Greystone, catatonic but still alive. As a reward for his key role in the insurrection, Immol’thar was released back into the Twisting Nether.
The time soon came to honor Sylvanas Windrunner, their fallen savior from afar. While many tauren began their reintegration with Kalimdor at large by way of the massive chasms the centaur had carved in Mulgore, a certain group took a longer way around. High Chieftess Helka Grimtotem personally escorted Sylvanas’ body on this journey, and brought with her a number of prisoners as well as Greystone. The procession passed through the Wildlands into New Desolace. They passed by the shattered remains of Dire Maul. At this, the shackled Tolthedrin sobbed quietly and the similarly imprisoned Khans Gragtor and Krenka snorted indignantly. They were the only members of the Malefactor leadership captured; the rest had either fled or died.
The funeral procession passed through the arid ravine of Thousand Needles. They passed through the broken concentration camp, still bearing the horrific reminders of what had come to pass within it. With the assistance of the Witchwing harpies the group made their way up the side of the canyon to the area known only as the Southern Barrens. The harpies quickly took off, eager to return to their nest. There Bloodfeather, the harpy leader, tended to her new daughter, the offspring of the centaur Sylvanas had helped capture.
Upon reaching the top, Helka turned and looked out. In the distance she could see the once life-blessed land, and below her she saw the canyon prison of her people. Working in consort with the various other tauren magi, Helka tore down the border to the sea. Seawater surged through, cleaning out the place that had once been so vile. Thousand Isles had been born, and from the desert would spring new life at last.
The group continued north. They past the dragon infested Dustwallow region. They encountered raptors, who offered thanks for defeating the tyrannical centaur. They passed the Wailing Caverns, which in time would become a hub for Viridian Pilgrims. They crossed a river and approached the port of Razorfen Berth. There an agent of the Prophet that had been visiting a nectar den discovered the tauren, and Sylvanas with them. Soon a ship docked in the harbor. Sylvanas Windrunner’s body was taken aboard, alongside the prisoners and a handful of lesser tauren emissaries.
It was a sturdy ship of Gilnean make, crewed by Azure Templar Arugal’s worgen. They made the tauren nervous but did not act against them. The ship had come on short notice and thus was forced to stop off at Kezan, the domain of Ivory Templar Jastor Gallywix. Uncharacteristically, he charge them not a cent, and even lent them some of his super soldiers. The ship then docked in Lordaeron, home of Maroon Templar Arthas Corin Menethil. From there, the elven lady’s body was quickly escorted to the Prophet, who was in Dalaran. He personally took her body away and vanished for a time.
A while later, the entire world congregated in Dalaran for the Hallow’s End celebration. All major world figures were present. Zalazane, the mysterious scientist, showed off his loa-powered super soldiers. High Thane Hjalmar Anvilmar, sole ruler of the Empire of the Five Hammers, flaunted his five beautiful wives proudly. The enigmatic Dr. Gnomeregan floated distantly. Queen Calia Yune Menethil, acting ruler of Lordaeron, was attending with her new husband Isiden Perenolde and her personal brigade of witch hunters, the Scarlet Crusade, whose gained a reputation for snuffing out Lightist resistance brutally. Grand Admiral Timothy Alten and Bloodsail Duke Attuma Periandrius felt like fishes out of water. The list of dignitaries went on and on.
As the sun set and the full moon rose in the sky, the Prophet himself appeared. He gave a rousing speech the excited the crowd. One by one, he introduced Azeroth’s finest. The Templar stepped forward one by one. Azure, Ivory, Maroon. With a rousing finish, the Prophet introduced the Viridian Templar to shock and thunderous applause.
Sylvanas Windrunner stepped forward.
The Windrunner Sisters trod slowly but proudly down the road. They had been summoned for a meeting of great importance. It was a honor, even for the Viridian Templar. The sun was bright and hot, and yet her flesh was cold. A blessing from the Great Prophet. A more reasonable person might have felt a twinge of nervousness walking down they road, given what had happened before. But Sylvanas felt no such thing. As they reached the spire, they were bid enter by the Prophet, just as she had been years ago.
Join Date: Apr 2006
"Yes, yes..." The elder Hareveim muttered. She turned toward the city gates, her mind already reeling with options. She chose to remain quiet for now. The three of them hurried back the way they came in. Behind them, they heard the shouts of citizens who had seen the ships. There would be riots of panic very soon.
Jogging past the dazed guardsman, the three women soon got out of sight. Yintara turned to look at Gianata expectantly, but the eldest woman shook her head and finally spoke out loud: "No. We need to aid them in the defence of the town. I am not sure if we possess the might to repel this attack entirely, but we will try."
"With all due respect", Anazar said in a tone that held none. "To the Azure Goddess, we are much more valuable than the few thousand Zininites we'll be risking our lives for. If we die, there will be no chance of restoring the faith any more."
Gianata nodded levelly. "I understand, and agree. That's why we are not going to put ourselves in danger. I know a place where we can affect the battle without danger of discovery..."
"I can't believe I agreed to this", Anazar muttered as the women stood in the bottom of the bay, protected from the water inside a bubble of air.
Gianata kept herself from smiling, her eyes locked on the Scroll of Lore. Only with the knowledge held within, she had managed to create the enchantments to make this bubble sustainable. It even conjured fresh oxygen within the keep the three women within from asphyxiating. It required a lot of energy to keep up, but thankfully she'd managed to bind it to Anazar and Yintara, feeding on their mana so they can passively uphold it while she focuses the offense.
Shame that the ocean floor was still beyond muddy. Gianata's socks were already soaked. Yintara's face was blank, her eyes as wide as saucers as she stared at the crushing mass of water everywhere around herself.
Above them, the shapes of the Stormwind warships were sliding toward the harbour. There were so very, very many of them. Gianata strained her eyes a bit to make sure they hadn't engaged in a fight with the people of Seashire yet. The one thing the Hesperians had going for themselves was the element of surprise. She didn't want to alert the foreigners until the battle begun. "Um, sisters..." Yintara mumbled, trying to get the other two's attention.
A dozen flashes of red flew through the air, from the dock to the first ship. The vessel visibly burst into flames, and the others started to manoeuvre to battle positions. "Now let's see what kind of damage we can do from here..." Gianata muttered and lifted the Scroll up to read it while watching the battle above. Luckily, she could use the artefact's powers to keep her magic from being detected. No one would
First, the rudders. She wrecked a handful of them from the zigzagging ships at the front, by altering the water pressure around them. They lost their steerability, and started bumping into each other uncontrollably. She could almost hear the confused shouting of the sailors above. However, she also saw something that might have been arrows fired toward the town. Even as a second ship burst into flames, there were all too many left. Confusion wasn't going to win this fight for Hesperia...
Gianata wished she could close her eyes to focus, but she had to stay immersed on the Scroll to do this. From the corner of her eye, she watched one of the randomly-floating ships, and used the temporary knowledge of Lore to rend its hull.
Of course, that was just the effect. If "rending the hull" was as simple as it sounds, she wouldn't have needed the Scroll, and could have taken down all these ships in a manner of seconds. Ripping something apart with magic is actually very hard. Under normal circumstances, the best solution is to cut it with a blade of hard air. Under water... that was not an option. Gianata took another approach by conjuring air within the wooden structure of the hull, causing the timbers to shatter and the ship to leak.
It would take half a minute for the first target to sink, so Gianata turned her attention to another. She had considered rapid-conjuring air within the ships to create enough pressure to explode them. That would be much flashier, but unfortunately it took too much mana for her to do more than once or twice. As she ruptured the second ship's hull, Yintara cleared her throat: "Sisters..."
"Later", Gianata snapped and kept weaving her spells. It took enough focus to keep her magic undetectable without having to deal with the woman's claustrophobia.
She ripped into a third ship, and then, to change things up, dealt with two more by creating an underwater iceberg which rose up and surfaced between them, knocking them down. It took more of her energy than ripping their hulls would have, but she wanted to strike fear into the hearts of the Stormwind armada.
By now, she was sweating from the strain. She did not usually do such great feats of magic. Breaking another hull felt harder than the iceberg had, despite being nowhere near as hard a task. However, she now saw that some of the ships were turning around, sailing away from Seashire. The fleet was breaking up. Anazar gave a surprised gasp despite herself, broken from her resignation.
"Gianata, Anazar!" Yintara said urgently. "Watch out!" She pointed a finger directly up.
The eldest sister looked up, and saw something big and dark right above herself. Without thinking, she sidestepped. The object fell through their air bubble, onto the ocean floor. It was a heavy metal chest. If she'd been a second slower, she'd have been killed for sure. Other debris from the broken ships was starting to reach the bottom as well, some of it falling uncomfortably near as well.
"I tried to tell you we're too near to the fleet!" Yintara cried out. "We need to get out of here!"
"I agree", Anazar said. "The enemy is starting to rout, except for the ships whose controls you disabled. Seashire will probably remain unconquered another day. We have given them a fighting chance. Now let's leave before our luck runs out."
Gianata felt a flash of anger at the word luck. This success was luck, then? Making those zealots run away crying, all just luck? She hesitated, before nodding and handing the Scroll to Anazar temporarily. "Please make the portal for me. I haven't used this much magic within a few minutes in decades."
As Anazar wordlessly complied, Gianata looked above again. All the ships that could steer were fleeing, now. Some remained behind, deserted by their comrades. She had done what she could. The fate of Seashire now fell onto those brave defenders.
She stepped through the portal, back to the Nave.
Co-creator of UFS, a joint urban fantasy setting.
Join Date: Dec 2007
Ravenholdt, Dalaran and Lordaeron
Sacrificing the entire city of Venege seemed to Myrokos to be an unnecessary expenditure. He didn’t want to see civilian casualties unless they were absolutely necessary. He proposed dropping the powder bombs on the approaching Hesperian forces via portals before they entered the city, but Dosantos shot him down. He wouldn’t risk the Western Legion sensing the portal’s summoning and countering the attack. It had to be a complete surprise delivered in a traditional manner.
From afar, the Ravenholdt and Lordaeron retinue watched as the Western Legion approached Venege.
Myrokos Silentform: Are you comfortable with this plan, your Majesty? Dosantos sounded like a Perfectibilist with his casual approach to the slaughter of pagan civilians.
Alford Menethil: I donned this mask for a reason, Myrokos. You know as well as I that it represents opposition to tyranny. With what’s happened lately to my Kingdom… to my family… my wife, Bauros, my sons… I’ve realized the full extent of the mistakes I’ve made. I’ve realized that I was tyranny. While I still truly believe that Paganism can and will fade away, whole-sale slaughter isn’t the way to achieve that end. We have to show them a better way. That’s why I insisted upon your addendum to Dosantos’ plan.
Myrokos Silentform: And here it is now…
As the portal swirled into existence, the first thing that emerged was a sound.
Lucio Benado: Luccccccccccciiiiiooooooooooooo Benado!
The flamboyant rogue stepped out of the portal, flanked by the magical vortex’s creator, Scavell, and dozens of priests of the Holy Light. They were successful in rounding them up. Thomas Marden was dead, and the Church, like all Lightist entities, would need to be reinvent itself.
Alford Menethil: Welcome, clerics!
Lightist Priest #1: We were summoned in the name of Lordaeron… in the name of King Alford Menethil.
Alford Menethil: King Alford is gone. We fight on in his name, to ensure his legacy is a just one. We reclaim Lordaeron for him.
Those who knew the truth about who was behind the Mithril Mask were surprised to her Alford disavow his identity. Perhaps the deposed monarch thought that Alford Menethil was a better martyr than leader? But then, Myrokos had to ponder, if they did succeed in reclaiming Lordaeron, who would be King? What was the Man in the Mithril mask’s ultimate plan?
As the King instructed the new arrivals, the Guardian had other concerns.
Myrokos Silentform: Back from Fenris Isle before you. He and our new Qu were totally successful.
Scavell: Excellent. Your inventor is truly skilled to produce such devices and so many in such a short time. And your part…
Myrokos Silentform: Already done.
Scavell: Good. Then let us hope that this works. Our primary concern is weakening Dalaran so that we might have a chance of recapturing the Scroll of Lore. I don’t want our mission smattered in the bodies of dead innocents.
And so, the Western Legion made its way into the city. What they didn’t know was that there were Kirin Mora hidden on the city’s rooftops and equipped with Powder Bombs.
Moreover, they didn’t know that Myrokos and his agents of Ravenholdt had stealthily placed small arcano-transponders on the person of every civilian in Venege. The devices, hastily crafted by New Qu with Erbag’s guidance, allowed a spell to be cast on a target that was far out of range by teleporting the spell, cast on a proxy, to the transponder.
When the Kirin Mora were given the signal to drop the Powder Bombs, the Lightist Clerics, at a safe distance from the city, would utter their Power Word: Shield on the proxies. The devices would then transport the protective shields to envelop the civilians. Collatoral damage would be avoided, and the pagans would be saved by the unmistakable golden hue of the Holy Light, hopefully resembling a miracle and resulting in some religious epiphanies. Dosantos scoffed at the extra effort, but Alford insisted.
Alford Menethil: This is a new age! And in the name of Menethil, things will be different!
Last edited by Timolas; 04-27-2012 at 07:42 AM..
"You children of the Four faiths stand on the shores of destruction, pillars against the heresy..." Xaxion's voice trailed off in their minds.
But Xalmor Windrunner was no longer listening to Xaxion's speech.
Something had changed. Time seemed to slow down. A painful green light enveloped the ruins of Ythan'alai.
And the eyelids of the statue began to open. They revealed emerald fire, which sucked Xalmor's attention into their unknowable depths. Xalmor felt entranced, like a mouse before a snake.
Xaxion Drak'eem spoke again. But this time, it was only to him.
"Your ignorance will be your downfall, little elf."
A whip of fear lashed Xalmor, sending shivers up his spine. What had he done wrong? Was Drak'eem displeased with him?
"My lord? My master? Of what do you speak?"
Xaxion's voice deepened.
"Precisely. You claim to fight for me, for Mnesthes, but you know nothing. And yet, you crusade as if you did. In the Old World there was a word for insects like you. The Dark Trolls called them kracil. Liabilities, burdens on the tribe, those who did not learn the game of survival fast enough. Embarrassments to the tenets of the Viridian God."
Desperate to appease Xaxion, Xalmor fell to his knees, planting his sword in the ground before him. His sword became like an anchor as he leaned against it.
"But my lord, I am your Viridian Templar. I have created an order to destroy the true kracil, Men'heva. If I have displeased you, it is not through any fault of my own, my lord."
And Xaxion's voice grew painful. It was loud enough to damage Xalmor's ears, but since the words were unspoken, they instead felt like a weight on his mind.
"Viridian Templar? The title is an invention, elf. An invention out of the depths of Men'heva's imagination. Perhaps now you begin to see the beginnings of your ignorance. What do you pretend to know of the Old World? You who speaks the Lord's name as 'Mnesthes', a corruption of Mueh'zala."
"I am trying, my lord..."
"You think spending a couple of centuries in a monastery in service to Men'heva is a testament to your faith? And because you turned on Men'heva with the same gullibility and ignorance that birthed you, I am supposed to treasure you? No, Xalmor Windrunner. You are a lesser son in a lesser Age, acting out your interpretation of a True Doctrine you know nothing of."
Xalmor could not speak. He could not think. His vision crashed into a blurry maelstrom. Like the stained glass window of a church of the Holy Light, his pride exploded into shards, cutting him heart and soul.
"You resurrected me... why?"
"Because I had a use for you. To awaken Phorcys from his stupor and madness. And that is what you did. And the Vision occurred as I had foreseen. But my powers are waning. Men'heva has blinded me. And things that I could never have foreseen are coming to pass. Phorcys did not become the champion I intended. Instead, you have filled his role. And so, you will have to do."
So Xaxion had just used him all along. Yet Xalmor was happy, so long as it served Mnesthes... Mueh'zala.
"You have but to command me, great lord."
"The future is unclear to me. Men'heva has blinded me by tampering with history itself. To fight back I have had to be equally... unpredictable. Xalmor Windrunner, you must destroy Men'heva. But you may fail. And if you fail, and Men'heva wins this war, then he will create a utopia. He will attempt to awaken the Gods. And you must make sure that he fails, even then."
"You wish me to prevent the Awakening, great lord? But why?"
Xalmor's mind began to ripple with sudden laughter, as Xaxion Drak'eem received his words.
"Mueh'zala is sleeping. He will return, but his will was for none to seek him."
That much, at least, had not changed. Xalmor pressed down upon his blade, hoisting himself to his feet once more.
"What of his worshippers? Are we meant to die out, great lord?"
"Whether the religions of the Four die out or not is irrelevant. The myth of their pre-determined extinction was my greatest weapon against Men'heva. If you succeed in destroying Men'heva, then what you do with your Viridian followers means little to me."
"My... Viridian followers, great lord? What of the others?" Xalmor pressed, his uncertainty growing.
"The unity of the Four religions is another myth created by Men'heva. He had to do it, little elf. Without such a myth, he would not have gained any allies. D'vorjakque would not have stood with him. Nor would Xostheron or Akaerna-Sagai, whom he once served. No, Mueh'zala was always an enemy of the other Gods."
"So what must be done, great lord?"
"When you destroy Men'heva, you must gather all worshippers of the Ivory, Azure and Maroon faiths. And you must kill them all."
Of all Xaxion Drak'eem's words, these shook Xalmor the most. His master was a deceiver, in many respects no different to Men'heva. In some, perhaps worse. And he was being asked to lie to his Malefactors, and to execute them once they had served their purpose. This, he was not sure he could do.
"But great lord..."
"Do not test me, Xalmor Windrunner. You pretended to fight for the truth, but you fought a cause you had invented yourself. I am bestowing upon you your destiny. If you reject it, you will be another heretic, and you will have betrayed Men'heva for nothing. This is my will, and I am the Prophet of Mueh'zala."
There was silence, for a time. Xalmor looked away from the statue and turned around. His fellow Malefactors stood frozen, the green light still holding sway over the ruins of Ythan'alai. Then Xalmor remembered the Esoteric fleet.
"My lord, what of the Esoterics?"
"If you wish to stop them, the first enemy you must slay is your ignorance. Then you will have to forge your Malefactors into a true weapon, one which is unbreakable. You fight, Xalmor Windrunner, with many untested servants. I look into their souls and I see doubt, hatred and fear. They are weak. Many will betray you. They will betray you unless you harden them. They must become dependent upon you."
"Who will betray me?"
"Ianthe Marsh is one. She is a mere girl whose life was spent on this wretched island in service to her father. Though she hates her father, you ask too much for her to fight him when she has only just swayed to your cause. There is only one way that she will remain loyal to you until the end, before her doubts grow." Xaxion Drak'eem paused for a moment. "You must tell her that it is my will that she kills her lover, Iphis Galmin. Force her to do it. And then, all she will have left is her faith in you. She will not dare betray you after she executed her lover for you. Because then she would have nothing."
Xalmor Windrunner tore his sword from the earth. The shock and horror had begun to subside, and he could think clearly again.
"What else have you to say to me, great lord?"
"Your greatest weapon against Men'heva is to turn his followers against him. The Vision was one such weapon. Another is to blame actions on him that are not his own. I have already manipulated many of his agents into blasphemy and necromancy. I raise them and give them a second chance at life when they fall in battle. But I do it only if they will serve me. It is what I did with you. You will find many such Viridians working against him."
"Necromancy, great lord? But if it is a blasphemy, is that not what you have done by raising me?" Xalmor asked.
"Do not mistake what I have given you with necromancy. I have merely delayed your death until a time of my choosing. And now, Xalmor Windrunner, you must go. But before you do, know that if you fail to defeat Men'heva, then you must still prevent the Awakening. Seek an artifact called the Felstone of Fhaclingerf, guarded by the Blue Dragonflight. And you must take it across the sea, to the remnants of the Old World, to a place called Maraudon. There all will be made clear..."
The city of New Barsmouth had been prepared. The Malefactors had evacuated many of its citizens and had armed those who could fight. A ragtag mixture of elves, humans and some half-trolls formed the first line of defence against the Esoteric fleet. They had been promised their freedom from Isolationism in exchange for their loyalty. It was a hastily erected defence, but it was all that the Malefactors had.
At the rear of the city, Brutus Armaggon looked over the team he had assembled. Kraus Gardham was to be his right hand man in keeping it together for the assassination attempt on Ephraim Marsh. Orianthi Strikenstar had also joined them, providing a magical edge to their offensive.
The rest of the square they were in was taken up by the airship of the Daughters of Pontus. Theirs would be the job of deploying the serum, designed to disrupt the half-troll army that was heading their way.
"So, gentlemen and you couple of ladies. I don't have to remind you how much is at stake here. If we fail, that might cost us this battle. And this battle decides the war. We won't be getting any second chances."
"Don't worry, Brutus." Orianthi said with a wink. At her side was a Galaran, a fellow elf.
"We've got too much to live for to let you children fail. Especially considering you humans only have a few decades left to lose." Galaran added.
"Wonderful. Thank you, Orianthi. Thank you, Galaran." Brutus grunted. "Kraus, got anything to add?"
The Zaramim shook his head, but said something anyway.
"Just do what I say if Brutus dies, and we're good."
"Right." Brutus concluded. "To the docks. Mnesthes ftang. And whatever it is you say for the other three."
Secretly, he wished it was his Eels he was commanding.
The Esoteric ships were hit by a barrage of magical attacks - but the spellcasters on board returned the exchange just as ferociously. Within the hour, the ships smashed into the docks, sending thousands of crazed half-trolls pouring into the city of New Barsmouth. The Malefactors' lines of defence crumbled under the heavy assault. A retreat was quickly called to the barricaded inner city.
Above, the airship of the Daughters of Pontus readied its load. A single hand gesture later, the precious cargo of serum was unloaded onto the docks of New Barsmouth. Kegs of the substance exploded amidst the half-trolls below. Some of them hit half-trolls directly, crushing them under the falling barrels.
Nothing happened immediately. It took a minute or two, as the Daughters watched from above with their breaths held. Then something began to change. The sea of half-trolls below began to churn, as unexpected and out of place as a whirlpool in a river. The adrenaline in the half-trolls seemed to turn sour, and many began to hack and tear at one another. Their connection to Ephraim Marsh severed, they were falling into disorganized chaos.
It was what the Malefactors had been waiting for. They began their counter-offensive from behind the barricades.
Below, Brutus Armaggon and his team launched their ship from its hiding place. It was a small, sleek vessel, the very same one that had taken them to Boralus for Melusine. With the confusion in the city, the Esoterics would not be watching the waters. At least, Brutus hoped that was the case. Regardless, he was grateful for his amphibious training.
The docks vanished behind them as the skiff passed under the nose of the Esoteric Armada. Fortunately for them, Ephraim's flagship was as flamboyant as any king's. It was a vast black ship, bearing the seal of Grinwillow along its sails.
Docking their skiff alongside the ship, the Malefactors fired a grappling hook into one of the cabin windows. Brutus was the first to start pulling himself up. Jumping into the ship, Brutus found the room deserted. It was fortunate that the battle had sent all hands to the deck, or the mission would have been short lived. Kraus was the next to pull himself into the room. Free of his armour, the Zaramim looked like a different man.
"Think Orianthi will need a hand?" Kraus whispered, bending to peer out of the window just as Orianthi's head popped up.
"I'm not a weak damsel in distress, pig." she hissed, joining them inside.
Next came Galaran, and then Commando Steppin Shepherd.
Several agents later, the team was ready. Following plans looted from Grinwillow, they set out to find and eliminate Ephraim Marsh.
In the streets of New Barsmouth, the Malefactors were reaping the rewards of their counter-attack. Though the city was only the first line of defence on the road to Grinwillow, it was proving surprisingly effective. It had been considered a suicide mission by many, but the Middlecreek Brigade had volunteered for the task.
Commander Ichabod Cohen of the Middlecreek Brigade danced his warhammer's favourite dance. He waltzed into the half-trolls with vengeful fury, leading the charge to retake the docks. Behind him, the injured but steadfast Zaramim, Nevain Daxaner, watched his back.
"Our luck is not going to last, Ichabod! We should fall back!"
"Nonsense, boy! We have the initiative!" Ichabod answered, ramming his warhammer down a half-troll's throat. "It's what Rum Rum Rhulin would have wanted!"
But something was wrong. The half-trolls ranks were thickening. No longer were the Malefactors gaining ground. Ichabod could not see any infighting between the trolls any longer. Something was wrong.
Perhaps the serum had worn off. Perhaps the Esoterics had strengthened their hold on their soldiers. Whatever it was, time was running out. All hope rested on Brutus Armaggon's shoulders now.
Rising above the rest of the flagship, a small wooden tower served as the seat of Ephraim Marsh's power.
Brutus Armaggon and his team cut their way up the staircase, breaking their cover in their scramble to accomplish the mission. Fresh air and sunlight streamed down the final flight of stairs as they rushed up towards the top of the small tower...
... and came face to face with Ephraim Marsh.
The Duke of House Marsh, first amongst the Esoteric Order, was seated on a small throne atop the tower. His face was hidden completely behind a painted mask. The mask itself rested comfortably under the shadows of a hood. The Duke was dressed in elaborate ceremonial armour. Even sitting down, Brutus could tell that Duke Marsh was a giant of a man. Perhaps it had something to do with his troll genes.
"Duke Marsh." Brutus began, motioning to Galaran to ready the serum. "For your heresy, you are under arrest."
"Is that so?" Duke Marsh asked venomously.
"The Chosen of the Prophet shall decide your fate."
"I am the Chosen of the Prophet."
With lightning speed, the Duke tore to his feet and charged at them. His sword appeared just as quickly. In a second, Commando Steppin Shepherd was down. His head hit the deck with a wet thud.
A cry of alarm went up elsewhere on the ship. The only way out would be through the air. Brutus threw a flare to the ground, blazing with red fire and smoke. Then he joined the battle.
Duke Marsh fought like a demon. Every time one of the Malefactors thought they had an opening, the Duke would react unexpectedly, warning off the assault with an injury or even a killing blow.
Orianthi Strikenstar threw a bolt of frost straight at the Duke. It exploded against the Duke's armour. The Duke fell onto his back, giving Galaran the chance he had been waiting for. The elf went for Duke Marsh's throat, trying to jab him with a small dagger laced with serum.
A crossbow bolt hit Galaran in the chest, sending him tumbling back. The elf landed at Brutus' feet with eyes rolled into the back of his head. His dagger spiralled through the air and vanished off the side of the tower. Duke Marsh rose to his feet, this time flanked by similarly masked soldiers rushing up from the stairs.
Killing the Duke outright would have to do. Brutus, Kraus and the last two swordsmen in the team went for the soldiers.
"Orianthi, finish him!"
The spellcaster began to conjure flames from her hands, but she was interrupted by more crossbow bolts. She blocked them just in time, but more kept coming.
Brutus saw that the flare he had broken had been noticed. The airship of the Daughters of Pontus was up above, their only chance at escape. But the Esoterics were trying to shoot it down with ballistas and spells.
Duke Marsh clashed with Kraus, the strongest man in the team. But even Kraus was no match for the Duke. The Zaramim's strength buckled and he fell back to the edge of the tower.
Orianthi missed a bolt, and she clutched at her abdomen as she tumbled over the side of the tower. Brutus Armaggon made one final leap at Duke Marsh, swinging with the blade where a hand had once been. The Duke met the blow, and their blades were locked. Brutus was about to strike the Duke with his free hand, but a wave of pain hit him. He collapsed on the deck, one of the Duke's goons standing above him.
"A noble effort, William Olmstead. A noble effort!" the Duke chuckled.
Brutus' vision went black.
In the city, Ichabod was beginning to realise that the half-trolls had not broken. It meant that Brutus Armaggon must have failed.
He pulled a horn from his belt and sounded the retreat. But it would be far too late for most of them. Instead of using the half-trolls' confusion, they had launched a counter-offensive. The Middlecreek Brigade was now split up and many divisions were being trapped, unable to retreat. They had lost all hope for an orderly withdrawal the moment they attempted to reclaim the docks.
"Daxanar!" Ichabod cried, fending off a strike from a half-troll. "Lead these people out through the tunnels beneath the town hall!"
"What about you?" the Zaramim yelled.
"I'll rally the survivors! I'll see you in Grinwillow or in the hereafter!"
"By the Blue Child!" Nevain Daxanar cursed. "To me! To me!"
New Barsmouth was lost.
There is no creature on earth half so terrifying as a truly just man.
Last edited by Timolas; 04-15-2012 at 07:03 PM..
Nearly a month had past, the volunteer army of Rogni Bronzebeard had ballooned in size. Crime had quieted in Port Baradin while the force had amassed outside the city walls. The marsh proved to be a location ill-suited to hosting a mass of people, and they grew discontented. Baron Rogni shared their sentiments and was overjoyed when the preparations were completed. He began rousing the army, packing supplies and getting his men ready to move.
Quinton Stone watched from afar, atop the roof of his mansion home. Kargkul Pillaclencher opened the door and walked out, carrying a tray of small foods.
“Watching the proceedings, are we Master Quinton?”
“It concerns me. What if all this progress has only been sustained because of the threat of the burgeoning army?” Stone mused.
“If that concerns you, then perhaps you should get some sleep. Your efforts may be even more necessary this night.”
“Perhaps you may be right, Kargkul.” Quinton Stone stood up. “Wake me if anything happens.”
“Yes, Master Quinton.” Kargkul said as the half-elf went inside the house. “I guess I’ll just eat these sandwiches myself.”
--- Ten days earlier ---
The Highlands of Loch Verrall were quite chilly this time of year. Of course, they were cold year-round, but the cold was still notable to the group of cloaked travelers ascending the rocky terrain. The mid-day sun dimly illuminated the land through gray clouds. The slopes were massive but gradual, the landscape spreading out before them in a beautiful display of nature’s glory. Unblemished by large trees, the mountains were a marvelous exhibition of stone and grasses. But they were not here to take in the sights.
As they traversed the rocky slopes they passed by the fauna most would expect from the area, with a single odd exception. A pride of lion moved slowly by, proud and strong. Their coats were thick with fur to protect themselves from the biting cold. They regarded the travelers wearily, and received similar looks in return. They crossed the river and climbed up the mountainside to reach Loch Verrall proper. As they approached the shore a messenger ran up to them.
“Hello! You must be...”
“Yes, I am. Where is it?” the head of the travelers spoke sternly.
“Right this way!” the messenger turned and shuffled away, the travelers in tow. “You know, we got awful lucky on this dig.”
“We had been at this for weeks with nothing. Even with those tools you provided we couldn’t make progress because we didn’t know where to look. There were all these tigers too, just gathering around the place, causing trouble. Suddenly we hear this pounding noise from underneath. Next thing we know the ground just breaks open and these golems charge out. Five of ‘em, all screaming about serving some ‘Void God’.”
“We used your tools to scrap ‘em,” the messenger pointed to a pile of golem parts on the side of the road. The group traveled slowly up a steep path. “Naturally, this sparks our interesting. So we start looking in the hole these things made on their way out. And we found it. We’ve got nearly the whole thing excavated by now.”
“Got what excavated?” one of the other travelers asked as they reached the summit. The messenger looked to the leader, who nodded in approval.
“I present to you...” the messenger said, throwing his arm out. Before them was a great building of some sort, carved with various styles and runes, some trollish, most not. “...the Bastion of Eraka no Kimbul.”
--- Now ---
The Thandol Span was a glorious construction. No expense had been spared in its making. It support entire armies with ease. Unfortunately, Stromgarde was no longer enemy of Dalaran, and thus it was useless for the army’s endeavor. Instead, a vast mercenary fleet had been paid for. In terms to sheer fleet size it rivaled Stormwind’s navy. However, they were all transport ships, useless in aquatic warfare. Which was fine, as the dwarves did not aim to use such tactics.
The sun was setting as the first units boarded the ships. In typical dwarves pragmatism there was little ceremony. The ships were boarded based on regiment number, not rank or prestige. As it happened, the low-numbered units were amongst the worst, undertrained, out of shape, and regretting their enlistment. Quinton Stone, dressed in his vigilante garb, watched from the shadows. He had rested long and was prepared for the night’s work.
Suddenly, an unnatural sound reached his ears. It was vibrating noise, painful to hear. The dwarves were unaware, the frequency just a tad too high for their hearing. It stopped, and there was a moment of quiet. The next moment, all nether broke loose. From the deep bowels of the bay a massive red explosion burst forth. The few boarded ships were destroyed instantly as magical energy tore at them on an atomic level.
The real damage, however, came from the shockwave. The blast pushed forth a radial wave of water, a tsunami of fearsome proportions. The few mages in the army scrambled to conjure barriers. Quinton Stone was lucky enough to find himself inside one. Water surged against the arcane fields of powers and fell back as soon as it had rushed forward, lacking the energy to sustain the tidal wave for long. It had been sustained long enough, however. When the shields went down the dwarves beheld their once-great armada decimated.
Those ships that had not been outright destroyed had been capsized. The few ships that remained would be insufficient to carry even a fraction of their military strength. Soon, corpses began surfacing. Dwarves mostly, with the occasional human or even gnome from Port Baradin. However, about ten corpses stuck out. These human men, heavily burned, wore the tabard of Stromgarde. Baron Rogni Bronzebeard, in a rage, roared that this attack would not go unpunished.
The Thandol Span would see use after all.
--- Ten days earlier ---
The Bastion, just as legend and rumor had said, contained a plethora of artifacts and other such things. Most of which were extremely, excessively lethal. One room contained a statue that could and would snap the neck of any and every person in the room unless at least one person maintained eye contact. Another contained blades that turned a person’s liver into a porcupine when touched. A third contained a flask that transformed any liquid poured into it into a liquid consistent with the properties of troll blood.
As such, many in the group found themselves extremely unsettled by the Bastion of Eraka no Kimbul. The hallways were dark, damp and frightening. Only the lead traveler seemed unaffected. At the messenger’s direction he led the group to a great antechamber. A pool of water, black and still as the night sky, dominated the room. They edged their way around it and proceeded into the main chamber.
The chamber was filled with stone figures and the like, replicating the scene of a wild jungle. It depicted a scene in which predators hunted prey in the crowded forest. Figurines of great beasts were numerous. In the center rose a pyramidal-type platform. At the top was a pedestal, and on the pedestal rested a round stone. This stone was covered in markings, making it resemble an eye. The leader approached, his hands outstretched over the artifact but not touching it.
“The Ancient Oculus...” he whispered. “Pure, unfiltered power.”
The Oculus began to glow faintly and rose up. It seemed to follow the man’s command.
“What’s it doing?” one of the travels, a woman, asked.
“It seems, Miss Ketkhin, that you chose a poor day to travel with me.” the man replied. Working his fingers rapidly, a pulse of energy was let loose.
The man walked out of the Bastion, alone, with haste. He had no business left to conduct. The Ancient Oculus floated in front of him. Drawing on its power, the man raised his arms. The Bastion exploded in a violent, flaming blast. The Oculus dimmed briefly. Satisfied, the man threw off his hood. The burning embers reflected grimly on his skin as Facade walked away.
--- Now ---
The Volunteer Force finished its preparations for war on Stromgarde by the middle of the night. They were furious at the apparent terrorist attack by their northern neighbors. Once more, they would strike at the birthplace of humanity. Already Baron Rogni Bronzebeard gave rousing speeches, speaking of deposing the usurper Mallick Vitalian and returning the true heir Eldengar Trollbane to the throne. Jack Turpin watched the proceedings with an unhappy look on his face.
“He’s wrong,” a gravely voice came from the shadows. The Vigilante spoke. “Those men weren’t from Stromgarde.”
“What did you find?” Turpin asked.
“Their bodies had markings consistent with those of Hromith Morani and several others. This was Facade’s doing.”
“He won’t believe it. Rogni and his men want a war as soon as they can and the only way they’ll be getting it now is against Stromgarde.” Turpin shook his head. “If this is Facade’s doing, you can bet he’ll have a follow up move. We need to stay on our toes.”
“I’ll be ready.” the Vigilante replied.
“I’m sure you will, but the rest of this town? No, they won’t be. Not after this. Ignal Ironroot will do his best but if Facade makes his move you’ll be on your own if we don’t approach this right.” Turpin sighed heavily.
The various crime lords of Port Baradin were once more gathered. The argument was heated, insults flying back and forth. In attendance were Sendent Morani, Osric Greystone, Jackie Ketkhin, the Toucan, Quincy Caldwell, Siolfor Blackhammer, and the various others. Junno Flyntrock, now known as Inquiry, tried to keep the peace but was on the receiving end of much of the insults. The doors opened and Facade strode in triumphantly.
“What in the nether was that?” Morani roared.
“I promised you a show. I’m a man of my word.” Facade replied.
“You just killed good men! They were going to stick it to those assholes in Hesperia. Now you’ve got them chasing after Stromgarde!”
“Ease up, Sendent!” Jackie Ketkhin shot back. “I’m sure he has a good explanation for this.”
“What I want to know,” Osric said loudly. “Is how you managed it. All the power you would have needed...”
“Your funds did not go to waste,” Facade explained. “I had an artifact unearthed that allowed me to multiple my power a hundred fold.”
“And where is this artifact now?”
“I have it in safe keeping. Most of the power in it is expended but it remains worth studying.”
“Just tell us why you did it.” the Toucan demanded. “That’s all we want to know, see?”
“A war with Stromgarde is better for business than a war with Hesperia.” Facade elaborated. “Hesperia’s crime scene is heavily entrenched and is an important business partner for us here. Stromgarde’s criminal climate is far less stable and important. After this war is done we will be able to move in and take Stromgarde for ourselves.”
“I like it. Shrewd business move. Makes more sense than when my father put this city to war.” Siolfor announced.
“I agree,” Caldwell affirmed. The others murmured similar sentiments.
“Good, good.” Facade concluded. “Now, the law’s position in the port will become rather precarious shortly. They’ll attempt to rule with an iron fist but the people of Port Baradin have lost their trust in its effective power. Soon, we will be the real lawmakers in this city. “
Join Date: Aug 2008
My boy builds coffins,
Sometime after Ba'jal's encounter with Ha'lin and Nuvzagal
Fire crept at the center of the Kaizar's wartent, infront of him stood Alyson Antille of the Atal'jin, after been explicity summouned by the Kaizar himself.
‘Why have you summoned me my Kaizar?’ She said.
‘I have summoned here because I have pondered on your words Atal’jin.’
‘Will you let us return to our homes then??’ She asked her hopes letting loose any restrain in her words.
‘’You have no homes to return to Alyson, when you decided to turn into Atal’jin you forsaked your previous life and identity, you know that already.’’ Nuvzagal noticed how despair drew itself upon alyson’s face, he talked once again before she could answer ‘’ Don’t give me that face Atal’jin you are stronger than this, you are even stronger than some of us. Listen to me, and listen to me carefully: It pains me a bit to say this, but I know your plight.’’
‘’How could you?!’ Alyson snapped almost in tears, Nuvzagal remained inmutable and prepared to continue talking.
‘Did you saw a vision of Jin’thek during the battle?? Wait, no it doesn’t matter you wouldn’t be able to tell me the truth in the state you are in. You do know atleast how did Jin’thek ascended to loahood right? How he lived through the countless life’s that where shaped by his, as if they where his own??’’
‘’Yes, yes I do’’ She said her eyes turning red by anger and sadness.
‘’Well then you may know that he spoke to some of us personally during that moment.’’
Alyson just nodded.
‘When he spoke to me he told me to trust you since you held to key to the victory of the lebenstraum. Of course when I heard that, I refused to listen and even cursed him, but you know what he did? He made me experience the life of one of you and how it was changed by his life. To be more precise he made me experience the life of the white haired wolf.’’
Alyson gasped in surprise
‘’So I do understand you, even more than you would imagine. And I am not the only one; a few of us did too. But you know what I realized by living his life, despite how much it pained to me to do so, is that we both suffered because of the same thing: Elven society. We, trolls, suffered because we where out of it even more we had to be out of it for it to exist. And you, and most of your comrades, suffered because of the opposite: because you where part of it.’’
‘’So why then!! If you understand our suffering so much!! Why can’t you at least let us return to our homes??’’
‘’Because you where all raised in that society, if you returned to your houses you would probably end up rebuilding your own version of elven society.
‘So what then? What will happen to us after you and everyone who had that vision dies?? What happens when we are not useful for you anymore??? We turned into Atal’jin because…’’ But she couldn’t finish the sentence Nuvzagal interrupted her with a hand gesture.
‘Don’t finish that sentence, or I will have to execute you for treason and I know you don’t really mean it. Listen to me first of all I never said that I didn’t accepted you nor I said that you couldn’t be accepted I just told you I can’t force my trolls to accept you like I do. But this also doesn’t meant that there isn’t a way for them to accept you, even more there is a way for that to happen.’
‘You want to give them the same vision you received?’
‘No, that is not only out of my reach but also is not the way. You see it was not the vision that made me accept you Alyson even more that vision sent me into denial. The moment I accepted you was the moment I realized we don’t owe the victory of this battle to an elf.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘That you are not an elf Antylle, you are an Atal’jin.’ Alyson just looked confused at Nuvzagal’s words. ‘What Jin’thek gave you was not the right to be an Atal’jin Alyson, he gave you the chance to attempt to prove yourself to be one, and you did. You could had killed lezli instead and let the elven force retake the city but you didn’t. When the white haired wolf led the attack to the island, he could have defected and informed them of our plans, but he didn’t.’
‘Then what does this mean? If you cannot force your trolls to recognize us, if we can’t go back? Then what does all of this mean Nuvzagal?’
‘It means two things that there is a way for you to be recognized as equals, and it is to keep doing what you have been doing so far. And that you may have not yet be equals but you have earned your right to exist, you have earned your right to be a part of the Lebenstraum. You have shed blood and tears for this dream like the rest of us, you have the right to fight until you are finally accepted.’’ He said while approaching Alyson, who just remained silent
‘’It means we won’t kill you off.’ Nuvzagal said in a ironic tone, while putting his hand over her shoulder, Alyson chuckled a bit nervously.
‘Then?’ She said
‘‘Its more that you think of, its more than a mere recognizition it’s a new beginning. You are part of the dream; you have the right to be part of it, to exist in it. In other words you have gained your place in our society. Don’t be confused this is not that we are giving you the right to spill blood for us, we are giving you the right to spill blood beside and with us. And also as a rightful part of the lebenstraum you all, as Atal’jin, will be allowed to have land after this war is over. You will able to settle down with all of us, that is Jin’thek divine will and mine.’’
The clock spins again, a little farther in time
Ba’jal words where right, even if he wasn’t being sincere, he had a point the prophet was still scheming of ways of using them to fulfill his ambitions. Jin’thek himself had warned them that their enemies where plotting against them, finally realizing how much of threat they were. They had been so far been underestimated by their foes but no matter how proud their enemies were it could not last.
The pacification of Zul’guazu was about to culminate meanwhile the reclamation of Jobal’kan was about to really get into motion.
They could not risk for the Prophet to meddle with their affairs again, surely his hand has been involved in the recent battle for Atalm.
Yet they had no way of being certain of Ba’jal intentions, even if he was being really sincere with them his betrayal itself could had been held into account by the Prophet, hell it could even be an actual part of his plan.
It seemed that finally they were at destiny’s mercy, or did they? They did had a way to see if Ba’jal was being sincere, if he had truly repented and he had truly betrayed the prophet, even if his betrayal was in the plans of the Prophet it wouldn’t be the first time that had to deal with his speculations.
Nuvzagal lifted his voice and said in a loud voice making sure the Shadow Hunters outside heard his order ‘’Let Sung’jeng in’
Meanwhile, in another corner of the city
The streets of Atalm were a practical chaos the great battle to stop the elven invasion had ended almost a week ago, but there was still stuff to gather, because there was always stuff to gather. A whole city a whole kingdom had collapsed from one moment to another, entire armories where left untouched by the elves too busy to escape and it was his job to administrate the hoarding of that. Well it was his job since the last one encomended to do it died almost a week ago defending the city with his life, lucky him. He escaped the managing of entire archives and deposits, lucky him, he wondered why Ha’lin named him. ‘You got the skill to find hidden things, you are one of my best trappers’ He said, but sometimes he though he just didn’t had any other job to give him.
Anyway he was surprised by all the stuff that had been going on behind the battlefield, he just could believe the amount of elven steel was gathered after each battle and even more how much of it was reforged and used to build their ships and armor. Not even that he was surprised to learn how the elven archives where cleaned of any content between the first and second battle for Atalm. All records, tomes, books, scrolls, basically any written thing was already shipped to Zul’aman. They city which was once so proud to be one of the greatest archives of arcane lore was emptied, its precious metals where reforged and used to kill its previous inhabitants. For some reason he found it was a bit symbolic, but he always was like that, thinking too much.
He kept supervising how the trolls in his team kept finding armor and weapons from the last battle, trowing it in a cart pulled by a Dire Troll. It really seemed that the second time the enemy was much more diverse than the first, it seemed almost like ten different armies had fought the same battle. And well maybe because it did, he remembered the half human abominations and how they fighted to death against human tribesmen.
‘Dammit mon’ he though, that was a real assignment not searching through dead bodies. He was a warrior not a crafttroll, he wondered if this wasn’t some sort of punishment when suddenly he heard one of his trolls shout something.
He rushed through the rubble in the street to see the shadow hunter of the group just besides a pile of burned bodies. A left over from the numerous piles that were made during the last stages of the battle, just after the dead collapsed and Jin’thek appeared. Jin’thek, to think he personally met the troll would then become a loa, and to think he was now searching through bodies.
‘What did you found?’ Yutrek asked annoyed, and attempting to drift his mind of how bored he was of this job.
‘Tell the Zandali Augur to come mon, look at that armor!! There just at the bottom of the pile!!!’ The shadow hunter said behind his ritual mask.
Yutrek looked over and at the bottom of the pile a pair of humans bodies came out, they seemed to wear a big and ornamented armor of sorts. He was about to ask what was so special about them, but then he remembered it he had seen that armor during the battle. Those warriors fighted without mercy and without care for all the mojo the shadow hunters threw at them. It was not the first body and piece of armor he saw after the battle, he wondered what was so important about it, then it hit him. When he fought the warriors during the battle their armor had certain azure glow to it, but all the pieces they had scavenged so far despite being good pieces of metal and work lacked that glow. Yet the pieces the shadow hunter was now desperately trying to get out of the pile still glowed, the enchantments it had still where in effect.
‘Augur!! Where in Jin’thek name are you???! Come over here!!!’ Yutrek shouted while he crouched and helped the shadow hunter.
The grey troll came rushing towards them from the other side of the street ‘I got a name you know, its Fandango. What is it chief?’ He said a bit annoyed by Yutrek manners.
‘Look.’ The shadow hunter said.
The zandali looked over the armor and gasped in surprirse.
‘For Zanza’s tusks, it still glowing?? Why?!’
‘That’s what I want you to find out Fandango, I think we got something here. Now you Shadow hunter what was your name?’
‘Well Naxxar first I want you to go get Ha’lin over here, and then you tell him to get all the pieces of this armor you can, I think we all three got a ticket out of corpse searching for a while.’ And with those words a smile drew upon the face of the three trolls.
The sounds of the forge were one of her first and earliest memories, she couldn’t remember when she started to walk or when she started to speak but she could clearly remember the first time she played with her father’s hammer. Thats what they did, their tribe was called the Firetree for a reason they along with the Smolderthorn of Alora’guazu where the best blacksmiths of all the Forest tribes.
They had been particularly busy after the battle for Atalm tons of shipments arrived from the farthest reaches of Zul’guazu, spears, swords, chestplates , chainmail and even decorations. She hadn’t seen so many elvenwork in her whole life, all to be smelted and reforged, in between battles what used to be a market square was turned into a giant workshop. Old fountains were used to cool the metal, and the material from the surrounding buildings to build the various forges.
She was more than proud of trollish steel in her eyes it was even better than dwarven one, the dwarves only that the advantage of having easy access to very rare metals. ‘Hell give me just a piece of their metal, and I could forge something much greater than their petty axes.’
The sound of metal and steam kept going for most of the afternoon while she kept working with her fellow blacksmiths, until suddenly she began to hear salutes and cheers been shout. It was not long before she realized what was happening Ha’lin himself, hand of the Kaizar, had arrived accompanied with some other trolls. He was asking for the best blacksmith around, and all of their comrades pointed out to her, even if some of them weren’t particularly fond of her there was no denying her steel was the best.
Ha’lin approached her.
‘You, they tell me you are the best here.’
‘Harder that you can get this side of the world, though the smolderthorn will tell you otherwise.’
He then asked to see some of her work, and she showed her the finest pieces she had, she also assured her she had the honor of crafting part of Maka of the Firetree’s armor.
‘What’s your name blacksmith?’
‘Ji’mena’ She said coldly
‘Excellent name’ He said with his rash voice ’You see Ji’mena I got a small little job for you and your friends. We found this interesting piece of armor we want you to reproduce and reforge’ He said while pointing towards a box some of his trolls had brought.
‘Whats the catch.’ She asked suspecting there was something off, the Kaizar’s hand wouldn’t approach them himself if he needed a meager piece of armor to be reproduced.
‘You will realize soon enough, that’s why this two guys over here will help you.’ He answered while he pointed to the most bizarre and unexpected duo, what seemed to be a Zandali Augur and an Atal’jin dressed in what seemed to be ragged blacksmith robes.
It was then so with the sound of thunder sounding in the distance, while she opened the box that she realized she was given the most important job in her life.
,For the ones that have been left behind
It was one of those moments that despite seeming irrelevant at a first glance their outcome could very well shape history, and everyone present knew that. The tension in the air was unbearable they all knew that his words would determinate the outcome of not just the outcome of their lives but that of history itself.
‘No, you listen to me elf, I cannot forsake the people who selfishly helped me. What kind of king can I be if I run away? The kind of king that Vitallian is, the kind of king which is not fit to rule, the kind of king that has to take his crown from the dead body of a real one, and certainly not the kind of king needed to restore order to this fucking world.’ Said Eldengar with firm determination in his voice, while all those present Liera, his captain, part of his men and villagers listened too
‘Don’t be a fool Eldengar you can’t do any of that if you die here. The Maret clansmen will surely come here, even in more force if they find out you are here. Do you think they will take you alive? They only need your head to get their reward.’ The Elven woman said trying to convince Eldengar of his reclkeness.
‘Listen to me Florence, I told you already many times I am not running away from here. So you can either try to din another King as handsome and powerful as me to save your little Sunking or you can stay here and help me.’
‘Powerful? Don’t make me laugh Eldengar your army is just a bunch of hungry and tired peasants and you know it.’
‘Yes they may be nothing but hungry and tired peasants, but they are my peasants, arathi peasants. And they are more than enough to defeat an army of dirty sheepshagging hillsmen.’
Liera just laughed ‘So what Eldengar? You want me to stay here and probably die along you and your ‘army’?’
‘Well if you really wanted to you could. But I had another plan for your pretty elven legs, I want you to go to Strom's Hand and tell they troops there I am here.
And that so I, their King, awaits them to kill some hills men who like to pretend they serve the royal family.’ Liera frowned and as it seemed she prepared to speak a loud voice interrupted her in complain, it was the captain of the guard Aledar Battlestar who didn’t seemed to be happy with Eldeganr’s decision.
‘Why did you choose her??’ He roared
Eldengar face changed and swiftly approached his Captain.
‘Why you ask me?? Well mostly because she is faster than us’ His voice cold as steel.
‘But how can you trust her she is long ear, just like the bastards who killed Dorath.’ Aledar replied almost muttering the first words.
‘Because if she wanted me dead my friend she could have killed me weeks ago, she could have killed me just now if she wanted too. And even if all of this is an act? What can she do Aledar? Go and tell Vitallian sheeps where I am? They know that already.
‘But they would send more men if they have confirmation of your presence!!’
‘Tell them to bring more men? Yes she could do that, now would the Maret send more men? Yes they could, but would they risk another trollish incursion? I don’t think so. Vitallian was put on the throne by an elf, and I don’t think that elf wants to see his little puppet by slain by a bunch of trollish mongrels.
There is nothing this elf can do to betray us know except killing me right here and now. So tell me Liera do you want to kill me, here you have my throat!’ He said while violently running around and showing his bare neck to Liera who was standing a few meters from him. ‘Come kill me now if you are traitor’ He added while he came closer to her but suddenly he fell to the floor, a sharp pain on his chin.
‘Idiot.’ Liera spitted while she lowered her leg.
‘See Aledar, she wants to kick the hell out me, but she doesn’t want me dead. So if you have any complains you could leave towards Strom's Hand, or you could stay here and fight with me while our pretty friend here goes to find help.’
‘Who said I would go?’ The elf asked
‘Your kick darling, your kick told me you are going to run like there was no tomorrow to Strom's Hand and tell that lazy tribune to get his ass over here. So I bid you farewell Liera, hope to see you in no more than three days.’
She just looked at him and calculated if another kick to the chin would tire her more than the necessary, since it seemed she had a long way ahead of her.
Last edited by Zula; 04-21-2012 at 05:12 PM..
Ravenholdt, the Benefactors and LordaeronNot but half an hour ago, Warren Greystone had been in the greatest peril he had ever been in during his life. His life was never at stake, but something far more important had nearly been lost. The Void God had slipped tendrils into his mind, trying to destroy all he was. His memories, his emotions, his will, all would be lost to the shadow. But then Giren, the shriveled stranger, had come to his rescue. He had pulled Warren back from the brink, though not without considerable effort.
Now the shadow’s effort were more than undone, they were inverted. The memories he had nearly lost had come to the forefront of his mind, clear as the day he had gained them. His emotions too were strong, and his mind was replete with various feelings of nostalgia, gratitude and such things. This surge of pleasant feels was tempered by the giant evil God of the Void hovering in the sky above, moving steadily towards Zanzifos. It drew quickly over the town of Fairmill. Tendrils outstretched, the Void God let loose a grating, unnatural scream. Fairmill was obliterated in a blast of shadow.
“By the blood of Brux...” Warren whispered, viewing the spectacle with an even mix of awe and disgust.
Warren turned around, staring in the opposite direction. He held a vast stretch of completely dead, charred land. He knew his Gilnean maps well enough to know that Derrsent and Brennair used to be located in that vast stretch, but no longer. The Void God’s deadly Sanctions had annihilated them, just as the Void God had done to Fairmill just a moment ago. And, he knew, as the Void God would do to all of Azeroth. Warren and Amarian watched from a safe distance, if there was such a thing, as the Void God rolled over Gilneas.
“Look at that thing. It’s… unnatural. Corrupted.” Amarian remarked to Warren. A twinge of fear was present in her voice, and it had every right to be there considering the strength of their foe.
“Well, my love, it is a God of Shadow and Darkness.” Warren replied. He admitted to himself a feeling of surprise when ‘my love’ slipped out. Had his feelings for Amarian jumped to love so quickly?
“I’ve seen Kruel use his shadow magic in the past. This is different.” Amarian’s words were true. This was not light, nor darkness. This was the absence of both, and such a vacuum, such a void, was unnatural.
“I… I encountered a man, I guess you could say. He wasn’t a man, really. He saved my life when Ginchar imploded. He told me that to ascend Kruel absorbed the life-forces from those within Ginchar.” He paused briefly to take a breath. “One of the people in Ginchar was a von Xie. She carried something in her blood, a strange entity created from the essences of Xostheron and Akaerna-Sagai. Supposedly that created an irremovable corruption within him. He thought we might be able to exploit it as a weakness.”
“I see. And…” Amarian extended her words and pointed to something in the distance. “that wouldn’t happen to be the ‘man’ you’re talking about would it?”
“Oh @#$%!” Warren cursed.
The Usurped floated in front of the Void God, dwarfed in size. The Void God gave it little notice, advancing onwards as if the path were clear. Suddenly, it recoiled, as if it had been struck across the face. It let out a sound like scraping metal. Reacting, the Usurped spread his multitude of arms wide. He pulled the Void God into a portal identical to the one it had emerged from. Then the portal was gone, and the Usurped remained, but only briefly. Within seconds he fell apart and drifted away, dust in the wind. The Usurped had given his life to stop the Void God.
Warren Greystone and Amarian Zeshuwal stood still, dumbstruck. A moment ago, their lives had been in eminent danger. Now the great and terrible Void God was gone. Their emotions broke through their weak stoicism in a rush. They began moving about excitedly, shouting and cheering. Warren fist-pumped and yelled several obscenities at the now-vanished Void God, insulting the virtues of Kruel’s mother.
“I wouldn’t be so quick to celebrate,” a voice came from behind them. They turned to see Korrin Wordsworth approaching, trailed by Jammal Hildebrand and Robert Locke. “Gilneas’ trials are far from over.”
“You look different, Korrin.” Warren remarked. He referred the faintly glowing runes across Korrin’s body.
“When I was in the Core I interfaced with a Memory Consensus. I was overwhelmed by the thoughts and pasts of various Souls and Enchantments, resulting in the new form I have today.”
“Err, what?” Warren responded, incredulous and confused.
“It makes more sense in context. I’ll explain later.” Amarian assured him.
“I’ll hold you to that. Now what were you saying, Korrin?”
“The information afforded to me from the experience is great in scope but heavily restricted. I only know bits at certain times. The being known as the Usurped, knowing he would soon perish, recognized my transformation and gave to me essential information.”
“Such as?” Amarian asked.
“Warren’s affliction was far from an isolated incident. The Void God’s corruption has hooked itself into the minds of nearly every man, woman and child in Gilneas.” Korrin explained. “Warren was lucky. The Usurped’s presence mutated the taint into such a form that Meryl Winterstorm, also known as Giren, could cure it.”
“And if he hadn’t?” Warren didn’t really wish to know, but felt like he need to ask. He swallowed nervously.
“You would have ended up like they have and will. A slave to the Void God. His will would have been yours.” Korrin paused grimly. “These Void slaves run amok across the peninsula.”
“How bad is it?”
“Henlinn, Westgrove and Norford are in a state of destructive chaos and anarchy. Leafhill has become a ghost town as its people are driven towards the former location of the rift. Soben, Gevrair and Hessrandt have been razed to the ground.” Korrin said, a dark tone to his voice. “Zanzifos, Braent and Sorsbrent are the only holdouts from the corruption. Nearly all higher ranking officials and nobles are presumed deceased as well.”
“If I may ask,” Warren interjected. “What of the people of Harrowdale?”
“As I understand it, Mayor Gladwish led to remaining peoples of Harrowdale and Edhellond north, out of Gilneas, before the Void God was even created.”
Warren smiled to himself. Amidst all the destruction and failure in Gilneas the small victory felt like he had won a war. Amarian did not show it but she too was pleased. While her expectations had been rather low the elf had actually enjoyed her time in the village. When it wasn’t being attacked or occupied by extremists, that was.
“So, what do we do?” Warren asked, expecting the answer to be a depressing, pessimistic one.
“As the Usurped explained it to me, when you were cured something unpredictable happened. Within you has manifested a cure, a panacea for Void corruption. If we can expose the infected to it in time, they shall be freed.”
“We don’t exactly have the time to tour across Gilneas.” Amarian remarked.
“We don’t need it. There is an artifact in the custody of the Malachite Hand in Braent that should allow us to distribute it easily.”
“We don’t have the time to get to Braent, either.”
“You have me!” Jammal interjected. For the first time Warren and Amarian noticed something was wrong with him. He was hunched over and looked weak, like an old man. “I’ll make a portal to Braent.”
“Jammal, what happened to you?” Warren inquired, concerned.
“When I was in the Core, I overextended myself and used magic. In that environment, it proved unhealthy. My body recovered poorly. I’ll get better eventually.”
Using a great amount of strength Jammal conjured a portal.
“Hold on a second, Mr. Exposition.” Warren said, grabbing Korrin by the shoulder before he passed through. “Why exactly should we trust this intel you have?”
“Because I’m Korrin Wordsworth.” he said calmly but eerily. “I know stuff.”
For a hold-out city, Braent was in poor condition. Evidently the locale Duke had crossed the wrong people and his city had been punished accordingly. Only a handful of people had given in to the taint and were being contained easily. The five of them were quickly greeted by Malachite agents and escorted through hidden back streets. They were lead into a dark cellar, and through a secret passage into a Malachite base. As Warren understood it, it was one of their last remaining ones. The Malachites had been broken and scattered. A nervous looking man sat above a small group of agents. He was clearly not used to being in charge.
“Korrin Wordsworth, Robert Locke,” he said upon seeing the Malachite agents.
“Quche Havalanio,” Korrin replied. “The Hand must be missing a lot of the higher ups if you’re in charge now. No offense.”
“None taken. It’s the damned truth, after all,” he replied bitterly. “What’re you here for? Because I doubt I have it.”
“We need to get into the Artifact Chamber.” Locke said softly. “Important business.”
“Stopping those madmen attacking every city on the peninsula.”
“Very well. Come along, you two.” Quche said, sighing as he stood up.
“Not just us two. All of us.” Korrin replied firmly.
“Can’t let you do that, Wordsworth,” came the reply. “You know only agents of the Malachite Hand are allowed in. Those three shouldn’t even be in here, let alone in the Chamber.”
“Okay, then.” Korrin said quickly. “Induct them into the order.”
“Wait, what?” Everybody else said simultaneously.
The induction ceremony was being done with far less formalities than normal. Jammal, Amarian and Warren stood on a stage of sorts. Quche, Korrin and Locke had taken turns reading phrases and such from books. Finally, Quche stood in front of them, arms spread. He spoke clearly.
“Amarian Zeshuwal, Warren Greystone, Jammal Hildebrand, will you take the Malachite Oath?” he said loudly. “Will you accept the death-pact with Mnesthes and accept the end, to embrace it when expected and required of you?”
“I shall.” Amarian was the first to accept. It did not sound much different than being a Benefactor.
“I’m really more of Brux guy-” Warren said. Amarian shot him a look. “I accept.”
“What am I doing up here? I’m not even a pagan...” Jammal grumbled.
“Dammit, Jammal!” Korrin shouted.
“Okay! Okay, fine. Sure. I make the pact thingy.”
“Welcome to the Malachite Hand.” Quche said finally.
“I don’t know about you guys, but I feel all special and tingly inside.” Warren quipped.
“This is no time for humor.” he responded. He looked at Warren and spied his weapon “Excuse me, but where did you get that?”
“My dagger?” Warren paused. “Zamelean gave it to me to defeat Mordred Baldanes.”
“Zamelean gave you the Valankris...” Quche pondered. “Interesting. I suppose it was his to give. Follow me, you five. The Chamber is right this way.”
The Artifact Chamber was filled with a variety of strange magical items and contraptions. Rings, crowns, gauntlets, eyes, so on and so forth. As it turned out, they were looking for a single strange machine in the back of the room. It was an odd creation that only Korrin had any idea how to use. He instructed the others on what to do. Warren was fitted with a variety of strange bands, clasps and wires. He was getting a bit nervous.
“What exactly will this thing do?” he asked Korrin.
“Evidently, it will allow us to transmit the cure in a pulse of mental energy.” Korrin explained.
“If the Void God’s sickness impressed his thoughts upon these people, whose to say this Cure won’t impress my thoughts upon them?”
“The psychic pulse won’t be that strong. All it’ll do is give the minds of the people the ability to fight off the taint. Their own minds will do the actual work.” Korrin elaborated. “As I understand it, this is a failed attempt by an elven mage to control the minds of his enemies. Instead all it does is make them briefly think an errant thought. It doesn’t actually affect their mind. Its like handing them instructions.”
“Okay, okay. That’s good.” Warren remarked. “We wouldn’t want a nation of easily seduced fools, now would we?”
“You’re never going to let me live down that line, are you?” Amarian replied.
“Not in a million years.”
As Warren stood still, covered in doodads, Korrin began operating the machine. At his direction Amarian, Jammal and Locke began fiddling with various gauges. Warren grimaced and gritted his teeth. It felt rather uncomfortable. Suddenly, they all felt a single thing. It was a thought, simple and pure. They felt freed, liberated, for a split second.
“That it?” Warren asked.
Amarian soon learned, to her pleasure, that that was all that needed to be done. The tainted contained in Braent reverted to their normal selves. Reports came in from all over Gilneas of similar results. All of Gilneas had been scarred, but it was over now. They had stopped the destructive curse before Henlinn, Norford and Westgrove could completely destroy themselves, though damage was great. Sorsbrent too had suffered, and the Vulgar Army had torn itself apart. The people formerly of Soben, Gevrair and Hessrandt were said to be migrating to Leafhill, which had escaped most damage. There were no reports from Zanzifos, but it was assumed to have survived as well.
As far as anybody knew, Braent had been left as one of if not the most intact cities on the Gilneas peninsula. The nobles and leaders of the old order had largely been killed. The past was swept clean off the map, a map that would have to be redrawn on short notice. A sizable portion of Gilnean towns and cities had been completely destroyed, and Fairmill was the only one, far as Amarian could tell, that people had any interest in rebuilding. It was a new Gilneas.
Amarian and Warren set off from Braent with Jammal in tow. Korrin wandered off into the woods with Locke remained in Braent with the other Malachites. The trio was headed back to the site of the Void God’s ascension. They assumed that if those stuck in the Shadow Realm were ever to escape, that’d likely be where they emerged. They felt they owed it to those inside to wait for a bit. If they survived, they’d have a group there to meet them. If not, then they’d have a group there to honor their sacrifice.
They only hoped it would be the former.
Join Date: Dec 2007
Ravenholdt, Zul'Dare, The Collective
Already more than significantly busy with plotting Men’heva’s downfall, Warester, although happy to see an old friend, viewed the arrival of the pirates as a decidedly unnecessary distraction. Although Dampwallace was an old ally, so too were Darafel and Nibbles, and seeing them arrive in chains was troubling. He listened as Dampwallace retold the events that lead him to Fenris Isle, heartbroken at the death of the Captain’s wife, but attentive to the other details.
Bartholomew Dampwallace: …and apparently unbeknownst to that scumbag Darafel, his crew had been completely infiltrated by assassins. It caught us all by surprise, but this lot had a real hard-on for that half-elf’s head. The ring-leader was some ridiculous-looking arse Micaiah called the Buffoon.
Warester cocked an eyebrow in recognition. For a time, the Buffoon was the arch-nemesis of his mentor, Grandmaster Krol. As a young apprentice, Van Dam was told stories about their legendary battles. The rivalry ended over a decade and a half ago with the Buffoon’s disappearance. He was presumed and hoped dead, though he resurfaced recently - escaping from the Box after Travot instigated a revolt at the infamous prison. It appeared the Buffooon had wasted little time in getting back to his roots.
Bartholomew Dampwallace: I made him think that Darafel died when his ship blew, but the “Admiral” was actually on my ship attempting parlay at the time. Didn’t matter though, since the Buffoon was about to send the lot of us to Davy Jones’ Locker anyways. I was going to offer him Darafel’s life in exchange for ours, but I got interrupted by Micaiah.
Warester Van Dam: Micaiah?
Bartholomew Dampwallace: We met him in Port Baradin. Wanted passage here and paid handsomely. Seemed innocuous enough, we didn’t question it. Didn’t know you lot were here. Turns out I was dead wrong. The guy confronts the Buffoon, right? Says he’s on “Collective business.”
The Collective was an organization Van Dam was familiar with. A wretched hive of scum and villainy. He’d personally eliminated a number of their members over his career.
Bartholomew Dampwallace: Course, the Buffoon is also apparently on Collective business. Micaiah convinces him that Darafel’s dead, then the two are about to fight. Then Micaiah pulls out some ring, says he’s “Number Four,” and all the assassins bow before him. I reckon it was the fabled “Bejeweled ring of Assassin Fidelity” he had.
Warester Van Dam: That’s just a myth.
Bartholomew Dampwallace: Yeah, well… whatever the ring was, all the assassins turn on the Buffoon at his word and start stabbin’. Buffoon jumps overboard, maybe he’s dead maybe he ain’t.
Warester Van Dam: He ain’t…
Bartholomew Dampwallace: Yeah, well that’s not the worst of it. The guy then tells the assassins to kill themselves, and they do it! I demanded a damn explanation, but the guy stays mum. Orders us on to here. What choice did I have but to obey?
Warester Van Dam: You did what you had to. But if he wouldn’t answer you… then maybe he’ll answer me. It’s time we found out exactly who this Micaiah is and what he wants.
Priestess of the Moon
Join Date: Feb 2009
"Very well then." Deke Dio begrudgingly let go of Joachim, who had to invoke all of his willpower to stay upright.
Joachim still hadn't gotten his thoughts in order since the blow to his head. He glanced over his surroundings.
The stormwind soldiers, the Lightist mob, Lennart's motionless body. He met Harald's gaze, the boy's eyes filled with fear.
"There is no way out." He thought to himself. "This is the end of the line."
Dio was growing impatient. "I said speak!"
Joachim finally opened his mouth. His voice not more than a whisper at first but he eventually found his way to his formal speech tone.
"I've failed you all. I never intended to cause all this pain and suffering...
When I first came to Boralus, I only had Kul Tiras' best interests in mind.
I wanted to see Pagans and Lightists together as countrymen, as brothers."
His eyes met Cyrus', whose face was expressionless.
"And at first I fought my way closer to that goal but then... But then-"
He couldn't help it, tears started to obscure his already bloodied vision.
"Then I threw that goal away just to pursue my selfish quest for revenge.
I betrayed everyone and tried to use them as tools in my vendetta."
He couldn't keep his head up anymore, the burning stares of the onlookers hurt too much.
"I've done terrible things. My crimes are unforgivable."
He fell on his knees. He couldn't tell if it was from guilt or blood loss.
"I deserve any punishment. But please, please don't make anyone else pay for my guilt.
These two had nothing to do with my atrocities. Lennart even tried to stop me, but I didn't listen."
He looked up at the crowd again, but dark spots in his eyes made it a moot point.
"Please." he finished, just as he bowed down to the ground in combination with losing consciousness.
Kithros sipped his wine slowly, savouring the flow of relief that hit him. It was more gratifying than any spell or cantrip.
"The older I get, Artep, the more I appreciate the little and the worldly things."
"I sympathise." Artep replied, pouring himself a cup of his own. Like Kithros, he was old. But unlike Kithros, he had not lived past a century, being a human.
"Your eighty years are a second in my memory, dear Artep. Be grateful for your humanity. You have a lot less to worry about." Kithros chuckled.
Artep seemed hurt, hunching his shoulders as he sipped his wine. When he was finished, he shot Kithros a glare.
"Don't go brining numbers into this, dear Kithros. You are just as prone to error as I am. The long years have made you more careless, if anything."
"You humans are so touchy." Kithros said with a sigh. He remembered Artep as an impulsive child, always running into trouble. And it felt like yesterday that Kithros had accepted Artep as an equal.
"We have all grown careless. And we have all made many mistakes. We've overplayed our hand once too many times, I think. Our overconfidence made us weak."
For once, it seemed that Artep agreed. The old man nodded gravely.
"If Rohar was with us. And if only we had found Father Maxwell earlier. Had Relfthra been honest with us..."
"None of this would have happened." Kithros agreed, tilting his head back and finishing his wine. "Too much has slipped our notice. Even Rodin Fornsform must have been a tool of the enemy all along."
"Whether he knew it or not." Artep added, rising to his feet. "But enough of mistakes and regrets. Come, to the archives. Father Maxwell should be finished sharing his memories by now."
Kithros was about to stand when the door opened behind them. Expecting to see one of the caretakers of Shorel'Thalas, Kithros instead turned and saw Relfthra.
No, it was not Relfthra. It was Arronax.
"It has been too long, Uncle." Arronax said, his tone of voice the same old confident and snide one that Kithros remembered from the boy's youth. "I believe you've borrowed my guest - a certain Maxwell. I've come for him."
"I am not your uncle, whelp. If I was, you would have been raised with some manners. And you'd probably have a spine."
At Kithros' side, Artep raised his staff. Kithros reached out in his mind, feeling Artep's presence. They formed a link, ready to face Arronax together.
"No, you are not my uncle. But I owe you Tirisfalen for what you did teach me. You taught me DISCIPLINE!" Arronax yelled suddenly, energy blasting from his fingertips.
Kithros and Artep met the assault just in time, their connection distributing the burden. Artep gasped as the attack ended, and spat blood onto the floor.
"You've done a lot of evil, child. All for what? Power? Respect?"
Arronax' demeanour turned sour.
"You'd never understand. Not even my mother understood. She is no better than the lot of you. A blind follower. I will share with you my VISION!"
This time, Arronax's assault broke them. Kithros felt his link with Artep break. The old human's skin burst in a thousand places, as some unseen pressure crushed his body.
"Should have taught you to respect your elders..." Kithros groaned, managing a last chuckle. "Would have saved you the beating that's coming your way, son. Just you wait."
Arronax drew a sword from his belt and walked up to Kithros.
"I used to fantasize about doing this. I bequeath your soul to Mnesthes."
Hours later, a half-elf half-gnome turned up at Fenris Isle, desperate, bloodied and unaccompanied.
When Percy Fayette awoke, his last memory was of running; running amidst falling rubble, heading for a distant light. He was sure that he would not make it out of Shorel'Thalas alive. Exhausted, he had pushed himself past the pain and the vomit that felt like it was building at the back of his throat. He pushed past mere humanity, spurred on by the sight of Robere de Changee falling before the assault of Arronax.
Too many good men had died because of Men'heva. Percy owed it to Ravenholdt that he would not add his own body to the list unless he could help it.
A murderous headache told him that he was still alive, and that he had made it. But where was he?
A beautiful woman was staring down at him.
"I must have died after all, and you must be the Light's angelic herald, welcoming me into paradise."
The woman made a vulgar face, as if she had bitten into a lemon.
"Ugh, looks like we rescued an actor or something. Either that or he got hit on the head and is suffering from a severe case of cheesiness."
"Well, at least he is alive." another voice came. "As long as he can tell us what happened, then the effort will have been worth it."
Percy focused and studied his surroundings. He was lying in bed, surrounded by stone walls. On one side of the room a fire burned, and a man stood by it dressed in robes.
"My name is Daevin Shadowbreaker. What's yours, son?"
"In the Deep Places of the world there grows a certain lilly, far from the light of the sun, whose cursed petals can turn even the strongest man into a comatose shell."
Standing over the bed of slumbering Perenolde, Owen Zverenhoff and a handful of apothecaries considered the condition of the King. Amongst the apothecaries were men of many backgrounds. There was even one whom Owen had called from Fenris, hoping to use the expertise of Ravenholdt to consider his options.
"So there is no hope for him then?" Owen asked the Ravenholdt apothecary.
"No magic or herbal cure I know of can break through the fog of the death lilly." the apothecary said gravely.
To his side, one of the other men snorted. Owen turned to him sceptically. The man looked down at Owen, peering over his black beard and past his bushy eyebrows.
"There is a cure for everything. I can cure him."
"How?" Owen asked bluntly.
With his strange accent, the black-bearded one continued.
"Old magic. Troll magic. In the south, I know of such magic that could lift the haze and open his eyes again."
Owen Zverenhoff was beginning to wonder if it was even worth the trouble to cure Halman Perenolde. Perenolde had been a slimy double-crossing bastard to deal with thus far. It would be easier to hoist a more honest man on the throne.
"So what do you suggest?"
"An expedition. To the old trollish ruins in Ulmat Thondr."
"Who are you, apothecary?" Owen asked, suddenly curious.
"My name is Nikolai Tymoshenko. With your permission, regent, I will assemble a party and take care of this myself. Simply give me the authority and it shall be done."
There is no creature on earth half so terrifying as a truly just man.
Last edited by Timolas; 04-22-2012 at 05:31 PM..
Join Date: Apr 2006
I shake my head as I look down at the unconscious Phorcys. Normally, I would not give half a thought to this pitiful wreck of a man, but he was hidden by Gianata, alongside Anazar. He may know where the two are hiding. I need the Scroll of Lore.
I yawn a little. I'm sitting in a cart carrying myself and the unconscious man. Some of my personal guard are escorting me through the countryside. I left the army in good hands, I think. I couldn't take Phorcys to our destination via portal, because I'm not exactly sure what kind of magic is keeping him comatose. Using the arcane to transport him could cause some kind of damage.
I look into the distance, over the flatlands. I think I see a distinct rock formation against the northern sky. "Not far anymore", I tell my men. "Keep the course." The house I'm looking for is not commonly known, but few men who've been there ever forget the sight of it.
I keep my eyes on the strange jutting stone pillars that are reaching out of the otherwise flat fields. There are five of them, and according to stories they were as sharp the day humanity first came across them as they are today. They are positioned roughly in a circle, and leaning inward, without actually touching each other. They're called The Warlord's Fingers, and no one cared to come close to them for longer than a few moments until fifty years ago, when a man called Khaltrax Korran built his house within.
I finally lower my gaze, to make sure Phorcys isn't somehow reacting to the stone claws. I am not entirely sure if he was related in blood to Mnesthes, but one can never be too sure. Whether or not these stones have anything to do with the Four Gods, Khaltrax Korran is the real deal. I visited him as a young man, when I was not yet sure about which path to choose in this world, and his strange form of charisma was almost enough to win me over to his faith.
I can't help but stare as we circle around the nearest "finger" and Korran's house comes to view. It's a large wooden building, painted bright red, with decorative spikes jutting outward. If I recall correctly, the mystic's reasoning is that the spikes will discourage Brux from closing his hand. One wing of the house looks entirely different from the main structure, and there's another building a short walk away, on the other side of a field for rye.
I stand up as our cart starts to close in on the establishment. Some of the people who have moved here to be near their guru are coming in to ask what our business is. Can't fault them for being suspicious of armed men approaching during these troubled times. "Tell the mystic that Javali has come to seek his help", I call out to them before my guards can answer their questions.
I get off and walk ahead of the horses, telling my guards to watch the cart. Some of the cultists here seem to have children. I wonder if the Kirin Tor would be interested in studying these people for strange magical effects resulting from living in a place like this. I can't really feel any difference in the arcane, but I can't shake off the feeling like someone is about to grab my shoulder from behind any second now.
I'm some distance away from the front door of the house when it opens and Khaltrax Korran steps out, followed by some of his flock. The doorway is just barely big enough for him to walk through without hitting his head, while some of the others couldn't reach the top of the frame with their outstretched arm. The man has sunken-in eyes that are so shadowed they currently look like a pair of black pits, though I know they're actually brown. He has a bushy beard that reaches his chest, along with long, unkept hair, both of them much less gray than they should be at his age. I stayed here for two months in my last stay, and I never once saw him smile. He is wearing an open, sleeveless leather vest and dark trousers, and goes barefooted, despite the very cold autumn winds buffetting around us.
I stop a respectful distance away from the man and try to look as tall as possible when he descends from the porch and faces me. "Welcome, Cenus Zanaxer", he speaks in a deep voice. "It was a boy that visited my home fifteen years ago, barely done with his apprenticeship. Now you come to me as the ruler of all Hesperia, and apparently a champion of all the Four Gods. What does that man need with lowly Khaltrax and his words? What can I do that you do not have a hundred servants ready to jump at?"
I force a smile and bow just the slightest bit. "It is true that I command powerful wizards and many learned men, but the dilemma I am presented with baffles them all. A man unlike any else, stuck in never-ending sleep. No spell can rouse him and no medicine cures him." Well, in truth we didn't try anything on him, but instead of the similarly-unconscious Archmage Veleva. Some of the methods of attempted cure were rather extreme, so she may not wake up fully healthy... but there's that saying about omelets and eggs. "I seek your wisdom, and I offer you no payment but my gratitude in return, for I know from experience that it insults you to try to give coin in exchange."
I meet the disapproving stares of the people behind the mystic. They can probably think for a thousand uses to the money I have access to. However, Korran simply nods. "You remember well our discussions. You need to wake this man from his slumber?"
I hesitate a bit and then nod. "Either that, or allow me communicate with him, to gain information." The cart pulls up behind me, and the guards get off their horses. As I turn my head back to Korran after having witnessed this fact, he is suddenly standing a half-pace away from me, looking down at me with an intense stare.
I very barely avoid gulping, as he puts a hand on my shoulder and speaks: "Very well, Cenus Zanaxer. Wait for me at the steamhouse. You can bring the patient inside, but tell your guards to stay out. This is between us three." The man points at that separate building on the other side of the fields with his free hand. He wears a single piece of jewelry (if it can be called that): an unornate steel bracelet around his wrist, which is so tight that the skin around it is red and bloody. There is no way he's able to remove it without the help of a blacksmith, and there's no apparent mark on it from how it was attached on him.
I nod and step away from him, looking him in the eyes for a moment before silently walking toward this steamhouse.
I wait inside the steamhouse after my guards bring Phorcys within. He is not a heavy load to carry, in his current state, but it behooves to be careful... even with his pathetic bones.
I watch my surroundings. This building was built after my previous visit. Steamhouses are an Alterac tradition. I didn't know anyone in Hesperia had one. The structure is simple: it consists of a single room built in a half-circle, like a small theater. All the elevated benches are facing the large oven, with fist-sized rocks piled atop it. The rocks are heated by the oven, and when water is thrown on them, it turns to steam which fills the room with its warmth. There is also a small table in front of the oven, on which my men placed the unconscious Phorcys. This place must be used for some kind of rituals, and that is where the centerpiece of the ritual is kept.
I watch Korran enter the building. My guardsmen stare him through the open door before he closes it behind himself. He is now wearing nothing above his belt, and he has exchanged his trousers for a loose skirt made of furs. With his vest off, the two bright red dragons tattooed across his chest are visible. He is carrying a bucket full of water in his right hand, and a leather pouch in his left.
I turn toward him, but before I can speak he lowers the bucket and says: "Undress as much as your are comfortable with. It is going to get too warm here for your robes." He walks past he to Phorcys.
I hesitate and turn around again. "I'm fine as is", I say.
I'm glad that he doesn't argue about the matter. Instead, he unceremoniously discards Phorcys' clothes. "Light up the oven with your magic. We both will appreciate saving an hour of waiting."
I wish he'd say "would you please" once in his life. I do one better and not only set the logs in the oven on fire, but also channel warmth into the stones to speed things up further. A few minutes later, the room is already starting to get warm just from the heat of the oven, and Phorcys is down to his linens.
"I would ask who the object of this ritual is, but I will not pretend to be that foolish", Korran says. "This is the self-declared son of the Green Hermit. The real question is, did you cause his current state? Is this an interrogation of a prisoner, or a talk between friends?"
I shrug a little and decide to remain ambiguous. "I am not sure whether he is an ally or a foe. That is one of the things I need to find out."
I'm surprised to find that Korran accepts that explanation. As he digs some herbs out of his leather pouch and puts them in the bucket of water, I notice that despite his beard refusing to turn gray, he has gotten noticeably less muscled over the years. I can't help but ask: "You are no longer the physical powerhouse you once were. Have any of your followers tried to defeat you in a contest of might?"
I watch him mix the herbs into the water, feeling a bit pleased to see him hesitate in his answer. I could learn a lot about the way he carries himself, but there are still ways to get under his skin. "Yes, there have been contests", he admits. "And I am not one to refuse them. Young fools thinking that their youth is a shield that can not shatter. I killed them all. But I would not have to, if all my disciples listened to what I teach. Brux is mighty, and not just in body. Brux is the one who can walk into a room, and all others turn their heads toward him from his presence alone. Brux is the one who can convince others to stand beside him, his passion alone winning their hearts. Brux is the one who never surrenders, and does not give up an inch while he still draws breath. Brux masters himself - defeats his own weakness - to run up to the face of Death and achieve great things when lesser men would cower and hide. You know these things, Cenus Zanaxer, and that is why Brux would be your God too - wizard or no wizard - if you could consider anyone else your God than your own self."
I nod a little jerkily. Did he have that speech memorised, or did he really come up with it on the spot? "Yes, well, any God that is for men doing great things by their own power is all right in my books. I may have been born from a union of two magocrats, but I consider myself a self-made man. But enough about me and you. What exactly are we about to do here?"
I can't help but let out an annoyed groan as Korran pours almost a third of the water in the bucket onto the rocks atop the oven. Steam that smells of strange herbs starts to fill the room. "The leaves I added into this water have a narcotic effect", he explains. "We are going to enter a trance. I will work as the medium, and allow your soul to interact with Phorcys'."
I stand up from the bench and look at the steam rising from the rocks, before slowly sitting down. It has been years since I enjoyed anything more mind-altering than strong tea, other than the occasional glass of wine. "I assume there's a catch in there somewhere."
"I do not think it is a catch, but to you it is a complication", Korran says and inhales the drug-laced vapors. "Phorcys' mind is vacant. It is his soul you will be communicating with. There will be no discussion, for he has no thoughts to share with you. The God who empowers me is Brux, and he is a beast of emotion. You will commune with the would-be demigod's feelings."
I roll my eyes, and before I can catch myself I say: "That is surprisingly girly for Brux."
I almost expect him to hit me for the blasphemy, but instead he lets out a dark chuckle that makes me shiver inside my increasingly sweaty robes. "It is just like a wizard to think that emotions are a shameful thing. Once you are inside, you will have to reconsider your stance on that." He throws another huge amount of water onto the rocks. I realise that my muscles are starting to relax against my will. I feel kind of dizzy too. I don't like not being in control of myself.
I close my eyes and wrinkle my brow to focus, only to find that when I open my eyes, everything has changed.
Co-creator of UFS, a joint urban fantasy setting.
Ravenholdt, Lordaeron, Sorsbrent and the Benefactors
The shadow was singing.
His memories bubbled forth at the shadow's command, and he saw them as if through a dark lens.
He was standing before his chieftain, the Zha of Clan Morneriver. Behind him, the land ended abruptly with the cliffs of Thandol. The sound of nature's fury was clear to hear, as the waves broke against the rocks below.
"You go into exile, young Meryl. You will never be allowed to return." the Zha declared, looking down at Meryl with disgust and hatred. He spoke in the language of the Morneriver, the only language Meryl knew.
"I know." Meryl responded. "Good riddance to you, Old Man. Good riddance to the barbarism of the Morneriver."
The Zha bared his teeth like a mountain lion. Behind him, the warriors of the Morneriver tensed, the skin around their eyes tight with anger.
"You go to war. You will defile yourself by imposing ordered violence upon strangers. You are no child of Mnesthes."
Meryl felt his mouth curl up in disdain. Xaxion Drak'eem had called them to war against the heretic demigods, Xostheron and Akaerna-Sagai. Meryl would answer that call. He would fight at Ythan'alai.
You lie to yourself still.
You did not leave your people because of religion. You left it for power. You left it because Ythan'alai fascinated you. It held power beyond your wildest dreams. And you seized that power. You created the Archivists. Without your prophecies, Men'heva would never have started the Great War. You will never be free of your sin and your betrayal. Even your false god has abandoned you. And not even the Holy Light will take you. Only in Shadow will you find salvation.
The Shadow God was right.
All the lies Meryl had built around himself began to crumble. He wanted to give in to the shadow, to allow himself to be punished. He had betrayed his clan. And he had betrayed his religion by collecting the essence of Xostheron and Akaerna-Sagai. He had betrayed the Tirisfalen with his charade as Giren. All for what? The prophecies? They had only caused suffering.
But then Meryl remembered where he was. He looked at the brave heroes before him, fighting the Shadow God. And he saw that they were resisting him.
If they could do it, so could he.
This is the end.
"You are right, Kruel." he muttered. "This is the end. You and I will remain here, for however long it takes..."
He held the Tome of Eternity open before him. Just as he was about to start reading, the Last Urubori placed his hand on Meryl's shoulder.
"I am with you, Giren."
Meryl looked at the Last Urubori one last time.
"Together into the void."
And he began to read.
Barbara Friendly awoke from a nightmare. And like all dreams and nightmares, her memory of what had happened began to fade.
But she was not in her bed in Ravenholdt. Sunlight blurred red through her eyelids. Its touch upon her skin was unfamiliar, as if she had spent an age in darkness.
She sat up and rubbed her eyes. The ruins of Ginchar surrounded her.
"I had a bad dream" a man said, sitting on a block of rock under the ruins of a church. It was Lamar Daedran of the Malachite Hand. He looked to Barbara with a faint smile. "But I think it is finally over."
A bird was singing. And upon hearing it, Lamar Daedran began to weep.
"Yes. Yes, it is finished."
Ravenholdt, Dalaran and Lordaeron
Trumpets sounded in the streets of Venege. The Western Legion marched up the central avenue of the city, heading straight for the palace.
Outside the palace, the Lady Miranda Callahan stood atop a raised platform with a forced smile and a dagger at her back. To her side stood Gustav Mageriff, a spell of silence woven around his mouth. Behind them both, Vasgren Haran, Herubrad Garithos and several disguised members of the Ravenholdt team and the Kirin Mora stood ready.
Myrokos Silentform adjusted his position slightly ever few seconds, the guard uniform chaffing him badly. He peered out from his visor and saw the Western Legion thunder to a halt before the platform. The ranks parted, and on a black stallion the General of the Legion came riding up towards them.
"Be welcome, General Marius." Lady Callahan announced, her voice shaky. "The future of Hesperia has surely been sealed on this eventful day."
"What a sense of humour." Myrokos whispered, watching as General Marius dismounted with a flourish. There was a grin on the General's face that did little to cover his mountainous ego. The General stepped up onto the platform and stood at the Lady Callahan's side, facing his army with arms spread wide in a gesture of triumph.
"Men and women of the Western Legion! Children of Hesperia! Behold, the capitulation of the Perinany Legion! Shocked by the inhumanity of Lightism, disgusted by the slaughter at Ambermill, the Perinany have returned to the fold. The war is over!"
A massive roar filled the city of Venege as the soldiers of the Western Legion heard the words of General Marius.
Poor fools, Myrokos thought.
"Within the week, you will be allowed to stand down and return to your homes!" General Marius announced. "King Corin rules in the north and King Vitalian rules in the east! The war is over! Hesperia is safe! Peace and justice have been returned to Lordaeron!"
All those on the platform clapped enthusiastically. One of the men disguised as a guardsman continued clapping awkwardly, even when everybody else had stopped. The awkward guardsman then walked up to Marius and slapped him on the back.
"Wow, General! You are a testosterone golem! Lucio Benado be glad to be giving you the key to the city, and a lifetime supply of raisin twinkies!"
"What?" Marius blurted, pushing Benado's hand away. "How did you know I like twinkies? Stay away from me, freak."
Marius pushed past Benado and walked right past Myrokos, and extended his hand to Gustav Mageriff. The Perinany did not respond to the gesture. He stood rigid and stiff, bound by the enchantments of the Kirin Mora. The smile on Marius' face began to droop, and he went red with anger.
"Shake my hand, Perinany pig." he growled. "You are embarrassing me in front of my men."
Still, Gustav Mageriff did not move. Myrokos turned just enough to see the Perinany's eyes bulging. The corner of his mouth was twitching. The Lady Callahan turned to General Marius with a sigh.
"Your reputation precedes you, Marius." she said with a sigh. "Truly, you are the fool. It's a trap."
Understanding dawned in Marius' eyes. He scanned the city, as if realising for the first time that citizens had evacuated the streets and rooftops.
"It's a trap!" he yelled. It was signal enough for Ravenholdt and the Perinany.
Myrokos tore his helmet off and leapt at Marius. The General freed his sword and stabbed at Myrokos, but the blow was blocked by Vasgren Haran. For a moment, Marius and Vasgren Haran locked eyes. The black Fist spat in Marius' face. Then he kicked him in the knee and the General went down.
The soldiers of the Western Legion were storming up towards the platform. But even as they did so, many of them tumbled onto the cobblestones clutching at their throats, spitting blood.
"What devilry is this?" Marius shouted in a voice high-pitched with fear.
But the Western Legion had magi of its own. Magical shields began to spring up along the ranks of enemy soldiers. The Kirin Mora threw bolts of fire and ice at them, distracting them. It was a series of distractions on both sides. Myrokos saw how the bonds holding Gustav Mageriff failed as the traitor sprang into action. Gustav Mageriff smashed a gauntleted fist into the nearest Kirin Mora mage, sending him flying off the platform.
The Western Legion exploited the opening, focusong their efforts on the platform. The Lightist shields were suddenly severed. Just as Myrokos was sure that the powder would overwhelm the, the Kirin Mora magi wove shields of their own, saving them all. But time was running out.
The plan had been for them to retreat into the palace, where Scavell and Erbag had erected a larger shield of their own. Yet to do that they would have to bypass many angry Hesperians.
On his feet again and looking desperate, General Marius turned on Myrokos.
"Surrender! And you may yet be spared!"
"Even if we fall, General, your Legion is finished." Myrokos mocked. "The city is surrounded, and the palace is full of soldiers ready to kill or capture any of your men who survive the dust."
"Then take me with you!" Marius pleaded weakly. "I can offer you Hesperia! I am the hand of the Dictator!"
Before Myrokos could even think of a response, he heard the sound of steel behind him. He swung around in time to see Gustav Mageriff swinging at him. The blow came up short. Myrokos retreated to the opposite end of the platform, and looked behind him.
Though much of the Western Legion had turned into a foaming bloodbath, many other soldiers stood shielded by Hesperian magi in the streets. More Hesperians were rushing to surround the platform.
Myrokos jumped to the side as Gustav Mageriff came charging after him.
"You pointy-eared devil! I could have ended the war!"
"Don't worry, Mageriff. We'll be ending it for you. But we'll be the victors." Myrokos said, drawing his daggers. He looked to the other Perinanies for support, but Vasgren Haran and Herubrad Garithos were still fending off soldiers trying to clamber onto the platform.
"Can you open a portal?" Myrokos shouted at the nearest Kirin Mora. But the sweat beading off the man's face was the answer that revealed all. They would not have enough strength for that.
The Western Legion was doomed, and even General Marius knew it. The only question was whether Myrokos and those with him would survive their own trap.
"We have to make a dash for the palace. It is the only way!" Myrokos shouted for all to hear, just as Gustav lunged once more.
Inside the palace, all was not going according to plan.
"The palace shield has been sabotaged." Scavell shouted, sudden realisation dawning on him. At his side was Erbag. They were in the throne room. Moments earlier, the magical shield around the palace had weakened. Scavell calculated that it would last for another half hour at most. The metallic powder in the streets outside would come flooding into the palace afterwards.
They had to gather the defenders of the palace and the agents on the platform in the streets outside, and open a portal into the hills. It was the only way.
"I will retrieve the Ancient Egg. Erbag, you have to get everybody into the throne room!"
The gnome nodded and sprinted off. Scavell headed straight for the treasury, a magical shield woven about him. He found the iron doors of the treasury blasted open. A man with green eyes stood holding the Ancient Egg.
"Lethon, what are you doing?"
"The Egg does not belong to you." the Green Dragon said. A portal began to form in the air behind him.
"Did you sabotage the shield, Lethon?" Scavell yelled, fire pulsing into the palms of his hands.
The Green Dragon looked genuinely surprised.
"Of course not." he said with a frown. "I am sorry, Scavell. Your Council should never have gotten involved in this war. I will not allow my Dragonflight to be pulled in. The Prophet may be our common enemy, but Hesperia is not. We Greens are fighting our own war. We will not involve ourselves in your mortal affairs."
Scavell could not bring himself to attack the Green.
But Lethon took a step back, through the portal. The portal winked out seconds later, leaving Scavell alone in the solitude and silence of the treasury.
General Mattheus Perinany surveyed the battlefield before him. Count Dorian had cost the Perinany Legion many of its finest men already. Outnumbered, the Perinany Legion was unlikely to turn the tide. Yet it had bought the Perinany Legion the time it needed to spring its trap in Venege.
Suddenly, a horn sounded on the battlefield below. The forces of Count Dorian of Nevezia were in full retreat. But why?
Truly, they had held the upper hand during the various battles over the past few days. What had made them fall back so suddenly?
Hours later, Mattheus Perinany discovered why. An army from Stormwind had taken Pellerno. It was already laying siege to Pasata as well. Count Dorian must have realised that he was no longer fighting a war on just one front. He would soon be fighting on two.
Ravenholdt, Kul Tiras and the Elves
Duke Augustus Fenris brought his clenched fist to his forehead and shut his eyes. Hot tears of frustration and anger threatened to well up behind his eyes.
"I repeat, call your men back!" the bastard's voice bleared from Fenris' fist.
Fenris opened his hand and looked down at the communication stone on the palm of his hand. General Wrynn's voice continued to blear out of it.
"Do it now, Augustus!"
"And what of Hesperia, lord?" Augustus shouted, a ripple of strength hitting him unexpectedly. "Our men were betrayed at Seashire. But for that, Pellerno is ours. Would you dishonour the dead and have me pull them back too?"
A tense silence fell over the cabin. Fenris stared into the stone and waited. When Wrynn responded, Fenris realised that he had been holding his breath.
"Yes. Get everything, everyone, out to sea. And await my command."
Travot Ravenholdt and friends burst into the regency hall of the Tirasian palace. The giant table had been smashed to pieces, splinters of charred wood littering all four corners of the room. Several dead guards lay scattered amidst their own gore.
In the corner, a man coughed, admitting that he still lived. Travot rushed over to a pile of wreckage.
"Wotan, move this debris!"
The giant berserker threw aside the wood with ease, revealing to them a bloodied noble.
Henry Caldwell rushed over and cradled the man's head.
"... too late... they have the princess." the Vizier gurgled. He pushed a bundle he had been cradling into Henry's arms. "The crown prince..."
"By the Light, it's Prince Xanthus. Henry gasped, holding the bundle gingerly. Then he looked back at the Vizier, grief-stricken. "Where are they taking Princess Elaine?"
"South..." the Vizier managed. Then he was silent and still.
"South." Travot repeated.
Talthressar adjusted his sleeves quaintly, ignoring the carnage that surrounded him.
"My lord?" one the guards at his side asked, hefting his blade. "Your orders?"
"Seranidan has convinced the General to call off the assault." Talthressar stated. At last, Kul Tiras would be theirs. All the realms of men lay under the influence of elvenkind. And with the trolls advancing, all of mankind would rally behind the Benefactors. "Resume the offensive, lieutenant. The sun must rise over a new world."
"As you command." the guard said with a bow. He signalled to the rest of the company, and with a cry of triumph, they marched through the streets, striking down any who stood in their way.
A tongue of pain awakened Joachim Alten. He was on the ground. Deke Dio towered above him, and he was holding a carving knife. Behind him stood Cyrus Reethe. There was a look of dismay on his face.
"Don't do it, Deke." Cyrus pleaded. "He led the Eagles to victory. I was there. DeMeza trusted him for a reason. Without him, Boralus would still be under Phorcys. He is a good man."
"Learn your place, serpent!" Deke Dio was burning red with anger. He turned on Cyrus with the knife, but Cyrus was ready for him. Cyrus grabbed his wrist as it came down towards him, and the two began to grapple.
The mob watched in surprise and horror as their two leaders danced the dance of death.
Joachim rolled over and saw Harald watching him from the side of the road. Lennart was also on the ground. Lennart's eyes were open. His chest heaved. Joachim felt relief flood him; Lennart was alive.
A cry of pain brought Joachim's attention back to the fight. His old friend Cyrus had taken a hit. Blood was pouring from his right arm as he fended Deke Dio off with his left.
It was for Cyrus and his people that Joachim had gone into exile. And it was with Cyrus that Joachim had pushed back the Tirasian fleet at Sorsbrent.
And now Deke Dio was going to kill him too.
Joachim could not allow that. A hoarse shout ripped Joachim's throat as he tore to his feet. Joachim threw himself at Deke Dio. The cleric did not see him coming. Joachim and Deke collided and went down. They landed in a heap. Joachim locked Deke's right hand to the ground, trying to press the knife out of it. The cleric hit him in the face with his left.
"You are a... terrible... Lightist!" Joachim yelled, responding by elbowing Deke Dio in the face. The cleric fell backwards, the dagger flying from his hands.
Deke Dio shook his head groggily and crawled backwards.
"Give me a sword!" he called to one of his men.
They threw him one. Deke Dio staggered to his feet and stood towering over Joachim, ready to finish what he had started.
"To the Hells with you!"
"Stop!" a voice called. "What in Nether do you think you are doing?"
They all turned. Henry Caldwell of the regency council rushed to the scene, followed by a company of guardsmen. As they began to push through the crowd, Deke Dio stabbed Joachim in the gut, screaming as he did so.
"I'll kill you! I'll kill you, you bastard!"
Joachim fell backwards, his vision comprehending that Deke Dio was about to finish him off.
But a grizzled old man holding a scimitar barrelled into the cleric at the last moment, the scimitar tearing through Deke Dio's chest.
Gerard Falrevere lifted Joachim into his arms.
"Save your breath, Joachim Alten, Baron of Balor! You are not yet relieved of your duties! Don't think you can escape your duties by dying!"
But Joachim felt himself slipping. Gerard could see it happening.
"I didn't come all this way to see you die, boy!"
"Get him to the palace." Henry commanded. "The healers may be able to save him yet."
"Somebody get Lennart. Harald, follow me."
"Wotan, help him!" a leather-clad warrior commanded.
Joachim fell unconscious once again.
Travot Ravenholdt stood amidst the party that had broken up the mob. So Joachim yet lived, for now. But what of the Princess Elaine? They had to press on.
A small company of Stormwind soldiers had watched the entire spectacle. They approached wearily, swords drawn.
An explosion diverted everyone's attention. Travot saw elves step into the square on the opposite side. The gaze of their leader fell upon him, and they locked eyes.
The elves approached.
"Where is Princess Elaine, Ambassador?" Henry Caldwell demanded.
"Far beyond your reach, human." the ambassador replied smugly. "And soon, your separation shall be permanent. The sun shall rise over a new world..."
Duke Augustus Fenris let the communication stone slide through his fingers. It hit the deck and it did not bounce.
"Augustus?! Augustus!" Wrynn's voice bellowed.
But Augustus Fenris was already walking up onto the deck. He stood looking out as Boralus burned.
"Captain." he said, sweat beading off of his face. "We have a job to do. Hit them with everything we've got."
Gerard Falrevere struggled to keep Joachim's weight as he pressed on towards the palace. At his side was Wotan, holding Lennart. Behind them tailed Harald Alten.
As they pushed on towards the palace, a company of elves cut them off. Sure that they were finished, Gerard simply stood still. He dared not let go of Joachim, who was fading fast.
The elves did not strike, however. Their leader walked down towards them.
"I see you have the Grand Admiral." the elf stated. "And he is dying. What a waste."
"What do you want?" Gerard snarled.
"My name is Seranidan." the elf answered plainly. "And I can save Joachim Alten, if you give him to me. If you do not, he may not live to see another day."
There is no creature on earth half so terrifying as a truly just man.
Last edited by Timolas; 04-27-2012 at 01:13 PM..
Ephraim's words boomed across the island. He was using his magic to project his voice, so that all within the battlefield could hear.
"Your pathetic assassins have failed! Already I feel their blood lending me strength! It was a mistake to engage us in the art of combat, for blood magic gives strength to our best! Ever wound, every drop of blood, feeds my strength! One mistake of many! "
Nevain Daxanar and his men retreated swiftly through the tunnels, led by a member of the Middlecreek Brigade. They moved swiftly, covering their tracks to ensure the Esoterics would have to divide their forces. Even still, a Úlfhéðinn approach, empowered with blood. Swinging an axe wildly, the berserker charged, going for a kill. The Zaramim raised his weapon and his voice.
"Not yet, you trollish bastards! Not damned yet!"
"You abandon our Gods! You spit on the name of their savior! You work to undermine all that is good in this world! The Benefactors are good! The Hareveim are good! The Maroon Cult was good! The Esoteric Order is good! The Prophet ushers nothing but good into this world!"
From the walls of Grinwillow, Ianthe Marsh commanded the ranged forces of the Malefactors. Ballistae cut gashes in the Esoteric ranks. Rains of arrow, fired at her command, thinned the lines. But still the subalterns advanced. Their quivers had not enough arrows to slay them all. Ianthe thought of Iphis, her love, the one who she cared more for than any other. She was secure, deep within the halls with those few unfit for combat duty. They had a portalweaver on site ready for emergency evacuation. But still, Ianthe worried.
"Of all the hypocrites in this world, you are amongst the greatest. You decry our actions, yet you cause them. You came to Zul'Dare! You turned the Prophet's gaze to our island once more! You put the Esoteric Order into play. It was you who slaughtered Middlecreek, not us. It was you who conquered Rhodos. All the blood we've shed dirties your hands!"
On the western shore, New Barsmouth was in chaos. Ichabod Cohen and the remaining Middlecreek Brigade fought frantically. As it turned out, the Serum was still in full effect. But that had left one sense intact: instinct. And it was instinct that led them to focus on the threat tallying the greatest number of killing. They soon fell back into infighting, but the sheer ratio of troop numbers meant the fight would be far from easy. Cohen grinned a maniacal smile. The Middlecreek Brigade always fought best when the odds were against them. The half-trollish corpses piled higher.
"You are but ants, scattered about. Individually, you are weak. In a group, you are weak. But we are strong! We are the mightiest! We fight to save this world, and all others! The benevolence of the Four will span across the stars! You seek to doom us to futures of ceaseless war and slaughter! You fight thoughtlessly! We fight for peace! For prosperity!"
Donald Redpath and Melusine rushed through the back lines of the enemy. They found their target; a bloodmage. Melusine slipped behind him as Redpath drew his fire. Her hands grasped his head firmly and twisted it. A sick snapping sound was faintly audible as his neck was shattered. Neither of them had a scratch on them. They took off again, searching for the next bloodmage to kill.
"We are the end of all that is wrong in the world! The sickening Light shall be extinguished. The disgusting lesser Loa will be put down like the animals they are! The shadows will be banished and everything will see the glory of Muhar! Of the Four Gods! We bring strength and love through cohesion. We bring unity!"
Ships sank as they were assaulted by a mysterious assailant fleet. At the head of a flagship stood Donna Jando. The Maz'asi Rebellion had seen fit to return to the fray. They had had little choice. Either they were trap the Esoteric Order between themselves and the Malefactors and destroy them, or the half-trolls would crush them. Inaction would only leave them with the same slaughter without any hope of victory. Hope was slim as it was, and they could not afford to sacrifice it entirely.
"Since the dawn of the second order of the world, we have waited! The Prophet directed high children of Muhar to this blessed island. He gave them the beautiful trolls with which to breed. And from that Gods-graced union sprang forth the great mortal breed to ever walk the planet. We are above humankind! We are above trollkind! And above elves and dwarves and all others. We are the pinnacles of flesh and blood!"
The Daughters of Pontus were chanting frantically. From the depths of the ocean sprung a great horde of creatures; Couatl. The beasts would once more serve the Proudmoore legacy. They bore down upon the Esoteric Army. It was their only move left, having used up all the Serum. Suddenly, a blast tore their airship's balloon apart; a gift straight from the hands of Ephraim Marsh himself. The Daughters scrambled to mount Couatl as their great craft went down. It crashed explosively in the middle of eastern Esoteric forces.
"You shall fall! You shall all fall! And the fall will break you and your foolish movement! The people of Azeroth will see your order for what it really is! You call yourself Malefactors. No more apt a term is there! The world will see that soon enough, and your foolish allies will beg for forgiveness. "
A detachment of Úlfhéðinn rushed into the woods, hoping to infiltrate Grinwillow from behind. Their rampage flattened plant life underneath. Their silence was uncharacteristic but necessarily. Suddenly, they stumbled into a clearing. In front of them was a solitary figure, dressed in robes. He seemed absentmindedly amused by their presence. Cyrisus raised his hands wide, and the world ended for the half-trolls in front of him.
"No matter what you do, no matter what you throw at us, we will not break! We will not falter! We are eternal! Soon, our numbers will swell ones more, and we will blanket the world with our forces. All will then known who the true masters of the mortal world are. Not humans, not elves, nor trolls, nor dwarves. We are Azeroth's masters! We are the chosen of the Prophet himself! And we will not be denied!"
Herman Aranas walked nervously about, running the numbers in his head. All results ended in failure without the Serum's final application. No other factor was large enough. A portal opened, and Lady Anazar walked through, Scroll of Lore in hand. He worked that into the equation. Not enough, total destruction still most likely outcome. Anazar demanded to see the Highlord, and Aranas directed her to him. Anazar masterfully utilized the Scroll, sending scores of Esoterics to their doom. Still, the front line falters and nears breaking. Not enough.
"We will be victorious! We will take Zul'Dare back for our own! I could have you all slaughtered! But I am not a cruel lord. I am merciful. If you lay down your arms and renounce your foolish ways we will not harm you. Understand that Zul'Dare will be ours no matter what you choose. So, Xalmor Windrunner, great fool, what is your response? What do you have to say to me?"
Xalmor Windrunner stood alone on the Haven Tower. The stormy wind blew his hair and cloak about. He grimaced. There was no real choice here. There was only one way this would end, only one option he could truly select. He approached the side and raised his voice with a similar fashion.
"Get off my island."
Brutus Armaggon's vision returned to him. His Eel gear had quickly broken whatever magic had effected him. Looking around, he saw only two survivors in Galaran and Kraus. Above him was Billy Olmstead. Brutus saw him fumbling was trinkets; he was no mage. Looking in Olmstead's eyes, he saw not the eyes of a bloodthirsty monster, but the eyes of a good man. A peaceful man, disturbed by the horrors of war. He was no fighter but a scholar, thrust unwisely onto the front lines by those too shortsighted to see his strengths. He was not even a half-troll.
"You seal your fate! And the fate of those who followed you on your blind crusade. I shall cut out your heart, Xalmor Windrunner. I will present it to the Prophet, the one who gave you everything only to have it thrown back into his face. He made you Viridian Templar, he made you Highlord, he gave you the Esoteric Order. Now he will have it all back!"
And in Brutus' eyes, Olmstead saw a hope for the peace he longed for. He nodded in silent understand. Brutus unsheathed his arm-blade. Billy Olmstead readied his trinkets and directed them at Duke Ephraim Marsh, who suddenly slowed down. Silently and quickly, Brutus rose and struck at Marsh's back. He tore through cloth, armor and skin, a splattering of blood greeting him. Marsh turned to face him, and Brutus could feel his glare even if he could not see it. He sheathed the blade and drew the Serum vial with his other hand.
"A gift from the Envoy of the Gods."
Arcing his arm-mace, Brutus smashed the head of Ephraim Marsh. The mask shattered and cloth was torn away, revealing the trollish head within. A tusk had been broken clean off by the assault. He could tell the Esoterics decorated them elaborately. Raising the Serum vial, Brutus slammed his half-open hand into the face of the half-troll Duke. The Serum covered Marsh's entire face, getting into his eyes, his nose, his mouth and his wounds. His voice still amplified, Ephraim Marsh's scream could be heard by everyone.
Nevain Daxanar cleaved the head off his foe, and its corpse hit the ground with a thud. In New Barsmouth, the half-trolls slaughtered each other like never before. Ichabod Cohen led his men away, those who remained alive. They ventured through the caves, meeting up with the Zaramim hulk. He began icking the walls of the cave and they soon collapsed, blocking the Esoteric advance.
Ianthe Marsh stood alongside Anazar. Together, the two of the did terrible, terrible damage to the Esoteric ranks. All they were doing now was speeding up the self-destruction of the army. Half-trolls slew half-trolls in a mindless frenzy. Their numbers consumed themselves. From above, the Couatl of the Daughters of Pontus wrecked havok, now unimpeded by Esoteric arrows. Cyrisus and Herman Aranas watched the carnage from behind them.
The Maz'asi fleet, though small, sank ship after ship. With no defenses manned it was an easy matter. On the shore, Redpath and Melusine cut a bloody line through the Esoteric forces as they made their return trip to Grinwillow. The Middlecreek brigade reinforced the Malefactor front line as the assassins passed through it. For the first time, it was advancing.
Ephraim Marsh had stopped screaming and had passed out from bloodloss. Unfortunately for Brutus, the crew of his ship had not been the near-mindless subalterns that made up the mass of the army. Loss of the bloodlink didn't effect them in the slightest. Brutus, Galaran and Kraus were quickly captured and held back. An eager half-troll roared warcries, ordering the ship to advance and face the Malefactors head-on.
"Belay that order," Billy Olmstead said firmly. "We're moving out."
Ephraim Marsh growled with rage as he rose from the deck. Blood dripped onto the deck from his damaged face. Broken tusks spread his mouth wide. His eyes were pure black, blood magic coursing through him.
“We will burn them all.” he spat as he roared with rage. Marsh pointed at Brutus. “Get the fuck off my ship, you worthless piece of filth.”
“Gladly.” Brutus replied.
Armaggon charged at Ephraim, tackling him overboard. Together, they fell into the sea. Brutus’ eyes gleamed with a ferocious intensity. As an Eel, he had become Azeroth’s mortal master of sub-marine combat. They were in his realm now, and his assault was relentless. He extended his hand back into the blade, for better dynamics. His world-class swimming technique allowed him to dive around any conventional attacks from the Duke. Ephraim, however, was not content to let the Malefactor warrior drown him without a fight. Blood was all around him, empowering him. Jets of boiling water shot forth from his fingertips, scalding Brutus. They landing on the sea floor, relatively shallow due to the island of Zul’Dare. Brutus’ Eel gear gave him breath, while Ephraim’s magic supplied him with precious oxygen.
Brutus’ attempt to rise to an offensive was stopped as a rocky hand grasped his foot. Ephraim animated the rocky sea bed, with more hands grasping and tearing at him. Brutus concentrated and activated the anti-magic components of his gear. The hands fell into sand and washed away. He then sprung from the floor, surging at Duke Marsh. The half-troll had gotten a better hold on the environment, and his actions were thus swifter.
Brutus’ strike was blocked by an ice blade, conjured by Ephraim. Whenever he struck, an ice float appeared to block him. The water around him chilled ever further as Ephraim continued to remove heat from it. Brutus feign a strike at the jugular before striking at the Duke’s torso, and finally made his way around the ice guard. His blade rended flesh, cutting through the Duke’s armor. As blood tainted the water, sharks drew around them. In a rage, Marsh released the gathered energy in a burst, blasting Brutus to the surface.
Brutus coughed up blood as he pushed himself up. He was on the south shore of Zul’Dare isle, near Arhklem. Looking up, he saw Duke Ephraim Marsh rise from the surf. The ocean had been bent to his will through blood magic, and it rose with him. Ephraim, ready to toy with his prey, plucked a shark from the waves with telekinetic magic and sent it flying toward Brutus. He would have laughed in a less dire situation.
“Only now, at the end, do you understand the futility of your struggle!” Marsh roared in anger, flinging magick blasts about wildly. Brutus scrambled to avoid them, his anti-magick gear unable to handle power of that magnitude. “Now you understand, that those who oppose me shall all die, forgotten and alone!”
“Not exactly.” a voice came from behind Brutus.
A bolt of Indigo Lightning struck Ephraim in the chest. His aquakinesis faded as he plummeted to the sands below. Xalmor Windrunner stepped onto the beach, trailed by Lady Anazar, Duchess Ianthe Marsh, a bloody Melusine and a grim Donald Redpath. They were clad in lighter gear, better suited for sand. Brutus shuffled further back onto the isle, intending to stay out of the struggle.
“Five against one, Windrunner?” Marsh said mockingly, rising to his feet. “Where’s your sense of honor?”
“A luxury I cannot afford any foe.” Xalmor said calmly, holding out his arm and sending another indigo strike at Marsh, who countered with a magical beam. The two spells met explosively.
“You speak of honor? After Boralus? After Rhodos?” Redpath screamed, jumping on Marsh’s back, blades drawn. ”After Middlecreek?!”
“You’ll wish you had stayed dead, Redpath!” Marsh broke his spell battle with Xalmor, blasting both him and Redpath back with a briefly solid dome.
“Please, enough with the monologuing.” Anazar sighed, striking with a cat o’ nine tails inspired flame attack. “This is a theatre of war, not of dramatics.”
“The Hareveim have always been so foolish for worshippers of wisdom.” Ephraim conjured a pair of smoke limbs in the air, sweeping away the flames and battering Anazar.
“Half-troll blood. New.” A dagger pierced Duke Marsh’s back as Melusine snarled with bloodlust. “Tastes bad.”
“A war lady of Brux. I’m sure you’ll forgive this, then.” Marsh turned, locking eyes with the assassin for a moment before punching her in the face and kicking her away. He drew his blade, a black-and-gold ornate sword, and prepared to finish her.
A grappling hook sunk into Ephraim’s face and pulled him back as he screamed. Brutus had been lucky enough to have a spare. Ephraim was not spared a moment as Xalmor charged with his blade held high. The two leaders clashed, sparks jutting out as their weapons collided. If they had been on even ground the match would have been more fair. But Zul’Dare was replete with blood, and Ephraim was all the stronger for it. Xalmor began to falter, going on the defensive.
“Worthless! Corrupted! Blind! Fool!” Ephraim shouted between strikes. “I was an impossible threat before. But I have the power of an army’s blood in me now! I am infinitely your greater!”
“You’ll die, Marsh. You and your heretic master.” Xalmor grunted in response.
“I am immortal! I will crush all those who stand against me! Even the Prophet himself would be hard pressed to stop me!” Duke Marsh channeled energy through his blade, knocking Xalmor to the ground. Xalmor was beaten. Marsh raised his blade above the Highlord, ready to strike the final blow “And now, elf, you die.”
The killing blow, however, never came. Ephraim Marsh slumped to the ground, grasping at his throat. An arrow stuck through his neck. Ianthe Marsh stood ready to fire another. Ready to kill her father, with no doubts and no regrets. Ready to put down a monster. Ephraim, however, had already lost consciousness. Redpath scrambled to his unconscious body. He pulled the arrow out and did the best to stop the blood flow.
“What are you doing?!” Ianthe yelled. “Let him die!”
“No! Middlecreek demands justice, not vengeance!” He said bitterly. “He shall be given to the Maz’asi Rebellion. They will hold a trial, and he will face the law for all he has done!”
Xalmor silently nodded his approval. His mind raced with other matters, and he hardly cared what Redpath did with Duke Marsh now that the Esoteric Order had been defeated. Some had unsettled him. It was a single thought, yet even those could be deadly. The observation and its implications shook him to his core. Ianthe Marsh had stood ready to kill her father with no doubts.
The Prophet was wrong.
Join Date: Dec 2007
Ravenholdt, Lordaeron, Sorsbrent and the Benefactors
The cry reverberated through the entire Shadow Realm. Even the fiends and shades that were native to the vile dimension cowered.
Years, nay, decades of planning had allowed Cardinal Kruel to achieve the ultimate ascension. He’d attained Godhood. In the hour of his greatest victory, as all of Azeroth was wet and ready to be despoiled under his shadowy sanctions, he was stolen away… sent to the Realm from which he stole his power.
And there he was trapped.
Cruel Barb smiled as the Malachite let loose tears of joy. She was moved herself, and seeing how moved he was made her feel even more moved.
Kid Gorgeous: Growl!
The Kid came bounding over the rubble, furiously licking Barb on her face.
“Cruel Barb” Friendly: Okay… okay, you Big Pussy! I’ll admit it, I’m happy to see you too!
Zero-Zero-Nine: It would seem that Kruel’s nightmare reign is finally over. Having sacrificed all his demented followers, his twisted perversion of a religion is now trapped with him in what has become a wholly inaccessible realm. May it forever rot there, and may this world move beyond the soon to be forgotten Shadow… and never look back.
“Cruel Barb” Friendly: Right on, Rusty!
Despite the “barb,” she was very pleased that the Golem had made it. Almost as pleased as the crying Lamar.
Lamar Daedran: Being here with all of you… after I thought I’d never see the blue sky again… I’ve never felt this way! Everything is so beautiful. I tell you, ma’am, I’ll never take a moment of life for granted again. From now on…
A clawed fist exploded through his chest. As the fist moved to the side, Barb saw a horrible vision. It was Drakgyver wearing Daedran as the world’s goriest bracer.
Drakgyver McGowan: I’m back.
“Cruel Barb” Friendly: Magyver!
Drakgyver McGowan: Guess again.
“Cruel Barb” Friendly: …Atrumarion?
Drakgyver McGowan: That’s riiight. And if you remember correctly, we had an agreement.
Barb drew her daggers, and the others assumed fighting positions as well.
Drakgyver McGowan: You wouldn’t go back on your word, would you?
“Cruel Barb” Friendly: You killed Daedran!
Drakgyver McGowan: Oh, come now. He’d have been dead in another thirty years anyway. No big loss.
“Cruel Barb” Friendly: Grrrraaahhh!
Kid Gorgeous: Growl!
Barb lunged at the Drakonid, landing on his chest. He managed to swat her to the ground before she could stab him in the neck. Now he stood above her, enormous sword raised high.
With a loud crack, a whip coiled around the reptilian’s weapon, ceasing its movement. Barb looked up and saw Amarian, alongside Warren and Jammal.
Amarian Zeshuwal: Not today, Dragon.
Drakgyver was now surrounded on all sides, but the dragon possessing the body was a pragmatist if nothing else.
Drakgyver McGowan: Enough! Remember, your friend is in here with me as well.
Barb bit her lip at hearing that. She’d given in to her anger, forgetting that it was the foul Atrumarion’s blood that soiled Magyver’s body. If she’d landed her killing blow, she’d have ended the life of her… “friend” and ally.
Drakgyver McGowan: Now, we did have an agreement. It was my blood that transformed McGowan. Remove it, stick it in a willing host, and we all get what we want. You will get your human leader back, and I will get a body that won’t… fight my every command.
So, Magyver was in there, and he was fighting for control. That knowledge gave Barb the strength she needed to move forward.
“Cruel Barb” Friendly: Fine. I’ll honor our bargain.
Warren stepped up from behind her, grabbing her lightly by the arm. She’d stabbed people for less, but she knew this time it was out of concern.
Warren Greystone: Barb, Magyver is my friend and partner. Know that I would never abandon him to the fate of being trapped inside that gangly abomination. But Atrumarion is demanding we pass on his curse to someone else.
Drakgyver McGowan: It might surprise you to know, human, that there are those who would not consider this a “curse” at all, but instead the ultimate gift. There are many devoted followers-
“Cruel Barb” Friendly: Cultists.
The Drakonid sneered, curling his lip.
Drakgyver McGowan: Followers of the Black Dragonflight who would happily take my essence. I’ll have one summoned, and you can have him sign a release form or whatever you need to ensure your delicate sensibilities aren’t offended.
Amarian Zeshuwal: Your blood is mixed with his. How do you propose we segregate it?
Drakgyver McGowan: That, my dear, if Ms. Friendly’s burden.
All eyes turned to Barb.
“Cruel Barb” Friendly: We’ve got people who can figure it out. Back at our base.
Back at Fenris Isle…
Last edited by Gurtogg_Bloodboil; 04-27-2012 at 07:39 PM..
Back at Malefactor base, Anazar was having a dicussion with the Highlord.
"What?" Anazar was astonished.
"You heard me right." Xalmor said firmly. "You will give the Scroll back to Gianata."
"After all that time I spent getting it back?"
"Yes. It is more useful in her hands. She can oppose Javali in ways we can't."
Anazar grumbled some resentful words but followed orders. A portal later, the Scroll was back in the hands of Gianata, with some Malefactor ambassadors left behind to, in all hopes, aid her. Anazar herself stayed with the rest of the Malefactors.
[Next: the Trial of Ephraim Marsh!]
Last edited by HalfElfDragon; 04-27-2012 at 07:45 PM..
Ravenholdt and Zul'Dare
Micaiah propped his legs up on the table that had once housed the lords and ladies of the Fenris Summit.
"So here's where it all began. I've been meaning to give this place a look."
"I'm sure that's not why you are here." Warester added helpfully. "So why don't you tell me? Spare me the games and you'll save us the time."
"Right you are." Micaiah said, clicking his tongue against the roof of his mouth. "I promise all will be revealed, once you bring me Myrokos Silentform. Until then, I shall tell you no more."
"You're hardly in a position to negotiate the terms of your imprisonment, Micaiah."
Micaiah shut his eyes and breathed in slowly.
"You're a smart man, Mister Van Dam. That's how you came to fill your prestigious position. I don't think you're a fool. So show me the same courtesy, please, and don't underestimate me."
Warester Van Dam studied the man with a mixture of amusement and fascination. The two feelings made odd bedfellows.
His discussion was cut short, however, when New Qu tapped him on the shoulder.
"What is it, Qu? Is Bauros Menethil finally talking?"
"You'll want to see for yourself."
Ewekapu was largely ignored for a while. Whatever was going on in the keep did not seem like it concerned him, and thus he was not told anything.
Captain Dampwallace occasionally visited, but said little, aside from that they were waiting to find out what it was Micaiah wanted.
For the most part, it was Nibbles who kept Ewe company. At least while Faldren Darafel was not around.
And so, Ewe waited.
There is no creature on earth half so terrifying as a truly just man.
Join Date: Nov 2008
Mathredis Firestar watched the wreckage that had been the Esoteric Order's last strength. The remains of the Invasion Fleet sinking into the ocean, scattered with thousands of bodies - they had fought fiercely. He had feared the crazed Marsh, he had loathed the half-troll abominations that their elite caste had been, and pitied their Mannish subordinates. Yet they - the rank and file of the Esoterics - had been allies. Betrayed by their own at Rhodos, suffered through Boralus, decimated by Silvermoon. He feels a welling-up of emotion, realizes it is shame. Had he acted quicker, he would have arrived sooner and perhaps would have been able to convince the Esoterics to wait, and reforge the alliance. But their homes had been burning on the horizon - no words he had could hold Ephraim Marsh's thirst for vengeance back. Perhaps it had been for the best.
He finds some solace in that they had, after all, only been Men.
Looking up, his eyes catch the wooded silhouette of Zul'dare sprawled over the world, the lighthouse of Middlecreek a lonely beacon in the dark of the sky, opposite the fading sunlight. Somewhere there, it was known, the renegade Viridian Templar led his warmongering followers, lawless rebels and faithless deserters. They had just fought a great battle. They would, he hoped, be tired, thinking the danger passed.
He looks behind him. Three Exalted from Patmos - foremost among them Foruel, one of the Sixteen who took Stromgarde. And even he was a recent recruit among the Benefactors. Mathredis was youngest of them all by half a century - yet he had studied under the Loremaster himself, and was considered their leader. They all stood suspended in the air, levitating a few feet above the quiet waves.
"Marsh yet lives," he confirmed. So the reports and, above all, his senses told him. "We find him, and we get him out. If it goes smoothly, and only then, will we pursue the Renegade."
Xalmor Windrunner had been a traitor to their cause for much too long. Lord Winthalus and Exalted Seranidan had both, for some reason, discouraged such a mission. Yet Mathredis was tired of old men's waiting. His followers nodded in grim determination their assent. They set out, four ghostly shapes in the gathering gloom.
Last edited by Ashenmoon; 04-29-2012 at 10:00 AM..
Join Date: Dec 2007
Ravenholdt and Zul'Dare
Fenris Isle was becoming a focal point of activity. It seemed to be everyone’s destination of choice.
It was troublesome enough that a stranger with ties to the Collective showed up on his Isle and demanded to see his sword-brother Myrokos without further explanation. How did this “Miciah” even know Ravenholdt had occupied the Keep? This wasn’t exactly common knowledge. How did he even know Myrokos? Additionally, Miciah arrived with Warester's long-time allies, Admiral Darafel and Nibbles, in shackles and insisted they be kept in “protective custody.” An explanation was necessary, and he wasn‘t going to tolerate anyone playing games with him on his own turf. They had ways of making him talk…
But for now, that all had to wait. An elfish woman with seemingly unnatural pink hair had arrived at the Isle, and she brought with her dire news. She claimed to be the daughter of Erbag and a junior member of the Council of Tirisfal. Morevover, she had just come from Shorel’thalas… or at least, what used to be Shorel’thalas. The entire subterranean city had been leveled, collapsed in upon itself at the hands of Relthra’s treacherous son, Arronax.
“Beware Arronax, Son of Relfthra.” The prophecy given to him in the Age of Men’heva reverberated in Van Dam’s mind.
Shortee Fizzlebang: He’s completely complicit in Men’heva’s great scheme, and he cares nothing for faith or philosophy. He’s out for personal power alone. The memory stones revealed the scope of his treachery.
In addition to the fiend’s machinations as Emberstone in Dalaran, Arronax had also conspired with Men’heva’s other puppet, Oran. Some years ago, they together infiltrated a gathering of prominent Lightist leaders; a group that would come to be known as the Perfectibilists. Although some like Marden were all too eager to be lead down the path, it was Arronax who actually instigated the anti-pagan extremism that had gripped the Church of the Holy Light and in turn instigated the Great War. It was all based on a manufactured fear that there would be a Lightist Genocide… a genocide Van Dam knew for a fact would actually occur in the grimdark future where Men’heva’s plans come to fruition.
The entire world was a chessboard to that damnable troll.
Shortee Fizzlebang: Robere managed to jab a shard of ice into the bastard’s neck. I couldn’t tell if it was a lethal blow. Right after, Arronax blew Shorel’thalas’ structural support and teleported out with Cerzimon and Maxwell, supposedly to Karazhan. I was barely able to conjure a mana shield before the place collapsed.
Warester Van Dam: What of Robere and Percy?
Shortee looked down. Her silence spoke volumes.
Shortee Fizzlebang: I don’t know. I… I have to assume that everyone in Shorel’thalas is gone.
Van Dam punched the Keep’s wall. He’d lost too many of his people, and every loss was bitter. This one especially.
Warester Van Dam: Arronax is a dead man.
Percy Fayette: The new Archbishop you say?
Daevin Shadowbreaker: That’s correct.
Percy Fayette: Well then, you may be just the person I need to speak to about the errors of your predecessor. Let me tell you about the Perfectibilist Summit…
Owen Zverenhoff: Who are you, apothecary?
Nikolai Tymoshenko: My name is Nikolai Tymoshenko. With your permission, regent, I will assemble a party and take care of this myself. Simply give me the authority and it shall be done.
Owen Zverenhoff: Well, know this Nikolai Tymoshenko. Nothing good comes from using troll magic, and nothing good comes from Ulmat Thondr.
Owen became a Ramrod Legionnaire at one of Ravenholdt’s training centers located in Stranglethorn Vale. While there, he had heard ghost stories about the Peninsula to the south of the troll stronghold of Zul‘Gurub. He wanted no part of it.
Owen Zverenhoff: I’ll not sanction any such expedition. But you’re a free citizen of Alterac. If you want to go… then go yourself.
Owen ordered one of his own clerics to keep him updated on Perenolde’s condition before storming out of the room.
Owen Zverenhoff: Fuck Ulmat Thondr…
Ravenholdt, Kul Tiras and the Elves
Henry Caldwell: Where is Princess Elaine, Ambassador?
Elven Ambassador: Far beyond your reach, human. And soon, your separation shall be permanent. The sun shall rise over a new world…
Travot’s blade struck in a flash, and the Elven ambassador’s head fell to the ground with a wet splat.
Travot Ravenholdt: How’s that for permanent separation?
Travot then casually dropped an arcane bomb from his belt. Qu’s finest invention, the anti-caster hand grenade-style weapon prevented any spell from being cast in the vicinity of their detonation for a brief time. The Stormwind soldiers struck quickly thereafter, putting the surprised and silenced elves that approached to the sword.
One of the slain elves was carrying a human baby. Travot bent over and picked up the infant, noticing that it was wrapped in very fine swaddling clothes. Travot’s own fine taste in garments told him that only royalty could afford such fabric, though ostensibly this was not the crown prince.
Travot Ravenholdt: Why don’t you get this kid back to the palace’s nursery Caldwell.
Henry Caldwell: Aye.
At that moment, the sounds of Stormwind counterattacks rung out in unison. Duke Fenris was making the final push. The battle was all but over. Travot couldn’t help but to fist pump in vigorous approval.
Travot Ravenholdt: Attaboy Augustus! Lothar will promote you for this.
Katherine Adai: What about Elaine? Her trail is completely cold and all we know is that she was taken “South.”
Travot Ravenholdt: We’ve got yet another kidnapped princess on our hands. This is becoming a recuring theme. But this time, we have no idea where she’s been taken. What can we do but wait for demands? In the mean time, there’s enough going on here to keep us busy. Let’s supervise an orderly transition of power in Kul Tiras. Then we’ll worry about Elaine.
Ravenholdt, Dalaran and Lordaeron
Myrokos Silentform: We have to make a dash for the palace. It is the only way!
As Myrokos shouted for all to hear, Gustav Mageriff lunged once more. The elven rogue parried the Perinany traitor’s thrust, though his attacks were furious. The large and accomplished warrior of the Fist of Humanity looked to crumple Myrokos under his relentless assault.
And then, the attack ceased. Mageriff had been stabbed in the back.
Gustav Mageriff: Grahhh... you bastard!
He dropped to the ground, and his assailant stood over him.
Myrokos Silentform: Marius?
Niccolo Marius: As I said, take me with you! I’m no fool. I know the Western Legion is doomed here and I have no desire to die with them!
The Flamingo, admist his own fighting, had observed the swerve.
Lucio Benado: Hmm. Lucio Benado feels he was incorrect in his earlier recognition of you as a testosterone golem. Perhaps estrogen construct might be more apropos?
Myrokos Silentform: You might be right Lucio, but there’s not time to argue. Lead the way to the palace, Marius. Part the Western Legion forces in our way.
As they approached the palace, they saw a portal being constructed. Erbag stood channeling it.
Myrokos Silentform: What’s going on? What’s with the portal?
Erbag: Change of plans.
Join Date: Nov 2008
Seranidan strode through the chaotic, final moments of Boralus' resurged resistance. Messengers - Mannish, most of them - ducked through the commotion, passing orders and news between the shattered elements of Talthressar's returned troops. They were being slaughtered. The Ambassador himself was missing. Wrynn had done all he could, of that, Seranidan was satisfied - no, the true wolf had bared its teeth. Fenris had usurped control from his master.
So Seranidan had left Wrynn on Patmos, along with the Queen of Gilneas, and ordered the former to gather what troops yet were loyal to him. The Hesperian invasion was to be halted - though what had been taken should be kept. It would be useful leverage on the Dictator. Still, if this meant the situation with Fenris would prove unsolvable, they would have to call upon the attention of the King of Stormwind to punish the rebelling Duke.
Benefactors had been sent to find the Proudmoore girl and bring her to Patmos, too. Others had been set to the task of aiding the Gilnean queen's return and rule of her kingdom - reports were still uncertain when Seranidan had left the camp, but it seemed the Void-God had been destroyed. Whatever it had been, it was now gone.
He had come to Boralus to salvage what could be saved. Precious portals were woven to evacuate those most important to Patmos, but could not be held for long enough to transport everyone. Many would have to take their chances in heading out of the city, or surrender. It had seemed a utter disaster... until he found the Grand Admiral of Kul Tiras, bleeding in the arms of some ruffians. Soon to be another name in a long list of regents who owed their life to the Benefactors.
Last edited by Ashenmoon; 04-29-2012 at 10:24 AM..
"Unite them under the threat of the Amani."
Lanudal was shivering. His hands were fluttering with uncertainty, halfway between pawing at the Prophet's robes and pressing against the ground in submission.
"Yes, my lord, my Prophet." he rasped, staring at the ground. "What of the rebels?"
The Prophet was silent. Lanudal cowered as he waited, fearful that every jitter and drop of sweat would betray him. He pressed the Prophet's robe to his mouth and kissed it.
"The Malefactors." the Prophet stated. "There is no need to hunt them. They will come to me. There is nothing else for them to do."
"My lord, my Prophet, my light..." Lanudal recited.
"Send word to all believers, Exalted Lanudal."
"What do I tell them, great lord?"
"Tell them that the Prophet sends for them. Certain plans have been hastened towards their inevitable conclusion. Tell them..." the Prophet paused for a moment. "... the Awakening is neigh."
Then the Prophet was gone.
He had not noticed Lanudal's horror. If he had, he had forgiven it. Unless he had merely delayed punishment.
By all the Gods, Lanudal thought as he wretched upon the palace floor. The Prophet was a troll.
The Malefactors and the Elves
The sun set on the Esoteric Order for the last time.
When the sun rose, it was over a free archipelago. Zul'Dare and Maz'asi and all islets between and around had finally been lifted out of any last semblance of Isolation.
Xalmor Windrunner had not slept. There had been no time for it. By the time the last of the half-trolls had been rounded up, dawn had broken. But there was one last thing to do.
At the beaches south of Arhklem, where the Malefactors had first struck at the Esoterics, Xalmor Windrunner waited. At his side, Herman Aranas stood with a serene look on his wizened face.
"Tell me the truth, Lord Windrunner. Did you expect a victory?"
"Luck, or perhaps Fate, was on our side." Xalmor replied ambiguously.
Within the hour, several ships arrived to receive them. They flew the banner of the Maz'asi rebellion. Once aboard, the Malefactors shook hands with their allies. They had also been joined by William Olmstead, who had turned on the Esoterics during the fighting.
"You prevented my killing Ephraim." Brutus reminded him as they settled aboard.
"And then gave you the opportunity to." William reminded protectively as he stared out across the waves, an edge to his voice.
"Orianthi is dead of her injuries because of your hesitation."
"And I am completely indifferent." William Olmstead admitted with a shrug. "Spare me your crocodile tears. Better men and women have died these past weeks for less."
Xalmor watched with curiosity, wondering how Brutus would react to the provocation. The former Eel did not react at all, which was more worrying than any show of anger.
The rest of the journey was less eventful. They were received into the bay of Maz'asi with much fanfare. Celebrations had overtaken the whole island. Donna Jando met them on the shore. She fell into step with the Malefactors as they headed off towards the ruins.
"Ephraim Marsh awaits his fate within our dungeon."
"And how is he anticipating it, Commander Jando?"
"He killed his sentry. His sentry was nowhere near the cell. We increased the magical wards after that."
"A wise precaution. The world will be a safer place once his execution is complete. When is the trial to begin?"
"By sunset, my lord." she said with a smile. "Until then, let us celebrate..."
Kristoff Waite threw the gnawed bone into the darkness. He replaced his mask hastily and looked over the Reformed Ones before him. Their eyes glowing blue, he almost pitied them. Stripped of their free will, they were merely husks.
They had killed the Keeper at Waite's feet without hesitation. The Keeper had made a suitable meal for Waite. There was nothing else left to eat besides. He was fast running out of options.
He had never left Zul'Dare, but old charts and notes revealed an isolated community along the southern coasts known as Dun Argath. Perhaps he could lose his past there, if he stole a boat and vanished. His Reformed Ones would go with him, of course, and protect him.
"Yes, yes, to Dun Argath..."
"You are going nowhere, Duke." a voice cut through the darkness.
"What? Who is there?" Kristoff called back, scrambling off his perch and trying to hide behind his Reformed Ones.
"There is nowhere to hide, Duke." the same voice warned.
Out of the darkness stepped one of the surviving Keepers.
"Reformed Ones, attack him!"
But they did not move. Not this time. No, he would not cower. He would not hide. He was Duke Kristoff Waite, he thought, as he removed his mask. Nobody had ever seen his face before. Let the world see it now.
"Killing me will do you no good. The Malefactors have Zul'Dare now."
"It is for your Reformed Ones that I have been sent."
"Then you will spare me?"
"No." the Keeper proclaimed. "The Benefactors were explicit, I'm afraid."
A heavy fog swept over Maz'asi that evening. Burning through the shroud, sentries with torches made their rounds, though carelessly. There was nothing to defend against now that Duke Marsh had been defeated.
Inside the more intact section of the ruins, the Malefactors and rebels sat in attendance within a grand hall. Pillars carved with Mezejin runes rose high above. Where once windows had been, now only empty spaces yawned out into the misty night, like the eye sockets of dead men.
Ephraim Marsh stood weighed down by chains in the front of the chamber. Standing before him, the rebel conclave and members of the Middlecreek Brigade stood in judgement.
Johann Wilson, formerly of Middlecreek, stood with his bushy beard and bald head, dressed in ceremonial armour for the special occasion. Iolande Elliot stood by Donna Jando. Behind them were Sara Valborn, Granny Arhklem, Quincy Harmon and Carl Sutcliffe. Xalmor remembered them all from his first visit to the isle of Maz'asi.
But the rebel conclave did not stand in judgement alone. The Middlecreek Brigade's leaders were also present. Ichabod Cohen watched Ephraim Marsh with an unreadable expression on his face.
The Malefactors sat watching with mixed feelings. Xalmor knew that Ianthe wanted the trial to be over as quickly as possible, while others, such as Brutus Armaggon, had been looking forward to this moment.
It was Johann Wilson who stepped forward and asked for silence.
"We have come here to bring judgement upon the Esoteric Order for its crimes and for its institutionalized lies and heresies." he began, drawing out his speech for its full effect. "Here stands Ephraim Marsh, a man who was responsible for the lives of the Zul'Dari, his people."
Xalmor Windrunner sighed and looked out of one of the windows, hoping to look at the stars. They had given him comfort in the hardest of days. But the fog obscured everything. It was even leaking through the window, into the hall.
"Is everything well, my lord?"
Xalmor turned his head to see who was speaking. Nevain Daxanar stared back. Xalmor had never seen the Zaramim without his armour before. But Nevain had finally let his guard down. It was a strangely heart-warming sight.
The Malefactors would have time for a reprieve, at last.
Johann Wilson spread his hands out.
"I call William Olmstead to testify..."
Outside the ruins, the sentries bumbled onwards through the mist. Many were drunk from the celebrating, and kept the mood alive with jokes and tales from the fighting. Sharing the burden of sentry duty, some of the Malefactors had also taken up watch.
Asa Pierce had his head in his hands as he leaned over a block of stone. Sitting nearby, Chora Atticans nursed his calf. Magic was no substitute for natural healing.
"What's on your mind, Asa?"
Asa said nothing.
"You seem none too happy, young man."
Asa continued to ignored him. Suit yourself, Chora thought, reaching into his jacket for his trusty pipe and tobacco pouch.
As he puffed away, a young woman joined them. It was Iphis Galmin.
"Getting some fresh air, Iphis?"
Iphis nodded shyly. Chora had exchanged enough words with Iphis to know she was a nice girl; though he was not her type, it seemed. Enough reason not to offer her a smoke.
Iphis Galmin suddenly bolted upright.
"What is it now, girl? Is the stick up your arse bothering you?" Chora asked, emptying his pipe.
In response, Asa Pierce drew a dagger from his belt and stared into the mist.
"Well?" Chora asked with a sigh. "Any idea what's grinding your nerves, Iphis?"
But Iphis said nothing, her breathing coming out ragged. She made a run for it, vanishing into the night, leaving Chora and Asa alone.
Something moved through the fog. Chora nearly swallowed his pipe in his haste to get to his sword. Whatever it was, it had moved unnaturally fast.
"Never a dull moment..."
"I call Ianthe Marsh to testify!"
Xalmor Windrunner watched as the young woman rose from the crowd and went up to stand before them all. Her father met her eyes and they exchanged something that Xalmor could hardly fathom.
"My father is a murderer and a liar." Ianthe stated coldly, looking across the crowd. "You all know what he has done. I've had enough of this charade of a trial. This is no trial. This is a delayed execution. What do you really want me to say? That I would trade his life for my freedom? I'll do it. And I don't even know why. I've got nothing more to add. That is all."
Clearing his throat, Johann Wilson salvaged the situation.
"Yes, well... is there anything more to be said? No? Well then, I believe we have one last man to call. Donald Redpath, I call you to testify-"
A horrendous scream tore through the night. One by one, the torches in the grand hall began to go out. Reacting immediately, Xalmor rose to his feet, drawing his sword in one swift motion. The fog was heavier than was logical, and it was pouring through the windows.
The doors to the chamber smashed open so violently that they splintered and broke. Distorted shapes outlined the entrance where the doors had once been. They walked steadily onwards, their blue eyes shining through the gloom.
An arrow flew through the crowd, landing with a thud in the nearest Reformed One. Ianthe was already firing the second arrow by the time Xalmor noticed it was her. But heedless of pain and suffering, the Reformed One marched on.
The Malefactors and rebels needed no further prompting. They waded into the Reformed Ones with weapons and magic, showing no hesitation.
But Xalmor did hesitate. Something was wrong.
Who had sent them?
Black silhouettes filled in the windows. Four of them, to be precise. They began to descend in unison into the hall. As they drew nearer, Xalmor recognized them one by one. Foruel. They were all Benefactors. One of them had eyes blazing green. It was Mathredis, wearing the Jade Ring of Veth'talia that Xalmor had given him in Boralus.
"Damn you, Mathredis!" Xalmor bellowed, realising what was happening. "I won't let you do it! I won't let you take him!"
Ichabod Cohen realised what was happening. Hefting the executioner's axe, he rushed through the rebel conclave members, towards Ephraim Marsh. The axe came sailing down towards Ephraim's head...
... and came up against a magical shield.
"No!" Ichabod swore, hammering away at the shield with the axe. Each blow splintered the axe further, until Ichabod was hitting away with the handle.
Mathredis Firestar's hands shot out, but Xalmor reacted just as quickly. Viridian Lightning arched out from Xalmor's hands, colliding with the Viridian Lightning of Mathredis. Both stood locked in combat.
Much to Xalmor's surprise, Mathredis was strong. Though a mere whelp, an apprentice, Mathredis was matching him. It had to be the Jade Ring at work.
"You follow a false Doctrine!" he yelled. "Join us, Mathredis! We are the future!"
"You are the true traitor, and you bring shame upon the Viridian religion!" Mathredis swore, gnashing his teeth as he pumped wave after wave of Viridian Lightning against Xalmor. "Xaxion Drak'eem has deceived and lied to you, Windrunner!"
Suddenly, Xalmor was remembering how Ianthe had defied Xaxion Drak'eem's predictions. Could the Prophet be wrong?
"He is the Prophet, the Messenger of Mueh'zala!" Xalmor yelled back, taking a step forward. Mathredis screeched in pain as he did so, the green storm between them intensifying, drowning out the sounds of combat between the Malefactors and Reformed Ones.
"He-is-a-deceiver!" Mathredis groaned, falling to one knee as Xalmor drew closer. "You saw... what he did... to his own people... D'vorjakque is the Prophet of Zinine... the True Prophet of Zinine... he stands... with Men'heva!"
It was true.
Though Men'heva could not speak for Mnesthes... D'vorjakque could speak for Zinine.
And D'vorjakque stood with Men'heva.
The hesitation cost Xalmor dearly. Mathredis was on his feet again, pushing the Viridian Lightning closer and closer towards its target.
"You are empty, Xalmor Windrunner! Your Prophet wants to destroy you! And if you will not be turned, you will be destroyed! "
Mathredis' Lightning connected with Xalmor, and he dropped his sword, agony overcoming his every sensation. His skin felt like it was burning within a void of unrestrained agony. And Mathredis kept on taunting him.
"Only now, at the end, do you understand..."
Suddenly the pain stopped and his head cleared. Out of the corner of his eye, Xalmor watched as the last of the Reformed Ones fell in battle. His Malefactors were rushing to his defence.
Seeing this, Mathredis aborted his assault. He turned to his Benefactors, who stood amidst the bloodied remains of the rebel conclave. And with them was Ephraim Marsh.
"No. No!" Ianthe Marsh screeched as she drew her bow. Her arrow flew true, but one of the Benefactors stood in the way at the last moment.
A torrent of light blinded them all, and when it was gone, so was Mathredis, Ephraim and the remaining two of his Benefactors.
They left behind only one injured elf, and many, many dead rebels and Reformed Ones.
Dizzied by the disaster, Xalmor hardly noticed as Anazar helped him to his feet. Ichabod Cohen walked past, a vacant look in his bloodshot eyes.
"I tried." Ichabod kept repeating. "I tried."
As they sorted through the casualties, they found that many of the sentries had been turned into Reformed Ones. Asa Pierce was amongst them. Chora Atticans was not, having narrowly escaped.
Picking amongst the Reformed Ones, Ichabod Cohen also identified Gerald Asenath Derleth, an old friend from Middlecreek.
"I tried." he kept repeating, shutting Gerald's eyes.
Long after Ichabod had stopped chanting them, those same words haunted Xalmor Windrunner - but in Xalmor's head, they he was saying them in his own voice.
Another scream tore through the night. It was Ianthe, he soon learned. There was no sign of Iphis.
There is no creature on earth half so terrifying as a truly just man.
Last edited by Timolas; 04-29-2012 at 07:27 PM..
Ravenholdt and Zul'Dare
Ewe had quickly grown bored of the small room he had been given. He would visit Nibbles and Darafel, mainly to taunt them with the fact that he was not under the same protective custody as they were. Micaiah had evidently stopped caring about what was done with him, and for that Ewe was thankful. Ewe had spent near his entire life within limited borders. He had no wish to be stuck on an island, let alone a cell.
Of course, he was on an island. But at the very least it was a new island. The flora and fauna were quite different from his home at Zul'Dare. He had discovered that Zul'Dare had rather strange animals, apparently due to geographical separation from the mainland. Ewe was content to just sit on the beach and look out on the still waters of the lake. It had been so long since he had been given the opportunity to truly relax.
Ewe had long since gotten bored of it back in Zul'Dare. Ewe chuckled to himself, remembering the old days. Before he had learned of all the dark secrets of the world. How arrogant he had been in those days! It all seemed a lifetime ago. Ever since Xalmor Windrunner had landed on the shores of his island, it seemed that he couldn't hold on to any sort of happiness for longer.
He blamed himself for all the misfortunes that had befallen the Nidhogg crew. For the death of Valabelle Dampwallace. What a senseless, pointless loss that was. A lapse in the judgement of the collective thoughts that governed the course of existence. A sad cliche, and a complete waste.
From the distance he heard someone say something like "Aaron axis addendum". Which really didn't make the slightest bit of sense to Ewe, and thus caught his interest. He walked to the Keep, towards the source of the sound, and found himself walking right into a Ravenholdt communication. Warester van Dam, Captain Dampwallace's friend, stood next to a couple women. Both had elvish features, but were too short for elves.
One had dark hair and stood somewhat uncomfortably, like she didn't feel like she belonged there. The other's hair was a vibrant pink. She caught Ewe's eye in a way that surprised him. His heartrate increased. If not for the fact that he had the tanned complexion of an islander his face would have been distinctly redder. This weirded out Ewe.
"Grand Master, reports from Operative Friendly say that she and her retinue should be arriving shortly."
"Good, good. I-" Van Dam paused mid-sentence, seeing Ewe. "How'd you get in here?"
"Umm, Hi?" Ewe said nervously. "I kinda just walked in."
"Note to self, improve security." Warester sighed. "Anybody care to politely escort our friend out of here? And note I'm not being sarcastic, I do mean politely."
"I'll go," the pink-hair one replied.
"My thanks," the Grand Master said. "Now, Electra, you were saying...?"
Ewe followed the pink-hair one out sheepishly. She strode forth confidently.
"Hello," Ewe was speaking quickly. "My name's Ewekapu. Ewe for short. Ewekapu Marsh for long."
"My name is Shortee Fizzlebang," she flashed him a smile as as he cursed himself for the ridiculousness of that last statement. "Shortee for short."
"Cool. Cool cool cool." Ewe rambled. "I like your hair."
"The perks of having a gnome for a father," Shortee replied with a short laugh.
"What's a gnome?" Ewe blurted out. He regretted it.
"Most don't know. Suffice to say they're short and have... atypical hair colors." she replied, taking no offense to the remark. "Say, where are you from?"
"Zul'Dare. I'm from Zul'Dare." He said quietly.
"Well, Ewekapu, Ewe for short, from Zul'Dare, I have business to attend to with Ravenholdt." She stopped at the intersection of two hallways. "I'll find you later and we can talk more then, okay?"
"Okay, yes, yeah. Okay." he stuttered.
"Then its a date! See you then." with that, she walked away.
Iphis tore off into the forest. Dying was not on the list of things to do that day. She'd hide, wait for Ianthe to deal with the problem and then do back. This was becoming positively routine. The Reformed Ones quickly gave up the chase, and she was unsure of whether they had actually ever chased her at all. She stumbled into a clearing with a small pond. A voice called out to her.
"Hello there, little girl!" the voice boomed out. "What is your name?"
"Who's there?" Iphis responded.
"Why, it is I! Murray Grizzleton!" A big bearish man stepped out of the woods. "Savior of children and idol of millions!"
"I'm Iphis." Iphis was quickly getting the impression that the man was insane.
"Well of course you are. Come! Back to my cave! Mr. Bibbles will want to see you!"
"You haven't heard of Mr. Bibbles the Bucket Mage? I am shocked!" his voice was constantly loud. "Come back to my cave and I will introduce you!"
"And if I say no?"
Dudray lifted a heavy axe off his shoulder.
"Come back to my cave!"
Iphis got the message.
Donald Redpath had exhausted just about every expletive. So close. So close. It had been half an hour since the infiltration and he had still not settled. Xalmor, however, had returned to his calm. He saw the Truth, the real Truth, and knew it well. And he would enforce it. As it had turned out, Rebel casualties weren't very high. The greatest blow had been to their morale. It was supposed to be their hour of triumph. Instead, they felt like they had been punched in the gut.
"Enough!" Xalmor said, stepping in front of the crowd. "I have had enough of this gloom!"
"We've failed! We have no right to have anything but gloom!" was Redpath's response.
"Failed? Failed?! We've haven't failed! We've done everything but!" Xalmor yelled. "Men'heva may have won this battle, but we have already won our war here!"
"He's right," Johann Wilson said, standing up beside him. "He's right! You know he's right! Together we destroyed the Esoteric Order!"
"Exactly! Marsh's body lives on, but he's already been slain!" Xalmor shouted. Murmurs of agreement rose from the crowd. "The Benefactors made off with a corpse! How weak they must be, how desperate we must have made this false Prophet, if they would put all the effort in to take this one creature! This was not a sign of strength, but a display of weakness on their part!"
"Redpath, Cohen, listen to me!" Wilson said proudly. "You speak of justice for Middlecreek. We have it! Ephraim Marsh, war criminal, humbled and crippled. More than that, we have ensured that the Esoteric Order shall never be able to repeat the atrocities they committed against our home. What greater justice is there?"
The rest of the Maz'asi Rebellion Conclave formed up behind him. The crowd was growing happier. Even Redpath and Cohen begrudgingly mumbled agreement. The cheering, however, stopped suddenly. Bells were ringing. Xalmor and the other leaders stepped out of the temple and looked to the distance. A detachment of warships were anchored off the coast. The flags of Stormwind hung from their masts. A force had amassed on the shore. A figure, flamboyantly dress, rode on a great white horse at the army's head.
"Alright, boys. Time's come, let's do this," he yelled, and the sound echoed up to the templed. "VICEROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOY JEEEENKIIIIIINS"
"What's that you say, Mr. Bibbles?"
"Drip." A solitary drop of water leaked out of the pail and fell to the ground of the cave.
"Fascinating! There's an elf in Kul Tiras plotting the course that not one, but two monarchies will take? Amazing!" Dudray turned to Iphis. "Don't you think so?"
"Umm, yes?" Glancing into the bucket, Iphis could see an image of a great city projected within. The bear-man, she figured, was a mage of some sort and was using the bucket as a scrying pool.
"So soon, Mr Bibbles?" he sounded disappointed. "But she's such great company."
"Fine. But don't go complaining to me when you get bored!" Murray Grizzleton drew a knife and threw it at Iphis' feet.
"What- what are you-"
"I'm sorry it's come so soon, but Mr. Bibbles says I have to save you now." He said in a voice that honestly sounded kind. "Please, remove your face."
"What?" Iphis' voice was fearful.
"I can't save you when your face is stuck to that thing, can I?"
"I-" Iphis paused, looking at the knife. He grabbed it and lunged at Murray Grizzleton, but was knocked back by his ursine arms.
"Well, that was rude of you!" Murray chastised her. Looking over, he spied the pail. It had been knocked over. "Look what you did to Mr. Bibbles! You're not a nice child! You're just like those mean ones in Dalaran. You're a naughty child! And you know what the punishment for those are!"
He rose up, hairy, muscular and completely naked. Suddenly, Iphis knew exactly what the punishment for naughty children was. She was about to scream, when suddenly Murray Grizzleton did it for her. A stray arrow zoomed past the hulking man and embedded itself in the wall of the cave. Most of the arrows, however, impacted in the flesh of the bear-man. Howling with rage, he grabbed his battle-axe, and the bucket, and ran from the cave.
"Who would wish to assault Murray Grizzleton, preserver of facesouls?" Unfortunately for him, an arrow impacted in his eye. Howling in pain, he stumbled off into the forest.
Ianthe ran swiftly up the slope and into the cave. Iphis ran into her arms, tearful. They kissed briefly before Ianthe drew her into a hug, whispering words of comfort. They left the cave and began walking back through the trees to the temple. Iphis turned to her loved and spoke.
"This can't keep happening, Ianthe. This cycle of torments and miseries. You know it can't. You know."
As it turned out, the Stormwind charge stopped as soon as it began. When the Maz'asi force waved a white flag the soldiers quickly slowed. Xalmor had personally escorted Viceroy Jenkins inside the temple, and a treaty was being negotiated. Stormwind had sent its fleet to defeat the enemy strongholds in the north. Now they had discovered one of these great bastions broken for them. They were quite happy.
"As part of its new charter, the Maz'asi Federation shall be prohibited from raising a fleet suitable for any sort of invasion or offensive. Only merchant and fishing vessels shall be allowed." Sara Valborn said firmly. "Additionally, the Federation shall formally recognize the actions of the Esoteric Order as war crimes. However, we do not accept any responsibility for those actions."
Agreement came from the rest of the Conclave. Various other details were debated between the Conclave members, internally, and with the mediators from Stormwind. One particular suggestion drew the ire of Iolande Elliot.
"The Maz'asi Federation shall formally accept the tenets of the Holy Light." Quincy Harmon was the one to propose it.
In the end, however, that too was passed. Frustrated, Iolande politely resigned from the Conclave. With a unanimous decision, she was replaced by William Olmstead, who also added his support to the resolution. A further passage had the Conclave swearing oaths of loyalty to King Silas Lothar for a minimum of fifty years. That passed.
Soon, the new Maz'asi Federation was officially created. It was announced to the people of the Zul'Dari Island with a highly positive reaction. Iolande Elliot approached Xalmor about joining the Malefactors. Evidently, she was quite handy with staves, spears and halberds. Xalmor also noticed that her devotion to Muhar remained quite strong, even with the revelations about Men'heva to shake it. After the ceremony, Xalmor met privately with Viceroy Jenkins.
"Viceroy, I am aware your forces have taken control of the isle of Pellerno, and that the Merchant Council has accepted your authority there for the duration of the occupation," Xalmor spoke diplomatically.
"Indeed, that is true."
"One of my Malefactors is a chosen representative of the Merchant Council. She formerly ran the prison known as the Box on the island." Xalmor paused. "Recent events have shown Zul'Dare to be a poor home for my group. With your permission, I'd like to relocate my Malefactors to the Box to work against mutual enemies of ours."
"...I'll have to talk to Fenris about this one..." Jenkins pulled out a communication. "How do these damn dohickeys work..."
Short conversation later, and Xalmor's relocation plan had official Stormwind consent. Xalmor was glad that Fenris was in charge; he had heard that General Wrynn was rather obtuse about things such as this. Fenris knew not to look a gift horse in the mouth, and the world would benefit for it.
Xalmor gathered up his Malefactors. Their standing numbers had been greatly culled by the battle, but their strength had never been in numbers. Though the remain members of the former Middlecreek Brigade were staying behind, Redpath stayed with the Malefactors. Cyrusis followed, as did Princess Proudmoore and the few remaining Daughters of Pontus. A handful of Muharist even followed Iolande Eliot onto the Malefactor vessel. At last, Xalmor spied Ianthe Marsh and Iphis Galmin. There was an odd look on her face. Xalmor disembarked to investigate.
"Duchess Marsh, are you ready to board?"
"I- We aren't going." Ianthe said, squeezing Iphis' hand. "I'm sorry, Lord Windrunner, but we've had enough. Of everything."
Xalmor had no response.
"All of this. Bloodshed, betrayal, conquest. I've had my full of it." she paused. "I wish you and the Malefactors the greatest luck in your crusade, for it is a most righteous one. But we will never see each other again. Iphis and I will be going somewhere where nobody can find us."
Xalmor still offered no verbal response, but nodded his consent. Ianthe and Iphis walked away. Highlord Windrunner boarded his ship and gave the captain the signal. The ship, one of Stormwind's, was a fast one.
Pellerno had seen better days, though Stormwind's presence was actually proving to be a boon. A prison break at the Box had released many criminals onto the streets, but by now most had left. The ones the remains had been dealt with by the occupiers. Now the box was left empty and rather creepy. It was not hard for the Malefactors to move in with minimal notice from the populace. While not technically required, Xalmor thought it best not to arose suspicion.
He accompanied Melusine on a trip to the Council of Merchants to explain her absence. One particular member of the Council annoyed Xalmor.
"Georgio Benado be wanting to know where did you go?" he was growing old and senile. As his mind regressed, he had evidently started referring to himself in the third person.
"As I have said three times, Benado, I was forcibly taken to Kul Tiras before Xalmor Windrunner's Malefactor agents extracted me to Zul'Dare. Now I've come back here."
"And what do these Mail Flossers want with Pellerno?"
"The Malefactors are setting up a base of operations from which to conduct missions against enemies to the security of the world at large," Xalmor affirmed. "We have the approval of General Augustus Fenris of Stormwind, whose leadership you have already accepted."
"Hmm. Georgio Benado be liking this idea of world savers. He approves."
Back in the Box, Xalmor Windrunner met with his inner council. Melusine, Anazar, Redpath, Brutus, Iolande, Cyrisus and a few others were all gathered around a table. The Box would need time to get fully functional as their base, but set-up was going quickly. Xalmor rested his arms on the table. He spoke.
"The Benefactors will try to use their extraction of Ephraim Marsh as a rallying tool, to increase morale. It would be much better, we can all agree, if this doesn't happen," Xalmor's voice was clear and confident. "The solution is simple. We strike at their hearts."
"What are you proposing?" Brutus inquired.
"Last night, agents in Hesperia reported to me the location of Madreen Chameral, Ivory Templar. He is at the head of a group of armed forces some miles outside Firezne," He paused. "I don't need to explain to you what the Templar mean to the Benefactors and to Pagans at large."
"So, what's the plan?" Redpath asked.
"Anazar will open a portal to Chameral's coordinates. The rest of you will confront and kill him. Give no mind to honor or anything else. His death is the sole objective and you will accomplish it."
"Go now, friends, and return when Madreen Chameral is dead."
Join Date: Nov 2008
The boars – one large, tusked male, the other a female heavy with child – were led into the circle of painted shields, the hulking Strat-men murmuring shadows at the edge of the firelight’s reach. Beyond, the darkness was absolute, as if the rest of the world had disappeared. The Maroon Templar sat perched on a rock thrust from the plain earth, swaddled in bearfurs, close enough to the roaring pyre to be sweating despite the cold of night.
“Lovers of Brux!” she called, and the animals, freed of their bonds, approached her granite throne. They were powerful creatures, their fur gleaming healthily in the lurid light save where they had been smeared in ochre colours – as had the men forming the circle washed and adorned themselves.
“Be joined,” she said, softly. The circle fell into silence, anticipating the moment... and the beasts bowed before her antler crown, to sip of the water that waited there. And all around them, the Men hastily gulped down the contents of their cups, then gave a sudden roar.
“Bross! Bross!” they howled, yet none could mistake the power of the God’s name.
The boars started, as if until now they had been unaware of their surroundings. Panicked, they ran to and fro, jittery steps, turning round and round, trying to find some hiding spot from the shouting Men and the fire’s harsh light. They clung to the shadows of the Templar’s lone pedestal.
“Through pain!” she screamed, and rose up, arms flung wide as an eagle, furs flowing about her. The sow gave a squeal and ran, but came up short against the shields set against the ground. One of the Strat-men lashed out with his spear, scoring her lightly across the side. Blood sprayed over the ground.
Another man reached the male, pricking his chest. Both beasts began running, heedlessly, the circle much too small to avoid the Strat-men who darted forward to deliver a quick jab, then return to their place again. They screeched, their bodies soon slashed with a dozen wounds, spilling dark drops at each other or to the hard-packed earth, pattering against the wooden shields or fizzing into the fire. The Men kept chanting their God’s name, over and over, a deep, subterranean rumbling.
Two stark naked forms were flung into the circle. One was an Elf, a wiry woman, white hair cut short. The other was a Man, male, bearded but still young, even by Mannish reckoning. Their pale skin seemed to glow in the dark, pathetic, vulnerable. They clung to each other for support, eyeing the running animals with wide, alert eyes.
The male boar pounced on the opportunity to strike back against his tormentors.
Now came the deafening war-hoops of the Far North; ear-splitting, guttural baying, more Gnoll than Man. Somewhere a horn called out, and the beating of drums filled the air. The Elf-woman barely avoided the boar’s charge; he crashed into the shieldwall instead. He received no more cuts – the arena had been already been set.
The Elf and Man armed themselves with burning clubs from the pyre, but soon both animals bore down on them. Two pairs of lovers had been prepared. Now came the winnowing of the weak.
In the end, it was agreed, it was a fight that well honoured the God, and bode well for their union. Sooty and bloodied and dripping with sweat – the Man limping, blood welling from a gash in his leg, and the Elf nursing what would prove to be several broken ribs – they butchered their overcome foes. The severed member of the boar was cast on the flames, as was the piglet that was cut out from the sow’s belly.
The feast began around them, even as the marriage was consummated.
“They rut in the fields like dogs!” sputtered Dar’khan Drathir. “We do protest, most violently, Magister! It is an offence to our sensibilities!”
Gilaras Drakeson cast an annoyed look at his companion, then returned to Rimtori. “As I said, Vizier, there have been more incidents with the locals. Truly, I do think it would be best if you let us set up our camp separately – it is only a matter of time before someone gets killed.”
Dressed in the elaborate vestments of Quel’thalas, cast in shades of red and earthy browns, Rimtori found the garb distractingly restraining. It was ever thus, so soon after changing her role. Yesternight she was Maroon Templar. Now she was Elf-Vizier of a nation of Man, first advisor to King Andol, field-marshal of Lordaeron, governor of Strattania.
“The younger races already find us of Elf-kind hard to accept, Councillor. Would you alienate them even further?” She used the title as a reminder. Rommath’s New Convocation was dissolved, its constituency destroyed, its leaders dead, its power null. Once, she had been the outcast – for so many years, Rimtori and Kariel had been the body and soul of the Benefactors. Gilaras and his likes at the Sunking’s court, the members of the original Convocation – all of them had considered them religious lunatics, political anarchists, dangerous enemies. How things had changed, so quickly, for them all!
“I would protect my people, damn it! Crime is rampant! I barely dare walk the streets at night, and I am blessed with a company of guards at my side. The situation for most of us is dire, Vizier!”
“The situation has been dire for a long time, Councillor. We have survived the hardships of the Fall. This is nothing in comparison – we must simply endure it. We need those Men to hold back the Troll, and we need to show them that we are not the haughty, imperious slavemasters our enemies would paint us out to be.”
“Endure it? Is she blind? Elf-dames are raped by those vaunted berserkers of hers!” cried Dar’khan incredulously.
“Here, now, at Corin’s Crossing? I think not. Indeed, I know of more than a few of your followers who have embraced life here “ – sweating, squirming bodies – “ and adapted… there are more pregnant Elf-women in this small city than Silvermoon saw in a decade! This will be crucial for us, as a race, to survive!”
“Spare us, Templar, of your sermons and half-breeds! Here, perhaps, she keeps it under control. But we know well what it is like, out there,” and he waved – a strangely effeminate gesture – towards the window and the mountains beyond. “Our people suffers; not those we salvaged from Quel’danas but those who saved themselves away from the Fall! The conditions out there, in the barely-tamed wilderness, subject to the mercy of these barbarians and falling prey to Troll warbands – it does not bear thinking! It offends-”
“Even if they lived in slavery now, it would be little change from how they lived before!” spat Rimtori. “At least now they are free from the Sunking – yes, not all of us benefited from those depraved harems of yours, Drathir. It was Elves – the Atal’jin – who struck the first blow at Quel’danas, was it not?”
Dar’khan twisted his mouth into a cold smile. “As I recall, it was the Benefactors who were the first to shed Elf-blood on Quel’danas…“
“I had no part in that business! I renounced that position long ago!”
“Indeed, all you did was to first fight the Grand Army for a century, then lead it to its death and let Silvermoon be taken by-“
“Enough! Please,” broke Gilaras in, “let us be civil. Vizier, we ask merely to be allowed to relocate along with our households and followers. Not unreasonable, seeing as you send so many Elves under your own command to other places. Strattania is not a place for civilians and refugees in these dark times.”
“I will be the judge of that. I need everyone I can use in the fight against the Troll-“
“She means to have us all killed!” cried Dar’khan. “Broken, ruined women and old men, these are the soldiers she needs?”
“I need skilled craftsmen and arcanists of every kind; even the oldest and frailest of our people is an asset beyond reckoning – their wisdom and knowledge will be needed to teach our people the strength needed to take back the High Home - and to teach Mankind to help us do so.”
“Then let us do so!” answered Gilaras earnestly. “For weeks we have suffered in this camp, wishing nothing more than to begin our new lives. What is it you want of us?”
“Loyalty. Obedience. I need to know I can trust you and your people. I send King Andol’s subjects to where they are needed the most. Anyone else in this realm interfering with this war could bring ruin to us all – I and I alone must hold all the resources available.”
Almost imperceptibly, Gilaras nodded his assent. Dar’khan snorted with disgust.
“Are we now slaves to a Mannish king? Is this how low we have fallen?”
“On the contrary, Drathir, I think you have never stood prouder.”
As Rimtori Sanguinar walked through the streets of the crossroads town, she marvelled at how quickly it had changed since she first saw it a few months ago. Like so many other burned-out shells left behind by the Butcher, Corin’s Crossing had been a ghost town even years after his visit.
Now it was bustling with activity, new, rough-hewn wooden houses springing up in every direction, even as the remains of the old city were still being cleared away. On its mud streets – she had already sent for shipments of cobblestones to pave them with – thronged a bewildering multitude. Lumbering Maroon carls forced their way through the crowd with a warrior’s swagger and the fur-adorned war-garb of the North. Her horse and legs were continually nudged by reverent Strattanians clad in earth-shade woollens, squeezing through the masses to be blessed by the Templar. Sometimes there would be a halt of several minutes, as trains of heavily laden donkeys were led by Midlander merchants, carrying supplies from Andorhal and beyond. Brilliantly-hued Quel’thalasi dresses marked the passage of Elves who had joined Rommath or Nallorath; Benefactors’ wrap-around cloaks ran an emerald spectrum. There were clean-shaved Stromgardians and hairy Arathi clansmen, Lordaerean nobles on warhorses rode under their banners, and gnoll brutes of every size lurched in the shadows from the midday sun. Tiny gold adornments flashed from the elaborately arranged hair both sexes of Elves, while bronze and silver amulets and torques of Men recalled this god or that feat. The smell of excrement wafted in from side streets to challenge Rimtori’s breathing, even as the scent of freshly cut wood reinvigorated her. The scene was one of bustling activity, bespeaking a great city more than a small crossroads town.
Yet here she had set up her headquarters, at least for the time being. From here she managed the eastern half of King Andol’s realm – a vast tract of land, greater than most kingdoms. At it was a kingdom at war. From the lowest to the highest, Rimtori sought a way to utilize the people she found within her boundaries. It was not easy – Men were difficult to oversee, prone to ignoring orders they did not understand, or agree with – or were paid for. The streets were still muddy marshlands because there had been no money with which to purchase the cobblestones, much less provide salary for the labourers to set them down. But the Benefactors had found ways. Kariel's ministries at Patmos still had deep pockets.
Looking out over it all, she feels… pride. Would that Kariel could have seen their dream come to life. Elf-kind permeated the scene. There an old Elf-woman taught Mannish children at a school. There a fletcher worked his craft, and a dozen other artisans busy at their work. All of them were attended by a dozen apprentices of every age – for even the most skilled of Men could barely hope to match the perfection of a skill honed over centuries. She had sent arcanists and chemists and scholars and others to Andorhal, or Lordaeron City or even Stromgarde on the river south, to set up manufactories and the industries they would all need in the years to come. For so many years, she had railed, screamed in frustration as Elf-kind stagnated, grew old and blind and oppressed. Now…
Kariel had been right. Elf-kind could teach Men much – but it was Men’s vitality, their life-force, that was so essential to Elf-kind.
When she arrives at the squat building she had made her home, one of her aides – a Man – holds out one of the communication amulets to her. It was the one by which she spoke to Stromgarde.
“The Awakening?” Rimtori breathed, quietly.
“The words of the Prophet – may he live forever! – himself! I swear it, Vizier.” Lanudal’s voice was ragged, as if he had exerted himself greatly – but the pride, the excitement shone through like a sun. “The Awakening, Rimtori!”
She believed him. The description he gave was accurate – only she and Kariel had ever seen the Prophet up close. But… the Prophet had chosen Lanudal to spread the message? Even as the wonder sinks in, that leaves a bitter taste in her mouth. Truly, their ranks had been thinned cruelly.
“And we are to gather the faithful?”
“Yes! Now the wheat shall be separated from the chaff! You must come, Rimtori, and your king and high potentates – all worthies must answer the call.”
“You would have me send every noble in Lordaeron to you, to Stromgarde?”
“Yes! At once, Rimtori! The Prophet commands it!”
“You repeated his words to me, Lanudal – he did not mention Stromgarde. If I were to send the Lordaeri to you… if the King of Lordaeron was to be seen as Stromgarde’s lapdog… Winthalus already tried sorting the Gods’ harvest without thinking first. It cost him his life and us Quel’danas, and tore up many of his dearly-bought alliances!”
“I…” Lanudal’s voice trailed away. Others, perhaps, would have been affronted – but they had known each other for much too long, and the stakes now were much too high, to allow personal ambition get in the way. “Surely it will not matter, come the Awakening?”
“The Prophet is immortal, Lanudal. As we are to Men, so we are to him – ‘nigh’ to the Prophet might mean years from now. The politics of Men shift by the day. No, we must be careful. Stromgarde will not do – neither will Lordaeron. Seranidan would never agree, in either case.”
“Seranidan has spent too much time entangled in the South, squabbling over morsels. I fear he is more a warrior than a Benefactor – he will not stop until there is no one left to oppose him.”
“He was ever thus. We make do with what the Gods have given us. Winthalus’ apprentice shows promise.”
“A reckless child, though he has administrated Patmos well enough. We could meet there – Seranidan would not protest. Though the boy carries the Ring of Veth’talia – we must be careful, that he not be given the Shield and Vial as well. That could be disastrous.”
“Or useful. No matter – Seranidan would still not agree, though not for the reasons you think. He sees more clearly than you give him credit for. We need somewhere neutral – not to just to us, but to Men as well.”
“What of Fenris Isle? It was, after all, the traditional meeting-place of old, though the last Summit have stained its reputation.”
“It is too close to the Perinany coast, and besides, Alanassori reports trouble on the isle itself. No… I think Dalaran.”
“Dalaran? The Dictator’s capital? The only madman in all of Lordaeron who refuses to as much as listen to our envoys?”
“It is he, or the Alteracii madmen, and I think you will agree that he is preferable. Unless Seranidan manages to sway the Gilnean queen, Zanzifos is out of the question. Which leaves Dalaran, and makes perfect sense. Hesperia is where the last of the Light-blinded fools still wage their lost war. As a show of unity amongst the Faiths – yes, it can work.”
“The Dictator is as obstinate as he is unpredictable! We still do not know what happened to Andellion in his camp – he might as well decide to betray us and usurp every throne in Lordaeron as to accept our aid!”
“Do not overestimate the Dictator, Lanudal. He and his ‘alliance’ is nothing without his Hareveim to keep the Hesperii city-states in check. The Azure Templar says she has the Hareveim in her fold, and Zinizar is devoted to D’vorjakque.”
“Do not overestimate that girl,” came an ancient, raspy voice from the speaking-amulet. “Teliel is a child yet, untested; Marked by her God but still blind to what it means. Like all the Azures, she is obsessed with unearthing secrets and hidden meanings where there are none.” Madreen Chameral snorted derisively. “And do not underestimate the Dictator, nor overestimate the Archhareveim’s sway over her Sisters. The Hesperii have been under siege for a long time – and war is the best way for a new ruler to secure his reign. They are all rotten to the touch, but may well have spines of iron.”
How long had the Ivory Templar listened in? Apparently, Lanudal had spoken to him just before calling on Rimtori, and left the two amulets beside each other, his own communication stone acting as a intermediary.
“Templar,” greeted Rimtori, warily. “Then all the more important that we travel there, in force, and weed out what cannot be trusted from the Gods’ flock.”
“When the stem is rotted, cut down the tree,” replied the Ivory. Whatever he meant by that. Senile old… “As I told this boy, if the enemy is on the other side of a bridge, you either cross it or destroy the bridge.”
Lanudal cleared his voice. “The dwarven armada at Port Baradin has been destroyed, and they have laid the blame on me. Or, on Stromgarde. The army they had meant to send to Hesperia has been sent to cross Thandol Span.”
“Why would they think Stromgarde had anything to do with it? One more enemy to destabilize the Dictator’s reign only serves our interests.”
“Apparently the bodies of the attackers were recovered – carrying the insignia of Stromgarde. And to them, perhaps, the Faiths already seem united enough that to attack one is to attack the other.”
“So you mean they believe that Stromgarde secretly has declared war against them, sent saboteurs to destroy their fleet… and had those men carry the flag of Strom? They do not credit you much as a plotter, Lanudal.”
“This is no joke, Rimtori. They number in their thousands, and dwarves are unpleasant enemies.”
“As I said,” grated Chameral, “destroy the Span.”
“That bridge is the only connection with the South by land! It is a major artery of trade! The merchants and people of Arathor will be livid!”
“I think they will prefer that to being invaded by dwarves.”
“Sometimes, Templar, I think you serve Muhar in a strange way. You seem more bent on destroying civilization than upholding it!”
“If the stem is rotten…”
“And yet you hold your precious clansmen, who do nothing but gnaw away the pillars of this kingdom, in so high regard?”
“Hush, girl! You call yourself Templar? I am Templar! While you and your little rebellion fought Anasterian, I was here, leading armies. I led the Highwind and the Donchadh to sack Shaol’watha while you let the Amani grow strong under your noses! I have marched on Jintha’alor before, and I will do so again, long after you are all gone!”
Then came a strange, sudden noise, as if someone had dropped the communication amulet to the ground. She waited for Madreen to say something, but it was Lanudal who spoke first.
“Chameral? Are you there? What happened?”
Last edited by Ashenmoon; 05-12-2012 at 08:00 AM..